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Archive | Diggin’ Spring

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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Volunteers needed for community garden

Do you like to help people in need? Or maybe just help things grow? North Kent Community Services needs your manpower in their Community Garden! Last year the agency received over 3,570 pounds of fresh vegetables to distribute to families in need. That huge amount of food was planted and harvested by a handful of volunteers, who worked an acre of land to create a Community Garden. The NKCS is the largest food pantry in Kent County and services over 12,000 families. The fresh vegetables were a welcome sight for families who normally received canned or frozen when they pick up groceries.
Merrill Post, of Post Berry Farms, donates the land, on Myers Lake Avenue and 12 Mile Road, where the volunteers plant and harvest. For the third year in a row, Mr. Post has set aside an acre of land that he tills, fertilizes, and waters to make sure that the plants will grow. He even allows the group a space in his own private garden, where a high fence keeps the deer away from the tender bean plants. Post also donates to the NKCS corn, pumpkins, berries and other food that the volunteers do not grow in the Community Garden.
All of the seeds needed for planting are donated by The Cedar Mill in Cedar Springs. Also, several of the group members start seeds in peat pots or flats at home.
This year, there are two specific planting dates already set. Many more volunteers are needed because the goal is to harvest two tons of food this year. If you would like to help, volunteers will meet on Wednesday, May 10, at 7:00 p.m., at Post Farms, 9849 Myers Lake Road, to plant seeds in the greenhouse.
Once the seeds are ready to be transplanted outside, other dates and times will be determined for planting and a schedule will be set for weeding and harvesting. If you love to garden, want to learn more about gardening, need to put in hours for community service at your school, or have a desire to feed people in need, then call Deb McIntyre, volunteer coordinator at the NKCS, at 616-866-3478 ext. 103 Monday–Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. No gardening experience is necessary.

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How to start composting for your garden

Composted soil is great for your garden.

(StatePoint) Ecological experts have proposed countless ways to improve the environment, but something as simple as changing the way you dispose of your trash could have a significant impact on the future of our planet.
By composting biodegradable materials, such as yard trimmings, food waste and disposable paper products in a pile or bin, a nutrient-rich soil is created that can be used for gardening. This soil reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, is better for the environment and will save you money. It also promotes healthy foliage and growth—a boon to gardeners everywhere.
“Few Americans realize that nearly 50 percent of the waste from their home is compostable,” says Eric Happell, Director of Fiber Business Unit at Huhtamaki, the makers of Chinet paper products. “If every American household composted, we could reduce our solid waste stream by more than 60 percent.”
He said that the average American produces four pounds of landfill waste daily, and that composting is a simple solution to reducing that number.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to starting a composting pile at home:
* Select a convenient spot for composting. This spot can either be indoors in a compost bin or outdoors in a semi-shaded and well-drained area. Don’t put your compost pile under acid producing trees like pines.
* Combine organic wastes such as yard trimmings, food scraps and biodegradable products into a pile, then add bulking agents such as wood chips to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials.
* Let nature take its course.  Typical compost will turn into rich soil in two to five weeks.
A properly managed compost bin or pile will not attract pests or rodents and will not smell bad. Therefore, make sure you know what you can and cannot add to a compost pile.
Many everyday items can be used, including fruits and vegetables, yard trimmings, eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags, and certain paper products. You can also add dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, pet fur and fireplace ashes.
Other biodegradable materials, like hay, straw, grass clippings, saw dust and leaves can also be added to compost piles, with the exception of black walnut leaves, which release chemicals that are harmful to plants. Also, don’t include diseased or insect-ridden plants, or plants treated with chemicals or pesticides; these, too, will make the compost harmful or toxic.
Be sure to avoid adding food and organic matter that will make the compost pile smell, such as dairy products, egg yolks (whites are okay), fats, grease, lard and oils. Meat and fish scraps are compostable, but make sure they do not contain parasites or bacteria.
For more tips on composting and other environmental activities, visit www.mychinet.com and click on “Environment.”

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Digging soon? Make a call to 811

(ARA) – It’s that time of year again. All across the country, homeowners can finally put away the snow shovel, put on a pair of shorts and venture out into their yards with a digging shovel for an adventure in home improvement.
Now that the weather is getting warmer, Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the association dedicated to protecting underground utilities and the people who dig near them, reminds homeowners and professional diggers that calling 811 is the first step to protect everyone from the risk of unintentionally damaging an underground line.
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811, which connects you to your local one-call utility notification center. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811.
Here’s how it works:
1. One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one-call center to notify all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig.
2. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for utility lines to be properly marked.
3. When you call 811, a representative from your local one-call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.
4. Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, who will then send a professional locator to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.
5. Once lines have been properly marked, roll up those sleeves and carefully dig around the marked areas.
There are nearly 20 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States that your family depends on for everyday needs, including cable TV, high-speed Internet, landline telephone, electric, gas, water and sewer.
Unintentionally striking one of these lines can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, harm to yourself or your neighbors, and repair costs. Digging damages an underground utility line once every three minutes nationwide, according to a recent CGA report, and one out of three incidents are caused because someone did not call 811.
To find out more information about Call 811 or the one-call utility notification center in your area, visit www.call811.com.

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Grow your vegetables the earth-friendly way

(ARA) There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.

Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you’d imagine—all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.

Water, water everywhere, but not too much

A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but over watering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it’s better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.

Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don’t have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper’s new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It’s a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe’s in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it’s best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day. For more information about watering vegetable gardens, go to www.misterlandscaper.com.

One man’s garbage is another’s fertilizer

Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there’s a better way to andle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.

Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California’s “CalRecycle” program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.

Get growing organically

From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic and fun choice of all is deciding which plants you’ll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you’re buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There’s the added bonus of knowing that your plants won’t be tainted with harmful chemicals.

When it comes to maintaining your garden, you’ll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). You’ll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.

Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you’ll be doing something good for the earth, too.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Morel treasure!

Greg Magoon, of Cedar Springs, hit paydirt his first time out looking for morel mushrooms. Greg said he was out on state land, near Morley, on April 24, when he found some large morels. “I only found a handful, but the biggest ones were roughly nine inches,” he said. “We fried them up with some rainbow trout that we caught that day. What a great meal!”

If you have a plant or animal photo you’d like to send us, please email it to postnews@charter.net.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

May Wild Flowers

Large White Flowered Trilliums command notice in forested areas and some make their way into more open areas. They are most prevalent under shade trees where they have carved out a nature niche for survival. There are challenges to making a living and reproducing under a forest canopy. Trilliums seem to do well in forests that produce deep shade. Sugar Maples’ forest create such intense shade that many understory plants starve. There simply is not enough sunlight for them to thrive.

Spring beauties and wild columbine are just two of the wildflowers blooming at Ody Brook this year.

Spring beauties and wild columbine are just two of the wildflowers blooming at Ody Brook this year.

How then can the trillium find its nature niche there? One way is that it takes its time growing and storing food and it flowers before the leaf canopy shuts off light. It does not race like the hare but plods like the tortoise with growth efforts. Botanists state it takes seven years before it produces its first flower but then it can usually flower annually there after. Annual flowers must race to grow and flower all within one year. That takes rapid growth and is a high-energy effort.

Annual flowers growing in bright sun receive an essential rich supply of incoming energy currency. They use the energy quickly and then quickly spend what they receive for growth and reproduction. Annual plants die that same year and survival of their kind depends on the success of their offspring. Most of their kids die trying to establish a place in the sun the following year. For the few that survive, they race to produce seeds that will disperse and most will die. For annual flowers to continue survival for their species, it is always a race to sprout in a suitable place, grow rapidly, produce flowers, and finally produce seeds before the first killing frost.

Trilliums take a different approach for their kind. The fortunate trillium seed establishes its place where most annual plants would starve spending their earnings too quickly on rapid growth. When first established the trillium will grow slowly using limited available light energy in the shady forest. It stores energy in its underground bank of plant stems for later use. When it has saved enough energy, it can reproduce. Though research botanists tell us it takes seven years for a trillium to first flower, I am convinced this is only a general rule.

I planted mature, large-flowered trilliums to help a native species establish at Ody Brook. Those plants already had essential stored energy in their underground stems for annual reproduction. Surrounding the few plants I planted, new trilliums began to develop and four years later I had additional trilliums flowering. Why would the new plants be flowering before seven years? I helped the plants by reducing competition from other surrounding plants competing for space and nutrients. I planted the parent trilliums near the forest edge where they received more sunlight energy than they would receive in a deeply shaded forest. These new offspring received a good energy income and with adequate currency (sunlight and nutrients) they could flower earlier.

It is still a slow process for a species to expand its population and sustain family units. When I began working at the Howard Christensen Nature Center in 1986, only a few sharp-leaved hepaticas had been able to continue life because of earlier land use practices. Pre-nature center use had eliminated most hepaticas through landscape clearing for agricultural practices. Because most of the soil in the area was not good for agricultural land, it reverted as tax forfeit land. The state then established the Rogue River State Game Area on the most of the surrounding land too poor for agricultural land.

In the area that became HCNC, a secondary forest grew. A robust hepatica plant managed to survive development at an edge near the creek and has delighted us annually with its early blooms. Gradually over the past 30 years a few more of its offspring have began to survive and expand the species population. A century had past since most of the hepatics lost a place to live there but now native habitat reestablishment allows them to slowly spread under the forest canopy of oaks. Most of HCNC still lacks the hepaticas but given a few more centuries it will repopulate. They will establish too slowly for our life times but our future generations will enjoy them.

The one hepatica that survived is likely older than Cedar Springs elder senior citizens. Because the above ground plant portion dies back annually, we do notice its individual long life like we notice for a tree.

In yards, we can re-establish native plant communities than cannot survive in places where we grow annual crops to meet our personal food and energy needs. Our yards can be a haven for native species for us to enjoy. Yards can support biodiversity being lost to human population expansion. We can share nature niches by reducing lawn areas and expanding native habitats to include wildflowers like jack-in-pulpit, wild sarsaparilla, wild ginger, Mayapple, wild geranium, trout lily, wild lily of the valley, false, true, and starry Solomon’s seals, bloodroot, wood anemone, wild columbine, and many more species. Enjoy the short pageant of spring wildflowers that bloom before leafing out of the tree canopy shuts off abundant light needed for flower production. One of my favorites it is the nodding trillium that has its flower hidden beneath it leaves.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net  Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.

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