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Archives for March 24, 2015

Redwood City Offers Residents ‘Top 10 Ways’ to Conserve Water

The following was submitted for publication by the City of Redwood City:

With Governor Brown’s recent announcement of a $1 billion drought relief plan, California citizens are more concerned than ever about how they can help to address one of the worst droughts on state record. In response, the City of Redwood City’s Public Works Department has put together a list of the top 10 ways residents can conserve water.

“The wave of increasingly alarming news about the drought can be overwhelming to locals and make them feel a bit powerless,” said City Manager Bob Bell. “The City of Redwood City Public Works Department has put together a series of free workshops and cost-saving programs that are easy to do and can make a significant difference. With the drought in the news more than ever, it’s a good time to remind people about these great programs in place. Now is the time to take action and mitigate this critical issue together.”

10 Easy Ways to Conserve Water at Home or Work

1) Budget your water usage with
Create an account and fill out questions such as the number of people living/working in the unit, amount of landscaping, etc. The program will create a water usage budget and offer opportunities to monitor and get alerts about overages.

2) Rebates for Water Efficient PlantsWith the Lawn Be Gone! Program, Redwood City will rebate $1.00 per square foot to replace your lawn with water efficient plants. To be eligible for a rebate, the lawn conversion project must be approved by Redwood City Water before the landscaping occurs. To help with this goal, Redwood City Public Works offers a series of free water conversation landscape courses at
Next classes take placeApril 4 and April 11.

3) Free Sprinkle NozzlesRedwood City is partnering with to bring you up to 25 free sprinkler heads that can help save water waste and money.

4) WaterWise GardeningA world of garden design and maintenance ideas is just a mouse click away at, which features garden tours, a plant database, a gardening guide, a watering guide calculator, and more. Also if you would prefer it on a CD call 780-7436 or email to request a copy. This website and CD includes helpful tips on efficient seasonal watering schedules.

5) Rain Barrel Rebate The San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program provides rebates for purchasing and installing qualifying rain barrels.

6) Green Gardener ReferralsNot a gardener but need one? Redwood City offers a list of Certified Green Gardenersin the Redwood City area at

7) High Efficiency Toilet Rebate ProgramDo you have a toilet built prior to 1992 which uses 3.5 gallons or more per flush? Get a rebate of up to $100 per toilet (3 per dwelling unit) when you replace your old water-wasting toilet with a new high-efficiency EPA labeled model.

8) High-Efficiency Clothes Washer Rebate ProgramRedwood City partners with PGE on a rebate program for customers who purchase qualifying, high-efficiency clothes washing machines. Redwood City’s residential water customers are eligible for a rebate of up to $125 when they purchase and install a new high-efficiency clothes washer.

9) Free SMART HOME Water-Use House CallsMake an appointment with one of Redwood City’s water conservation technicians for a free house call, who can give advice on how and where to conserve water and save money. Call 780-7436 or email

10) Free SMART HOME Water Conservation KitRequest a free do-it-yourself Water Conservation Kit which includes all the tools needed to make your home “water smart.” Call 780-7436 or email

Find out more at

(Image via Shutterstock)

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Can Eco-Friendly Landscaping Replace a Lawn?

There is nothing like the scent of mowed grass on a lazy summer afternoon, except when you have grass allergies and other types of fun experiences with chemical fertilizers that are sometimes overused on today’s lawns—not to mention the extreme consumption of water for the ever thirsty lawn.

Some people—an increasing amount, arguably—are starting to think that the grass lawns of yesterday may need to take a backseat and allow a new and improved solution for lawns and what they need. Thankfully there are plenty of possible substitutes for such areas around a home, something that allows everything you’ve ever wanted from your lawn without the need for chemicals, etc.. The following may easily be a solution that works wonders as a landscaping contractor, so you may want to pitch these ideas to some of your clientele.

1.  There is nothing better than lying down on a fresh green field on a lovely sunny day, reading a good book, looking at the clouds or maybe having a picnic outside with fresh air around. You may want to consider the importance of eco-lawns and ground covers that will reduce the need for chemicals, constant irrigation, mowing and so forth.

