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Archives for May 10, 2016

The Duchess of Cambridge opens new Magic Garden designed by Milton Keynes company

Milton Keynes’ Frosts Landscapes was behind the complete build of the incredible Hampton Court Palace Magic Garden which was opened by The Duchess of Cambridge last week.

The stunning new garden and family play space is located in Henry VIII’s former tiltyard where Tudor jousting tournaments took place.

It brings together the palace’s rich history and mythology with fun playground structures and is divided into themed areas, including a tournament ground, wildwood, mythical beasts’ lair, maze-like topiary garden, encampment, and a spiral mount with moat and grotto.

“This has been an incredible project to work and to finally be able to share the Magic Garden with the public is a real joy,” said Ken White, Managing Director at Frosts Landscapes.

“The garden will become an iconic part of London, and as the plants mature, the garden’s landscape design will fully blossom into a stunning setting for children’s adventure and imagination.”

As visiting families move through the garden, they meet challenges and engage with stories of the palace’s former royal residents.

Children have a variety of imaginative play options, from a treetop walkway and brightly-coloured helter-skelters echoing the 16th-century tiltyard towers that once stood in the space, to a sandpit with a slumbering a ‘fire’-breathing dragon to climb on.

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Two-way traffic on Main Street, diagonal parking topics of discussion at Waterville meeting

WATERVILLE — How to make downtown safer and more user-friendly for motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and patrons was the focus of a report Monday night by those conducting a downtown traffic study.

About 50 people including city officials, business owners, employees, residents and downtown advocates turned out for the meeting in council chambers where representatives of Gorrill Palmer, an engineering consulting firm, of South Portland; BFJ Planning of New York City; and Mitchell Associates, of Portland, gave an update on the ongoing study.

A map of Waterville shows the area that is part of a traffic study due to be completed by the end of June that will help the city go forward with downtown redevelopment plans.A map of Waterville shows the area that is part of a traffic study due to be completed by the end of June that will help the city go forward with downtown redevelopment plans.

An artist's rendering of a possible roundabout at the intersection of Water, Main and Spring streets in downtown Waterville. It's one of many possibilities that are part of a downtown traffic study.An artist's rendering of a possible roundabout at the intersection of Water, Main and Spring streets in downtown Waterville. It's one of many possibilities that are part of a downtown traffic study.

Traffic moves through downtown Waterville on the one-way Main Street. City officials are exploring ideas to return Main and Front streets to two-way traffic to ease congestion, slow traffic down and encourage shoppers to patronize downtown businesses.Traffic moves through downtown Waterville on the one-way Main Street. City officials are exploring ideas to return Main and Front streets to two-way traffic to ease congestion, slow traffic down and encourage shoppers to patronize downtown businesses.


A few basic points emerged from the multiple graphs and charts they presented: There is plenty of parking downtown but it is not always efficiently used, the high accident areas are on Main Street and are due to a combination of diagonal parking and speed, and Front Street also is a problem area for crashes.

The traffic study, funded by the city, Colby College and the state Department of Transportation, is being conducted as separate meetings are held downtown to discuss revitalization efforts and get input from residents and downtown business owners and employees.

One of the things the traffic study is looking at is whether to turn Main and Front streets from one-way to two-way traffic to slow traffic down and make downtown safer and more conducive to motorists stopping to shop, eat and recreate.

Colby College has bought five buildings downtown with plans to develop them and plans to build a dormitory downtown. Collaborative Consulting, a technology firm, plans to have 200 people working downtown in three to five years. Other business people, including Bill Mitchell and Justin DePre, have bought vacant buildings and are developing them. With an influx of people coming downtown, traffic and parking are being scrutinized and a system will be developed for the big picture, officials say.

Randy Dunton, a traffic engineer and project manager for Gorrill Palmer, said there are advantages and disadvantages to having two-way traffic on Main and Front Street.

Potential advantages, he said, include reducing vehicle speed, enhancing pedestrian friendliness, improving accessibility, having greater exposure of shopping opportunities, and making a positive impact on economic development. Potential disadvantages include greater travel times for thru-traffic, possible major changes needed for loading and delivery scenarios for businesses, major investments needed as a result of changes and approval from the state required to change the traffic from one-way to two-way, according to Dunton.

He said planners are discussing the possibility of having Front Street serve as more of a commuter corridor while people wanting to stop downtown would use Main Street.

Don Ettinger, a principal at Gorrill Palmer, said planners will also look at other options for commuter routes.

Those attending Monday’s session had plenty of questions and comments for those conducting the traffic study.

