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Archives for August 1, 2016

Intelligent garden design for anywhere

Every once in a while I encounter something new, something so clever and useful that I have to share it with you. This time it is a line of “fabric” pots that includes several sizes, even a raised bed that goes up in seconds and a composter for convenient composting.

Inexpensive and so versatile, the Smart Pots are simply revolutionary and one of the coolest things to come along for gardening in quite some time. The lightweight “pots” can be used just about anywhere to grow vegetables, herbs or flowers. Not only that, the “fabric areation” construction of the unique containers allows plants to air-prune roots, which is reported to produce larger, more productive plants. Even rooftop or balcony gardens are possible to allow anyone to grow things in limited areas in these feather-light sturdy pots.

Container vegetable gardens are among the easiest ways to grow fresh food, and these handy pots make it easier and better than ever.

The pots come in black or a natural color, and are available in a variety of sizes from three to 20 gallons. The raised bed Big Bag Bed warms up quickly in the spring and comes in sizes from 15 gallons (2.1 cubic feet of soil) to a whopping 100 gallons (13.7 cubic feet of soil). Imagine being able to simply unfold a raised bed, fill with soil and plant. No framework needed, no difficult construction or support materials required. The raised bed Big Bag Bed, like the other Smart Pots, can be emptied, rinsed and simply folded for compact storage when not in use.

And there is one more Smart Pot product that I know folks will love. It’s the Compost Sak. Imagine a composter that simply unfolds for use, again no structures to build or maintain. This affordable composter has a capacity of more than 100 gallons (12 cubic feet).

“The Smart Pot and Compost Sak are made from the same material, an inert geotextile fabric. They are BPA-free,” said Karen Murphy for High Caliper Growing, which produces the innovative containers. “The fabric is very durable and will stand up on their own, once you start filling soil. The fabric isn’t flimsy by any means.

“The Compost Sak, since it’s so tall, it will take time for you to fill it up and the sides will want to fold down,” Murphy said. “However, we encourage to keep the Compost Sak closed on top to avoid rodents getting in. You can simply place a large rock or brick on the top to keep it closed. The fabric itself is durable enough that rodents shouldn’t be able to chew their way through.”

I plan to use the Smart Pots to start and grow my dahlias. In the spring the dahlia tubers will be started in potting soil in Smart Pots. Once they have sprouted and the soil has warmed up outdoors, the Smart Pots with their contents will be sunk into the garden. At the end of the growing season when the foliage has died down, I will just lift the Smart Pots, trim away spent foliage and store the entire pot and its contents in a cool, dry and dark space like a cellar. The three-gallon Smart Pots with handles are easy to pull out in the fall. Pots will be ready for sprouting the following spring for another season of blooms.

Or if there is a particular plant I want to grow in a location where I’d like to contain its spread, I’ll just put it in a Smart Pot and sink that into the ground. I bet you can come up with a number of uses for these unique growing containers.

One more thing, the Smart Pots are made in the U.S., a minor fact, but an important one for those who prefer to buy American-made products. Want to see the various Smart Pots avalialbe? Visit the website at, where you can learn more about them, as well as where to find them for sale locally.

Timely tip No. 1: Oh deer! Are those graceful garden visitors or other animals eating your plants? Take a tip from Old House Garden Heirloom Bulbs and use just a dab of Vicks VapoRub. All it takes is a tiny “touch” of the stuff to deter deer, and it is best applied with a light touch to the smallest sprouts or buds. The petroleum jelly base will ensure that your deterent stays in place for quite a while.

Timely tip No. 2: This is the perfect time to give your plants a pick-me-up with something new that is actually quite old. An organic, plant-based way to super-charge trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and vegetable plants, too, is based on a 400-year-old formula. Invented in Japan, HB-101 is a combination of extracts from Japanese cedar, pine, Japanese cypress and plantain grass. Just a few drops mixed in a gallon of water to spray on assists plants and microbes to work together for healthier, more productive plants. To learn more about HB-101 or where to buy it, look online at:

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Garden rescue: meet the team transforming gardens from rags to Riches

The brothers are also keen users of meadow turf, which has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Dimmock, however, is sceptical. 

