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Archives for January 2, 2017

Creating ideal tropical garden effect anywhere | West Hawaii Today

New Year’s Day is usually when we make resolutions. It is also a great time to plan and create a special kind of garden to create that tropical look.

We create moods by the kinds of plants we use in our garden. Cactus and succulents plus lots of bright colors make a garden feel hot and desert like. Using pines, cypress and other high mountain or cool climate plants give the garden a Pacific Northwest look. And chain link fences might give a feeling of safety or jail depending on who is experiencing them!

While traveling in the Pacific Northwest a few months ago I was surprised to see palms, bamboos and other tropical looking plants used to create special effects in private and public gardens even as far north as British Columbia. In fact, the tropical effect created with palms in Victoria is very misleading, because much of the year, it is wet and cold.

The air of freedom and informality in Hawaiian gardens is partly due to the exotic plant materials used. It is also due to the “hang-loose” style of design found throughout the islands. This consists of mixing many bold and colorful shrubs, ground covers and trees in a relaxed, unregimented manner. The large variety of plants utilized in any particular garden has lead to the local label of “chop suey” landscaping. Our type of garden design often grows out of the Hawaiian love for plants. This is, “the more, the bettah” philosophy. It also develops from the giving nature of local folks. A plant is always an appropriate gift for any occasion. Before long, the garden and home are bursting with luxuriant vegetation. This type of landscaping gives a sort of well maintained jungle effect.

The best part is that the hang-loose look can be done anywhere there is a place to grow things. It can be achieved with almost any plants, but to develop that tropical look in cooler climates, the selection of materials should be those with a bold tropical presence.

Here are some tips for your mainland friends who want a touch of Hawaii at home. There are hardy temperate trees like the Albizzia julibrissin or Persian Silk Tree. Although very tropical in appearance, with its poinciana-like foliage and pink pompon flowers, this tree will tolerate conditions below zero degrees. The silk tree is native to Asia and can reach heights of up to thirty feet but is usually much smaller, spreading like an umbrella to twenty feet. The tree’s filtered shade allows grass and other plants to grow underneath. It also makes a very good patio tree.

The Gingko biloba or Maidenhair Tree is another “toughie” from China that will tolerate sub-zero temperatures. This tree is a living fossil from the era when tree ferns and palms were growing throughout North America.

Of course, a tropical looking garden must have palms, ferns, and even bananas. There are those that are fairly hardy. If you live in an area where temperatures seldom reach 10 degrees or colder, the Trachycarpus fortunei or Windmill Palm is a great one for the ultra-tropical look. It is relatively fast growing to about 30 feet. This palm should be used in groups of three to seven for a dramatic effect. The many healthy specimens in Seattle attest to this tree’s ability to withstand cold. In fact, there is a reported specimen in Sweden at latitude 57 degrees. Specimens are known to be grown out of doors in Japan, Scotland and Switzerland. Another much slower palm that is almost as hardy is the Chamaerops humilis or European Fan Palm. This clumping type has been known to sustain temperatures of 6 degrees above zero. There are several other palms that will grow as far north as Seattle like the Pindo palm, Dwarf Sabal Palm, Mazari Palm and Needle Palm. Some palm enthusiasts have even grown Ceroxylon palms from the Andes. These hardy species would likely do well in places like Volcano, Waikii or even higher.

When it comes to tree ferns, Hawaii boasts of forests of them. Unfortunately, Hawaii’s tree fern is much too tender to grow out of doors except in the most protected areas of California. A close relative from New Zealand is much tougher and will take temperatures down to twenty degrees. The New Zealand tree fern or Dicksonia antarctica can be grown in protected coastal areas of Washington and Oregon. They are slow growing but will attain trunks of 15 feet if given cool, moist conditions.

A Japanese specie of banana, Musa basjoo, is frequently planted in Britain. This banana is root hardy and regrows every year even after freezing to the ground. An even hardier specie is Musa sikkimensis from the Himalayas. This ornamental banana grows up to 20 feet in frost free areas of Hawaii at 3,000 feet elevation and has grown well as far north as British Columbia.

There are several hardy bamboos that will take temperatures near zero. Close relatives of bamboo like the Arundo or Spanish Cane from the Mediterranean can be used in areas where temperatures are below zero. Although this giant reed may freeze down in winter, give it a protective mulch with a good rich soil and it will grow from six to 15 feet in a summer. Another popular bamboo relative is Pampas grass or Cortaderia sellowana from Brazil and Argentina. This versatile clumping grass will tolerate dry to wet soils and temperatures close to zero if protected by mulching.

