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Archives for April 16, 2016

Ball State to create mall, close driveway(s)

BSU students face challenges in biking on campus in some areas.

MUNCIE — Ball State University’s board of trustees on Friday accepted a Campus Master Plan calling for a new East Mall to improve pedestrian/bicycle traffic and the connection between campus, The Village and downtown.

BSU Treasurer Bernie Hannon called the mall “one of the best ideas I think to come out of this plan” that has been under development for three years and included 47 on-campus meetings, eight open houses, 2,820 survey respondents and 4,260 website visitors.

The mall, which will require elimination of the driveway leading from Riverside Avenue to the Emens Auditorium parking garage, would run from Riverside north to the Jo Ann Gora Recreation Center along the east side of Emens, Bracken Library, Whitinger Business Building, and the College of Architecture and Planning. (There is also a driveway into Emens from Neely Avenue).

Hannon described the mall as a shady bike/pedestrian/skateboard path and “a beautiful greenway where students can gather, meet, have lunch and enjoy themselves outdoors” while also getting bicycle traffic off of McKinley Avenue.

In addition, the mall would connect to Martin Street “straight down into The Village” and then to the White River Greenway along the new Martin Street “pedestrian walkway that the city just put in,” he noted.

“This connection between downtown Muncie and campus we think is critical to the well-being of both the campus and the community,” Hannon told trustees. “You all know the mayor has been working on a riverfront development project. It’s no coincidence that these overlap.”

Two more of the plan’s eight “big ideas” are to “activate the greens” or “energize the greens” — a reference to University Green in the shadow of Shafer Tower between the architecture building and the library, and to the Old Quad green.

University Green is a big, beautiful part of campus but underutilized. “If Ball State won a a national championship, where do the students congregate?” Hannon asked. “This would be a great location for it. And it already exists. You don’t have to create it, you just have to find a way to energize it.”

Ideas to get students to use it more include adding an outdoor stage or dining facility out of which students would spill onto the lawn to throw Frisbees and other activities.

While there may be no more beautiful place on campus than graduation ceremonies in May on the Old Quad, that green space also is not being used as much as it could be. When the Beneficence statue was installed in the 1930s, the Old Quad was the campus. But that area did not remain the heart of campus, which grew north.

“So Benny kind of sits out there on an island by herself,” Hannon said. “So the idea is to remove the landscaping behind Benny, open it up so you can see right through Benny into the old Quad and the museum. We’ve also talked about closing Campus Drive. … Get the vehicles out of there.” That is the road that runs between the Administration Building and the David Owsley Museum of Art. The plan to make the Old Quad more attractive includes landscape enhancements.

Another big idea proposes demolition of the aging “Soviet-style” Anthony and Scheidler apartments for married, older and international students on the north and far north sides of campus and replacing them with new apartments south of the student center along McKinley.

“We can bring some of those people back into campus, back to The Village, back closer to downtown, generate foot traffic, generate excitement, generate more activities in the heart of campus,” Hannon said.

The plans also recommends relocating Heath Farm Recreational Fields (used for baseball, softball, soccer, and other intramural recreational activities) far north of campus closer to residence halls.

“This is not a ‘thou shalt’ document,” Ann Arbor planning consultant Doug Kozma told trustees. “This is ‘when we choose to change … this document can help guide those directions.’ “

The East Mall could be one of the first projects to start, in connection with the $5 million expansion and renovation of Emens that will get under way right after spring commencement. The project will expand the lobby for more pre-event, intermission and post-event crowds, relocate the box-office windows to an interior area, add restrooms to the main floor and also add hospitality space, a conference room and office space.

Hannon called the lawn in front of Emens wasted space that will be modified to encourage its uses by guests spilling out of Emens.

Contact Seth Slabaugh at (765) 213-5834.

