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Archives for May 2017

Historic district garden incorporates deep neighborhood memory into new landscape design

The house was once owned by a passionate gardener, whose large backyard became a neighborhood highlight. On Sunday mornings, when parishioners attended the two nearby churches, the owner opened the gates fronting her property so that passers-by could take in the view of a broad lawn sloping down to a pond. Perennial beds backed by manicured shrubs and stately trees presented a riot of bloom. With time, the view of the garden became as much a part of the neighborhood as a public park or a local sledding hill.

The current owners, a husband and wife, hadn’t planned on being stewards of such a legacy when they were looking for a home. All they wanted was a place with a two-car garage and a yard. What they found was this house, designed by Chapman and Frazer, the notable architecture firm credited with a number of late medieval– and early Renaissance–inspired buildings in Boston’s Back Bay. Built in 1911 and surrounded by 2½ acres of gardens, the property was not only bigger than anything the couple had dreamed of, it also had a monumental impact on the memory and imagination of its neighbors. Located in a historic district in a Boston suburb, the property was reviewed by the local historical society, which weighed in on the proposed landscaping plans, saying that any new garden design should retain a view corridor from the street to the pond, where the previous owner had built a gazebo and where, rumor has it, three marriage proposals took place.

“But of course,” says the wife, “we had our own ideas. In the garden, we wanted privacy, color, and wildness. We did not want it to be too groomed.”

Reclaimed granite found in New Hampshire is used for the sturdy posts that flank this and other wooden gates designed with a simple Arts and Crafts motif. —Greg Premru

“A primary consideration when buying this property was that it not be another suburban backyard,” her husband adds. “That meant not just private, but private and wild. At the same time, I love play spaces for football or Frisbee, and we wanted modern outdoor living with a kitchen, a swimming pool, and a spa.”

To reconcile their desire for privacy with local determination to preserve views for the neighbors, they turned to Dan Gordon, principal of Dan Gordon Landscape Architects in Wellesley and Edgartown, Massachusetts. In collaboration with project manager Patrick Taylor, the new owners developed a landscape that still brings pleasure to passers-by while meeting their own unique requirements.

“It was a balancing act that had three major components,” Gordon says. “They were to execute the homeowners’ program, to do so while aware of the historic nature of the property, which weighed privacy with the views from the street, and to create a sustainable ecosystem.”

The last goal was more than a vague desire to be green: In the many decades since a low-lying wetland had been excavated to form the pond, it had silted up and was eutrophying. Overgrown with algae, it was unable to retain oxygen and could no longer support a healthy ecosystem. “Evergreen trees shaded the pond and an old shade garden,” says Gordon. “We decided to remove some of them, take out the old garden, and make the pond bigger. We worked with the local conservation commission to dredge the pond. Then we created a series of shelves for shallow and deep aquatic plants that improve the water quality.”

Bluestone pavers line the pool surround and the outdoor kitchen terraces; walls are granite. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ catmint, and fountain grass prettily spill over the edges and provide color all summer long. —Greg Premru

Aquatic plants include Canada rush, fox sedge, sweet flag, blue flag iris, arum, and pickerelweed. A swale directs water away from the lawn as it flows downhill toward the pond. Bordering the lawn is a meadow planted with goldenrod and verbena. In the marshy areas surrounding the pond, wet meadow plants, including fescue, cardinal flower, joe-pye weed, hay-scented fern, and ostrich fern, were installed. Three granite bridges span rivulets and add architectural interest.

Gordon and Taylor terraced the slope to accommodate a swimming pool and, beside the house, an outdoor kitchen and dining room. Graceful oval granite retaining walls act as traditional ha-has, which function as barriers while invisible from ground level.

“We carefully designed curved walls as they step down,” Taylor says. “The house is rectangular, the pool also, so the curves are important to keep it from becoming too formal, too static.”

Some landscape trees found new homes. A magnificent stewartia once in front of the house now stands beside the kitchen-dining patio, where its form and flowers show to best advantage. A pair of red Japanese maples were moved to frame the view of the house from the street, and a number of lesser trees were removed because they interfered with the view of the pond. Two stately dawn redwoods, however, remain where they were planted.

