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Peffley: Plan horticultural road trip for the Memorial Day weekend

If you are ready for something different this Memorial Day weekend, why not plan a horticultural road trip? Start with our own Lubbock Memorial Arboretum.

Meander through its 93 acres on a one-mile walk selected for easy access. The arboretum has well-maintained specimens of plants that do well in our area gardens.


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As an educational tool, the arboretum hosts events and activities open to the public as well as workshops and programs presented the second Saturday of every month in the red brick house located at K.N. Clapp Park, 4111 University Avenue.

An arboretum by definition specializes in trees — and it was a tree that was the first planting at the Lubbock Arboretum in 1962. But over the years with dedicated community, university and professional support, the arboretum broadened to include other plantings so that you can now stroll through several gardens:

  • The Hodges Rose Garden displays many varieties of roses and features easy to care for Earth Kind Roses.
  • The Perennial Gardens change with the seasons – bulbs in early spring transitioning to summer flowering shrubs and trees. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of the gazebo.
  • The Sensory garden features plants stimulating sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.
  • The Wildflower Garden at the Lubbock Arboretum may offer suggestions for your own garden.

The Lubbock Arboretum has an active board of directors who plan the gardens as well as its many no-cost events. They have a group of folks called the “Wednesday Wonders” who get out each Wednesday to plant, prune and preen plants in the gardens. If you are interested in learning more about the Arboretum or want to volunteer call (806) 797-4520.

For those headed east to the Metroplex this Memorial Day weekend you will travel near a gem of a botanic garden. Clark Gardens is a tranquil green refuge located a little north of U.S. 180 between Mineral Wells and Weatherford. It is well worth a side trip.

A botanic garden differs from an arboretum in that while an arboretum is mainly a showplace for trees, a botanic garden is dedicated to the collection, cultivation and display of woody and herbaceous ornamental and edible specimens. More than just a collection of plants, each specimen is labeled with its scientific name.

Clark Gardens has an enchanting history. In 1972 Max and Billie Clark purchased land that had been in pasture for many years and Max began transforming it into gardens. They planned the gardens for their own pleasure, planting trees as the backbones and gradually landscaping with beds.

Stroll through the 35-acre garden that pulses with the seasons following paths that lead you deeper into the park garden rooms.

In the Historical Tree Trail are trees that have a part in Texas history dating back to the Civil War.

Follow the Texas Trail with its plantings of specimens adapted to Texas. You will be greeted with garden statuary, ponds home to turtles, ducks and graceful swans. Irrigation for the gardens is supplied from its own lakes.

For more information, see clarkgardens.org or call (940) 682-4856.

ELLEN PEFFLEY taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at gardens@suddenlink.net.

Article source: http://lubbockonline.com/columns/life/2017-05-22/peffley-plan-horticultural-road-trip-memorial-day-weekend

Landscape Enhancement for Self-Storage – Inside Self

By Rick Freeland



Developing a self-storage facility is an intensive undertaking. Your main goal is to obtain as much rentable square footage from your property as possible. To accomplish this, you’ll need to maximize site coverage. If this is the ideal, then why worry about landscaping?

In most cases, you won’t have a choice. Certain landscaping is required by local, state and sometimes federal regulations. But you’ll also want to consider installing supplemental landscaping that can benefit you in various ways.

Required by Regulation

From the feds to your local jurisdiction, it seems everyone has a say in how a property is developed. Regulations on landscaping might include:

  • Buffers for state waters: States require you to leave 25 feet of undisturbed vegetative buffer next to streams, wetlands or other waters that cross your property as protection from sediment infiltration during construction. Some jurisdictions tack on another 25 feet for even more protection.
  • Zoning buffers: You may need to leave undisturbed buffers between your development and areas zoned for residential use. If natural vegetation within the buffer area is sparse, you’ll more than likely have to enhance it with native or naturalized plants.
  • Landscape strips: Most regulations require that 10 feet or wider dedicated landscape strips at front, side and rear setbacks be planted in a mixture of trees and shrubs.
  • Parking-lot plantings: Regulations sometimes require that planting islands and other landscape areas be provided within parking lots.
  • Erosion control: This includes temporary and/or permanent grassing and planting of constructed slopes and graded areas as protection against erosion.
  • Tree replacement and protection: This means replacing trees removed during development by planting new trees onsite, through offsite mitigation or by paying a fee.

