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Archives for June 4, 2016

Renovations right outside your door

With the nice weather we have been experiencing this year, one couldn’t help but turn their attention to the outdoors when considering what needs to be done in your home. You may have ideas about decks and patios, what to put on the decks and patios, extensions to these areas, recreational areas, maximizing the potential of your yard and the various amenities can put you over the top in fabulous.

The first thing you see when you walk out your back door should be your deck or patio. If you don’t have one, I’d recommend building one. We had a tremendous mosquito-reduced summer last year, but we all know that won’t last forever, so a little separation from the lawn can be a good thing. The magnitude is up to you, but the mind races with ideas. Let’s explore a few options.

A multi-level outdoor structure allows various activities but also a bit of separation and privacy. One area or level could be designed for lounging; whether it be reading, socializing or just stretching out in the sun. Another could be for eating, perhaps a table and four chairs under an umbrella. The barbeque, a staple in any Manitoba home in the summer or all year, can be found close by. On the third level, we find the hot tub. There were dozens of models for all tastes and budgets. Inexpensive to maintain, perfect for entertaining or just relaxing and fully operational all year, they are the perfect complement to the outdoor living space.

Of course, there are plenty of other amenities available that would further enhance the backyard living experience. Fireplaces or firepits, lighting, sound systems and a portable bar are just a few suggestions.

Beside the deck or as an extension, we are presented with sunroom or seasonal living-space options. Gazebos continue to be very popular. Your yard can be whatever you make it to be. There are beautiful landscaping designs, recreational areas, perfect lawns, flowers, shrubs, trees and countless other options to make your yard your own paradise. For those who wish to cut back on the grass-cutting while enhancing their recreational lifestyle, there is plenty of information available on pools.

For anyone who has visited recent consumer trade shows such as the Winnipeg Home and Garden Show, there was an endless list of possibilities for renovation and decor just outside your back door. For those who didn’t, hopefully this gets you started in your thinking about bringing new life into your outdoor environment. Home renovations are for the whole home; enjoy yours to the fullest.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association.

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Library due for an upgrade thanks to Friends – and their friends – Florida Times

Pretty soon a tree removal service will be digging up the sycamore trees in front of the Beaches Branch Library in Neptune Beach — and Josh Messinger of the Friends of the Beaches Branch Library worries panic may set in among the eco-friendly locals.

Don’t be concerned, he said.

The removal is just the first phase of a more than $25,000 renovation to the library grounds, which will include replacing the lost sycamores, inch for inch, with native hardwoods. Approximately eight months ago, the Friends of the Beaches Branch Library launched an effort to spruce up their local space. When told remodels to the interior wouldn’t be possible, Messinger, the organization’s president, proposed a complete overhaul of the landscaping.

Work should begin by the end of June. The $25,000 to be spent on landscaping was raised by Friends of the Beaches Branch Library, while the additional cost for ADA improvements and continued maintenance will be covered by the city of Jacksonville.

“The library is not just a library. It’s a community center for the beach. There’s a lot of love there,” he said. “It’s not just Neptune Beach that will see new grounds and a beautiful new library. Everyone out at the Beaches will be able to enjoy this.”

Recently, the library itself underwent construction for a new main entrance, as well as the replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. For months, the space looked shuttered — and the library system repeatedly had to remind clients that, despite boarded windows, it was still open for business. According to Messinger, the boarded windows upset some Beaches residents and created ill will between them and the city of Jacksonville.

Discouraged by the prolonged construction on the library, the Friends approached Jennifer Giltrop, the Jacksonville Public Library deputy director of public service. She told him improving the landscape around the Beaches Branch would be a great idea.

“A lot of the landscape was dead,” Messinger said. “I go on runs in the morning and you would have the Bellagio waterworks show going on out front because of the broken sprinklers.”

Enter Rockaway Garden Center.

Since Neptune Beach is a small community without a large budget, Messinger reached out to the Jacksonville Beach garden center for aid. Without hesitation, the company agreed to donate its services without cost to the Friends.

“They did a very extensive audit of what we had, and it came back — not shockingly — pretty poor,” he added. “The sycamore trees in the parking lot — their root systems were in decline. Further, they had encapsulated all the water lines. All the irrigation in the parking lot was gone. The roots had been breaking up sidewalks and concrete pathways so often that concrete contractors were coming out frequently.”

The company and the Friends created a plan.

But, when they proposed it to the city of Jacksonville, that shook up plans already in the works. Turns out, the city had been looking at completing some deferred maintenance out at the Beaches, which included removal of the sycamores. The Friends quickly saw this as a opportunity to partner with Jacksonville.

However, like any complicated project involving three separate entities, snags were unavoidable.

The Friends and Rockaway Garden didn’t want to complete a $25,000 project without the guarantee of future maintenance. As it is now, Messinger said, he thought the library was only mowed when the nearby medians were mowed. Maintenance became the big concern. Messinger reached out to Elaine Brown, Neptune Beach mayoral candidate and member of the Ish Brant Beautification Committee, for help. She quickly set up a meeting with Councilman Bill Gulliford — and then Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sam Mousa.