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Meeting planned to discuss possible ‘tweaks’ to plans for I-49 Connector through Lafayette

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Home, garden show starts 3-day run

FAIRFIELD — Warm sunny weather moved Friday into Solano County, perfect timing with the eighth annual Total Home and Garden Show.

The show, which runs through Sunday, features nearly 100 vendors both inside and outside of the Fairfield Events Center, located at 300 Chadbourne Road.

Along with vendors specializing in different types of flowers, trees, irrigation systems and outdoor landscaping to cover the garden portion of the event, additional vendors are on hand to handle the home aspect of the event, including items for the kitchen, bathroom and other rooms in the house, as well as things that simply complete a home, like a family pet.

The Solano County Sheriff’s Office Animal Division featured a range of adoptable pets as well as information about available pet services the animal shelter provides.

Animal Division Lt. Cathy Raymos said events like the Home and Garden Show are very important to the organization.

“We intake about 8,500 animals a year,” she said. “Without the public support in adoptions, we can’t do what we do.”

Raymos said for many families, a pet is the one thing that helps complete a home. Events like this help spread the message about the county’s services to a large crowd.

“We serve all seven cities in Solano County, after all,” she said.

Vendors also look forward to reaching customers they might not ordinarily interact with. One of those, Cindy Wedel, an assistant manager with New-Scapes Landscaping and Design, was part of a surge of vendors catering to people looking to diminish the impact of the continuing drought.

“It’s always nice to get out and meet with new and different people,” Wedel said. “People are always out looking for different ways they can save money around the house.”

Turf replacement, minimal landscaping and solar energy options were popular booths for many.

Anthony and Veronica Viera arrived the first day of the home and garden event with an eye toward making improvements to their Vacaville home.

“He’s always looking at stuff he can do to fix things up in the yard,” Veronica Viera said.

She described their new abode as “more fixer than upper” and said shows like this are ideal for homeowners like her.

“Plus you get great ideas,” Veronica Viera said. “You’ll see some new tool they have and think, ‘Oh hey, that is a good idea’ and you didn’t even know there was an issue before.”

For more information, visit

Reach Bill Hicks at 427-6958 or [email protected].

Schedule of activities, events


  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Interactive Kids Corral Solano County Sheriff Office Animal Care Division – “Adopt a Pet.”
  • Noon: KUIC Van Stop – Drawings and giveaways (outside front entrance).
  • 1 p.m.: Chef Mason Partak – 12-year-old child prodigy entertaining you at the demonstration area.
  • 1:45 p.m.: Dennis Goehring/New York Life. Making the most of tomorrow by making smart choices today.
  • 2:30 p.m.: Steve Kinderman/Ygene. Who and How Ygrene Works – What Projects are Qualified – Which Contractors are Certified.
  • 3 p.m.: Chef Mason Partak – 12-year-old child prodigy entertaining you at the demonstration area.
  • 3:45 p.m. : “How to Create the Ultimate Bucket List” – Seminar (
  • 4:30 p.m.: BethPicazo/Rainbow Aqua. Cleansing the Air Water Demo.


  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Interactive Kids Corral Solano County Sheriff Office Animal Care Division – “Adopt a Pet.”
  • 12:30 p.m.: Do it Yourself Workshop.
  • 1 p.m.: Chef Mason Partak – 12-year-old child prodigy entertaining you at the demonstration area.
  • 1:45 p.m.: Dennis Goehring/New York Life. Making the most of tomorrow by making smart choices today.
  • 3 p.m.: Chef Mason Partak – 12-year-old child prodigy entertaining you at the demonstration area.
  • 3:45 p.m.: Steve Kinderman/Ygene. Who and How Ygrene Works – What Projects are Qualified – Which Contractors are Certified.