Several small granite bridges bring architectural interest while aiding explorers. —Greg Premru

When the previous owner lived and gardened here, a board fence bordered the street. Today, a row of evergreen shrubs makes for a softer, but no less effective privacy screen. Taylor’s design utilizes an optical trick in which an opening in the greenery provides the requisite view of the pond from the street. The break is not seen from below because it is visible only when viewed straight on. The aperture leads the eye to the pond while the pool, spa, and dining and lounging areas are hidden by shrubbery and terracing. “It provides sightlines to the pond but does not in any way affect the homeowners’ privacy,” Taylor says.

By the road, the garden gate has a simple diamond Craftsman motif that is repeated in paving and on granite posts, a nod to the house’s Arts and Crafts origins.

“It’s a work in progress,” says the husband,  “and we are now enjoying the easiest part, the plantings. Maybe we’ll put a cutting garden in the vegetable garden, or maybe plant a row of arborvitae. We love to think about it while sitting on the stone wall by the pool, dangling [our] feet over the edge and enjoying a glass of wine while we watch the sun set over the pond.”

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Pop up museum, riverside movies among winning ideas in Downtown Challenge

Spruced-up alleys, regular hot-rod shows, a minimuseum of curiosities, a mural and pop up yoga classes are among nearly two dozen ideas that are set to be brought to life in downtown Macon.

The 23 winners of the third round of the Downtown Challenge were announced Tuesday night at the Macon Beer Co. on Oglethorpe Street.

“We had 51 grant applications totaling $1.4 million,” said Kathryn Dennis, president of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia.

The foundation administered $430,000 in grant money for this round of ideas, making a total of $1.3 million it has administered since the challenge started in January 2016.

Painted pianos, the bike share program, bike racks and dog waste stations are among the fruits of past rounds of the Downtown Challenge.

The $3 million grant initiative is made possible by donations from the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Winners of round three include:

▪  Apprenticeships for Proteges: $5,000. Youngsters with the Mentors Project of Bibb County will be paired with downtown business owners so they can gain experience working. Proteges will earn a stipend and the business owners will gain an extra pair of helping hands.

▪ Third Place Play: $8,500. Three familiar places will be transformed into destinations for fun on three different days. NewTown Macon plans to host themed events to highlight downtown sites such as a “Cherry Street Plaza Luau,” “Poplar Yards Field Day” and “Movie Night on the River.”

▪  Recruit Office Tenants to Downtown: $15,000. NewTown Macon will create an office recruitment program using national best practices, including a print guide and online office finder.

▪ Downtown Venture Fund: $10,000. A fund to be administered by New Town Macon will provide working capital to downtown entrepreneurial ventures that lack the assets needed to secure a traditional business loan. Business coaching will be included for applicants to help ensure success.

▪ Female Entrepreneurs Academy: $10,000. The Mercer Innovation Center will offer a series of workshops to empower Macon’s female entrepreneurs. This program is specifically geared towards women and will offer networking and business development opportunities.

▪  Development Dynamics in Downtown Macon: $60,000. A Kentucky-based consulting firm will evaluate downtown Macon and offer suggestions on how to make public investments that have a positive impact. CityVisions Associates, the planning firm owned by Weyland Ventures, also will help the Macon-Bibb County government make the most of development opportunities by helping with sequencing and coordination.

▪ Return of the Stag: $15,000. The Macon Arts Alliance will work to return a large stag statue to an empty concrete base on Mulberry Street and improve landscaping and lighting in the area.

▪ $10,000. The Macon Arts Alliance proposes, a complete rebranding of the online community calendar, ultimately improving how the community accesses information about local events.

▪ Transportation Station Mural: $31,500. The Macon Arts Alliance will work with three artists and the Macon Transit Authority to create a permanent mural at the Terminal Station bus stop. The artists will get public input from bus passengers, residents and visitors at several meetings yet to be announced.

