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Archives for May 5, 2016

A Revolutionary Garden Designer Finally Gets a Retrospective

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Kosmicki: Create new public square on San Benito

Still depressed about the Hollister council’s decision to sell the city’s most prized public square for another condo development and a rooftop for sipping wine? There’s a way to get over it.

Now before you instinctively grab the Breyers or Tillamook tub, this isn’t about gorging. The following is an idea that maybe, just maybe, might make you feel a little better about the public’s loss of the 400 block for the price of a granny unit.

First off, forget what I said about the Breyers. New step one: Go to the freezer and get ice cream. Step two: Put two to four large scoops in a big bowl so you can get extra enjoyment out of the idea you’re about to read. Step three: return to reading this column.

OK, here we go: My solution for the lack of a downtown public square is to create a new one right in the middle of San Benito Street. And I don’t mean we should try to replicate the 400 block in a C-minus kind of way. Like, say, throwing something together in the only open lot left on main street, on the less-spacious spot across from the Veterans Memorial Building where the old State Theater stood.

Aching for a jolt of any kind, this community could do something bold, something that stands out and gets other towns talking. That something idea, for me, will probably make you initially chuckle or scoff before a possible reconsideration (I can only hope, and this is where the ice cream mood enticement may help my cause) and realization that potential benefits could far outweigh any costs.

It’s time to explore a concept to permanently block off vehicle traffic at the center of downtown on San Benito Street and create a public square that encourages shopping and community gatherings, and here’s why:

It would become an outdoor shopping mall environment, exactly what merchants need, and provide ample opportunities for the community to get creative in the landscaping design process.

An outdoor mall of one to four blocks between Fourth and South streets would provide a convenient forum for public art displays, picnic tables, trees, flowers, native plants, a recycled water fountain or two, a statue of Col. Hollister shooting a ground squirrel, or other ideas worked out through local dialogue.

At the same time, a pedestrian-only public square in the middle of downtown would do what the district’s business owners have wanted for decades: Halt traffic.

After all, there’s no better way to make drivers stop than to actually make drivers stop. Motorists would face the decision of whether to get out and walk around or veer around the vibrant, inviting public square. At least one entrance to the public square could include one of those arcing signs—as recommended in a downtown strategy plan approved by the city in 2008—welcoming visitors.

It’s certainly better than the current atmosphere where vehicles swoosh by at 40 mph on their way to the next intersection race or Target. That’s unless they have an appointment for a tattoo, massage, hair do or pipe sale.

The great thing is that Hollister wouldn’t have to reinvent a thing because there are plenty other good examples of public squares in cities of all sizes such as San Francisco or, a bit farther to the north, in Healdsburg.

Of course, dissenters may think it’s altogether wacky and will likely gripe about a loss of parking and customers not wanting to walk farther than 10 feet to reach their stores.

Those are minor problems to address, though. First, the side streets wouldn’t go away, so people could park on those near their destinations. To make up for some of the parking loss, though, the city or downtown businesses could buy or lease the old State Theater lot, or somewhere else, for more parking.

Or we could all just truly embrace the whole walking part of a pedestrian-friendly downtown and strut, God forbid, a block or two. It’s a bit ridiculous and embarrassing that the city has a police attendant giving out tickets downtown simply because a few businesses complained customers couldn’t handle parking a few doors away.

Such an active, energetic tone in the downtown’s core, on the other hand, could spread to other areas of the district, too. If people are out perusing the public square, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t explore other stores and restaurants nearby, so all of downtown would benefit.

And maybe those good fortunes could spread to other areas of town nearby. An outdoor shopping square might go well with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez’s idea for a recreation center—which could include ample green space and an amphitheater—at the former Leatherback Industries site on the outskirts of downtown.

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Changing landscapes

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Landscaper adds services to create niche

When you own a landscaping company, it can be hard to find a niche and stand out among the competition. However, in developing a business model, Green Bay SCORE client Ryan Rosenbaum has done just that.

“One of the biggest things for me is that I am a very detailed person, and passionate about the field I’m in,” Rosenbaum said. “I’m always learning and trying to come up with a new way to provide better service and come up with new ideas.”