“I am intrigued about how it will develop over time,” she says. “I was always told that soil needs to be poor to make a success of a meadow because otherwise the more vigorous plants take over. I can see the ox-eye daisy becoming very dominant in areas where meadow turf has been laid, rather than some of the more choice plants.”

The way the brothers talk about meadow turf, it is as if they have a slap-it-down approach for instant impact, but they are not trying to exert complete control over their gardens. “We like the idea of letting plants self-seed and evolve,” says Harry. “Our philosophy is to experiment and have fun.

“Yes, we like meadow turf and we have our favourite hardy perennials – aquilegias, foxgloves, hellebores – but it’s interesting to let things naturalise and see where they pop up again after a few years.” 

Garden Rescue, BBC One, 3.25pm weekdays, until August 5

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Report: Garden designer Ryan Gainey dies in house fire – Atlanta …

Ryan Gainey (Photo by Dan Griffin)

World-renowned garden designer and Decatur resident Ryan Gainey has died in a house fire at his second home in Lexington, Ga., according to a report from Decaturish.

The fire occurred on the evening of July 29, officials in Oglethorpe County said. His longtime friend Brooks Garcia confirmed Gainey had died in the fire after running into the home to rescue his Jack Russell terriers. The dogs did not survive, Garcia said.

Gainey operated landscape design firm Ryan Gainey Co. in Decatur. You can find out more about Gainey, his work and projects at


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Bloomfield looks for ways to diversify economy

FARMINGTON — Bloomfield officials are citing three current projects as potential sources of economic diversification for the financially strapped city.

The projects include an economic development and market study, a community initiative known as Bloomfield Invents and an upgrade of the city’s website.

Officials say diversification is important because a decline in the oil and gas industries has caused the city’s gross receipts tax revenues to plunge, leading to a $1.3 million budget shortfall.

While a diverse economy could help provide Bloomfield with a cushion during the bust cycles of the energy industry, Mayor Scott Eckstein said in a phone interview Friday that oil and gas will always be an important part of the local economy.

“That’s been the history of San Juan County for a long, long time,” he said.

The state-funded economic development and market study kicked off in June, according to City Manager Eric Strahl. Eckstein said the goal of the study is to determine how the city can work to promote diversification of the economy.

Strahl said he could not remember the amount of money the city received for the study from the state when reached by phone Wednesday, but he estimated it was between $50,000 and $70,000. Strahl said the city will perform the study, and he does not know how long it will take before the results are released.

One strength the city has is its location between Farmington and Albuquerque, Eckstein said. He said the city staff is also business friendly and willing to help entrepreneurs understand the city’s rules and regulations prior to opening a business.

Improving the city’s website to make it easier to navigate will also help people interested in starting a business learn about opportunities in Bloomfield, Strahl said.

Meanwhile, a group known as Bloomfield Invents began meeting on a monthly basis at the Bloomfield Multi-Cultural Center earlier this year. The group hopes to bring together Bloomfield residents with ideas and help them start small businesses. While it was organized by a Bloomfield resident, city officials and representatives from San Juan College’s Enterprise Center have started attending the meetings.

The city became involved with the group through presenting information about the business incentives in Bloomfield. For example, Donica Sharpe, the city planning and zoning director, will attend the meeting from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, to discuss maker spaces, or places where people can go to create products and learn about crafts.

Those efforts are not the first attempts by Bloomfield officials to diversify the economy, Eckstein said, citing the Animas Industrial Park, a development located off of U.S. Highway 550 in north Bloomfield that provides space for new businesses to locate, as an example. Eckstein said if the park had worked out as the city had hoped, it would have been a great asset for the community. The industrial park, which broke ground in 2007, attracted its first tenant in 2015. While city officials were excited to see the first tenant move in and several other businesses have looked at locating in the park, Eckstein said it has not provided the range or number of businesses that had been anticipated.

