Archive for Landscape

Millipedes by the Millions

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Millipedes by the Millions

By George Giltner, Advanced Master Gardener

2015 millipedes

University of Florida photo

 

With wet weather or drought, the “Invasion of Millipedes” is the concern of the season with housekeepers.  They sneak into homes, shops, garages, and onto porches by the hundreds.  Even on sidewalks large numbers are crunched on the way inside.  These invaders can cause stains and odors, but otherwise they are harmless nuisances.

 

Millipedes live off of decaying plant material. Also they require moist environments, but not wet. These two facts give helpful hints for control measures.  Move compost and decaying leaves away from dwelling sides and walk borders.  Trim long blades of grass to allow the soil to dry quicker.  Trim trees and shrubbery to allow for wind circulation to penetrate and dry vegetation and soil.  Extend water runoff drains away from dwellings, and slope the soil for good yard drainage.

 

Check your home for entry-point cracks, crevices, and moist areas.  Millipedes are most active at night, therefore a flashlight search before bedtime may allow you to locate how they are getting into your house.

 

Vacuums and brooms are good tools for removal, but shop vacs are the best.

 

Diatomaceous earth can be applied with a small duster to discovered cracks and crevices.  This material is the sharp edge skeletal remains of diatoms.  It functions as a chitin-cutting medium like ground glass.  Insects and millipedes are cut and eventually die from desiccation.   Another cutting material is crystalline of Boric Acid.  Not only does it cut insects and lead to dehydration, but it is also a stomach poison for them.

 

Another unconventional way to rid of millipedes is to bring in the birds, as many species of birds are seed and invertebrate feeders (worms, millipedes, etc.).  A bird feeder will usually bring in local species, and they are fun to watch.  If you really want to wipe out millipedes within an area, bring in the big guns, chickens.  A movable pen will keep the heavy feeding chickens contained and focused in a confined space.

 

The last means of control to try is the chemical option.  Numerous pesticides can be purchased in stores from “Sevin” to “Bug-be-Gone”.  Following and reading instructions is extremely important.  Probably the last thing you would want to do is have these agents tracked into the home and trapped in carpeting.  Once in carpet, it is nearly impossible to remove pesticides.  Unforeseen consequences of chemical exposures are sometimes not recognized until years later.

 

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GOOD HABITS IN THE GARDEN

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GOOD HABITS IN THE GARDEN

By Emily Shirley, Master Gardener

Bad habits are hard to break, and sometimes all it takes to break a bad habit or establish a new or good habit is to just give it some thought.  Here’s some food for thought:

Get in the habit of controlling weeds every chance you get.

Do not let weeds get out of hand before taking efforts to control them. Dealing with weeds is an unavoidable part of landscape upkeep. Yards with regular weed maintenance tend to have less severe weed problems.

Avoid creating a landscape that demands more time and maintenance than you can keep up and enjoy. Get in the habit of finding ways to reduce the maintenance you already have.

It’s important to design a landscape that only requires as much maintenance time and effort as you have to give. Remember lawn areas, large vegetable gardens and flowerbeds are high maintenance.  Consider letting some areas go native – plant native wildflowers and let that area be for a while.  Maybe you will need to mow it a couple of times a year instead of every week.

Make it a habit of seeking out only gardening information that is appropriate for southwest Louisiana.

I have a pretty large library and a lot of shelf space goes to the gardening books.  I try to focus on plants and gardening information on plants that will grow in the area where I live.  The Internet is full of gardening information, but much of it is not suitable for our area. We want to focus on what grows here and how to manage what we grow here.  For information on a wide variety of garden topics that is specifically prepared for Louisiana gardeners, check out the LSU AgCenter at http://www.lsuagcenter.com. Click on “Lawn & Garden” & “Get It Growing.”

Effectively use mulches in flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, around shrubs and other appropriate areas every chance you get. Good habit–replace as needed. Mulches — such as pine straw, leaves, dry grass clippings, ground bark and wood products — are our best, first line of defense in controlling weeds in beds. They also conserve soil moisture reducing watering, look attractive, and prevent soil compaction and moderate soil temperatures. There are few things we do as gardeners that are more beneficial than mulching.

