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Archives for January 10, 2017

Vendors Sought for 6th Annual Landscape & Garden Fair

vendors neededLake County’s 6th Annual Landscape Garden Fair, a free, botanical-themed festival, is seeking nature-oriented vendors.
Interested participants specializing in landscaping, gardening, irrigation, horticulture, fertilizer and more are invited to sign up for the two-day event, to be held Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26 at the Lake County Extension Center’s Discovery Gardens, located at 1951 Woodlea Road, Tavares.
Sponsored by Lake County, The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension in Lake County and the Lake County Master Gardeners, the festival will provide visitors an opportunity to browse and purchase goods from vendors selling landscaping materials, native plants, roses, fruit trees and more.
To reserve space at the fair, rental fees must be received no later than Friday, Feb. 17. Available space ranges in price from $75 – $150 depending on size, and $40 for non-profit agencies. To secure a space, vendors may download and fill out a registration form at, make a check payable to “Lake County BCC” and either hand deliver or mail it to: Lake County Extension, Attn: Maggie Jarrell – Landscape Garden Fair, 1951 Woodlea Road, Tavares, FL 32778.
The annual Landscape Garden Fair attracts thousands of guests to hear expert speakers present on a variety of topics, including butterfly gardening, unusual edibles, shade gardening and hydroponics. Additional family-friendly activities include the Children’s Passport, with stops at multiple gardens, the Maze Scavenger Hunt and special butterfly release.
For more information about the 6th Annual Landscape Garden Fair, call 352-343-4101 or visit

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IX Center hosts 8th annual event

The show is sure to inspire while providing the opportunity to explore more than 600 exhibits and engage with more than 1,000 experts. Show hours, ticket prices and other information appear at the bottom of this story.

“Now in its eighth year, The Great Big Home + Garden Show continues to be the premier source for Northeast Ohio homeowners to find innovative products and get advice from industry experts,” said show manager Rosanna Hrabnicky. “The show continues to get bigger and better with multiple Idea Homes this year and a great lineup of home and garden celebrity appearances.”

Visitors won’t want to miss the Blockbuster Movie!-themed Garden Showcase, a 6,200-square-foot Ultimate Smart Home, Luxury Lake Living feature and Idea Home. Produced by Solon-based Marketplace Events, this year’s Great Big Home + Garden Show has something for everyone and will leave attendees inspired to get started on their next home and garden project.

New features this year include:


•  A fully-constructed 6,200-square-foot Ultimate Smart Home designed by Xtend Technologies and custom-built by Pepperwood Homes will inspire visitors with ideas for outfitting their own homes with the latest in design and smart home technologies. Landscaping surrounding the home is provided by Morton’s Landscaping. This feature is sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland Magazine and Ohio Magazine.

• Visitors will want to create their own retreat space after they experience the Luxury Lake Living feature from Cornerstone Landscaping, Inc. and Weaver Barns. Explore the private dock from Cornerstone Landscaping, complete with its own personal kayak launch, and tour two rustic cabins from Weaver Barns. This featured is sponsored by WOIO-TV.

• A fully-constructed 2,500-square-foot sustainable, energy-efficient home, “The Sunflower,” built by Blossom Homes, LLC features three-bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. This Idea Home located in the Garden Showcase is sure to inspire. This feature is sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, Cleveland Magazine and Ohio Magazine.

• If you are a recent new home owner, in the market to build or renovate, stop by the Home Builders Association Housing Resource Center located next to The Main Stage. Bring your home photos, plans, or ideas and get expert advice from a professional.

• The Club Cambria sponsored by moves to the middle of the show floor this year. The space features Oberfields and Kurtz Brothers products and is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine or a light snack.