2.  Blue Star Creeper, also known as Isotoma fluviatillis, is excellent to use as ground cover due to its fast growth rate and may easily take on the added foot traffic without any issues. You can create a welcoming meadow during the spring and summer seasons you can use without a care in the world.

3.  Green Carpet Rupturewort, also known as Herniaria glabra, is also a good choice due to its small leaves, growing flat near the ground for an excellent evergreen carpet. During the winter it will turn red so you can still enjoy it when the snows melt.

4.  If you happen to have a lot of shade around your garden area, you can do some landscaping and avoid mowing by introducing moss to it instead. This will require you to get out of your comfort zone in what a lawn should look like, as you likely fought mosses away from your garden until now. Sheet moss, also known as Hypnum is really easy to cultivate and use, and it happens to be quite sturdy to foot traffic as well. It will form a good, solid mat you can enjoy when you’re done with it.

5.  If you have a lot of sunny spots instead, you can go with Kidney Weed, also known as Dichondra micrantha, which will easily grow to about two inches in height and loves thriving on hot climates.

6.  The Elfin Thyme or Thymus serpyllum will give you a good, solid mat of foliage that blooms with pretty pale pink flowers in summertime. The greatest thing about it? It will easily stand up to foot traffic and it has a really pleasant scent you can enjoy.

Article provided by Expert Landscape Gardeners Chelsea.

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Developers present visions for downtown development

HCW, LLC proposal

HCW, LLC proposal

The proposal from HCW, LLC, the developer of Branson Landing and a mixed-use project in downtown Manhattan, Kansas, would focus on a hotel and conference center with upgraded landscaping and street design.

Block 34 downtown overview

Block 34 downtown overview

The proposal from local developers Block 34 would incorporate a hotel, exhibit hall, retail space, apartments and a green space for public entertainment.

City-owned lot

City-owned lot

This city-owned vacant land and parking lot on Ninth Avenue between Husband and Duncan streets could become the site of a hotel and convention center.

Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 12:12 pm

Developers present visions for downtown development

By Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

A downtown block that’s mostly weeds and cement could be transformed into a hotel and multi-use entertainment space that includes retail, upscale apartments and offices if the city of Stillwater makes a deal with one of the developers who presented their vision Monday.

Neither Block 34 Development nor HCW, LLC recommended a design that completely matches the city’s original wish list with a hotel, convention center, public space, permanent home for the farmer’s market, possible food truck court, retail, office and residential space.

Instead each design had its own emphasis, although both said they were flexible and planned to incorporate input from the public and city staff.

Stillwater developers Cory Williams and Howard Aufleger, who partnered to form Block 34 Development, came with a proposal that leaned toward retail space and residential but included an 85 room Hilton or Marriot hotel and an exhibit hall.

The principals of Block 34 managed to shoehorn all the requested elements into their design but Williams said he doesn’t think downtown is the right place for the convention center, and instead recommended it be located at the business and technology park near Meridian Technology Center.

They believe focusing on a smaller hotel with flexible meeting space and more residential units better serves the community’s needs, eliminates the need for a second or taller parking garage and builds on projects that have already been successful in downtown.

HCW, LLC, a nationwide developer of convention centers and mixed use entertainment complexes with offices in Missouri, Kansas and Arizona also presented its ideas to the Stillwater Economic Development Authority trustees.

Vice President of Operations Rick Huffman said the company is best known in this area for its largest project: Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri. The company responded to the city’s request for a proposal because a small hotel and conference  center complex it built in Manhattan, Kansas, has the best percentages of any project its done to date, Huffman said.

Stillwater and Manhattan are close to the same size and have many similar characteristics, including being situated between two larger cities and the site of a state university.

Manhattan has the additional benefit of a military base but the model that worked there should do well in Stillwater, Huffman said.

He said HCW chose to focus on the hotel and conference center because it believes retail, office and residential spaces are complimentary but should be built by others nearby

The HCW design also didn’t incorporate any plans for the Stillwater Community Center or a parking garage pending research to see what is needed and what will work.

Huffman said more market research needs to be done.

The City Council has put out a call for input from residents and the business community. The councilors will discuss the proposals next Monday in executive session and make a decision about how to proceed.

