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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called  Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Three kinds of asparagus are shown here: white (rear), green (middle), and wild asparagus (sometimes called Bath Asparagus) at the front.

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

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

 

 

Fresh Market

By Vicky Babcock

 

Asparagus—the Prince and the Pauper

 

The earliest of our Michigan crops, asparagus usually appears in area Farmers Markets in early May through mid to late June.  A fast growing member of the lily family, asparagus can grow as much as ten inches in a twenty-four hour period.

It is a relative newcomer to the New World, arriving around 1850.  Yet it has been enjoyed for thousands of years, appearing in an Egyptian frieze dating 3000 BC.  Ancient Greeks used it as a medicinal herb for cleansing and healing.

Romans loved asparagus so much they had runners take the produce from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps to be frozen and preserved for the Feast of Epicurus.  The emperor, Augustus, coined the phrase, “velocius quam asparagi conquatur”—quicker than you can cook asparagus.

Asparagus, long loved by the royals and nobility, was considered the “delicac[y] of princes” and was in constant demand (Asparagus—Sense and Non-sense).  The French King Louis XIV kept hot houses of the plants in order to enjoy them year-round and Madame Pompador dined on the points d’amour on a regular basis. In England, the poor gathered the tender tips and hawked them on the streets.

Likely due to its shape, asparagus was considered to be a phallic symbol in the 19th century and girls in girls schools were prohibited from eating them lest they increase their sexual appetites.  Victorian women were trained to detect the smell in their husband’s urine, a sure sign of depravity.

The urine scent of asparagus eaters has long been debated and studied. Early botanists suggested that the odor was proof that the plant was not fit for consumption. In truth, the odor is the result of aspartic acid, a compound that is largely indigestible, and thus eliminated through kidney function. There are no harmful effects associated with the consumption of asparagus.

On the contrary, asparagus is a low calorie powerhouse, providing vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc as well as bata-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E. vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.  It’s a very good source of protein and dietary fiber as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances insulin’s ability to transport glucose into the cells from the bloodstream.  Ninety-three percent of asparagus is water, making it great for bowel function. It is heart healthy and components of the spears may slow the aging process. Want more reasons to try asparagus? Check out our recipe below.

 

Asparagus with Lemon Pasta

2 ½-3 cups whole grain penne pasta

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cup milk or half and half

2 T. Dijon style mustard

1 T. plus 2 tsp. flour

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

4 T. minced garlic

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)

Lemon peel for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together milk, mustard, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat; add minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly until tender and lightly browned—about 30 seconds. Add milk mixture to pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and one-half of the Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese melts and sauce is thick. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions al dente. Drain and set aside. Cook asparagus in small amount of water until tender crisp—about 2 minutes. Drain and add to pasta. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. If necessary re-heat to desired temperature. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Garnish with basil leaves and lemon peel if desired. Enjoy!

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

 

 

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Spring into fresh produce faster with early season gardening tricks

DIG-Spring-into-fresh-produce-faster1(BPT) – Warm weather begs green thumbs across the country to break out their gardening gloves and till the soil for the season’s plantings. Whether this is your first year tending a home garden or it’s something you’ve been doing for decades, gardening offers many rewards, including time spent outdoors, the ability to feel closer to Mother Nature, and of course, the fresh fare plucked just steps from your kitchen.

DIG-Spring-into-fresh-produce-faster2Anyone can have a successful home garden no matter where they live by following a few steps from professional gardeners. Consider these three important tips for starting your garden right so you can enjoy fresh produce faster, thanks to the experts at Outdoor Essentials – makers of garden beds, compost bins and other gardening necessities.

Step 1: Research appropriate early plantings

Springtime is ideal garden time thanks to milder weather, and a good place to start is by researching proper plants for your region’s early season. If you have questions, consult your local nursery or call your local extension office for specialized advice.

In general, good early plantings include brassicas, a family of plants that includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Additional cool-season crops to consider include radishes, beets, peas, potatoes and carrots. These plants will thrive early in the season and produce yields quickly.

In addition to quick-producing plants, the early season is the best time to plant other varieties that take a long time to mature. Onions, for example, require a lengthy growing season and should be planted early so that in late summer, gardeners can enjoy the maximum yield possible.

Want produce quicker? Consider purchasing starter plants, also called plant starts, rather than relying on packets of seeds. These are the small plants that have already germinated and have a basic root system. These are easy to transfer to your own garden and, with proper tending, will grow quickly and produce fruit faster.

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth

After months of not being used, your garden’s soil is likely compact and will require some tilling to loosen the dirt and encourage plant growth. You can do this with a garden rake; for large gardens, some people prefer to rent a power tiller.