“If we are going to spend $25,000 — and it’s more than that if you think of in-kind donations — on a large project, we don’t want to see the Friends’ sweat from book sales and fundraising go into a beautiful project that then becomes overgrown and unmaintained. Because Florida just destroys landscapes.”

According to Larry Ritter, landscape designer at Rockaway Garden, the plans were designed from the get-go to be as native and low-maintenance as possible. He selected plants that would look aesthetically appealing, but also complement the beach feel. To replace the sycamores, they will be bringing in elms, east Palatka hollies and a large cathedral live oak. The new design will include nicer landscaping around the courtyard area and allow for more visibility into and out of the library. The lampposts surrounding the building will be removed and replaced with LED uplighting, which will cast a much nicer glow on the exterior. Messinger says the water works show will be gone, and in its place will be efficient drip irrigation and sprayers.

Ritter estimates the total cost of Rockaway’s in-kind donations to be around $2,500 to $3,000 — a piece of the project Messinger said would not have been possible without the donation.

“The library is part of the community,” Ritter said. “It’s looked so bad for so long. It had been neglected, and it was finally time to fix it up. … The building won’t look the same, and the site won’t look the same. It’s going to be a place the community can be proud of.”

Both Gulliford and Mousa agreed the project was worth the time. With the Friends’ investment of $25,000, both Gulliford and Mousa couldn’t help but be impressed, Brown said.

“This is a major partnership,” Brown added. “The money that was raised for this beautification project, well, the city was blown away by that. … To come from the community to a library, you hardly see anything like that.”

Of course, Brown said, it was an honor to work with the Friends to get such a big project accomplished for the Beaches.

According to the Jacksonville Public Library system, the mission of the library is to enrich lives, build community and foster success by bringing people, information and ideas together. In 2014, more than 3.4 million visits were made to Jacksonville Public Libraries, items were checked out more than 5.9 million times, and nearly 11,000 programs and services were offered to Duval County residents at the Main Library and 20 branch locations. Out at the Beaches in March 2016 alone, more than 16,000 people used the library, with a year-to-date count over 73,000.

For more information about the library, visit the county-wide website at To learn more about the Friends, visit their Facebook page by searching “Friends of the Beaches Branch Library.”

Amanda Williamson: (904) 359-4665

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Sharum’s Garden: Formal Landscaping

In this week’s Sharum’s Garden segment, Frank Sharum shows us some of his landscaping ideas for making your lawn look its best!

One of the plants Frank shows us this week is a Teddy Bear Magnolia. It only grows to 10-12 feet tall and is perfect for planting around the outside of your house.

Another plant to try is the Italian Cypress. It goes perfectly in flower beds beside swimming pools!

Check out the video for more information!

Segment Sponsored by: Sharum’s Garden Center

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Homestead and Redland: The new South Florida wedding hotspots

Dwyane Wade’s wedding to actress Gabrielle Union in 2014 evoked a children’s storybook image, complete with a most un-Miami-like white castle that was, naturally, surrounded by a moat.

Photos of the massive, Gothic-style mansion looked liked they had been yanked from a coffee-table book of luxurious French chateaus.

Surprisingly, the castle, named Chateau Artisan, is located miles — literally and culturally — from South Beach, in Redland.

Those green acres and the ones just south in Homestead are an emerging destination for weddings, experts say. Couples seeking venues far from the traditional hotel ballroom scene and close to nature are looking south to Miami-Dade’s agricultural mecca.

Spurred by the popularity of the Schnebly Redland’s Winery Brewery, about a dozen wedding venues have sprouted across the area. They appeal to an insatiable demand by brides to offer their guests the two magic words: “something different.”

“The appeal of going to Homestead for a lot of the local brides is because it’s almost like a destination wedding,” said Jeannie Montes De Oca, director of business development for Miami-based Inspired Events. “People are being transported to a section of town that they never really go to.”

Wedding industry veteran Maggie Rodriguez, who owns Inspired Events, said that in the past, her company generally organized only a handful of weddings each year in the county’s southernmost reaches. Now nearly 50 percent of the 100 to 125 annual weddings Inspired Events puts on every year are in the south.

Most locals aren’t aware of the agricultural area’s attractions, she said. For them, Homestead offers a mysterious allure that modern brides seek.

I think a lot of people my age are just looking for something different. I feel like I’ve been to the same wedding over and over.

Ashley Bolling, who married at the Walton House in Homestead

Baptist Hospital nurse Ashley Bolling wanted that exact ambiance when she scouted Homestead for wedding venues last year. She and her husband, Michael, originally from New York and Michigan, wanted an outdoor venue that would feel like a destination wedding for their out-of-state guests, she said.

“Driving down there I was like, ‘Oh my God, where are we going?’ because it really is just out in the middle of nowhere. But you find that it’s not really too far from the city and [there are] these little patches of an oasis,” Bolling said. “I had no idea that any of that was down there.”

The Bollings married at the Walton House, a 1917 English-style cottage in the middle of five acres of a Homestead botanical garden. The event space includes a coral rock swimming pool, lagoon and cascading waterfall — as well as monkeys, flamingos, parrots and other birds that roam the property.

