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Archives for January 25, 2018

Somerset and Dighton garden clubs get tour of Bristol Aggie greenhouse, learn about floral design trends

SOMERSET – The Somerset Garden Club held its joint meeting with the Dighton Garden Club at the Bristol County Agricultural High School. Following a tour of the greenhouse, teachers Danelle Harootian and Dawn Fornari demonstrated the latest in floral design techniques. Included was a Power Point presentation on Ikebana, the Japanese style of design. The evening ended with refreshments supplied by club members.


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Cornell Cooperative Extension offers courses on gardening

KINGSTON, N.Y. Start the growing season off right with this year’s “Winter Lecture Series” hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County’s Master Gardener Program.

Each of the three classes in the series are held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the CCEUC Education Center at Kingston Plaza.

The following classes can be taken separately or together, or register for all three by Feb. 12 for a discounted fee:

• Feb. 15: “Plants that Bind the Times: 200 Years of Horticulture Garden Design,” led by Barbara Bravo.

• March 15: “What’s Going on with the Bugs?” Led by Cecily Frazier

• March 29: “Garden Friends and Foes,” by John McCormick, focusing on how to manage bugs in the garden.

The fee is $15 per class, or register for all three by Feb. 12 for $40. Walk-ins are welcome, but space is limited For information, call Dona Crawford at (845) 340-3990, ext. 335 or email

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Is This The Healthiest Home In The Country?

Like many moms-to-be, Victoria Di Iorio became more concerned about chemical exposures when she was pregnant with her first child. It didn’t help that at the same time, her husband, a contractor, was routinely coming down with mysterious illnesses after visiting construction sites.

“I watched my husband go into a newly built home, cover his nose and eyes with his sleeve, and when he came back out his eyes were completely bloodshot,” Di Iorio tells mbg. “As a new mom, I completely freaked out and said, ‘This is what’s making you sick.'”

Since that 2004 realization, she’s made it her mission to design homes that are better for the people building them and the families living in them. Built in collaboration with the American Lung Association, her Healthy Home is the culmination of years of research on building materials, finishes, and furniture that put the environment and human health first.

“It’s a living, breathing model of what a healthy home should look like,” Di Iorio says. She defines a healthy space as one that does not pump any unnecessary chemicals into the air and makes it easy for its inhabitants to disconnect from the stressors of daily life. It takes popular features and gadgets like zero-VOC paint and built-in HEPA air filters up a notch: The 5 acres the home sits on are protected wetlands free of pesticides, and the landscaping will promote interaction with the outdoors. All of the home’s bedrooms have a “goodnight switch,” which shuts off all the electricity in the room for sleep that’s completely uninterrupted.

Di Iorio worked with local interior designers to fill the space with better-for-you furniture and accessories. Beyond that, the home is stocked with food, beauty, and cleaning products that complement any healthy lifestyle.

“It will have everything from toothbrushes and toothpaste to cosmetics and skin care. It shows the holistic nature of healthy living.” Opening today on a quiet suburban street in Inverness, Illinois, about an hour outside Chicago, the home will serve a solely educational purpose for the months to come. Anyone can pay $20 (that will go toward the American Lung Association) to tour the space and pick up ideas that they can implement at home. “We want to show simple things every person can do in their own homes if they never build or renovate a home.”

Here’s hoping that this health-first design becomes the norm for our built spaces. As mbg stresses with our You. We. All mantra, true wellness is a community affair, after all.

Even if you don’t live near Chicago, peep the latest ways to make your home healthier here and here.

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Downtown Greenway seeks ideas from Ole Asheboro/Asheboro Square neighborhoods

Whenever Dawn Kane 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.

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Yonkers Untermyer Gardens in land-swap talks with hospital to recover lost Color Gardens


Artist Haifa Bint Kadi has been commissioned to restore the mosaics in Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers. She reflects on the work and the rich history of mosaic art. (Video by Seth Harrison/The Journal News)

YONKERS – City officials are discussing a land swap between Untermyer Gardens and St. John’s Riverside Hospital that would return the historic Color Gardens to the park’s footprint.

The talks involve about a quarter-acre of land on a narrow parking lot — about 16 parking spots — that sit in an area once known as the Color Gardens. Historically the six Color Gardens were planted with flowers of individual colors parallel to the north side of the park’s Vista staircase that descends towards the Hudson River.