People who live in smaller homes, a townhouse or condo might prefer to use raised garden beds. Stylish and functional, raised garden planters from Outdoor Essentials eliminate the need to bend over to tend garden, a benefit that has made them vastly popular. Raised garden beds can be used virtually anywhere outdoors, including on a deck or patio, and they can be moved, too, if necessary.

Whether you create a garden plot in your yard or add a few raised-garden planters to your patio, make sure the dirt is nutrient-rich and ready for your plants. Typically it’s wise to mix black dirt in with your soil to ensure that plants grow strong. If you’ve had trouble growing in the past, consider getting your soil tested to verify pH levels.

Step 3: Tend daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor

For best results, tend your garden on a daily basis. Check for soil moisture and water as necessary. Make sure to pluck weeds and watch for pest infestations. If done daily, it should only take a few minutes to verify the health of your garden. Plus it’s fun to watch plants grow and flower.

As fruit and vegetables mature, it’s time to enjoy the season’s first harvest. The healthy fresh fare tastes even better knowing you grew it yourself, plus it cuts down on grocery bills. If you find you have too much of one type of produce at once, share with neighbors, coworkers and friends—everyone loves fresh garden delights.

Keep in mind that as plants grow, you need to make sure they don’t overcrowd each other. This can limit growth and yield production. If your garden starts to look overgrown, you may need to pluck out a few plants to open up space and encourage proper growth and healthy root systems.

Spring to it! The mild, moist weather and longer days of the early gardening season make the conditions ideal for plant growth. With a few simple steps and a watchful eye, you’ll be enjoying fresh produce at almost every meal. For more garden inspiration, visit www.outdooressentialproducts.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Secret to a Bountiful Garden and Beautiful Landscape

Iris and Columbine can add beauty to the landscape, but before planting anything it’s important to make sure the soil is properly prepared.

Iris and Columbine can add beauty to the landscape, but before planting anything it’s important to make sure the soil is properly prepared.


by Melinda Myers

Spring is here and the garden centers are filled with beautiful plants. Many of us are making our way to one or more of our favorite garden shops.  We leave with a car full of beautiful flowers and healthy vegetables with hopes of a bountiful harvest.

But before that first plant goes into the ground, make sure your soil is properly prepared. Though not the most glamorous part of gardening, it is the first and most important step in creating a beautiful and productive garden.

Start by adding some compost, aged manure or a garden soil labeled for flowers and vegetables to this year’s shopping list. You’ll need about two 2-cubic-ft bags of soil additive to cover 25 square feet of garden two inches deep. Calculate your garden size by measuring the length times the width, so you are sure to purchase all you need.

Once the car is unloaded the fun begins. Work the soil when it is moist, but not wet. A simple test can help with this. Grab a handful of soil and gently squeeze. Then gently tap it with your finger. If it breaks into smaller pieces, it is ready to work. If it stays in a wet ball, wait for the soil to dry slightly before digging in. Otherwise you will compact the soil, reduce drainage and create clods and crusty soil that you’ll be fighting all season long.

Start by digging several inches of compost, aged manure, or a product like Schultz garden soil for flowers and vegetables into the top 12 inches of soil. These materials improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase water-holding ability in sandy soils.

Spread the organic matter over the soil surface of the garden bed. Use a shovel or rototiller to blend the organic matter into the soil. Rake the area smooth and level or make a slight crown in the middle of the bed.  Crowning the bed slightly can increases visual impact of flowers and can help keep soil in the bed and out of the surrounding lawn or mulch.

Don’t skip this step even if you applied these materials last year. Yearly applications of organic matter continue to build quality soil and improve your gardening results.

Apply the type and amount of fertilizer recommended by your soil test report. If this information is not available use about three pounds of a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer for every 100 square feet of garden. Check the back of your fertilizer bag for more details.

Once the soil is prepared it is time to plant. Carefully slide your transplants out of their container. Gently loosen any circling roots. Plant flowers and vegetables in the prepared planting bed then water thoroughly.

Mulch the soil surface with a one to two inch layer of pine straw, evergreen needles, shredded leaves or other organic material. These help suppress weeds, conserve moisture and improve the soil as they decompose.

Seem like too much work?  Investing time preparing the soil at the start of the season will save you time throughout the season. You’ll spend less time watering, managing pests and replacing struggling or dead plants. This gives you more time to harvest beautiful flowers for bouquets, vegetables for your favorite recipes, or just to sit, relax and enjoy your landscape.

Make this the year to start building a strong foundation for a healthy and productive 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, Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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10 reasons to love your lawn

DIG-10-reasons-to-love-your-lawn(BPT) – As summer approaches and your thoughts turn to home improvement and the outdoors, you’re probably considering a variety of ways to make your home more comfortable, more attractive and more environmentally sustainable – while hopefully increasing its value as well. One feature that can achieve all these goals is a healthy lawn.

