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Archives for July 14, 2017

GARDENING WITH THE MASTERS: Survival tips for the dog days of summer

The dog days of summer are from July 3 through Aug. 11. Many people believe that the phrase, “Dog Days of Summer” is associated with dogs sleeping all the time because of the hot, sultry temperatures, while others say the days are so hot, it causes dogs to go mad.

In reality, it is because the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the dog star, in the constellation Canis Major, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth. Therefore, the heat of summer is due to the Earth’s axis shifting resulting in the Northern Hemisphere being closer to the sun and extending the day light hours.

Now, these extended days may either produce hot sultry days or bring cooler temperatures with a rain shower or two. So far this spring we have had more than our share of rain, and as of this writing we are still getting quite a bit of rain, but more scattered than all day long. Here in Cherokee County, the average high temperature for July is 87 degrees and for August 86 degrees? Nevertheless, the phrase “dog days of summer, with hot, sultry weather was made for all time.”

Now, with all the heat we have to look forward to, we must take some steps to help our plants survive. The first symptoms of water stressed plants are wilting and pale yellow leaves with scorching, leaf cupping and defoliation, and the best time to observe water stressed plants is early in the morning before the heat of the day. Leaves will naturally curl in the intense heat at mid-day, but if they show those signs in the early morning that is when you can truly tell if the plants are water stressed and you will need to water.

Do not fertilize a water-stressed plant because it is one of the worse things you can do. Chemically, fertilizers are salts. They will pull water from the roots, further dehydrating them.

With water stress comes disease and insects such as powdery mildew and aphids.

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Powdery Mildew is a powdery appearance that covers the leaves. The infection can form on the top of the leaf as well as on the backside of the leaf, spreading rapidly over the entire surface, taking nutrients from the host. The affected leaves will turn yellowish or brown and drop from the plant. You can treat them with a baking soda solution, mix one tablespoon of baking soda with a teaspoon of dormant oil and one teaspoon of insecticidal or liquid detergent to a gallon of water. Spray on plants every one to two weeks. Use this solution in the early stages or before an outbreak occurs. If you did not treat for powdery mildew in time; apply potassium bicarbonate. It is a fungicide which kills the powdery mildew spores and is approved for use in organic growing.

Aphids are typically found in clusters under and around stems and leaves. They are about 1/12th of an inch long and come in a wide variety of colors including green, yellow, red, brown, black and gray. They are soft-bodied and rarely have wings. Often the first sign of aphids on plants is sticky, shiny spots on lower leaves.

Treatment options: Pull out your hose and simply wash them off the plant with a spray of water. Being soft-bodied, they are easily killed by most insecticides including the milder types such as insecticidal soap and pyrethrins. Repeat the treatment in another three or four days, then monitor the plant closely. The key is to be sure you spray them all, since missing just a few might lead to a substantial re-infestation in just a matter of days.

Once we get regular rainfall and cooler temperatures, then you can apply a phosphorus-based fertilizer, such as Superphosphate, a one-half pound per 100 square feet around stressed trees and shrubs. This procedure will help in rebuilding their root system during the fall and winter while the ground is dormant.

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Tour to offer urban gardening tips

Here’s one garden tour that doesn’t promise you a rose garden. 

A first for Gloucester and Cape Ann, the Incredible Edible Downtown Garden Tour is the brainchild of Lara Lepionka — founder and executive director of Backyard Growers — whose own mothership edible garden is a must-see for anyone taking the tour.

There are 10 gardens altogether on the self-guided itinerary. Some are bursting with berries and veggies, some fragrant with herbs, one buzzing with honey bees, a few cluckling with chickens, and one —the work of urban farmer and Cape Ann Farmers Market Manager Nicole Bogin— blooming with fresh ginger and goji berries, both “superfoods” with known health benefits.

Anna Swanson says the tour has been “on the radar” since she joined Backyard Growers last May. Along with the flagship Lepionka/Brosnihan urban Beacon Street family farm, the tour stops will be a pick of the crop of the 260 raised beds and urban farms now growing in Gloucester’s private, public and community spaces thanks to Backyard Growers.

Swanson, like everyone else involved in Backyard Growers, says what drew her to the soil, was watching what you could grow out of it. “Just watching what you plant grow from seed to fruit to plate.”

“The really cool thing about the tour,” she says, “is to see how the people themselves, all the different ways they’ve developed these niche skills.” 

You learn to grow by growing things, says Swanson. Kale, for instance, was something she had been skeptical about. “But when I learned how it grows in such abundance with such a lengthy growing season, I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Learning will be a big part of touring this Saturday. Gloucester urban farmers will be out in force to answer questions and share their seasoned tips on a successful harvest.