Two of the Color Gardens are currently on park land and the other four are on hospital land; one of the four is under a road and it is not part of the proposed land swap.

“We’re trying to recapture most of the land that comprised the Color Gardens so they can be restored,” said Stephen F. Byrns, chairman of the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of expense, but when you look at the whole Color Gardens, it was one of the major parts of the garden and then it was split up and paved over.”

The land swap was listed on the agenda for the Yonkers parks board’s Jan. 29 meeting, but expected absences of some board members has suspended the discussion, according to Byrns. There is no timeline as to when the land swap will be concluded and Byrns said the conservancy has not yet raised the undetermined amount of money it will need to pay for the Color Gardens’ restoration or for moving the hospital’s lost parking to another area.

The 43-acre park at 945 N. Broadway is expected to get two square feet of land for every square foot it trades with the hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Denise Mananas.

“The hospital is sitting on some property that was part of the original gardens and in order for them to bring the gardens back to their original luster we’re willing to do a swap,” Mananas said. “We want to be a good neighbor and do the right thing.”

Untermyer Gardens were built by Samuel Untermyer, who bought the property in 1899. Over the 41 years that he owned the land, he transformed the gardens and greenhouses into some of the most celebrated landscaping in the United States.

Its main attraction is a walled garden based on Indo-Persian paradise gardens whose most famous example is the garden at the Taj Mahal in India.

Yonkers acquired a core part of the gardens in 1946, but much of the city-owned property fell into disrepair in the subsequent decades. The conservancy’s restoration work in recent years has returned some splendor to the park and it has again become a destination as it was in the early 20th century.

Twitter: @ErnieJourno

More Yonkers news 

FOOD: Yonkers restaurant week starts Jan. 22

EDUCATION: Snow days put Yonkers schools’ spring break in doubt

WHAT’S NEW: Yonkers is getting new housing, stores and more in 2018

BUSINESS: Kawasaki may build NYC subway cars

SIGN UP for The Y-O, reporter Ernie Garcia’s Yonkers newsletter

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There’s a tomato under the rose bush?

The Walker County Master Gardeners are excited about the upcoming Edible Yard Symposium.

If you recall, we had to postpone this symposium from last September due to Hurricane Harvey evacuees using the Storm Shelter. So it has been rescheduled for Feb. 16-17 beginning at 10 a.m. (registration/check in begins at 8:30). And we’ve had to make changes to the entire program but we think it will be better than ever.

Originally we’d planned garden tours for the Friday. But this time of year, no one’s landscape or garden looks outstanding (however we are planning a garden tour program for fall — stay tuned). But on Friday. Feb. 16 at the Storm Shelter for $20, we will have Master Gardeners who have had additional education and become specialists in the field of specific gardening components or they have vast experience in them and are highly qualified to speak to us about gardening. These workshops are just what many need to get started on their own landscapes during the perfect time of year for planning a spring landscape or garden.

Have you ever attended any Master Gardener program at the extension offices or at the library or elsewhere? If so, you know the vast amount of information that is taught on growing tomatoes, landscaping, drip irrigation, soil and soil amendments, and so much more. This is almost like having all of those in one day but with more information, different information, more hand outs, and a door prize relating to the subject of that workshop drawn at each of the four.

To begin there will be a Vegetable Growing workshop with four of our very knowledgeable Master Gardeners teaching and answering your questions. Butch Maywald, Bill Dawson, David Blaylock, and Mark Short will spend time speaking on veggies, which ones will be at our plant sale, using vinegar in the garden, and veggies in your landscape. Everyone knows these very personable guys have a way of informing and verbally enriching our garden methods.

Have you wondered about composting and all the many methods that people use such as Vermiculture and Bokashi and plain old throwing scraps into a bin in the backyard? Well, while some of our Master Gardeners are specialists in the field, Jean Marsh and Blaylock are so well-read and hands-on experienced, they can tell you what they do that works quite well. And as a soil amendment, compost of any kind is an amazing addition that benefits the garden and the harvest that garden gives you.

Did you know that herbs grow beautifully in a landscape? Beside, behind, or in front of your bedding plants they add a depth of beauty that draws a lovely visual picture while giving you herbal, medicinal, and palate-pleasing plants. Rhonda Hanks and Marsh will discuss the addition of herbs to your flowering beds or in container gardens placed strategically among bushes and trees. They will also discuss types of containers to use for your landscape that truly add to the artistic value in your growing.