John Fortier, owner of State Farm Insurance on Silver Street, said he would love to see heavy trucks and traffic stay off Main Street, as it would add a lot to downtown.

He said it sounds as if diagonal parking would be eliminated if Main Street is made two-way, and he wanted to hear what planners had to say about that, as it had not been discussed.

“To start eliminating diagonal and sacrificing 30 or 40 percent of those spaces in order to gain parallel, you’re going to really lose a lot of accessibility to existing businesses,” Fortier said.

Dunton said that unfortunately in downtowns many employees use parking spaces or parking areas near where they work, and if they can be convinced to park slightly away from the businesses, that is beneficial.

Fortier said he thinks there are a few examples of employees parking for long periods of time in front of businesses.

“I don’t think that’s the general rule on Main Street. I think that it’s pretty good turnover and access on Main Street,” he said.

But Ellen Richmond, owner of the Children’s Book Cellar on Main Street, said a number of employees park close to buildings although there is a system in place to ensure they park away from the buildings.

Georges Jacquemart, principal at BFJ Planning, said when planners did a survey on parking, they also noted license plates to see how many people park for long periods of time close to businesses.

“You’re right. There are a lot of people that park beyond two hours,” he said.

He said planners are talking about diagonal parking and having conversations with the state about that. Crashes, he said, are created by a combination of speed and diagonal parking. Main Street, he said, varies in width and there may be locations where diagonal parking can be maintained. Fortier reiterated the need to keep some diagonal spaces.

“When you eliminate those, it’s critical to the success of business downtown,” he said.

City Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said she often parks in the back of businesses on The Concourse, and there are plenty of spaces there.

The Concourse, she said, could be improved with better walking areas and landscaping to make the back entrances to businesses as accessible and fun as the front.

“There’s plenty of parking to get to those businesses from the back,” she said.

W. Elery Keene asked if any consideration had been given to having a shuttle that could go from parking areas at Head of Falls to Main Street to accommodate those who come to work early or leave late.

Jacquemart said planners are looking at bus service in general, but had not specifically discussed such a shuttle.

“It’s a very short distance,” he said of the walk from Head of Falls to Main Street.

He added, however, that better lighting and pedestrian crossings have been discussed as a way to make walking to and from Head of Falls more convenient and pleasant.

Bushee also asked if anyone had thought of having metered parking downtown.

Jacquemart said metered parking is always part of a parking management strategy and generally helps to pay for parking, especially if a city wants to look at having a parking garage.

“That should be something that I think the city should look into,” he said.

He added that it is part of “smart parking management.”

“I think it would keep people moving,” Bushee said.

Meanwhile, Ettinger noted that numbers in charts are preliminary and more work is being done. The traffic study is expected to be completed sometime in June. A wrap-up meeting for downtown revitalization discussion will be held in June also.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17.






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Tonight’s Inner Sunset Town Hall To Tackle Safety, Cleanliness & Park Entrance Improvements

In tonight’s quarterly community town hall meeting for Inner Sunset Park Neighbors, the neighborhood association will present and solicit ideas about improving “safety, signage and general flow” near 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way, the entrance to Golden Gate Park.

Multiple initiatives for improving the area are under consideration; the Inner Sunset Streetscape Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), a Green Benefit District (GBD), and a Commercial Benefit District (CBD). None have moved beyond the planning stages; the TEP, which would relocate the outbound N-Judah stop at 9th Irving and remove several parking spaces to create a wider sidewalk, will likely start accepting bids this fall.

To highlight areas where improvements to signage, landscaping, public seating and other additions could enhance life for residents and visitors, ISPN has organized tours of the 9th Lincoln area. According to ISPN, the daytime and evening tours have helped gather feedback and ideas. Tonight’s meeting will aggregate several proposals, and attendees will be encouraged to submit their own.

Photo: Walter Thompson/Hoodline

Many Inner Sunset business owners say tourists who disembark at 9th Irving frequently don’t even realize which way to head for the world-famous park. David Zimmerman, owner of Blackthorn Tavern and president of Inner Sunset Merchants Association, agreed.

“From a merchant’s perspective, we’re still working on signing, wayfinding and neighborhood cohesion,” Zimmerman said. “We still want planters, trees, cleanness and greater Muni ease and efficiency as well.”

Although tonight’s discussion will focus solely on improving the Inner Sunset’s chi, Zimmerman said “I’d like to see some of these ideas brought together and completed.” If groups and government consolidated some of these parallel projects and initiatives, change would happen faster, he said. 