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Trowel & Glove: Marin garden calendar for the week of April 16, 2016


Gardening classes: The Mill Valley Public Library offers free seasonal gardening classes most Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays. Call 415-389-4292 or go to

Gardening classes: Armstrong Garden Centers in Novato and San Rafael offer free classes to gardeners of all skill levels on Saturdays. Call 415-878-0493 (Novato), 415-453-2701 (San Rafael) or go to

Workshops and seminars: Sloat Garden Center has five Marin County locations that offer gardening workshops and seminars on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: The Marin Master Gardeners present a variety of how-to workshops, seminars and special events throughout Marin County on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks seasonal volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 415-899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, or 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Marin Headlands Nursery; or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Muir Beach, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 415-561-3077 or go to

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 415-663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions. Go to for more information.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 415-473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Around the bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tours, workshops and special events. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

— Compiled by David Emery

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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Woodland Library garden grows into community gem

Surrounding a civic treasure, the Woodland Public Library garden has quietly become a showpiece in its own right.

Located a block off Woodland’s busy Main Street in the heart of the city’s historic district, the library garden is more than a place to snuggle up with a good book. Filled with about 600 rosebushes and dozens of companion plants, the picturesque garden has become an urban oasis with an international reputation.

“It’s a labor of love for all of us,” said Maryellen Mackenzie, president of the Woodland Library Rose Club.

Sunday, the club will host its 25th annual garden tour featuring six private gardens as well as the library’s own large garden. Attracting about 200 patrons, the tour is the largest annual fundraiser for the library garden’s upkeep.

“The first tour was in honor of the dedication of the original memorial rose garden,” Mackenzie said. “That’s how this all started.”

With about 60 bushes planted under 100-year-old palms, the memorial rose garden still welcomes visitors to the library’s main entrance. But it’s been joined by a series of other themed gardens and plantings that now circle the 1905 Mission Revival building, the oldest working library in the United States originally funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

With the plants reflecting the earliest days of the town’s pioneer settlers, the library garden spans the history of Woodland, which was incorporated in 1871. On an arch-shaded walkway, scores of rare roses date back to Gold Rush days. Nearby, modern roses reflect the evolution of America’s favorite flower.

For the depth and breadth of its collection, the Woodland Library garden was named an international “Garden of Excellence” by the World Federation of Rose Societies. It’s the same award that was earned by Sacramento’s Historic City Cemetery rose garden, Mackenzie noted. Woodland was one of only four gardens nationwide to receive the award last year. Last summer, Mackenzie and club member Marcia Nelson accepted the award at the federation’s World Rose Convention in Lyon, France.

“I’m still in shock we won that award,” said Mackenzie, noting that a new plaque marking the honor will be dedicated in a May 14 public ceremony.

“The Woodland Library Rose Club wanted to underscore the values of this small city by planting a beautiful garden of roses around their historic library,” wrote antique rose expert Gregg Lowery in his nomination of the library garden. “They might have simply planted a lovely display with no particular theme or mission. But they chose instead to educate and delight their visitors by offering a wide range of rose types and weaving them into a path of discovery and history.”

The Woodland Library Rose Club started with a much simpler, straightforward purpose, Mackenzie said. Bonnie Freshwater, then president of the Friends of the Library, founded the garden club as a means to beautify the library grounds.

“They had just put on a new addition to the library, but there was no money left for landscaping,” Mackenzie said. “So Bonnie started a garden club to get the job done. The Woodland High School football team came and took out all the old dirt and put in good soil. It was a community effort. Bonnie had a vision to have a rose garden outside the library, and she was a force to be reckoned with.”

I’m still in shock we won that award.

Maryellen Mackenzie, president of Woodland Library Rose Club

Eventually, the garden club took over space next to the library, the former site of a used car lot. They planted perennials, bulbs, herbs and other plants among the many roses.

A sensory garden now invites visitors to touch as well as smell the flowers. A stretch next to the parking lot features unusual species roses such as yellow Rosa primula. What once was a bland walkway behind a stucco wall became a rose history tour with several examples of Victorian-era blooms.

“It’s just beautiful when all the arches are in bloom,” said club member Chris Bowey, co-chairwoman for this weekend’s tour.