“A lot of the gardens are in small spaces,” says Swanson, “so you can see how much you can do with just a small patch. You don’t need a lot to grow a lot. And once you start growing, it will grow on you.” 

Backyard Growers, originally an outgrowth of the Cape Ann Farmers Market, has played in integral role in turning Gloucester schoolchildren into avid urban farmers, planting edible raised beds at each of the city’s schools.  Its Salad Days program, which works with the children from seed to salad,just completed its late spring harvest, but one school garden will be available on Saturday’s itinerary.

Not surprisingly, Backyard Growers has attracted tremendous community support, and tour ticket holders can enjoy special deals and discounts offered at Cape Ann Brewery on Rogers Street and a “veggie-themed treat” at Happy Belly restaurant on Duncan Street. Like the tour itself, all proceeds will go right back into keeping Gloucester’s edible gardens incredible. 

Staff writer Joann MacKenzie may be contacted at 978-675-2707, or

If you go

What: Incredible Edible Downtown Garden Tour, a self-guided, walking tour of Gloucester’s edible urban gardens, in backyards, at schools and parks. Finish with discounts on food and drinks at Cape Ann Brewery and Happy Belly. All proceeds benefit Backyard Growers.

When: Saturday, July 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rain date is Sunday, July 16.

Where: Bring your printed ticket or an ID to Backyard Growers headquarters, 271 Main St.,  to receive the map that will take you on the tour. Gardens are grouped for easy walking from the parking locations noted on map.

How much: $15, children under 15 are free, at, or Backyard Growers headquarters, 271 Main St. or 978-281-0480.

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MPCA’s yard and garden tips: There are many benefits to a healthy lawn

From left: Plantain may indicate the soil is compacted or poorly drained. Creeping Charlie may indicate the site is too shady or the soil is poorly drained. Dandelions may indicate that the grass is too thin. Moss may indicate that the site is too shady or too wet for grass to survive. Source: MPCA.
From left: Plantain may indicate the soil is compacted or poorly drained. Creeping Charlie may indicate the site is too shady or the soil is poorly drained. Dandelions may indicate that the grass is too thin. Moss may indicate that the site is too shady or too wet for grass to survive. Source: MPCA.
For many of us Minnesotans, summer means getting out in the yard and garden. Here are a few tips to help give your lawn and garden an environmentally friendly boost this year.

From watering and mowing to applying fertilizers and pesticides, our lawns can have a big impact on Minnesota’s water and air quality. Healthy lawns require fewer chemical applications, hold the soil in place, and withstand drought better than unhealthy lawns. Here are the top things you can do to keep your lawn happy this summer:

Reduce the need for pesticides. Pesticides— including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides—can be poisonous and pose a danger to animals and people, especially children and pets. Weeds often grow where grass is thin and weak. The best control of these plants is to figure out why the area is stressed or disturbed and fix the underlying cause.

Test your soil. Find out what kind of fertilizer, if any, your soil needs. Fertilizing can reduce the need for other chemicals and reduce soil erosion. Soil tests can be ordered through the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. Your soil results will tell you which fertilizer you need, how much to apply, and how frequently to use it. But wait a little longer. Late summer through early fall is the best time of year to fertilize.

Leave the grass longer. Mow your grass to a height of 3-inches. By keeping your grass a little longer, the roots grow deeper and can reach more water during dry periods. Longer grass also helps shade the soil surface, making it harder for weeds to get established.

Leave your grass clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings can provide the equivalent of about one application of fertilizer per year. However, be sure to sweep up your sidewalk, driveway or street so clippings don’t pollute nearby lakes or streams.

Wait before you water. In Minnesota, most grass can survive without watering, although it may enter a dormant “brown” stage during the summer. Water only when it hasn’t rained for at least seven days. You don’t need to water on a routine basis. To get the most water to the plant and reduce evaporation:

• Water early in the morning. Grass blades
need to dry out to minimize disease.
• Water close to the ground.
• Water slowly, deeply and less frequently.
Root growth is influenced by water
depth and time of the year. Frequent
shallow watering that keeps surface soils
wet encourages shallow root growth,
greater proneness to certain diseases,

and reduced stress tolerance.
• Only water grass. Make sure water is
not lost by landing on or running off the
grass onto hard, impervious surfaces.

Aerate grass if the soil is compacted. Aeration lets water soak in and increases air in the soil. Deeper, stronger roots, combined with increased soil water-holding capacity will decrease the need for frequent watering. Core aeration is the best method, and autumn is the best time to aerate. Hardware and equipment-rental stores rent aerators or you can hire a professional.

Grow native plants. Turf grass is not native to Minnesota and requires more care and attention than native plants. If you do not use your lawn regularly, or have areas where grass does not grow well, consider native plants that do not require fertilizer or watering. Resources and plant lists are available through Blue Thumb (


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Midsummer gardening tips





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6 tips to remedy a flooded yard or garden – Chicago Tribune

Extended periods of strong rain over the last several days have forced parts of Chicagoland into flood recovery mode.