Home improvement celebrities making appearances throughout the show include:

• Kortney Wilson: The co-host and lead designer of HGTV’s hit TV show, “Masters of Flip,” Kortney started a successful real estate team in Nashville, TN and manages to be hands on when it comes to everything she gets behind. When she’s not wearing the title of Homeschooling Mom, Award Winning Realtor, or TV Show Host, Kortney loves traveling, trying new restaurants, volunteering for several charities, and throwing parties of her own. She’s no stranger to success but credits her biggest accomplishment as tackling motherhood and juggling life one day at a time. Kortney will be appearing on the Main Stage Friday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 4 at noon. Learn more about her at

• Scott Macgillivray: One part savvy real estate investor, one part skilled contractor and one part accomplished entrepreneur, Scott McGillivray is a triple threat. Best known as the host of the award winning HGTV series, Income Property, Scott has taken home renovation television to the next level, helping cash-strapped homeowners choose their perfect investment property and renovate it to generate maximum rental income. Now in its 10th season, Income Property has helped over 140 homeowners secure their financial future. He will be appearing on the Main Stage Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. Learn more about him at

• Kathy Ireland: Founded in 1993, the kathy ireland® Worldwide brand, celebrates a lifestyle. The mission of “…solutions.” Est.1998, translate to all kiWW® collections, including: fashion, fine jewelry, intimate apparel, skincare, accessories, weddings, home, office and more. kiWW’s unique capability to design and translate fashion trends for all markets and price points allows it to develop product for a wide variety of customer tastes. Listed as the 25th most powerful brand globally by License Global Magazine, with annual merchandise sales of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes Magazine, the success of kathy ireland® Worldwide is the result of teamwork and dedication. Kathy has graced the cover of Forbes Magazine twice (2012, 2016) and according to Fairchild Publications, Kathy Ireland is one of the 50 most influential people in fashion. Kathy will be appearing on the Main Stage Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1 p.m. Learn more at about her at

• Matt Fox: A show favorite, Matt will be returning as this year’s Main Stage emcee where he will delight show visitors with his quick wit, home improvement knowledge and special educational presentations. Fox is best known for creating and co-hosting the first and longest-running show to air on HGTV, Room by Room, as well as hosting and producing the public television series Around the House with Matt and Shari. Learn more from his website,

Returning favorites from 2016 that offer new products and designs to inspire include:

• The popular Garden Showcase will feature Blockbuster Movie!-themed gardens created by some of Northeast Ohio’s top landscapers. From Wizard of Oz to The Godfather, each garden will leave visitors wanting to pop some popcorn and enjoy their favorite movie! Gardens are sponsored by WKYC-TV, WDOK-FM and WQAL-FM.

• The combined Main Stage and Loretta Paganini Cooking Stage will offer attendees the best of home improvement celebrity appearances with the opportunity to taste and enjoy culinary delights in one convenient location. A state-of-the-art kitchen stage and vignette, will be designed and built by the Home Builders Association for consumers to tour between stage presentations. The Main Stage is sponsored by 84 Lumber, WKYC-TV and the Home Builders Association.

• Show attendees can relax and enjoy fine dining among the beauty of the Garden Showcase in the I-X Bistro, a full-service, white tablecloth restaurant.

• At The Petitti Gardening Stage, daily gardening seminars on landscape design, flora and furnishing outdoor rooms will be held by Northeast Ohio landscape experts. The Petitti Floral Mart will also feature numerous outdoor furniture sets and plants to purchase. In addition, on Sunday, Feb. 12 they families are invited to stop by for Kids Gardening Day from noon to 4 p.m. to complete fun and simple gardening projects.

• Children can have fun in Playground World’s KidZone, featuring a variety of safe, high-quality playground equipment and exciting giveaways for parents.

