Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Archives for September 10, 2017

Playing in the dirt: Welcome fall: Master Gardener tips for September


1. Laugh out loud: Outrageous lies, side-splitting tales on tap at storytelling fest ENTERTAINMENT

2. Hands on in Houston: local pitmaster joins relief effort COMMUNITY

3. Playing in the dirt: Welcome fall: Master Gardener tips for September COLUMNS

4. Community Calendar for the week of September 10, 2017 ENTERTAINMENT

5. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer showcases work in new MSU exhibit ENTERTAINMENT


More popular content      Suggest a story

Article source:

Roger Mercer: Tips for rounding out your garden with brick, stone and concrete

Dear Roger: I want to add some materials besides plants to my landscape. I think some low walls to define beds and direct traffic and some walkways would be nice in brick or concrete or some kind of decorative block. Could you enlighten me? — Jerry, Fayetteville.


Dear Jerry: Landscapers divide their work into two fields, so to speak.

In one arena, they use plants. They call that softscaping.


In the other, they use brick, stone, wood and concrete. That’s called hardscaping. Hardscaping isn’t so hard to do, it’s just expensive. Once it’s in place, it’s inexpensive to maintain. You just walk or drive on it, if it’s paving. You don’t have to mow it, water it, spray it or weed it.


If it’s walls or fencing, you hang plants on it or use it for privacy or traffic control.


I’ve said many times here that trees are the backbone of any garden. They generally shape a garden and determine its form. They can provide privacy. They define sections of the garden and provide shade for leisure-time or sitting. Landscaping with construction materials can perform the same kinds of functions in a garden. Patios provide for leisure activities, cookouts and relaxation. Walkways invite the viewer into a garden and provide a pleasurable way to get there.


I long for the money to pave some of the walkways in my garden. Every morning, before the dew is off the ground, I walk out and look at the newest flowers to bloom.


I always end up with wet feet. And my feet stay wet most of the day. If I change shoes, they just get wet again. Paving would solve that problem. For now, I rely on quick-drying sandals or rubber shoes.


But mine is a large garden, and for the cost of enough paving brick, I can buy lots of shoes to change into when the ones I’m wearing start squishing.


Smaller gardens can make paving and walls more affordable, simply because of the smaller scale. In my garden, which is acres, a few walks and walls would look odd. I’d have to have long walkways and a lot of wall for the work to be in scale.


Small gardens, on the other hand, can be overwhelmed with too much hardscaping.


Hardscaping gives formality, intimacy and a sense of quality, if it is done with grace, fine workmanship and top-quality materials. But too much paving and too many brickwork walls can create a barren feeling. Plants often can be made to do the work of walls to provide privacy. And grass, though wet in the mornings, provides lovely pathways.


If you plan to add hardscaping to your landscape, use the best workmen you can find. Get several estimates and ask around about the quality of work done by the people you eventually hire. If your landscaper won’t provide references, don’t hire him.


Dear Roger: Enclosed you will find branches from my azaleas. All of them are covered with this black soot.

How should I treat this? — Perry Stansfield, Fayetteville


Dear Perry: You didn’t mention the little white patches all over the stems of your azaleas. They are causing the black soot. The little white bumps, about the size of fish-tank gravel, are excreting partly digested sugars pushed through their bodies by the pressure of rising sap.


The sugars land on nearby leaves, mostly leaves below the scales, and are eaten by fungi that produce billions of black spores.


Get rid of the scales and you’ll eliminate the sugary deposits. No sugar, no mold.


Use a light spray oil and coat the scales with it mixed to specifications provided with the container. You will be able to smother the scales, and more importantly, suffocate their eggs so there will be very few new ones to cope with.


I do not think the attack on your azaleas is especially serious yet. But it could become life-threatening. So act promptly, and apply the oil three or more times, if necessary, to eliminate the scales.


