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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Cool new concepts for gardening

(ARA) – One of the driving forces in gardening is many American’s pursuit of healthier eating and greener living. This means that the new face of gardening has begun to change considerably in recent years. Today’s gardeners are younger and more urban than traditional gardeners, therefore, making unique impressions on the green world.

So, what’s cool about gardening?

From growing vegetables in the front yard to creating an edible wall of green on the balcony, gardening is not limited to just a half-acre plot in the country anymore. Now, gardeners use any space available for a garden, no matter how urban or small. The key is adding individuality or personality to the garden in the form of handmade sculptures, water features, bird feeders or even the variety of unique heirloom plants that are used. Sustainability is also very important. Plants that serve a dual purpose—like low-growing thyme used as a ground cover in a small area or a cucumber plant that has been trained to grow up a trellis as a green screen—are excellent examples of how many gardeners have transformed traditional ideas of gardening. Looking at gardening and plants in new ways can lead to some great discoveries, and may even increase the productivity of a green space.

How can you join in the gardening movement? Here are some helpful tips to get started.

Maximize space

Even if you only have a window, and no outdoor space, you can have a garden. An herb garden, can be grown on a window ledge in the kitchen. No ledge? No problem. Just hang a hook from the ceiling and grow your plants in a hanging basket. For those with little outdoor space, try container gardening on the patio or use an outside fence or railing to grow a vertical garden. Simply hang pots on hooks or create your own “living wall” using chicken wire, coconut fiber lining and a quality potting mix. Then, plant trailing produce or flowers and watch your wall grow. If you have a sunny space in the yard, create a small garden using the new Miracle-Gro Ultimate Raised Garden Bed. This easy-to-use kit snaps together and can easily be customized to fit in nearly any space. Simply add nutrient-enriched soil, like Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro or Potting Mix, and plant the garden on a patio, deck, rooftop or balcony.

Redefine terms

Produce plants are for vegetable gardens and landscaping plants are for the front yard, right? Not necessarily. The great thing about gardening is that the only necessary rules are the ones Mother Nature created: plants need sunlight, water, food and soil with good drainage. Other than that, do not be afraid to mix it up. Plant vegetables in the front yard, use strawberries in a hanging basket or plant an herb for groundcover along a path. Tomatoes will grow beautifully next to marigolds and sage will add a nice contrast when grown in a container alongside yellow daisies. Grow what you like that will thrive in your climate, even if it is not what your neighbors are growing.

Stay true to yourself

If your favorite color is blue, then plant blue flowers. If you love salsa, then plant a “salsa garden” by using tomatoes, cilantro, onions and jalapenos. Add your own touch and make it personal. The materials used can represent your style and add interest in the garden as effectively as what is planted. With adequate drainage, even an old toolbox can come to life with some potting soil and impatiens. Collect stones and small objects with kids to make garden sculptures or bird feeders that the whole family can enjoy. Green plastic bottle caps can be turned into ornamental “trees” and grandma’s cracked tea cup could become a bird feeder with a little imagination. If you have extra produce, make sure to share it. Friends, neighbors, family and even many local food pantries will take donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Experiment

Although gardening can be seen as a science, it should also be looked as an art. Gardeners should feel free to experiment and express themselves through their gardens. Let your green space reflect your home, your interests and your individuality. Make it a tradition to try at least one new thing every year and you may be surprised how much you learn along the way.

 

 

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Gardening workshop

The spring gardening season has begun, and Kent Conservation District is asking landowners to please consider using native Michigan plants when planning landscape projects. KCD and Founders Bank are hosting an educational Native Plant Gardening Workshop at our office on May 9, 2012 from 6-8p.m. Our presenter will be Vern Stephens, who is our grower for the native plant sale. He will provide a beautiful presentation with practical advice and garden plans. Information about themed gardens, such as pollinator gardens, and gardens specific to sunny or shady sites will also be available. Suggested donation is 5$, please RSVP to reserve your seat. You may still place orders at the workshop for the sale on May 12. Details on our website at: www.kentconservation.org.

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Spring Lawn and Landscape Tips

From yard work and pest control to cleaning and taking care of home systems, there’s a lot that goes into maintaining a house. Everything Home offers practical tips and expert know-how to help anyone take good care of their home.

