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Archives for October 27, 2015

Proposals could bring ‘shared parking’ to Capitol Hill, give neighborhoods a …

Two ideas favored by the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict to innovate neighborhood parking are getting a lift from Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess. One could lead to the creation of a pool of shared parking across Capitol Hill to reduce the need for developers to create large parking structures while the other would earmark a certain percentage of street meter funds back into the neighborhoods from which they’re generated.

In the midst of a campaign for the Position 8 at-large seat on the council, Burgess is proposing the City invest $20,000 to assess the number of empty spaces in all garages within the EcoDistrict boundaries, which covers most of Capitol Hill. The study would be conducted by the Capitol Hill Housing powered EcoDistrict and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Burgess is set to unveil the plan Tuesday.

If a “district shared parking” program were eventually implemented, it would likely involve a partnership between land owners and developers and wouldn’t require major city investment, Burgess said. District shared parking would include apartment buildings and commercial lots, according to the budget item:

People in buildings without enough on-site parking can lease spaces from nearby buildings that have available parking, new buildings can lease spaces from existing buildings that have excess supply, and daytime users and nighttime users can share a pool of spaces to reduce overall demand.

Demand is most certainly high — SDOT has announced metered rates reaching $4 on Broadway. The EcoDistrict studied the possibilities of “district shared parking” in the Pike/Pine area earlier this year. A similar partnership between downtown garages already exists, where electronic signs update with information on which lots have the most available spaces.

Burgess is also proposing to direct SDOT to work with the EcoDistrict on a “parking benefit district,” which dedicate a certain percentage of street meter fees collected on Capitol Hill for neighborhood projects. According to Burgess, that could include anything that enhances the pedestrian or driving experience, like lighting, street improvements, signage, or landscaping.

“I think this should be the norm in all our neighborhood business districts where we have metered parking,” he said.

As a proponent of parking benefit districts, Burgess said he teamed up with the EcoDistrict as soon as they expressed interest in the idea. Burgess said research on similar programs shows people are more willing to accept higher parking rates when they see a direct benefit going back to their neighborhood.

Both projects are an important step forward for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, which has been positioning itself to play a larger role in the neighborhood.

Article source: http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/10/proposals-could-bring-shared-parking-to-capitol-hill-give-neighborhoods-a-slice-of-meter-funds/

From family farms to fields of terror: The business of haunted attractions in …

They all come from humble beginnings – a desire to scare for the sake of charity or in order to preserve the family’s property – but decades later three local haunted attractions have evolved into companies that have transformed their passion for horror into a fortified business model.

The modern haunted attraction

It takes more than popping out of a dark corner at unexpected times to scare horror enthusiasts these days. 

“When we first opened [Field of Screams] in 1993 it was a matter of going to Party City or a cheesy Halloween store and getting some basic latex masks and jumping out of the corn and scaring somebody,” Jim Schopf, co-owner of Lancaster’s Field of Screams, says. “Now customers expect a much bigger, more elaborate performance.”

Schopf opened the haunted attraction with his brother Gene more than two decades ago. Their haunted hayride stayed open for five weekends and saw about 2,000 visitors during its first season.

Field of Screams now serves about 60,000 visitors a season and has grown to include attractions such as the Den of Darkness, Frightmare Asylum, and the 5K Zombie Fun Run, in addition to the hayride and live entertainment from local musicians. 

Located about 10 miles away from Field of Screams, Jason’s Woods was originally created in order to preserve a family farm.

The haunted attraction has come a long way since opening 30 years ago, according to co-owner Leanne Hershey.

Jason’s Woods was originally created by Hershey’s father-in-law, Bob, utilizing an old barn and a hayride on the family’s farm. 

“Bob ran it himself at the time with some volunteers and friends and family,” she says. 

Now, the company employs about 100 people each year, including full-time staffers and seasonal actors and tractor drivers.

Running a haunted attraction is hard work, but Schopf says putting on these “elaborate performances” for customers is not only challenging, it’s fun.