 Send your questions and comments to Roger at or call  424-4756. You may write to Roger at 6215 Maude St., Fayetteville, N.C. 28306

Article source:

Dan Draves: Conference tips, and garden goodies



I attended the composting seminar at Morgan’s Composting (Dairy Doo) on August 17 and I wasn’t disappointed. My first session was with a young man from Petoskey who operates an organic vegetable farm on three acres and grosses $275,000 per year, mainly growing micro greens. He produces the greens 52 weeks a year in hoop houses. He started out with honey as his cash crop four years ago and has expanded from there. One of the tips he gave for beekeepers is that by sheltering his hives in an unheated green house over the winter, he went from 20 percent to 90 percent survival of his hives. The greenhouse keeps the temperature extremes from causing winter kill. Another great tip he gave was that we don’t need to mulch our hard neck garlic. It will survive just fine without that extra protection. I might try that on some of our fall planting but I will cover the bases and mulch most of our garlic just in case.

My second session was about what MSU is doing in some field trials to try to improve disease protection in potato crops. Fulvic acid and humic acid added to compost along with other minerals seems to make a difference. Fulvic acid added to compost tea and used as a foliar spray has shown good results in preventing some of our mildews.

My last session was with a young man from Marshall. He was the head honcho for a community garden at the hospital in Marshall that works with children and older citizens. It was interesting to hear the problems that he faced. Lo and behold, they are the same problems we have experienced here at the Circle Area Community garden. People are the same wherever you go. He had some good stories about how the children worked in the garden and volunteered. I love to see the younger generation working and volunteering with older people and in their communities. It is very refreshing.

The day ended at the beer and wine tasting tent. One of the beer representatives came from Clover Leaf of Clare. They had a very good IPA. Some of the wine came from Chateau Chantel from Traverse City. I mostly tasted the beer offerings. Statistics show more people drink beer in the country than wine. Wine is good but I prefer beer.

Around the homestead we have been canning and freezing up a storm. The kitchen counter is constantly covered with quart and pint jars. It is just fun to see all of that goodness sitting there on the counter. This week it was green and yellow beans along with some of cousin Larry’s salsa (21 pints). We froze seven meals of beans for our vegetarian grandchild. We put in the freezer 11 more meals of shiitake mushrooms. We do what is called a duxelle mix. (Cook the mushrooms with onions, garlic, a little soy sauce and herbs. Then freeze.) They are ready for soups, casseroles, a side with steaks and whatever you would use button mushrooms for.

We haven’t talked about the dahlias this year because they have dragged their heels as far as flowering. We finally picked a nice bouquet today: a great Show ‘n’ Tell as well as a couple of Speckled Chee and a real nice Elma Elizabeth.

I drove to Alpena today up M65 and saw a bald eagle picking at some road kill. This past spring I saw something on that same route that I probably will never see again. I got to see a Golden Eagle up close and it was the most spectacular bird I have ever seen. What does that have to do with gardening? Nothing, but It was something I will never forget. On that same route today I saw bean fields that were drying down and the maple trees were also showing changes in color as well. I don’t know if I am ready for fall to be here but it is on its way for sure. We hope to pick some of our fall peas Thursday. We had the first picking tonight for dinner and they were yummy! We will freeze this next picking because they will taste great in February.

I won’t be able to tell you about the results of my potato experiment until next year but I tried something I saw on YouTube this spring. If these shell out we could be in potato heaven. You know how we love potatoes, right? We only have one more article for this year in which we will announce this year’s “star of the garden.”

Dan Draves is an advanced master gardener. The Midland County Masters Gardeners will answer questions from readers. If you have a question, you can email it to or send it to The Midland Daily News at 124 S. McDonald Street, Midland, MI 48640.

Article source:

Garden tips: Deadheading plants; preparing for winter

Gardening is an art. Stand up for your pursuits.

At all times, be a neighbor. Enjoy gardening at the time you are completing the task; be in the moment.

Deadheading is a way to keep the blooms producing. Some plants must have spent blooms removed (deadheaded) for new growth to occur. It is not too early to thin and move plants for the spring.

Bill Rankin is a master gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. Look for more gardening tips in the Observer-Dispatch or online at

Article source:

In the Garden: Keyhole gardening growing in popularity – Champaign/Urbana News


In recent years, a new gardening phenomenon has gained popularity in the U.S., but it gets its roots abroad. Keyhole gardening is a technique that was developed in Africa for use in dry, arid climates with low soil fertility. It has proven to be such an effective, sustainable method of small-scale plant production that U.S. gardeners have readily adopted its use across the country.

