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Archives for January 23, 2017

A quick primer for what’s happening at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show

Your roof is leaking, you hate your kitchen countertops and your garden needs a sprinkler system. Lucky you, there’s a one-stop event where any or all of those problems can be solved. The Tacoma Home and Garden Show opens Thursday and continues through Jan. 29 at the Tacoma Dome.

Here’s what’s happening at the show:

Garden lectures: Attend lectures and demonstrations by master gardeners, The News Tribune and The Olympian garden columnist Marianne Binetti, Tacoma garden designer Sue Goetz, Tacoma master rosarian Bruce Lind, Seattle gardening guru Ciscoe Morris and several more gardening authorities. Check the event website for a complete schedule.

Tiny homes: Shoreline-based Carriage Houses Northwest will display their versions of “tiny houses,” a new trend that has multiple purposes: miniature vacation homes, art studios, reading shacks and mother-in-law cottages. Two of the company’s models will be on display.

Vintage Market: Find the market in the southeast corner, featuring more than a dozen vendors selling vintage, repurposed and eclectic items for the home and garden.

Display gardens: Marenakos Rock Center and Olympic Landscapes will have inspirational display gardens featuring the latest trends in garden design.

Take-home plants: Willow Tree Gardens of University Place will have a selection of plants and bulbs. Their inventory will include some of the latest garden darlings, including hellebores, succulents, sedums and hardy perennials. Their display also will include garden art, furniture, fountains and other garden accents.

Vendors: A broad swath of home-and-garden vendors will be at the show. Countertop builders, roofers, barn builders, solar light tube installers and numerous others. Beyond craftsman, companies selling items such as gazebos, hot tubs, greenhouses and other outdoor buildings also can be found in the vendor section at the show, which has more than 500 total exhibitors.

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Jan. 28; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 29.

Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma.

Cost: Tickets are $12 adults; free for children 16 and younger. Parking is free. Find a $2 discount coupon at


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OU Landscape and Grounds faces more than $80000 in cuts amid budget decrease

OU’s Landscape and Grounds budget has been reduced by more than $80,000 in the past year.

Following OU’s 7 percent tuition increase, implemented because of a cut in state funding amid a statewide budget crisis, the landscape budget also lost revenue, OU budget director Linda Anderson said.

Anderson said there was initially only a $6,072 reduction from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2017, but that number was raised after an additional assessment.

“Landscape was assessed an additional $76,691 cut after July 1, 2016,” Anderson said. “So the total reduction to their budget in one year was $82,763.” 

The budget was originally $3,840,620, Anderson said. It has now fallen to $3,757,857.

Allen King, the director of Landscape and Grounds, said the use of money specifically designated for OU’s endowment gardens has greatly helped the budget situation.

“Our budget has been pretty good, and it’s because President and Mrs. Boren have really rallied to endow several of our gardens,” King said. “We have quite a few of them — about 10. So, the interest on endowed gardens really alleviates our budget a great deal.”

Vocal music education sophomore Emi Bias said she understands the importance of landscaping at OU but supports the reduction in the department’s overall funding.

“I think that it’s important for the university to look nice and professional, but if money is needed more elsewhere, such as providing equipment or other resources for different colleges, I think the money should go towards that instead and not towards landscaping,” Bias said.

Meteorology sophomore Austin Gress said he knows budget cuts are an issue for the university, but said landscaping should still be looked after.

“I think some other programs — important educational programs — should be put ahead of it, but I think it’s an important aspect because as a person touring campus, you definitely notice how beautiful campus is and what it looks like, so it can impact your decision on where to go to school,” Gress said.

Landscape and Grounds also faces various rumors on what it does with its funding. Bias said she heard students have a hidden fee of $150 to walk around campus. Gress said he heard that OU buys imported squirrels, which is why the squirrels on campus seem more domesticated.

King said those rumors are false but have been circulating among students for years.

“I’ve been on this campus for 29 years, and I’ve heard these stories for 28 years,” King said. “There is nothing true about them.”