Another project that was billed as a way of making Bloomfield a more attractive place for businesses to locate was the U.S. Highway 64 beautification project. Since the economic downturn, the city has drawn criticism for the large landscaping projects it has initiated in the highway medians. The landscaping improvements cost about $1.7 million, and the majority of the funding came from a more than $1.2 million loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority.

Eckstein said the landscaping projects came after the New Mexico Department of Transportation widened the highway through Bloomfield and wanted to put in concrete medians. He said the concrete medians would have given the city a “freeway” feel.

Eckstein said one reason behind the landscaping was to slow drivers down and encourage people to stop in Bloomfield and spend money. While the city hoped to pay off some of the loan through business sponsorships of the median landscaping, it did not receive as many sponsors as it had hoped. Despite the lack of sponsorship, Eckstein said he is still optimistic about the project.

“I think in the long run, it’s going to pay off,” he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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You’re reading: 7 Backyard Landscaping Ideas That Will Entice You to Come Out of the House


Ah, the irony of having a backyard: Homeowners pine for a green patch of land to call their own, but once they’ve got it, they very rarely visit the place.

While outdoor living spaces topped the 2015 Home Design Trends survey by the American Institute of Architects, UCLA’s “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century” study showed that adults spent less than 15 minutes per week out in their yards (even kids log in just 40 minutes).

Perhaps the reason you aren’t in your yard isn’t due to laziness; it might merely be because you have nothing to do there. That’s where an infusion of landscaping ideas could help.

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“You need a legitimate reason to go out there,” says Chad Bostick, a Huntsville, AL, landscape architect and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. So before you start landscaping, take stock of how you like to spend your free time. If growing green things is your passion, then your yard should be filled with vegetable and flower gardens. If listening to lapping water soothes you, then a water feature is a must. If you can’t take the sun, plant shade trees. If kicking a soccer ball around with your kids is your “together time,” create a level lawn where you can play. Build a purpose into your yard and suddenly you’ll be out there. All. The. Time.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some backyard landscaping ideas to consider.

Create an outdoor room…

If you’re more of an “indoor type,” never fear. Many of the things we once thought were possible only indoors can easily be brought to the open air thanks to the latest rage of creating “outdoor rooms.” We’re talking about spaces where you can enjoy the creature comforts of, say, your living room, only in your yard. So if you love to read, create a reading nook with a truly comfy couch and ample lighting for the evenings. If epicurean pursuits are your thing, keep reading.

Bring the indoors outside



Bring the indoors outside


… or an outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchens are the biggest thing since the McRib. And why not? No one wants to stay cooped up inside when everyone else is living it up in the great outdoors. And while having a whole kitchen might be overboard for many folks, more reasonable options might be just to have a minifridge and countertop next to your barbecue grill.

Get cookin’

Ozgur Coskun/iStock

Ozgur Coskun/iStock

Get cookin’

Ozgur Coskun/iStock

Fire up a fire pit

Yessssss. Who doesn’t love the idea of sitting around a blazing fire pit, the (literally) hottest new addition to your yard? They’re pretty easy to build yourself, and will extend your yard’s hours by keeping the area lit and warm long after dark. Break out those marshmallows and ghost stories for a good time.

Fire pit



Fire pit


Add fountains, ponds, or other water features

If you’re looking for the calming sound of running water, you can go small and install a solar-powered tabletop fountain in your garden or on your deck; or you can go all out and install a pond or pool. Remember, all water features must have either a pump, aerator, or wiggler to keep the surface moving to prevent mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects from breeding.

An aquatic garden



An aquatic garden


Grow some gardens

Gardens are a no-brainer in a backyard. But ponder what you really want before you start landscaping: Do you want a four-season garden that provides color year-round? Or a cutting garden that fills vases with brilliant blooms during summer and spring? Think hard about what you want to grow, then pick an area of your yard that will be its best home. Some perennials, such as the black-eyed Susan, crave six or more hours of sun a day, while hostas that spike blooms in midsummer are happy in shade. You can even build a butterfly garden that will attract these winged creatures.

