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Archives for February 1, 2015

Policies create obstacles as businesses work to stay drought-tolerant

Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2015 7:00 pm

Updated: 8:34 pm, Sat Jan 31, 2015.

Policies create obstacles as businesses work to stay drought-tolerant

By Staci Matlock
The New Mexican


The Santa Fe Botanical Garden on Museum Hill plans to build a new section designed around native, drought-tolerant crops that reuses wastewater from a bathroom.

But because of New Mexico’s complicated water laws, it took seven months to obtain an exemption from a city code that requires developments near a sewer line to hook into the city’s wastewater system, said Scott Canning, the garden’s special projects director. The code ensures the city meets its requirements under an interstate stream compact to keep water flowing in the Santa Fe River downstream from the wastewater treatment plant into the Rio Grande.

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      Saturday, January 31, 2015 7:00 pm.

      Updated: 8:34 pm.

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      Denver’s Burns Park: Improve it, or just move it?

      Every inch of open space is sacred in a city; still, Burns Park is a hard place to love.

      A large, lumpy triangle of grass, bounded by three of Denver’s busiest streets, it’s noisy, barren and smothered in goose droppings. Everyone knows its public art — those minimalist red, black and yellow sculptures that have been a landmark since the late 1960s — yet no one goes there. The place has just 10 parking spaces and you can always get one, or much of the time, all 10. Dogs don’t even like it.

      Surely the 13 acres could be made more attractive, and the Parks Department is hatching a plan to add landscaping, trails and public events built around the art, quality improvements throughout. It all feels a little forced. How hard should the city work to make people come to a park right in the center of town?

      A better option might be to abandon Burns altogether.

      Now, I’m not advocating that Denver give up park land, not one blade of grass. But a city that leads the country in land preservation, that possesses a system of urban green spaces, medians and mountain parks the world envies, can surely do better than Burns, which will always be a compromise. The traffic isn’t going away and neither is the massive Target shopping center across the street that overwhelms it. Even if it offers beauty, it will never provide peace.

      One park for many?

      Some out-of-the-box thinking: Burns might contribute more to the park system as a piece of real estate, a huge parcel in one of region’s most desirable neighborhoods, potentially worth tens of millions of dollars. For that we could outfit the city with a half dozen mini-parks that actually make urban life more tolerable and improve property values. Or we could create one, giant new park somewhere else, combining public, private and foundation money into a wonder that rivals Millennium Park in Chicago.

      The present Burns Park’s greatest (only?) success is its colorful art, and there is some history to it. The four original pieces were built in place during a sculpture festival in 1968, organized by local artists who saw that Denver was lacking the sort of grand sculpture park other cities have. They are quality works by respected names: Angelo Di Benedetto, Roger Kotoske, Anthony Magar and Wilbert Verhelst.

      A piece by Barbara Baer was added in 1999 and a second Magar was installed in 2010.

      The original objects were never meant to last beyond a few months; they were constructed from donated plywood coated in fiberglass. But people like them and they’ve been maintained over the years. The last major effort was in 2009 and cost $50,000.

      Today, they are a joy to behold, even if they’re only beheld by motorists paused momentarily at traffic lights. That’s OK. They’re billboards, really, and consumable even at 30 mph.

      The city wants to expand on their appeal and is planning the park’s future around ideas generated at public meetings. They’re good, though not revolutionary.

      New infusion

      They suggest making the triangle a combined art/park experience. More sculptures, paths for walking and biking, maybe a volleyball court. Ideas include doubling the parking, and making better connections across streets to the adjacent neighborhoods. There could be art, food and performance festivals and temporary exhibitions.

      The city’s parks are congested these days by public events, walk-a-thons, concerts, festivals, and Burns could alleviate the pressure. But big ideas naturally lead to bigger ones, and that is where the notion of leveraging Burns commercially, rather than improving it, comes in. Before we spend public dollars, let’s at least explore the possibilities, and the limitations.

      The traffic that surrounds Burns is relentless, from all sides. As an example: I set my phone’s timer for two minutes there at 10:45 Tuesday morning and more than 300 cars and trucks, many of them commercial vehicles, whizzed by the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and East Alameda Avenue before the buzzer went off. The third boundary, Leetsdale Drive, which cuts across the grid diagonally, is less busy, but people think of it as a shortcut and drive along as fast as they can.

