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Archives for April 2017

5 Container Gardening Tips to Follow to Grow Successfully

I look forward to spring every year. I start planning my small raised bed vegetable and herb garden about a month before I can actually put anything on the ground. I learned the hard way that I need to be patient lest I lose everything to an unexpected frost.

My yard is not very big so, I have always filled clay pots with brightly colored flowers to place around the outside of my home. Over the past couple of years, I have expanded my container gardening to include fruits, vegetables, and herbs, not just flowers. I have discovered that I can grow almost anything in a container. Here is what I have learned from my container gardening adventures.

You need to take notes on how much area receives full sunlight and for how long each day. I have underestimated how much sun my containers need by placing them in the wrong areas. Some plants do better in shade than others. So, you need to know how much exposure your containers are going to receive before you start your seeds or buy your plants.

You will need to time the sun exposure in certain areas. Once you know how much direct sunlight your container will get you can refer to a sun calculator to determine which plants will work best. Most seed packets and seedling plants come with instructions that tell you how much sun they need.

This is a really broad category. You can basically grow plants in anything from 5-gallon plastic construction buckets to sophisticated, custom, raised wood boxes. You can read this article to find more ideas about container gardening.

I have experimented with different types of containers. What I have discovered is that you really need containers that will drain. Clay pots with holes work great. Same is true for plastic that you can drill holes into the bottom of. The roots need room and can’t be saturated with water all the time unless you are growing a plant like watercress that needs constant moisture.

Here are a few other ideas for containers:

If you are fortunate enough to be able to find a rich, earthworm filled soil source that you can dig up, then that is the way to go. I live near salt water, so the soil is a bit sandy and likely high in salinity. I generally have to rely on purchased potting soil for my containers. This is usually not very nutritious for my plants.

If you have to purchase potting soil, look for organic soil that doesn’t have any chemical fertilizers or additives in it. You can mix in an all natural plant food of either your own composted vegetable matter, seaweed, free range animal manure, or even fish emulsion, depending on what you are growing.

For fruits and vegetables, you will want nutrients that aren’t going to impart an unpleasant taste into the produce. Here are some ideas of nutrients for edible container gardens.

Seedlings are almost always started inside your home or in a greenhouse where it is nice and warm. Before you plant your seedlings in the containers, let them acclimate to the extremes of the outdoors gently. Place seedlings outside for an hour or two each day for direct sun and wind exposure. They also need to adjust to insects.

If you have been watering your seedlings with tap or filtered water, start adding some fresh rainwater to their hydration regimen. Eventually, allow them to stay outside overnight. Over time they will adapt to the conditions and will survive better once you plant them.

If your containers are inside, this might not be an issue.

Any container garden needs care, just like ground gardens. Pay attention to how much water your plants are receiving. If rainwater is adequate, don’t be tempted to hydrate more. Remember, the containers will not drain as quickly as the ground.

Be mindful of the amount of sunlight your containers are receiving. They may need to be moved if it is too much or too little, especially as the seasons change and days grow longer. That is the nice thing about containers – you can relocate them.

Flowering plants need to be deadheaded from time to time. Herbs need to be pruned so that they don’t bolt and go to seed too quickly. Fruits and vegetables need to be harvested to make room for new growth. Weeds need to be kept in check so that they don’t choke the roots.

Sometimes insects are troublesome. Here are some natural pesticide recipes for flowering or green plants. For edible plants, your best pesticides are beneficial insects and removal by hand of the unwanted invaders. I recall one summer where I daily removed cabbageworm from the leaves of my collard greens by hand. If I missed a day the leaves would resemble Swiss cheese by evening.

If you have limited space or are physically unable to work on the ground, containers may be your best bet for putting your green thumb to use this growing season. There are so many creative options for containers. And, you really can grow just about anything in a container, depending on the size.

Container gardens are attractive and relatively easy to maintain. Though, they do differ slightly from ground gardens. There is a bit of a learning curve. You will get the hang of it with a little trial and error. Try following some of the tips suggested here and you should end up with a bounty of greenery, flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

We always like feedback from our readers. Please feel free to comment or share some of your own container garden experiences and suggestions.

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Ten Tips For An Earth-Friendly Mount Vernon Garden – Patch

MOUNT VERNON, NY—Getting ready to work in the garden? If so, it may be time to give some thought to the environment. While planting trees and shrubs is an earth-friendly gesture, some gardening practices may actually contribute to pollution.