And just where do all of these plants begin? From seeds, of course! Everyone who has attended our Spring and Fall plant sales should know who the “Seed Ladies” are. Pat Harte and Jessie Grant will explain when and how to collect, how to dry and package seeds, and how to properly store them so you can plant them next growing season. This workshop is one of the most popular with horticulture students and Master Gardeners.

So there you have it! That Friday will be a great day for learning with handouts and brochures and door prizes. There will also be vendors, snacks and water. Next week, the article will be all about Feb. 17. For $60 you get lunch, four outstanding Texas speakers, more door prizes, raffles and a silent auction will be on that day and on Saturday. Go to your Facebook page to learn more, and look for the next article on Facebook or in your newspaper. ALL proceeds will go to the WCMGA Building Fund!

The Walker County Master Gardeners have dedicated and involved volunteers that enjoy sharing their knowledge and expertise. Texas AM sponsors this wonderful organization and provides the training for Master Gardeners. The information shared with the public by Master Gardeners comes from Texas AM training events and field-tested research.

If you have questions about this article or any of the extension programs, contact the AgriLife Extension Office at (936) 435-2426 or go to Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex or religion, disability or national origin. The Texas AM University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating. A member of Texas AM University System and its statewide agriculture programs.

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End of the line?

TOUR STOPA time-honored tradition that dates back to the opening of First Neighborhood, the Westlake Village Garden Clubs annual tour of local gardens is going on hiatus this year because members could notfind enough gardeners willing to open their yards to the public. The tour is a major fundraiser for the club; money raised helps fund scholarships for local students interested in horticulture and landscaping.

TOUR STOP—A time-honored tradition that dates back to the opening of First Neighborhood, the Westlake Village Garden Club’s annual tour of local gardens is going on hiatus this year because members could notfind enough gardeners willing to open their yards to the public. The tour is a major fundraiser for the club; money raised helps fund scholarships for local students interested in horticulture and landscaping.

For the first time in 45 years the Westlake Village Garden Club will not host its annual tour of local gardens.

Acornfile photos

Acornfile photos

Garden club co-president Kathy Gilbert said the tour was canceled because the club couldn’t get enough houses to participate.

“It was very painful for us to come to the decision not to have a tour, but we just really didn’t have a choice. We need at least four houses. We had two, and we had a committee working on it, they interviewed about 75 different houses and people,” Gilbert said. “It was an exhaustive search and we just couldn’t get the community to say, ‘OK, our house is perfect, I want to share it on the tour.”

Gilbert said many of the interviewed homeowners expressed concern about opening their backyards to the public. The tour involves welcoming visitors into a home’s backyard. Gilbert said she thinks people are worried criminals might use the opportunity to evaluate a house for potential thievery. She said that in the history of the garden tour there’s never been an instance of a homeowner regretting their participation.

California’s ongoing drought is also a factor—there are fewer lavish gardens to show off.

Garden club member Mary Ann Rush said another obstacle to hosting the tour is an ordinance prohibiting the use of banners to advertise the event, which in years past has been instrumental in selling tickets.

“The City of Thousand Oaks is not allowing us to put up banners like we used to. In the olden days you could put a cute little sign up on the corner, put a nice banner up, but now with homeowners associations you have to go to their boards and say, ‘Mother, may I?’ and get permission,” Rush said. “I’m down in Agoura, part of the Morrison Ranch Homeowners Association, and had to get their permission. Otherwise you pay all this money for these giant banners, you put them up and the next day you drive down the street and someone’s taken them down.”

The garden tour is the club’s main fundraiser, to with tickets going for $30. The money supports th e clu b an d goes toward four $2,500 scholarships for local students who are going to school to study landscaping or horticulture.

The garden tour started small, with homes in Westlake Village, but as years passed and the tour grew in popularity it came to include houses in the surrounding areas—Agoura Hills, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park.

Attendees buy tickets and drive themselves to each participating house to tour the gardens. What was once a small tour blossomed and started selling hundreds of tickets. Rush said there were years where over 700 tickets were sold.

Gilbert said the club has certain criteria a garden needs to meet to be considered for the tour.