Perhaps surprisingly, installing and maintaining a natural turf lawn is one of the best home improvement investments a homeowner can make. If you’re weighing your options and wondering whether a lawn is worth the effort, consider the following 10 benefits.

1.  Outdoor recreation: An inviting, low-maintenance outdoor space can provide a significant boost to your quality of life. From picnics and games to lounging in the shade with a drink and a good book, a lawn offers the perfect setting for outdoor entertainment and relaxation.

2. Increased home value: Grass makes a home more appealing. A well-maintained lawn is recognized as such a desirable feature to potential homebuyers that it can boost a home’s value by as much as 15 percent, according to a Gallup survey.

3. Excellent return on investment: When it comes time to sell your home, good landscaping can give you a much higher return on your investment than many other home improvement projects. According to a Gallup survey, you can generally expect to recover 40 to 70 percent of the cost of building a deck or patio, while landscaping can offer a 100 to 200 percent return.

4. Stress relief: Grass areas are naturally calming and stress relieving, and the visual appeal contributes to improved mental health and better quality of life. The healing power of nature can work its magic even in your own backyard.

5. Urban benefits: In cities, grass absorbs noise and provides a beneficial link with nature. Studies have shown that well-maintained lawns also promote greater community pride and deter littering and vandalism.

6. Cooling: On hot days, grass is much cooler than cement, asphalt and dirt, which trap heat. And grass doesn’t just stay cool to the touch – it cools the atmosphere as well. Each blade acts as an evaporative cooler, and by transpiring water to cool itself, grass also cools the environment, reducing the energy requirements for air-conditioning in buildings surrounded by lawns. According to the academic professionals with Grass Seed USA, the front lawns of eight average-size homes have the same cooling effect as the air-conditioning systems of about 20 homes.

7. Conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen: Trees may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but all plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. According to the academic professionals with Grass Seed USA, a lawn of just 50 square feet releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four.*

8. Natural weed control: If you want a relatively low-maintenance landscaping option for an area of bare ground, try grass. A healthy lawn discourages the growth of weeds, and grass will easily outcompete other plants when you create the conditions that favor it.

9. Erosion prevention: Grass is one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to prevent erosion caused by wind and water. A thick lawn absorbs rainfall, virtually eliminating any runoff, and the extensive root systems of the individual grass plants bind the soil more effectively than many other ground covers.

10. Self-repair: A lawn is naturally self-repairing. If you choose the right grass for your climate conditions and lawn use patterns, it will be highly resilient and regenerate quickly in response to stresses such as drought, frost or foot traffic.

“There are many reasons to love your lawn,” says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, a coalition of American grass seed farmers and turf specialists. “Whether you want a safe place for the kids to play or a welcoming outdoor space for a barbecue, grass fits the bill. It’s a remarkably easy and budget-friendly way to add aesthetic, recreational and economic value to your home.”

 

 

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Eco-friendly Weed Control in Lawns

Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”  
 Prostrate Knotweed is frequently found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas.

Photo credit: “Melinda Myers, LLC.”  

Prostrate Knotweed is frequently found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas.

by Melinda Myers

Don’t let lawn weeds get the best of you. These opportunistic plants find a weak spot in the lawn, infiltrate and begin the take over your grass. Take back the lawn with proper care.  Your lawn will not only be greener and healthier, but good for the environment.

The grass and thatch layer act as a natural filter, helping to keep pollutants out of our groundwater and dust out of our atmosphere. They also reduce erosion, decrease noise and help keep our homes and landscapes cooler in summer. And a healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds.

Start by identifying the unwanted lawn invaders. Use them as a guide to improve your lawn’s health and beauty. Weeds appear and spread when the growing conditions are better for them than the grass. Correct the problem to reduce the weeds and improve the health of your lawn. Killing the weeds without fixing the underlying cause is only a temporary solution. Unless the cause is eliminated the weed problem will return.

Here are a few of the more common weeds, the cause and possible solutions for managing them out of the lawn.

High populations and a variety of weeds mean you need to adjust your overall lawn care practices. Mow high and often, removing no more than 1/3 the total height of the grass at one time. Leave the clippings on the lawn in order to return water, nutrients and organic matter to the soil. This along with proper fertilization using an organic nitrogen slow release fertilizer with non leaching phosphorous, like Milorganite, can greatly reduce weeds.

Knotweed and plantains often found growing next to walks and drives or other high traffic areas can also be found in lawns growing on heavy poorly prepared soils. These weeds thrive in compacted soil where lawn grasses fail. Reduce soil compaction and improve your lawn’s health with core aeration.  Aerate lawns when actively growing in spring or fall. Or replace grass in high traffic areas with permeable pavers or stepping stones to eliminate the cause.