Rosenbaum and his brother, Nick, started RNR Landscaping, LLC of Green Bay, in 2013.  Although Ryan bought out his brother last year, he continues to operate under the original philosophy of offering a more creative and meticulous approach to landscaping.

Armed with 16 years of experience of managing jobs and working for a Fox Valley landscaper, Rosenbaum visited SCORE and took an entrepreneurial class at E-Hub in Green Bay while developing a 40-page business plan.

“One of the most important things I learned was to know where I wanted this business to go,” Rosenbaum said. “Mark Burwell (the program director for E-Hub) would tell us when he thought we weren’t taking the right path, and gave us some valuable tools for pricing and making financial projections.”

In taking classes and spending time learning about business, Rosenbaum and his brother also planned ahead and started to save and acquire equipment in the year before opening. With those assets, only a small bank loan was required for final equipment purchases. The credit union they visited was impressed with their business plan and their request was approved.

With all the advance planning, RNR Landscaping had customers requesting its services on opening day.

“For quite a few years, I had a lot of friends, families and different connections who had seen my quality of work and were pushing me to go out on my own,” Rosenbaum said. “So, before we launched, I had quite a bit of work. From there, we began to build relationships with customers and they’ve passed along our name to others. That’s how we got rolling and stay very busy.”

The wide range of services includes brick patios and walks, retaining walls and steps, lawn care and maintenance, pressure washing, lawn installation and repair, shrub plantings, patio or deck cleaning and sealing, seasonal cleanup, snow removal and just about any other service associated with landscaping. Then, there are those 3D renderings.

“At UW-Platteville, I learned how to use CAD-based programs to design plans and stumbled across a few programs that could take those drawings and recreate them in 3D. I am able to give customers a better idea of what the job will look like. It’s taken us to a new level,” Rosenbaum said.

In addition to 3D renderings, the company also offers a solid warranty and uses the highest quality materials.

“I see the clients’ projects as an investment in the future of the business,” he said.

As the business grows, he sees education as an important component and has obtained certifications in everything from pesticide application to paver installation. His three employees are highly trained with a similar attention to service and quality.

“In this field, I’m not going to grow unless I have the people I can be confident in,” Rosenbaum said. “I’d rather stay small and provide quality service and work than have three crews that are blowing through jobs and the end result compromises what we are as a company.”

Another challenge will be the ability to balance the demands of business and family.

“My wife and I have an infant son, and I don’t want to be getting home late every night,” Rosenbaum said. “That will make it tough at times to juggle everything so that I’m devoting enough time to my family and company.”

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.

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Venuespalooza: Nearly 600 volunteers take on 27 service projects throughout Springfield – Springfield News

Nearly 600 volunteers completed 27 service projects throughout Greene County last Sunday morning as part of Venuespalooza.

The annual event is hosted by The Venues, a nondenominational church in Springfield. According to a news release, Venuespalooza was developed as a way to dive into the church’s central mission of service to the community and belief that church members will always live that mission, not just speak to it.

Barby Pohl, The Venues’ executive director, said projects ranged from picking up trash along an Ozark Greenways Trail, washing windows and reading to residents at Glendale Gardens Nursing and Rehab Center to doing yardwork and landscaping at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks.

Volunteers also painted at Preferred Family Healthcare, Ashley’s House (transitional home for girls), and Bill’s Place drop-in center for the homeless.

“For Ozarks Food Harvest, we collected over 1,500 pounds of food in those two hours outside local grocery stores,” Pohl said. “For Convoy of Hope, we packed 14,200 meals for the Children’s Feeding Initiative in 10 countries.”

Christy Claybacker, community engagement coordinator at Ozarks Food Harvest, said the donation was enough to provide 1,266 meals to families in the Ozarks.

“This is 40 more meals than they provided last year with this event,” Claybaker said. “Food donations and public awareness about hunger in our community is always important, but especially when schools are preparing to let out for the summer. Many of these kids and their families rely on the free and reduced lunch program for breakfasts and lunches and will now need to rely on our member agencies for this food assistance.”

Pohl said Venuespalooza attracted 450 volunteers last year. This year, church members invited friends and family to help.