      The stretch is so disagreeable that the few neighbors along Leetsdale have actually built six-foot fences along their property lines. What homeowner, facing a park, fences off the view?

      If Burns fails as a place of solitude, maybe it would succeed as a place for recreation. Maybe we could integrate tennis courts, soccer fields and playground equipment into the existing art. Imagine: We could have artists design the goalposts, asphalt courts, swing sets, sliding boards and fences. It could be the country’s first art playground luring folks near and far.

      Of course, the neighbors would have to permit it, and anything that draws outsiders is bound to be a problem. This is the same part of Denver that recently prevented Walmart from coming in; a loud effort that had residents openly decrying the possibility that the wrong kind of people might invade their turf. A City Council member would naturally have to back that up, or hit the road.

      No doubt, any plan to improve a park would go over a hundred times easier than actually getting rid of one. Imagine. Opposition would extend to a long list of good citizens that consider themselves open space supporters.

      But wise people set immediate reactions aside. Even folks disposed to liking Burns have to admit they don’t ever go there. A park has to be something more than a place people admire from afar.

      Suppose we traded Burns for a park on the Gates Rubber factory site, or somewhere along the river, or we preserved a piece of the rapidly developing Highland, RiNo or Five Points neighborhoods before they are gone? We could move the historic sculptures there and make it the civic project of the century.

      And, yes, we let developers have the corner of Alameda and Colorado. We find a responsible builder who promises more than a giant parking lot and big, brick boxes. Maybe we give it over to mixed-income residential, something that keeps the neighborhood diverse and brings life to the area. The Denver Housing Authority has a few nice tracts in Curtis Park. We could swap them out.

      Denver’s parks were built on bold visions, risk-taking, imagination, pride and hope. With a little fortitude Denver could have the great sculpture park those pioneering artists dreamed of, or several parks where people picnic with grandchildren, stroll with golden retrievers, where everyone connects with to nature, places that aren’t for special occasions that remind us how valuable the earth is and how we need to protect it.

      Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, or

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      Mooney Grove plan readies Tulare County park for 21st century

      Local News

      Graffiti artists brighten Fresno’s Calwa Park at Bizarre Art Festival

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      Rumors abound about Fidel’s future burial site

      In the city that claims to be the cradle of several revolutions, beneath an unforgiving sun, rests José Martí, the Cuban national hero who asked to “die facing the sun.”

      And it is here in the St. Ifigenia cemetery, close to Martí’s mausoleum, where Fidel Castro’s tomb may finally be located.

      The remodeling work at the cemetery and its surroundings has fueled rumors about the former president’s health and the place of his grave. Selecting St. Ifigenia, where the remains of a myriad of Cuban patriots lie, and the city of Santiago de Cuba, would give the Cuban government the symbols for a grand gesture to forever inscribe the comandante in the history of Cuba.

      The remodeling project involves everything from the cemetery’s landscaping to rebuilding the highway that links the graveyard to the iconic Plaza de la Revolución in Santiago de Cuba, home to the monument of independence war hero Antonio Maceo.

      “All this area is being repaired because here [in St. Ifigenia] will rest the remains of Fidel,” said a cemetery employee. “But all that is still a secret.”

      The rumors are nothing new. Since the 1980s, there have been reports that Castro was on the brink of dying of a heart attack, cancer, and even a brain hemorrhage.

      But in 2006, Castro underwent emergency stomach surgery that forced him to surrender power to his younger brother Raúl, at first temporarily and then officially in 2008.

      In January 2012, the website of the Miami organization Cuba Independiente y Democrática reported that Castro’s tomb had been built in St. Ifigenia under “an arc covered by pink marble.”

      No official confirmation

      Yet no news outlet confirmed the construction in the cemetery area until this January, when el Nuevo Herald reporters visited Santiago de Cuba. Even so, there is no official confirmation that this will be Castro’s final grave. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington did not respond to calls from El Nuevo Herald on Friday.

      There are no evident signs at the cemetery of a specific site for Castro’s tomb, but guards block access to a broad area next to Martí’s mausoleum.

      Several feet from the cemetery, reporters observed a dozen gardeners were planting purple bougainvilleas and palm trees brought in trucks. In front of this place, across a stream, is the start of a roadway that connects to the Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. The road has been closed due to major reconstruction work.

