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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Tips for a Bountiful Backyard Garden

SPR-Tips-for-backyard-garden1

(Family Features) The benefits of having your own backyard vegetable garden are plentiful, and can include significant lifestyle impacts, such as healthier eating habits, money saving perks and more.

A Relaxing, Healthful Hobby

Looking for a hobby that allows you to contribute to the health of your family? Take up gardening. Beyond producing nutritious foods, it can help you teach your family about local agriculture, all while basking in the tranquility of the great outdoors. Though starting your own home garden can be intimidating, there are a few simple steps to get you started. Once developed, it can yield fruits and vegetables from early spring and into the fall.

1) Do Some Research

Find out what vegetables grow best in your area and when is the right time to plant and harvest. Many local university extension programs have this information readily available online. For each plant, consider the amount of water needed, how much sunlight is required and if it should be started from seed or a transplanted seedling.

SPR-Tips-for-backyard-garden22) Choose a Good Spot

Keep in mind vegetables need at least six hours of sun each day, so plant away from the shade of buildings, trees and shrubs. Planting close to your house may make you more likely to bring your harvest right into your kitchen, and will help you remember to weed and water. Including rain and irrigation, your garden needs at least one inch of water per week. Make sure you can easily access a water supply nearby. Some products, such as an Ames NeverLeak hose reel, provide convenient hose storage and can easily reach all parts of your yard. Be sure to choose a level area of your yard so when watering it will not pool in lower areas.

3) Clear the Area

Use your garden hose or a string to mark the area for proper placement of your garden. Use a sod lifter or garden spade, keeping the area level and removing as little topsoil as possible. Next, use a round point shovel, such as the True Temper True American Round-Point Shovel, to dig into the soil about 12 inches, breaking it up and removing clumps. To encourage proper drainage and escape light freezes in early spring and fall, construct a raised bed by creating a border with wood slats and filling in with soil.

4) Prepare the Soil

Use a rake to create a smooth finish and remove debris or stones on the surface. You may want to add manure, compost or soil additives to provide additional nutrients in the soil.

5) Plant Your Seeds

Determine if you will be starting your plants from seeds or transplanting small seedlings. Be sure to research how much room each plant will need and plot the layout of your garden. Dig V-shaped furrows using a warren hoe or the edge of a garden hoe. Carefully distribute the seeds in the furrows evenly and in accordance with the instructions on the seed packet. Cover the seeds and pat down gently, then water thoroughly.

Use this information for a fruitful harvest this gardening season. For more tips, visit www.AmesTrueTemper.com or www.Facebook.com/TrueTemperTools.

 

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Tips to spring clean your deck and patio

SPR-Tips-to-spring-clean-deck-and-patio(StatePoint) It’s the time of year when sprucing up your deck and patio becomes a top weekend priority. Whether you use the space for entertaining or for solitude, you’ll want it clean, comfortable and safe this spring.

Take time to dust off your outdoor furniture and wipe down cushions that have been in storage all winter. Inspect flower pots, bird feeders and other outdoor décor to ensure they withstood the cooler months. Replace anything that is damaged.

Before setting furniture and décor back, give the surface below a good clean. Whether you’re dealing with cement, brick or wood, the quickest and most thorough way to deep clean and restore surfaces to a like-new condition is with a pressure washer. Knowing how to use one properly is important for a quality job and for your safety.

Usage Tips

• Different surfaces require different cleaning techniques. Ensure you’re following the instructions for the surface you’re cleaning.

• Always read and follow the operator’s manual and all operating instructions.

• High-pressure spray can cut through skin, so never spray people or animals. Wear closed-toed shoes and goggles while pressure washing.

• Assume a solid stance and firmly grasp the spray gun with both hands to avoid injury if the gun kicks back before squeezing the spray gun trigger.

• Never spray near power lines, service feeds, electrical meters, wiring and windows.

• Check the engine oil level each time you use a pressure washer. When changing or adding oil, don’t overfill the engine crankcase. Doing so can cause smoking, hard starting, spark plug fouling and oil saturation of the air filter.

Buying Tips

Buying a pressure washer for the first time or replacing an old one?  Here are some guidelines:

• Pressure washers are categorized in groups based upon frequency of use and the types of products and surfaces they are best suited for cleaning.

Selecting the right pressure washer for your needs depends on what you’re going to clean, how often you plan to do so, and how much time you want to spend. Ask yourself these questions before making a purchase.