Those living in flood zones are likely prioritizing home repair — removing wet carpet and bleaching basements — but when time allows, yards need some TLC, too.

Heavy rain can wreak havoc on plants, but these simple steps go a long way in helping your greenery recover. Here’s where to start:

1. Don’t panic. Wait and see. Give the soil plenty of time to dry out.

Navy Yard apartment gives residents free rooftop produce garden

WASHINGTON — F1RST Residences just upped the game for luxury apartment amenities in Washington, giving residents access to fresh, rooftop-grown produce.

The new 325-unit Navy Yard apartment building’s first tenants began moving in this spring.

Related Gallery

New luxury buildings in Capitol Riverfront — 1 with ballpark views

The two latest apartment buildings to come online in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood near Nationals Park push the luxury envelope for renters.

The building has partnered with Up Top Acres to design and maintain a vegetable and herb garden on the roof, so residents can have access to a variety of produce through the summer and the fall.

There will be no cost for residents to participate in the garden program, and it will be entirely cared for by Up Top Acres.

The 470-square-foot garden will yield roughly 500 pounds of produce each year, including tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary, arugula, basil and zucchini.

“F1RST is giving its residents a community-supported agriculture program,” said Up Top Acres co-founder Kristof Grina. “This new farm will transform an underutilized part of the rooftop into a vibrant, productive living ecosystem — and bring ‘farm-to-table’ right in the same property.”

F1RST has already made extensive use of its rooftop.

The building, at First and N Streets in Southeast, includes a rooftop pool and hot tub, dog park, grills and D.C.’s only residential “stadium-style” seating with views into Nats Park.

The one- and two-bedroom apartments rent for $2,000 to $3,500 a month.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

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Home front: grow what you eat; save your seeds

Real Estate



A roundup of local home and garden news and events, including an “Edible Container Gardening” workshop and how to save seeds from summer vegetables.

LEARN HOW TO GROW WHAT YOU EAT … Lyngso Garden Materials is holding an “Edible Container Gardening” workshop on Saturday, July 15, 1-3 p.m. Participants will learn how to create delicious container arrangements. Presented by the UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco, the class will cover practical issues of soil, plant selection and maintenance, as well as how to maximize space and create beautiful combinations. To register, go to Lyngso Garden Materials is located at 345 Shoreway Road, San Carlos.

SAVE YOUR SEEDS … Join the ranks of gardeners who plant their gardens each year from seeds they saved themselves. The UC Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County will host a workshop taught by master gardener Candace Simpson on how to save seeds from summer beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers and other summer vegetables. Also, learn how to use and contribute to Rinconada’s new Seed Library. The free talk will be on Thursday, July 20, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Rinconada Library at 1213 Newell Road, Palo Alto.

LIKE WATER WITH PLANTS … Want the look of a water feature in your garden without actually adding one? Garden Design magazine has some suggestions that can help create the illusion of water using plants. Garden Design’s Pam Penick suggests using grasses like meadowy sedge (Carex spp.) or buffalo grass to make low ripples. To create the illusion of billowing waves, taller ornamental grasses like bamboo muhly or rosy love grass do the trick. Plants with arching forms can look like fountains. “Fountain grass” (Pennisetum spp.), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and purple moor grass (Molinia spp.) are such plants.


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Bring your Garden to Life with Garden Art

Adding excitement to your garden is easy. You can create instant, year-round color, structure, motion and fun to your landscape with a bit of garden art.
Just like shopping for plants, look for pieces that complement your gardening style. And consider all the benefits each piece of art provides. Many pieces are functional as well as beautiful, helping you get the most from your garden budget.


In centuries past, garden art included statues of gods and beautiful people as well as pieces that mimicked nature’s ornamental qualities. You can still find those traditional garden statues. But these days you will also find colorful pieces made from a variety of weatherproof materials in a variety of styles.

Look for garden art that’s functional as well as beautiful. You no longer need to settle for drab plant supports. Look for items like the Kaleidoscope Tomato Cage made of durable, heavy gauge steel and adorned with colorful weatherproof glass inserts. Train peas and pole beans up colorful and sturdy structures like Kaleidoscope Spiral Supports. These make creating an edible, ornamental landscape a breeze.
Bring your garden to life with garden art that moves in the wind. Metal wind spinners, mobiles and wind chimes add motion and in some cases sound to the garden.

Try creating a bottle bush using individually mouth-blown art glass globes instead of wine bottles. Select those suited to the outdoors. Strategically place them in the garden, so you can enjoy the way the sunlight plays off the unique, colorful glass.