“We like to have one or two smaller homes and then have homes that offer something unique for people to see,” Gilbert said. “Maybe somebody has an area where they grow grapes or a garden where they grow their own vegetables or native plants. Parking is a big consideration as well. Are people going to be able to park and walk to the backyard without disturbing the neighborhood?”

Despite the factors keeping homeowners from opening their gardens to this year’s tour, Rush said, she’s confident that the annual tour will resume next year.

In lieu of the tour, the garden club will host a silent auction fundraiser at the North Ranch Country Club on Feb. 6

Gilbert said she encourages people to attend and to learn more about the club.

“We’re very active. We have 102 members,” Gilbert said. “It’s growing, and we have a lot of things to offer people in the community as far as joining the organization. I think people might feel we’re just a bunch of old ladies, but we’re not.”

Those interested in making their garden available to next year’s tour can call Gilbert at (805) 341-5602.

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How to grow your own potatoes in

PUBLISHED: 12:38 24 January 2018

Undated Handout Photo of potatoes being harvested. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.

Undated Handout Photo of potatoes being harvested. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.

Undated Handout Photo of potato plants. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.Undated Handout Photo of potato plants. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.

There’s a crop of potato days coming up – but why not plant some yourself?

So, you want to grow potatoes? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that you don’t need a massive garden or allotment to do it. You can even grow a tasty crop in a small urban plot, using a pot or container with a capacity of at least 10 litres.

Start them off now and you should be enjoying tasty potatoes from July through to the end of the year. All that’ll be left to do is decide: chips, mashed or jacket?

Here’s how…

Undated Handout Photo of harvesting potatoes. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.Undated Handout Photo of harvesting potatoes. See PA Feature GARDENING Potato. Picture credit should read: Thinkstock/PA. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Potato.

1. Buy blight-resistant varieties

Excessive wet weather can lead to the gardener’s nemesis – blight – which can ruin your crop in one fell swoop.

But there’s a range of blight-resistant ‘superspuds’ known as Sarpos (pronounced Sharpo). Available in red, white and blue, from Thompson Morgan (, Suttons (, garden centres and online retailers, they are now being grown by gardeners who don’t want the plight of blight. Blue Danube is a good blight-resistant variety with a deep blue/purple skin (but white flesh).

2. ‘Chit’ them first

Seed potatoes can now be bought in large bags from garden centres, seed companies and online, but if you have limited space or just want to try out a few, hunt out the centres which sell loose tubers by weight.

Early varieties of seed potatoes should be ‘chitted’ in January and February before planting out (you don’t need to chit maincrop types as they have a longer growing season).

Chit them by laying the potatoes rose-end (where most of the tiny sprouts are) on newspaper in clean seed trays or old egg boxes, placed on a windowsill or in a frost-free greenhouse in a light position but not in direct sunlight.

In a few weeks, the shoots will grow, gaining strength while the soil is still too cold for them to be planted outside.

Rub off all but the four strongest sprouts and when they have grown to around an inch, chitting is completed. Don’t plant them out until the end of March, though, as the shoots will take time to develop.

3. Prepare the ground

In the meantime, if you have a vegetable plot or allotment, dig the area to loosen the soil, adding organic matter such as well-rotted manure or compost and working it into the soil.

4. When to plant

Early varieties can be planted out in late March and early April, second-earlies a week later, and maincrop potatoes a week after that.

Plant tubers of seed potatoes around 15cm deep and 40cm apart in rows 60cm apart. Second earlies and maincrop potatoes should be planted 40cm apart allowing 75cm between rows.

5. Maintenance phase

Hoe shallowly to keep the rows weed-free, then when the first shoots appear above the surface, draw up earth with a hoe from between the rows to cover the shoots (known as earthing up), which encourages underground shoots and more tubers and stops the tubers being exposed to the surface and turning green. Earthing up will create gullies between rows.

Potato foliage should soon cover the ground and you won’t need to weed any more, while potatoes rarely need watering, unless you get a prolonged period of drought in summer.

If a late frost is predicted in May, cover the foliage with garden fleece, or sacking as if the leaves are blackened, the yield may be reduced.

6. Harvest time

Earlies should be ready from early June, second-earlies from mid-June or July, and maincrops from September through the autumn.

Start digging earlies as soon as the tubers are a fair size. Push your hand under a plant to feel for egg-sized tubers, or lift an individual plant gently using a fork.