King said the large number of “friendly” squirrels on campus is due to the tremendous oak tree population in Norman.

“Along with the oak trees come the acorns — which the squirrels love,” King said. “And the squirrels, I think, have found us to be a safe haven because all the students and everybody either leaves them alone or feeds them, so they stay close.”

In regard to students paying fees to walk on the grass on campus, King said this is also untrue.

“If there is any fee or anything out there, I haven’t seen the money and I haven’t heard of it, so I think that is completely false,” King said.

When it comes to the price of planting flowers, King said they plant in the summer and the spring and that most locations are endowment gardens and have donations and gifts set aside for them, so there is no cost for students.

King also said the department performs almost 100 percent of the maintenance required on campus without any outside hires and takes care of an area stretching from Highway 9 to Boyd Street.

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Horticultural careers: Where do you see yourself planted?

Have you thought about a career in horticulture?

Last fall, the White House announced the “America the Bountiful Initiative” because the number of students currently studying agriculture is not meeting real world job demand. That in turn is causing potential vulnerability of the food supply which is a national security issue. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study in 2015 showed that 35,400 students graduated with ag-related degrees – short of the 59,000 job openings.

Under the program, government agencies, universities and corporations are encouraged to offer incentives: fellowships, scholarships, traineeships and awards.

Sounds like promising career territory, so let’s look at the aspect of interest to gardeners: horticulture.

Horticulture is partly related to agriculture and although everyone seems to have a different definition of the distinction, horticulture seems to cover everything that’s not large field grain crops or livestock – including flowers and landscape plantings.

I decided to talk to Tyler Mason, the horticulturist at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, to get a better understanding of the field. His career so far exemplifies the possibilities both in educational routes and job opportunities down the line.

Kids will always play in the dirt, but Mason turned that into gardening early on. By age 12 or 13, “I was landscaping for neighbors: mowing, weeding, mulching and planting shrubs. I didn’t think it was work,” he said. Later he began working at a neighborhood landscape nursery.

Mason studied agriculture at Purdue University, taking internships at a retail landscape nursery and scouting for pests for an agronomy company. Then he had an internship at the Purdue Horticulture Greenhouse Gardens (more of a public garden).

After he graduated, he was working in horticultural research at Purdue, but he wanted to work in public gardens and see more of the world. That’s how in 2012 he came to be the assistant education director at the Paul Smith Children’s Village, part of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens.

Not only was he teaching, Mason was also responsible for the gardening, with the help of volunteers. In 2014, Mason signed up for a master’s program at Colorado State University through distance education. His thesis was on volunteer management and he finished within two years. During that time, he became the Botanic Garden’s horticulturist, responsible for everything that grows outside the conservatory.

But now Mason is about to embark on a different tangent. This month he begins work on his doctorate. This time he will go to school fulltime at CSU. In four years he will become a doctor of horticulture. He will be studying specialty crops grown organically and sustainably.

Specialty crops, Mason said, are essentially all that produce you see at farmers markets minus grains (agronomy), wine grapes (viticulture) and fruits of orchards (pomology).

The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Coalition has enlisted northern land grant universities like CSU in researching varieties that do well within the USDA’s specifications for organically grown food. Part of the evaluation is taste. There aren’t many fields of research where you get to eat your subjects.

Which of the many careers in horticulture is Mason looking at when he finishes? Perhaps he’ll be a university extension service vegetable specialist for a state preferably in the Mountain West, who would consult with growers. Let’s hope he still has time for his own vegetable garden.


Educational routes into horticulture

The green industry, as it calls itself, employs people with all levels of education and experience.

While Laramie County Community College does not offer a two-year degree in horticulture, it does offer an associate of science degree that includes courses required for a four-year degree at other schools.

Meanwhile at the University of Wyoming, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Plant Sciences Department offers the “bachelor of science degree in agroecology.” That is the study of more sustainable agricultural practices.

Courses offered include landscape design, plant materials and their propagation, greenhouse design and much more.