Each councilor’s contact information is available at

If you missed it: Watch a replay of the presentation online at

Twitter: @mharlesNP

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More about Downtown Stillwater

  • ARTICLE: Convention center developers will outline their plans Monday
  • ARTICLE: Revised zoning would create traditional-style neighborhoods
  • ARTICLE: Christmas comes to downtown Stillwater
  • ARTICLE: Christmas parade set to light up downtown

More about Cory Williams

  • ARTICLE: Convention center developers will outline their plans Monday
  • ARTICLE: Legislators meet their constituents
  • ARTICLE: Rep. Cory Williams returns as assistant minority whip
  • 110210_Elections CA_02.jpg 110210_Elections CA_02.jpg

More about Branson Landing

  • ARTICLE: Convention center developers will outline their plans Monday


Tuesday, March 24, 2015 12:12 pm.

| Tags:

Downtown Stillwater,

Cory Williams,

Branson Landing,

Hcw, Llc,

Convention Center,

Conference Center,

Stillwater Community Center,

City Of Stillwater,

Stillwater Economic Development Authority

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Learn how to do "The Right-Size Flower Garden" at NJBG


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  • Peonies and salvia in the Perennial Garden at the New Jersey State Botanical Garden.


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  • Photo By Eric Jenks

    Gorgeous, low-maintenance gardens are no accident. Learn proven design tricks that will help cut your garden chores in half while making your landscape more beautiful in a program entitled “The Right-Size Flower Garden,” presented by nationally recognized gardening speaker Kerry Mendez on Sunday, April 12 at 1 p.m. The program is sponsored by the NJBG/Skylands Association.


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The New Jersey Botanical Garden invites the public to learn many exciting ways to create The Right-Size Flower Garden in a program that mixes humor and practical information at the garden on Sunday, April 12. Join the group at 1 p.m. in the Carriage House Visitor Center for a program presented by nationally recognized gardening expert Kerry Mendez.

The Right-Size Flower Garden offers time-saving design tips and exceptional plants for achieving balance between your love of gardening and time and ability to do so. Drought tolerant plants, perennials and annuals that don’t need deadheading, no prune shrubs, long-lived bulbs, the illusion that you have more plants than you actually do due to their astonishing display – these are just some of the treasured nuggets that will help cut your chores in half while making your landscape more beautiful than ever. The easy-to-follow, targeted solutions shared in this program provide joyful liberation for all aging and time-pressed gardeners.

Mendez is dedicated to teaching the art of low-maintenance perennial gardening and landscaping. As a garden consultant, designer, writer and lecturer, she focuses on time-saving gardening techniques and workhorse plant material as well as organic practices. She has been in numerous magazines, was a featured guest on HGTV and is a garden columnist for Life@Home and Today’s Garden Center magazines.

Mendez is now a manager of Estabrook’s Nursery in Kennebunk, Maine. She is a self-taught gardener with more than 25 years of experience and a ‘passionate perennialist’ who enjoys mixing humor with practical information. She was the recipient of a 2010 Women of Distinction award by Success Magazine Ltd. Her top-selling first book, “The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Top Ten Lists,” was released in March 2010; followed by her second book, “Top Ten Lists for Beautiful Shade Gardens” in March 2011. For more about Mendez and her business, Perennially Yours, visit

A $5 donation is requested. Seating is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. For more, contact NJBG at

The New Jersey Botanical Garden at Skylands is located on Morris Road in Ringwood. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Admission to the garden is always free. Parking is free in the fall, winter and spring.

For more information, go to


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Kanapaha Spring Garden Festival Flourishes Over the Weekend

Kanapaha Spring Garden Festival Flourishes Over the Weekend


Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

Gabrielle Steinberg, 22 months old, digs in the soil and pots a baby plant. The activity was part of the Kids Area crafting section of the festival.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

A treetop dweller and the rest of the seated crowd of spring festivalgoers sit and listen to the thumping of African Drumbeat music. The festival lasted March 21 and 22.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

A flush of orchids could be found in multiple booths with varying price ranges. Dee’s Orchids carried a wide selection with 10,000 or more in Dee’s greenhouse.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