▪ Alley Designbook: $3,500. NewTown Macon will work with Wimberly Treadwell to create and promote a design book of low cost, basic specification alleyway improvements geared towards private investors.

▪ Poplar Lights Infrastructure: $60,000. NewTown Macon is partnering with Bryan Nichols to oversee the installation of extensive in-ground infrastructure on Poplar Street for year-round tree and landscape lighting as well as a Christmas audio and light show.

▪ First Friday Garage Meet: $5,000. A free antique and custom car show will be located in the Mulberry Street parking deck as a part of NewTown Macon’s First Friday events.

▪ Macon Sparks: $3,500. Sparks Yoga, LLC will draw folks downtown with a monthly “pop up” yoga event to be hosted at historic or underutilized sites downtown.

▪ The Wunderkammer: $18,000. The Museum of Arts and Sciences will soon have a presence downtown. A metal shipping container will be transformed into a pop-up museum of curiosities that will include solar-powered lights, windows and shelving units for display.

▪ Downtown Alley Activation: $10,000. The Downtown Macon Community Association will host events in different downtown alleys, such as markets, scavenger hunts, dance parties and a foodie tour.

▪ MORE Music in Public Places: $10,000. The Friends of Macon Music plans to continue their efforts by providing musicians with equipment and performance opportunities, with acoustic concerts throughout the urban core.

▪  Bernd Plein Air Art Park, Pt. 2: $69,000. AnT Sculpture and Design plans to continue its work to transform Bernd Park, at Magnolia and Spring streets, into an inviting art park. During the first round of grants last summer, the company received $35,000 to integrate a large ceramic sculpture with functional landscaping, a bridge, a slide and swings.

▪ Rose Hill Cemetery Digital Print Map: $12,000. Historic Macon Foundation plans to design and print new maps of Rose Hill Cemetery. A digital map will be created to allow visitors to find points of interest.

▪ Expansion of Bragg Jam Concert Crawl: $25,000. Bragg Jam Inc. will kick off this year’s festival with a concert Friday night before the concert crawl starts July 29.

▪ Connections Arts Festival: $5,000. Pulse: Heartbeat of Macon will host a free, all-ages arts festival at the new Mill Hill auditorium in east Macon. The festival will feature curated art shows, live entertainment, performances, artistic activities and food vendors.

▪ “Your River” Forum and Paddle: $10,000. The Altamaha Riverkeeper will host a three-part forum at downtown businesses that use water to make beer. The series will promote the importance of ecological work and encourage recreational river use with a paddle down the river following each meeting.

▪ The Maconites: $14,000. Susannah Maddux and Maryann Bates will grow The Maconites project through its website and social media. The Maconites features personal profiles of downtown residents.

▪  Open Streets Macon: $20,000. Bike Walk Macon will promote civic engagement to help develop policies and infrastructures that encourage walking and biking. The money also will help pay for planning, promotion and evaluation costs of Open Streets Macon.

There will be three more rounds of Downtown Challenge grants. The deadline for the fourth round is Sept. 15 and applications are now being accepted. For more information, visit

The idea must benefit the area bound by Interstate 75, Emery Highway, Seventh Street and Little Richard Penniman Boulevard.

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Create courtyard gardens as inner city sanctums for your clients

garden and courtyard landscaping

Photo: John Hoey/Flickr

For customers who live in the city or may not have a lot of excess space to work with, a good solution for their green craving is a courtyard garden.

Courtyard gardens feature a space enclosed by buildings or walls on three or four sides, or it can be a confined yard that is surrounded by houses with an opening off a street.

The size of a courtyard can range from as small as a few square feet to quite large depending on the amount of space your customer has to work with. Courtyards are very common in inner city areas where homes are built closely together, or at homes with limited garden space.

Whether your customer has all the space in the world or just a tiny lot beside his/her home, a courtyard garden gives the option of having a relaxing and private utopia. Check out a few elements to keep in mind as you talk to your customers about what they want in their courtyards.