Nandina domestica or Heavenly Bamboo is not bamboo related but a look-alike. This evergreen loses leaves at ten degrees and is killed to the ground at five degrees, but usually recovers. In milder areas, Heavenly or Sacred Bamboo grows slowly to about eight feet and makes attractive patterns against a wall. It is also used as a container plant in the home.

The list of tropical look-alikes goes on and on.

You might consider trees like the hardy Eucalyptus species. These include the Cider Gum and Snow Gum, which survive temperatures close to zero. For moist gardens, try the Giant Leafed Gunnera manicata from Chile.

When it comes to fruits, the fig, pomegranate, olive and loquat can all be found growing as far north as Seattle on the West Coast.

Your mainland friends can experiment with these and others that nurseries and garden centers carry in their area or try some from more southerly locations. To avoid discouragement, check with garden books that cover plant hardiness. Sunset’s New Western Garden Book is a great help. Remember, hardiness fluctuates. You can increase hardiness by plant conditioning and protection.

Avoid heavy fall fertilizations, but also remember a plant underfed is prone to damage.

With plants that are marginal, place them where they will get full advantage of the warmer micro-climate in the garden. Temperatures are often warmer on the south sides of buildings, sheltered from cold winds.

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From the Ground Up: A New Year to grow in

2016. It’s been getting a bad rap. Whether we’re politically bitter, mourning a celebrity icon who has passed (of the notable many), or still processing the horrors of Brussels, Orlando, Syria … it seems that a lot of us have thrown in the towel, in one way or another, on the past 365 days.

So, if you do identify as one of those disillusioned by 2016, has there ever been a better time to come up with a New Year’s resolution list?

Coming from a gardener’s perspective, here are some resolutions to get you started (not in any particular order):

Spend less time on social media and more time communing with nature. Practice mindfulness in the garden — get up early to behold the frost-glistened surfaces; take delight in the afterglow at day’s end. My daily walks begin and end with nature — which is a guaranteed soul-soother.

Whistle while you work with curated playlists to accompany your outdoor activities. While I crave the isolation of the garden, I rarely work without the buzz of NPR playing from my portable outdoor speaker. Create inspiring playlists fitting for any sort of mood; an assortment of classical pieces will allow you to concentrate on your work, upbeat pop or rock tunes can be a fun soundtrack to the backbreaking tasks you’ve been putting off all year, and switch to a list of jazz songs when you’re ready to finally improvise and refresh your garden design. Something more thematic? Well, there’s always The Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack …

Don’t stop believing in your vision … know that you can fulfill your dreams whatever they might be. I have long wanted to install a small water feature in our front garden and will initiate that this year now that I have scouted out the perfect spot.

Many hands make light work. Get help from family and friends to see your projects through. If you have monumental tasks, break them into smaller achievable chunks and get help with the labor required.

Take a breather every day in the garden, no matter what the weather … soak up the good energy that it gives. My daily rounds include checking on our beehive and chickens and topping off the bird feeders.

Get an early start on seeds this year and feel the small burst of accomplishment. By the time the weather warms up you’ll be ahead. I have seeds purchased last year that are still viable!

Clean tools, fix hinges, sharpen blades of all equipment so you’re ready to begin in the spring.

Don’t put off small tasks. If you have a day of thaw, go out and do some minor manicuring in the garden or organize your shed if you haven’t already. I seem to always need to tidy my garden shed (a sign that it gets used!).

Be a considerate neighbor and burn early. Gather your burnable garden waste and burn it following Fire Department’s regulations.

Take stock of your garden supplies and pass on or toss things you are not likely to use … like the portable hot house or the broken sprinklers or labels you don’t want. As with unnecessary pieces of your wardrobe, cast it off and enjoy the practice of simplifying.

Be bold … Update your garden using a stylistic feature such as a topiary, espalier, or vines. Invoke a fun and eye-catching theme inspired by gardens around the world. (A Japanese meditation garden or a Mediterranean terraced grape arbor.)

Go Exploring. Look for new places and ideas. A trip to Round the Bend Farm in Dartmouth last year proved very fruitful in the ideas extracted from growing techniques to non-toxic cleaning to methods of composting all aimed at being environmentally safe.

Learn from the experts — be open to new ideas. I am looking forward to reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, a Christmas present from my son. This international bestseller presents trees as social beings, something I deem true.

Allow yourself time away from the garden. A rowing trip to Monomoy last summer provided the perfect disconnect from the garden, though I did worry about what lurked beneath the watery abyss.