The community has come to love the garden, too, Bowey said. Lining paths through the garden, commemorative bricks bear the names of dozens of local supporters. Memorial benches provide spots to rest among the roses.

The 120-member club has maintained a strong and positive relationship with the library and the community, Mackenzie said.

“The library supports us 100 percent,” she said. “They really appreciate what we do. And they do still save on landscaping.”

25th annual Woodland Library Rose Club garden tour

Where: Start at Woodland Public Library, 250 First St., Woodland

When: Noon-5 p.m. Sunday, April 17. (Rain date: April 24)

Admission: $20 general, $10 youths (under age 18). Buy tickets at Tickets also will be available at the library garden from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on the day of tour.

Details: 530-661-9362,

Also: The Woodland Library Rose Club will celebrate its “Garden of Excellence” honor at 11 a.m. May 14. The public is welcome.

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Give your yard an eco-friendly makeover

Keeping your yard green while trying to be green can be a challenge. But there are eco-friendly ways to create and manage the yard of your dreams. Whether you want to make just a few changes or are willing to go all out, here are three strategies to consider. 

You’re eco-minded, but you want grass, and lots of it. Not a problem. 

“If you want to keep a lawn, care for it organically and naturally,” says David Salman, founder and chief horticulturist at online garden supplier High Country Gardens, which specializes in water-wise and sustainable gardening. “The big-box regime of (using) weed and feed, fertilizers, pre-emergent herbicides, grub killers and fungicides — all of that is dangerous for the environment. It contaminates the water and you don’t want to be walking barefoot over a chemically treated lawn.” 

Salman recommends adding organic compost, which brings both nutrients and beneficial microorganisms to improve the soil. Be sure to add it in the fall and not the summer, he advises, because compost can raise the temperature of the soil, which in turn can stress grass. “(Stressed grass) needs a lot more water,” he says.

And don’t sweat it if clover starts to take over your yard. White clover adds nitrogen to the soil, is low-growing so it doesn’t need to be mowed as often and is easy to maintain, says Chicago-area landscape designer Craig Jenkins-Sutton.

Embracing biodiversity (having more than one kind of plant growing in an area) means you don’t need chemicals to kill the “bad” weeds, says Jenkins-Sutton, who likes overseeding with clover.

“It has a nice little flower that honeybees and native bees love, and is fairly drought-tolerant,” he says.

When you do mow, adjust the cutting height so you can keep the grass 2 to 3 inches high. And don’t rake up the grass clippings — those will break down quickly and return nitrogen to the soil, Jenkins-Sutton advises.

Finally, water effectively.


You’re willing to trade in some of that grass. Here’s how:

Replacing a traditional lawn with ornamental grasses, plants and shrubs is a growing landscaping trend, says Mike Lizotte, managing partner at American Meadows, an online garden supply retailer: “One benefit is the positive environmental impact, because you’re not mowing and fertilizing. It’s also cost-effective and a lot less maintenance.” 

Yes, you’ll have to periodically tend to the plants, but you’ll no longer be required to spend your weekends keeping vast expanses of grass green, weed-free and neatly manicured. 

When adding any new plants to your landscape, Salman recommends putting mycorrhizal fungi, which help in nutrient and water absorption, at the bottom of the planting hole, along with organic compost. “The mycorrhizal inoculant spores germinate and the fungi begin to attach themselves to the plant roots,” he says.

Combining ground cover, upright growing perennials and ornamental grasses will give any yard a balanced and colorful look, Salman says. In addition to being easier to grow, native plants and grasses can also provide habitat for wildlife.

Milkweed and colorful asters attract monarch butterflies, while honeybees are drawn to flowering plants such as marigolds (an annual) and perennial favorites — daisies, lilac and Echinacea.  


The farm-to-table movement is calling your name and you want an edible landscape. That first harvest is within reach.