The tubers should come up with it, and you can sift around in the soil for any remaining ones. If the tubers aren’t ready, push them back into the ground and give them a good watering.

When the plants start to flower is a good indication that the tubers are ready to harvest, although you could ease out some earlies by ferreting under the soil with your hand and pulling a few out, without pulling up the plant, which will continue growing. They should keep in a cool, airy shed in the dark, or the vegetable drawer of the fridge, for a week or more.

Second earlies can be lifted for storage later, but try to use them before you start on the maincrops. With maincrops, leave the plants to die down completely. They keep quite well in the soil but lift them before the ground becomes really wet or else they are likely to rot.

7. Storage

Dry out maincrops in a dark shed for a couple of days before storing them in hessian or paper sacks, until required.

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Alamosa Flowers: Dream Garden

REMINDER: The 2018 Seed Exchange is Saturday, Jan. 27, from 2-4 p.m. at Adam State’s Nielsen Library. It is hosted by the Valley Educational Gardens Initiative (VEGI). The event features local, non-GMO seed. Please bring seed you’ve grown if can. If you don’t have any, don’t worry. Folks are wonderful at sharing.

Snow is falling as I write. It’s a great day to be inside, listen to the popping of the fire, and dream about gardening. I browsed the web to get some ideas on the subject and happened upon an article by Fran Sorin at the website that had some good tips. Whether you’re starting a new garden or working with an established garden, dreaming is important.

My favorite Sorin tips are “Imagine” and “Discover Your Deepest Desires.” Imagine what type of garden you would like. She suggests not worrying about the ‘how’ at this point; don’t let the fear creep in. She writes “Now is truly the fun part – let go and dream!” 

Discover your deepest desires by pouring over gardening magazines/book, surfing the Internet, or closely looking at gardens in your area. Go with your instincts. What draws your attention? A very formal garden — one in which everything is neat and tidy and in its place? How about a cottage garden – one in which flowers spill out onto pathways or find niches in places where you never planted them? Looking for a shady nook or and an open, sunny expanse? Do you want lots of color? A variety of greens and texture? Will you spend time relaxing or entertaining in your garden? Or perhaps you plan to view it from a porch or through a window.

Once you’ve determined some of your desires, explore your community. Look closely at gardens and visit local garden centers. Find out what actually grows in your area. I still spend time each month during the growing season checking out Alamosa gardens. 

After establishing a rough plan, let a bit of reality set in. Ask yourself how much time and money you want to invest in your project. Ask yourself if your dream will work in Alamosa! Clearly a tropical garden with palm trees and orchids won’t work in the San Luis Valley! If the total plan seems overwhelming, break it down into pieces. You could start with planting some anchoring shrubs and trees since they take the most time to get established. Possibly you could start with one or two beds – maybe the area you plan to spend the most time in.

If your budget is limited consider planting seeds or asking friends if they have perennials or bulbs that need dividing.

Whatever you decide, your first priority should be the soil. Do you have good soil or do you need to add top soil or augment it with compose or soil conditioner? Don’t skimp on this step! Our native soil (perhaps I should say dirt) is very alkaline and is low in nutrients.

Next, figure out your watering scheme. I know one lady who wants to water by hand with a hose so keeps her garden rather small. I, on the other hand, love drip or soaker irrigation. If you’re just getting started, soaker hoses are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. However, my experience with Alamosa water is that they clog after a few seasons. My favorite drip system is Netafim. Mine has a drip every 12 inches. I’ve used Netafim in some beds for at least 20 years and not had a problem. Most of our yard is watered automatically using garden timers. I love them!

How much water will you use? With our arid climate, you need to irrigate any successful garden. I’ll address watering needs in a future article. However, if you want to be frugal with water, make sure to buy appropriate plants. Another tip is to group plants according to their watering needs. I have a couple of beds that require little water while a few others require regular, moderate water.

You also might want to consider plantings so that you have blooms throughout the season. If you’re new to the area, I suggest you check out the “Hardy Garden” tab at To see how our garden looks throughout the season, check out the “Our Garden” tab at the website. I just posted photos from 2017. All photos on the website are of our garden; not photos from catalogs of how the flowers “should” look.

Whether you’re starting anew or wanting to revamp a garden, now is the time to dream!

“To perceive freshly, with fresh sense, is to be inspired.” Henry David Thoreau


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