 

(Family Features) A beautiful landscape doesn’t happen on its own. You can help your lawn, trees and shrubs get off to a healthy growing season.

“Trees and shrubs add tremendous appeal to our urban home environments, but to thrive, particularly out of their natural world, they require regular care with added nutrients and protection against invasive pests,” said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen.

Here are some lawn and landscape tips to help you take care of your yard this spring.

Clean Up: New spring growth can be hampered if it’s covered with debris. Clean out dead leaves, branches, trash or anything else that could impair your lawn’s growth.

Prune Properly: Corrective pruning of your trees and shrubs can make them not only look better, but help them grow better, too.

• Don’t top-shear overgrown shrubs or trees – thin them out to preserve their shape.

• Spring-blooming plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia and lilacs should only be pruned after they flower.

Put the Right Plants in the Right Place: When you’re ready to plant new plants, make sure you put them where they’ll thrive.

• Be sure you know the light requirements for a new plant.

• Fences or other structures can restrict air flow, which can interfere with growth.

• Make sure you have the right type of grass for your lawn. Wherever grass has a hard time growing, plant shady ground covers instead.

• If you’re considering sod, make sure the temperature is warm enough for grass growth. Firmly pack sod into the soil and water as needed to encourage deep root growth.

Nourish the Roots: Spring lawn, tree and shrub roots seek nourishment after the dormancy of winter.

• Make sure your early spring fertilizer has less nitrogen and more phosphorus to promote strong roots. Consider a professional company, such as TruGreen, which will design a custom plan to give your yard exactly what it needs.

• Be sure to keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off, and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

Get Ready to Water: Give your lawn a slow, steady watering about once a week, but adjust depending upon rainfall, grass and soil type in your area.

• Follow the owner’s operating manual to take an automated sprinkler system out of hibernation. Ensure sprinkler heads and related water lines are working properly.

• Make sure the irrigation system covers your landscape efficiently. For example, you can place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of the lawn area to measure the depth of water collected after each watering cycle to ensure uniformity.

Mulch the Right Way: Mulch can keep soil in place, reduce weeds and retain moisture. But you need to make sure you’re doing it right.

• When the soil has warmed up, apply three inches of organic mulch to base of shrubs and trees to help conserve soil moisture and to reduce weed pressure. But be mindful not to cover the flare of the tree base in mulch “volcanoes,” which can lead to rot.

• When your lawn is actively growing, return grass clippings back to the soil for added lawn nutrients and consider using composted materials to nourish plants.

For more tips, visit www.TruGreen.com.

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Bird feeder battles: winning the war against squirrels

(ARA) – For bird lovers, the sight of a bushy tail hanging off the side of a feeder means just one thing: war.

Sure, squirrels have to eat, too, and no one wants to harm the persistent critters. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with squirrels scarfing down the seed you put out for the birds, damaging your feeders and bumping up your blood pressure. It’s possible to discourage squirrels – and even outsmart them – with the right seed mix and some nature-friendly squirrel-control tactics.

Plant the seed. Birds, like people, are selective—even picky—when it comes to food. Seed is the best option to attract the most birds to your feeder. Unfortunately, squirrels also love seed. And while birds will sort through mixed seed to find what they like and ditch the undesirable filler, like red milo, on the ground below the feeder, squirrels are not so picky. They’ll eat the cast-offs on the ground and then move on to the good stuff in the feeder, and devour that, too.

To entice birds, avoid brands that wash or coat seeds with chemicals and mineral oil. Look for brands manufactured by companies that focus on bird feed, like Cole’s, rather than treat it as a sideline business. Some feed mixes are full of cheap filler seeds, crop leftovers and the lowest quality oil sunflower. Cole’s uses only high quality seeds, and each blend is designed to attract specific groups of birds.