Water and drainage

Usually boasting an open top, courtyards can be partially covered with structures such as pergolas, or they can be completely covered with transparent coverings. This protected nature of the courtyard means that plants in the garden may not get a sufficient amount of rainfall, especially for those plants close to walls and fences. Using a hose or watering can may do the trick for smaller courtyards, but for larger ones a drip irrigation system is the best answer.

Another good option is to make water a feature in the garden by installing a small pond, fountain or birdbaths. When the water evaporates from these, it will help create a humid environment that will benefit some of the plant types, such as ferns.

Unfortunately, drainage can be a big issue in a courtyard, particularly if there are water features present. Installing a good drainage system is essential as there is usually a high percentage of paved areas, enclosing structures and no natural surface drainage (slopes).

What to plant

Remember that it is very important not to overplant your customer’s courtyard garden. Plants will grow quickly once established, and once that happens you may find the garden to be very crowded if you brought in a lot initially.

While the privacy and seclusion of a courtyard may be very appealing for some of your customers, the protection from wind can lead to poor ventilation. This can prove to be a problem for some plants that may be subject to fungal diseases.

In larger areas with paved surfaces and concrete or brick walls, heat can build up in the garden, which may be beneficial in the cooler months, but it can be a problem in warmer times. Tender plants can also be damaged by heat and glare on brighter days. Simultaneously, poor lighting can also be a problem if the courtyard is surrounded by tall buildings or overhanging trees on one or more sides.

For gardens that are very shaded, focus on using plants such as ferns, fuchsias, balsam, impatiens and begonias. Espaliered plants and vines are also beneficial, as they do not require much ground space. These can be used to create a focal wall and can help reduce heat and glare buildup. For a few options on vines, click here.

Containers and hanging baskets are great additions to a courtyard, and they are also easy to move and redesign. They also allow you to maximize the space you have to work with while also ensuring your customers get more bang for their buck when it comes to plants. Having hanging baskets will allow you to utilize the air instead of the ground when adding a few more attractive plants to the landscape.

Design ideas

The type of paving material used will have a big effect on the courtyard’s overall appearance. Concrete slabs and glazed pavers can create more of a formal effect, while using bricks and stones can give a softer, more informal look.

To create planting spaces, gaps and spaces can be left in paved areas, or feelings of space can be expanded by having the garden merge into your customer’s house. This can be achieved by having glass entry areas and by using indoor plants.

To enable use of the courtyard at night, as well as highlight particular features and plants, lights can be installed. When possible, keep any cables hidden from view, but be sure they are not placed somewhere you will be digging.

To reduce the ‘box-like’ look of the courtyard, consider talking to your customers about “stepped” or irregular shaped walls or garden beds. Avoid using too many different types of plants and materials, as the space can begin to seem more confusing and small the more colors and textures that are present.

Active colors such as yellow, red and orange can makes small spaces seem smaller, so focus on colors such as whites, greens, blues and purples, as they can make small spaces seem larger.

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On the market: Rural allure in southwestern Connecticut

  • Fairfield: An updated vintage colonial farmhouse at 3808 Redding Road in Fairfield has more than 16 acres of land, a barn and other agricultural amenities. Read more.  Photo: / Jayne Howard Studios



The main house, 538-square-foot guest cottage, and red barn were due to be razed until Melanie and Eugene Marks bought the property and preserved the historic structures.

The main house, 538-square-foot guest cottage, and red barn were due to be razed until Melanie and Eugene Marks bought the property and preserved the historic structures.


While much southwestern Connecticut is no longer working farmland, but that doesn’t mean farmhouses are obsolete. Many of the rural homes in the area have been updated and are now chic modern farmhouses–some of them even still function as farms.

Click through the slideshow to see some modern farmhouses in the area.


For example, a historic home in Fairfield actually does still work as a farm. It comes with a 16.76-acre property, original red English barn, two-horse paddock, tack room and chicken coop.