The couple married in a four-minute ceremony (“we wanted to get to the party,” Bolling said) that took place amid a canopy of palms. Bolling wore a white lace jumpsuit and orange pointed-toe heels. Local band Gypsy Lane played the reception at a tent set up on the property.

“I didn’t want a traditional wedding. I didn’t want to be sitting in a ballroom,” said Bolling, 29. “I think a lot of people my age are just looking for something different. I feel like I’ve been to the same wedding over and over.”

That sentiment was echoed by more than two dozen brides and locals who contacted the Miami Herald with details on their Homestead weddings or weddings they had attended in south Miami-Dade County.

“I think my generation is allergic to all things ‘traditional’ and ‘ordinary,’ ” said Vanessa Salgueiro, who got married at an avocado farm in Redland called Estancia Culinaria and gave out Homestead-based Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon buns as her wedding favor.

“I’m from the baby boomer generation, but I love the break with tradition and these destination weddings in natural places as opposed to churches and hotel ballrooms,” said Nelly Rubio, of Miami, who attended a wedding at the Walton House in April.

“My guests felt like they were also someplace other than South Florida, and were surprised such a unique venue existed close to home,” said Jackie Somma, who married at Estancia Culinaria in November.

$20,000 Minimum cost for a wedding with an average of 100 guests in Homestead and Redland

The trend follow a national movement for locally sourced food and farm-to-table meals that have reinvigorated interest in rustic country life.

Miami-based caterer Chef David Schwadron said the first thing couples ask when they approach him to cater a wedding is if food is locally sourced.

“I think the brides and grooms today are looking for that farm-to-table experience and try to make the food offerings unique and healthy for themselves and their guests,” said Schwadron. A veteran chef with 25 years under his cloche, Schwadron has served luminaries including President Barack Obama during local fundraisers.

More than 60 percent of the weddings he caters are with farm-to-table locally sourced food, he said.

But just as organic food is generally more expensive (think Whole Foods vs. Publix), so too are the bills for fresh-from-the-farm weddings. Catering costs are about 10 to 15 percent more for farm-to-table receptions than traditional weddings.

Aside from food, most other costs are in line with other Miami-area celebrations. Wedding planner Rodriguez said most weddings in Homestead and Redland cost a minimum of $20,000 for an average of 100 guests, and goes up, depending on the number of guests, the venue and extras such as animals. The average price of a 2015 wedding in South Florida was $39,768, according to a survey by wedding planning website

But as more brides head south, prices are ballooning. The Walton House began charging about $5,000 in 2014 and now gets about $8,000 for a wedding that includes the venue and a bridal suite. Palms Estate, a seven-acre home in Homestead, will charge $5,000 when weddings begin on the property in October but go up to $6,500 soon, Rodriguez said, which includes the venue, valet parking and a bridal suite.

Those changes have been part of a growing movement that gradually took off after the opening of Schnebly Redland’s Winery Brewery in 2008, Rodriguez said.

My guests felt like they were also someplace other than South Florida, and were surprised such a unique venue existed close to home.

Jackie Somma, who married at Estancia Culinaria in Redland

The venue naturally lent itself to weddings, said the winery’s event planner Natazia Rojas: It was family-oriented, with space for events and benefited from the tourism that already came to the area to visit farms.

“There wasn’t really anything so similar here,” Rojas said. “With a beautiful outdoor setting you’re able to get away with more as opposed to a ballroom setting where you really gotta go grand.”

Interest in the winery has spiked recently, Rojas said. It has shot up at the Secret Gardens, too, a serene tropical venue in Redland.

Secret Gardens’ event director Agnes Patterson said that while the venue has been open for seven years, its popularity has grown in the past two years as other spots have opened in the area. A former high-end landscaping showroom, the garden is home to waterfalls and a turquoise lagoon. Organizers can arrange for exotic animals, such as lions and zebras, to be part of the wedding.

“You can do anything here, you could keep it very simple, you could make it very urban — it all depends on what the bride wants,” Patterson said.

Unconventional romance isn’t entirely new here. For seven decades, Homestead has been home to a venue dedicated to one of the most resounding love stories to come out of South Florida.

After his fiancee, Agnes Scuffs, called off the wedding just a day before it was scheduled, Latvian transplant Ed Leedskalnin was devastated. He spent the next 28 years sculpting a moon, rocking chairs, a bathtub, beds and a throne at the site now known as Coral Castle. Today the site is primarily a museum but has hosted weddings since the 1960s and 1970s, said general manager Laura Maye.

Recently, interest has grown, and couples around the globe have been drawn by the mysterious monument to love.

It has never been known how the diminutive Leedskalnin, who weighed but 100 pounds, moved and carved Castle’s enormous stone structures that weigh tons.

“Love is all about the mystery and the longevity and the strength and the commitment,” said Maye. Where better to celebrate romance than in a garden — or temple — dedicated to romance?

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NAACP chief: Body-cam video shows man had a knife when Norfolk police shot him – Virginian


For 24 hours, the debate over Thursday’s fatal police shooting centered on one thing: whether 43-year-old Willie D. James had a knife when officers opened fire.

His family said no. Norfolk police said yes, but they refused to release body-camera video to prove it.