Supplemental Landscaping

Once you’ve met your regulatory obligations, additional landscaping should provide substantial benefits. How can your project benefit through a thoughtful landscape design?

Aesthetics. How your community perceives your project will depend in part on how it looks. Use plants that complement your architecture. A simple, uncluttered planting scheme of three to five plant types is enough. Concentrate on your site’s entrance experience by installing plantings at the base of any monument signage, along with color beds at your driveway entrance. Think all-season interest with a mixture of small deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs as well as perennials. Use accent plants or container gardens at your office entrance to welcome visitors with style.

Storm-water detention and water quality. Using bio-retention ponds, grassed swales, rain gardens or constructed wetlands planted with filtering vegetation in tandem with more conventional storm-water controls can save you money in infrastructure.

Environmental awareness. Low-maintenance natives grow well together to predictable sizes. They also don’t need much water except during establishment, don’t require chemical fertilizers or commercial biocides, and are adapted to local conditions and bugs. Their leaves act as soil builders, weed suppressors and natural fertilizers.

Using suitable plants makes for less work, so you spend less on landscaping crews. Also, consider planting species that attract pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds and native bees. Avoid invasive species, such as nandina and Bradford pear.

Maintenance. Planting species native to your area where possible and using the right plants in the right place will cut down on the need for pruning, fertilization and watering, and substantially reduce your maintenance costs. If planting natives, you’ll just need to supply water during the establishment period. This can be done economically using a drip-irrigation system outfitted with a smart controller.

Article source: http://www.insideselfstorage.com/articles/2017/05/landscape-enhancement-for-selfstorage-facilities.aspx

Outdoor News

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Article source: http://columbustelegram.com/banner-press/sports/outdoor-news/article_a92f399f-0fb4-5e7a-a98c-e8b037f8e43c.html

2nd Annual Garden Tour Highlights Local Gardens

On Sunday, May 21st, UCCE Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County will host their twenty-second annual garden tour. This year’s theme, “Over the Garden Gate,” offers glimpses into four gardens on the self-guided tour from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For the very first time, the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden will feature a plant sale. Plants available for purchase have all been locally grown and are suitable for planting in the foothills area. The gardens vary from a bed and breakfast one, to one that incorporates native oaks and ones that have adapted earlier landscapes to become more water-conserving.

Barretta Gardens Inn is a Sonora bed and breakfast. The current owner bought the property in 2005, and together with a former partner, designed and planted the gardens; with the assistance of a helper, the garden is owner-maintained. Irrigation is provided primarily by drip systems. For beautiful photos of the current landscaping, go to the Barretta Gardens Inn website at: http://www.barrettagardens.com/

The mature gardens and grounds are “themed,” each area arranged as a room with its own focal point. The owner maintains an inconspicuous compost area to utilize green manure from the garden and chicken manure from the hen house.

The Swanson garden is located on the west side of Sonora and incorporates mature oak trees into its landscaping. It also boasts elderberry plants, from which the owner makes syrup. This one-acre property was designed and planted by the owner. She and her son maintain it as a lovely example of year-round variety in plant color and texture.

The garden is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. A Certified Wildlife Habitat is a site that is gardened sustainably by eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, conserving water and soil, and eliminating exotic species. The site provides the four elements needed by wildlife—food, water, cover and places to raise young.