Get the soil tested (good habit, at least every three years.) Getting your soil tested will help you make the best gardening decisions. Test results indicate what fertilizers are needed. And knowing the soil pH can help with plant selection. Instructions are inside the soil testing kit that you get from the AgCenter.

Attend as many gardening educational events as possible. You cannot get more local than attending educational events right in your state.  You can learn so much from just having conversations with gardeners at gardening events and listening to lectures from experts in the field of horticulture.  I so look forward to spring each year when I can start attending all these gardening events!

Visit the outstanding public gardens around the State, country, or the world. Always take a notebook and a camera to write down and take pictures of the things that you see that inspire you.  When they have labels by or on their plants, I take a close-up picture of the label, then a picture of the plant.  Besides the beauty of public gardens, they also can teach us many lessons about design and plant materials. We have so much to see in Louisiana!  And, I’ll toss this in as a reminder of those of you traveling abroad.  Always look up public gardens before you travel and make it a point of seeing some of the beautiful gardens of the world while on your trip.  I’ve been to Monet’s Garden in France twice and am going again this spring.  I just can’t get enough of it!

Grow something you can eat this year, and get in the habit of eating more clean food.  One of the goals of the Beauregard Master Gardeners is to teach people to grow food.  In this day and age of so many processed foods causing so many health (and weight) issues, it is even more important that we find a way to get back to eating good clean food.  Growing your own is the best way.  You don’t have to till acres of land in order to grow vegetables. You can grow just about every vegetable in a container.  If you are new to vegetable gardening, don’t worry – it needn’t be complicated.

Take better care of your garden tools. Those that know me know that I am a little obsessed about gardening tools.  I want three of each! I also like to see people take care of their tools.   I must admit, there are times when I fall behind and let bad habits slip up on me.  When I am really tired at the end of the day after being outside in the heat all day, I sometimes do not clean my tools before putting them away.  But I try to not go for months without cleaning and oiling them.  Good quality garden tools should last for many years. There are three important points: avoid rust-inducing moisture, keep them sharpened, and occasionally apply a coat of oil.  For shovels, just keep a pail of sand with some oil soaked in sitting in the tool shed.  When you are done with the shovel at the end of the day, stab it in the sand a few times to clean and oil at the same time.  The easier you make something, the more likely you will develop the habit of doing it.

Start a compost pile, or if you have one, take better care of it. Nothing beats biologically active homemade compost when doing bed preparation or putting together potting mixes. Composting is not complicated; it can involve nothing more than piling up grass clippings, leaves and other landscape waste in an out-of-the-way area and allowing it to naturally decay. Toss in those kitchen scraps of greens and vegetables that go bad in the refrigerator and “make the worms happy.”  Don’t forget to harvest it and use it as needed.

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Alternatives to Toxic Insecticides

Alternatives to Toxic Insecticides

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener, MS Biology

A third study now validates results of earlier research of associations between autism and prenatal exposure to agriculture chemicals (www.ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/).  “Women who are pregnant should take care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible” says author, Janie F. Shelton who is now a consultant with the U.N.

Three groups of common pesticides were studied that included organophosphates (chlorpyrifos, acephate, diazinon, and others), pyrethroids (esfenvalerate, lambda-cypermethrin, taufluvalinate, and others), and carbamates (methomyl, carbaryl, and others). The organophosphates were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, especially chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids had a moderate association with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates were associated with developmental delays.

The present rate of autism is now at 1:68 births according to estimates from the CDC.  Also about 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008. In the birth year of 1992, the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder was 1 in 150, which has steadily increased to 1 in 68 in the 2002 birth year.

Therefore as gardeners, we should always use the least toxic chemicals, read labels, follow all safety precautions, and keep up with the latest research concerning pest control.

The good news is that more and more information is available on less toxic pesticides.  Clemson Cooperative Extension has an outstanding article on “Less Toxic Insecticides” which conscientious gardeners should print out (www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic).  “Most essential oils used as pesticides work by disrupting an insect neurotransmitter that is not present in people, pets, or other vertebrates.” The EPA no longer requires approval for use as pesticides due to minimum risk to uses of these essential oils (cedar, cinnamon, citronella, citrus, clove, garlic, mints, rosemary and others).