“All of these different types of projects we’re working on individually are all leading towards what we hope will be a cleaner, safer, friendlier district,” he continued. Tonight’s discussion “is an exciting chance to bring out some of the community folks and different groups,” Zimmerman added. “It’s important to keep these moving parts and projects under the microscope and make sure everybody knows what’s going on.”

If residents of the Inner Sunset voted to establish a CBD, the City would create a special assessment for property owners that would fund neighborhood improvements like sidewalk cleaning, security services and landscaping. Funds are managed by a non-profit based inside the CBD. Today, there are 14 CBDs around the City; Middle Polk may be the next area to add one.

Creating a GBD is another option for improving public spaces in mixed-use neighborhoods like the Inner Sunset. If a GBD initiative were approved by local property owners, the area would receive “additional maintenance and capital improvements” to public spaces beyond “the City’s existing level of baseline services.” A non-profit governed by an independent property owners’ association manages the GBD and sets its priorities.

So far, San Francisco has one GBD that covers the Dogpatch and northwest Potrero Hill. Last year, it raised $500,000 to fund trash removal, capital improvements, landscape maintenance, and other efforts, including marketing and communications.

“It’s exciting to finally get everyone together at the same table,” said Zimmerman.

Tonight’s ISPN Town Hall will be held in the Garden Club Room of the County Fair Building at 1199 9th Ave. A neighbor social with refreshments will begin at 6:30pm: the discussion is from 7 to 8pm.

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Urban Agriculture Can’t Feed Us, but That Doesn’t Mean It’s a Bad Idea

Growing up in Iowa is a good way to become familiar with what a field of corn looks like. My eye is more readily drawn to its shiny, lopping leaves and the spike of an unopened tassel than to most any other plant. Driving across Los Angeles, as I do far too often, the crop still catches my eye—but the plots that it grows on here look nothing like the rolling farms back home that each measure in the thousands of acres. Instead, it’s a small berm pushed up against a park fence outside a homeless encampment, a narrow bed hemmed in by wrought iron along a rougher stretch of Melrose, or an odd triangle of otherwise unused land created by a freeway on-ramp. All are home to tiny cornfields with no more than 20 stalks each, at most.

It’s no wonder that corn is grown in the city: The grain, like the tortillas made from it, is such a mainstay of the Mexican and Mexican American diet that it plays a role in cultural identity too. Because nearly half of Los Angeles’ population is of Hispanic descent, corn plays a cultural and culinary role here, with golden ears as commonly depicted on murals in Hispanic neighborhoods, it seems, as Cesar Chavez or Aztec gods. But a dozen ears of corn (or, as was the case in my own tiny cornfield last year, one or two) aren’t going to yield all that much to eat.

Such small-scale gardening is not what some of urban agriculture’s biggest boosters believe can and should be done in American cities. Proponents of large-scale indoor or vertical farms—tricked out with high-tech moisture- and nutrient-monitoring systems to reduce inputs, and recirculating hydroponics or aquaculture systems that promise sustainable production—imagine a future in which rural farmland is used to grow row crops, such as corn and other staples, and high-nutrient, high-value vegetables are grown in tighter spaces more within the city limits. Not only would this shorten the supply chain, the argument goes, but it could provide jobs, reduce carbon emissions and water use, and generally help to create a more sustainable food system.

But the micro-corn plots, with their low yields and high cultural relevance, might be a more realistic example of what urban farming is capable of doing for a city, according to a new review from the John Hopkins Center for the Livable Future of previously published research looking at the promise and limitations of urban agriculture.

Related: Can Urban Agriculture Feed the World’s Growing Cities?

“I don’t think these big, sweeping urban agriculture ideas are going to happen anytime soon,” said Raychel Santo, a program coordinator at the Center for a Livable Future and a coauthor of the report. Of all the benefits of urban farming that proponents like to tout—Santo, a master gardener, said she comes to this with a pro–urban ag bias—the social aspects are the strongest. The promises of self-sustaining cities, enormous job creation, and the potential to upend the agriculture industry have yet to come to fruition.

Still, Santo said, “I wouldn’t rule out urban agriculture as something we shouldn’t be doing because it can’t be a panacea for all of our problems.” If urban farms cannot make the food supply carbon-neutral, they can help to reduce heat islanding; if urban farms cannot bring an end to food deserts, they can help to supplement people’s diets with affordable, nutritious fruits and vegetables on a seasonal basis. “I think that we have to be really careful about how we communicate the potential of urban agriculture,” she added. “If we overstate what it can do, we could lose a lot of its support” when such lofty goals aren’t met.