Sally and Doug Clark describe their garden as “always changing and evolving over the last 18 years.” They have performed all planning, installation, change and removal, and maintenance activities. Originally landscaped with lawn, they have now removed all lawns and replanted front, back and side areas with drought-tolerant species. They have added permeable hardscape in the form of gravel paths, rock borders, stepping stones, flagstone, and mulch. The decision to remove the lawn was based on several factors. Water conservation was a high priority. So was integrated pest management; gophers and moles made the decision to eliminate the lawn even easier!
The Clark garden, including the fruit trees, hosts a variety of wildlife. The home owners note that their landscape attracts “lots of birds” and one time they even observed a bear visiting their property.
The Master Gardener demonstration garden at 251 S. Barretta Street in Sonora is a good place to start the tour. It will offer garden tour tickets for purchase on Sunday, May 21, and is also the site for will-call tickets ordered by phone. The garden offers welcome shade, refreshments and public restroom facilities. And, don’t forget to check out those locally-grown plants to help your yard become its best.

Tickets for the 22nd annual tour are available in the Columbia area at Columbia Nursery on Parrotts Ferry Road and the Farmory near Columbia Airport. In Sonora, tickets can be purchased at Sonora Lumber on South Washington Street, Antiques, Etc. on North Washington Street and from the UCCE Office, 52 North Washington Street. Farther up Highway 108, tickets can be found at Mountain Book Shop in the Junction Shopping Center, Whole Foods Depot on Standard Road, and The Nest in Twain Harte. Tickets are also available from your favorite Master Gardener.
Come out and join us for an enjoyable day spent touring gardens in the Mother Lode.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.

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Partnership’s plant sale funds fight for Eastern hemlock

The beckoning Laurel Highlands will host thousands of visitors over the Memorial Day weekend. They’ll drive into the cooling heights for all kinds of reasons, most of which, in one way or another, will connect them with nature and the outdoors. Those who venture to Ohiopyle on Saturday, May 27 can take a bit of the highlands home with them, and help the native landscape they came to enjoy.

The Southern Laurel Highlands Plant Pest Management Partnership will hold its annual Native Plant Sale that day (May 27) from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Falls/Visitor Center area in Ohiopyle. Nearly four dozen different species of flowering plants native to western Pennsylvania will be available for sale and replanting in home gardens. But this year’s sale has a different and important objective. The Plant Pest Management Partnership will use sale proceeds in its battle to save the Eastern hemlock tree from hemlock woolly adelgid, a devastating invasive insect pest accidentally imported from Asia. Woolly adelgid has spread from the Carolinas and Virginia northward into Pennsylvania, killing millions of beautiful and ecologically vital hemlocks throughout that region. Hemlocks within Ohiopyle State Park and the Laurel Highlands face immediate threat and some have already died.

Hemlock woolly adelgid is a tiny aphid-like insect that probes into hemlock needles and sucks out the fluid. Heavily infested trees lose their green luster and show a sickly, gray color. Trees can die within two to five years after infestation. The insect is named for the “woolly” masses it deposits on the undersides of hemlock needles in which it spends parts of its life cycle protected from winter cold and summer heat. Extremely cold temperatures are known to exact heavy mortality on adelgid populations.

The Southern Laurel Highlands Plant Pest Management Partnership is a collaboration of several public agencies and private conservation organizations with significant wild land holdings in the Laurel Highlands. The partnership came together to battle invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, emerald ash borer, and hemlock woolly adelgid, all of which threaten the Laurel Highlands ecosystem. Partners include the DCNR Bureau of State Parks, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Fayette County Conservation District, National Park Service, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Brandywine Conservancy. Brandywine Conservancy is a recent partner headquartered in eastern Pennsylvania but owns several hundred acres of woodland near Ligonier. Most of the plants available for sale are grown on that property.

“In the past, our native plant sale has had an educational thrust,” said Barb Wallace, environmental education specialist at Ohiopyle State Park. “Our intent then was simply to encourage people to use native plants in their gardens and landscaping, because native vegetation is meant to grow here, and it will grow well with no ecological drawbacks.