Microbial insecticides include Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for caterpillar control.  Milky Spore (Bacillus papillae and lentimorbus) is used against June bug larvae – grub worms. Spinosad, Saccharopolyspora spinosa is a treatment for fire ants, caterpillars, thrips, whiteflies, aphids, and even borers of fruit trees. Beneficial nematodes are the good nematodes that control clearwing borers, cutworms, sod webworms, mole crickets, and grub worms.  However nematodes are difficult to get started due to humidity, moisture, shipping, and temperature issues.

Bacillus subtilis and pumilus combat downy and powdery mildews, rust, bacterial spot, blight, botrytis and multiple other mildews on veggies, fruits, ornamentals, trees, and shrubs.

Minerals like boric acid acts as a stomach poison which causes the insects to die from starvation.  Diatomaceous Earth controls slugs, millipedes, ants, cockroaches, and soft-bodied insects like aphids. However use the “natural grade”, not the swimming pool filtering-agent that poses an inhalation hazard.  Sodium Fluoaluminate has sharp edges which punctures insect (caterpillars, sawflies, beetles, etc.) gut cells from consuming leafy material, however beneficial insects are not affected since they are not leaf eaters.  Iron phosphate is used as an organic slug and snail bate.  It is not poisonous to cats and dogs.

“Organic Farm and Garden” 2013, Vol.1, 2nd Ed., lists Biological Control Options which incorporates predator and prey functions in every ecosystem.  Plant nectar sources attract beneficial insects, and allow them to lay eggs near this food source.  Plant small flower favorites like dill, parsley, fennel oregano, cilantro, and thyme.  Also include annuals like sunflowers, cosmos, amaranth, alyssum and statice.  Perennials like yarrow, tansy, daises and angelica can be inter-planted within your garden.  Your beautiful garden will buzz with beneficial insects, and will have an ecological balance of predator and prey bugs.

“Louisiana Gardener”, Feb. 2015, has a super article, “What’s Bugging You?” by Cindy Shapton.  She puts emphasis on learning good bugs and bad bugs. Numerous recipes for repellants to easy to make sticky-traps are highlighted.

“The Naturally Bug-free Garden”, 2012, by Anna Hess is now available at Amazon.  It focuses on the worst garden pests that we have here and in Texas, and gives organic control measures.  Good bugs and good animals are reviewed and used to make your garden a living balance of natural defenses.  Resistant varieties, row covers, companion planting, and plant nutrition are tools for helping plants resist insects.  This is a good book to assist the beginner and young gardeners in learning about organic gardening.  It is a treasure!

So this year, learn, read, and experiment with organic chemical-free gardening to avoid potentially dangerous chemicals that are used in commercial agriculture.

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Results of a Successful French Drain

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Results of a Successful French Drain

By Beauregard Master Gardeners

A French drain system consisting of 4 inch perforated sleeved drain pipe was installed on the east end of the Beauregard Master Garden in DeRidder, Louisiana on October 27.  The depth varied from 8 inches to 20 inches as a sighted laser level for gravity drainage in a South direction.  Gravel was placed below and above the drain pipe along with a tight weave landscape fabric above a portion of the gravel fill.

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Before: Demonstration garden at 7:30 AM.

On November 23 an overnight flooding rain occurred.  Pictures were taken at 7:45 am and then at 4:30 pm for comparison.  Typically rain-water would keep this garden area flooded for several days.  Within 9 hours, the area around the French drain showed minimal surface water.  In other parts of the garden on the west end, water holding low areas were still flooded after the 9-hour lag.  The desired effect of the drain is demonstrated in the photographs.

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After: Demo garden at 4:30 PM of the same day. Photos: George Giltner

The project was necessary to prevent fertilizer leaching, water-logging of soils, fungal and bacterial infections of planted materials, anaerobic acidification, and volatilization of sulfur and nitrogen compounds.