A primary resolution, and an oft-repeated one for me, is to simplify. By that, I mean to say we cut back our goals to ones that are real and achievable. My husband’s mantra (when it comes to gardening) is that less is more. I balk, “low maintenance” is not in my experience, but I must also concede he is right that a garden should not overwhelm. Its purpose is not constant toil, but rather a fun and manageable hobby. So, while you (and I) dream away, let’s stay rooted in reality.

As every year, I promise to write things down and keep better records. My first entry in 1994 went as follows: “The wind chimes are sending spring notes through the evening air — no more boisterous tones of winter.” Some scribblings, like this, are flowery thoughts — an attempt to articulate some emotion relative to nature or the season. But the bulk of my journals are anecdotal with solid facts and information that relate to plantings. If I didn’t write it, I’d soon forget where I planted the prized blue parrot tulips and other unusual plants. The garden diary is a great way to find consolation, as you compare notes and chart your progress over seasons and years.

2017 is the year: to get fruit production going in our orchard; to continue “green” organic practices; to keep ahead of the clutter in my shed; to visit more great gardens (in the community and the world) and to share what I can when possible.

Obviously there are many responsibilities that go hand in hand with gardening. I’m hoping there will be more time to just enjoy the pleasantries of the garden. So much time is spent responding to and remedying problems that it tends to obscure the reason why we plant in the first place. Let’s try to stay optimistic and hopeful.


QUOTE: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” —Willy Wonka

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Diggin’ In: Gardening trends for 2017

Like paint colors and fashion, gardening trends come and go.

For 2017, gardening trends range from clean, healthy living with fewer chemicals and more organic food to “sound-scaping” with trees to buffer sirens and birds to bring song.

“We see a lot of growth in the coming years for gardening,” says Katie Dubow, creative director at the Garden Media Group, a marketing group that tracks and promotes national gardening trends.

“Whatever you’re growing, wherever you’re growing it, the ability to garden year-round just makes this category so much more relevant. And access to healthy food, year-round, will be a game-changer.

“Uberizing is my favorite trend. In the next two years, experts estimate people will carry an average of eight subscription services. Do you know the two biggest reasons people don’t garden? Time and knowledge. The delivery model can solve both of those and get more people gardening. Gardening subscriptions offer a simple and convenient service for a beginner to start gardening without being overwhelmed by choice or lack of knowledge. Plus, they offer an experienced gardener access to unique or new varieties they hadn’t tried before. So many industries are playing the game, it’s time for gardening to get involved.”

Here, more gardening gurus share their thoughts on 2017 gardening trends:

The important millennial market force that wants to grow their own food, teas, cocktails, beer and medicine is expect to continue, according to Tish Llaneza of Countryside Gardens in Hampton, Va. Llaneza shops in Atlanta and Baltimore annually and attends nationwide seminars to keep up with national trends.

“Five million of the six million new gardeners last year were 18-34-year-olds, according to the 2016 National Gardening Report,” she says. “New technology makes growing 365 days a year easy, affordable and convenient.”

For instance, indoor gardening — growing under lights in soil, hydroponically or aquaponically — is becoming more common. From growing arugula to bok choy, clean fresh food will be available to plant, pick and plate every season. From herbal tea gardens on the window sill and healing herbs under lights to vitamin-packed microgreens on the kitchen counter, medicinal gardens are blooming indoors.

“At the other end, Baby Boomers are keeping only those things that speak to their heart,” she says. “They are taking the plunge and discarding all the rest. By doing this, they can reset their life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

Food reigns important with Americans, who now demand to know what is in and on their food — and where it comes from, Llaneza adds.

“The demand for organic, locally sourced food now far exceeds the supply,” she says.

Landscaping is an expensive investment, whether you do it yourself or have someone create it for you. Your yard is also a natural reflection of the world where you live, so make it as natural as you can. Natural stone gives you the best of both worlds: value for your money and longevity in looks and feel.

Beautiful hardscaping, such as stone, will last a lifetime, says Peggy Krapf of Heart’s Ease Landscape Garden Design in Williamsburg, Va. An added bonus is it doesn’t need water and deer never eat it.

Natural also goes well with mixing old with new and repurposing objects in the landscape, adds Krapf.

“I love gardens with personality and gardeners who use things they love in creative ways,” she says

“Containers can become water features, fences can become areas to display collections, a child’s wagon can become a portable garden and old broken pots can be partly buried in the ground with flowers spilling out of them onto the ground.”

It isn’t always easy to eliminate the lawn in a yard, especially on a large property, Krapf notes.