Growing your own food is part of a trend that shows no signs of slowing down, Lizotte says. “People want to know where their food is coming from.”

“Edibles can and should be a part of many landscapes if there is a lot of space,” says Salman, who suggests growing edibles alongside ornamental plants for an attractive overall look. “That can be as simple as planting fruit trees or fruiting shrubs like currants or gooseberries,” he notes.

If your heart is set on growing vegetables, tomatoes and zucchini are good starter plants, Jenkins-Sutton says. Depending on your soil, raised beds or containers can be vital to getting the best results — they’re more efficient in terms of space, water and effort, and you have full control over the soil.

“If you live in an urban area and want to grow vegetables, you can assume you don’t want to use the soil that’s there. Not necessarily because of contamination, but because it will probably be over-compacted and will not drain right,” says Jenkins-Sutton, who recommends a light, airy soil that will foster root growth. 

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DIRT ON GARDENING: Spring tips for the gardening procrastinator

If your lawn was just so-so last year and in need of some help for the coming season, consider these tips to rejuvenate it:

Equipment maintenance

Get your equipment in good working condition. Mowers that were not serviced at the end of last year’s season should be done so now. Change old oil with fresh new oil by running the mower for several minutes heating the engine enough to drain it completely when the oil plug is removed. Blades should be removed and sharpened. Remember to take equal amounts off each side of the blade to maintain stability. There is nothing worse than an out-of-balance blade to shorten the life of your mower. Replace the blade if necessary. Also clean and hose the undercarriage of your mower, as well as the housing and top of the deck once it has cooled. Tighten all wheel bolts and replace if worn. Garden tools, including spades, hoes, pruning shears and clippers should be cleaned and oiled to minimize rusting and prolong their life. Tillers will require much the same maintenance as mowers.


Sometimes thatch becomes problematic because it is a haven for diseases such as mold, and insects. By lifting the thatch and removing it, grass roots have easier access to air, sun, and water, as well as any application of fertilizer. In a worst case scenario where thatch is so heavy (1/2 inch or more) that it is choking grass blades then a power dethatcher would be in order. A good once-over will generate mounds of the yellow stuff for removal to the compost pile or your local recycling center. Often these clippings can be dried and used as a weed deterrent for gardens or under shrubs. This is environmentally friendly as well. If mowing is done properly by taking off no more than 1/3 of an inch of the grass blade, it is best to leave the remnants to fall and decompose naturally generating nitrogen. It’s when one mows too few times and removes much more blade than they should that heavy thatch becomes a problem.


This practice is yet another form of dethatching using a different tool; a plugging machine. This machine typically is used when compaction is also a problem because of heavy traffic, but is a great tool for the dethatching process as well. This works well in the spring because turf is soft from rain. If turf is dry and hard, make sure to water it a day prior to using an aerator/plugging machine. Leave the plugs to dry and filter back into the lawn; don’t remove them. You can help the process by tamping with the back of a fan rake, but normal mowing and traffic will usually generate satisfactory results. The prime benefit will be better absorption of water and nutrients. If over-seeding is on your agenda, this will enhance seedlings to germinate and survive because of all the new crevices generated to root properly. Remember that once seedlings have germinated, keeping them moist at all times is a priority. A slow release fertilizer will help generate strong and healthy seedlings and promote new growth and shoots for existing grasses.

Starting out the season with clean and well-maintained equipment will make life much easier for the entire season.

If you have spring bulbs that were forced for early blooms indoors, or purchased the same at a retail outlet, now would be a good time to plant them outside to continue their natural yellowing and swell their bulbs for next year’s appearance.

Tom Yoder is a Master Gardener who resides in Goshen. He can be reached by phone at 574-533-0172 or by e-mail at

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This week’s gardening tips: watering, spider mites and spring-flowering bulbs

Constant watering rapidly leaches nutrients from the soils of container plants, so fertilizing plants in pots is important. Soluble fertilizers are easy to apply especially when you use a hose-end applicator, but they must be applied every two weeks to maintain a constant supply of nutrients. Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrients over several months from one application and so cut down on labor.

