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Archives for February 23, 2017

Ikea Lab Releases Free Designs For A Garden Sphere That Feeds …

This week Space10, an Ikea lab for futuristic, solutions-oriented designs, released open source plans for The Growroom, a large, multi-tiered spherical garden designed to sustainably grow enough food for an entire neighborhood. Hoping to help spur local growing and sourcing, Space10 made the plans available for free on Thursday.

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Seed starting, garden design workshop – Rockland – Camden – Knox … – Courier

Camden — Gardener Rose Swan will lead a seed starting and garden design workshop Saturday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to noon at Merryspring Nature Center.

For new gardeners, knowing where to start can be the most daunting task. Swan leads this hands-on workshop designed for beginning gardeners. Participants will learn about designing mixed flower and vegetable gardens, as well as propagating various garden plants from seed, indoors at home. Focus will be on perennial and annual plants to use in mixed flower and vegetable gardens. Each guest will be able to start seeds and bring them home. A selection of flower and vegetable seeds will be provided, but those interested may bring special varieties from home if they choose.

Swan has gardened for more than 13 years in many different growing zones and specializes in mixed flower and vegetable gardens. She has worked at a number of Midcoast area non-profit organizations and currently lives in Union.

This program is part of the Weekend Workshop series at Merryspring. The cost is $20, with a discounted rate of $15 for members of Merryspring.

Limited space and materials are available. Please pre-register by contacting Merryspring at 236-2239 or

For more information on this program or any others, please contact or call 236-2239.


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Good garden design prevents a lot of trouble down the road





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Lush and Lean part 1: County landscape architect works with the desert

County Planner David Cristiani presented at this season’s first Lush and Lean workshop, Thursday, Feb. 23, encouraging residents to make landscaping choices using plants that will thrive in southern New Mexico's arid climate. Courtesy photos.
County Planner David Cristiani presented at this season’s first Lush and Lean workshop, Thursday, Feb. 23, encouraging residents to make landscaping choices using plants that will thrive in southern New Mexico’s arid climate. Courtesy photos.

Editor’s note: This is the first of an 11-part series detailing Las Cruces Utilities’ 11-week Lush and Lean workshops educating citizens how to maintain a garden while being conscientious of water usage.

By Suzanne Michaels

For the Bulletin

Landscape architect David Cristiani describes himself as an Air Force brat who has lived all over the country.

By age 13 he was a self-proclaimed “weather nerd” and was intensely interested in what grew where. Because of the frequent family moves, he said even as a kid he noticed the great contrast in flora that thrived in different regions of the United States.

Today, with 28 years of landscape architecture under his belt, Cristiani works as a planner for Doña Ana County. He urges residents to work with the desert in designing their yards, saying, “You can’t pretend you are somewhere else; we live in the Chihuahuan Desert. Working with the desert will inform what your oasis (versus general areas of your garden) looks like.”

Cristiani shared his ideas at the free Lush and Lean workshop on Thursday, Feb. 23, hosted by Las Cruces Utilities (LCU). His goal is to help residents plan their properties in a way that is sustainable in the southern New Mexico environment. Cristiani encourages residents to avoid high-water-use plants.

“Pay attention to the processes and patterns in nature,” he said. “Water is a process.”

It’s important to create depressed areas in your yard to store water, then choose native plants that thrive in wetter and drier areas in the Southwest.

He prefers hardscape that provides a place to sit, such as a “seat wall” that is also nice to look at. He also likes desert “power plants” — soft and sharp — then uses flowers to accent specific spots in spring and fall. He likes a yard that features bolder plants such as agaves and beargrass.

All Lush and Lean workshops are free and open to the public; they are held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Branigan Library Roadrunner Room, 200 E. Picacho. See the complete list of speakers and Lush and Lean dates at or (you don’t need a Facebook account to view this page).

Las Cruces Utilities can be reached from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This yard, planned by David Cristiani, uses drought-tolerant plants in a design that complements the architecture of the home and provides a contrast in spiky cactus and mesquite with soft yellow damianita. Courtesy photo.
This yard, planned by David Cristiani, uses drought-tolerant plants in a design that complements the architecture of the home and provides a contrast in spiky cactus and mesquite with soft yellow damianita. Courtesy photo.