But there are many ways to minimize the amount of turf grass used. Create large planting beds, exaggerate wood lines and natural areas, and create patios and walkways can all reduce turf in the landscape.

“In small areas, ground covers and low growing plants can take the place of grass, often in addition to stepping stones and pathways,” she says.

Whether you’re trying to attract pollinators to your yard or add more diversity to the overall species count in your neighborhood, sustainability experts are now urging home gardeners to consider which plants and planting combinations will provide continued food and shelter to wildlife, long after we humans have wrapped up the gardening season, according to Randy Schultz of Shultz Communications, a gardening public relations specialist in Santa Fe, N.M.

For instance, American Meadows offers many types of flower seeds and flowering plants that attract pollinators to your yard and garden. Bee the Change seed packets contain an assortment of wildflower seeds that bring hummingbirds and bees. On a similar note, the Monarch Magnet Perennial Garden attracts and supports monarch butterflies.

For gardeners who want to branch out into different realms, these trends are growing in popularity:

Growing your own hops is a natural step for the beer enthusiast who wants to experiment with the freshest, most local ingredients possible, according to Grace Chapman Elton, horticulture director at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va. It’s also fun to watch hops grow; however, you do need to have ample space and provide a structure for support for the prolific flowering vines.

Succulents continue to be popular for busy gardeners because they have great form and color and require little maintenance. Many new varieties are entering the market.

And natural dye gardens are a thing, according to Elton. The do it yourself spirit now extends to growing plants to dye your own textiles and clothing. Whether it’s using marigolds for a golden yellow or cosmos for a bright orange hue, it’s just one more way to enjoy your garden.

And the best news is that many vegetables and pollinator-attracting plants are also great for dyeing.


Kathy Van Mullekom is the garden/home columnist for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. Follow her on Facebook@Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom, on Twitter @diggindirt and at Pinterest@digginin. Her blog can be read at

More San Angelo – Home and Garden stories:

• Diggin’ In: Gardening trends for 2017
Like paint colors and fashion, gardening trends come and go….

• After the holidays: a great time to rethink your decor 
The days after the holiday guests have gone home and the decorations have been put away can be clarifying. Suddenly, rooms that have been crowded with people and gifts have empty space and breathing room….

• Where to sell your unwanted stuff online and earn extra cash
If you’re cleaning out your closets for the new year, or need some spare cash after the holidays, your old stuff can help fill up your wallet….

• Chickens can be helpful — and challenging — for gardeners
Raising small flocks of backyard chickens has been a trend among city dwellers for a decade or so, and putting the birds to work can be a boon to gardens….

• Cabin cozy: Hibernate in comfort until the first whispers of spring
It’s the time of year when cabin fever starts to take hold. No, not the kind that makes you want to get out. This one draws you deeper inside with the warmth of wood, an open hearth, candlelight and a faux fur throw….

• On Gardening: Bright Lights Swiss chard is like a beet without a bottom
It seems wherever I go I’m seeing Swiss chard. This showy cool season plant sometimes called a beet without a bottom is showing up in the landscape, in mixed containers and there it is available in the local grocery store….

• Diggin’ In: Finding feeders for feathered friends
After redoing our 10-year-old yard with new plants and patio, we added the icing on the cake — bird feeders for our feathered friends….

• This house plant makes an alternative Christmas tree
Many dwellers of small apartments or condos face an annual problem in December: What do we do about the Christmas tree? Do we take out the odd chair or end table? Do we just forget about a tree and hang a stuffed Santa somewhere? What to do?…

• Kansas City crafter shows how to turn box fans into something with moxie
Theodis “Sonny” Williams is a counterculture character you meet once and never forget….

• On Gardening: Let Ascot Rainbow color your world
Mention the word “ascot” and a silky men’s tie worn by the upper crust of European society comes to mind….

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Resolved: Plan more, plant more, pull out more lawn for 2017 – Yakima Herald





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EDDIE SEAGLE: Get planning for the spring

“Another year has passed and all its happenings are behind us. The new year is here as it brings new beginnings for each of us to develop, experience and cherish. The January door has opened and we continue our journey through it, one day at a time.”

Autumn Seagle

January 1st is here and the door to the New Year has opened! College football bowl games are winding down. Warm weather is hanging around. While kicking back into the recliner with a good book, or to watch a movie, a football game, or simply surf the web, be sure to take some time to ponder, plan and schedule your springtime landscape and construction activities. While you are surfing into spring, please take the following points into consideration.