A keyhole garden is a form of a raised bed, typically circular in design, that employs active composting to replenish and build new soil.

The centerpiece of a keyhole garden is a “basket” that the gardener continually deposits compost and water into. The compost basket extends above the raised bed, allowing water and nutrients from the compost to enter the soil, replenishing it continually as compost is added and decomposes.

In order to access the basket, a notch, similar to a missing piece of pie, is added and creates a shape similar to a keyhole from a bird’s-eye view.

These compact, efficient gardens have been publicized for their reduced water use and increased productivity when compared to conventional gardening methods.

In recent years, this clever design has been used throughout the world. It is attractive and very productive, with no need for added fertilizers, making it quite sustainable since everyday compost can be used to fuel the system. Keyhole gardens can be densely planted to maximize the amount of vegetables grown in a small space.

Humanitarian charities in Africa were the forerunners in keyhole garden design. Its simple and sustainable design features arose from necessity since fertile soil and water are quite limited in many areas. However, food scraps and gray water (from household chores such as washing dishes) are readily available. Three of these gardens, approximately 6 feet in diameter, can supply an African family of 10 with vegetables for the year.

Keyhole gardens have subsequently been adapted for other areas of the globe that experience similar dry climates, low soil fertility and scarce resources. They have rapidly gained popularity in arid areas in the U.S., such as Texas and Arizona, and have been applied in more humid regions to serve folks looking for cheaper, more sustainable gardening methods.

Although you may purchase kits online nowadays, the originators of this design used many types of recycled materials. So, you may already have everything you need sitting around the yard.

The outside wall of the garden can be constructed from anything that will hold back the soil and provide some structural support. Rocks or recycled bricks are excellent wall-building materials, although something as simple as some old lumber will work.

The composting basket in the center, typically 1 feet in diameter, is commonly made from chicken wire or woven wire. However, you can use any material that will hold back compost and still allow water to permeate into the soil. I have seen some interesting and effective designs using materials as simple as a “tower of sticks” to create the basket. No need to get fancy. One of the greatest attributes of keyhole gardening is the sustainability and use of recycled materials.

The ultimate form of recycling in keyhole gardening is the use of compost. To initially build soil in the garden, a wide range of recycled materials, along with some soil, are added in layers. The lowest layer should consist of larger materials that allow for drainage, such as sticks, old broken pots, rocks and tin cans. Keep building the layers, including things such as newspaper, straw, manure, wood ash, leaves and mulch. Complete your soil building layers with the best materials you have available, such as finished compost or topsoil.

If you are interested in checking out keyhole gardens in action, the Vermilion County Master Gardeners have installed several at the Douglas (Park) Discovery Garden in Danville.

In addition, the Master Gardeners are hosting the annual Antiques in the Park event today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Douglas Discovery Garden.

This event includes a plant sale, food vendors, live music, local products for sale, a Master Gardener QA table and, of course, antiques. Please come out and join the Vermilion County Master Gardeners for this family friendly event to enjoy the beauty of the Douglas Discovery Garden and learn how to set up your own keyhole garden.

Ryan Pankau is a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties.

Article source:

Dutch engineer aims high with latest green roof design

Standing between raised beds of plants on top of a former naval hospital, Joris Voeten can look across to the garden, cafe and terrace that decorate the sloping roof of Amsterdam’s NEMO science museum.

Such productivity is part of the urban engineer’s vision for cities worldwide, places where he sees the largely neglected flat tops of buildings doing more than keeping out weather and housing satellite dishes.

Voeten, of Dutch company Urban Roofscapes, says a rooftop garden system he unveiled Friday on the former hospital roof stores more rainwater than existing green roofs and requires less power by relying on a capillary irrigation system that uses insulation material instead of pumps to water plants.

“You can relax here, you can have meetings here. You could operate a restaurant on your rooftop garden to make it more economically beneficial,” Voeten told The Associated Press ahead of the official presentation. “But most of all, we finally get to exploit the last unused square meterage in the urban environment.”

Roofs that are adapted so plants can grow on them produce a cooling effect on buildings and the air immediately above them in two ways. The plants reflect heat instead of absorbing it the way traditional roofing sheets do. They also reduce heat by evaporating water.