On Friday evening, though, the Norfolk NAACP branch’s president said he had seen the video, and it shows a man holding a knife coming within about 2 feet of officers before they shoot.

Joe Dillard said police allowed him and two other NAACP officials to view the footage privately Friday. Dillard said it was hard to tell whether James was threatening the officers, and he still wants to focus on the broader issue of why police have shot so many people. But police Chief Michael Goldsmith said it was too early to consider publicly releasing the footage.

Mayor-elect Kenny Alexander urged the city to do so “immediately” to prove to people what really happened.

It was the sixth shooting by Norfolk police this year – five of them fatal. Since 2010, the department has killed 13 people, twice as many as any other law enforcement agency in the state. Thursday’s shooting prompted a new round of questions about how officers deal with mentally ill people and whether the Police Department should keep investigating itself.

The fatal encounter began with a tragic coincidence.

James was walking around the Tidewater Gardens neighborhood, as his family said he often did, when he saw police officers outside his sister’s house.

The officers were there to investigate a stolen vehicle that had nothing to do with the James family.

But James, who had a history of mental health problems and once said he believed police were persecuting him, didn’t know that. A neighbor later told James’ family that an officer who knew James said something to him as he walked by.

So James concluded the police were there for him.

That misunderstanding set off a rapid and violent chain of events that ended with police shooting him dead in the stairwell of his childhood home.

James’ family said he had just come from the store when he walked past his sister’s house on Chapel Street east of St. Paul’s Boulevard, where he grew up but no longer lived.

After seeing the police, James grew upset and ran to the house.

Sticking his hand through the mail slot of the locked door, he cried, “You all called the police on me?” according to relatives who were in the home.

His sister, Bridgette James, said she opened the door and asked him, “What are you talking about?”

James then punched his sister hard in the temple, causing her to fall down and see what looked like “Tweety Bird” flying around her head, she said.

Her daughter, Quashelle James, said she yelled at her uncle for what he’d done, and he punched her, too.

Willie James had a history of confrontations with police and was accused of assaulting three officers in 2009. In that case, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

After James punched his sister and niece Thursday, a young relative ran outside to get police, and two officers walked up to the house.

The one in the lead was identified by the James family as Vernon Dozier, a 12-year veteran of the department.

Bridgette James said Dozier had known her brother and the rest of the family for years and was aware of her brother’s mental health problems.

It was about 6:45 p.m., still light out, with relatives scattered around the house and front yard.

Dozier motioned to his fellow officer to hang back, Quashelle James said. Dozier was calm at first, she said, simply asking, “What’s going on?” then adding, “Where’s he at?”

Bridgette James had run to the back of the house, and her daughter and friend Josette Horne had gone out front, where both said they had a good view of the officers and the staircase.

Willie James had gone upstairs into a vacant bedroom. When the officers came inside, he opened the door at the top of the stairwell.

Police told him to put his hands up, and he did, family members said.

They told him to come downstairs. Instead, his niece said, he stood on the stairs waving his hands and – as he often did – struck play karate poses while speaking gibberish.

Then, police and the family agreed, he suddenly moved toward the officers.

“He jumped, and they unloaded,” Quashelle James said.

The family said Dozier fired first, with his gun seeming to jam after three shots; then the other officer fired.

In a statement, Goldsmith said James “pulled out a knife and charged at the officers. After making it to the bottom of the stairwell, Mr. James wielded the knife at one officer.”

Goldsmith said James was hit “several times,” but that he did not know how many shots were fired.

Dozier did not return a message left on his cellphone Friday, and police declined to confirm that he was involved. The other officer was described by police as a three-year veteran. His name was not released, and James’ family did not know him.

Goldsmith said both officers tried to give first aid to James until medics arrived and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In the aftermath, Quashelle James said, Dozier went outside and took off his gun and badge, crying and holding his head.

Goldsmith said Friday that both officers were “devastated.”

“I’ve never seen an officer come through one of these things unscathed,” he said.

The baby of his family, Willie James was a ninth-grade dropout who had worked a series of roofing, landscaping and paving jobs, according to a 2010 mental health evaluation included in a court case. His parents both died when he was a boy.

James told the interviewer he was classified as emotionally disturbed in fifth grade and took special education classes.

He had received treatment for schizophrenia and had delusions that he was Jesus Christ or a prophet, the report said.

James, then 37, told the interviewer he first noticed “forces” about six years earlier.

“The spirits inside my head been talking to me,” he said. “They aren’t of me. They’re people who had passed away. I started quoting the Bible.”

James said he was a prophet, the first of his kind since the 1800s, and he’d been persecuted by police because of that.

The report says James believed that in about 2003, “he began to be targeted by the police because they are descendants of a blood line of individuals who persecuted Jesus, and that it was their nature to persecute him as a fellow messenger of God.”

He was charged in 2009 with pushing and punching an officer who confronted him while investigating a disturbance. That also happened on Chapel Street, just a few doors down from the family home where he died this week.

Police said at the time that James ran from them, taking an officer’s dropped pepper spray and then spraying it at two other officers before being handcuffed. Asked his name, he first told them, “Jesus Christ.”