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PEARL RIVER, NY, February 17, 2017 — Orange and Rockland Utilities (OR) is offering each of its customers two free tickets to the 30th Annual Suburban Home Show at Rockland Community College’s field house in Suffern, N.Y. February 24-26.

One of the largest and best attended biggest shows of its kind in the Tri-State area, the Suburban Home Show features over 400 booths, exhibits and demonstrations of the best in home improvement, decorating and landscaping ideas, and products and services priced for every pocketbook.

The Suburban Home Show hours are Friday: 3 – 9 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Stop by OR’s state-of-the-art display where energy experts will discuss the latest convenient service options and programs that help customers save time, energy and money. Those features include OR’s new online store, energy efficiency incentives and OR’s natural gas conversion rebate program.

Of special interest to Rockland customers this year will be the implementation of the Company’s new smart meter program, a game-changing technology designed to provide greater choice, control and convenience for busy energy consumers.

The two free tickets — a $20 retail value made available to all of OR’s New York and New Jersey customers through the Company’s promotional partnership with the Suburban Home Show — are included in OR customers’ February monthly statements.

If you missed seeing the tickets with your monthly statement, or you pay your bill electronically through either a pre-arranged electronic fund transfer or eBill, go to OR’s website home page at for tickets. The tickets must be printed out and the hard copies presented at the event’s box office.

If you do not have access to a computer, call OR Customer Service at 1-877-434-4100, and ask that two free Home Show tickets be sent to you by mail.
Children under 10 are admitted to the show free of charge and parking at RCC’s field house also is free.

For more information about the Suburban Home Show, visit or call 845-343-2772.

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Cottage show inspires fun, unique ideas

Posted February 22, 2017

NOVI — Spring is just around the corner, so what better way is there to get prepared for some fun in the sun and those long relaxing weekends than at the 10th annual Cottage and Lakefront Living Show, running Feb. 23-26 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

The showroom will be stocked with hundreds of exhibits with displays, information and educational materials for lakefront cottage owners, home builders, and those on the market for either. There will also be details available from Michigan Realtors about new construction of log, timber-frame and cedar homes, as well as cottages for sale or rent. 

Also on display will be information on cottage furnishings and accessories, lakeshore maintenance, boats, docks, boat lifts, seawalls, outdoor recreational equipment, stand-up paddleboards, financing, and other products and services. Private consultations with builders, remodelers and contractors will be available.

“It’s the preseason destination for property and vacation homeowners or those looking to buy, build, rent or maintain cottage and lakefront property,” stated Dawn Baker, show manager at ShowSpan Inc., in a press release. “Showgoers will find plenty of exhibits for building or renting a cottage, replacing a dock or seawall, and adding cottage furnishings or water toys.”

During the Cottage Living Seminar, experts will explain how to set up a cottage family succession plan, and tips for cottage and lakefront lawns and gardens. Attendees can also list their cottage or look for availability on the Cottage for Sale or Rent Board. 

Michigan artists at the Cottage Fine Art Show will present photography, metal art, furniture, jewelry, pottery, cottage décor and paintings for sale. Home décor, decorative accessories and handcrafted items will be available for purchase at the Lakefront Marketplace.

Adults and children are welcome to build sandcastles at “The Beach,” a giant sandbox, and everyone can participate in stories around a campfire, camp crafts and climbing a rock wall at the Cran-Hill Family Fun Zone.

And of course, there will be plenty of landscaping ideas.

Kipp Rammler, owner of Visionary Landscaping in Shelby Township, said this year’s booth will focus on the new trends in brick pavers, as well as popular services like outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, landscaping design, fertilization, cabins, patios and more.

“We discuss a lot of projects with people and we do a lot of work up north, where people have cottages and vacation homes,” said Rammler, who said his 17-year-old company has attended the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show since its inception 10 years ago. “It’s the only advertising we do. This show and maybe one other show. It’s been really good.”

For The Pond Guy, an Armada-based company that’s become a standard at the show, the four-day event is all about spreading word of lake and pond maintenance.

Representative Kelly Schapman said that at this year’s show, The Pond Guy will focus on educating man-made pond owners and lakeside residents about the five key components of the Airmax Ecosystem, a proactive approach to keeping your pond healthy.