• Look for a versatile pressure washer that can be used for a variety of tasks. For example, the new Briggs & Stratton POWERflow+ pressure washer has both a high pressure and a high flow mode for different spring cleaning chores. Deep clean your patio and driveway in high pressure mode or clean more delicate surfaces and rinse away debris in high flow mode.

• Consider going green with a model having reduced environmental impact. If you have an older pressure washer, a newer model could offer lower emissions and better fuel efficiency.

• Learn more about pressure washers before making an investment. For a buying guide and instructional videos, visit www.BriggsAndStratton.com.

With a deep clean, you can restore and refresh your home’s outdoor spaces and make them a friendly place to relax and have fun.

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Fresh market

DIG-Fresh-market-strawberries

Nothing says “Summer” like strawberries!  The earliest of the summer fruits, these tasty treats usually hit Markets in early to mid-June, lending themselves to open houses and wedding receptions. Bright red and heart-shaped, these nutrition rich berries are associated with Venus, the Goddess of Love. In parts of Bavaria, ranchers attach baskets of strawberries to the horns of their cattle. These are believed to attract magical elves, which then repay the ranchers by providing them with healthy calves and cows that produce plenty of milk.

Studies have shown that eating  berries can help prevent memory loss as well as reduce the risk of heart disease.  It is a rich source of vitamin C, a powerful natural antioxidant. Consumption of fruits rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious disease and counter inflammation. It is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, which is essential for maintaining healthy bone structure, absorbing calcium, and creating enzymes that build bone. For a healthy choice, why not grill some fish or chicken? Pass the salsa please.

 

Strawberry Salsa

1 c. coarsely chopped strawberries

1 Tbsp. orange juice

1 tsp. grated orange peel

1 green onion, finely chopped, top included

1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

2 Tbsp. dried currants

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Chill.

Makes six servings, 1/4 cup each. Each serving has 20 calories, no fat, 22 milligrams of sodium, 0.5 gram of fiber and 15 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

 

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue. For more information call 616-696-1718. Like them on facebook for updates.

 

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EarthTalk®

E – The Environmental Magazine

 

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that, despite the popularity of organic foods, clothing and other products, organic agriculture is still only practiced on a tiny percentage of land worldwide. What’s getting in the way?

Larry McFarlane, 

Boston, MA

 

Changing perceptions about just how much healthier organic foods are than non-organic foods are impacting the growth of the sector. But even if the personal health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant or clear, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture still make the practice well worth supporting. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Changing perceptions about just how much healthier organic foods are than non-organic foods are impacting the growth of the sector. But even if the personal health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant or clear, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture still make the practice well worth supporting. Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Organic production may still represent only a small fraction of agricultural sales in the U.S. and worldwide, but it as been growing rapidly over the last two decades. According to the latest global census of farming practices, the area of land certified as organic makes up less than one percent of global agricultural land—but it has grown more than threefold since 1999, with upwards of 37 million hectares of land worldwide now under organic cultivation. The Organic Trade Association forecasts steady growth of nine percent or more annually for organic agriculture in the foreseeable future.
But despite this growth, no one expects organic agriculture to top conventional techniques any time soon. The biggest hurdle for organics is the added cost of sustainable practices. “The cost of organic food is higher than that of conventional food because the organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food,” reports the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). “The intensive management and labor used in organic production are frequently (though not always) more expensive than the chemicals routinely used on conventional farms.” However, there is evidence that if the indirect costs of conventional food production—such as the impact on public health of chemicals released into our air and water—were factored in, non-organic foods would cost the same or as much as organic foods.

Other problems for organic foods include changing perceptions about just how much healthier they are than non-organics. “Many devotees of organic foods purchase them in order to avoid exposure to harmful levels of pesticides,” writes Henry I. Miller in Forbes. “But that’s a poor rationale: Non-organic fruits and vegetables had more pesticide residue, to be sure, but more than 99 percent of the time the levels were below the permissible, very conservative safety limits set by regulators—limits that are established by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.”

He adds that just because a farm is organic doesn’t mean the food it produces will be free of potentially toxic elements. While organic standards may preclude the use of synthetic inputs, organic farms often utilize so-called “natural” pesticides and what Miller calls “pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer” that can also end up making consumers sick and have been linked to cancers and other serious illnesses (like their synthetic counterparts). Miller believes that as more consumers become aware of these problems, the percentage of the agriculture market taken up by organics will begin to shrink.

Another challenge facing the organic sector is a shortage of organic raw materials such as grain, sugar and livestock feed. Without a steady supply of these basics, organic farmers can’t harvest enough products to make their businesses viable. Meanwhile, competition from food marketed as “locally grown” or “natural” is also cutting into organic’s slice of the overall agriculture pie.