Install stone patios or decks

A deck is the perfect place to survey your yard and kick back in it without even having to put on your shoes. Plus, a deck will generally net you a 75% return on investment when you decide to sell. If you go the stone patio route instead, just know that during the summer the stone can heat to pizza oven temps. So, think about where you’re placing your patio or deck before deciding on what material you’ll use. These days, porous pavers are popular on patios because they reduce runoff by allowing water to soak through, and keep the area cooler in summer.

Plant trees

Mature and well-maintained trees can add thousands of dollars to the value of your home. Also, placed correctly, trees can keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter, saving money on energy bills. Take time choosing trees. If fall foliage is your priority, select deciduous trees like sugar maples and sweetgums. If you want a windbreak, then plant evergreens like spruce. Silver maples make great shade trees. And saucer magnolias and weeping cherries make beautiful focal points in any yard.


Watch: The Features That Help a Home Sell Fastest

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Front Yard Landscaping Ideas


Long before people set foot in your home, they see your front yard. And while you may take care to mow your grass and refrain from parking a rusty pickup truck in the middle, your front yard landscaping may not exactly wow visitors as much as it could.

If you’re trying to sell your home, you’ll want to bump up your curb appeal. But even if you have no plans to move, you can impress guests and passers-by. So what are you waiting for? Here are some front yard landscaping ideas to take care of now, before summer’s over.

Make a landscaping plan

Front yard landscaping is more than a patch of grass and a few plants. Landscaping also includes your driveway (have you considered a “green driveway” or one made of cobblestone or glass?), walkways, ornamental trees, flowers, perhaps a water feature.

You need a good plan to fit all these landscaping pieces together. That’s what professional landscape architects do for $75 to $150 an hour, but here’s a cheaper option: Many local garden centers provide landscaping consultations for free or for a small additional cost if you buy plants from them—not a bad deal.


Pick the right plants

Landscaping starts with plants—shrubs, trees, grasses, and perennials which add color, height, texture, movement, and color to your front yard. But picking the right plants requires more than a design eye; you must choose plants that will thrive in your yard.

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So the first step is conducting a soil test to understand the composition, pH, and nutrient quality of the dirt under your feet. For less than $25, you can send a soil sample to your state cooperative extension, which has labs that will tell you everything about the soil you have to guide which plants you chose. Azaleas, a popular foundation plant, do best in slightly acidic soil (pH 5.5), while lilacs love a more alkaline soil (pH 7.5). Cosmos thrive in sandy soil, whereas Russian sage grows well in clay soil.

Also consider your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone when selecting the plants and trees that will grow best in your particular climate.

“There are beautiful, new plants brought to market that may not be the best choice for your area,” says Chad Bostick, a Huntsville, AL, landscape architect and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Lilacs in a flower bed



Lilacs in a flower bed



Stagger heights and depths of greenery

Soldiers look great in straight lines; plants, not so much. Plant beds serve to ease the eye up from the horizontal plane of the yard into the vertical plane of the house. To soften the view, avoid straight rows of plants and vary their height and color.

“Plant taller species on the ends and shorter in the middle,” Bostick says. Boxwoods are great corner anchors, and ornamental grasses are graceful candidates for the middle.

Bostick also warns homeowners to consider maturity, not present height, when picking shrubs and trees.

“You don’t want to put in a shrub in front of a window that eventually grows to 7 feet tall,” he says.


Mix evergreen with deciduous trees

Deciduous trees, which lose their leaves annually, provide great color in spring, summer, and fall, while evergreens prevent your entire yard from looking dead in winter. Evergreens placed on the side of your house where prevailing winds occur can also provide a windscreen that helps lower energy bills in cold weather.