Nut sedge is a common weed in wet or poorly drained soils. Improve the drainage to  manage this weed. It may mean core aerating the lawn and topdressing with compost, regrading or the installation of a rain garden to capture, filter and drain excess water back into the ground.

Clover and black medic mean it’s time to get the soil tested and adjust fertilization.  Both thrive when the lawn is starving. Clover was once included in lawn mixes because of its ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil.  If these weeds are present, boost the lawn’s diet starting this spring with a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer. It feeds slowly throughout the season, promoting slow steady growth that is more drought tolerant, disease resistant and better able to outcompete the weeds.

Creeping Charlie, also known as ground ivy, violets, and plantains usually get their foothold in the shade and then infiltrate the rest of the lawn. Take back those shady spots by growing a more shade tolerant grass like the cool season grass fescue or warm season St. Augustine grass. Mow high and fertilize less, only 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per growing season, than the sunny areas of your lawn. Or replace the lawn with shade tolerant groundcovers. Adjust your overall care to reclaim and maintain the rest of the lawn.

Crabgrass and Goosegrass are common weeds that follow a hot dry summer. Mow high to shade the soil and prevent many of these annual grass weeds from sprouting. Corn gluten meal is an organic pre-emergent weed killer that can help reduce these and other weeds from sprouting. Apply in spring and fall applications to reduce weeds by as much as 80% in three years.

And, when mowing this year, consider an electric or push mower to manage your lawn in an even more eco-friendly manner.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

 

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Own your outdoors: Best practices for spring lawn maintenance

DIG-lawnmowing

(BPT) – The warming weather is Mother Nature’s gentle reminder that it’s time for plants to wake up from their winter slumber and for homeowners to begin yard maintenance again. Being proactive and preparing in the spring for the long growing season ahead will help ensure your lawn gets the best care possible and that you won’t work harder than necessary.

To maintain a healthy lawn, there are a few important steps to take at the start of spring. Consider these tips from the lawn equipment experts at Husqvarna – the world’s largest producer of outdoor power equipment – to help you achieve the best-looking lawn possible.

DIG-AWD-lawnmowerRead up: Every mower is different, so it’s important to check the owner’s manual for a list of recommended annual maintenance tasks and then complete them before the first mow.

Tune up: Handy homeowners may decide to tune up their mowers themselves, but many people choose to visit an authorized dealer for a tune-up. If you go the DIY route, remember to follow all safety messages and instructions in the owner’s manual. In addition, use factory-recommended parts and oil, and always inspect filters and spark plugs. This is a great time to sharpen the blade as well.

Gas up: If you have gas from last year, it’s probably a good idea to dispose of it properly and get a fresh supply. You’ll need only enough to last 30 days and should keep it in an airtight container. Make sure to use 89-octane gas with an ethanol content no higher than 10 (E10). Gas with a higher level of ethanol can damage power-tool engines.

Get a grip: Advances in lawn mower technology have made it easier than ever to efficiently cut and maintain your lawn, even if you have a challenging yard. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) mowers are gaining popularity, and Husqvarna now offers three new AWD mowers. For example, the HU675AWD is powered by a 675 Kohler engine, features a heavy-duty steel 2-in-1 cutting deck, a straight over-mold bail system, a full auto-choke and a mulch and rear bagging system, all starting at $299 at Lowe’s Home Improvement or online. Find a dealer nearest you at www.husqvarna.com/us/dealers/dealer-locator.

Cut one third: When it’s time for the first mow (and any mow throughout the year), it’s important to cut no more than one third of the grass blade. This keeps the root system strong and will help minimize weed growth.

Plant seed: Have a few bare spots? Spring can be a great time to plant grass seed before the hot summer months arrive. Mild weather and higher levels of moisture throughout the country generally make spring a good time for grass seed to germinate and thrive. Consider using a starter fertilizer when you plant the seeds to provide an extra boost of nutrients.

Safety first: Spring is a good time to revisit the importance of lawn mower safety. For riding lawn mowers, never give children rides or allow them to play on the mower, even when it is not running. Children must be at least 16 years of age to operating a riding mower, always monitor your speed and use extreme caution when going in reverse. Look behind and around the mower before proceeding. For walk-behinds, always push the mower away from your body, never mow wet grass and do not mow in the dark.

Use interactive controls: Many riding lawn mowers will stop the engine and cutting deck when the driver leaves the seat or put the transmission in reverse giving owners peace of mind. Additionally, Husqvarna’s SmartSwitch ignition – a new operator interface – lets users enter a keyless code for safe and simple engine activation. Furthermore, lighted icons indicate the status of the parking brake, battery, headlights and ROS (Reverse Operating System).  To learn more, join the conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HusqvarnaUSA) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/HusqvarnaUSA).

 

 

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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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