      The first segment, which extends from the cemetery to the Yarayó Fort and is nearly half a mile long, is completely closed. Along this unpaved stretch, named in honor of Flor Crombet, a general in the Cuban War of Independence, circles of stones block access to vehicles.

      “All this has been closed for about a month and a half because they are fixing it. … It is said that when Fidel dies, his remains will be brought to Santa Ifigenia,” said Jorge, a bicycle-taxi driver who serves tourists in the area.

      “There is a lot of love and respect for Fidel, especially here, because he is from Santiago,” he said, though Castro was actually born in the town of Birán, in the province of Holguín. He did, however, attend school in Santiago when he was a child.

      The second phase of roadway construction, from Yarayó Fort to the Plaza de la Revolución, shows work in full progress. This stretch of the road is named after another Cuban independence war hero, Juan Gualberto Gómez, though it’s popularly known as Patria Avenue.

      Lots of construction

      Here, construction workers have already remodeled the first three blocks, between Los Libertadores Avenue, close to the Plaza de la Revolución, and Patricio Lumumba Avenue. Visible are recently paved roadways with lane dividers to organize traffic. New gardens have also been planted and a mural has been erected with a sign saying: “Above all, the homeland.”

      Workers continue repairing eight blocks between Lumumba and Mariana Grajales Avenue. Every day, from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., mechanical shovels, excavators and trucks operate in this area to install a rainwater collecting system that will cover the entire avenue.

      Several houses along the avenue show remodeled facades, with aluminum doors and windows provided by local governement authorities, the residents said.

      “They gave us the doors and windows last year, so that our houses could be prettier,” said Manuel, who lives in a two-story house on Gómez Avenue. “Little by little they are fixing this road that leads to the cemetery.”

      The work has moved forward amid speculation from the media about Castro’s alleged death. Early last month, rumors circulated worldwide on social media and among foreign journalists that a press conference was to be held to discuss Castro’s health.

      Responding to rumors

      Gradually, the Cuban government began to respond to the rumors.

      First was Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona’s public appearance to express his joy at learning that Castro was in good health after he received a letter from Castro congratulating him for his television show De Zurda,” which airs on Venezuela-based Telesur network.

      Then, on Jan. 22, Castro was honored by the National Organization of Collective Law Offices, which granted him the Honor Gown of Cuban Lawyers, though the recognition was accepted on Castro’s behalf by the second secretary of the Council of State, José Ramón Machado Ventura.

      Four days later, on Jan. 26, a letter, reportedly written by Castro, was published by the Cuban government. In the letter, Castro opined on the decision by his brother to normalize relations with the United States. On Jan. 29, the Cuban official newspaper Granma then published a statement by the Brazilian theologist Frei Betto, who said that Castro was upbeat and in good health.

      None of these documents or statements was accompanied by photos of the 88-year-old Castro, whose last public appearance was Jan. 8, 2014, when he turned up at the opening of a Havana gallery and art studio.

      Unlike Fidel, his brother Raúl has publicly announced his final resting place — next to the grave of his late wife Vilma Espín at the mausoleum of “el Segundo Frente” in the surrounding mountains of Santiago de Cuba, where both fought in the ’50s.

      There, workers routinely keep the cemetery in good condition, taking care of the green areas and placing flowers in memory of Vilma. There is no sign of any new construction, and only Raúl Castro’s name is engraved next to the name of his late wife on the monument.

      About 400 miles away in Santa Clara, home to the mausoleum of iconic revolutionary leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara workers are erecting two buildings to house security guards who protect the mausoleum. It is a popular tourist attraction.

      A few feet from the mausoleum, there is a big sign with the smiling face of Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan president. It reads: “Chávez, our best friend.”

      Editor’s note: The stories of this series do not carry bylines, and photos do not show credits because the Cuban government refused to grant visas to reporters from el Nuevo Herald. Also, some of the people quoted are only identified by their first name to avoid retaliation from the authorities.

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      Buy small plants to go under pin oak

      Q • We have a shady area under a pin oak tree that doesn’t do well with grass. It is a stand-alone area that doesn’t blend in well with the rest of the landscaping. Are there any small ornamental trees that would grow OK in the shade of a pin oak tree?