Sketch before digging or building: Always plan your steps in the landscaping process. Part of the planning involves sketching your ideas onto paper. Do the math! Determine the quantities of plants needed, the volume of materials necessary, and the costs to complete your project. This approach will help you determine exactly what you need and avoid wasting your hard-earned dollars.

Pursue the right resources: As you begin your planning, do the necessary research to find the professional assistance needed to determine economic savings with minimal waste from start to finish. Find the right personnel who will give you sound and accurate advice. This resourceful support and information may be partial or for the entirety of the project.

Consultation: Seek the advice of an advisor or consultant to point you in the right direction for the project. The price you pay for an hour of consultation could prove priceless, especially if it saves you money on designs, plants, supplies and other items, as well as preventing costly errors. However, do your homework before seeking such advice by creating the picture in your mind. The more ideas and facts you offer to the advisor, the more wise use you will get with their time.

Make an objective decision involving your needs and wants. Decide what you want and how you can get it. As you invest in your projects, be sure that they are do-able and user-friendly. If you cut corners on cost, quality and size, how will these decisions impact the end result? It may be less expensive to build a smaller patio or deck, but it will lose its bargain characteristics when you find it does not satisfy your needs and does not get used for its intent? It will be worth the few dollars you pay a designer to create a space that meets your criteria and be useable.

Complete your project in phases: Very few people have the necessary and available financial resources to landscape their site or property all at once. Identify the use areas (public, private and service) and divide your project into phases over the next few seasons or years. This approach will be a “pay as you develop” with current funding on hand which will save you on credit or loan costs and fees. Also, you will be able to assess your progress within each phase and make any necessary changes or modifications before moving to the next phase. Do keep each phase on a time schedule to keep your family happy and interested in the project.

Look at price and quality: You should never assume that cheaper is better! You always get what you pay for, so if you go cheap you may end up with low quality and a less desirable space. Your planning choices should include all types of retail outlets from warehouse to specialty shops to determine the best investment for you. Also, when (time of season) that you buy can be very critical in so far as being a bargain or not. It is best to buy lumber in the winter, Christmas decorations about the first of the year, plants in middle or late season, equipment in the off-season, etc. What about personal service, expert advice, guarantees, and rebates? Are these available? And, if you are planning specialized hardscapes, seek a specialty company rather than a general installation company that seldom deals with hardscapes.

Effective shopping and buying: Develop an instinct for finding the real deals. Always accept cheaper when it’s good enough and you know for sure that quality is not sacrificed. With some items, there’s very little difference in quality between first class and economy. (Like in a plane, both sections will arrive at a destination together so are you willing to pay extra for the comfort since timing is equal?) What is the extra costs providing you? Is there any price advantage at a home improvement warehouse due to their volume buying power on plants and supplies. Or, is the quality better at the independent garden center? Always inspect your selections for quality and form before purchasing and leaving the store.

Online shopping and mail-order sources: Research catalogs and websites to expand your choices and buying power. Shopping online or by phone does offer a convenience but be assured of product quality and availability. Be certain that the company you are dealing with is reputable and not a scam. Also, are handling, shipping taxes, and other costs added to the purchase price? If so, is it now such a bargain? Buying local does make accessibility more convenient and much simpler.

Check alternate resources: As you follow through in the shopping process, look beyond stores and catalogs for bargains and good deals. Be reminded that arboretums, botanical centers, and school programs often have plant sales and may have exactly what you need. Also, keep an open line of communication with your neighbors and friends who may have extra annuals and perennials that they will share. Furthermore, cities and municipalities may offer free mulch and compost throughout the year, and construction and demolition sites may be sources of bricks and stones. By being very aware of your surroundings and what is going on in your communities, you will be one of the first to know about such opportunities.

Adapt sharing opportunities: Through friends and neighbors, you can share equipment and tools. Also, this becomes another way to be sociable and neighborly. If you are planning on renting a tiller, chipper, tractor, trencher or other piece of equipment, always plan in a manner that will provide best investment and wise use. Check with your friends and neighbors for the possibility of renting and sharing costs to complete all projects in a certain time frame.

Preparing your lawn mower: It is time to inspect and service your lawn mower for the spring and summer seasons. Don’t wait until the busy rush of March and April when repair shops get very busy. Make sure your mower blade is sharp and ready to mow. Check the spark plug for wear and replace with correct replacement if necessary. Put the proper grease into all the available grease fittings. Drain the old fuel and replace with fresh fuel. Crank the mower and let it run for a few minutes before placing back into the garage or equipment shed.