California, with its year-round growing season and booming traditional agriculture industry, is one of the places where urban farming has both been sold as something like a panacea and received a lot of support with hopes of making some of those promises real. The state has its drawbacks—the largest being the crushing drought that’s into its fifth year—as a potential hub for urban agriculture. But if the ag sector uses 80 percent of California’s freshwater resources, then why not redirect some of the comparatively small amount of water used to irrigate lawns and other landscaping to grow food in urban areas? After all, Los Angeles was once the top-producing ag county in the U.S.

In 2014, the state passed the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which extends property tax breaks to landowners who use vacant lots that fall within certain boundaries to grow food for at least five years. Los Angeles and San Francisco adopted the act the same year, and a report from the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office found that 57,000 lots would be eligible for the program.

So far, just one garden in Potrero Hill, a neighborhood in San Francisco, is using the program, earning roughly a $6,000 annual tax break, according to Eli Zigas, food and agriculture policy director at the nonprofit San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, which advocated for the act on the state and local levels.

“We never expected it to be a huge number of parcels in San Francisco,” owing to the high real estate prices and premium on space on the peninsula, Zigas said. “But we had hopes that more property owners would take advantage of it by now. The hope is that more landowners in other jurisdictions will pick it up.”

Even if the incentive has yet to be wildly successful in the Bay Area, the demand for the tax break, as it were, should help put to rest the notion that “urban farming is making San Francisco’s housing crisis worse,” as one Atlantic story declared in 2014. As Zigas said, echoing the findings of the Johns Hopkins report, the goal is not to find enough land for a city to feed itself. Even if that were the case, the money in tax breaks that property owners could earn by turning their land into farms pales compared with the revenue they could earn by developing housing in the top real estate market in the country.

“It’s hard enough to make a living selling what you grow as a rural farmer. It’s even harder when you have the urban costs of doing business and the cost of living in a city,” Zigas said.

Rather, when developing policies or projects to expand urban agriculture, it should be understood that “the primary benefit is educational,” Zigas said. “The real value of urban agriculture isn’t in terms of the number of people it feeds but in the number of people it touches and educates.” Much like a public park or an urban nature preserve, which allows urban residents to connect with the native ecology of a place, urban farms can provide residents a way to connect with the natural process of growing food—and that connection has value, even if it doesn’t mean that a lot of what they eat is grown within city limits.

Santo noted that “gardening can increase community well-being and social interaction between neighbors,” as well as civic engagement, support for farmworkers, and awareness of other social justice issues in the food chain that feel more immediate when you’re, say, doubled over harvesting your own strawberries instead of picking them out of a grocery store display. (The caveat is that much of the research showing such benefits comes from the social sciences, and a direct causal relationship cannot be shown.)

Even if the social and educational potential of urban agriculture is great, as First Lady Michelle Obama has shown with her focus on teaching and community gardens, there are still questions about access and audience that the report says need to be addressed. Just look at the one plot taking advantage of the tax incentives in San Francisco: The median list price for a home in Potrero Hill is $1.1 million, according to the real estate website Redfin, just above the median price for the city as a whole. Potrero Hill is not the neighborhood that has the most to gain from the kind of social and educational benefits that urban agriculture can provide.

Even in communities where food issues—from access to hunger to diet-related disease—are more acute, the John Hopkins report highlights the common problem of white, well-off organizations using cheap, accessible land in such neighborhoods while “unintentionally excluding people of color from participating in or reaping the benefits of such efforts.” As Brandon Hoover, director of sustainability at Messiah College, wrote in a paper quoted by Santo and her coauthors, “Is urban agriculture just another form of urban renewal, displacing underprivileged communities in the process, or is it an inclusive practice that works with marginalized people in the remediation of ‘their’ land?” On the flip side, community-led projects intended to serve minority or lower-income neighborhoods “have experienced disparities in access to land, government funding, and political support compared to urban agriculture efforts led by white and middle-class groups,” according to the report.

Santo pointed out that “there are a lot of studies showing that for lower-income or minority groups, this is a good way for them to maintain some food sovereignty” and to access crops that they might not be able to get hold of at local grocery stores.

That’s the case with many of the mini corn plots found in backyards (and front yards and freeway medians) and community gardens. A recent study of corn varieties grown by Hispanic communities in Los Angeles and Riverside found that the gardeners are helping to conserve a significant amount of biodiversity, both in terms of the variety of corn grown and the DNA of the plants themselves. While growing the same criollo or heirloom corn in Boyle Heights that was sown across acres at a family’s ancestral home in Mexico has significant personal and cultural relevance, the genetic diversity maintained in such corn varieties—which are often drought tolerant and can be grown with few inputs—could help provide the basis for future corn varieties that could withstand the harsher climate rural farmers are having to cope with.