Here are a few ways to create a beautiful garden while minimizing the negative impact on the earth.

1. Mulching works

Mulching can cut down the amount of water and fertilizer your plants need. Be sure to use all-natural mulch that is free from pesticides.

2. Curb your water enthusiasm.

For plants that need regular watering consider an irrigation system that measures how much water plants get. Use a rain barrel to catch any rain run-off from your gutters.

3. Choose plants that are already at home

Plants that are native to the area are less likely to need help in terms of water and fertilizer since they already thrive in local conditions.

4. Use plants to protect each other.

Plants such as marigolds, lavender, basil, lemon thyme, lemon grass, mint, rosemary, nasturtiums, petunias and chrysanthemums are all thought to repel insects.

5. Banish bugs by inviting birds

Birds love to snack on slugs and caterpillars. Bird feeders and nesting boxes invite these winged bug hunters into your garden.

6. Invite the right kind of bugs to feast in your garden.

A garden with sunflowers and marigolds is inviting to the ladybugs and lacewings that eat aphids.

7. Invite slugs to happy hour.

Too many slugs in your garden? You can keep these slimy intruders off plants by creating barriers of grit or crushed eggshells. Or you can place a shallow dish filled with beer in the garden. Slugs love beer and will not be able to resist getting in over their heads. The dish will have to be refilled when it rains.

8. Give up your lawn.

For many homeowners giving up a lawn may seem like a drastic step but lawns use a lot of water, fertilizer and weed killer. Also, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution in one hour of operation as 11 new cars do when they are each driven for one hour. If you can’t make the leap to a lawn-free garden, switch to a push mower. Cutting the lawn with a push mower is a good source of exercise and the clippings are good for your soil. Use only organic lawn products.

9. Recycle

Use recycled home goods such eggshells for starting seedlings. Scour tag sales for planters and other gardening tools.

10. Choose organic products to fertilize your plants.

If possible, make your own compost. Acid loving plants are happy to have your leftover coffee grounds.

Growing your garden a little greener is an earth-friendly gesture that pays off with planetary rewards.

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Gardening: Tips for coping with ticks and mosquitoes

I’ve been trying to get at least two hours outside most days to keep up with the seasonal work in the garden.

Last week I pulled up the wineberry plants (Rhus phoenicolasius Maxim) that encroached from the tree line. I pulled out tree seedlings and chopped down the saplings I didn’t get to last year. While not done, I have made a good dent in the job and was pleased that I have no bug bites and only a minor rash from the wineberry stems.

I also spent a day or two sorting through potted plants and clearing the deck. Surprisingly, this is where I got my first tick of the season. It was a large deer tick, thank goodness, and I found it before it attached — even better.

I’ve had a positive diagnosis for Lyme disease three times, most recently last year, so I am very careful to protect against and check for ticks of any kind. It is a lot easier than a month or two on antibiotics, or much worse because untreated Lyme disease can have serious and permanent consequences.

Sharum’s Garden Center Tips: Perennials, The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

Sharum’s Garden Center is back and they have the perfect Mother’s Day gift waiting for you at both their Fort Smith and Springdale locations.

Choose from an array of annuals, tropical, and perennials for the perfect gift that will last longer than buying pre-cut flowers! It’s a gift that will grow.

Frank Sharum discusses perennials with us in this week’s Sharum’s Garden Center Tips that are grown on site. Perennials are great because they come back every year given the proper care, Frank’s favorite is the summer flocks!

They also have a wide selection of plants for your shaded beds; bleeding hearts is just one of many they offer.

Not to mention many different ferns to compliment your shade beds.

The perennial Iris is in bloom right now; Sharum’s has some vibrant purple as well as day lilies.

Be sure and check out all of their perennials for the perfect Mother’s Day gift.

Segment Sponsored By: Sharum’s Garden Center

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Garden design day planned for Bonhill residents

Bonhill residents are being urged to get along and put forward their ideas.

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Sharing knowledge: latest from Hambrook Garden Design Centre …

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Career profile – Garden Designer | Horticulture Week

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Community Briefs 4/27/17

Mail ballot request deadline
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Orange Park voters planning to cast ballots in the May 9 Municipal Super Tuesday Run-Off Election have until May 3 to request a ballot be mailed to them for voting.
Voters are advised to allow at least five days for their ballot to be returned by mail to the Supervisor of Elections office. However, voters can drop off their completed ballots 24 hours a day by delivering their ballots to the Mail Ballot Drop Box located at the front entrance of the Supervisor of Elections Office in Green Cove Springs. Voted mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Meanwhile, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Orange Park Town Hall at 2042 Park Ave.
Voters will choose between Larry Nichols and Ron Raymond for Council Seat 1 as neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to win the race outright on April 11.
Raymond received 463 votes, 49.26 percent, while Nichols received 311 votes for 33.09 percent.
For more information, go or call (904) 269-6350 for assistance.