Voeten said readings taken on a very hot day showed a temperature difference of up to 40 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) between his hospital garden above the banks of a busy waterway compared with a roof covered in black bitumen.

Robbert Snep, a green roof expert from Wageningen University and Research in the central Netherlands, said the cooling effect is well known, but the new roof in Amsterdam is an improvement on existing designs because of the way it stores water and can feed it back to plants.

Sensors in the shallow layer of soil on top of the water storage elements monitor qualities such as temperature and moisture content. If the soil gets too dry, extra water can be added. If there is too much water, it can be released into the drains.

“The smart roof really ensures that there is evaporation during, for example, heatwaves and thereby they cool the surroundings,” Snep, who is not involved in the project, said. “People can sleep well and people can work well in such an environment.”

Voeten says his system can be laid on any flat roof with sufficient load-bearing capacity, Voeten said. Costs would likely be around 100-150 euros ($120-180) per square meter (10 square feet), he estimates.

Amsterdam, a city built around water and its World Heritage-listed canals, is keen to have its residents turn their rooftops into gardens where possible. To promote the practice, the city is offers subsidies to help meet the costs.

“We ask citizens of the city to create rooftops like this. We ask companies to create rooftops like this,” Vice Mayor Eric van der Burg said. “Not only for water storage, not only for helping cooling down our city, but also to create extra gardens, extra green for our inhabitants.”

Article source:

Breakout sessions look at bonsai, bulbs

Whenever Alma Gaul posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

Article source:

ale student creates his own path through the campus landscape

By Jon Atherton

Ryan Simpson (Yale College ’17) was one of the first students to sense a new opportunity for experimentation and learning on the vast 136 acres of West Campus’ natural landscape. Over nearly 4 years, the environmental engineering and global affairs major committed his time, energy and physical graft to realize his own ideas for the future, and in so doing played an influential role in helping to re-imagine the campus space. Ryan exemplifies the student experience at Yale: a scholar whose dedication, commitment and inspiration has been deeply felt by the community, and whose time here has, in turn, provided readiness and direction in the next exciting chapter in his career.  

As he prepares to enter the Masters of Science program in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at Tufts University, we spoke to Ryan about his time at West Campus.

“Tell me about the early days. What was the attraction to West Campus?

My life at Yale had some ups and downs after a soccer injury, and this place really became a home for me. It was a blank canvas where I could try new things – where the environment and entrepreneurship meet each other. I came out here for the creativity, and I’ve grown as the place has grown – from a farm with fruits and vegetables, to a point today where the whole campus landscape is opening up for scholarship.

This place is part of me. I dived in and it’s been worth it to grow as part of it.

Working with Director Justin Freiberg, you gave limitless energy and ideas to the planning of the new Yale Landscape Lab. How did it all get started for you?

I started an agricultural project in high school to build an irrigation system in rural Nigeria. We needed space to prototype it, but couldn’t get traction in New Haven. I showed Justin the blueprints, and he encouraged me to give it a shot. We ran water up and down the hill beside the urban farm, collecting rainwater in a cistern and using a hand pump to create enough pressure to move the water.

From there, with input from other students, I worked with Justin on an extensive plan for developing the campus landscape. As it developed so did my ideas and curriculum. I started looking more specifically at food, starvation and war within the global affairs domain. I began exploring small-scale urban agriculture in my sophomore year and worked with Justin on proposals to realize the potential of the West Campus landscape as a working laboratory.

In my junior year I took urban agriculture and starvation a step further. Studying in Singapore, I realized that many of the challenges revolved around the need for clean water, and revisited my earlier blueprints for the irrigation project, pulled the idea together in class, and got a provisional patent for an ultraviolet water disinfection system. 

We’ve been able to put numerous projects in place. We cleared an acre and a half of land! We built a new fireplace, a brownstone oven, and have solarized large areas to prevent invasive plant species. This past summer we built a stone retaining wall at the hillside next to the barn, so we have more space to eat together or screen movies. We saved an apple tree that was here 120 years ago when pig farmers were here. Recently, our biggest project was terracing the hillside next to the urban farm so the nursing students have a series of berms and hillside terraces where they can grow their medicinal herbs. We’ve changed the landscape dramatically.