“Urban agriculture, while it can’t feed an entire city, at least maintains the knowledge of how to produce food,” Santo said. It allows generations who have never known rural life to have both the seeds and the understanding, even on a small scale, of how to feed themselves. That, she continued, could make us more resilient in the uncertain future.

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Oklahoma River of dreams

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HSSA Honoree: Trevor Flick

Colby High School

Academic honors earned:  Academic All State (2014) High Honor or Honor Roll (4 Years) Multiple First In Solo And Ensemble.

Volunteer Work:  Helped Organize A Community Run Assisting Teaching Sunday School Kids Assisting At My Elementary School Cleaning Up Community Gardens Cleaning Community Parks Volunteering At Local Nursing Homes(Landscaping, Painting, Interior Work).

Favorite sports memory: Finishing my race at the state cross country meet. I’ll never forget the mix of joy and sadness as I felt as I celebrated our success with my teammates, but also realizing that so many of them were seniors and that race was probably the last time I’d run with some of them. I’ll miss them forever.

Advice to an athlete: Give everything you got at your competitions and especially at your practices. Hard work and dedication can get you so far in sports and in life. Bring a smile with you wherever you go and try to give it to your teammates and other athletes. Never cut yourself short and remember to enjoy all of it.

Inspiration:  My coach was the greatest inspiration to me. He pushed me to do my best regardless of the opposition against me. The godly man he is has always inspired me to treat others and myself the way God would want me to. If I could grow into the kind of person my coach has become, I would feel very blessed.

College plans: I’m attending the University of Stevens Point to earn my bachelor’s degree of fine arts in graphic design. I also plan to attain a masters degree to further my knowledge in my career field. I hope to be able to be a creative and talented individual who can share his abilities with the world.

Freshman letters, honors:  Cross Country, Track.

Sophomore letters, honors:  Cross Country, Track.

Junior letters, honors: Cross Country, Track, Broke School 4×800 Meter Relay Record 4×800 Meter Relay Conference Champ Team State Qualifier For Cross Country Cross Country Conference Champ.

Senior letters, honors:   Cross Country, Track, Cross Country Leadership Award.

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Master gardeners say it’s time to spring into gardening

Weston Miller will talk about Incredible Edible Ornamental Gardens from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Submitted photo

Weston Miller will talk about “Incredible Edible Ornamental Gardens” from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Dahlia tubers fromOlney will be sold by vendor Joanie Chapel and are ready to plant.

Submitted photo

Dahlia tubers from Olney will be sold by vendor Joanie Chapel and are ready to plant.

Master gardeners and other vendors will have plenty of plant starts for sale.

Submitted photo

Master gardeners and other vendors will have plenty of plant starts for sale.

Dahlia tubers will be for sale at Spring into Gardening.

Submitted photo

Dahlia tubers will be for sale at Spring into Gardening.

Maggie Stuckey, co-author of The Bountiful Container, will speak about container gardening at 11:15 a.m.

Photo by Alex Pajunas

Maggie Stuckey, co-author of “The Bountiful Container,” will speak about container gardening at 11:15 a.m.

ASTORIA — Clatsop County Master Gardeners will present the 2016 Spring Into Gardening seminar Saturday, May 14 at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds. Admission is free.

Gardening for Taste and Beauty is the theme. Presenters will teach about ornamental edibles both as landscaping features and in containers.

The first speaker, Weston Miller, will give the talk “Incredible Edible Ornamental Gardens” from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Attendees will get the skinny on blending edibles and ornamentals for a delicious, low-maintenance landscape. Discover salad-boosting herbs and flowers, fruit trees for small spaces, and native plants that hide “berried” treasures. Learn easy organic care methods and best varieties for blueberries, strawberries, tree fruits, grapes, kiwis, culinary herbs and more.

Miller has a passion for beautiful edible garden landscapes. An associate professor at Oregon State University, he serves as community and urban horticulturist for OSU Extension Service and manages the popular Metro Master Gardener program in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties.

From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Maggie Stuckey will talk about “Container Gardening with Beautiful Ornamental Edibles.” Stuckey, author of “The Bountiful Container” and other garden and cook books, will show how to put together a container garden of edible plants: vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. If you love to grow good things to eat but have limited space this is for you. Stuckey will explain the advantages of container gardening as well as the challenges. As a hands on demonstration, she will prepare three containers of mixed edibles to be raffled off in the afternoon.