“The Pond Guy will have Airmax Aeration Systems on display as well as the Aquastream Fountain,” said Schapman. “We will also be showcasing our beneficial bacteria product line that includes MuckAway, Pond Clear and EcoBoost. We will also have pond dye options present.”

Schapman said in an email that there will be several pond experts on-site at their booth during the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show to answer all pond and lake questions and discuss treatment options.

The Pond Guy offers supplies for the do-it-yourselfers, as well as a service department for an extra helping hand.

“This will be our eighth year at the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show,” Schapman said.  “We love the opportunity to address this target audience and show them that we know ponds. Because of this show, many people schedule pond consults with us or visit our showroom.”

There will also be plenty of water recreation toys on display, from pontoons and kayaks to fishing boats and sport boats, organizers said.

The Suburban Collection Showplace is located at 46100 Grand River Ave., between Novi and Beck roads, in Novi. Show hours are 1-9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23; 11 a.m –9:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26. Admission costs $10, $4 for children ages 6-14, and children 5 and younger are admitted free. The discount promo code for Thursday or Friday online $8 ticket purchases is “LAKE.” There is free crossover admission from the Cottage and Lakefront Living Show to Outdoorama.

For more information, visit, or call (800) 328-6550.

About the author

Staff Writer Julie Snyder covers Harrison Township, Mount Clemens, Macomb County, L’Anse Creuse Public Schools, and Mount Clemens Community Schools for the Journal. She has worked for C G Newspapers since 2003, and attended the University of Toledo with degrees in journalism and photography. Julie has received several awards for her work in Arizona and Washington, including AP awards in Arizona for breaking news reporting and feature writing.

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Jeanine Rubert: Front-yard farming on tap for spring

It’s hard to believe, but we are only six weeks away from the first day of spring.

As a die-hard gardener, I am also an eternal optimist and I choose to focus on the first day of spring — March 20— rather than the first frost-free day, which is around May 29. I have been thinking about and planning for the spring 2017 growing season. I always have a small garden, mostly in containers, but this year I am going to try more of a foodscape approach to gardening. Foodscaping, also known as edible landscaping or front-yard farming, is a type of landscaping in which all or major areas of lawn are used to grow food.

Think of it as a kind of hybrid between farming and landscaping; edible plants are integrated as borders in and around traditional beds replacing ornamentals. You can use edible berry shrubs to visually anchor the garden and dwarf fruit trees to define the space and provide shade for sun-sensitive annuals. Tomatoes and vertically trellised cucumbers function as foundation plantings, hiding concrete foundations. While vegetable gardens are usually neat little squares somewhere in the backyard, with foodscaping, the whole yard becomes the vegetable garden!

It can be just as artistic as traditional landscape design, if you think of your edible plants in terms of color, texture and form just as you do with ornamentals. Take blueberry plants for example. They can range in height from 1 to 6 feet. They produce fragrant white blossoms in spring, followed by delicious fruit and wonderful red fall color. Chives and onion plants have an upright, spiky form, while spinach has a softer, rounded form. Lettuce varieties can create a beautiful multi-colored groundcover. Grow an assortment of chili peppers for a colorful summer show. Be sure to include herbs and edible flowers. Sunflowers are always beautiful and they attract birds. Butterflies love fennel, borage and parsley.

Probably the easiest way to start foodscaping your yard is to find substitutes for existing ornamentals. This process can be as simple as replacing plants that have died, have considerable dieback or have become overgrown and need to be replaced anyway. Some examples of plant subs may be serviceberry for redbud, apple trees for Bradford pear, hardy kiwi for ivy, or blueberry for burning bush. Remember to plan, start small and plant the right plant in the right place, just as you would with traditional landscaping.

There are some great books that can help you get started: “Foodscaping” by Charlie Nardozzi, “Edible Landscaping” by Rosalind Creasy and “The Edible Front Yard” by Ivette Soler.

Hope you are thinking spring and open to trying something new this year. Grow what you enjoy eating and you will be successful!