Asdot named acting police chief
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The City of Green Cove Springs has appointed Derek S. Asdot as its Acting Police Chief.
The move comes nine weeks after former chief of police Robert Musco retired suddenly after an investigation revealed he had made racially-charged comments to a black officer in January while planning for the city’s Rev. Martin Luther King Day celebration.
Asdot began his career with the Green Cove Springs Police Department as a patrolman in 2002. During his tenure here, he has also served in the department’s Street Crimes Unit, a Clay County and DEA Task Force Narcotics detective, a patrol sergeant and lieutenant before taking the new position. Prior to entering law enforcement, Asdot also served as an airborne infantryman in the U.S. Army where he attained the rank of specialist upon his honorable discharge in 1996.
Asdot will serve as acting police chief through the end of this fiscal year and is scheduled to attend the FBI National Academy for further training, according to a news release from the city.

Canterfield of Clay County names executive director
ATLANTA – Medical Development Corp., developer and owner of Canterfield Senior Living Communities, has named D. Brent Montgomery executive director of Canterfield of Clay County.
A graduate of Mississippi State University, Montgomery has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing. He has been a licensed nursing home administrator since 1993.
Prior to joining Canterfield, Montgomery served in numerous administrator positions, including skilled nursing and assisted living facilities as well as home health care agencies.
“Brent Montgomery brings a wealth of knowledge to our Executive Director position,” said Winston A. Porter, president of Atlanta-based Medical Development Corp. “Not only does he have a deep understanding of the elder care field, but he also exhibits a strong personal passion for its inherent mission. These traits, coupled with his in-depth working knowledge of the business aspects of his position in addition to his robust team building and leadership skills, made Brent our logical choice to fill the critical position of executive director at Canterfield of Clay County, our newest Canterfield campus.”
Canterfield enables residents to age in place with Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care services.

Land Trust to hold 6th Annual Fish Fry
JACKSONVILLE – North Florida Land Trust is hosting its 6th Annual Fish Fry at Big Talbot Island on May 20. The family-friendly event will be from noon until 5 p.m. at Talbot House on Big Talbot Island, 12134 Houston Ave. in Jacksonville. There will be live music, marsh views, food, local beers, lawn games and more.
“This fundraising event is so much fun for all ages,” said Jim McCarthy, executive director of North Florida Land Trust. “It is a great opportunity for everyone to spend some time out at Big Talbot Island, partake in a nature hike and learn more about why Big Talbot Island is such a special place. It is a great example of why we at North Florida Land Trust do what we do.”
A Florida Master Naturalist will be there to take people on a free guided nature hike. The hike is 1.5 miles and hikers will learn about all the natural plants and wildlife that can be seen on Big Talbot Island. The hikes will leave at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Space is limited and guests can sign up for the preferred time when purchasing tickets.
Guests are encouraged to BYOC or bring your own chair, sit on the lawn and enjoy live music from some local favorites. Junco Royals will be playing traditional old time jazz and LPT will perform their Afro-Cuban beats. Bold City Brewery will bring the beer and Beer 30: San Marco is providing cider. Safe Harbor and Indulge Food Truck will be serving up the food for the fish fry. Vegan and gluten-free options will also be available.
Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door and include entry and a meal. Kids under 12 are $10 in advance or $20 at the door and students with ID are $15 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at For more information, contact or call (904) 479-1962. Tickets are rain or shine. No refunds.
Founded in 1999, North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit organization who serves as a champion of land conservation primarily in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns counties.