Lauren MacKay, 25, blends an all-natural, mango-banana-almond milk smoothie at the Free Lovin Foodery booth. The booth has served healthier versions of Mexican cuisine for the past four years at the Spring Festival.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

Air Plants hung along multiple booths at the Spring Festival, providing those with less-than-green thumbs with an easier alternative for plant growing. The Air Plants simply require a place to hang, warm temperatures and occasional misting.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

Jim Notestein, a fifth-year Floridian, botany and William Bartram enthusiast and avid member of the regional horticultural lifestyle, sits with his Notestein Nursery plants and his William Bartram cement foot mold. Notestein engaged with passerby in his flowered farming hat.

Victoria Todd / WUFT permalink

The Lost Safari Drummers beat away at their bongos. They played on a bamboo-shrouded stage before a gathered audience of festival-goers.

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No Water, No Problem

These three fabulous low-maintenance gardens don’t sacrifice beauty, even if they do slash your water bill.

Feeling guilty every time the lawn sprinklers switch on at your home? If so, you’re not the only one. Given California’s historic drought, many homeowners are looking for water-wise ways to keep their yards and gardens beautiful year-round. Here are three gardens that use native plants, smart design, and other tricks that will help inspire your own low-water oasis.


Kipp McMichael / By Nico Oved

Eclectic and Eco-Conscious

Don’t settle for a barren backyard during the scorching summer months. Sustainable gardens are low-maintenance alternatives to landscapes with thirsty turf.

For Kipp McMichael, a web developer with a penchant for gardening, creating a sustainable space was the best way to transform his water-guzzling front yard into an eco-friendly, low-fuss landscape.He replaced the high-water flowers and shrubs with a rich range of drought-tolerant and native species selected to thrive in the local climate and soil.

McMichael managed to pack the modestly sized Berkeley space with more than 200 species—including succulent hybrids and flowering euphorbia—by playing with the topography and adding mounds where he could place more plants. He also mixed textures and colors to make the garden appear fuller and more lush, planting low-lying purple- and mustard-hued succulents next to spindly cacti, bright green agave, and pink echeveria. While beautifying the garden, these plants can withstand hot, dry weather with little maintenance and significantly less water than conventional yards. 

McMichael says his “antilawn” and plants, which he occasionally gives away to visitors, attract a lot of interest from his neighbors. “There are definitely some ego strokes—because people are always stopping by to admire the plants and ask about them,” he says.


By Nico Oved

Plants Used

Aloe brevifolia: This plant boasts annual stalks of red-orange flowers.

Aloe nobilis: On average, this succulent perennial never exceeds a height of one foot.

Aeonium species and hybrids: These ornate, low-water plants are easy to maintain and can survive freezing temperatures.

Agave parryi var truncata: Chosen for its elegant architectural form and color, this plant is virtually maintenance free and requires no supplemental water once established.

Cordyline australis: This palmlike tree makes a striking architectural statement and withstands drought conditions.

Echeveria species: These colorful plants stay gorgeous throughout the year without requiring a lot of maintenance.

Echinocactus grusonii golden barrel cactus: This cactus continues to grow in the winter.

Euphorbia species: These plants are diverse and simple to grow.

Graptoveria Fred Ives: This plum-colored plant is low maintenance and highly adaptable.

Haworthia species: These small shade-tolerant succulents often grow year-round without needing much water.

Pleiospilos bolusii: Originally from South Africa, this “rock plant” is perfect for pots and features yellow daisylike flowers in late winter.

Pilosocereus pachycladus: In addition to being drought tolerant, this beautiful blue-hued cactus can handle frost.

Senecio rowleyana (vine, string of pearls): An endearing vining succulent, this plant looks spectacular when cascading out of pots or ledges.

Senecio serpens: This resilient plant boasts a beautiful frosty blue hue.


Rudabeh Pakravan / By Nico Oved

Hillside Brilliance

Traditional gardens wilt during the warm months, but that’s when dry landscapes shine. This low-maintenance option—sometimes called a Zen garden—incorporates plants
that thrive on rays.