“It just keeps growing and growing,” she added. “The No. 1 thing for us is we want to be able to meet the needs of people right here in our community.”

Volunteers worked from 10 a.m. to lunchtime. They celebrated with tacos provided by Pat Duran and the Great American Taco Company.


MERS/Goodwill expands, opens new store

MERS/Goodwill is expanding its services and retail operations in Springfield. The nonprofit will host a ribbon cutting and grand opening at the new 14,587-square-foot retail store at 425 S. Western Ave. on Thursday. The celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony is at 8:50 a.m.

Shortly after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, doors will open at 9 a.m. to shoppers who will get the first peek of the new location’s thrifty treasures. The new store will be open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.

In addition to this new location, the current store at 520 E. Battlefield Road will move to 3151 S. Kansas Ave. and open in the fall. Further, the Career Center of Springfield located at 308 Park Central East will relocate near Hammons Field this summer. While Goodwill currently serves almost 600 individuals in the Springfield area, this new location along a bus route will allow for more individuals to be helped through the agency’s programs.

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Why Cities Have to Care About Native Plants

Each year, naturalists across the U.S. go to war with invasive plants. Take lesser celandine, for instance. The delicate yellow petals, which emerge in early spring, belie a resounding—and frustrating—toughness. The plant beats native wildflowers to bloom, and usurps their habitats in the process. As of April 2016, it’s been detected in 25 states; a model from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the USDA estimated that up to 79 percent of land in the U.S. could be hospitable to an infestation.

A naturalist in Washington, D.C. recently told National Geographic about how the weed has choked out nearly 200 acres of the city’s Rock Creek Park. “People say, ‘Why don’t you dig it up?’” he said. “I could dig this up for a thousand years and you would not see anywhere near the end of it.”  

Invasive species are tricky to eradicate. A recent piece in Smithsonian described how some land managers in Maryland are resorting to flame throwers to scorch the unwelcome and aggressive guests—including lesser clenandine—into oblivion. Removing the weeds by hand can have a counterproductive effect by broadcasting portions of the entangled root system to a new location.

Removal is tough, but it matters. As native plants’ numbers dwindle, so do the populations of native pollinators that survive on them. In turn, that shrinking cohort struggles to pollinate crops and sustain habitats.

Native plants are struggling across the country. In Chicago, for instance, land use change has altered or destroyed a significant share of these habitats, says Rachel Goad, the manager of the Plants of Concern program at the Chicago Botanic Garden. At one point, she says, Illinois was 60 percent tall grass prairie; today, less than 0.01 percent of that ecosystem remains. That means that there’s not much space for prairie species, and invasive ones encroach on them, too.

Maintaining existing open space isn’t necessarily a cure-all, either. “Sometimes you preserve kind of a postage stamp that’s surrounded on all sides by roads, parking lots, and housing developments, and it can change the way water moves through the site, and the nutrients really considerably,” says Goad.  

A brushfire set to eliminate buckthorn, an invasive species being cut down to make room for native prairie plants at the Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois. (REUTERS/Andrew Stern)

In response to these threats, cities across the U.S. are launching campaigns designed to nurture native plants. Last month, the Washington, D.C. Department of Energy Environment debuted an initiative to hand out 8,000 packets of native seeds, each containing enough to cover about 50 square feet. At subway stations throughout the District, commuters could grab a seed mixture including native wildflowers such as wild senna, purple coneflower, and butterfly milkweed. Julia Robey Christian, the public information officer for the DOEE, tells CityLab that this effort sprung out of the District’s focus on rehabilitating local meadows. The giveaway, she says, aims to “raise public awareness of the importance of pollinators and meadow habitat in the District and to provide opportunities for residents to engage with our surrounding natural environment.”

How do people respond to the threats posed by invasive species? That’s the question that the Human Dimensions Research Unit—a cohort within the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University—aims to clarify. The team collects information about perceptions and behaviors surrounding management of natural resources. Last year, they circulated surveys around New York state. On those surveys, home gardeners indicated that they were willing to tweak their behaviors to look out for native plants: more than 53 percent of respondents said they’d be “very willing” to change their behavior if they learned they were contributing to spreading invasive species; less than 1 percent wouldn’t entertain the idea. More than half of the subjects had already combated invasive species in their own gardens, and nearly one-third researched plants prior to planting with an eye towards replacing invasive species with native or noninvasive ones.