Then, from 12:35 to 1:30 p.m., the nonprofit North Coast Food Web will share its culinary know-how with “Let’s Eat Flowers”: demos and tastings focused on creating a feast for the eyes using flowers. Attendees will learn how to make candied flowers, use flowers as garnishes on the plate, and grow and preserve violets, roses and lavender.

Spring Into Gardening offers more than just its featured seminar speakers. There will also be a plant sale, vendors, raffles and family fun.

This year, the plant sale’s varied selection will be more mature and soils are more ready for transplanting due to the later date of Spring into Gardening. This is an opportunity to purchase economical locally grown healthy plants that thrive in coastal soils. Selections includes a variety of perennials, potted cedar trees, ornamental grasses, ferns, bleeding hearts, herbs and apple trees. Plants are from the master gardeners demo garden at the fairgrounds and their private gardens. Master gardeners will be on hand to help attendees identify what’s best for individual growing conditions and general home gardening advice.

Commercial vendors will also be selling vegetable and flower starts. There are more plants this year, including organic vegetable starts, garden and patio art, dahlia tubers, tools, antiques, books, lawn services, artisan foods and more.

The winner of a special raffle has the opportunity to create the garden of their dreams. The “A Days Work” raffle guarantees that the Tongue Point Job Corps Landscaping Class will provide eight hours of landscaping and yardwork supervised by their instructor. The raffle winner provides materials; the students provide the labor. Past winners give rave reviews of paths and walls, raised beds, gardens dug and planted, shrubs and trees installed, and berms created. You do not need to be present to win. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at the OSU Extension office or from a master gardener.

Local merchants and individuals also donate to the popular Master Gardeners Raffle. This year it will be more streamlined and user-friendly. Items include restaurant certificates, hotel accommodations, landscape services and other items.

The event welcomes all ages. Children can bring their parents to learn about and create bugs, buds, bumblebees, bats and slugs. A Worm Farm and a Slug Farm will show these garden helpers in action doing their work.

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This week’s gardening tips: butterfly-loving flowers and heat-tolerant plants

May is a transitional month for Louisiana gardeners. The hot season arrives with daytime highs reaching the 90s and nighttime lows staying in the 70s. Although the ideal season for planting hardy trees and shrubs has passed, many heat-tolerant vegetables, bedding plants, summer bulbs and tropicals can be planted now.

Pentas, lantana, verbena, zinnia, salvias, Mexican butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica) and buddleia are excellent flowering plants to attract butterflies into your garden. These plants also provide colorful flowers through the summer. Do not use any insecticides (even organic) on plants grown for butterflies.

Cut off seed pods forming on Louisiana irises. This will help keep the plants from falling over and also wasting energy on unwanted seeds. It’s also a good idea to cut off the seed pods from amaryllis and agapanthus (starting to bloom now) after the flowers have faded.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

Love to read about gorgeous gardens? Sign up for’s weekly home and garden newsletter, and you’ll get Dan Gill’s latest tips as well as stories about gorgeous local landscapes. It’s easy and free. Just click here. And while you’re at it, head over to the’s New Orleans Homes and Gardens page on Facebook.

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Gardening Greatness: 12 Water Savings Tips

As we bid farewell to spring and happily greet warmer temperatures and fewer showers, we’ll need to start paying closer attention to our gardens. Gardens will soon sprout fresh vegetables in backyards and fresh flowers will bloom in front yards adding lots of curbside appeal. But, to achieve delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers, there will be plenty of mulching, weeding, and watering in the forecast. Your gardening is about to, well, get going with these 12 water savings tips!

Gardening greatness

12 Water Savings Tips For Gardening

Whether you live in drought-plagued regions like California or want to reduce your reliance on natural resources, there are many gardening options available to help maximize your output, in terms of both deliciousness and beauty, and quantity. Image Credit: Alexander Raths / Shutterstock

Whether you live in drought-plagued regions like California or want to reduce your reliance on natural resources, there are many options available to help maximize your gardens output, in terms of both deliciousness and beauty, and quantity.


Below are some helpful water saving gardening tips to keep your green spaces vibrant and your city or town’s water levels high.


  • Limit grass – Replace nonessential turf with ground covers, mulches, decks and walkways to limit the amount of area needing attention. Having your own green space is great but, if not maintained, it can quickly become unsightly. But, beauty does come at a price – upkeep of lawns and gardens require plenty of attention in both money and hands-on time.