As much as is practical, continue to deadhead or remove faded, dead flowers from cool-season bedding plants, such as pansy, snapdragon and dianthus to promote extended flowering.

Plant summer-blooming bulbs, such as crocosmia, gingers, lilies, canna, dahlia, crinum, agapanthus and others.

Control outbreaks of spider mites, common during hot, dry weather, with insecticidal soap, light horticultural oil or Malathion.

Harvest cool-season herbs now as they will lose quality as temperatures rise. This includes parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, French tarragon, lavender and chives.

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14 cheap tips to help your garden grow

Whenever I consider gardening on the cheap, I think of a long ago reader who wrote that when some little spruce trees on her patio died, instead of replacing them, she bought a can of paint in a “natural looking green color” and spray painted them. She was proud to say that the little trees lasted two more summers, and she didn’t need to water them once.

I know that’s a crazy little story, but the truth is that there are lots of good ways to creatively cut costs and enjoy the beauty and bounty of home gardening.

I am not an expert gardener by any stretch (our garden last year was a real bummer), but I have been collecting money-saving gardening ideas from garden-loving readers and from other sources over the years. Here are some of my favorites that I hope will help all of us all to have a bountiful 2016 garden, without plowing too much money into our efforts.

• Start small. The temptation is to be overambitious, and then to be overwhelmed. The best approach is to tackle a small garden plot or flower bed and increase your space in years to come as you gain experience.

• Go with the tried and true. Choose plants that are recognized as doing well in our area instead of wasting money on unknown plants. And do your homework — plant sun-loving plants in the sun and shade-loving plants in the shade.

• Be sure to grow some herbs. If you compare the cost of growing a few herbs to the cost of buying them at the grocery, you will be sold on growing your own. Just a mini herb garden in a pot on the deck will do, and herbs such as basil and oregano and chives are easy to grow, and are a good way to get children to participate in  gardening. The Herb Society of Nashville’s herb sale, with hundreds of annual and perennial herbs, is 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday in the Sports Arena building at Fairgrounds Nashville. Admission, including herb seminars, is free, but parking is $5. Details:

• When planting shrubs and trees, take the time to determine how big they are likely to get, and make sure you plant them at the proper distance apart. It will take patience to wait for them to grow to their optimum size, but if you plant them too close together, you will have to buy more plants on the front end, and in a few years, your landscaping will seem crowded.

• Choose perennials over annuals for most of your beds. This makes so much sense since the perennials come back year after year while annuals die out in the winter and you end up buying them over and over. Think about the long-term investment and you can see some significant savings with perennials. Some perennials decline after a few years, but some such as peonies and hosta come back forever.

• Plant swaps are a great way for people to get more plant material. The way they work, everybody brings perennials or other plants to trade. It is a great way to clear out overcrowded beds and get more variety, too. You can also do a plant swap more informally with a couple of friends, or even ask a neighbor or friend if you could have a cutting or a plant when they divide their plants. Offering to help with the dividing is always a good incentive.

• When potting plants, start with a layer of styrofoam peanuts along the bottom of the pot to provide good drainage, save on the amount of dirt you put in and make the pots lighter to move around. My mother always did this, and I read that you can achieve the same results using old golf balls in the bottom of your pots.

• Get a soaker hose. This slow watering of this simple but effective hose with holes can save you lots on your water bill and seems to be the best way to achieve deep watering, which is preferred over more frequent surface watering. Overwatering is not only a waste of money on your water bill, but a common culprit in garden failures, so you might want to invest in a shutoff timer for your hose or sprinkler to ensure you don’t forget.

• Look for marked down plants at stores such as Lowe’s, which often has a rolling cart or two of slightly distressed plants that need a little TLC to come back to life. The high school plant sales this time of year are also great sources of good plants at fair prices..