“It definitely requires a much larger budget and much more creativity,” he says. “But that’s the part that we really like. That’s what makes it fun for us.” 

Still, running a haunted attraction isn’t just a hobby. It is a business, and a competitive one.

Hershey said competing with the influx of haunted houses that have been created regionally and nationally means the company must stay up to date on the latest horror films and attend Halloween conventions that showcase the latest props and scare tactics.

They’ve also lowered ticket prices, despite growing expenses that occur as a result of having to update shows each season. 

“The reason we did that is to stay ahead of the game and competitive with the thousands of shows out there that we are now competing with,” Hershey says. 

She believes the number of haunted attractions that are now available for consumers to choose from can be detrimental to business, although she says she’s unsure of how many people visit Jason’s Woods each season.

“I think having a lot [of options] drastically takes down the number of customers that you get,” Leanne says. “If [customers are] only going to go to one [haunted attraction each] year they’re going to go to one close to home.”

According her and Patrick Konopelski, owner of Shocktoberfest, this was different a few years ago when horror fans would have to travel to see a haunted attraction and there were fewer options to chose from.

The former president of the Haunted Attractions Association estimates that there are currently about 2,500 haunted attractions nationwide. 

“Within an hour or two drive there are 8-12 [attractions] a season,” Konopelski says. 

According to him, most attractions have expanded their season to include weekends in September and November. This allows diehard horror fans to visit more than one haunted attraction a year. 

Konopelski says between 25,000 and 35,000 people visit Shocktoberfest in Sinking Spring each season, depending on the weather.

This is a drastic growth from when the company first started as a haunted hayride fundraiser for a local camp. Back then, their season was much shorter and so were their lines. They only had about 3,000 visitors.

John Eslich succeeded Konopelski as president of the Haunted Attraction Association. According to him, the organization considers a haunted attraction that receives 6,000 visitors or less a year to be a small attraction. He says this comprises about 25 percent of the market.

Any attraction that has over 15,000 visitors in a season is considered large. 

“There’s a lot that will gross $100,000 and under and we put those into our small category,” he says. “$100,000 and above would be the larger [attractions].”    

Konopelski believes Shocktoberfest’s central location allows them to receive visitors from throughout the northeast. 

In addition to being located in a central place, a variety of attractions helps to bring in business and also ensures that all visitors leave satisfied, according to Jason’s Woods’ Hershey.

Featuring attractions such as the Lost in Jason’s Woods and Carnival of Fear, Jason’s Woods also offers an opportunity to meet Ari Lehman, the original actor who played Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” series, on several nights during the season and a monster truck show.

Konopelski agrees that variety is extremely important, comparing haunted attractions to Disney World. 

“[At Disney World] you have the rides but it’s so much more. It’s the shows, it’s the music, it’s the food, it’s the merchandise and it’s all of the things that go along with it,” he says. “Our places are maybe a little less magical and maybe a little more warped, but we love entertaining people.” 

Staying profitable year-round

The business of haunted hayrides is one that is historically attached to fundraising. 

“I think our industry roots comes from nonprofit ventures such as boy scouts/girl scouts,” Konopelski says.

Still, the Shocktoberfest owner admits that most of the haunted attractions that are around today are for profit. 

Scaring people in the peak month of October is fun, but for these entrepreneurs it also has to pay the bills all year. 

Although Jason’s Woods is only open for 20 nights a year, preparing for the season is a year-round task. Over the summer, the company holds auditions for actors and shortly afterwards they start rehearsing. 

Rehearsing not only includes teaching actors new scare tactics, however, it also involves teaching them how to react in emergency situations. 

Still, despite working all year on the haunted attraction, Hershey admits that most of the staff has other jobs. She runs a landscaping business, which works perfectly with the haunted business schedule since landscaping tends to slow down around the time Jason’s Woods is open.

Schopf says Field of Screams doesn’t open on other holidays throughout the year to help offset costs like other haunted attractions, but notes that he has a small farm that sells produce, flowers, pumpkins and more. 