Mix of evergreen and deciduous trees



Mix of evergreen and deciduous trees



Light it right

Landscape lighting makes your house a stunner in the night as well as day. Use a mix of lights that point up and lights that point down to add visual interest as well as texture and depth to the yard. Bostick likes to hide lights with softening filters in trees, which spreads a natural, moonlight glow on plants and the house.


Water your plants the easy way

Protect your landscaping investment by springing for an in-ground irrigation system, which will water your turf, plants, and trees. A sprinkler system typically costs about $1,000. Or, better yet, instead of planting water-hungry lawns in your front yard, install plants that require little or no extra water, called xeriscaping. They can save you up to 36 cents per square foot annually in water bills and maintenance.


Watch: The Features That Help a Home Sell Fastest

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Expert Says You Might Want to Hold Off On Watering That Brown Grass

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rosemary Lyons says the drought has forced her to
make some big changes in preparation for this year’s Garden Walk.

“When the rain stopped, I was watering my garden with
rainwater, because I have a rain barrel and the rain barrel was
empty,” Lyons said. “So I had to actually buy a hose and use
city water and I hate doing that because I don’t want to pay for it
and I don’t want to have the chemicals that are in the city water into
the garden.”

It’s not just gardens being
impacted by the drought. At Martin Luther King Park, slow release
water bags have been placed on young trees to make sure they get
enough water to survive.

“This is unusual, usually we can fight through it pretty easy,
but this is unusual,” said Jim Hornung of Elbers Landscaping Service.

Hornung says this is one of the worst dry spells he’s seen in years.
He says while your first instinct may be to grab the hose you might
want to hold off.

“Let’s just talk grass for a minute,” Hornung said.
“They’ll see their lawn brown and they’ll stand at the porch and
take a hose and sprinkle it. That’s the worst thing you can do,
because all you’re doing is syringing the grass. That’s evaporating
it’s not into the soil, the roots aren’t taking in that moisture. So
the grass really can’t take, there’s no uptake for the grass.”   

Hornung says as bad as a things look right now he’s optimistic with
a little patience and some help from Mother Nature your lawn will
bounce back.  

“The light at the end of the tunnel; put a plan together, do some
overseeding, do some fertilization a month from now and do some
watering, and your grass will come back,” said Hornung.

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Historic gardens at lumber baron’s estate get restored to original splendor

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Nineteen dump truck loads and counting. Landscaping crews have been busy pruning back overgrown trees and shrubs at Brookby, the historic estate built for lumber baron John Blodgett and his wife, Minnie, in the late 1920s.

The goal is to rebuild the gardens as they were originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, whose landscaping firm designed New York’s Central Park, the Biltmore Estate and renovated the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Jeffrey Sytsma, a historical consultant and landscaper who has researched the Brookby Estate for more than a decade, has scavenged Olmsted’s original blueprints for the estate and the list of the original plantings for the estate on Fisk Lake.

Sytsma is working with Aquinas College, which acquired the home in 2011 and has established it as the official residence for its president. Real estate developer Sam Cummings, who donated the estate to the college after saving it from the wrecking ball 14 years earlier, also is helping out.

The Georgian Revival mansion’s interior has been mostly restored, but much of the five acres behind the brick walls along Plymouth Road and Robinson Road SE are overgrown and were neglected over the decades.

The original grounds, which covered eight acres and took the Olmsteds eight years to design and install, were once maintained by a fulltime crew of several gardeners, Sytsma said. Over the years, the Blodgetts elected to spend less on maintaining the elaborate gardens, he said.

“It’s a huge project, we’re looking at several years,” said Sytsma. “Aquinas really understands they have a historical jewel here and they want to maintain it.”

Funded by $310,000 in donations, the project will begin with a restoration of the estate’s “Chinese Garden” and an adjacent garden that surrounds a circular pool.

For the next few weeks, the ground crews will be preparing the grounds for the “Backyard Bash at Brookby,” an Aug. 16 event aimed at raising more funds for the project.