Top 12 favorite finds

When looking for the latest trends in home design and lifestyle products, the Great Big Home + Garden Show is the perfect place to be inspired. Show Manager Rosanna Hrabnicky has picked out 12 of her favorite finds from this year’s show. Products range from a hi-tech refrigerator and glass terrarium to shoes that light up and a table that helps provide independence. Rosanna’s Favorite Finds include:

• Take your design from the computer to the sewing machine with one of Pins and Needles affordable sewing and embroidery machines. Pins and Needles,, Booth #1361

• The 4-Door FlexTM Refrigerator from Home Appliance is sure to wow with its WiFi-enabled LCD touchscreen family hub and triple cooling system. Home Appliance,, Booth #1499a

• Pull up a chair and enjoy this Pub Table Kit from Oberfields. The easy-to-assemble table comes with square or round top and four stone color options. Oberfields,, Booth #524

• The essential oil based Outdoor Protection from Bugg Awf contains NO DEET and is awful to bugs while kind to your skin, moisturizing as it protects! Bugg Awf Inc.,, Booth #141

• The atHand Overbed Table System from Integrant keeps everything in reach – bringing independence, comfort and convenience to the bedside or chair. Integrant, LLC., Booth #1198d

• Preserve your fresh fruits and vegetables 2-3 times longer with the Extend FreshTM, a refrigerator tool that creates activated oxygen O3. First 2 Market Products,, Booth #1048

• Make a statement with an American Towel Rack. They are big, wide and bold with lots of space for towels and heat radiation. American Towel Rack,, Located in the Idea Home

• Have a drink in style with a Vidmar Custom Woodworking cherry wood bar, featuring curved front and beautiful finishing touches. Vidmar Custom Woodworking,, Booth #1099e

• The Chatham Chair from At Home combines high-style with old-world charm. Constructed of brown leather and burlap it’s a great addition to any room. At Home – The Home Décor Superstore,, Booth #1203

• Enjoy hours of light up fun in style with Go Glow Shoes! Includes rechargeable sole battery and seven color and flashing design options. Go Glow Shoes,, Booth #1044

• Add a little flair to any room with a Tandy Leather Hair-On Cowhide Rug, perfect as an accent rug or wall-hanging. Tandy Leather,, Booth #1348

• Grow your own flower garden with DuneCraft’s Simply Flowers Glass Terrarium that brings the beauty of wildflowers to your home, office, or anywhere. DuneCraft,, Booth #553

* * *



11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, Feb. 6-10

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12

Where: Cleveland I-X Center, 1 I-X Center Drive, Cleveland, OH 44135

How much: Single tickets valid for one day cost $15 at the box office (adult admission), $12 online at courtesy of Dollar Bank or in-store at any Discount Drug Mart location (adult admission); $11 for seniors 65+ with ID (Monday through Thursday only, tickets must be purchased at show box office); $10 for group tickets (minimum of 20) $5 for children ages 6 to 12 years and free for children 5 and under.

Theme days:

Red Hat Days – Friday, Feb. 3 and Friday, Feb. 10: Wear your red hat on either of these days and purchase a discounted ticket for $10. Four ticket maximum per red hat purchase.

Group Discount Day – Wednesday, Feb. 8: Two tickets for the price of one when buying 10 or more. Pre-order tickets and pick up at will-call by calling (440) 248-5729 ext. 118.

Heroes Day – Friday, Feb. 10: Active and retired members of the military, as well as first responders receive free admission to the show with valid ID.

More info: The latest show information will be posted on, the Home and Garden Events Facebook page and @GreatBigHome on Twitter.

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California gets rains, but drought still means fewer lawns in future

January 9, 2017
Deborah Butler spent three years apologizing for her lawn. After buying a corner property in Studio City with her husband over three years ago, they inherited a ragged front lawn they didn’t particularly want or need – not with a park across the street, and especially not amidst a five-going-on-six year drought.

Now the former eyesore is curved and contoured around two water-absorbing dips called “bioswales,” and covered in green and silvery plants and trees that sprout from a thick layer of mulch. Ms. Butler doesn’t anticipate the drought-tolerant yard transforming again any time soon.

“I’ve had more and more people say, ‘Oh, you live in the beautiful house,’ ” she says. “It’s been a joy.”

Like thousands of homeowners around the Los Angeles area, Butler wanted a front yard that could be both beautiful and practical in an era of water scarcity. And despite a recent revival of precipitation in the state – punctuated over the weekend by the storm-related toppling of an iconic drive-through Sequoia tree – it’s a trend that shows no signs of going away.