“But this year, after such a mild winter, hemlock woolly adelgid is back with a vengeance and we’re seeing it in new parts of the park for the first time. It’s a very serious and far-reaching natural resource problem. We encourage folks to visit our sale and take home some native plants in support of the hemlock, our official state tree.”

Treatment of hemlock trees against woolly adelgid with pesticides is expensive and labor-intensive. The pesticide cannot be sprayed over large areas. It must be injected into the soil among the individual tree’s roots, for uptake throughout the tree. Wallace said proceeds from the plant sale will be used to buy the “tablets” that staff and volunteers will inject at the base of trees in identified regions of the park this fall.

“We have 300 acres of hemlock in our 20,000-acre park,” Wallace noted. “But it’s all vitally important in one way or another. Nearly all our hemlock grows along high-quality mountain streams, where it shades the water and maintains the cool temperatures native brook trout need to survive.”

Wallace pointed out another huge liability posed by woolly adelgid.

“Our biggest, old-growth hemlock is along the Youghiogheny River where thousands of visitors come every year to raft and kayak,” she explained. “When a big dead hemlock falls into a rapid, it’s a safety hazard to boaters and it will require highly skilled and very dangerous work to remove it, not to mention the expense.”

Wallace said that Partnership staff and volunteers have already treated all the hemlock on Ferncliff Peninsula, a focal point for Ohiopyle visitors but much remains to be done.

“We have assessed and identified all our hemlock stands in the park,” Wallace said. “Our highest priorities are those along our trout streams and the Yough. Unless we get more funding somehow, we’ll have to be resigned to let some of our hemlock stands die out.”

Wallace recognized the efforts of volunteer Chevron employees who have helped treat hemlock against woolly adelgid, pulled out invasive garlic mustard, eradicated Japanese knotweed and other important tasks that benefit Laurel Highlands environment.

“Chevron sent us a group of volunteers who logged over 2,000 hours of volunteer work last year,” Wallace said. “Last year Chevron even paid for all the hemlock treatment tablets. We greatly appreciate their help with an issue where the public doesn’t always recognize the vital ecological importance.”

Besides cooling mountain streams for trout, hemlock stands also provide essential nesting habitat for about a dozen species of migratory songbirds that return to the Laurel Highlands from Central and South America every spring to breed. Without hemlocks, these birds cannot nest.

“The partnership we’ve formed with the other agencies and organizations, with the help of our volunteers, is the only way we can possibly approach this problem across so large a region,” Wallace continued. “We all help one another battle invasive pests on all the public and conservation lands that thousands of residents and visitors alike enjoy.”

Ben Moyer is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Association of America

Article source: http://www.heraldstandard.com/new_today/partnership-s-plant-sale-funds-fight-for-eastern-hemlock/article_988b4886-8115-550c-b23a-e005ab834a1f.html

22nd annual garden tour highlights local gardens

The University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County on Sunday will host the 22nd annual garden tour.

This year’s theme, “Over the Garden Gate,” offers glimpses into four gardens on the self-guided tour from, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For the very first time, the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden will feature a plant sale. Plants available for purchase have all been locally grown and are suitable for planting in the foothills area.

Today, let’s take a peek into each of the gardens on the tour, whetting your appetite for the full tour on Sunday. The four gardens on the tour range from higher elevation Ridgewood to lower elevation Sonora. The gardens vary from that at a bed and breakfast, to one that incorporates native oaks, to ones that have adapted earlier landscapes to become more water-conserving.

Barretta Gardens Inn

Barretta Gardens Inn is a Sonora bed and breakfast. The current owner bought the property in 2005 and, together with a former partner, designed and planted the gardens. With the assistance of a helper, the garden is owner-maintained. Irrigation is provided primarily by drip systems. For beautiful photos of the current landscaping, go online to the Barretta Gardens Inn website at www.barrettagardens.com .