Taste aversion. Serving seed that birds find delicious, but squirrels consider down right distasteful, is an effective way to keep squirrels out of bird feeders. Check out a squirrel-proof birdseed blend that uses hot spicy flavor to repel squirrels. Cole’s offers “hot” products that are designed to appeal to birds while dissuading squirrels. Its Hot Meats blend infuses top-quality sunflower meats with a Habanero chili pepper and Safflower oil that birds find delectable, but squirrels simply detest. Or, you can opt to add Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce to any Cole’s blend. It’s a safe, effective and human way to feed birds and thwart squirrels. You can learn more at www.coleswildbird.com.

Squirrel-proof your bird feeders

Another option is to try to make your feed less accessible to squirrels, although that can be hard to do since squirrels are smart problem-solvers. You may find the best results from a combination of methods, including:

* Locate feeders far from trees, wires, porches or other launching points to make it more difficult for squirrels to reach the feeder. Remember, squirrels can jump distances of 10 feet or longer. Mounting feeders on a smooth metal pole at least 6 feet high with no surrounding branches or bushes within 12 feet may also work.

* Place a wire cage around the feeder with openings just large enough to admit birds but too small for squirrels to fit through. This can also help keep larger birds, such as starlings or pigeons, from accessing the feeder.

* Try specially designed feeders that have doors which close when triggered by a squirrel’s weight on the feeder. The doors keep squirrels from reaching the seed. And if you’ve had plastic feeders gnawed to destruction by squirrels, try switching to metal which they’ll be less likely to chew through.

 

 

 

If you can’t beat ‘em …

 

Sometimes you just can’t win the war and the squirrels refuse to leave. Or maybe you have a soft spot for those fluffy-tailed felons. When you can’t convince squirrels to vacate your yard, another option is to serve them something they’ll find even more appealing than bird seed. If you can lure them away from your feed, squirrels can be an amusing addition to your backyard landscape.

Squirrels love whole, dried corn-on-the-cob and loose dried corn. Cole’s offers Critter Munchies, a blend of whole yellow corn, striped sunflower, peanuts in the shell, black oil sunflower and raw peanuts. Serve on an open platform-style feeder. Or place an ear of dried corn on a stick. A stake or pinecone can be coated with peanut butter.

Set up your squirrel feeding station away from bird feeders and make it as easy as possible for the squirrels to access their feeder filled with temptations like nuts, corn and berries.

If you can make peace with the squirrels, these intelligent characters and their antics can be a welcome sight in your backyard.

 

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Spring wildlfowers

Mary Scramlin, of Courtland Township, sent us photos she took of the lovely trillium and bluebells in Aman Park, west of Grand Rapids, in Ottawa County.

“I love nature. It speaks to me in ways nothing else can,” said Mary, “and taking photos helps me really pay attention to details I normally wouldn’t see. When I took the bluebell photos I also saw a family of owls—that was really special. But I didn’t have a long lens along to get good photos and the mother was very insistent I leave the area, so I did!”

Thanks, Mary, for the beautiful photos!

Do any of you have photos of the flowers in our area? Send the photos along with a brief explanations to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Get your garden growing

Four tips for starting a garden

(Family Features) The popularity of gardening is growing. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association,* more than 70 percent of all U.S. households participate in one or more type of do-it-yourself outdoor lawn and garden activity, with flower and vegetable gardening topping the most popular activities.
If you haven’t joined the millions of Americans who enjoy gardening yet, this year is your chance. Whether you want to start a garden as a new hobby to beautify your yard or to enjoy the fresher tastes of home grown vegetables, getting started can be easy.
Here are some expert tips from Black & Decker to help you start your own garden this spring:
•    Know the Lay of the Land – Assess the gardening conditions in your yard before you dig your first hole or plant your first seed. Conditions such as sun, shade, soil type, climate and moisture levels are all key factors to consider when creating your gardening plan.
•    Prepare Your Soil – Healthy soil translates to better plant growth, so be sure your soil has the nutrients it needs to flourish. Talk to a representative at your local home and garden center for tips on choosing the right type of fertilizer based on the soil and the plants you’re growing.
•    Choose and Care for Plants Expertly – Once you’ve prepared your gardening space, you can begin to explore plant options available. To prevent the discouraging cycle of trial and error gardening with new plants, try Black & Decker’s new PlantSmart digital plant care sensor, a revolutionary gardening tool that provides expert advice for growing and maintaining all types of plants and flowers, both indoors and out. Its reusable, water-resistant sensor uses patented technology to measure key environmental information from sunlight and temperature to moisture, soil conditions and more. Your readings are then uploaded to your personal PlantSmart online account and combined with real-time climate and horticultural information from your local area, for a foolproof gardening experience. This tool will help ensure you are choosing and growing the right plants in your new garden.
•    Take the First Dig – When you’re ready, dig a hole that is slightly bigger and deeper than your plant’s roots, and gently place the plant in the prepared hole. Pat the surrounding soil down firmly, but don’t pack it, and be sure to leave enough space between plants. If using seeds, refer to the package’s directions to gauge the soil depth needed for proper growth; drop the seeds in and place soil firmly on top.
Armed with expert advice from Black & Decker and its new PlantSmart tool, your garden is sure to be a success this year.
For additional tips, and to learn more about PlantSmart and other innovative outdoor products from Black & Decker, visit www.blackanddecker.com or www.rechargeyouryard.com.
*National Gardening Association’s 2010 National Gardening Survey; page five