 

 

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Why Keeping a Garden Journal is so Important and, How to Keep it Simple

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Why Keeping a Garden Journal is so Important and,     How to Keep it Simple

By: Emily Shirley, Adv. Master Gardener

We have mentioned the idea of keeping a garden journal and all the advantages of doing so, but we continue to get comments on why people don’t seem to be able to do this, as well as questions about how to organize. Some say they have good intentions and they start, but for several reasons, they don’t keep it up.   It is a good conversation to have, so here we go.

Let’s start with the basics. What is a garden journal? It is a written record of your garden and your garden-related activities. And by “written” we mean hand-written, typed on a computer, and maybe includes things you may want to attach, such as attaching receipts from the store or copies of your seed packets. You can keep your garden journal contents in any notebook, on note cards organized into a file or a combination of a folder with attachments and information entered into a computer journal. A ring binder works best because it allows you to insert sheets of graph paper, calendar pages, pockets for your seed packets and plant tags, and pages for your photographs. Keeping a garden journal gives you a written record of your garden plans, successes and failures.

Sometimes future “plans” become dreams that have to “bake” in my head until at some point they become a reality. The garden journal is a place for me to jot down what I think I may want to do at some point in the future with some small plot for a new garden area. I can continue to think about this area and change things around until I feel that it is ready to be done. (My Garden Journal has a section for “New Plans” and we can talk about that more as we talk about how to set up and divide your journal.)

For vegetable gardeners, an important function of the journal is keeping track of crop rotation. I name the different garden areas on my property so I know what I am referring to when I make note of what is planted where at various times.   We know that planting the same crop in the same location each time you plant depletes the soil and encourages pests and diseases. Many vegetables should be planted on a 3- to 5-year rotation schedule. This is where the sketch of your garden areas, with the names of each area, comes in handy.

A Gardener Rabbit Hole

So let’s get off subject just a minute and go down a gardeners “rabbit hole”. Because crop rotation is so important and is one of the most important reasons you will want to keep a garden journal, let’s talk about crop rotation and the different plant families just a bit more before moving on to the subject at hand.

Different vegetables belong to different families, and different botanical families have different nutritional needs and have different issues.

We learned in our Master Gardener classes about these different plant families:

Solanaceae – The nightshade family is the most commonly represented group in most home gardens. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes (not sweet potatoes). There are common fungi that build in the soil when nightshades are planted in the same spot year after year.

Cucurbitaceae – Vining plants produce their fruit on a long vine with seeds running through the center of the fruit and most are protected by a hard rind. Cucumbers, zucchini, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons and gourds are included in this family.

Fabaceae – This is the large family of legumes. These are our nitrogen fixers. Peas, beans, peanuts and cowpeas are common vegetables in the legume family.   Gardeners who use clover or alfalfa as cover crops in the winter need to rotate them along with other members of the Fabaceae family, since they are also legumes and susceptible to the same diseases.

Brassicacae – Also known as the cole crops are members of the mustard family and are used by many gardeners to extend their growing season. Frost sometimes improves the flavor of these crops. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, radishes, turnips and collard greens are mustards grown in home gardens.

Liliaceae – Members of the onion family require rotation just like other families. These include onions, garlic, chives, shallots or asparagus. Asparagus must be life in place for several years.   Also, when selecting a site for your asparagus bed, make sure that no other family members have been grown nearby for several years.

Lamiaceae – These are not really vegetables but are members of the mint family. These include mints, basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. These are sometimes inter-planted with vegetables to deter pests.

We are still talking about crop rotation here so stick with me for a minute. When you grow plants from the same family in the same place year after year, they leach away specific nutrients that they need. Eventually, the area will be depleted of the nutrients that particular family of plants need.

Vegetables in the same botanical family will also be susceptible to the same pets and diseases. If you plant the same families in the same spot year after year it is like hanging a sign up for certain pests and diseases. You want to keep them on the run and confused. You will do that with crop rotation.