Over the past three weeks, crews have been trimming back much of the overgrown landscaping on the property, revealing old pathways that were grown over with sod and invasive ground cover.

English Ivy that covered the red brick walls have been cut back, as have the ancient arborvitaes that obscured the Indiana limestone façade have been cut back. A stone bridge over a brook leading from Fisk Lake has been cleared of weeds.

The original Chinese Garden, which was converted to an English-style garden in the 1940s, will be completely restored to its original design, Sytsma said.

Garden walls which have cracked, settled and bowed over the years will be demolished and rebuilt. While some of the materials will be retained and re-used, other materials may have to be replaced, he said.

Non-original plants will be removed and replaced with plants specified by the Olmsteads. More than 80 varieties of shrubs, perennials, and trees were used in the Chinese garden, Sytsma said.

Until three or four years ago, a statue of Buddha looked over the garden from the west wall until it was stolen, Sytsma said. “If anyone knows where it is, we’d love to have it back.”

The adjacent pool garden also will be re-landscaped, restoring the lawn and paths that once led to a raised pergola on the southern edge of the estate.

Elsewhere on the grounds, there’s much work to do as the fundraising continues, Sytsma said.

On the northern edge of the broad lawn overlooking Fisk Lake, a thicket of mature trees, mulberry bushes and ground cover obscure other buildings, including the gardener’s cottage and the chauffeur’s cottage, which was built with eight heated garage stalls.

Studying old photographs, Sytsma said he also has discovered the original purpose of an arched doorway in the brick wall along Plymouth Road. It was used by mail carriers who deposited letters in a mailbox located inside the wall, he said.

From the front of the gardener’s cottage, Sytsma scrambles through an overgrown perennial bed to reveal an arched opening in the brick wall that leads to a brick potting shed that was once connected to a greenhouse that was donated to Windmill Island in Holland.

Next to the patio on which the greenhouse stood, there’s a large open area where the Blodgetts kept a vegetable garden. The Blodgetts won an award for their “Victory Garden” during World War II, Sytsma said.

Only one other spot in Michigan – Concordia University in Ann Arbor — has the remains of an Olmsted-designed garden, Sytsma said. All others were demolished or made into subdivisions.

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Rain gardens: An innovative and eco-friendly landscaping device – Springfield News

Ever since humans began tending to small patches of cultivated ground near their homes, the terms “rain” and “garden” have gone together.

These days, these two words have merged to form the name of an innovative and eco-friendly landscaping device that’s gaining in popularity, particularly in urban areas. An increasing number of residential and commercial property owners are discovering how rain gardens can decrease erosion, improve water quality, create wildlife habitat and provide aesthetic benefits.

In essence, a rain garden is a shallow depression that captures rainwater and holds it until it is absorbed into the ground, evaporates or is taken up by plants. They function best — and with greatest benefits for humans — in areas that have a lot of runoff from rain, and this is why their popularity is growing in urban areas.

From a wildlife habitat and water quality standpoint, rain gardens are beginning to provide solutions to urban problems that have existed for a long time.

As urban areas are developed, much of the landscape becomes topped with impervious surfaces in the form of asphalt parking lots, streets, sidewalks and buildings. Even unpaved areas often lose water absorption capabilities as soil becomes more compacted and land-cover plants change from diverse native vegetation to mowed and manicured lawns.

These factors decrease the amount of water that soaks into the landscape after a rain and increases the quantity of water that surges across the terrain and into local streams. This increased water flow (both in terms of volume and velocity) leads to more erosion, more flooding and more pollutants being washed into streams and reservoirs.

Rain gardens provide a solution to these problems by helping to slow the flow. Since a rain garden is a shallow depression, it slows the stormwater as it travels downhill, giving it more time to infiltrate and less opportunity to gain momentum and erosive power.

But you’re not merely building a catch-basin that’s going to turn into a pond every time it rains. Far from it. With the appropriate soil, proper plants and good design; water is absorbed quickly — usually within a few hours. A well-functioning rain garden is a small bio-retention cell that “cleans” stormwater and reduces its volume (through rapid absorption) once it enters the garden.