Konopelski is also the owner of Konopelski Katering.

It’s not enough to have a job on the side, however.

Surviving in a business that makes its annual income in a matter of weeks takes planning and budgeting.

“There isn’t going to be any money coming in any other time of year so you need to make sure you plan accordingly,” Leanne says.

Konopelski refers to this as “storing the nuts.”

“There’s a constant flow of money going out and you don’t have any money [coming in],” he says.    

Like Jason’s Woods, Shocktoberfest begins planning for the next season as soon as the last one ends.

“When we sit down and do our wrap ups a lot of the ideas we have just aren’t financially feasible,” he says. “At the end of the day you have to show a profit. It isn’t a hobby and if you’re not careful you can invest too much in your product and you’re lopsided.”

Not all of Konopelski’s ideas have been received well by the community, however. In 2013, city officials were opposed to a “Naked and Scare Challenge” that would’ve allowed Shocktoberfest visitors to go through a haunted house nude. The “prude” option, in which attendees 18 and over experience the attraction in their underwear, is still available.   

Each year around March, Shocktoberfest begins construction on new sets and props. Konopelski notes, however, that bigger isn’t always better.

“We’ll spend all kinds of money on a major animatronic and it seems like [customers] barely even notice it,” he says, adding that props that only cost a few hundred dollars are sometimes the most popular. 

Still, Eslich says that advances in technology have caused price drops and safer products in audio and lighting. All of this ensures that companies are putting on what Eslich refers to as “interactive live theater” in a way that is safe for actors and visitors.

Unlike Jason’s Woods and Shocktoberfest, Field of Screams utilizes about 300 volunteers a year, in addition to its six to eight full time employees.

The amount of people working on any given haunted attraction is pointless if the season has a low turnout, however.

One thing that affects this is the weather. 

“When people say ‘what scares you?’ that’s what scares me. When it’s raining on a Saturday in October,” Field of Scream’s Schopf says. 

He says attendance can drop on any given night by 75 percent due to inclement weather. 

Still, Konopelski says in more than two decades there have been few occasions where weather has had a significant impact on business. 

“In doing this 24 years I think there were maybe two years in all of that time when it was devastating,” he says. “At some point it’s going to happen and you just have to be ready to weather the storm.”

This year’s forecast for Halloween is looking pretty good, he says. 

Jason’s Woods, 99 Stehman Rd, Lancaster. Cost: $25 for three show combo, $40 for all six shows. JasonsWoods.com; 717-872-5768. 

Field of Screams, 191 College Ave, Mountville. Cost: $16 for single ride ($18 for haunted hayride) to $34 for all-attraction pass. FieldOfScreams.com; 717-285-7748.

Shocktoberfest, 94 Park Ave., Sinking Spring. Cost: $20 single attraction to $45 all-access combo pass. Shocktoberfest.com; 610-777-6388. 

Article source: http://www.pennlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/10/field_of_screams_shocktoberfes.html

6 Eco-friendly landscaping ideas for your home

A lot of us tend to have a garden or backyard that we consider as the perfect backdrop for an ambitious landscaping project. Proper landscaping can help elevate a building’s green status to a considerable extent. If you are in the process of starting your landscaping project, then take a look at these pointers that will help you decide on how to enhance your home’s curb appeal in a green and eco-friendly manner.

Skip the gas-powered lawn mower and leaf blower, go manual

Gas powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers can be quite detrimental for the environment. In addition to being extremely loud, they emit toxic gases into the atmosphere. The best way to thwart this is to use hand or battery powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers that get the job done without impacting the environment much.

Plant trees in strategic locations

You may not know it but the location of the trees outside your home can create a huge difference in your utility costs every year. The right location would allow you to enjoy plenty of shade and breezes during hot summers, as well as plenty of sunlight during winters. This in turn, would reduce the need to switch on the air conditioner and heater during summer and winter respectively, thus reducing your utility bills considerably.