Add a bit of color and ornamental appeal when purchasing your next birdbath or bench. And don’t forget about other winged visitors. Some garden art, like poppy sways, also capture water for hummingbirds, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Artfully direct water from the roof using decorative rain chains into a rain barrel or mulched area. Use this century-old technique to slow the flow of water, preventing mulch and mud from splashing onto the house. Those in cold climates will appreciate the beauty of the ice-covered chains in winter.

Extend your enjoyment by lighting up the landscape with solar powered artwork. Set solar stakes donned with birds, roosters or calla lilies throughout the garden. You’ll enjoy their charming style by day and colorful glow at night. Lead your guests to the front door or backyard garden with the help of solar powered Mosaic glass globes

Include a bit of fun and whimsy in your landscape. Let your garden design and garden art reflect your personality. A flock of funky metal chickens meandering through the garden or school of steel Fish Out of Water Garden Stakes swimming through your perennials may just be the extra character your garden needs.

Take some time this season to finish off an established garden, create a focal point for a new garden or just add new life to an existing landscape. Whatever the reason, you’re sure to enjoy the added beauty only garden art can provide.

  Writer’s Bio:
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site,, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Central Avenue Walkway project receives $37005 grant

The Central Avenue Walkway will soon have lighting and more landscaping.

Jessie R. Box

JASPER — The Hamilton County Beautification and Preservation Inc. received a grant of more than $30,000 for the Central Avenue Walkway in Jasper.

Jennifer Hand, president of the Hamilton County Beautification and Preservation said she approached Sabal Trail Transmission four months ago for funding to get started on the landscaping and lighting for the walkway.

Hand received a $37,005 grant at the end of May.

The grant will be used for old fashioned lighting, landscaping, benches, water fountains, trash receptacles and stretching equipment for the walkway.

Hand wants to see the walkway completed for Christmas this year.

Hand said she is excited to see the ideas for the walkway become a reality.

Currently there is the start of landscaping but more trees and flowers will be added.

The Central Avenue Walkway project is a collaboration between Hamilton County Beautification and Preservation and the City of Jasper.

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LAWN AND GARDEN: Create your own pleasant penninsula with a deck landscaping plan

A deck in itself speaks of privacy; being alone with a book, or a friend; having a family get-together or a place to sit with the neighbor next door. Yet they are not private, they are peninsulas that jut out from the back of your house with all three sides fully exposed to all who live around you.

I would like to give you some ideas on how to create a more private atmosphere, without hiding behind a wall of 30-foot arborvitaes.

Trees; be they flowering ornamentals like crabs and pears, or stately like maples and oaks, will strategically block out the other guy’s deck, window or yard. They don’t have to be right next to your deck, they just have to be “in line of sight.”

If your deck is at or near ground level, an eight-foot-tall barrier of some kind is all you will need. Flowering shrubs at your back property line like lilac, forsythia, sand cherries, or Rose of Sharon, will nicely screen out the onlookers. The other great thing about trees and shrubs is that you don’t have an ugly side; both you and they have something beautiful to look at.

If you are a bit of a snoop yourself, trees like honey locust and red bud have more of a lattice look to them — they screen out, but not totally.

This takes care of the neighbors, but what of the peninsula you’re sitting on; this “dock” amidst the green waters of your lawn? No problem, shrubs and plants will drag you back to a feeling of land.

The higher off the ground your deck is, the further out your plantings need to be in order to get a better “lumber to plant” proportion. In other words, if you have to lean over the deck to see the planting, you are still on a deck “on the high seas.” But if you can begin to see the shrubs from a few feet away from the rail, your plantings blend into the grass, thus making it look like you’re back on land again.

Your plant selection is endless on account of the nature of a peninsula; it is out from the shade of the house. If your house’s north facing wall is where your deck extrudes from, a shade-loving plant will need to be your choice in the area where the deck joins the house; from there out around the deck the sun abounds, and so does the plant choices.

When it comes to backyards, you should think summer; nobody shovels a path to the picnic table in the winter. So think color, think flowers around your deck.

In the back, where you don’t even go in the cold weather months, who cares if it all looks dead, you can’t see it anyway. I’m not saying don’t use any evergreens, they add a different dimension and look to the landscape. What I wish to get across is make it a flower garden; you have pretty much every plant at your disposal. This means every height, every width, every bloom time, and every color. It would be no trouble laying out a design that has something blooming somewhere in the landscaping all season long, from the end of April to the end of October; and, let me add, without the use of any annuals.

Other touches can be added; things like brick patios, berms, raised flowerbeds, ponds, waterfalls, arbors and trellises, fire pits, and, if high enough above the ground, a sandbox under the deck will keep the little ones out of the sun.

Decks can be a thing of beauty; be creative, do it in stages if you must, but just do it.

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