During the renovation the fireplace chimney was rebuilt and given new flues. It also received new electrical wiring, plumbing, HVAC system, spray foam and fiberglass insulation, a tank-less hot water heater, wood clad tilt-in windows, and 40-year architectural shingles on the roof. The wood floors are a combination of newer milled red oak, antique maple, antique wide-planked chestnut, and white oak. The house is hooked up to city water but there is also a backyard well that provides water for the gardens and landscaping. The original well is in the front yard. Read more.

In Wilton, 153-acre horse farm hit the market in May. There’s not a blade of blue grass to be found and yet the 153-plus acre property that straddles Wilton and New Canaan is one of the best equestrian estates east of Churchill Downs with luxury accommodations for horses and humans alike.

Quiet Lake Estate at 144 Huckleberry Hill Road, a Wilton address, is a private paradise offering state-of-the-art equestrian facilities, an 11-bedroom Tudor-style mansion, two stocked lakes, a pond, trout stream, five miles of scenic bridle trails, riding arena, a trotter track, two guest houses, in-ground swimming pool, two helicopter landing sites and seven horse paddocks. The stream provides world-class fly fishing opportunities. Via helicopter New York City is only 18 minutes away. Read more.


Over in Bridgewater, a farm that was home to a family for more than two centuries has been re-imagined. When the current owners moved in about 18 years ago, the classic 2,754-square-foot New England home was given a touch of old English flair.

Dana Wiehl, one of the owners, added English gardens throughout the more than five acres of property, planting various perennials, including hydrangeas and roses.

“I grew up in England, so I really liked gardens,” she said. “When we moved in, the only flowers were plastic flowers in rusted buckets at the end of the driveway.” Read more.

The house has 11 rooms, including three bedrooms. A sitting room, two guest rooms, bathroom and master suite occupy the second floor. The original layout evolves into a more open floor plan toward the back, which includes the kitchen, a sitting room with fireplace and a family room filled with bookcases, all of which open onto a large deck that overlooks the gardens and pool.

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Forget ‘cactus and gravel,’ Red Butte’s new Water Conservation Garden showcases beauty in the desert

More than 29,000 native, drought-tolerant and water-wise plants — some 350 species — are arranged in 10 themed areas or “rooms” that collectively convey one simple message: Skimping on water does not mean skimping on beauty.

“We don’t want to guilt people into using these plants,” Lee said. “We want to seduce them into having an absolutely stunning landscape using water-wise plants.”

Lectures, courses and garden tours are in the works so people can learn how to create water-wise landscapes at home.

Lee said the garden has been part of Red Butte’s master plan for nearly a decade and cost about $6 million, paid for through private donations and grants.

While the garden sits on a steep slope, the pathways were built with a gentle 5 percent grade, making it ADA accessible and a great place for young and old to enjoy the outdoors just a few minutes from downtown. The garden also provides access to hiking trails for those who want something more strenuous. (The new garden is included in Red Butte admission; see for details.)

Kirtly Jones and Donna Mirabelli were among the first to visit the new garden last week. They were impressed by the design, with its red-stone walls and staircases, as well as the plants.

“It honors Utah’s landscapes in a really beautiful way,” said Jones. “And it will have fantastic views at sunset.”

Utah already has four similar conservation gardens in West Jordan, Kaysville, Ogden and St. George. But Red Butte Garden is the most visually stunning, especially when the many young seedlings reach maturity in three to five years, Lee said, adding that Utah’s conservation gardens complement each other. And in the second-driest state in the nation — behind Nevada — there’s room for many more.

“We really need examples of wise gardening in every corner of the valley,” he said. “We need a communitywide effort to change the culture of landscaping.”

Utah averages only 13 inches of precipitation per year, but residents consume more water per capita because they enjoy having lush green lawns that require regular watering.

As Utah’s population continues to grow, water resources will become scarce and homeowners will need to find landscape alternatives. Many people assume that means they will have to give up beauty for “cactus and gravel,” said Marita Tewes Tyrolt, Red Butte’s director of horticulture. It’s really about “incorporating water-wise plants and proper irrigation.”

The Water Conservation Garden’s 10 themed areas demonstrate that “one size does not fit all,” she said. And depending on the landscape, “there are so many options and people can be creative.”