Rain gardens don’t just help to keep soil and pollutants from washing downstream. The plants in the gardens provide important habitat for pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife. And in case you think your rain garden will provide a new breeding area for neighborhood mosquitoes, think again. A rain garden doesn’t retain water long enough to make it a viable area for mosquito development. (Depending on temperature, it takes 24-48 hours for mosquito eggs to hatch. After the eggs hatch, the larva must live in water for several days.)

And, of course, rain gardens also can supply viewing pleasure for humans. Some of the same native wildflower blooms and plants that attract pollinators and birds can also add visual appeal of the land around your home or your business.

People can learn more about rain gardens by visiting the demonstration rain garden on the west side of the Missouri Department of Conservation building at this year’s Ozark Empire Fair. People can learn also see fish, reptiles and pick up a variety of conservation-related literature inside Department of Conservation building, which is open 4-9 p.m. on the opening day of the fair on Thursday and noon-9 p.m. each day for the remainder of the fair.

Information about rain gardens can also be found at

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For more information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.

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Gardening column: Tips for maintaining gardens mid-summer

Q: I have to admit that I’m tired of the garden and have let it go so badly that things look really overgrown and straggly. Any suggestions of how to get control of things without killing myself would be appreciated.

A: You have my sympathies. It is about now in the growing season when many gardeners wear out and stop keeping up with their gardens. It is an everyday responsibility and most of us want to take vacations, spend time with families — just have some summer fun — and by late July and August maintaining the garden and landscape slips lower and lower on the “things to do” list. So instead of feeling like a garden-failure here are some suggestions for enjoying the rest of the summer season, guilt free.

• Consistently mow the grass and use the weed eater. If you live in the city and have neighbors it’s important to keep that done. If you don’t have time, hiring someone to do it regularly will relieve much of the pressure.

• Our container plants can get very leggy with lots of dead foliage by now especially if they haven’t been consistently watered. If that has happened to your container plants, to save time give yourself permission to remove the plants and store the pots.

• Take a stroll around the garden and make a list of priorities for cleaning up the rest of the garden.

• And as I said, give yourself permission to get rid of plants that aren’t thriving, or have died, or are so overgrown there is little hope for them to snap out of it this summer.

• If it is a monumental task you are facing, throw a party. Invite friends and family for a cookout /workday party in the garden.

• Give each one tools to use and an assignment then provide bottled water and other cold drinks, shady places where they can take breaks and chat, and finally wind the party up with plenty of great food.

• If you are the only one doing the work, with list in hand tackle one area each day — and eliminate one problem at a time. Work on it daily for a few days until you get the job done. Tall frosty glasses of iced tea can make any garden cleanup a pleasure.

Comment from reader plus question: M wrote: “I read your article in The News-Sentinel about purslane. Growing up they were the hated ‘rubber weed’ that we were paid by the container-fulls to pull from the garden 🙂 Very interesting article. My question is if there is any way to preserve for winter. I remember mom freezing spinach, etc., and wondered if these can be blanched for soup and stirfry or only good fresh.”

A: Since eating and preserving purslane is a new thought to many of us in Indiana, I’ve discovered a few ideas that should help answer your question. Enjoying the amazing nutritional qualities of this super food all year round would definitely be to our benefit.

• Dry the leaves of purslane then grind. Dried and ground it looks and tastes much like parsley.

• Dried purslane works very well as a thickener much like cornstarch. ( — be sure to read the comments following how-to dry purslane at this web site.)

• Puree handfuls of cleaned purslane leaves and tender stems in a blender; pour into ice cube trays or small freezer containers.

• When canning pickles, add young purslane to the pickling spice combination.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to She also answers gardening questions with horticulture educator Ricky Kemery noon-1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month on “The Plant Medic,” a radio show on 95.7fm. This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.

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