Conserve water while landscaping

Plants require water. There is no doubt about that. However, using a few rather simple tips and tricks, you can ensure to water your plants and save water in the process as well. Reducing the lawn space for example, would enable you to use less water for the same while concentrating more on the planting beds.

Rainwater harvesting also allows you to collect rainwater runoff from the roofs. This water can then be used to water your plants and lawn, thus reducing the need for tap water. Xeriscaping is another way to conserve water while you take care of your lawn. Automatic irrigation systems can surprisingly, use less water than you when watering the plants. All they need would be proper programming to keep the plants happy while saving water.

Reduce the use of chemical herbicides

Why wait for the weeds to grow to full height? If this happens, then you will be spending money on chemical based herbicides to get rid of these weeds. Of course, that would mean contributing to environmental pollution by allowing these chemicals to seep into the groundwater and pollute lakes and rivers.

The best way to thwart this is to not wait for the weeds to grow to their full potential before clipping them. Tackling them pro-actively can help reduce the need for herbicides to kill the weeds.

Reduce the use of chemical pesticides

A lot of us tend to use harmful pesticides in order to take care of garden pests. Similar to chemical based herbicides, chemical based pesticides are laden with harmful substances that can spell doom for your health as well as the environment around you. So the best bet in this case would be to opt for other eco-friendly measures to keep pests away from your garden.

While building fences and barriers can help, simply growing plants that are not pest friendly near the boundaries can prevent pests from getting into your lawn or garden. Better yet, simply planting plants that the pests in your region don’t like will surely keep them away from your lawn.

Reduce the use of Chemical Fertilizers

You have kept the weeds and pests at bay. Now let’s tackle the problem of making your plants grow properly. Many of us tend to believe that the only way to do this is to spray the plants with chemical based fertilizers that would promote quick growth. Sadly, these chemical based fertilizers do not stop at just promoting growth.

They poison the plant and the surrounding soil to the extent that anything that every fruit that the plant bears will be leeched with these chemicals while the land surrounding your lawn would become toxic for many generations to come.

One way to avoid this scenario is to use organic fertilizers like grass clippings or compost. Creating your own compost pile at home would have the advantage of treating your plants to the best possible fertilizer for their needs. Remember, the more you compost, the healthier your plants will be, and the healthier you will be too.

Landscaping can increase your home’s appeal. Landscaping in an eco-friendly way will definitely increase your home’s green footprint in the years to come.

Article source: http://ecofriend.org/6-eco-friendly-landscaping-ideas-for-your-home/

Fall cleanup: How to lose your leaves in Fort Collins

Shorter days, cooling temperatures and Fort Collins’ leafy tree canopy bursting into colors other than green are all signs that fall is really here.

It also means those lovely yellow, red and purple leaves will fall like so many raindrops in the coming weeks. If leaves haven’t already started piling up in your yard, they will soon.

So — what to with them?

Fort Collins officials urge residents to keep leaves out of their trash and local landfills. That means leaving the leaves where they fall, finding a use for them around the house, or making an effort to get them somewhere they can be put to good use.

Leaves are great mulch material for gardens and for augmenting soil, said Honore Depew, a planner with the city’s Environmental Services Department.

Backyard composting of leaves may not be for everyone, he said. But residents are still encouraged to find a place for their leaves, as long as it’s not in neighborhood streets.

“Homeowners are asked to take care of leaves properly,” Depew said. “It’s against city ordinance to rake them into the street. Leaves can block stormwater drainage and cause problems with backups and puddling.”

To help residents deal with leaves, Environmental Services sponsors the Fort Collins Leaf Exchange Program through Yahoo Groups. The Web-based program provides a message board through which residents with leaves to get rid of may connect with farmers and gardeners who want leaves.

Messages sent through the program typically offer bags of leaves for pick up or invite residents to drop off leaves. Since starting in 2003, the program has handled nearly 1,000 messages.