Still, only about 30 percent of gardeners said they were very concerned about invasive species. Bruce Lauber, a senior research associate in the HRDU and co-author of the report, speculates that this discrepancy might have something to do with ideas about what constitutes the “wild” world. “When you’re involved in an activity on your property (like gardening) you may not expect to be in a ‘natural’ habitat in the same way that you would if you were off fishing in a lake or stream or camping in the woods,” he tells CityLab.

Overall, though, since many respondents were already aware of invasive species and receptive to changing their behavior, the authors concluded that outreach initiatives might be most useful if they focused on behaviors that are “easier and less costly to carry out.” Lauber is encouraged by public interventions such as handing out native seeds. These initiatives “certainly fit the description of the kind of intervention we were suggesting—[they] give people a low-cost, low-effort way to try planting native species,” he says.

Urbanites who don’t own their property might not be able to sow a native garden. Instead, Goad suggests adding elbow grease to the cause through volunteering. Local organizations often recruit volunteers to help remove invasive species, plant natives into an area that’s being restored, or work as citizen scientists to collect data on at-risk species. “People can learn about their native ecosystems, wherever they live, and how to support them,” she says.

And even on a municipal scale—as construction uproots native plants—there’s hope for re-establishing habitats. Once lost, native plants aren’t necessarily gone forever. In The Atlantic, Nate Berg recently wrote about reimagining a road that fractured a decommissioned army base (now park land) in San Francisco. Green-roofed tunnels will encase the newly subterranean road, granting the Presidio 14 more usable acres—and space to expand the populations of native grasses, shrubs, and succulents. Berg reported that more than 50 species were being collected and cultivated for landscaping, which is expected to be fully installed by 2018. In Washington, D.C., Christian adds, the DOEE is also partnering with the Department of Transportation and Department of Public Works to install meadow habitats along roadways and in medians.

Despite their crucial role in urban ecosystems, says Goad, “I think plants often get overlooked.” She believes the solution is, in part, reminding people of the extent to which they live alongside the natural world, not separate from it. “To whatever degree we can remove this hard barrier between nature and where people live, will be so beneficial to native plants and wildlife.”

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DIY home and garden workshops in Howard County

The “do-it-yourself” approach to home and garden projects can make a house feel more like home—and save a little money in the process. But it’s not always as easy as it looks HGTV.

Fortunately, area experts are eager to share the knowledge that will help you update a room or get a garden going — often at no cost. These local classes and workshops will arm you with the skills to make your home your own.

Do-it-yourself — or herself

Taking on home projects can feel a little overwhelming, especially if you haven’t picked up a power tool before.

Home Depot stores in Columbia and Ellicott City are looking to take away the fear with an extensive list of free Do-It-Yourself workshops on everything from laminate floor installation to building an outdoor sofa.

“These are projects where we work on understanding how to measure and cut using power tools,” says Beth Gunter, a garden associate and class instructor at Home Depot in Ellicott City.

But it’s not just a macho endeavor. The store also offers a female-targeted class series titled “Do-It-Herself,” to help women tackle home improvement tasks. The series covers projects like building a wine rack, creating an herb cart and a hanging gutter planter.

“We’re trying to show people that they can acquire skills to handle the basic everyday tasks that you run into commonly in your home with a few simple tips,” Gunter says.

Home Depot’s Do-It-Yourself classes are held on most Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Do-It-Herself classes are held on the third Thursday of each moth from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For a schedule of upcoming workshops, visit, or call 410-750-2199 (Ellicott City) or 410-872-0688 (Columbia).

Backyard farming

Looking to take your garden to the next level and maybe add some homegrown vegetables to the dinner table?

The “Grow It, Eat It” vegetable gardening classes and events through the University of Maryland Master Gardener Extension program started in 2009 and bring real-life tips to locals looking to cut out the trip to the grocery store for produce.

“It is a way to educate people on best agricultural practices and teach them what that means for backyard gardeners,” says Kent Phillips, co-chair of the Howard County branch of the University of Maryland Extension.