The mature gardens and grounds are “themed,” each area arranged as a room with its own focal point. The owner maintains an inconspicuous compost area to utilize green manure from the garden and chicken manure from the hen house.

Swanson garden

The Swanson garden is located on the west side of Sonora and incorporates mature oak trees into its landscaping. It also boasts elderberry plants, from which the owner makes syrup. This one-acre property was designed and planted by the owner. She and her son maintain it as a lovely example of year-round variety in plant color and texture. The owner has removed some sun-loving plants in favor of plants better adapted to shade and continues to make improvements in water conservation.

The garden is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat. A Certified Wildlife Habitat is a site that is gardened sustainably by eliminating chemical pesticides and fertilizers, conserving water and soil, and eliminating exotic species. The site provides the four elements needed by wildlife — food, water, cover and places to raise young.

Clark garden

Sally and Doug Clark describe their garden as “always changing and evolving over the last 18 years.” They have performed all planning, installation, change and removal, and maintenance activities. Originally landscaped with lawn, they have now removed all lawns and replanted front, back and side areas with drought-tolerant species. They have added permeable hardscape in the form of gravel paths, rock borders, stepping stones, flagstone, and mulch. The decision to remove the lawn was based on several factors. Water conservation was a high priority. So was integrated pest management; gophers and moles made the decision to eliminate the lawn even easier.

The Clark garden, including the fruit trees, hosts a variety of wildlife. The home owners note that their landscape attracts “lots of birds,” and one time they even observed a bear on their property.

Demonstration garden

The Master Gardener demonstration garden at 251 S. Barretta St. in Sonora is a good place to start the tour. It will offer garden tour tickets for purchase on Sunday, and is also the site for will-call tickets ordered by phone. The garden offers welcome shade, refreshments and public restroom facilities. And, don’t forget to check out those locally-grown plants to help your yard become its best.

Tickets for the tour are available in the Columbia area at Columbia Nursery on Parrotts Ferry Road and the Farmory near Columbia Airport. In Sonora, tickets can be purchased at Sonora Lumber on South Washington Street, Antiques Etc., on North Washington Street, and from the UCCE Office, 52 N. Washington St. Farther up Highway 108, tickets can be found at Mountain Book Shop in The Junction shopping center, Whole Foods Depot on Standard Road, and The Nest in Twain Harte. Tickets are also available from your favorite Master Gardener.

Come out and join us for an enjoyable day spent touring gardens in the Mother Lode.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.


Article source: http://www.uniondemocrat.com/lifestyle/5318705-151/22nd-annual-garden-tour-highlights-local-gardens

Los Alamos Nature Center Cuts Ribbon On New Exhibit ‘Landscaping For Our Climate’

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Article source: http://www.ladailypost.com/content/los-alamos-nature-center-cuts-ribbon-new-exhibit-%E2%80%98landscaping-our-climate%E2%80%99

Garden authors talk eco-friendly gardening at library – Courier

Rockland — Horticulturists Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto will present an illustrated talk on their book, “The Life in Your Garden,” Thursday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockland Public Library, 80 Union St. Books will be available for purchase and signing after their talk.

“The Life in Your Garden” represents a major rethinking of North American yards and gardens and is a call to action for gardeners concerned about Earth’s biodiversity crisis. Manley and Peronto describe how to create gardens that will help stem the tide of species extinctions among insects, birds, amphibians, and other endangered creatures.

The authors recommend ecologically functional plants — native trees and shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals — that will nurture a wide variety of garden wildlife. And they present numerous examples of insect-garden interactions to demonstrate that a garden can and should be a stable, self-regulated ecosystem in which insect herbivores are held in check by their predators. “The Life in Your Garden” shows why converting lawn to garden increases Earth’s biodiversity; keeping insect herbivores under control is not primarily the gardener’s job; it is the work of the predators (primarily other insects and birds) that an ecologically functional garden supports; every garden should include an insectary of plantings that nurture pollinators and other insects; locally native understory trees and shrubs form the bones of a garden that nourishes wildlife; if you want butterflies in your garden, provide host plants for caterpillars, as there is no such thing as an “adults only” butterfly garden; and much more.