The messaging system works, said Dana Guber, executive director of The Growing Project. The nonprofit sponsors 11 local community gardens and educational programs.

Leaves donated to the program are used to mulch gardens and supplement soils. The project seeks leaves through the Leaf Exchange program and Craigslist, Guber said.

“I feel like people are willing to drop off what they have; they are more than happy to come to you,” she said. “I don’t have time to run around and pick up leaves, so having people come to us works out well.”

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The Growing Project also works with Greek Life at Colorado State University to collect leaves from the yards of seniors and disabled residents who are not up to the task.

Bob Viscount, who lives in the Golden Meadows subdivision, advertised on the Leaf Exchange for the first time this fall. So far, the experience has been positive, he said.

“I have two big cottonwoods in my yard,” he said. “I have lots and lots of leaves.”

Last week, Viscount collected about 15 bags of leaves and stacked them along a fence facing the street. He placed a message on the Leaf Exchange, and was soon contacted by a woman who wanted the leaves.

She took away five bags, Viscount said.

“This is a nice way of getting rid of leaves and not having to go through the trash company,” he said. “It’s more of a person-to-person connection.”

Local residential trash-hauling companies will take away leaves and yard waste for a fee on a seasonal basis. The material is recycled and composted, depending on the hauler, in order to keep it out of landfills.

The Larimer County Landfill does not have on-site composting because of the expense.

Some residents choose to haul leaves, grass and branches to local landscaping companies that accept the material for a fee. The companies grind the yard waste and haul it to composting sites outside of city limits.

Hageman EarthCycle, 3501 E. Prospect Road, receives a combined 10,000 cubic yards of leaves and grass each year from residential self-haulers as well as commercial haulers and landscapers, said owner Roger Hageman.

Although a small part of the business, handling leaves is a service the company is glad to provide to the community, he said.

Prior to starting the Leaf Exchange program, the city sponsored a leaf drop-off program for several years. Residents could bring leaves to collection sites set up in the parking lots of schools and parks for free.

Crews from Hageman would grind the material on site and haul it away. The drop-off program ended when its expense became prohibitive during a time when the city was trimming budgets.

Drop-off locations also were fairly “chaotic” with residents driving in and dropping off leaves even as front-end loaders scooped up piles of leaves and dropped them in grinders.

“It got pretty expensive to haul from the sites and clean them up,” Hageman said. “It was a lot of work to process it all.”

Kevin Duggan is a Coloradoan senior reporter covering local government. Follow him on Twitter, @coloradoan_dugg.

Leaf catchers

Resources for dealing with fall leaves include:

Fort Collins Leaf Exchange: City-sponsored Web-based program designed to connect residents who have leaves to dispose of with those who want them: www.fcgov.com/recycling/leaf-exchange.php

Hageman EarthCycle: Business at 3501 E. Prospect Road accepts leaves and other yard waste for a fee. Materials are recycled: www.hagemanearthcycle.com

Doug Weitzel, Inc.: 2630 W. Mulberry St. business accepts leaves and other yard waste for a fee. Materials are recycled: www.dougweitzelinc.com

Larimer County Landfill: At 5887 S. Taft Hill Road, the landfill accepts yard waste for a fee, but materials are not recycled: www.larimer.org/solidwaste

Trash haulers

Gallegos Sanitation: Seasonal yard-waste collection program for a fee; materials are recycled: www.gsiwaste.com

Ram Waste Systems: Seasonal yard-waste collection program for a fee; materials are recycled: www.ramwastesystems.com

Waste Management: Leaves may be included with regular trash service pickup. Materials are not recycled. www.wm.com

Article source: http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2015/10/27/fall-cleanup-leaves/74666102/

Growing interest in organic



Posted Oct. 25, 2015 at 4:00 AM


Article source: http://northborough.wickedlocal.com/article/20151025/NEWS/151027006

Gardening in a ‘post-wild’ world: Book plants ideas for a new approach

Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, two leading voices in ecological landscape design, have been keeping watch on the natural world — from two different continents, North America and Europe — for a long time. After observing communities of diverse plants that display resilience and beauty without human interference, whether a pristine native landscape or a simple “hell strip” of weeds, they realized there are lessons to be learned. And a new way of landscape design to be understood and implemented, be it in large-scale public spaces or in the humble confines of our own backyards.