Phillips, a retired former federal government employee, is one of a number of volunteer Master Gardeners teaching extension classes. He has been gardening for more than 40 years and first became interested in it when he wanted to get pesticide-free food for his twin daughters in the 70s.

“It’s very fulfilling and a lot of fun to see people learn and transform into gardeners,” Phillips says.

The classes offered in Howard County cover a range of topics, including container gardening, growing tomatoes and deterring deer and garden pests. The programs run on Saturday mornings and weeknights at libraries and community gardens across the county. All are free of charge.

More information on classes offered through the extension program can be found at or 410-313-2707.

Teas and trees

Outside the Miller library in Ellicott City, a quarter acre Enchanted Garden has 65 native plants available for growing, learning and exploring.

“We’re trying to cultivate a new outside learning environment here at the library,” says Ann Hackeling, Enchanted Garden coordinator and instructor. “It’s great to see people participate and know they are taking home new skills and interests and try things they’ve never done before.”

The library system offers workshops and classes in the garden for all ages, including adults. Nearby and regional guest teachers bring unique lessons.

Two of the more distinctive ones include a workshop on growing therapeutic teas, taught by Donna Koczaja, a clinical herbalist and owner of Green Haven Living, on May 12 at 7 p.m., and a “how-to” Bonsai class taught by the Baltimore Bonsai Club on the morning of June 11.

The Miller branch also offers compost demonstration courses on one Saturday and Monday of each month.

Visit or call 410-313-7799 for more information on the free classes at the Enchanted Garden.

Learning landscape

Knowing what to look for when shopping for plants and trees to spruce up your yard can be harder than it seems.

Miriam Mahowald, a plant, landscape and design instructor for noncredit classes at Howard Community College aims to take away the mystery that comes with taking landscaping into your own hands.

“There’s more to selecting the right plants than simply thinking it will look pretty in your yard,” says Mahowald, who has been teaching gardening classes for more than 15 years.

She started learning the basics of gardening from her family, who grew and sold plants and vegetables. When she got her own house, Mahowald realized she wanted to learn more about everyday gardening and landscaping, so she enrolled in the Master Gardener program in Howard and Baltimore counties and became a horticulture consultant for the Howard County Cooperative Extension through the University of Maryland System. (She’s also the superintendent for vegetables at the Howard County Fair.)

When it comes to going to the store to purchase landscaping materials, she says it’s important to get as much information as you can by looking at the roots.

“My grandchildren always made fun of me and were embarrassed when I would take the plants out of the pots in the store, but you have to peak to see whether the plant is root bound or has recently been replanted,” Mahowald says.

In addition to Mahowald’s landscaping and container gardening classes, HCC offers home improvement classes on subjects like Feng Shui decorating and preparing to remodel.

The classes range from free to $139 depending on the length of the course. Find more information on upcoming classes at under “continuing education,” or call 443-518-1000.   

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Pat Munts: Upcoming plant sales offer choices, gardening tips, gift ideas

Get your calendars out folks. The plant sales are about to begin. Over the next two weekends gardeners from across the region can check out the latest new introductions, check out some great garden art and learn the ins and outs of growing flowers, vegetables, fruit and more.

There will be two sales on Saturday just a couple of miles apart. The Master Gardener Foundation of Spokane County will host its annual Garden Faire and Plant Sale at the WSU Spokane County Extension Office, 222 N. Havana St. This year’s fundraiser will feature loads of veggies including an especially large variety of tomatoes and peppers, and seeds for sale from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, Renee’s Garden, Ed Hume, and Northwest Seed. As always there will be lots of perennials grown by Master Gardeners. There will be a special collection of pollinator friendly plants and lots of how-to information about attracting these important friends to the garden. Several local specialty nurseries slso will offer their unique plants. The event runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Extension Office, 222 N. Havana St..

Also on May 7, and just up the road from the Extension Office, the Greenhouse Program at Spokane Community College will have their annual Mother’s Day sale at the greenhouses on the north side of the SCC campus at 1810 N. Market St. The sale will feature beautiful Mother’s Day hanging baskets, annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, trees and shrubs all grown by or cared for by the second year greenhouse students as part of their educational program. The sale will run 9 a.m. 5 p.m. and will support the greenhouse program.