      A • Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and tree forms of large shrubs such as serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.), and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) are possibilities if the pin oak has been limbed up high. Otherwise a shade-tolerant shrub, such as bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) might work.

      Buy small plants. The larger the hole you have to dig, the greater the risk of damage to the roots of the pin oak. Find additional possibilities in our Kemper Center Factsheets: Specialty Gardens: Woodland and Shade Gardens Woody Plants here:

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      Garden Q&A: Be vigilant against cabbageworms – Tribune

      Question: Every spring, we plant cabbage and broccoli in our garden, but by the time we’re ready to harvest, the plants are filled with holes and little green caterpillar-like worms. I believe they are cabbageworms. How do we make sure we don’t have them this year?

      Answer: Accidentally introduced to North America in the mid-1800s, imported cabbageworms have since become an ubiquitous garden pest across the continent. I understand your frustration with these pests, as they can readily decimate cabbage and other related plants in short order. No one enjoys finding a little green worm on their dinner plate.

      Though many species of native cabbageworms reside in Pennsylvania, the imported cabbageworm has replaced all of them as the most significant pest species. The adult butter­flies have a wingspan measuring between 1 and 2 inches. Their white wings are tipped with a streak of black, and each wing has one or two black dots, depending on the sex of the butterfly. As adults, they live only three weeks and actively consume nectar from many species of flowering plants.

      Females lay bullet-shaped, pale white to yellow eggs on host plants. They particularly enjoy feeding on cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and other members of the brassica family. The caterpillars are velvety green with barely visible pale, yellow, longitudinal lines and dashes on their sides.

      Cabbageworm caterpillars feed on foliage and flower buds. Though the damage starts as small holes, it can quickly progress to complete skeleton­ization of leaves. Larvae also can burrow into developing broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, causing round tunnels to appear in the heads.

      The presence of dark capsules of fecal matter is another indication of their presence. If damage or excrement is spotted, carefully examine leaf top and undersides, as well as along leaf midribs, for the culprit. Young, newly hatched caterpillars are small and can be difficult to spot.

      The first step in thwarting an onslaught of imported cabbageworms this year is to install a protective barrier between susceptible plants and the adult butterflies. Immediately after planting members of the brassica family, cover them with a sheet of floating row cover. This spun-bound, translucent fabric is loosely laid over plant tops, and the edges are pinned into the soil. With row cover in place, the female butterflies cannot lay eggs on the plants. Because cole crops do not require pollination, there is no need to remove the row cover. Leave it in place until harvest.

      Many beneficial insects use imported cabbageworm caterpillars as lunch. Assassin bugs, predatory stink bugs, spiders, parasitic wasps and many other species of beneficial bugs help control populations of this pest. Encourage these good insects by planting lots of flowering herbs and annuals in and around the vegetable garden. Hang a few birdhouses around as well. Insectivorous bird species, like chickadees and wrens, love to hop from plant to plant, gleaning cabbageworms as they go.

      For small gardens, handpicking is another effective control measure. Head out in the morning, when the insects are still, and search the leaves for caterpillars. Squish any you find or knock them into a jar of soapy water. We feed them to our chickens.

      Imported cabbageworm caterpillars are readily controlled by several natural pesticides, including spinosad-based products and Bt — but with row covers in place, these products are seldom necessary.

      Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners� at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control� and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.� Her website is

      Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

      Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

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      4 Keys to Designing and Building Raised Garden

      Early Spring Gardening Classes

      Class times: 9:30-10:30

      Jan 31 – Landscape Designs to Lifescape Peace Quiet (Free) includes a coupon

      With decades of design ideas Rich Olsen definitely knows his stuff. Landscapes by the Yard is where he installs his creations, but the design is done using Auto-CAD Come ready to learn, this is far more than where to sling more rock. This is design, remodel and install a new landscape that just feels right. Coupon for a free garden design to each student.

      Feb 7 – Escape to the Backyard Plant Wildflowers $15 (Free to watch)
      Listen in for free, but the first 10 students to sign up receive a package of Ken’s specially blended mountain mix with all the goodies to make them bloom like crazy this spring. Wildflowers can be harder to grow than you think, but not after this info heavy class.