The rains are replenishing groundwater supplies even as they also bring damaging mudslides (closing two state highways as of Monday). But the state’s struggles with water supply show no sign of ending. California is moving forward with long-term plans to make aggressive conservation a way of life, and one of the most visible indicators of this wider shift is how a new generation of Angelenos is seeking to recast, both physically and socially, their relationship with water.

After decades of quenching the thirst of its growing population with snow-fed river water piped from hundreds of miles away – while flushing away most of the water that fell onto the city – water managers in the L.A. area are seeking to adapt to a changing climate by becoming less reliant on importing water.

This effort will require a new kind of localized, distributed water infrastructure that can capture, clean, and store as much water as possible.

Enter the new American front yard.

Butler says that for her garden project, a year ago, “the primary reason wasn’t to be ecologically-minded, but it really makes so much sense.” She adds: “It’s the middle of a drought, why would you put in something that must be watered?”

100 years of water imports

A wet winter last year eased the state’s drought to the point that Governor Jerry Brown relaxed mandatory water restrictions, and more relief could follow the potentially once-in-a-decade storm pummeling the state in recent days. The drought is not over, however, and while sustainable gardens alone won’t solve L.A.’s water crisis, the iconic image of the American front lawn is viewed by many as an extravagance Southern California can’t afford.

“We outgrew our water supply a long time ago,” says Hadley Arnold, founding co-director of the Arid Lands Institute (ALI).

In her cramped office in a bustling green technology incubator in downtown Los Angeles last summer, she stood by a large topographical map of the western U.S. and described the region’s controversial water history.

At the start of the 20th century drought hit Los Angeles. With local water sources strained, famed engineer William Mulholland, built the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a gravity-fed system that would draw water from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. By the 1920s population growth had the city searching for another water source. Mr. Mulholland and the newly-formed Metropolitan Water District augmented that supply by damming the Colorado River and pumping water west to the city across hundreds of miles of deserts and mountains. By the 1950s, that was no longer enough, so the city built yet another aqueduct, a 420-mile system of open canals and pipelines called the California Aqueduct to carry water from northern and central California to the south.

The city now gets about 90 percent of its water from these distant, snowpack-fed sources. The trouble: Researchers say snowpack is declining due to climate change, while drought periods are likely to get longer.

“Los Angeles depends on snow. That’s what we’ve depended on for 100 years,” says Ms. Arnold. “As that snow diminishes we’re going to have to conserve, we’re going to have to recycle, and we’re going to have to value what falls on us as rain.”

Toward ‘a different water culture’

Water managers in the region are investing heavily in that last part (capturing and using as much stormwater as possible), because while snowpack is projected to decline in the state, precipitation in the L.A. area is projected to stay about the same – albeit falling in less frequent but more intense rainfall events, like the recent downpours that dropped a half-inch of rain per hour on Southern California.

“We are working very hard to increase our ability to use local water resources and decrease our reliance on an imported water supply,” says Marty Adams, director of water operations for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).

It appears that Angelenos are trying to follow suit. After Gov. Brown relaxed the state’s water restrictions this past summer, the DWP and other local water agencies maintained their own water restrictions. The region did not backslide as as sharply as other parts of the state last summer, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis, and amid early signs that a wet winter this year could see another uptick in water consumption, Arnold believes that a conservation mindset is now engrained in the city.

“I think this horse has left the barn,” she says. “Those [backslides] will be sort of zig-zags on the graph, but it’s all going to trend towards a very different water culture.”

The DWP has been nudging private property owners in this direction. Since 2009, the agency’s Turf Replacement Program has provided over 24,000 rebates to replace turf with water-efficient landscaping, just a fraction of the roughly 1.5 million private properties in the city.

Arnold and the ALI have been focusing on mapping the residential water storage potential of the San Fernando Valley basin – a low-lying area in northern LA that absorbs much of the city’s groundwater – to help educate homeowners about how best to conserve the water that falls on their property.