They’ve woven these time-tested yet revolutionary principles into “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes” (Timber Press), a groundbreaking guide that lays out an alternative to traditional horticulture: designed plantings that function like naturally occurring plant communities. As practical as it is poetic, theirs is an optimistic call to action, “a manifesto dedicated to the idea of a new nature, a hybrid of both the wild and the cultivated,” one that points toward a new future in planting design.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation:

Q: Can you distill the essence of “Planting in a Post-Wild World”?

Rainer: It’s really about how plants fit together in the wild and how we can use that to influence our design and plantings.

West: It’s a powerful design tool that meets nature halfway.

Q: Why is it so important that gardeners begin to think this way?

West: The benefits of this kind of planting method are much more “management,” in quotes, as opposed to maintenance, and much higher diversity and density of plants and planting. This kind of planting density is sorely needed in our cities and suburbs, where we need plants for clean water, clean air, to provide beauty, habitat for insects — for example, for Monarch butterflies.

Q: How did this concept evolve in your work?

Rainer: We were both doing designs, often in the public sector — for municipalities, for governments — projects that had money to be planted once but didn’t have much maintenance staff. We were increasingly frustrated by the fact that traditional horticultural planting really didn’t provide the set of tools to deliver what clients were asking us for — all those ecosystem services that Claudia mentioned, and the expectation of year-round beauty.

Both of us were captivated by the way plants behave in the wild — not only how dense and diverse they are, but how legible and clean and ordered those plantings appear to be despite their diversity and heavy competition. We knew there was something in the idea of the plant community that posed some real solutions for us. We thought we could extract some principles and real-world solutions. There is a lot of high rhetoric in the book, but the middle part is really practical, how to put X’s and O’s together and make it work.

Q: Where might the home gardener begin?

Rainer: Start with the bare soil in your garden, the areas where you see mulch, and start to think through how you can replace that mulch with a layer of plants. This can be underneath existing shrubs, the edges of beds, lots of spaces in gardens that might not be the highest maintained area, the edges of the property where there’s bare soil. Start thinking about replacing that with a density and diversity of some of the green native ground cover plants. That, to me, is the simplest thing.

West: Begin to see plants as a little bit less like paint on canvas, and more as living beings that establish what we call populations. That’s a term coming from ecology, of course, but gardening is art with very ecological processes. Just as people manage large ecosystems in the wild, we do that in our own gardens on a smaller scale. We can create a much more long-lasting and resilient composition in the garden.

Rainer: One simple thing would be for gardeners to pay attention to a plant’s shape — because a plant’s shape, its morphology, is really a reaction to how it grew among other plants. It’s why a plant like echinacea is really terrible ground cover; you couldn’t mass 15 or 30 of those together or they’d flop over. They’re meant to grow out of a matrix of other lower grasses, for example. Also, pay attention to the plant’s growing strategies. Is it going to spread horizontally, or stick up straight like something that could be dotted into a matrix of low-growing plants? Paying attention to how it grows and its shape are really good clues to how you can start putting plants together.

Q: You emphasize naturally occurring versus native plants. Expound.

Rainer: For us, we’re interested in both. We’re very inspired by native plant communities, the pristine examples we see in national parks, the older undisturbed examples where you really see plants starting to sort themselves out, and having long relationships with their companions. But in some ways, we’re almost equally inspired by the naturally occurring, including a lot of the weeds in our environment. There’s an image in the book from a neighbor of mine who never mows his lawn. It’s this little hell strip. I took my weed ID book out there, and there were probably 20 to 26 different species growing. I remember thinking, “I have nothing like this at all in terms of the diversity in my own garden. And I work really hard.” It wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t showy, but there were just so many different growing strategies between them, some upright, some horizontal. The tapestry was really impressive.