CSU is a much larger university and offers more variety in the horticultural field through the College of Agricultural Sciences. It has the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department which itself has three areas of emphasis:

n Environmental horticulture which includes everything to know for landscaping, including business, design, management, nursery and turf management.

n Horticulture includes the horticultural version of business management, food crops, science, and therapy (requiring classes in counseling) as well as floriculture (flowers), viticulture (wine) and enology (wine making).

n Landscape architecture studies the relationship between design, nature and society.

Buried in the online catalog you will find the organic agriculture interdisciplinary minor in which one studies organic food and fiber production, composting, diagnostics and treatment, microbiology for sustainable agriculture, organic soil fertilizers, crop development techniques and organic greenhouse production.


Horticultural careers

One doesn’t have to be a horticulturist to work in a horticultural business, though some knowledge of the discipline will help, and eventually rub off on you.

Consider the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. In addition to the horticulturists and the volunteers who grow the plants under their direction, the public garden has employees covering education, volunteer coordination, office management, community relations, and events management.

There are many categories of horticultural work. In which category will you find your first career, or maybe your second?

Barb Gorges writes a monthly column about the joys and challenges of gardening on the High Plains. Find her past columns at Readers are always welcome to contact her with questions and story ideas at

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Sustainability for the Home Landscape – Herald

As gardeners, we seek to connect with the world and ourselves through the cultivation of plants. Gardening is an act of emphasizing nature’s beauty and bounty within our landscapes. In the past century, our quality of interactions with the outdoors has diminished.

The American Landscape

Packed schedules gave rise to the demand for low-maintenance landscapes where foundation plantings of daylilies, boxwood and yews surrounded by bark mulch dominate communities from Maine to California.

Sprawling carpets of weed-free, tightly clipped lawns reflect a homeowner’s commitment (or perhaps budget) to maintaining the perfect lawn, so green the turfgrass practically glows in the dark.

Yards are typically dotted with ornamental pear trees erupting from mulch volcanoes. With the pear tree’s ease of propagation and spectacular show of white spring flowers, it is no wonder this tree has been planted everywhere.

Understandably, a majority of Americans cannot become expert gardeners; we just do not have the time. Our modern lifestyle keeps us inside for 90 percent or more of our lives. For so many of us, our only task of gardening, landscaping or getting outdoors is our weekly commune with the lawn mower. However, in the past few decades, our views toward the landscape have begun to shift.

Change on the Horizon

Both younger and older generations of Americans are starting to seek higher quality interactions with nature in their gardens and landscape. For some, it may even seem necessary as we face:

º Mounting evidence of global climate change.

º Higher energy, material and food prices.

º Crumbling infrastructure.

º Loss of species to extinction.

º Food deserts and low access to healthy food.

º Diminished quality of life for future generations.

º Epidemics of obesity and heart disease.

Faced with these issues, many feel an urge to do something to offset these massive dilemmas. People may not be sure where to start, or if they can help at all. The good news is, you can help, and it starts in your own yard.

A Sustainable Approach

Sustainable landscaping is an emerging field in the green industry. It bucks our contemporary landscape trends of constant inputs with little gain. Sustainable landscaping takes a systems approach to address plant health and nutrient needs, which feed into creating healthy soils; conserving water; using fewer fertilizers, fossil fuels, and pesticides and improving human health.

Join me for a six-part series as we discuss the concepts of sustainable landscaping. During these six sessions, you will also learn the core techniques for creating landscape plans to incorporate sustainable practices in your yard. By the end of the course, you will leave with a fundamental knowledge of sustainable landscaping practices and a plan for your property.

For your convenience, we will be holding classes in Macomb on Fridays 3 to 5 p.m. and Galesburg on Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon. Classes begin on January 27 (Macomb) and January 28 (Galesburg). Additional details can be found at our online registration,, or contact Amanda Christenson at 309-342-5108.