Jeanine Rubert is co-owner of Pine Hill Nursery and Pine Hill Village Gardens and has lived and gardened in northern Michigan for 38 years. Pine Hill is the proud recipient of the 2015 TC Chamber of Commerce, Hagerty Insurance Small Business of the Year Award. Reach her at

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Greening the Garden

My column last month focused on how sustainable landscaping promotes biodiversity. Following are several other important components of sustainable landscaping.

Conserve water

In this era of water shortages, a sustainable landscape is a water-wise landscape. Here on the North Coast we have been spared the worst of the concerns about drought, but the ever-rising cost of water is itself an incentive for paying attention to water usage. The majority of plants in a water-wise landscape are drought-tolerant, a mix of natives and plants from other Mediterranean areas. The plants should be well-mulched and spaced so that when they reach maturity they cover and shade most of the ground, thus reducing water evaporation.

Adding organic matter to the soil is a powerful technique for conserving water. Organic matter excels at holding moisture; in fact, one foot of rich, moist soil holds as much water as a three-inch-deep pond covering the same area. Swales — shallow trenches laid out along landscape contours — can be sculpted to catch and retain water long enough for it to seep into the ground. This recharges soil moisture while at the same time reducing erosion.

Rain gardens — shallow, saucer-shaped depressions up to 12 inches deep that are planted with appropriate plants — use the same principle. Rainwater collects in the depression and gradually percolates into the soil, while the plants trap and filter pollutants. Good information on siting and designing rain gardens for our area can be found at rain gardens.

Other water-saving strategies: use efficient irrigation methods, collect and store rainwater, use permeable pavement and recycle greywater. Consider replacing a traditional lawn with one of the newer lawn mixes that require less water. Or eliminate the lawn. California offers a program that pays $2 per square foot to homeowners replacing a lawn with drought-tolerant plantings; see Several local homeowners have successfully participated in the program.

Minimize inputs
of fertilizers and pesticides

Fertilizers can burn and kill vegetation if applied too heavily and may encourage rapid, succulent growth that attracts garden pests — such as aphids and deer — and is vulnerable to powdery mildew. High nitrogen fertilizers also encourage opportunistic annual weeds. Studies show that plants are only able to absorb roughly 50 percent of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to farm land. The remaining 50 percent of the nitrogen escapes into the air — where it is the largest human-caused source of nitrous oxide (a major greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) — or into waterways —where it contributes to algal blooms in streams and “dead zones” in oceans. While I have not seen comparable statistics for fertilizer applied to lawns and gardens, whatever nitrogen is not absorbed likewise contributes to air and water pollution.

If we want to minimize our use of synthetic fertilizers, what are our options? We can amend the soil with compost and other forms of organic matter. We can choose plants that are well-adapted to local conditions and we can grow plants that fix nitrogen in the soil. Legumes such as fava beans are often used in rotation with food crops to fix this essential nutrient in the soil. Surprisingly, several of our native woody non-legumes also provide this service: red alder, ceanothus and pacific wax myrtle.

We can also use garden practices that support the soil food web, which is composed of earthworms and soil microorganisms — bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes. Together these are responsible for many essential soil processes such as aerating, recycling nutrients and increasing nutrient availability to plants. As much as 80 percent of the nitrogen a plant needs can come from waste produced by bacteria- and fungi-eating protozoa. The soil food web can be physically disrupted by rototilling and chemically injured by high-potency fertilizers; use these practices mindfully.

Earthworms are especially important to soil health. The earthworms in one acre of good soil can move 18 tons of soil a year. In doing so, they increase the porosity and water-holding capacity of soils, break up hard soils and help bind soil particles together to create an improved texture. In addition, earthworm castings are 50 percent higher in organic material than surrounding soil and contain elevated levels of available potash, phosphate, nitrogen, usable magnesium and calcium. And, in one year, earthworms can deposit 10 to 15 tons of castings per acre.

Pesticides of all sorts, even organic pesticides, are toxic to many of the creatures we want to encourage in the garden and are potentially hazardous to humans and pets as well. A healthier alternative is a method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The website at is a useful guide on using IPM to deal with common home, garden, turf and landscape pests.

Use garden plants and practices that attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hover flies and spiders. Yes, spiders! They are responsible for up to 80 percent of biological control in gardens. The goal is a garden with a balance of “good” and “bad” insects, not an insect-free garden. Remember that the more complex the web of life in the garden, the better the garden can cope with disease and pest threats.