  • Consider garden size Plant an appropriate size garden for your household. Be realistic about how large an area you can tend to and ensure none of the product yielded from your endeavor goes to waste. Food waste is a whole other issue the world is currently contending with.


  • Shorter season – Consider planting shorter season crops and drought resistant varieties that require less long-term care and don’t depend as heavily on water. If you are new to gardening, this may be a great way to learn without having to commit for a whole season.


  • Irrigate – Install a water-efficient drip irrigation system. If you plant on a slope or build trenches only a subset of your garden will require watering. The run-off from watered plants and vegetables will then flow to the remaining sections of your plot requiring less need for water to maintain your garden.


  • Water collection – Many municipalities offer rain catcher buckets for free which is a great way to save water. Water gathered in these large containers can help water your lawn, garden or any other vegetation without requiring the use of additional resources. Rain barrels are an especially important resource for areas susceptible to prolonged or recurring drought periods where there could be limits on water use.

Rain barrel for rain collection for gardening

Rain barrels are an especially important gardening resource for areas susceptible to prolonged or recurring drought periods where there could be limits on water use. Image Credit: Alison Hancock / Shutterstock


  • Know your vegetation – If you know you need to transplant plants from smaller pots to larger ones in a few weeks or have a schedule of other critical watering periods you can plan ahead and ensure you’ll have access to the adequate amount of water. You can rely on your rain barrel for estimating water supply.


  • Apply mulch – Placing a layer of mulch on the soil surface around plants can save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Mulch prevents water evaporation and also stops weeds from growing requiring less need for water.

Gardening mulch

When it comes to gardening, mulch prevents water evaporation and also stops weeds from growing requiring less need for water. Image Credit: Ozgur Coskun / Shutterstock


  • Weed often – Weeding is an important step in gardening. Removing weeds not only makes your garden look more aesthetically pleasing but it is also less likely to kill off other plants around it. Most importantly, when weeds are removed there is a reduced need for water. The end result? Fewer things are now competing for water resources than before!


  • Limit fertilization – While some fertilizer is okay, do not overuse it. Yes, it can promote growth which may be exactly what you want, but it can also make things unwieldy. Accelerated growth requires additional water and can yield more weeds – putting more stain on natural resources and more work for you.


  • Use compost – To complement the use of fertilizers or better yet in place of, consider using compost. This method can add both moisture and nutrients which can produce higher yields, but through a more organize process.


  • Water Efficiently – If you do need to tap into natural resources and break out the water hose or turn your sprinklers on, consider these next three things before turning the spigot.


  1. Timing – Water at night or early in the morning, ideally between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.. Watering at these times reduces evaporation and the wind will not be strong enough to interfere with sprinkler patterns. This will lessen the likelihood of water waste and potentially reduce plant disease and water damage.
  2. Seasonal watering – Just as we might rotate our wardrobes with the impending season, watering frequency needs to change with the seasons. Make sure to adjust your automatic system at least three times a year. Your highest frequency will be July-October. Lowest will be November-March, with April-June somewhere in between. During periods of rain, make sure to turn automatic systems off entirely.
  3. Water quantity frequency – If you water deeper you can reduce the frequency of the watering. As an example — try watering three times a week using more water (instead of watering every day). This results in less evaporation, water will be further down where roots can continue to access the water, and result in significant water savings which can be realized in short period of time.


  • Mowing – Mow lawns higher during very warm weather. This not only saves you time by not needing to mow as often but it helps to reduce the rate at which the grass continues to grow further reducing your mowing frequency. Higher grass also provides a shade protecting the lawn from sunburn and decreased weed growth promoting deeper root growth.


While both gardening and lawn mowing can be therapeutic and provide great outlets for stress, it is also important for everyone to do their part and help minimize water use. If you are just starting out and new to the gardening, try to incorporate many, if not all, of these water saving tips to get you on the right path. If you have been gardening for a while and already do many of these things, see if you can integrate more to save you time and money and to help the environment.


Feature image credit: Alinute Silzeviciute / Shutterstock 

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Anna Dement
Anna Dement

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Seasonal gardening tips for spring


• WHEN: Monday

• TIME: Noon to 1 p.m.

• WHERE: Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center, Victoria

• COST: Free to the public, bring your lunch

• TOPIC: “Unique Art Ideas for the Garden,” Presented by Victoria County Master Gardeners Cheryl Clark and Sandy Knief


• Pine/cedar/cypress bark

• Wood chips

• Sawdust (with added slow release fertilizer)

• Grass/hay clippings

• Compost material

Pruning Schedule

Trees and woody perennials

• If not done by now, wait until next year.