The next Saturday, May 14, will be the annual Garden Expo at the Spokane Community College Lair Student Union Building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year’s theme is “Gardening through the Ages – Once Upon a Vine.” This is the largest event of its kind east of the Cascades.

This year’s Expo will feature more than 250 vendors from across the Northwest selling a mix of exotic specialty plants; garden art, accessories and décor; garden-themed antiques; herbs; vegetables; locally made food products; landscape supplies and services and garden furnishings. Many of the specialty plant vendors only come to this show so this will be your only chance to discover some unique plants.

There will be a full day of lectures and demonstrations on garden topics such as the Selkirks Spectacular with photographer Jerry Pavia, Planning and Planting for Pollinators with yours truly, History of Northwest Agriculture with historian Robert Singletary, and Garden Remedies from the Past that Work Today with Phyllis Stephens. There will be demonstrations, too: Edible Landscape with Michael Loundagin of Home Fires Nursery, How to Take a Soil Sample with the Spokane Conservation District, and Tips for Using Clematis for Cut Flowers with Linda Beutler of the Rogerson Clematis Garden.

There also will be lots of educational displays and a judged flower show with the Inland Empire District Garden Clubs to round out the event. A wide selection of food available onsite and as always parking and admission are free.

Pat Munts is the co-author, with Susan Mulvihill, of Northwest Gardener’s Handbook. Munts can be reached at pat@inland

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City Gardening tips to make the most of spring

As the spring sunshine warms our hearts and our gardens , I feel this great urge to plant seeds. Planting seeds of all shapes and sizes is the promise of regeneration, of new beginnings and fresh starts.

They are usually bought, sometimes saved from last year, and even plundered from the fruit bowl.

At the primary school gardening club in Hammersmith , there has been much excitement about planting rocket seeds – teeny weeny seeds.

The RHS has organised a nationwide, scientific experiment linked with International Space Station to plant rocket seed, which has travelled to space with Tim Peake. Or has it?

We had two packets, one red and one blue. Which has been to space? All will be revealed at the end of May. The children have been most engaged and vigilant watering is taking place.

We have also been planting larger seeds too, sunflowers, and pomegranates even avocados with some success. A book called Plants from Pips by Holly Farrell has inspired us to take a look at some of the fruit and vegetables around us and see what we can grow.

Sarah Heaton

Pomegranates and avocados make great indoor plants too. Just wash off the fruit flesh and either plant straight away or let them dry out to plant later.

With the pomegranate, take a few of the jewel-like seeds and sow in small pots of compost. You can seal the pot in a plastic bag or just put it on a sunny windowsill to germinate in five to 10 days.

For avocados, I just put three cocktail sticks about a third of the way up the stone or pip and balance this on a jar of water so the tip points upward and the bottom, flatter area is touching the water.

It is fascinating to watch the seed open up and the root and shoot emerge. My plants have got positively triffid like so I have pruned the tip to produce a more bushy plant.

READ MORE: London weather set to be hotter than Canary Islands as city heats up

While I find rocket, carrot and beetroot seeds quite small and fiddly, they are fine for the children’s nimble little fingers.

The young helpers in the garden are so enthusiastic and their natural affinity with nature, adds a zest and fun to all gardening projects. My friend Betsy has just planted up a container with her granddaughter Eloise.

My son has gone for carrot planting this year on his own small plot on my allotment and even my teenage daughter helped sow potatoes – pink fir apple – this weekend, a welcome half hour break from homework and revision.

The delight of sowing seeds is that it can be a small project lasting 15 minutes. It also allows the imagination to spark and wonder what might be.

And seeds do come in all shapes and sizes. Just pushing some Nasturtium seeds into containers or beds will add a splash of orange to the garden. And “woodland” seeds work well in shady areas, under canopies of trees and shrubs.

For more information and tips, head to the Sarah Heaton Gardens website .

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Rick Vuyst combines gardening tips, humor for ‘Kick in the Plants’

Posted May. 4, 2016 at 4:05 PM

Holland, Mich.

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