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Tips for planting seeds for spring plants

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Debbie Pleu pulls out parsley, which germinates in the dark. She read a tip online about germinating the seeds in a dark oven. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Debbie Pleu, owner of Pleu Gardens, works ahead of the home gardener’s planting schedule to supply her customers with plants ready to transplant during the growing season. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Labels are necessary for gardeners planting several different kinds of plants, said Debbie Pleu, who is a long-time home and commercial gardener. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Debbie Pleu points out the small pieces of perlite in potting soil, which helps with aeration. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Debbie Pleu holds a journal that she has used for several years to record notes about plantings. She uses the journal to reference dates and varieties of plants she grows between growing seasons. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

A metal rack with grow lights set above seeds trays will work for growing seeds indoors. Debbie Pleu planted several varieties of seeds, from broccoli to herbs, to get ready for the spring growing season. She sells her plants at the Tulsa Farmers Markets. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

In addition to growing vegetables for her customers, Debbie Pleu, owner of Pleu Gardens, also starts flowers from seed weeks ahead of the spring growing season. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Debbie Pleu said reading the seed packet’s recommendations is a good way to start planting seeds. Each packet will include information about temperatures, planting times, spacing and depths. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Once the seeds have emerged and developed their mature leaves, they can be transplanted to individual containers or moved outside into the ground after dangers of frost have passed. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Once the seeds have emerged and developed their mature leaves, they can be transplanted to individual containers or moved outside into the ground after dangers of frost have passed. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Seed Starter

Seed Starter

Labels are necessary for gardeners planting several different kinds of plants, said Debbie Pleu, who is a long-time home and commercial gardener. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

Getting started

For many home gardeners, now is a good time to start planning which plants to grow at home. Debbie Pleu, owner of Pleu Gardens, has used April 15 as her benchmark date for moving transplants outdoors. It’s an easy date to remember and is usually out of danger of frost, she said.

Her tip for knowing when to sow seeds is to use that date and count backward the number of weeks the seed packet has recommended as a start date. However, there are some plants that like the cooler temperatures leading into spring and will fare better planted in gardens sooner.

Cooler-weather plants, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, can be sown now and moved outdoors a few weeks earlier than their warmer weather counterparts (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc.).

Some plants, including kale, lettuces, salad greens, Swiss chard and radishes can be planted directly in the garden. 

Cool-season vegetables






Swiss chard

Warm season





Posted: Sunday, January 22, 2017 11:18 am

Tips for planting seeds for spring plants

By Jessica Rodrigo
Tulsa World


Debbie Pleu has been gardening for a few decades. Having owned an organic gardening operation in the ‘80s, she left the business but later returned to grow into another branch of gardening.

She now owns Pleu Gardens, which sells starts, transplants and flower bouquets at the Tulsa Farmers Markets. With spring just a few months away, she is already in the throes of overseeing the growth of dozens of varieties of cool-weather vegetable plants, including broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.


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    “There’s so much to do with timing of when to start planting your seeds,” Pleu said.

    Because she is sowing seeds and raising plants with a commercial intent, she works a few weeks ahead of the home gardeners’ planting schedule. She shared several tips to help gardeners successfully grow plants from seeds and transplant to pots or plots and to enjoy the plants this spring.

    Many plants are easy to grow from seeds. Tomatoes are popular with gardeners of varying experience. They do well in pots or in the ground, and there are so many varieties from which to choose, from cherry tomatoes to heirloom Cherokee Purples. A few other easy-to-grow seeds include eggplant, basil, squash and cucumbers. These plants require less maintenance or attention to start and raise into mature plants.

    Pleu has been using a journal to record dates when seeds are sown, notes about which plants she’s growing and when they’re transplanted to their permanent place. Then throughout the season, she jots down details about harvests, locations and other things she might find useful for the following year’s planting.

    When you’re ready to start planting your seeds, pull together your materials and tools, including trays/containers, growing medium/potting soil, labels/popsicle sticks and seeds. Pleu said it can be easy to forget which seeds you just planted or which label belongs to which row of seeds. Plant one seed at a time and label the row as soon as you’re done.