For one couple living in the Oakland hills, a dry garden was the ideal solution to their problem: an unappealing backyard. The narrow, walled-in space was small and awkward, and the overgrown, jungle-esque hillside looming over it only made it worse. The homeowners knew the yard needed a face-lift.

The couple turned to Rudabeh Pakravan, a designer, architect, and UC Berkeley lecturer, to convert the nonfunctional backyard into a chic and stunning oasis, proving that ample square footage—or even water—isn’t necessary to create something beautiful.

Pakravan chose to focus the design around a stainless steel planter with undulating bands that pull the eye across the garden and away from the high hill, making the yard appear more spacious. The planter spills over with succulents, California native species, and plants with vibrant blooms, including the fire spinner, an ice plant that holds up against drought and heat.

To make the space feel wider, Pakravan replaced the retaining wall in the middle of the yard with a set of amphitheater steps—complete with a fire pit to gather around during cool Oakland evenings—leading to an artificial grass area. She also kept the number of plants on the hillside to a minimum, choosing low-water shrubs with warm tones, such as salmon-hued sunshine conebush and bronze-leaved purple hopseed bush—to add a dose of color to the garden.

“Before they redesigned their yard, they never went outside and always kept the shades closed,” Pakravan says of the owners. “Now, they use the yard often and entertain guests out there. That really makes me happy.”

By Nico Oved

Plants Used

Agave blue flame: This succulent forms clumps with rosettes.

Agave parryi, yucca glauca: These reliable plants grow at a slow rate.

Chondropetalum: Originally from South Africa, this reed-like plant thrives in the sun and requires little water.

Cotinus: This flowering plant features leaves that come in various tones of purple, bronze, and green, making it a wonderful accent plant.

Delosperma fire spinner: This drought-tolerant ice plant makes a statement with its bright orange, red, and purple blooms.

Dodonaea purpurea: With its reddish-purple foliage, this shrub contrasts beautifully with greenery.

Euphorbia species: These colorful plants are low fuss and water wise.

Leucadendron laureolum: This plant brings pops of gold in the winter.

Phormium duet: This evergreen perennial is very compact, making it an ideal choice for smaller yards.

Purple Crest aeonium: This purple plant sprouts bright yellow blooms in the late spring.

Sedum Angelina: These plants need minimal amounts of water yet are very tolerant to high sun exposure.

Tristania laurina: Native to Australia, this slow-growing tree features fragrant yellow flowers in the spring.


Liz Simpson / By Nico Oved

Natural Beauty

Struggling to keep your yard looking green? Plants that are indigenous to the East Bay thrive here, making them easy to grow and likely to succeed.

A few years ago, Liz Simpson of Berkeley-based Liz Simpson Garden Design, which specializes in low-water landscaping with California native plants, transformed a generic Pleasant Hill backyard into a playful outdoor environment. The job called for shady retreats, sitting areas, and plants that attract birds, bees, and butterflies, and the project was a big undertaking. “I had never designed a yard that large before,” she says, “so I had to think of it as designing multiple gardens within the same garden.”

She divided the space into a series of living “garden rooms,” each with its own character and use. The flagstone patio’s outdoor patio—intended for lounging and enjoying the greenery—features a comfy couch and shade sails that can be moved around the surrounding redwood trellises to create eye-catching patterns.

Next to the patio is a small vegetable garden, as well as a meadow with walkways that wind through the yard. The path is lined with colorful blooms and billowy forms—flowering sages, yellow yarrow, bright blue penstemon, and other native perennials—that were chosen for their striking hues and ability to thrive in drought conditions.

The pathways eventually lead to a hidden petanque court and seating area in the back of the garden, where birds build nests from the lush grasses and feed on the insects attracted to blooming yarrow.

Last year, this garden was featured on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour, an annual showcase of native plant gardens in the East Bay.

“People who are interested in growing native plants should consider going on a garden tour,” Simpson says. “All the plants are labeled, so people can get a sense of what they like, and the designers are usually on-site to answer questions. It’s a great way for people to get inspired.”

By Nico Oved

Plants Used

Achillea millefolium Island pink: These flowers are easy to maintain and attract beneficial insects.

Aquilegia eximia: This hardy red-and yellow-flowered columbine attracts hummingbirds.