Landscaping database saves homeowners time, money and water
PALATKA – An online resource is saving time, money and water for homeowners who are looking for landscaping ideas. The St. Johns River Water Management District’s waterwise plant database can help landscapers and do-it-yourselfers research the right plants for their yards’ specific growing conditions.
“Among the district’s greatest priorities is promoting water conservation,” said Ann Shortelle, SJRWMD executive director. “Because one of the biggest uses of water is lawn and landscape irrigation at our homes and businesses, using water wisely in our landscapes is an important personal responsibility. Florida-friendly landscaping is easy – plus, saving water saves homeowners money!”
To date, rainfall during 2017 has been below average with future predictions for similar rainfall trends. If a landscape’s sunlight and soil conditions are assessed correctly, well-chosen plants will need little to no supplemental irrigation once established.
The district’s waterwise landscaping webpages provide information on how to design a water-conserving landscape and how to group plants according to their needs, such as planting region, sunlight and soil conditions.
The database, which is found at, is searchable by scientific name, common name, size, color of flowers, hardiness zone, soil moisture needs, light and shade requirements, salt tolerance, and more. It also offers information on hundreds of plant species and allows users to compare information about different plants to determine if they are suitable to plant together and to help the user better plan planting areas. The database works on smartphones and other mobile devices, so can conveniently be taken along when shopping at a garden center.
April is Water Conservation Month, a designation intended to heighten public awareness about the variety of ways to reduce our water use. For additional water conservation tips to help you save money around the home, visit

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Horticulture student wins entrepreneur competition

ATHENS, Ga. – The key to maximizing water conservation and a lush landscape is an informed use of water. University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) horticulture student Jesse Lafian developed a webconnected soil moisture sensor to help landscape management companies monitor irrigation and enable them to use water wisely.

His patent-pending design, which is the centerpiece of his startup, Reservoir LLC, is the winner of UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur prize of $10,000 to put toward his company.

UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur is a student entrepreneurship contest open to student startup teams from all over the country. During this live event, teams pitch their existing business plans or business ideas in front of a live audience and a panel of judges. This year, 36 teams from 22 colleges and universities participated.

“Our student entrepreneurs are among the most creative and diverse group we have here at UGA,” said Matt Miller, coordinator of the UGA Terry College of Business’ Entrepreneurship Program. “Their ambition and willingness to collaborate allows them to take on major problems in this world and come up with unique solutions.”

Lafian plans to market his system to landscape management companies for use around tree installations, typically the most valuable parts of a landscape.

His work in horticulture helped him identify a very expensive problem: the overwatering that kills a large portion of the trees that landscapers install and warranty. Landscaping companies pay millions of dollars each year to remove and replace these trees. Lafian’s goal is to help landscapers save time, trees and water. The lynchpin of this automated system is Lafian’s sensor.

Lafian has applied for a patent on the sensor, which measures soil moisture in a novel way.

“Jesse’s system works fundamentally differently from the sensors I have used in the past,” said Marc van Iersel, a professor of horticulture at UGA, smart irrigation pioneer and Lafian’s adviser. “The soil moisture sensors I have been using measure how much water is in the soil, but not how tightly that water is held in the soil. Some – or much, depending on soil type – of the water in the soil cannot be extracted by plants because the soil holds it too tightly. Jesse’s sensor measures exactly that: how tightly the water is bound to the soil. That tells us whether the plants can actually use that water.”

Lafian plans to sell his technology to managers of high-end landscaping companies, then to other types of customers, such as farmers, golf course superintendents and homeowners.

Since starting work on his design in 2016, Lafian’s company continues to gain momentum. He’s secured funding from the UGA Kickstart Fund, a $5,000 UGA Campus Sustainability Grant and $2,500 from CAES’s FABricate entrepreneurship program.

Lafian moved to Athens, Georgia, to work as a research assistant in the UGA College of Engineering in 2014 after receiving his associate’s degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, New York, and completing a National Science Foundation-funded oceanography internship. He began completing his bachelor’s degree in fall 2015.

To find out more at the UGA Department of Horticulture, visit To find out more about Terry College of Business’s Entrepreneurship Program visit

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Mesabi East gardening: STEM, STEAM, learning, growing and more

AURORA – Some have been buried too deep and have had to struggle to emerge. Some need a little more time just to mature. Some have been under water, yet have somehow miraculously survived, while some have had just the right amount of warmth, sunlight, and water. Just like the plants, students, and really the staff too, when you think about it, are all in different stages of growth and in the school garden there is a place for everyone.

During the last school year, the Mesabi East Memorial Garden was revitalized under the guidance of staff member Rachel Doherty who has a degree in conservation. The district was awarded a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation which has been very valuable in jump-starting a school gardening program. This foundation believes that children are more likely to try new foods when they are connected to it, and this is more likely to occur when they become curious about how things grow and taste.