Some will say, “Wait a minute – this is all too confusing and complicated. I thought gardening was simple.” Well, yes it is simple. All you really have to do is make sure that plants from the same family do not get planted in the same spot for more than three years in a row. If there is a particular pest or disease in one area of the garden, don’t plant the affected botanical families there for at least two years. For example, if you had problems with your tomatoes last year, do not plant tomatoes, peppers or eggplant in that area for at least two years. It is simple but you do have to remember a few things.   This is where the Garden Journal comes in handy.

Every year, before you plant your garden, refer to your journal and make a note of where plants were planted last year and how they performed. If they performed poorly, rotate that family to a different area of the garden.     This will greatly increase the yield of your crop.

Okay, that is the end of the gardeners “rabbit hole” so let’s get back to focusing on the Garden Journal.

There are not a lot of complicated rules that someone else has made up that you need to follow when it comes to keeping a Garden Journal. Keep it simple and try to find time to record something every day or so, and record the important things as soon as possible so you do not forget. Make it your own and make it something that is useful to you.

At a minimum you may want to include:

  • An initial sketch of your garden layout.   (Again, name each different garden area for reference.)
  • Pictures of your garden areas
  • A list of plants you know you will plant each year because these are the plants you know you and your family like. You will want to note plant times for each of these.   You can also make notes to remind you of things. For example: “I plant my Irish potatoes by Valentine’s Day each year.”
  • Any research papers on these plants. (This will be a one-page “cheat-sheet” where you have looked up things about this particular plant such as plant times, fertilizer requirements, watering requirements, etc.
  • A list of plants you would like to try and your research about these plants. (Their growing requirements, when you would plant them, etc.)
  • Resources. (Including favorite seed catalogs, web sites that you typically refer to, etc.) This is a good place to list local businesses that carry the things you typically need each growing season. (For example: “O’Neal Feeder Supply carries the onions I plant each year. I get my strawberry plants and sweet potato slips from Country Gardens.”)
  • Reminders. (For example. “Remember to call Country Gardens around May 15th and tell them how many sweet potato slips I need this year.”
  • Expenses and receipts.
  • Calendar (It is handy to just purchase a refill of the type calendar that fits into a ring binder so you can just make entries each day.
  • Dates to remember. Keep a list of these and then at the beginning of the year, go to your daily calendar and note a reminder to yourself – such as when to divide perennials.

Description of an ideal Garden Journal:

  • A three-ring binder that is three inches thick
    • Sheet protectors
    • Large envelopes with holes punched in order to put in the binder
    • A three-ring calendar refill to make daily entries
  • A designated “In-Box” to drop things into until you have time to put them in the binder.
    • A set of dividers with tabs.   Tabs will include:
    • Calendar (goes as the first thing in the journal because you will open up to it almost daily.)
    • Garden Layout – layout of your garden areas (with the names of each area noted.)
    • My plants – list of plants you typically plant each year, with a note of when you typically plant each of these.
    • Plant Research – file your research paper here.
    • Resources – Behind this tab is a sheet that lists all your resources, including people and telephone numbers. Sometimes you need to call others for help. You can include a “Reminders” page in the resource section.
    • Dates to remember
    • Future Plants – list of plants you will try at some future date.
    • Garden Design Ideas – Put sheet protectors behind this tab to hold pictures of design ideas that you cut out from magazines, etc.
    • Expenses & Receipts (put a sheet protector or envelope behind this tab to hold things in as you get them.)
    • Pictures – you may need sheet protectors to hold pictures if you do not just print them out on regular paper.
    • Equipment — If you have a lot of gardening equipment, you may want to include a tab on garden equipment, or make a separate binder for information on your equipment. (For example: I have three tractors, a weed-eater and a mower.) I need to keep up with when everything is serviced and making a note in my garden journal, and then transferring that to a permanent “equipment’ journal is easy since I am making entries in the garden journal daily.)

 

Keeping a garden journal is fun and fulfilling.   It is something “garden related” that gives you something to do on those rainy days when you cannot get out in the garden. Start by having a designated gardening “in-box” where you drop things such as receipts, articles, research papers, seed packets and plant tags. Keeping a Garden Journal is THE way to learn from your successes and mistakes and improve your gardening skills. And, you don’t have to remember a thing – it is all there in your Garden Journal (binder)!