Arctostaphylos manzanita Dr. Hurd: This manzanita species has lovely red branches.

Asclepias fascicularis: This milkweed species is the main food source for the Monarch caterpillar.

Ceanothus Ray Hartman: This blue blossom looks beautiful in the spring.

Dudleya brittonii, Archtostaphylos bakeri: This succulent and Manzanita thrive in drought conditions.

Eschscholzia californica: California’s official flower, the poppy, adds a dose of color to gardens.

Festuca idahoensis Stony Creek: This blue-gray bunch grass is a great border between shrubs.

Fremontodendron californicum: This flowering evergreen thrives even in nutritionally poor soils.

Iris douglasiana: This gorgeous iris grows well under oak trees.

Mimulus cardinalis: This robust, scarlet-petaled plant attracts hummingbirds.

Penstemon heterophyllus Blue Springs: This striking perennial is a magnet for birds, bees, and butterflies.

Polystichum munitum: This lush evergreen fern requires little water.

Quercus lobata: The quintessential California oak is a large but graceful tree, providing shade on warm days.

Salvia clevelandii Winifred Gilman: This salvia features tubular violet-blue flowers and fragrant foliage.

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8 Gardening Hacks That Will Change Your Life | The Weather Channel

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    Clever Beginning Gardener Tips that Anyone Can Use

    You may have always wanted a garden, but not been quite sure that you were the green-thumbed type. Or perhaps until now you were living in a house or apartment without a suitable outdoor growing space. Maybe you’re a parent, relative, or educator who’d like to teach your children or students about the joys of raising plants … or inspire them to love eating vegetables. Whatever your situation, here are simple, green suggestions here to get you started gardening, based on the long experience of one of the most successful home gardeners we know.

    Just get going. Gardening can be tons of fun for kids, as well as beginners (and long timers) of any age. For your first attempt, choose seeds that are simple and foolproof to grow, yet produce amazing results. Zinnias, asters, squash, green beans, or carrots are a few examples of easy flowers and veggies. Herbs will usually sprout quickly and thrive in even the smallest space, indoors or out.

    Give seeds a head start. Coddle hard seeds like morning glories or nasturtiums in the fold of a dampened paper towel. Keep them moist and covered for a few days until they sprout. (Yes, peeking is allowed!) Or start any type of seed in an eggshell half, pierced with a pin for drainage. Stow the eggshells tidily in their carton, keep them moist, and wait for the glorious day when seedlings appear. Transfer the tiny plants to the garden, shell, box, and all, when they are about 2″ tall.

    Pay attention to where you plant. Avoid the brightest, hottest patches of your yard so delicate plants won’t get scorched. And read the directions on your seed packets to see how much sun each variety likes best.

    Think about a water source. Seasoned gardening mavens may need a complex sprinkler or irrigation system set up by a professional, but if you’re just starting out with a handful of seedlings, a nearby outdoor faucet and a watering can are most likely all you’ll need for now.

    Buy bedding plants if you don’t want to bother with seeds. They’ll provide an instant garden and immediate gratification. Prior to making your purchase, look for plantlets that are small, compact, and healthy looking rather than the biggest, tallest or showiest at the nursery. Avoid flowering plants which are in full bloom, opting instead for those with a few tightly closed buds. You want to save the gorgeous display for later, when they’ve been relocated to your own garden.

    Cultivate hardiness. Brush your baby plants gently with your hands several times a day. They will respond by growing slightly more slowly, taking the time to develop stronger, sturdier stems.

    Nourish your babies. The (unsalted) water in which you steamed last night’s veggies or boiled this morning’s eggs will make a nutritious, refreshing “tea” for your young plants. (CAUTION: Be sure to cool down any hot liquid you plan to water your garden with.) Add nitrogen to your geraniums’ diet by mixing a bit of coffee grounds or tea leaves into their soil. Before you plant a rosebush, “plant” a banana peel in the hole for extra potassium. If an expert horticulturalist friend gives you a cutting from one of their beautiful shrubs, stuff it into a hollowed-out potato and bury it in the ground as if it were a bulb. Remove the potato leaves as they grow.

    Laura Firszt writes for

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