Kellie Swanson presents her landscaping ideas to Superintendent Gregg Allen while other students listen. Submitted photos.
Kellie Swanson presents her landscaping ideas to Superintendent Gregg Allen while other students listen. Submitted photos.
Doherty feels that gardening is an educational experience that all learners can be successful at and she has been busy making sure that the opportunities to do so abound. The school administration has been very supportive and offered the use of a room with full-length windows for the environmental science class—which Doherty helps with—to plant seeds. They did not just plant seeds though; they had to first research which could be started indoors at this time, cost and growing requirements. Then they had to shop for the seeds, planting medium, seed starting trays, and grow lights. Next, they had to haul the items to the third floor.

Now that the plants are growing, the students are fulfilling their water and light requirements. They are also learning how to transplant into bigger pots.

Students Mary Hewitt and McKenzie Londo watch Principal Erik Eriersquo;s expression as he tastes the greens they are growing.
Students Mary Hewitt and McKenzie Londo watch Principal Erik Erie’s expression as he tastes the greens they are growing.
“All students can be impacted by gardening,” Doherty explained. “For some, it may be the hands-on understanding of the plant life-cycle. Another student may feel a sense of calm and serenity by digging in the soil, while an analytical student may enjoy seeing real-time data collecting. All learners get to experience the harvest of their garden.”

Doherty is quick to point out that gardening is not just about “digging in the dirt.” It is also about electrical, plumbing and carpentry. A greenhouse can be a simple cold-frame or an elaborate four-season. There are many industrial technologies that can be taught through gardening.

By planning educational opportunities and objectives for students, gardening is a wonderful learning activity for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and also science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).

“These are both the current buzz terms that are helping gardening and the whole farm to table experience catch on. For example, gardening can be mathematical in analyzing growth and budgets. Engineering of plants has been evolving for centuries and with current technology, the efficiency in gardening is also evolving,” Doherty said. “Thanks to websites such as Pinterest, gardening is getting an entirely new look at the art of growing and design.”

Doherty observes first-hand the differences experienced by students in the classroom versus the garden.

“For the students that have a difficult time being stationary in a classroom setting, they are able to exert energy into creating a product that they can see and have a daily benefit in. Students are able to touch taste, smell, and feel their learning experience instead of only reading about it. Students that have a difficult time in a classroom setting are thriving immensely in a hands-on environment,” Doherty said. “Students with behavioral issues are more relaxed and able to return back to the classroom setting at a quicker pace after visiting the garden. Whether it was just to walk around and view the seedlings or mist the plants, it gives students a sense of calm and allows for the student to care for something that needs them.”

So what fuels Doherty’s desire to coordinate such a large-scale project? Gardening has always been a passion of hers. When she was a child she would watch her mother in the garden for hours while she and her sister played and helped with various stages. As she got older she appreciated the gardens of her neighbors and relatives, each unique and planted for a different reason.

“Every stage of gardening has its own reward,” she said. “Showing students the processes of gardening is another fulfilling stage I had not experienced until now. But, every day I am rewarded with smiles, positive comments, and curiosity of the next step in their gardening journey. I can’t help but get excited with them and hope that the community can appreciate our efforts.”

The environmental students will soon be visiting the kindergarteners to do a special seed planting with them. They recently met with Superintendent Allen to present landscaping ideas that they each created on their own. The ideas that Doherty, the students, and like-minded staff are many and will be carried out if possible. On the list are a weather station, a “secret” reading/ multi-sensory garden, a shade garden, fruit trees, and garden learning pods. With the enthusiasm generated by the staff and students, Doherty’s dream of broadening the gardening to more students and the community will no doubt be realized.

When asked what they like about gardening the students had varied answers. Some students love to get their hands dirty while others like the cooperation of helping each other. One student said she likes gardening because it helps to calm her down helping her to relax. Another student said that he likes to learn about it because otherwise, he eats lousy. Some like the different flowers, others just plain like watching things grow, and almost all others love the hands-on work. No matter what the reason, the one thing that is for sure…in the school garden, there is a place for everyone.

To see more photos of the school garden, please visit the Mesabi East Schools Facebook page. They can also be found on Instagram.

The gardening program has a Mesabi East Memorial Garden account set up at Plagemann’s in Aurora if anyone would like to donate toward it. They are also in need of gently used 3 – 4 inch pots and trays. Items may be dropped off at the high school office.

Barbara Hinsz is a frequent contributor to Hometown Focus. She lives in Aurora, MN, and is a special education paraprofessional at Mesabi East Schools in Aurora.

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