Your experience here has touched a lot of different elements of the landscape. What are the things that stand out?

I go by what my Mom always told me: “You’re only as good as what your two hands can make for you, and what your mind can think for you.” It wasn’t good enough to be creative here, you have to actively do what you want to create. I got through Yale on a generous scholarship, and a lot of my education has been because of athletic ability, but when I got here I got hurt. West Campus was the one place I could always come back to and feel like I could be creative and able to do something. I honed masonry, carpentry, farming, and landscaping skills – you name it, I’ve pretty much done it! [Just don’t ask him to fix a golf cart!] I’ve gained management experience too – managing people, working in partnership with Justin and campus Administration, managing the fact we have no electricity here at the barn.

When we first met you thought that more students should know about this place. What would you tell them now?

The place is growing, and people are beginning to understand the importance of food, agriculture and the environment to the way we live. The work I’ve done here shows you don’t always know what to do. I had no idea how to even work a shovel – my hands were ripped raw at first! You don’t have to be afraid of not knowing how to do things. It’s okay not to have the answers, to not know what you want to do.

If you have a mind that’s willing to create, there’s 136 acres here. 
The question becomes: what do you want to do?

There are no constraints of the classroom or sports team here. Rarely do we have the opportunity to create with no boundaries – where we can take something and transform it into something else. There’s power to unconstrained creativity and being able to look at something and make it yours. I found a lot of peace here, made a home at Yale, and it accelerated my own progress. I want other students to make this space their home too. Once they take the first step, the rest is easy.

You’ve really made a mark here, Ryan. Everyone at West Campus wants to thank you for your inspiration, hard work and enthusiasm. You’re one of the pioneers, and an inspirational example to students and colleagues from across Yale.

I’m going to miss it here. I want to come back in the future and be happy that more students have changed the landscape. Anyone can come here – if you’re interested in food systems, the arts, or just to gather round the fire.

We’ve made a space that caters to everyone, and where anyone can make it their own. 

That’s the power of this place.”

Article source:

Gardening Etcetera: Our shortgrass prairie in Doney Park

Lynne Nemeth, executive director of The Arboretum at Flagstaff, is the editor of Gardening Etcetera. To reach her with articles or ideas, please email

Article source:

Pupils have a hand in landscaping new loos

The Central Otago District Council  asked Tarras School pupils for landscaping help around newly installed toilets in the town, which has inspired  some creative ideas.

‘‘I wanted there to be a massive crocodile in there,’’ K’Dence Harrison  said.

‘‘It would be under a big wooden fence and we would feed the crocodile every half an hour.’’

Bronny O’Sullivan  thought more about aesthetics, suggesting flowers and bushes.

‘‘But also, maybe then we can put a guard dog there so people can’t get in the school.’’

The  council is involving the school in its $25,000 landscaping work around the toilets, which were installed three weeks ago.

The project to date has cost $426,800 which is estimated to rise to $537,100.

Just the purchase cost and installation of the toilet unit was $202,000.

Council property and facilities manager Mike Kerr said this was the market rate for this design of toilet.

The facility contains two standard unisex toilet cubicles and one accessible cubicle, and has an image of Shrek the sheep  on the side.

Other costs were incurred because there was no town water or sewerage system to connect it to.

The cost of a disposal system design was $17,700 and a treatment plant, built at the back of the school, was $156,800.

‘‘To compare, the toilets at the Cromwell Mall cost $344,000 in 2012. They could connect straight into the town water and sewer,’’ Mr Kerr said.

An estimated $65,000 would be spent on  purchasing  the Ministry of Education-owned land. The Government put up to $247,200 towards the project and the council committed $370,000.

Principal Rachelle Haslegrave said the school saw a lot of foot traffic through the toilets.

The toilets were partly a reaction to lobbying from the school because tourists would trespass on it seeking toilets and sometimes relieve themselves on its grounds.

‘‘I don’t know that they’ve noticed a huge difference yet but the Portaloo has been taken away from our gateway, which the children are very excited about.’’

Toilet costs
Project cost to date: $426,800
Estimated total cost: $537,100
Toilet unit cost and installation: $202,000
Water treatment and disposal field design and construction: $174,500
Land purchase: $65,000


Article source: