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Tips for growing a water-conservative garden


(BPT) – Families can decorate their homes with colorful flowers and bring healthy, home-grown foods to the table with gardens. Gardening, however, can use quite a bit of water, and in states struck by drought it’s important to conserve as much water as possible.

If you’re living in an area of the country under drought advisement, you can still have a garden this year if you carefully plan what you plant, how you plant it, and how you give it the water it needs. Here are some water-conservation tips for growing a garden and using the least amount of water possible:

* Choose plants that thrive in drier conditions. Vegetables like corn, spinach, mustard greens and some beans are drought-tolerant, and desert rose and snake plant are beautiful landscaping plants that need less water.

* Water only where it’s needed so it doesn’t go to waste. When you use a lawn sprinkler to water your garden, much of the spray misses your flowers and vegetables and ends up on the grass, the sidewalk or the neighbor’s yard. Make certain the water gets to the roots of your plants via a drip-irrigation system like Raindrip. Raindrip irrigation uses 70 percent less water than underground sprinklers and frees the user from constantly hauling around hoses because the system stays in your garden all summer long.

The Raindrip kit, found at raindrip.com/drip-kits automates the entire process, saving you time and water. Just turn the kit on – without needing to get out the hose – and if you really want to conserve water, set the timer to let the water run for a specific amount of time each day. On rainy days, simply set the timer ahead to the next day so water is not wasted.

* Water at night or in the early morning when the sun is least likely to evaporate the moisture. This allows as much of the water to penetrate to your plant’s roots instead of evaporating.

* Build beds that encourage soil to stay damp as long as possible. Some ways to do this include digging the bed deeper to help loosen the soil prior to planting. This gives roots the chance to go reach deeper and gain access to where water might be more available. Also, once planted, cover the bed with a good layer of mulch or compost. This will help keep the soil good and moist.

* Raise vegetable crops during the rainy season. Many areas of the country have a cooler rainy season. Peas, leafy greens, radishes and other vegetables with short growing seasons are great for planting early in the spring and sometimes again late in the fall. Because temperatures are cooler and the early and late seasons tend to produce more rainfall, you can grow vegetables using less water.

Drought affects all areas of the country during different years, so even if you aren’t living in a drought situation now, you could experience one next year or several years down the road. It’s important to know what steps you can take to be more water conservative when it comes to your garden. Apply these tips to your vegetables and flowers this year to see how successful you can be at reducing the amount of water needed to grow your plants.

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Simple tips to get growing at home 

Burpee offers a wide range of flowers, vegetables and herbs to grow at home.

Burpee offers a wide range of flowers, vegetables and herbs to grow at home.

(NAPS)—There may be few things more satisfying than growing colorful flowers or eating vegetables picked fresh from the garden. That might seem ambitious if you haven’t gardened before, but getting started this year need not be difficult. Just follow these simple gardening tips to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, gentle exercise and healthy produce:

1) Pick your spot with care. Plants need sun and water to survive. Vegetables and most flowers need full sun—at least six hours of sunlight every day during the growing season. Plant close to an outdoor water source to make hot weather watering easier.

2) Start with the soil. Because plants live by their roots, the most important part of any garden is below ground. Most soil around houses isn’t ideal for plants but can be improved by adding nutrient-rich organic matter, usually in the form of compost, shredded leaves or composted manure. Bagged soil mixes marked specifically for growing vegetables are ideal for containers.

3) Keep your first garden manageable. For beginners, try a plot 4 feet by 8 feet, or half a dozen good-sized (24–36”) containers. That’s enough to provide a satisfying harvest of herbs, greens or a few tomato plants while you get a feel for the amount of time and effort it takes to water and weed. Pots are the easiest to control soil, water and light. Creating a container garden of vegetables, herbs and patio flowers is a good place for novices to start.

4) Get a head start. Some vegetables and flowers may need to be started from seed 6–8 weeks before it’s safe to plant them outside. You’ll need to do this for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and petunias. But other favorites like zucchini, cucumbers, beans and sunflowers are easily sown in the ground with seed. You can learn more about starting and sowing seeds at www.burpee.com. Planting time will vary in each growing zone, but is generally best in the late spring.

5) Watch your garden grow. It’s fun for the whole family to observe seeds taking root and growing into plants. Be sure to water and weed regularly as you wait for the bounty of your first harvest.

Burpee’s free Garden Time Planner app makes planting in specific garden regions easy. To download the app, buy non-GMO seeds and plants, or to access helpful “how-to” articles and videos, visit www.burpee.com or call (800) 888-1447.

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How to plant your garden from scratch

For true green thumb bragging rights, grow your garden from scratch. Just be sure you know the tricks of the trade.

For true green thumb bragging rights, grow your garden from scratch. Just be sure you know the tricks of the trade.

(StatePoint) Planting a garden from scratch can sound like a daunting task, especially for those who are new to the hobby. But with the right knowledge, you can plan a successful, fruitful green space and expect to have a great harvest.

One way to get a head start on your garden is to start your seedlings indoors and then transplant them later into an outdoor garden. This time-tested technique can save you hundreds of dollars annually, as young plants at a nursery can be pricey. Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of this method:

• Don’t start your indoor plants too soon. They can grow in about four weeks or less if you use a high-quality garden starter. Check seed packages to learn when to plant outdoors in your area, and then start them indoors one month earlier to your transplanting date outdoors.

• Consider using a seed-starting system that takes some of the gardening guesswork out of the equation. For example, the Aerogarden Seed Starting system allows you to start up to 66 seedlings indoors with no dirt or mess, nurturing seeds with optimal amounts of water and nutrients for reliable germination and healthy growth.

• Add new nutrients to the seedlings every two weeks and keep the water at full level. Feeding your plants more than the recommended amount will not make them grow faster. In fact, it could hurt the plants.

• Before transplanting, seedlings need to be hardened off. Skipping this step will almost certainly result in some or all of your plants dying. Hardening off seedlings eases their transition to the outdoors, where they will be exposed to the elements. The process involves gradually exposing plants to the outdoors, protecting them from full sunlight, temperature variations and wind.

• Don’t let sprouts get too big before transplanting them outdoors. Ideally they should be about 4-6 inches tall. If possible, wait to plant your seedlings on a cool, cloudy day. If your seedlings get too large before weather will allow transplanting outdoors, transplant them into small pots with high quality potting soil. Keep fully watered in a sunny space until weather permits transplanting outdoors.

• After transplanting seedlings outdoors, be sure to water them daily for the first two weeks, especially if the weather is dry and sunny.

• Save and reuse your seed starter tray for the next season. Once the spring plants have been transplanted outdoors, you will be free to get a head start on your summer crop.

More tips to start your own seedlings can be found at www.Aerogarden.com.

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Is your yard wildlife-friendly?


(StatePoint) Being a good neighbor means more than being friendly to the humans across the street, it also means being friendly to the animals in your yard. Making your yard a safe place for local wildlife should be a top lawn care priority.

With that in mind, here are some tips for creating a healthy habitat for local critters.

Be a Valuable Rest Stop

Stock your garden with small native species of trees, shrubs and flowers to give wildlife needed nourishment, as well as cover from predators.

A source of water can also be a great resource for visiting fauna. Whether it’s a pond or a bird bath, be sure this zone is well-maintained so you don’t inadvertently create a haven for unwanted species. In the warmer months when mosquitoes are most active, you should change the bird bath water even more often.

Promote Safety

A bird feeder in your backyard, full of water and seeds, will be the perfect invitation for beautiful migrating and local birds to stop by.

Just be sure your property is safe for birds. Unfortunately, birds don’t see clear glass. As a result, millions of birds die every year by striking glass. Don’t let your sliding glass doors or other windows become a death trap for birds.

To protect birds, apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight. For example, those from WindowAlert have the appearance of frosted glass, but glow like a stoplight for birds, so you don’t have to compromise your own view out your window. The brand also makes a high-tech liquid called WindowAlert UV Liquid, which should be applied between decals.

“Wildlife can beautify your garden and be a sign that your yard is healthy” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert. “But birds and other wildlife need food, shelter, and safety.”

Get out the binoculars! With a few small actions, you can make your yard or garden a wildlife refuge.

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Garden of light

The Rev. David Meyers

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church

1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI  49306


Here, in the darkest, coldest part of the year, our mailbox is filled with names such as Gurney, Burpee, White, and Jung. For non-gardeners, these are popular seed companies. Their catalogues come with vibrant colors, promising great harvests and bouquets that make a florist weep. Sitting indoors, retreating from the weather, these colorful publications present tempting future possibilities. While it is dark and snowy right now, it will not stay that way forever. While we huddle from the cold, the catalogues prompt us to look ahead and plan for the seemingly impossible warmth of summer. Some would say, “Look around—why even think of summer?” Others say, “The cold and dark are only temporary and cannot resist the anticipation of the coming season.”

Isn’t that also true of life? Just when it is darkest, when we shiver from a chilled spirit, when our hearts are broken, a little light peeks through, reminding us that life is not all poverty, despair, and tragedy. There is the horizon of distant hope, whose roots take hold in the darkest times and grow until they again overcome the present and bring the fullness of life. That does not mean the darkness can easily be ignored or that it will depart forever. The worst continues to compete for our attention. Coldness will return. It is a part of life. But keeping focused on that sliver of light, however small, will allow a strengthened spirit to melt the burden of concern and sorrow.

The church is half way through the season of Epiphany; the season of light and good news breaking forth upon the earth. Just when the days were darkest—literally and figuratively—God broke in. A small but indomitable light was born in the form of the Christ child. That light, appearing to a lost world, gave a reason to hope and the relief that all was not dead. The Magi from the East introduced a new idea for the whole world. Other characters in the story carried that light to distant places.  And even in our own time, Epiphany brings the light of grace, shining forth to conquer the darkness in the furthest corners of the globe. The Epiphany vision of redemption introduced the idea that God’s promise was not only for a few but, through the inextinguishable light, the whole earth would enjoy the mercies of reconciliation.

Seed catalogues are the beginning of new life. It is time to dream and imagine what our gardens will look like, having renewed energy to push through the dark. Jesus is like those seeds. He brings the inspiration of a new world. His followers place their order, get the seed of life, and plant it wherever God’s plan can be fulfilled. The purpose of every person is to carry the seed of light to the world until it becomes the redeemed and transformed garden of love.

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Fall clean-up tips for your lawn and garden tools


(BPT) – As the temperature drops, your lawn and garden will start settling into a dormant state. As you prep your landscaping and garden for a winter’s slumber, it’s a good idea to review the tools you used all summer. Taking care of this task now will ensure they’re in good shape come spring when it’s time to use them again. From sharpening edges of blades to making certain the tool is still doing the job it was designed to do, put all your lawn and garden tools through a thorough fall cleaning. Here are some tips:

* Lawn mowers – Check your owner’s manual for information about sharpening the mower deck blades and what to do with any unused gasoline before putting the mower into storage. It’s a good idea to keep the mower in a dry location where moisture won’t collect and potentially rust the blades.

* Hand trimmers – Hand clippers, tree trimmers and saws all take a beating during the summer. Check these tools to make certain the handles are still secure, the cutting blades are sharp and the locking mechanisms all work. If anything isn’t up to par, replace the tool so you have it ready for the first sign of spring.

* Chainsaws – These heavy machines get put through their paces, and they can be taxing on people, too, after extended use. If you’re ready to upgrade your chainsaw, the Husqvarna low-weight 436Li is quiet, easy to operate and has the same power as gas machines. The 536LiXP and the T536LiXP models are also available, and they come with low maintenance and high-performance delivery. All battery-operated chainsaws come with two rechargeable batteries that can be interchanged with any Husqvarna hand tools you might already have in your collection. The batteries have a 40-minute charge time, helping to keep the tools lightweight and quiet.