Manley has gardened in South Carolina, Washington state (while earning a Ph.D. in horticultural science), Massachusetts, and, for the last 15 years, in Maine. From 2007 through 2015, he wrote about the garden in a weekly column for the Bangor Daily News. He taught courses in horticulture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the University of Maine, Orono. In 2013 he retired from teaching chemistry and physics at a small high school on the coast of Maine to devote his time to gardening and garden writing.

Peronto, a professor for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, has been teaching courses in fruit and vegetable gardening, ecological landscaping, and pruning for 26 years. She is a resource among her colleagues on native and invasive plants of the Northeast. Peronto oversees Downeast Maine’s Master Gardener Volunteers Program, training individuals to conduct community outreach projects that promote sustainable gardening and food security. She has developed nationally recognized school gardening courses for teachers.

Manley and Peronto’s previous book is: “The New England Gardener’s Year: A Month-by-Month Guide for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Upstate New York.”

Article source: http://knox.villagesoup.com/p/garden-authors-talk-eco-friendly-gardening-at-library/1654072

Spring planting: From super dry to super wet

In 2016, gardeners and landscapers saw firsthand the effects of the drought as crops and flowers couldn’t bloom. So far in 2017, there are no regions in New York with drought conditions. In fact, New York has received so much rain this season that the ground is almost too wet.

Last spring and summer brought a drought across the country, causing New York to experience its most severe dry spell since the U.S. Drought Monitor began collecting data in 2000.

What a difference a year makes.

In 2016, gardeners and landscapers saw firsthand the effects of the drought as crops and flowers couldn’t bloom — companies and businesses stopped carrying certain plants because they couldn’t withstand the climate. Now, as this gardening and landscaping season arrives, we will see more potential and progress with planting, but not as much as one might think.

At this time last year, approximately 33 percent of the state experienced abnormally dry drought conditions. Between early July and the end of the year, drought conditions fluctuated, putting 85 percent to 98 percent of the state in a drought.

So far in 2017, there are no regions in New York with drought conditions. In fact, New York has received so much rain this season that the ground is almost too wet.

Landscaper Jim Rose, of James Rose Outdoor Services in Canandaigua, has seen a dramatic difference between the way people planted last year and how they’re planting this year. When planting last season, Rose had to educate everyone on exactly how much water each plant needed, something he hadn’t normally done before. This season, because the ground has flooded, Rose has houses that have to put off planting for a few months, until the ground dries out.

“Now it’s difficult to plant because every time the ground dries out and it’s sufficient to plant, we get rain the next day,” Rose said. “The plants will survive well when you plant them, but it’s having the ground conditions that are right for planting that’s the issue now.”

Rose, along with Russell Welser from Cornell University Cooperative Extension, said these dramatic changes will continue to happen each year — and they blamed climate change.

“Climate change is the aberrant movement of water,” Rose said. “Water isn’t following any reliable pattern we’ve ever seen before.”

What the weather will be like the rest of this season is anyone’s guess, Welser said. One thing he does know is that New Yorkers will continue to experience weather extremes like last year’s drought and this year’s wind and snowstorms. The normal weather patterns and fluctuating temperatures we’re used to are long gone, he said.

For this reason, professional gardeners and landscapers agree that one of the most important things people should know when planting anything is that they need to be ready to adapt to the ever-changing climate. This means being ready to plant earlier or later than residents may have initially expected, putting more effort into watering plants when needed and more.

Other negatives, aside from abnormal weather patterns, are invasive insects and plant disease. With warmer winters, there are more insects that used to die in the winter but are now able to survive. There are also insects that lived farther south but have moved up here. With more extreme weather, both in temperature and condition, the chance and ability of more diseases and the spread of diseases increases.