    It’s important to maintain moisture in the growing medium because the seeds may die if they dry out after they’re sown. However, watering too much can cause the seeds to take on a disease called damping-off, which happens when the seeds become too wet and won’t emerge from the soil. Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature of the soil to help the seeds germinate.

    It’s easy to get carried away buying trays and containers for starting seeds, but Pleu pointed out that old plastic containers missing lids can be used at no cost. Also, plastic cling wrap can be used in lieu of the plastic domes that come in seed-starting kits.

    Twitter: @EatsEatsEats

    Jessica Rodrigo 918-581-8482

    Twitter: @EatsEatsEats


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      Garden Tips: New tomatoes to try growing | Tri-City Herald – Tri

      May I have a drum roll as I announce some of the newest 2017 tomato varieties on the garden market?

      The two All American Selection tomato winners for this year are yellow varieties: Patio Choice Yellow F1 and Chef’s Choice Yellow F1. Ta-da!

      Patio Choice Yellow is a compact patio tomato with determinant growth. This means it grows to its mature height of a modest 18 inches, flowers and produces tomatoes that ripen at about the same time. Each compact plant produces about 100 golden yellow round cherry tomatoes that weigh in at only a half-ounce each. All American Selection says the fruit “are mildly sweet with a touch of acid.” Patio Choice Yellow is perfect for container or hanging basket growing. It is resistant to diseases Fusarium and Verticillium wilt, as well as Tobacco Mosaic Virus. (Seed can be purchased from, and others.)

      Chef’s Choice Yellow, a 2017 All American Selection that performed best in the southeast region, produces much larger yellow tomatoes on indeterminate vines that grow to a height of 4 to 5 feet. Each plant produces 30 or more 9-to 10-ounce beefsteak type fruit with a flattened-globe shape. The fruit have a “sweet, citrus-like flavor.” It is TMV, F, V and crack resistant. (Seed available from

      Of course, seed purveyors are also introducing their own new varieties. New may mean it is a variety that they have discovered or developed themselves, but may also just mean it is new to their catalog. Let’s look at some of this year’s other “new” tomatoes.

      Burpee ( is offering three new tomatoes. The one that has caught my interest is Gladiator Hybrid. This indeterminate tomato produces Roma-type sauce tomatoes that are above the norm in size, weighing in at 8 ounces per fruit. Burpee said that these large fruit have “dense, tangy” flesh and are great for making sauces and pastes that have a “rich, robust flavor.” I like making and freezing sauce made with my garden tomatoes, so I might just give Gladiator Hybrid a try.

      Totally Tomatoes ( is a favorite seed company of many tomato enthusiasts because of its focus on tomato and pepper varieties. If you do not want to start your own plants from seed, the company also offers plants and grafted plants of some varieties. One of the new tomato offerings is Grandma’s Little Girl Tomato. This hybrid heritage variety is V, F and root-knot nematode resistant, indeterminate and produces red 5 to 7-ounce beefsteak-type fruit in clusters. The tomatoes have “great tomato flavor” and are good slicing and salad tomatoes. It is an open pollinated hybrid.

      Territorial Seed Company ( is a family-owned company in Cottage Grove, Ore. It offers many tomato varieties, including heirloom, hybrid heirloom, storage and rootstock varieties. I often order from them because they also offer a variety of tomato plants. New to their catalog this year is a hybrid heirloom from the trademarked Heirloom Marriage series. Cherokee Carbon is a hybrid that combines the best of two heirlooms, Cherokee Purple and Carbon. The result is a tomato with “rich, delicious flavored” fruit. Cherokee Carbon is indeterminate and produces 10- to 12-ounce reddish-purple beefsteak fruit.

      There are so many great tomato varieties. Now is the time to check out the new ones, review the old ones and decide which ones you want to grow. Spring cannot be far away, so order your seed soon.

      Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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      January garden tips, training classes

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