Pre-emergent herbicides: If your strategy is to preventively control the weeds in your lawn, you should start becoming familiar with your choices for herbicides. The weeds for spring and summer will start germinating in late February and continue throughout the spring. For those weeds that are early germinators, you should be thinking about an herbicide application in middle of February. For those that germinate later in the spring, you should be thinking about an early April application. Seek professional advice for your particular situation and plans.

Sustainability: In all that you do in your landscape, think towards low maintenance and sustainability. Always make those choices that are environmentally-friendly and cost effective.

May your horticultural and landscape efforts provide you with an atmosphere filled with ornamental appeal, spiritual contentment, and personal safety and happiness throughout the new year. Happy New Year! Blessings and Good Will to all!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.

Eddie Seagle is a sustainability associate, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland); agronomist and horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International); professor emeritus and honorary alumnus, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and associate editor of The Golf Course, International Journal of Golf Science. Direct inquiries to

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Resolved: Plan more, plant more, pull out more lawn for 2017 … – Yakima Herald





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Honeybees face tenuous future

Vermont is home to nearly 300 species of bees, but many factors are threatening the health of our pollinator populations. Their numbers are on the decline — in Vermont and across the country – primarily due to pesticide use, disease and parasite problems, and the loss of food and nesting habitat.

Why should we care about bees?

Pollinators are essential for a functioning ecosystem and vibrant food system — both of which are valuable to Vermonters. It’s estimated that one-third of the food crops we grow in the U.S. depend on pollinators like bees for production. The issue is important enough that, in 2014, the White House released a memo calling for the creation of a federal strategy to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators. The paper cited a $15 billion value brought by honeybees to agricultural crops each year in the United States and the troubling dramatic decline of both commercial and native pollinator populations.

Bees are known as a keystone species, meaning they are critical to our ecosystem’s survival. Sixty to 80 percent of wild plants in Vermont are dependent on pollinators, according to the Vermont Fish Wildlife Department. And, according to the Vermont Land Trust, about 100 species of our bees work on apple trees, an important crop to Vermont. As one of our few commodity food products, Vermont’s apples are processed, packed and shipped throughout the Northeast.

“When I think of Vermont, I think of food products like apples, blueberries and pumpkins, and those things all depend on pollinators,” said Lily Meyers of the Vermont Community Garden Network. “We depend on plants, and plants depend on pollinators.” A recent study at the University of Vermont showed a clash across the country between the rising demand for pollinators and a decline in wild bee populations. UVM researchers contributed to the first national effort to map wild bees in the U.S., and their findings suggest bees are disappearing in some of our most important farmlands, like California’s Central Valley, the Midwest, and Mississippi River Valley.

Since the 1990s, beekeepers have observed a sudden global decline in bees, with unusually high declines in honeybee populations. Bee-killing pesticides pose the greatest risk to these pollinators, but populations also suffer from parasites, disease and other pathogens. Industrial agriculture, with large-scale mono-cropping and heavy chemical use, is believed to be contributing to the decline as well.

The loss of wild bees will result in higher food production costs, since commercial hives will need to be established and managed to support food production. Plus, a loss of wild bees will likely lead to declining crop yields. Both impacts translate to higher consumer food prices.

But there is hope: Meyers coordinates Vermont’s Wild for Pollinators initiative, a collaboration among, Vermont Community Garden Network and the Intervale Center, a Burlington nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen Vermont’s food systems. The new initiative encourages easy ways to help protect pollinators and other beneficial insects.

If half of all Vermont’s schools and businesses left their lawn unmowed, for example, it would help create a pollinator and beneficial insect corridor, to help the wild and native bees and other pollinators that are in trouble. Wild for Pollinators is asking Vermont organizations such as schools, businesses and churches and others to do just that to create pollinator habitat.

“Anyone can be part of the solution by replacing their lawn with pollinator habitat,” said Lily Meyers. “It’s as simple as leaving a designated space on your lawn unmowed.”

American Meadows and Gardeners Supply are two Vermont businesses already supporting the initiative. American Meadows is based in Shelburne and is the country’s leading authority on wildflowers, with more than 25 years of horticultural experience. Gardener’s Supply is a national online retailer with two stores at Williston’s Taft Corners and Burlington’s Intervale.

Winter is the best time to plan ahead for how to include pollinator habitat in your landscape for spring planting. It’s easy to get involved and join the initiative. Plan to leave an area of your yard wild, or create container beds or landscaping with plants selected to benefit pollinators. The total area should be at least 5 by 15 feet. Pledge not to use pesticides, fungicides or herbicides, which can kill bees and other pollinators.