Like any change, there are going to be positives and negatives. One of the largest benefits is that the growing and maintenance season has increased. As the winters seem less harsh each year, with warm temperatures continuing into November and December, homeowners have more time to grow in their fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as more time for landscaping and hardscaping jobs. Rose said in the winter, his company typically prunes trees and plows snow, but this winter, he was able to work through the whole season. He usually lays off his employees in the winter and rehires them in the spring, but he was able to keep his employees planting until the first week of January and doing hardscaping jobs throughout the whole season.

As the climate continues to change, gardeners and landscapers need to be prepared to change with it. Rose recommends that people do adequate research about what they want to plant so they know when and where they should do so.

Article source: http://www.mpnnow.com/news/20170519/spring-planting-from-super-dry-to-super-wet

Gardening program at prison medical facility offers renewal, hope

STOCKTON — Edward Sturdivant stood over the bleak patch of dirt, surveying the area for the perfect spot.

He finally crouched down and dug his left hand into the dirt and used his right hand to delicately place the palm-sized plant into the ground. Sturdivant is familiar with gardening — he and his late grandmother had enjoyed doing it together — and it offers him a sense of peace, especially in his current environment.

The 27-year-old San Diego native is serving time at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton.

“It makes me feel like I’m bringing something to life,” Sturdivant said Thursday.

About 20 inmates at the California Health Care Facility are participating in the Insight Garden Program, which is focused on gardening and landscaping training to reconnect offenders to “self, community and the natural world.”

IGP was started by Beth Waitkus at San Quentin State Prison in 2002. Now, the program is at various institutions across the state and at two prisons in Indiana.

“This is the culminating moment of a lot of hard work,” Waitkus said as inmates planted an assortment of drought-tolerant plants in a courtyard. Inmates must attend classes in preparation for planting day.

Waitkus, who founded IGP because she wanted to find faith in humanity following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the program’s goal is to send inmates out into the community who will turn into community and environmental leaders and not return to prison. They learn skills they can take with them and find jobs in landscaping or agriculture, she added.

In the Bay Area, IGP has partnered with landscaping companies and the nonprofit Planting Justice, which builds edible permaculture gardens for people, to connect formerly incarcerated people with employers.

“Re-entry starts on the inside with programs like ours,” Waitkus said. “We want to see it as a bridge to re-entry where we help support their pathway out.”

The sun-drenched lot outside the prison chapel was in the beginning stages of its transformation on Thursday. The end result is expected to be a garden with walking paths and a meditation area; a contrast to the barren concrete buildings and chain-link fences that make up the rest of the facility’s landscape.

Growing up in the woods of Humboldt County instilled an appreciation of nature into 43-year-old Jack Barnes. The Garberville native said he has been gardening all his life.

“It’s very therapeutic,” he said. “It’s something that really gets into your inner soul. When you’re out here in soil and working, it brings out a little bit of my own roots to Mother Earth and feeling of peace and bringing something good into the world again.

“This brings a little bit of that into a world of chaos,” he said, taking a quick break from digging holes.

Barnes said every time the group meets they start with meditation, which also helps people gain an insight into themselves.

IGP, which is a recipient of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Innovative Programming grant, offers a “holistic” curriculum that covers environmental awareness and permaculture, which is the development of an ecosystem that’s meant to be self-sufficient. And while inmates work on the garden, they are also tending to themselves through emotional process work, according to IGP.

“I feel very blessed that I can do this, especially being in an institution,” said 58-year-old Ram Gonzales of Ventura. “Without this program, we have nothing.”

Gonzales is serving a life sentence for a 2001 second-degree murder conviction, a fact that he acknowledges and takes full responsibility for. But he said he’s also trying to do his best to atone and be a better person.

“I want to change Mother Earth here and also change myself.”

— Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or acarpizo@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.

Article source: http://www.recordnet.com/news/20170518/gardening-program-at-prison-medical-facility-offers-renewal-hope