He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

But relatives said he was by nature a peaceful man, nicknamed “Meat-Meat,” who got a kick out of playing football and dancing. Kids in the family would chant, “Uncle Meat-Meat! Uncle Meat-Meat!” whenever a reggae song came on, knowing he would start dancing.

After reading the conflicting statements about whether James had a weapon, Norfolk Mayor-elect Kenny Alexander said he called City Manager Marcus Jones and urged him to have police release the body-camera video.

“We have to be more forthcoming,” Alexander said. “If we have nothing to hide, then we need to do it immediately.”

Jones didn’t return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement, Goldsmith said, “My department is an open book.”

But in addition to withholding the video from public view, police declined to release the officers’ names, citing their safety.

Other agencies across the country, including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, routinely release the names of officers who shoot civilians and make body-camera footage public while investigations are ongoing.

Alexander said releasing the video, assuming it backs up the officers’ account, would allow the city to move on to a conversation about mental health treatment.

Goldsmith said he wants to have that conversation, too, because police are so often left to deal with the end result of society’s failures.

“Last night’s incident was a tragedy for the James family,” Goldsmith said during a news conference Friday morning. “It was also a tragedy for our department and a tragedy for this community.”

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When creating pet-friendly gardens, homeowners turn to artificial turf, nontoxic plants

When Emily and Phillip Ward moved into their Fells Point rowhouse five years ago, the backyard was beautifully landscaped with flowers, trees and grass.

But the yard was no match for the Wards’ two dogs, a German shepherd mix named Nikko and an Australian shepherd named George.

“Within two years, our dogs had destroyed everything … and made it a giant mud pit,” says Emily Ward, who is an interior designer.

The Wards solved their landscaping problem last summer by covering most of their backyard with artificial turf and planting hardy flowers like hostas in the surrounding beds. The turf cost about $3,500, and now there’s no mowing and almost no maintenance, Ward says.

Enter The Baltimore Sun's 2016 Garden Contest

Enter The Baltimore Sun’s 2016 Garden Contest

Summer is nearly here, and it is time for The Baltimore Sun Garden Contest. Large or small, flower or vegetable, traditional or with a twist — if you love your garden, enter it in our annual contest.

Professional gardeners and previous Sun Garden Contest winners are excluded. The winners will be…

Summer is nearly here, and it is time for The Baltimore Sun Garden Contest. Large or small, flower or vegetable, traditional or with a twist — if you love your garden, enter it in our annual contest.

Professional gardeners and previous Sun Garden Contest winners are excluded. The winners will be…

Read the story

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists more than 400 plants that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses, including many garden staples such as lilies, azaleas, ivy, holly and daffodils.

“It can wreak havoc on their systems depending on what they’ve gotten into and how much they’ve ingested,” says Alisa Wardrup, wellness clinic manager at the Maryland SPCA.

As a member of the garden staff at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, Marian Andelman makes it her business to plant a variety of perennials in her yard. But with four cats and four dogs, including a new puppy that eats everything, she has had to reconsider the flowers and shrubs in her garden to make sure they are safe for her pets.

“I’ve had to make selections to avoid toxic plants,” says Andelman, who has opted for varieties of hostas, heuchera, grasses and sedum.

Pet owners also need to be wary of some types of mulch, notes Dr. David Tayman with VCA Columbia Animal Hospital. In particular, he warns against using cocoa bean mulch, which can be lethal for dogs if they eat it.

Other hazards in the garden include pesticides and herbicides, which can get on pets’ fur and feet. Even if products are advertised as safe for pets, their owners need to be careful, Wardrup cautions.

“Wait several hours after [applying] any pesticide” before letting pets back out in the yard, she says. “Give it plenty of time, even for the pet-safe ones.”

Besides being on the lookout for dangers lurking in their yards, homeowners with pets may need some landscaping tricks to create a space that can withstand digging, pacing and urine.

“You have to be sensible with the plants you choose,” says Joel Hafner of Fine Earth Landscape in Poolesville. “You want something that can take the abuse.”

Doug Del Gandio, an owner of Four Seasons Landscaping and Nursery in Damascus, says he takes into account a number of factors when designing a project for a family with a dog. Besides avoiding toxic plants, he also looks for plants that don’t require much maintenance.

“You want to be able to select plants that will survive with water alone or not as much fertilizer,” Del Gandio says.

Del Gandio says he sees more homeowners liked the Wards turning to artificial turf in areas heavily used by pets. Some turf is treated to mask pet odors and is easily washable, he notes.

Synthetic lawns also take away the potential problem of repeated exposure to dog urine, which can discolor grass and shrubs. But there are solutions for those who opt for regular grass, as well.

Some landscapers recommend training dogs to urinate in a designated area that is covered with smooth gravel or river rock or a grassy area that can be screened by shrubs. Hafner suggests placing an artificial log in the yard that the dog can use to mark its territory. “They use that as their marking post just as they would a fire hydrant,” he says.

Pet owners can use a similar method to discourage digging, one of the hardest dog habits to break, Wardrup says. Sometimes dogs are drawn to the soft soil of a flower bed, so providing them with a similar soft area where they can dig and training them to use it can help keep them from damaging your flowers.