So, for us, it’s different kinds of beauty, obviously. We’re probably more inspired by the native communities, in terms of beauty and legibility. But in terms of functionality, it’s hard to beat how well these things grow together in places where nothing else wanted to grow. We just felt like strong lessons from both types of plant communities could benefit gardeners.

Barbara Mahany is a freelance journalist.

Article source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/home/sc-garden-post-wild-world-home-1102-20151026-story.html

Spring gardening advice from Malcolm Campbell — from beetle control to a …

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Article source: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/messenger/spring-gardening-advice-from-malcolm-campbell-from-beetle-control-to-a-chance-to-buy-herbs/story-fni9lkvc-1227582940709?sv=acf002e8a2d14e565dacf21b8cf3e8f

Children Learn Tips on Gardening and Healthy Eating



Posted Oct. 26, 2015 at 4:16 PM
Updated Oct 26, 2015 at 4:22 PM


Article source: http://www.gastongazette.com/article/20151026/NEWS/151029139

Weeding, tools and and other gardening tips

Though I find some weeding therapeutic, as far as I know, weeding is usually not a gardener’s favorite chore. I imagine that’s why sprays, sprinkles, dusts, flamethrowers and other weed killers are so popular. It sounds like war.

I’ve been known to squirt a few tough ones myself. But for the big picture, as I really try to garden organically, weed suppression seems to be my best bet. Mulches, like bark or stone, landscape fabric, and even straw, are good bets.

But if you think outside the box, just about anything that blocks sunshine will do the trick. I suggest avoiding plastic, which also blocks water from entering the soil. I’ve lined the rows between my veggies with strips of cardboard and layers of newspaper. If you want it to look better, cover that with grass clippings or straw. One year I even had lovely Oriental rugs lining my vegetable rows. How classy is that?

Color those tools

After many, many searches through flowers, weeds and compost for lost tools, my dear husband spray-painted the handles of my tools in bright yellow and red. I won’t say I have never misplaced another tool, but it sure is a lot easier to spot them now when I do. You can also wrap them in bright electrical tape.

Remember the birds

Birds need water, and it is fun to offer it in unusual ways. How about a sparkling crystal bowl or fluted metal tart pan? This is where garage sale treasures are great. Just remember it can’t be too deep and you must change it often. Don’t scrub it with soap or bleach; your feathered friends will avoid it. A good brushing and rinse will do.

Support your plants

When dividing plants, tie up the leaves and stems in a bundle, so that the ground is visible. An old stocking is gentler on the plant than twine. Keep it tied when you lift out the root ball, and cut through the roots with a saw or serrated knife. You damage less foliage, and the plants will rebound, looking better faster.

That old stocking can also help support an over-sized fruit hanging from a small vine. I put one on a dangling spaghetti squash that was growing on a fence. Tied to the fence, the stocking expanded as the squash grew, distributing the weight. Stockings also make good ties for staking tomatoes, too.

Really, who is wearing all these stockings? Not me. I use stockings on my washing machine discharge, too. I just bought a bunch at a going-out-of-business sale, so I’m good to go for a while at least.

Safety first

Wear ear protection when you are running loud equipment. You only get one pair of ears.

Think safety. Have sturdy shoes or boots, gloves, long sleeves and proper eye protection when working outside. Nothing takes the fun out of gardening like a trip to the emergency room.

Sit a spell

Make a place to sit in your garden, and use it. If you have a hammock, use it. This is a really important tip, and mostly ignored. Most gardeners are so busy working that they rarely stop to smell the roses. We all need to enjoy the fruits of our labors. So go sit.

Martha Murdock is a master gardener with Penn State Extension-Beaver County.

Article source: http://www.timesonline.com/homeandgarden/master_gardeners/weeding-tools-and-and-other-gardening-tips/article_a7aed8ee-6dec-11e5-b622-2ba59ba05227.html