• Mulching is important to keep moisture in and weeds out, as well as to energize plants with nutrients. If you are looking for cheap mulch and have access to a truck, Metro Public Works has a mulching operation at 1400 County Hospital Road, where you can buy seasoned natural hardwood mulch from the operator, Red River Ranch. Hours are 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-noon Saturday. Hardwood Mulch is $30/pickup load, or $9.50 per cubic yard with a minimum of three yards. They also sell leaf compost for $40/pickup load, of $12.50 a cubic yard with a three-yard minimum. Details:

• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Internet, of course, has unlimited information on every imaginable gardening topic, but you can also call your UT County Extension Office for advice and expertise. Each Tennessee county is staffed with agents who are college graduates in agriculture and/or family and consumer sciences. They are willing and able to provide information on a variety of subjects, including plants, landscaping and gardening, and there is no charge for their service. Another good resource is to ask the staff at your local garden center for advice.

• Use what you have instead of buying a bunch of “garden supplies.” Make your own compost with coffee grounds, grass clippings, egg shells and other kitchen waste, use newspapers to block weeds in your garden, use dirt-filled toilet paper rolls for starter plants and clear plastic takeout containers or clear plastic blanket containers for mini-greenhouses to get seeds started. In the old days, when people still wore pantyhose, readers suggested using old pantyhose to tie up tomatoes, and more recently I heard about using slats from Venetian blinds as plant markers. And, of course, we all know that we should use rainwater, bathwater or kitchen water for watering whenever possible.

• Keep a trowel and a plastic bag in your car, in case you run across some plants you can dig up. Sometimes there are construction sites with wonderful perennials begging for a new home. (Ask first, of course.)

• One of the biggest enemies of a successful garden is squirrels and birds, which can decimate a healthy tomato or berry garden in no time. Putting netting over the plants is a good deterrent, and the mesh bags that oranges and grapefruit come in can be cut to stretch over your plants to make it harder on the freeloaders to get to your home-grown delicacies.

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282. Follow her on Facebook at, and at, and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town.”

About BELL

: A great place to learn about gardening is the BELL Garden, the 1-acre community and school garden next to the Bellevue Library and Bellevue Middle Prep School. You can drop by to look around, ask questions and see how it all works. Plus, there are free workshops such as the Gardening 101 gardening basics workshop that BELL Garden manager Nancy Murphy will lead from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Bellevue Branch, 720 Baugh Road. The workshop will focus on everything you need to know to start your own backyard garden. There is also a chance afterward to see the BELL Garden.

You should also know that if you volunteer at the BELL Garden on volunteer days (Saturdays and Tuesdays) you get to take home some of the harvest for free. That is the ultimate cheap gardening tip! Details:

Get your soil tested

Soil fertility testing is performed at the University of Tennessee Soil, Plant and Pest Center at Ellington Agricultural Center, 5201 Marchant Drive in Nashville (

Here’s how to get your soil tested:

Get a soil sample box from your county Extension agent, from the soil center or from garden centers. You also can use a resealable sandwich bag.

Dig at least six inches for your sample and fill the box or bag with at least one cup of soil collected from several areas of the yard or garden.

Enclose a check for $7, made out to the University of Tennessee, and send or deliver it to the Soil, Plant and Pest Center, 5201 Marchant Drive, Nashville, TN 37211. They will put it through a nine-step process in the lab and check it for potassium, phosphorus and other elements.

Expect to get a report within a week or so by mail or email.

Your report will show the phosphorous level, which you want to be high, since phosphorous is what is needed for seedlings to grow and for plants to bloom. The report also will show the potassium level, which also should be high for healthy, sturdy plants.

The report will make recommendations for amending the soil to give it the proper balance for a productive crop, and tell you if you need to add lime, fertilizer or sulfur to achieve the balance.

If you read the report and still have questions, you can call your county extension office or the Soil, Plant and Pest Center at 615-832-5850.

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