“It’s always a good idea to use behavioral training to keep them from digging in the yard,” Wardrup says.

Pets can also wear down grass in certain areas, particularly near fences, which dogs often like to run along. To combat this, landscapers suggest creating paths with mulch or woodchips that will be safe for the canines and still aesthetically pleasing. Another option is to place shrubs several feet away from the fences so the dogs can run between them, said Josh Kane, owner of Kane Landscapes in Northern Virginia.

And when it comes to the fence itself, deciding on what type to use is one of the biggest challenges of landscaping with a pet. If the goal is simply to keep a dog out of the flowers, raising the bed or placing stones or driftwood around an area may suffice, Hafner says.

But if the object is to contain the dog in the yard, more secure measures are needed.

Kane notes that some dogs can jump a 6-foot-high barrier and others will try to dig beneath it. He says burying stone along a fence will discourage dogs from digging under it.

Some dog owners prefer electric fences, but they do not work for all dogs and they cannot keep out other animals, Wardrup notes. And cats, which can climb or slip through almost any barrier, should be kept indoors or microchipped if they go outside, she says.

In addition to making sure fences are secure, homeowners should consider barriers that let dogs see out of the yard, says Julie Patronik, a landscaper with McHale Landscape Design Inc. in Upper Marlboro.

She says she recently designed a project for a homeowner who wanted her dog to socialize with fellow canines that walk by, so she put in a wrought-iron fence that allowed the dogs to see each other. “They always want to look out and see what is going on,” she says.

So with a bit of planning, it’s possible to create a yard that both the homeowner and pet will enjoy, landscapers say.

Emily Ward has certainly had such success — her pets would stay in their backyard playground all day if they could.

“It’s their space and they know it,” she says.

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Garden tips: Pesky pests and garden tool care

Beware the hornworm.

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10 Tips for New Garden Farmers

A journal entry from my pre-gardening days reads as follows:

I just returned from the farmers’ market with two pounds of apricots, half a pound of ground cherries, a bag each of arugula, radishes, pepper cress and kale. One of the farmers gave me a peach spray, which now brightens my kitchen.

I’m grateful to these family farmers who till the land, and then bring their produce and other wonderful foods to the city. Hard work, I imagine, and not particularly lucrative. Still, I hope I’m not romanticizing their life when I dream of working the land and depending less on others to grow and raise my food.

Living in the city, I do what I can to support organic, local, biodynamic farming. I shop at the farmers’ market and food coop, have a sideline as a food educator at CSAs, prepare most of my meals from scratch. Yet, in my life, the farm-to-table cycle remains incomplete. With the exception of a few potted herbs on the windowsill, I have little chance to grow or raise what I eat. Sometimes I bring fruit and vegetable scraps to the food scrap collection site in the park. Other times I toss them in the trash. In either situation, I miss out on the pleasure of returning them to nature myself and in so doing nourishing soil and soul.

Now, four years into growing much of the produce we eat, I realize that garden farming connects me even more deeply than I had imagined to the earth, the life cycle, my body and food. It is also more difficult not only physically, but mentally as well. Had I known more from the start, no doubt it would have been easier and more effective. It is in this spirit that I am sharing some of what I’ve learned.

I make no claims to expertise. Certainly, there are professional gardeners, farmers and agricultural scientists who know much more than I do. Still, my hope is that those newer than I to growing their own food may benefit from these tips.

1. Plant Edible Woody Perennials First

Edible woody perennials include fruit trees, berry bushes and grapevines. Since these perennials take several years to mature, the sooner you plant them the sooner they bear fruit. I resisted at first. Planting fourteen fruit trees by hand is labor intensive. And since we had no source of free cultivars, buying the trees also made a dent in our wallet. Fortunately, my wife prevailed. Now, four springs later, apple, cherry, peach, plum and pear blossoms dot our trees. Our Chinese apricot tree is laden with tiny hard fruit.

The second spring we planted a variety of bushes including raspberry, gooseberry, choke cherry, goji berry, service berry, sea buckthorn berry, nero aronia, and currant. We planted elderberry, hazelnut and persimmon trees. We also planted grapes.

These botanical treasures contribute to making us feel rooted in our homestead. They also contribute to self-reliance by feeding us well. As for finances, already they’ve more than paid us back.

2. Plant Edible Herbaceous Perennials Next

I wish I’d learned this tip sooner. Come early spring, it’s such a pleasure to see sorrel leaves poking through the snow. Soon after the rhubarb, lovage, dandelion, walking onions, and asparagus appear. Our perennial roots and herbs include garlic chives, culinary lavender, oregano, thyme, horseradish, hyssop, and sage. (Rosemary, which we hoped would be perennial, turned out not to be in our zone four climate, and so we plant it anew each year.)

Once planted, perennial edibles provide good food early in the season with little work. And some (including sorrel, horseradish, hyssop, oregano, and thyme) have another benefit as well: they do a wonderful job of keeping grass and other weeds at bay.