Organic agriculture is sure to keep growing for years to come. And even if the health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture—which are, of course, also public health advantages—make the practice well worth supporting.

 

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

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Soup up your yard with homegrown superfruits

Black Lace elderberry can beautify the landscape and provide bumper crops of nutritious fruits.

Black Lace elderberry can beautify the landscape and provide bumper crops of nutritious fruits.

(NAPS) Superfruits—fruits that are exceptionally rich in vitamins and antioxidants—are popular ingredients in a variety of healthy foods.

Fortunately, although “superfruit” connotes something rare and exotic, a surprising number of these plants, including aronia, elderberry and goji berry, are hardy shrubs that can be grown right in your backyard. They’re easy to grow and require no spraying or complicated pruning and produce pound after pound of juicy, nutritious fruit every year.

Aronia

Aronia is a large shrub native to eastern North America. With showy white flowers in spring and blazing red leaves in autumn, it makes an excellent choice for landscaping around your home. Large clusters of glossy black berries ripen in late summer, making aronia a standout in the kitchen as well as the garden.

The fruits are sometimes known as chokeberries because of their very sour flavor but they can be sweetened and used in juice, jam, desserts, even wine, which makes it even easier to savor their high levels of antioxidants and vitamins. In fact, they’ve been enjoyed in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia for decades.

Aronia tolerates winter temperatures as low as -40° F, and does best when planted where it will get at least six hours of sun each day.

Elderberry

Elderberry is another North American native shrub that you can count on to beautify the landscape and provide bumper crops of nutritious fruits.

Varieties that have been se-lected for ornamental foliage are especially useful for home gardeners, as they are even more attractive than plain green wild types.

Black Lace, which was developed in England, where elderberry flowers and berries are eaten regularly, has delicate, lacy foliage in a dramatic near-black color.

Black Beauty has bigger, bolder foliage but the same dark purple-black color. Both offer large pink flowers that give way to small black berries that are very high in vitamin C; research suggests they can be effective in minimizing flu symptoms.

Elderberry plants don’t mind cold weather, surviving through temperatures of -25° F, and they can grow well even in partial shade (up to four hours a day). For the most abundant elderberry harvest, you should put at least two plants in your garden.

Sweet Lifeberry goji produces antioxidant-packed berries of exceptional vigor, flavor and size.

Sweet Lifeberry goji produces antioxidant-packed berries of exceptional vigor, flavor and size.

Goji Berries

Goji berries are antioxidant-packed and sell for high prices at health food stores but they’re actually easy-to-grow shrubs. Also known as wolfberry, the rich purple flowers appear in early summer and are followed by gleaming red berries. The plants produce fruit continuously until autumn and never need spraying or special attention.

Though goji has been popular in China for many centuries, specially selected varieties have only recently become available in North America. These include Sweet Lifeberry and Big Lifeberry goji from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs, and they were chosen for their exceptional vigor, flavor and size.

Goji berries can tolerate temperatures as low as -20° F. They need to be grown in a sunny spot but they’re not fussy about soil and need little water or fertilizer once they’re established. They can be planted in the ground or grown in a large pot on a deck or patio.

Learn More 

You can find all these plants at a garden center, in the fruits or the shrubs section. They cost between $20 and $50 depending on size.

For further facts, tips and re-cipes, visit www.ProvenWinners.com/VitaminBerries.

 

 

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Fresh Market

DIG-RhubarbBy Vicky Babcock

With asparagus season nearly behind us, it is time to consider other vegetables to round out our diets. Look for sugar peas and zucchini soon at your local farmers markets. Another vegetable that enjoys a fairly long season is the mixed-up and often misunderstood rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable high in vitamin C. It is also a good source of magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese. It is low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol.

Only the stalks are used in rhubarb as the rhubarb leaf contains oxolates and anthraquinone glycosides making it poisonous to humans and other animals.

While rhubarb lends itself most often to recipes you would consider the property of fruit, it is also a great base for relishes. Try the following with grilled brats or pork chops. We think you’ll agree that it’s a great choice in your diet.