“I think we’ve been able to rely on investments made decades ago by our predecessors, and we haven’t had to do anything that big for a while,” says Mr. Adams. “Now we’re wrestling with the fact that it’s our turn. It’s our turn to make investments in the future.”

Garden knowledge gap

There is still a long way to. To move the process along, the DWP has been holding workshops every few months to teach customers about sustainable landscaping, and those at a workshop last July believe that specific shift is gaining traction in the city.

“The neighborhood is going through a transformation, and I’m left behind,” says Sharon Spencer, a Faircrest Heights resident.

“More and more homeowners are converting over, and you start saying, ‘Hey, why not me?’” says Jim Christensen, a Mar Vista resident.

But the workshop also illustrated a fundamental problem with how the West, particularly southern California, has approached water constraints in recent years. Residents know what to get rid of – turf – they just don’t know what to replace it with. And not every resident can afford to do the same thing.

The result has been some growing pains. The turf removal rebates were so popular some agencies ran out of money for it, but in many cases grass was replaced with alternatives that have their own problems. Gravel or artificial turf don’t require watering but also don’t do well at absorbing rainfall.

Many of the rebates also weren’t cashed in. A report last year from the California Urban Water Conservation Council found that attrition rates for turf rebate programs in the region ranged from 25 to 45 percent, in part due to the cost, complexity, and time commitments of the conversions.

In other words, there is a knowledge gap, says Tom Skelton, an independent landscape contractor who ran the LADWP workshop in July.

“The awareness is there, but what’s lacking is the knowledge to do it, the resources to get it done,” he adds. “People are talking about it, but they’re not walking about it.”

Pamela Berstler – managing member of Green Gardens Group, a sustainable landscaping organization – pointed all this out as she drove her lime green Toyota Prius through Beverly Hills last July, a neighborhood that was publicly shamed in 2015 for not meeting state water conservation mandates.

“They do these one-note messages: ‘Turn off your sprinklers’; ‘Get rid of grass,’” she says. “A better message would be: ‘Make a garden.’ Don’t get rid of grass. Make a garden.”

And while sustainable gardens aren’t a one-step water fix, they do have multiple benefits, she adds. Besides retaining vast amounts of water to recharge underground aquifers, they can also sequester carbon that contributes to climate change, cool the environment, boost pollination, and prevent water pollution.

Much of the region’s water dependency issues could be solved by fundamentally changing what people think a California garden looks like, Ms. Berstler believes. 

“You’re looking at millions of acres,” she says, gesturing at the large properties and towering hedges of Beverly Hills. “If this were a sponge, all of this, everything, a giant sponge doing the job it’s supposed to do [in a watershed], it would make a huge difference.”

In addition to that knowledge gap, there are also financial challenges. Median annual income in the region can range from $72,000 in Santa Monica to $25,000 in Chinatown, and lower-income residents have trouble affording the upfront costs of turf removal to qualify for rebate programs. Butler, from Studio City, saved up over three years for her landscape conversion, eventually paying $45,000 for it.

“Right now we’re still in the $1,000-phone world,” says Berstler. Or to use another analogy, if sustainable gardens were electric cars, there isn’t much choice right now beyond a Tesla.

A resourcefulness resurgence

But people like Arnold see the opportunity, and the capability, to redefine Southern California water management for the better.

That will not be easy. Transforming yards has been riddled with setbacks and trial-and-error, and larger changes will be exponentially more difficult. Meanwhile, the broader 20th century mentality that water management is the responsibility of the government and not the individual is in need of reprogramming.

But the long-term prize is water independence and security in an era of climate unpredictability.

“The resurgence in what it means to manage local water, conserve local water, is actually a resurgence of [Western] resourcefulness itself,” says Arnold.

“I think it requires a different level of engagement from our citizens,” she adds, “and I think this is a city that is capable of that.”