* Weed trimmers – These tools are invaluable for keeping the grasses and weeds trimmed around trees and garden edging. In the fall, be sure to replace the string so you’ll have a fresh spool come spring. Also check the air filter on the tool. If it is dirty, replace the filter to allow your machine to perform at its best.

* Hoses – When it’s time to store your hoses for the winter, check all the connections to make certain nothing leaks; replace the connectors if you notice water spraying or dribbling from a connection. And if the hose itself is leaking, put it on your list to be replaced. Make certain you’ve drained all the water out before putting the hoses away for winter. If you have a hose cart, roll up the hose neatly without any kinks. Otherwise, you can just roll the hose into a neat pile of loops for storage in a dry place.

With all of your lawn and garden tools safely stored for the winter months, you’ll know they’ll be ready the minute you need them in the spring.


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Fresh Market: Why Market?

AWE-Fresh-market-applesBy Vicky Babcock


Anyone who’s ever had a garden—even a small one—knows how much more flavorful fresh produce is. There is something about a fresh picked tomato warmed by the sun that satisfies the senses. The flavor, the texture, the scent—fresh picked produce is simply better all-around. Longer shelf-life; less spoilage; better flavor; more nutrition—all good reasons to try out your local farmers market.

Farm fresh eggs—often from free-range hens—provide better nutrition, taste better and are more humane than factory eggs produced by caged hens.

Grocery chains do a phenomenal job these days and the focus is more on buying local, but even so, the time between harvested crops to grocery shelves is much greater than what you will find from local (farm) markets. “Local” to a grocery chain usually encompasses the entire state in which the store resides whereas farm markets cater to the surrounding area.

AWE-Fresh-market-peppersMany local markets offer events for the community, providing entertainment as well as educational opportunities—some markets may charge a small fee—others provide these at no charge.

Buying local strengthens the community. It provides jobs to farmers and farm laborers as well as local mills and farm supply stores. Locals tend to spend locally, so the money stays in the community working for the community. Farmers markets provide a venue for the community to meet and visit with their friends and neighbors as well as a healthy open-air feel. Prices are often competitive as markets tend to be cheaper for the local farmer and there is no middleman to satisfy.  With the relatively new cottage laws, small business start-ups are able to provide fresh home-baked breads, baked goods and jams, as well as a host of other products at low cost because overhead is kept to a minimum.

Browse the markets and you can often find a variety of mouthwatering delights, especially in well-established markets where vendor participation is high as competition for Market space boosts creativity. You may even find craft beers and wines at select markets as new laws apply. You’ll find potted perennials and even a few crafts. Or you might just find the following herbed breads. See you at Market!


Herbed Sourdough English Muffin Loaves

Makes 2 loaves

5-1/2 to 6 cups flour

2 pkgs Active Dry Yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups sour milk*

1/2 cup water

1-2 T. fresh herbs**



Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, soda and fresh herbs.  Heat liquids until very warm (120ºF.-130ºF.).  Add to dry mixture; beat well.  Stir in enough more flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon into two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle tops with cornmeal. Cover; let rise in warm place for 45 min. Bake at 400ºF. for 25 min. Remove from pans immediately and cool.

These are best sliced and toasted and served warm. They’re wonderful with cream cheese, butter, specialty jams or flavored butters. Use your imagination!

*Sour milk can be made by adding a teaspoon of vinegar to each cup of milk.  Or use fresh milk for a slightly different flavor

**I usually use rosemary, as it is a favorite of mine. I’ve also had luck with sage. Basil is another favorite, but use your imagination. The possibilities are endless—you can also combine compatible herbs for a savory loaf. Bon appétit!

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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Tips for a Bountiful Backyard Garden


(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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Autumn edibles: Tips for fall gardening and second plantings


(BPT) – People choose to garden for many reasons: Food is fresher and tastes better. It’s a healthy hobby that exercises the body. It saves money. Numerous reports show an increasing number of homeowners are growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

As summer’s end nears, you may think gardening season is over. The good news is with a few strategic tips, you can keep your green thumb going and enjoy a plethora of autumn edibles for months to come. –

Step 1: Select second plantings

Second plantings are the plants you use for the latter part of the gardening season. Late summer is typically the best time to plant these varieties. Call your local extension offices or access information online to find regionalized planting schedules and recommended plant varieties.