At the entrance of the Water Conservation Garden — adjacent to the Children’s Garden and east of the Fragrance Garden — guests are greeted by the Water-Wise Border, a classic English border using water-wise plants.

As guests move up the hill, they will find nine more unique growing zones:

Adaptive beauty • Hardy plants from around the world.

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Gardening author shares planting tips | Vulcan Advocate

Gardeners intently listening to what guest speaker Lyndon Penner had to say at the Vulcan Senior Centre the evening of Wednesday, May 24.

Penner, who’s originally from Saskatchewan, has written several books on gardening, including The Chinook: Short Season Yard, Garden Design and Native Plants.

He shared tips including what types of flowers to plant in different climates and what types of pots to use.

Penner made sure to emphasize that gardening should be something people enjoy doing.

His presentation catered towards more experienced gardeners, but he also touched on points a new gardener would appreciate learning.

“Not everything in your garden will pan out,” he said.

In an interview with the Advocate after his presentation, he gave further suggestions on how to start gardening.

Penner said avoid gardening by yourself at first.

He suggesting getting a gardening mentor, perhaps somebody you already know, or someone from a horticultural society.

“Have somebody you can go plant shopping with. It will be more fun and you will feel less frightened and overwhelmed,” Penner said.

If you have questions, such as why the leaves on your tomato plants are turning brown, that mentor would be a reference.

“It is really important that new gardeners learn from experienced gardeners,” Penner said. “Don’t try to do it by yourself, don’t just watch videos on YouTube. Actually have a gardening mentor.”

Penner also suggests that new gardeners buy a gardening magazine or book.

Once they have an idea of what they want to plant, they can take that magazine or book into a garden centre and ask for what they want to grow.

Bringing a magazine or book into a garden centre also helps narrow down what you want, he added.

“If you go to a garden centre and say ‘what should I plant?’ it’s kind of like going to Safeway and saying, ‘What do you have for groceries’,” Penner said.

“If you can go in with a gardening magazine or book under your arm and say ‘I love this, do you have this here, can I grow this?’, narrows things down for


Penner also suggests having a list of goals of what you want to plant, and then prioritizing them.

He also says to be realistic with what you want to accomplish.

“Canadians have this idea that as soon as the snow melts we have to do the yard, and then life gets in the way and the weeds are knee high, and you go forget it, I will just do it next year, and it doesn’t work,” Penner said.

“If you say ‘our project for May is…’, we are going to get the weeds out of the yard and we are going to buy some containers, ‘our project for spring is’, if you make a list of all the things you want to do in the yard, and then go through and number them by priority.”


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7 Tips for Summer Gardening Success

Photo courtesy Getty Images

(Family Features) When temperatures peak and the summer sun shines for long hours throughout the day, it can put a burden on your garden and the plants growing in it. Some steps may be easier to take than others, but there are ways to keep your greenery thriving even in relentlessly scorching heat.

Of course, having the right tools and a personal commitment to gardening are a couple of the first and most important rules, but these tips can serve as simple, helpful ways to keep your garden growing strong.

Check equipment.
Before getting carried away with digging, tilling or watering, be sure that all of the tools for these jobs and others are ready for use. Inspect hoses and spigots for leaks and holes, ensure that hand tools are sturdy and monitor your inventory of important items like soil to make sure you have enough for the tasks ahead.

Know what to grow.
Instead of gardening on a hunch and wasting water or other precious resources on plants that simply don’t grow well or bloom in the sum­mer, research which flowers, plants and bushes will succeed. Local experts who sell seeds and bulbs can likely help guide you while you shop for your next plant.

Water early.
By watering in the morning, you can achieve multiple objectives. First, you won’t be stuck sweating it out when the sun is directly overhead during the day while trying to hydrate your plants. Second, soaking the soil early can help plants stay hydrated throughout the hottest parts of the day, rather than allowing them to dry out in the heat and attempting to rehydrate them later.