People who have already created pollinator habitat, or plan to, can sign on to the Wild for Pollinators registry which is connected to the national Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a part of the National Pollinator Garden Network. The Challenge is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of important pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and more. Those who pledge to create a pollinator area will receive a Wild for Pollinators sign to put at the front of the site and a seed packet of fall-planting wildflowers from American Meadows.

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Off-season preparation key to successful garden | TribLIVE – Tribune

If your vegetable and flower gardens didn’t fare as well as you’d hoped in 2016 due to various plant diseases, plan now to prevent the same from happening again next year.

From blight on tomatoes and powdery mildew on bee balm, to brown rot on peaches and botrytis on geraniums, there are numerous plant diseases that can strike your garden. The good news is that, if you utilize a few preventative measures, you can greatly reduce your risk of encountering these pathogens next year.

First and foremost, good sanitation is key. Because many of these issues are fungal in nature, the spores can easily overwinter on plant debris and fallen leaves. If you know a plant was affected by a disease last year, make sure you clean up all the debris from that plant right now, and throw it into the garbage or burn it. Don’t toss fungal infected leaves onto the compost pile. Most home compost piles don’t reach a high enough temperature to kill fungal spores, unless you’re religious about turning the pile weekly.

Diseases can also overwinter on infected fruits, so if you’re a fruit grower, make sure you remove any fallen fruit or fruit left clinging to the branches and dispose of it as mentioned above.

A second aspect of good sanitation is to clean your gardening equipment. Because many pathogens can live on digging and cutting tools and spread from plant to plant via pruning, sanitize all pruners, saws and other equipment with a spray disinfectant or a 10 percent bleach solution before the start of next gardening season. Throughout the gardening season, every time you use equipment to prune a plant that’s affected by a disease, whether it’s black spot on your roses or septoria leaf spot on tomatoes, that piece of equipment should be disinfected before using it on another plant.

Another great way to reduce the chance of disease striking your garden is to limit environmental stress. Many diseases are more likely to develop when a plant is stressed and not thriving. Weak plants are more susceptible to diseases, so test your garden soil to make sure your plants have all the nutrients they need (but don’t overfertilize!), and ensure they have ample water throughout the growing season.

Because many fungal diseases are more prevalent when moisture levels are high, gardeners should also take a few measures to promote good air circulation in the garden. Don’t crowd plants and make sure each one has more than enough room to grow.

Prune out crossing branches to improve air flow through fruit trees, tomatoes and other disease-prone plants. Also, avoid working in the garden when the foliage is wet. Fungal spores can spread from plant to plant on water droplets clinging to your clothes or skin.

Carefully inspect all new plants for signs of disease before introducing them to your garden next year. Purchase your plants from a good, local nursery and pay sharp attention to making sure you plant only varieties with noted resistance to diseases.

Crop rotation is another key to disease prevention, especially in the vegetable garden. Even if your garden is small, moving the plants over a few feet from where they were can make a difference.

Don’t follow a plant from a certain family with another plant from the same family for two subsequent growing seasons.

And finally, mulch your garden immediately after you plant it. Since many fungal diseases are soil-borne, putting a protective layer of mulch between the plant and the soil keeps the spores from splashing up onto the foliage when it rains. For the best results, put mulch down over the soil immediately after planting, even before you water the plants in. This is of particular importance in the tomato patch where early blight and septoria leaf spot can easily spread to plants via spores in the soil. Right after planting, cover the soil with shredded leaves, straw, untreated grass clippings, high-quality compost or another type of mulch (I don’t suggest shredded bark as it’s not the best mulch for vegetable gardens).

If you’re a container gardener who was faced with diseases last season, completely empty the potting mix in all your containers and sanitize the pots with a 10 percent bleach solution. Dispose of the old potting soil and replace it with new potting mix prior to planting next spring.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.

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New Year’s resolutions

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2016 12:30 am

New Year’s resolutions

By Bob Beyfuss
For Columbia-Greene Media

Happy New Year to all of you dear readers! I sincerely hope that 2017 is a great year for you and for the entire world.

It certainly will be different, philosophically at least, from a political perspective. After eight years having a democratic president, our country has chosen to move to the right. Despite the rhetoric that both parties proclaim each time we have a presidential election — about the “horrors” of what will surely happen if the opponent is elected — little of what either party platform espouses actually transpires. For the most part, our country is governed by “agencies” staffed by unelected people who have no term limit. Regardless of who is “in charge” the agencies will continue to carry on whatever policy they have adopted over time.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016 12:30 am.