Go non-toxic, buy local
and use recycled materials

Choose less toxic snail baits such as Sluggo and similar products. Use recycled concrete to build pathways, patios and retaining walls. Use composite lumber made from recycled plastic for decking and edging (make sure it is made from recycled rather than virgin plastic). Use downed branches and garden trimmings to make woven fences around raised beds and compost piles. Craft “junque art” from recycled items — a creative way to express yourself and personalize your garden.

To wrap it up, in our own gardens we have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to many pressing environmental problems. We can make a difference. Sustainable gardening practices are good for our gardens as well as for the larger environment. These practices create healthier landscapes and sustain us, enriching our lives by forging a strong connection to our bioregion and allowing us to witness and participate in natural cycles.

Donna Wildearth is the owner of Garden Visions Landscape Design in Eureka. Visit her website at

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The weather can’t seem to make up its mind if it’s still winter or ready for spring. That means it’s the perfect time to start planning gardens and landscaping. The Penn State Master Gardeners are here to help you with your green thumb. They provided the following on their programs.

Schuylkill County is fortunate to have a willing group of horticulture volunteer educators known as Master Gardeners who are ready to assist the public with topics pertaining to gardening. Now in their 16th year of service, the Schuylkill County Master Gardeners have responded to questions phoned in on their Garden Hort Line, provided topics on monthly radio broadcasts, attended as resource persons at community events, presented information to community groups, and maintained public gardens in Schuylkill Haven and Sweet Arrow Lake.

Penn State Extension services are available in all counties as “outreach” or “extension” of Penn State University research in horticulture, plant pathology, entomology, fruit, livestock and agronomy from their college of Agricultural Sciences. Penn State Master Gardeners are the part of the extension service that addresses gardening questions from homeowners.

As a result of increasing interest in home gardening, landscaping and vegetable and fruit growing, the Master Gardener program was initiated in Seattle in 1972. Since then, they’ve trained 50,000 volunteers across the nation. Penn State has had Master Gardener programs for 36 years, however the Schuylkill County program is relatively young, having graduating the first class of recruits in 2001.

The program provides many services to the community. Every Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April through October, they answer questions by phone, email or from walk-in clients on a wide variety of garden topics.

Other ongoing programs include maintaining public demonstration gardens in Schuylkill Haven and Sweet Arrow Lake, offering programming to community organizations, serving as advisors on planning committees, staffing informational tables at community events, posting tips through Facebook, providing monthly garden help through a radio talk show, writing monthly articles for local media and providing speakers.

In Schuylkill County, every two years the program recruits new volunteers who have a gardening background, an interest in growing their knowledge base every year, can be flexible in the volunteer program and, most importantly, the desire to serve as volunteer educators to county residents. Accepted applicants receive 45 hours of education over a 16-week series by Penn State faculty and extension educators. Upon passing a written exam, volunteers are committed to 50 hours of service to the county through their programs and requests.

State level initiatives that they promote are Backyard Composting, Green Garden Clean Water environmental education and Pollinator Friendly Gardening guidelines with a garden certification program.

Training for new Master Gardeners will begin this summer. Applications will be accepted through April 7. A free information program for interested candidates will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 22. If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener, contact them at 570-622-4225.

Tamaqua Community Art Center is celebrating its fifth anniversary at 5 p.m. Feb. 25. Activities include a silent auction, open house tours, hands-on pottery wheel demos, artist exhibits, fiber arts, kids’ crafts, acoustic music, food and more. The event is free but donations are greatly welcome.

Penn State Master Gardeners invite you to Vegetable Garden Start to Finish, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 4 at the Ag Center on the Gordon Nagle Trail. Educational topics will cover everything from seed selection to harvesting. Class fee of $14 includes lunch. Registration deadline is Friday. Call 570-622-4225 for details.

Enjoy an evening of Celtic music and dance with the Celtic Martins Family Band at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Tamaqua Community Arts Center. Irish and American fiddle tunes with Irish step dance will be showcased. Call 570-668-1192 to order tickets.

Community Volunteers in Action is the volunteer center for Schuylkill County. Search volunteer opportunities at Find us on Facebook. Call us at 570-628-1426 or email

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