3. Grow What You Love (and What You Can)

Midwinter when it’s minus twenty and snow drifts cover the porch, we enjoy sitting by the fire planning our garden. It’s easy that time of year to get carried away. Yes, we’d enjoy a walnut tree. But we lack the climate, soil constitution, and acreage (not to mention the energy) to grow everything we’d like. Easy to rule out in our zone four climate are heat-loving trees such as avocado and lime. And as much as we’d like to have blueberries, the pH of our soil would make growing these a daunting task.

So how do we decide? First, we eliminate what we cannot grow. Then we decide what we like. We also experiment. Over the years, we’ve learned, for instance, that although we adore broccoli, it tends not to flourish in our garden. So much planting, watering and weeding all for a few buggy florets.

Potatoes, on the other hand, thrive. So do sunchokes, lettuces, arugula, radishes, chard, cress, parsnips, nasturtiums and many other species of edible plants. Our raspberry bushes produce so well and with so little effort that each summer we invite neighbors to pick from our patch.

We’ve tweaked our choices based on what we’ve learned about our land, climate and preferences. Tomatoes are a winner. Not only do we adore them, but they’re easy to bottle, dry or freeze. Come January, it’s such a pleasure to reconstitute sun-dried tomatoes for a sandwich or side dish.

Garlic has more than earned its place in our garden. Two autumns ago, we planted one hundred fifty cloves (at no expense, since we used the garlic we’d grown the previous year), and ended up last summer with one hundred fifty-two heads of garlic. We harvested them in July and they lasted until March. Each June we enjoy several meals of sautéed garlic scapes.

So how do you know what to grow? Learn from cooperative extension sites. Learn from neighbors and friends. Learn from Mother Earth News. But then take that knowledge and adapt it to your circumstances and tastes. To do so will contribute not only to sustainable farming, but to a sustainable experience too.

4. Learn about Companion Planting

Planting two (or more) crops in the same bed (either together or one following the other) can have certain advantages including contributing to biodiversity and reducing plant disease. Depending on the crops, it may also discourage pests. Yet, not all plants work well together. Before learning this, we planted onions and peas in the same bed to the detriment of both. On the other hand, tomatoes and basil get along well. Radishes serve as a trap crop for cucumbers protecting them from certain pests. For other examples, see An In-Depth Companion Planting Guide (Sarah Israel, Mother Earth News, May/June 1981).

Planting two crops together that mature at different times is also a way of making good use of limited space. We’ve been doing this with onions and lettuce.

5. Keep Red Wiggler Composting Worms

Composting worms produce castings, which are often referred to with good reason as black gold. We tried planting heirloom tomato seeds indoors both with and without castings. The difference in growth rates was significant. Especially in colder climates with short growing seasons for tomatoes and other annual plants, this can make the difference between having and not having a crop.

Castings have other benefits as well including improving soil structure, promoting microbial activity and producing tastier vegetables and fruit.

We keep a worm bin in our basement. To be honest, I resisted this practice too. Visions whirled in my head of little red wigglers wiggling out of the bin and into the house. This has not happened. After nearly three years, nary a worm has escaped. And though I’m still squeamish about handling the critters ungloved, I’m wholly convinced of their benefits. So much so that I’d keep them even if my gloves disappeared.

6. Raise Hens

If you’re a bit of a hedonist, as I am, free-range eggs meet a need. Mornings, I sauté homegrown garlic, and then add eggs from our hens. Few meals prove more delightful. Building (or buying) a coop involves an investment of labor and cost. But once done, hens are easy to maintain. And the more time they range freely, the less they cost to feed.

In addition to providing eggs, free-range hens do a wonderful job of controlling garden pests. (Be careful though when and where you allow them to range since they enjoy greens too.) They also provide manure, which once composted (do so for at least a year) nourishes the soil. Here, too, is another way to increase self-reliance. Skip the store-bought compost. Use your own instead.

As for hens that stop laying, several options exist. You can run a retirement community for old chickens, you can harvest them for food or you can give them away. One day we hope to avail ourselves of the second option. In the meantime, we give them to someone who does.

7. Compost in and Near Your Garden

The first year we gardened, we put vegetable scraps, leaves, coffee grounds and other organic matter in a compost area far from the garden. This worked well except that conveying the compost to the garden beds became yet another project. Now, often we use a method of composting known in permaculture as chop and drop. Quite simply, it involves placing a mixture of (chopped) green and brown organic matter on the garden bed and leaving it to compost. This works particularly well in our hugelkultur beds where we add organic matter to the areas in which we’re building the soil.

At some point last year we must have added potato and garlic scraps to the hugelkultur bed. This spring, we had the pleasant surprise of potatoes and garlic, a free composting gift.

A separate composting area (preferably, close to the garden) has the benefit of permitting the addition of fresh manure. It also allows for a more controlled ratio of green to brown organic matter. Once the compost is ready, you can add it to your garden as needed.

True to my pre-gardening vision, I find composting a deeply satisfying endeavor. Not only does it contribute to the farm-to-table cycle, but it also gives me an excuse in any weather to head out of doors for a while.          

8. Make Your Peace with Sharing

It can be deeply satisfying to share your harvest with family and friends. People seem to enjoy receiving a bottle of tomatoes, a braid of garlic, a jar of raspberry jam. But I’m referring here not to people, with whom we have a choice of whether or not to share, but to critters and pests, with which often we don’t. We’re committed to organic farming. We also value self-reliance, which means we try to limit our dependence on consumer products even if they are organic.