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Garden tips for January – Visalia Times

Happy New Year. Hopefully, one of your resolutions is to spend more time in the garden.

Start by planning your spring/summer vegetable garden.  All the new garden catalogs should be arriving soon, and dreary, foggy days are perfect for planning spring gardens.

On the beautiful sunny days of winter, go outside to do pruning, planting, and all the other gardening chores.

The positive side of cold weather is that deciduous fruit trees get the chill hours needed to produce fruit. Unlike citrus, there’s no need to protect them on cold nights.

What to plant: 

This is bare root season, so it’s time to go shopping. Shop early before they get picked over. Local nurseries carry varieties suitable for our planting zone–if you buy from a catalog, be sure to research whether your choice is suitable for our area.

  • Bare root fruit trees– Apples, apricot, cherries, figs, pears, plums and many others are now available. Check their pollination requirements; not all fruit trees are self-fertile, and some will require a cross pollinator. Notice the number of chill hours required.  Our winters average 700-800 chilling hours.
  • Bare root roses– Hybrid teas, floribundas, climbers, miniatures, and shrubs are available.  All do very well in the San Joaquin valley.
  • Bare root berries and grapes– Plant grape vines, cane boysenberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. There is nothing like fresh-grown berries, and they are so easy to grow.
  • Vegetables– Asparagus crowns, artichokes, horseradish, lettuce, peas, and rhubarb can be planted now. Hold off planting new citrus or sub-tropical plants because of the potential for frost damage. Better to wait until spring.

Garden Chores:

Dormant sprays– Time to spray roses, deciduous flowering trees, and deciduous fruit trees with horticultural oil to smother overwintering insects like spider mites, scales, mealybugs, and peach twig borers. Spray the branches, crotches, trunk, and the ground beneath the tree’s drip line.

Hold off spraying if rain is forecast, or if the temperature is below 45 degrees, and never spray oil on walnut trees.

If you didn’t spray your peach or nectarine tree for peach leaf curl in November or December, spray now with a copper-based or a synthetic fungicide.

Lawns– Mow cool season grasses, such as fescue, at 1.5 inches (slightly lower than in the summer) to reduce disease problems.

Try not to mow when the grass is wet or frozen to avoid compaction. Start thinking about controlling summer weeds (Already? Yes!). If you were plagued with spurge and/or crabgrass last summer, then apply a preemergent herbicide to kill seeds as they are germinating.

For best results, apply uniformly over the entire area late this month. I usually do it just before Super Bowl Sunday.

Do not use preemergent anywhere you have planted seeds or seedlings recently, or where you might plant them in the next several months.

Prune– Just about everything needs pruning now. Dormant deciduous plants such as fruit trees, roses, and grapes should be pruned after leaf drop and before buds swell.

The worst time to prune is right after the leaves emerge in spring, so don’t delay. Do not prune apricots until summer. Wait to prune spring-flowering plants like forsythia, lilacs, or quince until they have finished blooming.

Pruning tips– Keep pruners loppers sharp. Sterilize the pruners or loppers before you switch to another plant.  After cutting a diseased branch, sterilize again before making another cut on the same plant. Use a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).

Remove all broken, diseased, or crossing branches first. Two basic cutting techniques are used in general pruning, thinning and heading. Thinning cuts remove entire branches, resulting in a more natural look. Heading cuts shorten branches and should only be used on small branches.

Heading stimulates several weak branches to vigorously sprout, creating an unnatural look. Begin pruning with thinning cuts to open up the tree. Use heading cuts judiciously to shorten over-long branches.

Make sure to cut back to an outward-facing bud to direct new growth away from the interior of the tree. Prune from the bottom up and from the inside of the plant to the outside.

For answers to all your home gardening questions, call the Master Gardeners in Tulare County at (559) 684-3325, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9:30 and 11:30 am; or Kings County at (559) 852-2736, Thursday Only, 9:30-11:30 a.m; or visit our website to search past articles, find links to UC gardening information, or to email us with your questions: 

Upcoming Master Gardener events:

9-11 a.m. Jan. 16: Rose pruning Demo at Old Grangeville Church near Hanford, 14060 Hackett St. (Hackett Streer Grangeville Boulevard)

10 a.m. to noon Jan. 21:  – Rose pruning Demo at Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia (Mooney Boulevard and Burrel Avenue), and Ralph Moore Rose Garden (Main Hall  streets)

Bring your pruning shears and gloves for a free rose pruning demonstration by the Tulare-Kings Master Gardeners. Come learn more about roses, pest management, tool care and general gardening information. 

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