 

 
Each of us has an opportunity to support a healthier, sustainable food system through the choices we make every day.
 
 

 

Basil helps tomatoes to overcome insects and disease, also improving growth and flavor. Since it is a small plant, one to two feet tall, grow it parallel to tomatoes rather than among them. It repels mosquitoes and flies, and when laid over tomatoes in a serving bowl will deter fruit flies.

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Chasing the Rose

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Book Review: Chasing the Rose

By: Emily Shirley, Adv. Master Gardener

Chasing the Rose

Because people that know me know that I love to read, I am often asked “What are you reading?” At the moment, I am reading a book titled “Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

This book is Andrea di Robilant’s quest for the name of a rose that grew on his family’s former estate near Venice. His journey took him from the wild overgrown park on the estate that had left his family decades before, to Eleanora Garlant and her rose garden, the largest in Italy with 1500 roses, as well as tales of his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia with her love and knowledge of roses, the Empress Josephine and the histories of many individual roses.

For centuries people have considered the Rose a romantic flower, inspiring poets, artists and rose hunters who dared the treacherous and distant mountains of faraway China. Di Robilant’s researches are a romantic quest in themselves, and while his explorations and discoveries are fascinating to a rose gardener and lover, there is an enchantment in his travels, captured by Nina Fuga’s simple and graceful watercolor illustrations.

“When I planted my first old fashioned roses I chose Madame Hardy, Comtesse de Murinais, Konegin von Danemark and Madame Plantier and other lady roses who were famous enough or loved enough to have a rose named in their honor. When I walked past these roses early in the dewy morning I imagined us all primping and preparing for the day together. My reaction to the roses is very similar to di Robilant’s in Signora Galant’s garden. “When I saw the ‘Empress Josephine’ spread out against Eleanora’s corner pergola, I inevitably conjured up the real Josephine. And so it was with the other roses arrayed around it. I was no longer simply walking along a path looking at the roses on display; I had stepped into a crowded, lively room filled with roses that were looking at me.”

Although di Robilant sometimes writes of the gardens of the wealthy, it is the stamina and resilience of these old roses that fascinate him, and me. I was moved by the amazing story of Pierina, a teacher who married a civil engineer and followed her husband to Irkutsk in Siberia where he was overseeing the building of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. There she continued to teach school, and wrote about conditions for labor organizations. She survived the Russian Revolution and many other trials until at age 74 she walked to Vladivostok, and from there made her way home – and continued to teach!  Stamina and resilience. Signora Galant named one of her new hybrids Pierina.

This is definitely a book for anyone that loves roses. I almost felt as if the roses discussed were people that I got to know through the book.  Would I recommend this book to others, especially gardeners, and especially to rose gardeners?  YES!

Emily Shirley

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Master Gardener Classes from A Teens Perspective ~ Heather L. Grimes

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Master Gardener Classes from A Teens Perspective ~ Heather L. Grimes, 4-H’er & recent MG Graduate.

 When my dad mentioned the family taking Master Gardener classes together I was excited because I love flowers.  However, after the first few classes I was wondering if I had signed up for extra homework.  There were classes on soil, pests, and vegetables, but where were the flowers?  I did not understand what all of this had to do with planting pretty flowers.  I kept trying to be patient because mom kept telling me we have to learn about all of this before we get to the good stuff.  Well she was right as I went about creating my own flower garden I realized that I needed to think about my soil, was it acidic enough for my roses?  I also had to think about what type of plants I needed to not only make it look great, but also that compliment and help with mom and dad’s vegetable garden.

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Over the past month I have been very busy putting all my new found knowledge to work.  I have begun noticing more bees and birds and good bugs.  I am really excited at seeing all I have learned come full circle.  I would strongly encourage others to take advantage of your local Master Gardener Program.  To twist an old saying I would say give a person a flower and they will enjoy it for a while, teach a person to garden and they will enjoy it a lifetime.

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Heather Grimes, center, with her parents, Jennifer & Steve Newbury. This family attended MG classes together.

 

 

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