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FFA sponsors community garden

The Cedar Springs FFA has received approval from the School Administration to launch a new “Community Garden Project.”  Advisor Larry Reyburn announced that the project is just a beginning to future experiences.  “We hope that this marks the first year of an annual event in our community,” he said.
The group plans to prepare garden plots measuring 15 feet x 15 feet, which community members could rent for $20. The renter can then plant a small produce plot that would be tilled by FFA booster members. FFA members have been eagerly anticipating a time when they could bring more agriculture back to their program at Cedar Springs. “I am very excited to help bring more agriculture and community service to our school, but we will need help from our community,” said Brent Willett, local FFA President.
Local farmer and FFA booster Wayne Marsman will be helping the group with soil preparation. The target, weather permitting, is to have the sites ready for planting by the end of May.  Several community members have been instrumental in the planning for this activity.  Dan Spangenberg, D. White, Rick Sevey, and Dick Winzer have been working with FFA members Brent Willett, Jerry Green, Charles Nelson, and FFA Advisor Mr. Reyburn to bring the project to fruition.  “The most difficult part of the process has been to be sure we have all the bases covered for safety and liability for the school,” remarked Reyburn.
“With the big downturn in the economy and the movement toward naturally grown foods, we figured the time is now,” stated Sevey, a local farmer.  The project will allow community members to start a fun project, renting and growing their own food plot as long as they follow organic guidelines.  Community members can contact Mr. Reyburn for more information or reserve a plot by calling 616-696-1200 (Extension 6131) or emailing Larry.Reyburn@csredhawks.org.

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Library plant sale and auction

Sand Lake/Nelson Twp. library looking for plant donations

Gardeners and readers will be delighted as the Friends of the Library “grows” minds this June and welcomes your plants for the 7th Annual “Awesome” Plant Sale & Auction at the KDL Sand Lake/Nelson Township Library. Donated plants are very important to this event.
This is a great time to divide plants from your own garden or just make some room. Re-home them and help the library!  Please pot your plants and label them with the common name, light requirements, height and bloom color. (Pots are available at the library.) Potted plants may be dropped off at the Library June 1-9. Plants will be inspected by the USDA and due to state inspection requirements, will not be accepted after June 9.
Local businesses, community residents and friends generously provide all the plants and items for the event. Last year, over 2,000 plants were donated, including perennials, annuals, herbs, flowers, trees, shrubs and more. The sale is from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and an oral auction will begin at 2:00 p.m.  The event is at the Library, 88 Eighth Street, Sand Lake (rain or shine) and all proceeds benefit the Library to meet the “growing” needs for youth and adult programs, books, and resources.
For more information, contact the KDL Sand Lake/Nelson Township Library at (616) 636-4251 or visit www.kdl.org.

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Pruning a shrub rose

Kathy Bond-Borie, Guest Columnist

(Family Features)
Many a gardener has stood before a favorite rose shrub with pruners in hand, hesitant to make the first cut. Thorns aside, it can be downright intimidating to cozy up to a shrub rose to try to direct its future growth and flowering.
Fortunately these plants don’t need a lot of pruning and are very forgiving. Their fast growth will soon cover any pruning cuts, and their informal shape doesn’t necessitate taming. With some basic tools and guidelines, you can tidy up the plant and encourage abundant flowering.