The length of the fall season and when the first frost will likely hit are important considerations when selecting second plantings. Keep in mind that fast-maturing vegetables are ideal for fall gardening and they should be planted early enough to reach maturity before the first frost arrives.

Popular second plantings that yield a delicious late fall/early winter harvest include broccoli, lettuce, turnips, collards, carrots, peas, radish, spinach, leeks and beets. Some people even claim root vegetables and cole crops like kale and turnips taste better after the first frost.

Step 2: Prepare your garden space

If you plan to use your current garden space for second plantings, remove the early-season plants that are done producing. Add those plants to your current compost bin or create a new compost pile with easy-to-use, stylish options from Outdoor Essentials. Wood-slate bins blend well with the outdoor aesthetic and the design allows oxygen to circulate and facilitate the composting process.

Next, prepare your garden space. Elevated garden beds are growing in popularity because they look great anywhere in your yard or on your patio, and are easy to move if necessary. Raised garden beds from Outdoor Essentials elevate the plants so gardeners don’t have to bend over and risk injury. They are ideal for fall because gardeners can regulate the temperature of raised beds with ease. On hot days, move or add a shade netting to protect plants from the heat; when frost is a threat, cover the entire bed for protection.

While you’re getting your hands dirty, fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little outdoor work now and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful flowers when spring arrives next year.

BLOOM-Autumn-edibles2Step 3: Enjoy the harvest

Tend your garden daily for the best results – it may just need a quick check for pests and proper soil moisture. Typical benefits of late-season gardening include fewer bothersome bugs and the soil has better water retention.

As plants grow, pick the fruits and vegetables and enjoy Mother Nature’s bounty. If your plants become crowded, pluck a few out to help remaining plants grow roots and increase the harvest yield. You may be surprised just how many cool months your plants provide you with fresh, delicious produce.

Fall is a great opportunity to keep gardening momentum alive. So get started and decide what second plantings are best for your space. In as little as 30 days you could be eating the freshest, most flavorful vegetables you’ve ever had, all while under the gorgeous autumn sun.




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Three tips to grow a bold, beautiful backyard

BLOOM-Three-tips-bold-beautiful-backyard(NewsUSA) – Summer is here, and it’s time to start heralding warmer temperatures by beautifying the backyard. So, don the appropriate layers, grab some tools and turn your backyard into something ideal for entertaining.

Families love to spend time outdoors, especially if they have a pool, patio or deck, so take the time to administer some TLC to the lawn, pool, patio and garden. The following tips will help you get the most out of your backyard:

1. Grow some privacy. Depending on the size of your backyard, consider installing a fence, arbor, pergola, row of bushes, trees or hanging vines to shelter your property from the neighbors. This helps make gatherings more private and gives your lawn a “secret garden” feel. Plus, a fence, trellis or arbor can offer a wind-break and much-needed shade, both of which can be key for pools. Flowering vines like trumpet vines, clematis or morning glory attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

2. Get cozy outdoors. If you have unused deck space, create a family-friendly area perfect for entertaining outdoors: cook-outs, lounging, games or parties. All you need is some inexpensive patio furniture—clusters with chairs and a sofa—and small tables for surface space. To make it really cozy, add some brightly colored throw pillows and potted plants.

3. Simplify pool maintenance. Family pools tend to make the best summer parties, but all investments include maintenance. Adding a pool cover can reduce pool heating costs by 50 to 70 percent. Or if your pool has problems with cloudy water or chlorine levels, BioGuard’s new Pool Tonic removes phosphate and many other unwanted contaminants for beautiful water that is easy to maintain and enjoy. For complimentary water testing, bring a sample of your pool water to any BioGuard dealer, and receive the right prescription for your pool. Visit www.bioguard.com to find your nearest dealer.


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