Still, even within these parameters, methods exist to discourage critters. Some we’ve found helpful include crop rotation, companion planting (including the use of trap crops), and handpicking. (Disclaimer: My wife is in charge of this task. She picks slugs off leaves, and then squashes the critters. My task is to applaud her.)

For more information on the topic, I’d suggest Barbara Pleasant’s article “Organic Pest Control: What Works, What Doesn’t” (Mother Earth News, June/July 2011).

I’d also suggest making peace with sharing. Not all. Hopefully, very little. But a bit. We’d like to think we have a tacit agreement with the birds. They eat the cherries from the top of the trees. We eat those from the bottom. Occasionally, a worm nibbles on one. We’ve made our peace with the arrangement. In exchange, we get fruit that’s organic and sweet.          

9. Preserve Your Bounty

Come winter, there’s such joy in opening a jar of homegrown tomatoes or peaches. But even if you lack the time or inclination to bottle, you can preserve your bounty by drying or freezing. Curing garlic, onions, and potatoes is simple. We line the garlic on a quilt in the basement where it remains cool in the summer and leave it there for six weeks. Then we trim it and place it in the food storage pantry under the basement stairs. That’s it. It lasts six to eight months.

Onions require only about two weeks to cure. So do potatoes. But since the latter require dark, we lay them out in the food storage pantry. Winter squash cures on the kitchen counter where it’s warm. Two weeks later we move it to the food storage pantry. Depending on the variety, it usually lasts until the end of the year.

Tomatoes are easy to dry in a dehydrator or in the sun. We’ve also dried melon, grapes, currants, ground cherries and green beans to good effect. We tried summer squash, but found we didn’t like it as much.

Herbs are easy. And pleasant. We bundle and tie them with cooking twine, and then hang them with clothespins from twine in a fairly dark room. When the herbs crumble they’re ready. It’s that simple. We’ve had success with lemon verbena, rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, oregano (including the flowers, which make a nice bouquet), hyssop (also including the flowers) and sage.

10. Take Time to Relax

Just as food tastes better when we’re hungry, relaxation feels better after work. How wonderful it is to stroll through the garden admiring the fruits (as well as vegetables and flowers) of our labor. How pleasant it is to savor the aroma of lavender in our kitchen or bath. How joyous it is to relax on the porch savoring a meal from our garden.

Felicia Rose lives and works on a small homestead in northern Utah. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.    

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Ann Wright: Garden tips for early summer

Our over-the-winter rains have encouraged lots of new growth this spring.

As summer approaches, there are a number of activities to keep gardeners busy.

The Master Gardeners’ Western Nevada County Garden Guide offers gardening tips for June:

Plant successive crops of basil, cilantro or other plants for use during the summer and into the fall.

For ornamentals, plant summer color such as scabiosa, ageratum, coreopsis, dahlia, gaillardia, impatiens, marigolds, penstemon, portulaca and others. Sunflowers are also available in many different sizes and will add color and variety to the garden bed.

Encourage blooms on roses – On hybrid tea roses and grandifloras, cut ¼” above the topmost leaf with five leaflets, remove faded flowers and feed plants with a complete fertilizer. Complete fertilizer is one that contains all three of the plant’s major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N, P and K). Look carefully at labels for directions on use of commercial fertilizers.

For home compost, turn the pile as temperatures heat up. Consider the “big four”: browns, greens, air and water. Browns (carbons) are things like chopped, woody prunings, dry leaves, newspaper, or torn up cardboard. Alfalfa pellets, aged manure, used tea bags, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps are good sources of nitrogen (greens) for the pile. Keep the pile moist and turn to add air. The Master Gardener website is a good source for information about composting ( ).

Remove spent bulb foliage after it has turned yellow; mark locations of bulbs to be divided in fall.

When fruit reaches the size of marbles, thin apples, Asian pears, nectarines and peaches for good fruit development.

Check sprinkler systems and repair leaks. Conserve water as summer becomes more hot and dry. Deep water young trees once a week in June.

Remove fire hazards by mowing grassy areas and clearing brush from around the house. Cut branches back to at least 15 to 20 feet from the house.

Remember that a thick layer of mulch around vegetable and ornamentals will help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Mulch should be at least 3 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches away from the trunk or base of the plant.

Aphids can generally be controlled via natural enemies such as lady bugs. A sharp spray of water will help wash aphids away. Slugs and caterpillars can be hand picked. Consult the UC Davis IPM (Integrated Pest Management) website for more detail on garden pests. The website is

The Nevada County Master Gardeners are available Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon in the Hotline office at the Veteran’s Building, 255 S. Auburn St. in Grass Valley.

The Hotline number is 530-273-0919. Call us or come visit with your questions about home gardening.

Or join us at the Grower’s Market at the North Star House on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

The next Master Gardeners Workshop, another in the Foothill Gardening Series, “How to Grow Cool Season Vegetables in Fall, Winter and Early Spring,” will be presented July 23 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Demonstration Garden, NID complex at 1036 W. Main St. in Grass Valley.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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