Mix nutrients with water.
Adding fertilizer to water can help balance out deficiencies in certain minerals, depending on the quality of your soil, especially if you aren’t able to water frequently.

Keep potted plants cool.
When sitting in the sun, certain types of pots may absorb heat, some­times causing the plants within to dry out and become overheated. Lightly mulching the pots can help, as can placing the pot in a saucer full of moist sand.

Add shade.
Another way to keep potted plants, and all other plants for that matter, cool is to set up a canopy or shade cloth. Especially if your garden is subject to nearly all-day sunlight, it’s helpful to give it some shade at the hottest parts of the day with a canopy directly above.

Protect against pests.
While it can be difficult, keeping pests and insects out of your garden can help keep both you and your plants healthy. Repel­lants are an obvious option, but some may negatively affect the growth of plants. Instead, practice habits like maintaining healthy soil and getting rid of standing water (which can attract mosquitoes) to actively deter insects.

By staying committed and following these tips among others, you can keep your garden lush and growing even during the summer’s hottest days. Find more tips for a successful garden year-round at

The Annual Monarch Butterfly Journey

Every year, monarch butterflies embark on a 3,000-mile migration across North America. This feat of endurance lasts eight months, spans three countries and captivates people worldwide.

These graceful pollinators rely on milkweed for feeding and reproduction, but over the last decade, a reduction of milkweed habitats has occurred along the butterflies’ flight path. The decline of any species can be a threat to natural diversity.

When the weather starts to warm each year, monarchs make their way north from Mexico to begin breeding. Upon arriving in Texas, the butterflies begin to lay eggs on milkweed. Milkweed is the sole food source for monarch larvae, more commonly known as caterpillars. As milkweed plantings have diminished, so has the monarch population.

Environmentalists and butterfly lovers have taken notice of the monarchs’ dwindling numbers. BASF, a company that serves farmers and agricultural customers, launched Living Acres in 2015. Living Acres is a research initiative designed to help farmers establish milkweed beds in non-cropland areas.

Farmers and landowners can play an important role in helping increase monarch populations simply by starting a milkweed garden. With employee-tended monarch gardens, BASF is also sustaining butterflies at its manufacturing sites.

As summer approaches, caterpillars begin their metamor­phoses, hatching and transforming into vivid orange and black butterflies.

Once mature, the monarchs continue their journey north­ward, passing over cool valleys and prairieland. Monarchs look for resting places in open plains, often settling in beds of milkweed alongside cornfields, gardens, playgrounds and rural roadsides.

Some of the most popular flight paths include the Corn Belt and Interstate 35, a corridor that runs from Texas to Minnesota. Legislators implemented a federal plan to create habitable space along highways for monarchs by planting milkweed in ditches. This initiative offers food and shelter for weary butterflies and provides nursery sites for monarch eggs.

Monarchs then begin winging their way south to the oyamel fir forests of Mexico. They spend their winters there, crowded together on the tree branches for warmth, which can appear to transform the trees into blazing orange clouds. When warm weather returns the following year, monarchs resume their migration northward and continue the cycle of breeding the next monarch generation.
Establishing your own milkweed habitat is a great way to get involved and make an impact on the continued reign of the monarch butterfly. For planting tips, visit Living Acres at

Photos courtesy of Getty Images


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Morningside class offers gardening tips

Morningside College biology student Logan Rozeboom works in a teaching garden behind Woodbury County’s Iowa State University Extension Outreach office. Rozeboom was one of the May Term students participating in “Eat, Cook, Learn,” a four-week class that provides a hands-on, farm-to-table experience.

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Midday Fix: Tomato garden tips from Purple Cow Organics – WGN

Ryan Hartberg

Purple Cow Organics


There are some considerations to begin with, when you’re planting the perfect tomato. Do you want to start from seed? Do you prefer to start with a plant? What kind of variety do I like to eat? Because it’s been a cold, wet spring, it’s not too late to start from seed. And because tomatoes are warm-weather plants, it’s optimal to start tomato plants when it’s no longer cold and rainy in the day and down into the 40s at night. It’s about being an observational grower – you don’t want to be the first one to plant tomatoes just to be first. Wait until the timing is right outside, and be patient.