      Feb 14 – Fruit Trees from Planting to Pruning (Free) includes a coupon
      Learn the insiders tips from the pro who knows variety, planting style, food, and more. Get ready for a block buster harvest this year. Students receive a free coupon for 25% off planting amendments when you decide to plant anything fruiting mentioned in the class.

      Feb 21 – Gardening for Newcomers $10
      Learn all the mountain secrets to local garden success. This is an information pack class guaranteed to increase garden blooms and fruit this year. The first 10 students to bring $10 and a soil sample receive a soil test done on sight with advice on how to improve the garden. You will know exactly what to do in the gardens this year.

      A raised bed is a bottomless frame set into a shallow trench. The sides can be made of almost any durable building material: rock, brick, concrete, and interlocking blocks. Retired watering troughs or claw foot bathtubs are the easiest raised beds, as long as they have the necessary capacity and drainage.

      Mountain gardeners use raised beds to sidestep a long list of gardening challenges: Bad dirt is a non-issue, because you fill a raised bed with a customized soil-and-compost blend; drainage is built in and keeps erosion in check. Poor sun exposure isn’t a problem because beds can be positioned wherever light is more favorable. Plants can be spaced more closely together, so yields go up, water use efficiency is maximized, and weeds are crowded out of soil space. A really valuable asset is for gardeners who wage constant warfare against destructive burrowing animals; read on for specific building details that can keep raised bed gardens safe from these critters.

      Location, Location, Location – Ideally, a north-to-south orientation takes full advantage of available sunlight. Avoid sites shaded by the house or under messy trees.

      Planning Building – At minimum build 3’ x 6’ beds. This size is wide enough to support sprawling tomatoes, but narrow enough to reach easily from both sides. The ideal height is 1 to 2 feet tall. Leave at least 18 inches between beds for walkways, or allow 2 ft if you want enough space to get through with a wheelbarrow or lawnmower. If possible, build more than one bed, which makes it easier to rotate crops and meet the watering needs of specific plants. Because the beds must be level, building on a flat spot avoids a lot of digging!

      To prepare the site, get rid of turf and weeds. Then outline the bed dimensions on the ground with chalk-line, string, or a spare hose. Dig just deeply enough to bury about half of your first layer of building material. If there is no turf between your beds, put down some landscape fabric and cover it with pavers or a layer of gravel to improve drainage. Also, after running out in the rain for a fresh bell pepper, you and your mud-free shoes will appreciate these walkways!

      In the bottom of the bed spread a layer of earth or gravel, then put down a layer of weed-suppressing landscape fabric extending it to the outer edge of the frame. Now is the time to think about pest control. The rich soil in a raised bed has worms and other delicacies that attract gophers; it also has young veggies that are irresistible to root-chomping voles. To keep out burrowing pests I recommend a bottom layer of hardware cloth, a 1” or less in diameter mesh grid of steel or galvanized metal.

      Good Soil is Key – Do NOT fill the bed with native dirt. Instead, use a mix of peat moss, compost, soil-less potting soil, or growers’ mix. A good local potting soil retains moisture yet drains fast enough to allow deeper root growth. Blend “Tomato Vegetable Food 4-4-6” and some gypsum into the top layers of the planting medium. For small beds use bagged potting soil designed specifically for our arid climate. Use a 2 x 4 to level the soil, and you are ready to plant. Put in lettuce, spinach, potatoes, horseradish, and/or onions at the first sign of a spring thaw, usually around the first few days of March.

      Reduce Water Needs – “Aqua Boost Cystals” are made from a water-retentive polymer infused with seven different mycorrhizal fungi. The crystals absorb water and keep it at the plants’ roots while the mycorrhizal fungi animates soil to the point that plants root faster and deeper into the soil. If you have had trouble with watering issues in the past, try using these impressively effective crystals. All of my plants get a hearty dose of Aqua Boost as they are planted, especially those in raised beds and container gardens.

      Plant of the Week – Blueberry bushes thrive in raised beds. This week’s featured plant is a semi-dwarf variety, Sunshine Blue, which is perfect for smaller raised gardens or large patio pots. Blue-green foliage and showy hot pink-to-white flowers deliver a lot of ornamental value, followed by an abundant crop of great-tasting fruit. Best of all, this new blueberry is self-fruitful, so it only takes one bush to tango. Now, who wants to dance?

      Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.

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