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Is it safe to plant quaking aspens near a pool? Ask an OSU gardening expert

We’re well into winter, but gardening questions never end. Get answers from Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?

Q: Hello, I’m hoping you can tell me if quaking aspens are safe, or not safe, to plant near a pool. We have a very long narrow yard (17 feet deep), which makes aspens a good choice. But our next-door neighbor has a pool, right on the other side of our fence. I know you have to be careful about some trees in this family, when it comes to sources of water that the roots might find. Does this apply to quaking aspens, and the plumbing/drainage system for pools, or the pools themselves? It is a concrete/underground pool, not a pool liner. – Multnomah County

A: Your concern is commendable, and will probably save you problems in the future.
I would not recommend you plant aspen in this situation for several reasons. Aspen spreads rapidly and vigorously through its suckering root system, and can become quite a large tree (to 50 feet tall). In a yard this narrow, it would soon overwhelm the space, and most likely would invade your neighbor’s yard as well. It is best used in more rural settings where its spread is appropriate.

It is also quite possible the roots would cause problems for your neighbor’s pond, since they are aggressive in their search for water. If there was any small leakage, the roots would be attracted to it and make it bigger. Find more information at this website on aspens.

For the small space you are dealing with, I suggest taking a look at Portland’s lists of recommended urban trees, which you can search by numerous criteria. You should be able to find something more suitable for your space. A smaller, fairly narrow tree should fit your space nicely without causing problems. There are narrow cultivars of many choice trees available these days.

Q: I know not to add sand to clay soil because it creates concrete as the clay particles settle into the spaces between the grains of sand. I have a new garden site. How about adding 1/4 inch horticultural pumice? I want to add it about 3 inches deep to 8-by-10-foot raised beds and rototill it into the clay soil. My goal is to improve drainage and aeration to the native soil. I will also be adding about 3 inches of well-aged manure and tilling into the beds. And over time I will be adding all the aged leaf humus/compost that I can, knowing this humus is probably the best way to improve the soil tilth. But until then? – Lane County

A: Are you purchasing any soil mix to fill the new raised beds or just amending the native soil? Any garden mix from a landscape supply company should work fine for filling a raised vegetable bed. These mixes will either be a three-way mix (loamy soil, compost, sand) or four-way mix (loamy soil, compost, sand, pumice). Either mix will have a good structure for vegetable gardening and (depending on the source of compost) will provide for some of the nutrient needs for the plants in the first season.

It sounds like you are replicating these prepared mixes with your own amendments. The pumice shouldn’t have the same effect as adding only fine sand. You can also confirm this by doing your own bucket test. Fill a bucket with the soil and amendments to the ratio that you would in the garden, add water and stir. If you did this test with only sand and soil, you would quickly see how the ‘cement’ structure is formed. Play around with the ratios until you find a mix that balances good drainage with the ability to hold moisture. You might find that replacing the pumice with purchased bulk compost does the trick, too.
For general recommendations on growing in raised beds, check out our recent OSU Extension Publication: Raised Bed Gardening. – Brooke Edmunds, OSU Extension horticulturist

The OSU Extension Service provides a variety of gardening information on its website at Resources include gardening tips, videos, podcasts, monthly calendars of outdoor chores, how-to publications, and information about the Master Gardener program.

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HGTV Dream Home, edible gardening, rug-buying tips and more

HGTV Dream Home giveaway

A top-to-bottom renovation of a 3,200-square-foot home in St. Simons Island, Ga., is this year’s HGTV Dream Home, the grand prize in the annual HGTV sweepstakes.

The fresh interpretation of a Southern-style coastal getaway is fully furnished by Wayfair, and boasts dramatic, soaring pecky cypress ceilings and walls of sliding-glass doors facing the water. The open kitchen is painted in a woodsy palette of brown, gray and forest green. In addition to three bedrooms and three bathrooms, the house includes a well-equipped home gym and an indoor-outdoor funky pool lounge with a wet bar. With Georgia’s warm climate, the designers maximized backyard entertaining potential with a fire pit, pool and outdoor kitchen.