You can have the best plant in the world, but if it’s grown in bad soil, it won’t be a good plant – or tomato. The good news is that gardening organically is easier than you might think – instead of loading soil with chemical fertilizers, you can replace them with organic matter, nutrients and microbes. Adding a couple of inches of compost brings nutrients back into the soil, and also makes your tomato plants require less attention, because it’s grown in a living, breathing, self-regulating ecosystem. Perfect tomatoes start with good microbiology. A single handful of healthy soil actually contains more microbes than there are people on earth

You can look for organic tomato plants, which will have an organic tag on them. But if you have good, healthy soil, it doesn’t mean that a non-organic tomato plant won’t do well – it still well. Generally speaking, if you’re buying a tomato plant, look for plants that aren’t too tall and leggy – the “squattier” the better. I’d rather have a plant that’s shorter than a tall plant. look for thicker, larger leaves that are greener, versus smaller leaves or yellow leaves.  With seeds, you can buy organic seeds or heirloom tomato seeds.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders, so you have to be sure there is enough fertility in the soil.  If you use bad soil, then the plant is more susceptible to disease and blight, because the plant is defending itself against that, instead of using the energy for strong, healthy growth.  After tilling the soil, you can apply fertilizer, like compost tea, which is good because you can make a batch and add it to plants quickly. Basically, you coat the leaves with a small coating – I’ve gone out in my garden with a spray bottle to spray it on a plant. A good two-inch layer on op will do.

If you have clay or dense soil, you can incorporate compost to escalate the microbiological elements for a better tomato that is not just healthy but nutrient-rich. Alternately, you can use a liquid biological.

People get excited in the early spring, because they’re doing all the work and are glad when the plants are in the bed or container. But later, when you get later into the season, you might get tired of weeding, or it’s hot outside or there’s a lot of mosquitoes. Still, if you want great tomatoes at harvest time, check to see how your plants are growing regularly – are they flowering? Are they distressed?
For watering plants like tomatoes, you want to water less often, but water more.  If you can go every third or fourth day with a good dousing, that’s better for the tomato plant.

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5 garden tips for the week starting May 27

Feeding time

Feed citrus trees once again. Mature citrus trees need a yearly total of 1.6 pounds of actual nitrogen fertilizer, divided into four equal portions applied in late January, early March, late April and early June — about six weeks apart — and distributed around the drip line. Since 1 pound of any dry fertilizer equals about 2 cups, that is about 4 cups of ammonium sulfate, 2 overflowing cups of ammonium nitrate, or 1.5 cups of urea, each time you apply it. Be sure to water it in well.

Feeding time, part II

Avocado trees need a second semiannual feeding within the next couple of weeks — half a pound of actual nitrogen per tree. That means about 2.5 pounds (5 cups) of ammonium sulfate per mature tree. Or 1.5 pounds (3 cups) of ammonium nitrate per mature tree. Scatter it away from the trunk, near the outer edge of the leaf canopy, and water it in thoroughly.

Mulching time

If you have not already done so, be sure to add a 3-to-4-inch layer of mulch around all your flowers, roses, shrubs and fruit trees. Mulch reduces the likelihood of having to deal with weeds. And it also helps soil retain moisture, so you don’t have to irrigate as often to keep your plants healthy. Mulching makes a wonderful difference. Just don’t use redwood-based products around roses. Compost and other amendments work well.

Cutting time

Thin newly formed grape clusters to get larger individual fruits instead of huge bunches of tiny grapes. Cut each cluster basically in half as soon as the little grapes begin to form. This way the vine puts more energy into the remaining grapes. They grow larger and have better quality.

Spraying time

To prevent wormy apples at harvest time, begin a consistent spray program now. Newly hatched codling moths lay eggs on immature fruits throughout summer. The larvae enter the fruits and ruin them. Spray leaves and fruits with carbaryl (liquid “Sevin”) or malathion every 10 days during spring and summer.

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