Rhubarb Relish

2 quarts chopped rhubarb

3 lbs. brown sugar

1 qt. vinegar

2 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. salt

6 small onions

2 tsp. pepper

Cook together rhubarb, onions and vinegar for 20 minutes.  Add spices and cook slowly for one hour. Place hot into clean canning jars and seal.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Township Farmers Everything Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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Creative ways to use containers in your landscape

DIG-Creative-ways-Patio-container-gardenby Melinda Myers

 

Container gardens have long been used to add a spot of color by a front entrance or expand planting space in city lots, balconies and decks. Don’t let past experience and tradition limit your vision.Try one or more of these attractive, fun and functional ways to include containers in your landscape, large or small.

Add vertical interest to any garden or garden space. Select a large attractive container filled with tall plants like papyrus and canna. Or elevate a small pot on steppers or an overturned pot for added height. Create height with smaller pots and plants by strategically stacking and planting them into a creative planting. Try setting any of these planters right in the garden to create a dramatic focal point.

Create a privacy screen or mask a bad view. Use an arbor or other support for hanging baskets and then place a few containers below for an attractive screen. Or create a garden of containers to provide seasonal interest using a variety of plants. Use trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses for height. Save money by purchasing smaller plants. Elevate these on overturned pots for added height and impact. Mask the mechanics by wrapping the pots in burlap. Then add a few colorful self-watering pots in the foreground for added color and beauty. Fill these with annuals or perennials for additional seasonal interest.

Bring the garden right to your back door for ease of harvest and added entertainment. A self-watering patio planter, windowbox, or rail planter reduces maintenance and makes harvesting herbs as easy as reaching out the window or backdoor. Plus, guests will have fun harvesting their own fresh mint for mojitos or greens for their salads.

Define outdoor living spaces within your landscape. Use containers as walls and dividers to separate entertaining and play areas from quiet reflective spaces. And consider using pots with built in casters or set them on moveable saucers to make moving these pots easier. This way you can expand and shrink individual spaces as needed simply by moving the pots.

Create your own vacation paradise. Use planters filled with cannas, bananas, palms and New Zealand flax for a more tropical flare. Add some wicker furniture to complete the scene. Or fill vertical gardens, an old child’s wagon, metal colander or wooden and concrete planters with cacti and succulents. Add some old branches and large stones. You’ll feel as though you’ve hiked into the desert.

All you need is a bit of space and creativity to find fun new ways to put containers to work for you in the garden this season.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. Her web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos, podcasts, garden tips and more.

 

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Protecting your landscape from wildlife damage

DIG-Protect-lawn-from-wildlifeby Melinda Myers

 

They’re cute, they’re furry and they love to eat – your landscape that is.  If you are battling with rabbits, deer, groundhogs or other wildlife, don’t give up.  And if you are lucky enough to be wildlife-free at the moment, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage before these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine.

Anyone who has battled wildlife knows the frustration and difficulty involved in controlling them. Your best defense is a fence. A four-foot-high fence anchored tightly to the ground will keep out rabbits. Five-foot high fences around small garden areas will usually keep out deer. They seem to avoid these small confined spaces. The larger the area the more likely deer will enter. Woodchucks are more difficult. They will dig under or climb over the fence. You must place the fence at least 12 inches below the soil surface with 4 to 5 feet above the ground. Make sure gates are also secured from animals.

Some communities allow electric fences that provide a slight shock to help keep deer out of the landscape. Another option is the wireless deer fence. The system uses plastic posts with wire tips charged by AA batteries. The plastic tip is filled with a deer attractant.  When the deer nuzzles the tip it gets a light shock, encouraging it to move on to other feeding grounds.

Scare tactics have been used for many years. Motion sensitive sprinklers, blow up owls, clanging pans and rubber snakes strategically placed around a garden may help scare away unwanted critters. Unfortunately urban animals are used to noise and may not be alarmed. Move and alternate the various scare tactics for more effective control.  The animals won’t be afraid of an owl that hasn’t moved in two weeks.

Homemade and commercial repellents can also be used. Make sure they are safe to use on food crops if treating fruits and vegetables. You’ll have the best results if applied before the animals start feeding. It is easier to prevent damage than break old feeding patterns. Look for natural products like those found in Messina Wildlife’s Animal Stopper line. They are made of herbs and smell good, so they repel animals without repelling you and your guests.

Live trapping can be inhumane and should be a last option. Babies can be separated from their parents, animals can be released in unfamiliar territory, and trapped animals can suffer from heat and a lack of food and water. Plus, once you catch the animal, you need to find a place to release it. The nearby parks, farms and forests already have too many of their own animals and therefore they don’t want yours.