Enter daily, once at and once at, until Feb. 17, for a chance to win the waterfront retreat. The grand prize package is valued at more than $1.7 million and includes a new Honda Pilot. Go to to view dozens of photos and videos of the 2017 Dream Home.

Plotting an edible garden

Is a summer garden packed with veggies one of your goals for 2017? The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is offering “The Edible Garden Year” on five Saturdays starting Jan. 14. Arb experts will talk about choosing produce, ordering and starting seeds, soil composition, transplanting, water conservation, weed control and finally, harvesting. The class will meet 1 to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 14, Feb. 4, May 13, June 24 and Aug. 19. Cost is $200; $150 for members; includes Arboretum admission, 3675 Arboretum Dr., Chaska. Register at or call 612-301-1210.

Area rug, isolated. From istock

Tips for selecting and organizing garden seeds – Mail Tribune

“In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

— Albert Camus, “Return to Tipasa,” 1954


The snowy weather has made it an ideal time to curl up next to the fireplace and spend hours browsing through favorite seed catalogues. Each picture of a vegetable, herb or flower beckons, “Grow me!”

My imagined gardens are always bigger and better behaved than my actual gardens. Reality makes an appearance after I look at my plot maps and last year’s garden notes, but then I end up buying way too many seeds anyway.

It’s easy to get carried away with buying seeds or adopting them from friends. And why not splurge? Seeds are usually less expensive than buying plants, and they will remain viable for 3-5 years if stored properly. Leftover seeds can also be shared at local seed swaps. Still, to obtain the best results from your seeds, here are several considerations:

• When getting seeds from friends, be sure to write the year the seeds were harvested and the plant variety and cultivar on the package. You may also want to note color for flower seeds.

• Buy seeds from local sources. Not only will you be supporting local agriculture and businesses, these seeds are ideally adapted to grow well in Southern Oregon. Try Siskiyou Seeds, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, Restoration Seeds and Territorial Seed Company. Look for seeds grown by members of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association.

• Pay attention to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones listed to determine which plants are most likely to thrive in the local climate. Medford, Jacksonville and Ashland are usually listed as 8a/b; however, microclimates on specific properties in Jackson County may range from 6a to 9a, depending on elevation, wind and other factors. It’s a good idea to buy perennial seeds that are listed for zones down to 6.

• If you want to grow organic, non-GMO seeds, look for specific terminology on the label such as non-GMO, 100% Organic or Certified Organic.

• Note whether seeds are for plant varieties that are heat-resistant, disease resistant and/or deer resistant, and whether they are noted for attracting garden pollinators.

• If you had an infestation of a particular insect in 2016, consider holding off on buying seeds for plants in the same family as those affected. For example, if a horde of squash bugs made your vegetable garden their home last year, you may want to avoid  sowing cucurbit seeds this year (squash, cucumber, watermelon, pumpkin).

• Note how many seeds or ounces of seed you are buying You can usually save money by going in with a group of friends and buying larger quantities of seeds.

• Some seeds are more difficult to germinate than others. Look for special germination instructions, such as soaking seeds overnight, cold stratifying or placing in darkness.

• Consider buying pelleted seeds for carrots and lettuce for more accurate sowing and reduced thinning.

I organize my seeds in a way that provides protection and easy access. The method that has worked best for me is to place seed packets in zip-close plastic bags by the month they will be sown. The “Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley” (2007) is a helpful resource for scheduling; however, weather conditions change every year, so I also pay attention to current forecasts.

I keep indoor and outdoor started seeds in separate bags for months when I sow several kinds of each. To remember successive plantings, I place seeds in the bag for each month the seeds will be sown.

Once the seed packages are open, I add a tissue sachet of powdered milk to each bag to reduce moisture. Then I store all of the bags by month in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator — a reminder of the invincible summer within. Meanwhile, check out pictures of my seed organization system on my blog at

— Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at

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