Evergreen shrubs

• If not already done, do now.

Spring flowering shrubs/climbing roses

• Cut back after they have bloomed.

Old-fashioned/Knock Out roses

• Have natural rounded shape; don’t need pruning.

Ground cover

• Can still be cut back, but before heat arrives.

Spring flowering bulbs

• Wait for brown foliage; food is being made/stored for next year’s blooms.

Tip-pruning and deadheading

• Prune throughout growing season.

Summer is fast approaching.

It’s time to get landscapes established, so the hot weather can be spent leisurely enjoying those efforts. Four basic tasks that can be done now are fertilizing, pruning, planting and mulching.


If you have not yet fertilized your lawn, now is a good time to do so. Most people fertilize because they want green grass, but its main purpose is to establish healthy grass.

Apply after mowing lawn twice

Fertilizing before growth begins only feeds weeds. A rule of thumb is to apply after mowing twice. How much should you use? Too much promotes top growth rather than strong roots and sets up problems for later. Use about 1/2 to 1 pound of slow release, high nitrogen content per 1000 square feet of lawn. Once you have watered in the application an inch a week is sufficient.

Too late for weed and feed product

By now, it is too warm to use a weed and feed product on lawns. If you think about it, trying to make something grow and kill another something at the same time is a bit strange. If you establish a healthy lawn, you won’t have need of these paradoxical products. Next year, if necessary, apply a pre-emergent product as early as December.

Feed shrubs, bedding plants

Fertilize established shrubs by using a garden fork to aerate the soil at the edge of the shrub. Nutrients will reach roots more easily. Bedding plants that are established will appreciate a feeding of a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13.


Warmer weather and springtime signals plants to grow – and gardeners to work in our yards. Clean-up and pruning are essential, but are best accomplished on a set schedule.

Follow timeline for pruning

Hopefully, you have already pruned trees and woody perennials. If not, it may be best to wait until next year. Evergreen shrubs can still be pruned, but it should be done soon.

Cut back spring flowering shrubs and climbing roses after they have bloomed. Old-fashioned roses and Knock Out roses have a natural rounded shape and don’t have to be pruned at all.

Any ground cover can still be cut back but do so before the heat is here. Wait to cut back spring flowering bulbs until foliage turns brown because food is being made and stored for next year’s blooms. Tip-pruning and deadheading can be done throughout the growing season.

Prune to perfect a setting

Prune with a purpose. Cut back dead or diseased foliage; reshape or thin out branches. After pruning diseased plants, sterilize tools with a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts of water. If you have to prune frequently to maintain size and shape, consider replacing the plant with an appropriately sized one.


In spring, everyone is enthusiastic about gardening. Plants are fresh from greenhouses and look good in stores, but they may not grow well here. Local nurseries can offer advice for wise plant selections.

Plant warm weather vegetables such as tomatoes, corn, and beans. Put in caladiums and day lilies. Add annuals such as petunias, salvia and zinnias. Impatiens and coleus do well in shade. Shrubs and trees can be added to the landscape.


Skip this step if you are fond of pulling weeds.

Choose mulch over weeds

Mulching keeps roots cool and retains moisture. It keeps weeds under control and makes it easier to pull those out that do appear. It also gives a finished look to the landscape.

Select from types of mulch

Several types are available. Pine bark adds acidity to alkaline soils. Cedar repels some pests. Cypress stays in place in heavy rains and hardwood is good for native plantings. Put enough mulch down to completely cover the soil and then add that much more. Leave space around the bases of plants.

You can even mulch your lawn by using a mulching mower. Grass clippings are cut into very small pieces so they will break down easily. Thatch is not caused by small grass clippings but is caused by cutting too much of the grass blade at one time, so mowing more often is advisable.

Watch for unwanted visitors

Aphids and thrips love fresh foliage. Use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for good biological control. Aphids can be controlled by an insecticidal soap or neem oil spray. Bug bait or Sevin is effective for slugs, snails and pill bugs. Consider releasing natural predators like lady bugs or lace-wings.

Other timely tasks

Put a drip system in beds where water can be delivered directly to the roots.

Sprinklers promote disease and waste water.

Divide fall-blooming perennials.

Add compost to soils.

Oil and tune mowers.

Sharpen blades to prevent brown shredded grass tips.

There is enough work for everyone. Have children or grandchildren help plant, weed and water and make some fond family memories.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AM AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or


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