The key to success is variety, persistence, and adaptability. Watch for animal tracks, droppings and other signs that indicate wildlife have moved into your area. Apply repellents and install scare tactics and fencing before the animals begin feeding. Try a combination of tactics, continually monitor for damage and make changes as needed.  And when you feel discouraged, remember that gardeners have been battling animals in the garden long before us.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, features gardening videos, gardening tips, podcasts, and more.    

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Make your water work harder this year

_Car-Road-trip-tire-tips2(NAPS)—Many homeowners looking to maximize the efficiency of their outdoor water use turn to drip irrigation systems as a solution for keeping weeds, diseases, garden pests, scorching heat and high water bills at bay. Drip irrigation systems are easily set up by even a novice gardener and will deliver an immediate water savings as they place the exact amount of water slowly and evenly at the plant’s roots—where it’s needed most.

Here are some drip basics to help you save water:

1. Start by estimating the water needs of your plants. Knowledgeable and helpful staff at a garden center can assist you in determining just how much water your plants need to be healthy. Different plants will have different requirements depending on their variety and the conditions of your yard, such as sun exposure and soil type.

2. Drip systems can either be incorporated into an existing automatic sprinkler system or through a manual connection to an outdoor hose faucet. A manual hose-end connection can also be easily automated by using a battery-operated timer such as the Rain Bird Electronic Garden Hose Watering Timer.

3. For optimum performance, keep your water pressure under control with a pressure regulator. These simple devices keep your water pressure in the ideal range of within 20 to 50 psi. Drip systems are most efficient when operating at the correct pressure.

4. Include a filter in your system to prevent clogging. Drip uses smaller diameter openings than traditional sprinklers, so tiny bits of dirt and debris may clog your system if you don’t use a filter. The good news is that filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

A well-designed drip irrigation system will lose practically no water to runoff, deep percolation or evaporation. Steady, consistent watering can also lower plant stress, which leads to healthier and happier plants while lowering your water bill.

Rain Bird, a global leader in irrigation technology, offers an online step-by-step guide to drip irrigation in addition to interactive demos and a drip calculation program to help homeowners and contractors design and schedule drip irrigation systems correctly. You can check it out at www.rain bird.com.

 

 

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Maximize your harvest with limited space

DIG-Maximize-harvest-Cucumber-7.11by gardening expert Melinda Myers

 

Increase your garden’s productivity even when space, time and energy are limited. Just follow these six simple planting, maintenance and harvesting techniques for a more bountiful harvest.

Maximize your planting space with wide rows. Leave just enough room for plants to reach their maximum size. Make wide rows, 4 to 5 feet wide, so you can reach all plants for maintenance and harvest. Minimizing walkways means more planting space.

Try interplanting. Grow short season crops like lettuce and radishes between long season crops like cabbage, tomatoes and peppers. The short season crops will be ready to harvest when the long season crops are reaching mature size. You’ll double your harvest and grow more vegetables, not weeds between your longer season plants.

Grow more plants per row with succession planting. Start the season with cool season vegetables like lettuce and spinach. Once these are harvested and temperatures warm replace with beans and onions. Harvest these and plant a fall crop of radishes or lettuce.

When you use these intensive planting techniques, be sure to incorporate a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer, at the start of the season. Then add a mid-season nutrient boost if needed. The slow release nitrogen won’t burn even during the hot dry weather of summer. Plus, it won’t interfere with flowering or fruiting.

Go vertical. Train vine crops up decorative or functional trellises and supports. You’ll not only save space, but you will also reduce disease problems and increase the harvest. Growing cucumbers and melons increases light penetration and airflow, reducing the risk of fungal diseases. Pole beans are much easier to harvest and produce an additional picking. Secure large fruited vegetables like melons to the trellis with a cloth sling.

Be sure to plant vegetables in containers if in-ground space is limited. A 5-gallon bucket or comparable size container is perfect for a tomato. Peppers and eggplants will thrive in a bit smaller pot. Grow vine crops in containers and allow them to crawl over the deck or patio instead of valuable gardening space. Mix flowers and herbs in with your vegetables. You’ll increase the beauty while adding additional fragrance to the pot.

Harvest often and at the proper time. Zucchini and other summer squash should be picked when 6 to 8 inches long or in the case of patty pan squash it reaches 3 inches in diameter. The flavor is better than those baseball bat size zucchini and you’ll have plenty to eat and share. Harvest your head of cabbage when firm and full size. Leave the bottom leaves and roots intact. Soon you will have 4 or 5 smaller heads to harvest and enjoy.

With a bit of planning and creativity you can find ways to increase the enjoyment and harvest in any size garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers web site is www.melindamyers.com    

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