Photo courtesy of Fotolia

The main reasons to prune a rose are to remove dead and damaged canes, increase blooming, and decrease disease and pest problems. The best time to prune is early spring just before new growth begins, but remove spent flowers and dead canes whenever they occur. The goal is to keep the center of the shrub free of twiggy, weak growth that’s especially susceptible to attack by insects and disease.
Collect your equipment. Pruning thorny rose shrubs requires sturdy, thorn-proof gloves and safety glasses to protect your eyes. Look for elbow-length gloves at garden centers. You also need a pair of sharp hand pruners for canes up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Use long-handled loppers or a small pruning saw to cut larger stems and to reach into the center of dense shrubs.
Inspect your rose plant. First, identify all dead and damaged canes. Next, locate long thin canes and canes that grow from below the graft union, if the plant is grafted. Lastly, look for canes that rub against or crowd each other, especially if they’re growing through the center of the bush.
Determine where to cut. Prune canes back to buds that face the outside of the shrub. Cut the spindly canes back by half their length or to 2 to 3 feet long. Cut or break off canes completely that grow from below the graft union. Remove diseased canes, and those that rub or crowd, back to healthy, outward-facing buds. If you see brown tissue in the center of a cane when you cut it, prune a little farther back until the tissue is clear and healthy.
In cold-climate areas, wait to prune until the buds just begin to swell in spring. Then it’s easy to tell the difference between healthy canes and buds and those that didn’t make it through the winter.
Make the right pruning cut. Make your cut about 1/4 inch above a healthy bud and at a 45 degree angle. The bud and the high point of the cut should be on the same side of the cane so that water will drain away from the bud. To prevent the spread of disease, clean your pruning tools between shrubs with a mix of one part bleach and nine parts water.
Fertilize after pruning. To encourage flowering, use a rose fertilizer as recommended on the label.
Remove spent flowers. To encourage repeat flowering, use hand pruners or scissors to remove flowers as soon as they finish blooming. Cut each flower stem back to the next lower set of leaves. (No longer is it recommended to cut back to a 5-leaflet leaf because this removes too much foliage and can slow reblooming.)
For more tips and garden information visit www.garden.org
A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as Horticultural Editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants, and spends more time playing in the garden – planting and trying new combinations – than sitting and appreciating it.
Courtesy of Family Features

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Keep your lawn mower running right

(NAPS)—A trouble-free season of lawn care begins with a lawn mower that’s easy to start and keeps on running. The key to making that happen may be as simple as doing a mower tune-up.
Why Tune Up?
According to the engine experts at Briggs & Stratton Corporation, a tune-up:
•    Helps a lawn mower start more easily and run smoother;
•    Can extend mower life be­cause of proper maintenance;
•    Reduces engine emissions, which is easier on the environment;
•    Delivers a small savings in the amount of gasoline used over the course of a season.
It’s Easy to Tune Up
There are just four simple steps to complete a lawn mower tune-up: Change the oil, air filter and spark plug, and add fuel preservative to the gas tank to keep the gasoline fresh longer. Gasoline goes stale in as little as 30 days and stale gas is one of the top reasons for poor starting.
Riding mowers may also re- quire changing the oil and fuel filters, which should take only a few additional minutes.
Help Tuning Up
Briggs & Stratton has tune-up kits with everything needed for a lawn mower engine tune-up, including exactly the right amount of oil, a new spark plug, air filter and fuel preservative. The kits are at dealers, home improvement stores and online at www.mowertuneup.com. A lawn mower tune-up is something just about anyone can do—and it does a lot for the environment.
After Tuning Up
Participating dealers also have an environmentally correct way to dispose of the used mower engine oil for free. It’s important to dispose of oil properly because a single quart of oil poured down a storm drain can contaminate a million gallons of water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If poured on the ground, oil contaminates the environment and eventually enters the groundwater as a pollutant.
Find a participating dealer at www.recyclemoweroil.com, then drop off the used lawn mower oil in any closed container. The site also offers a useful “how to” video on oil changing.

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