April 29, 2017
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Unless you fortify your raised beds each year, the crops will suffer nutritional decline. ( Maureen Gilmer photo )

Kick-start your plants: How to restore raised beds without using dry fertilizers

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Are your raised beds in jeopardy? Is the potting soil worn out after last summer’s intensive vegetable gardening? Did you plan to rejuvenate that microbial world before you replant? Maybe the fertility was gobbled up by last year’s crops. Maybe you need some rocket fuel to kick-start the nutrient levels so your plants explode into growth.

Here’s how to quickly rehabilitate your raised beds so they become instantly enriched with the organic stuff plants need. The problem with dry organic fertilizers is their components take quite awhile to break down. Until they do your plants languish, lagging in their performance because they need food now, and so do the microbes that help them grow.

A good strategy for small box gardens and raised beds is a no-till and almost no-work approach. No-till keeps existing microbes underground and protected to maximize populations. This is particularly true for mycorrhizae, fungi beneficial to plants that have a webby body destroyed by cultivation. Tilling doesn’t kill the fungi. It just knocks it back to interrupt the immediate benefits, too.

Hooked on greens all spring and summer long

I planted my summer greens this week. I know it sounds odd, but my spring greens are coming on (spinach, bok choy, other Asian greens) from seed and I know I’ll be harvesting in a week or two.

But the summer greens are also an important part of my garden. I call them summer greens because they start producing now in the cool of spring and then continue to thrive through the heat of summer. There is no reason why the summer kitchen cannot always have greens. Once spinach and Chinese cabbage are finished and the heat of summer begins to weigh on the garden, it’s time for the stalwart summer greens to take over.

Is Roundup for Lawns different?

Question: How is the product Roundup for Lawns different from Roundup? — J.C.

Answer: Shopping for herbicides can be overwhelming if you’re not certain what the weed is you are trying to control or what product should be used on the weed or when the product needs to be applied. Adding to the confusion is the product named Roundup for Lawns, which is different from the product labeled as Roundup. The active ingredients of each product are not the same, with one product being selective and one non-selective.

Honey, I’m home! Sometimes it takes a community to keep bees

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Finding places for beekeeping can be a challenge for city dwellers. But apiaries modeled after community gardens have become a popular option.

Community beekeeping operations are usually comprised of shared sites on public or private properties, organized by or for people trying to turn out fresh plants or products.

Put a spring in your step and tackle these garden tasks for April

Spring is finally upon us and these warmish days are wonderful to inject a sense of wonder and anticipation. Here are some tips for April:

* Migrating birds are on their way through the Midwest, so make sure to provide water. A gentle dripper in a shallow birdbath will attract warblers, tanagers, orioles and buntings to the yard. Make sure to keep the birdbath clean and the feeders well stocked.

Transparency: A ‘down-to-the-studs’ renovation updates a 1961 Ibsen Nelsen home

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SEATTLE — Kristin and her husband had no plans at all to move from their first home, a 1911 Queen Anne bungalow they had meticulously remodeled to the period. But the kids were conked out in the car, and the family randomly had driven by an intriguing midcentury-modern open house in picturesque Laurelhurst — and really, what could possibly happen if Kristin just peeked?

Wanna guess?

Tips for growing the brassicas: broccoli, cabbage, kale

What is it about the scent and flavor of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale? We all recognize it, whether coming from steaming broccoli in the kitchen or from rotting cabbage leaves left in the fields to overwinter. But that sulfurous odor is what makes them so extraordinarily good for us.

All members of this family (brassica) are full of sulfur compounds called sulphoraphanes, anticarcinogenic compounds that make the vegetables so heart healthy.

Have fun planning an edible garden

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Are you overwhelmed when thinking about planning an edible garden? Many people are, so I’m going to offer a few tips to help you take a daunting task and make it reasonable and fun.

First off, the obvious thing to consider when planning vegetables or fruits is to grow what you will eat. Your family doesn’t like beets or brussels sprouts? There is no need to use garden or pot space for them. For the occasional treat, or to satisfy a craving, purchase at the farmers market.

There’s still time to start seeds indoors

Question: It’s late March and I haven’t started any seeds indoors yet for my gardens. Can I still sow some? What can I start? S.G.

Although the calendar indicates we are near the final dates of seed sowing to have transplants ready for planting in the outdoor garden, there is still time to start seeds indoors.

Wooden windows worth fixing

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Owners of historic homes often believe that replacement is the only option for their wooden windows. Yet a restored window is more efficient than a replacement window and can be restored for less money, according to Wood Window Makeover founder Steve Quillian.

To teach local residents about the process of restoring wooden windows, he is holding a one-day workshop Saturday, April 8, at the Kemper Center. The workshop, which costs $70, is sponsored by Abatron, a Kenosha-based manufacturer of products used in historic preservation. Anyone interested needs to register.

Marching into spring

Spring will arrive eventually — the vernal equinox tells us so. So, until you can lie in the grass, here are some March tips to keep your gardening juices flowing.

* Allow cactus, other succulents and bromeliads to rest during winter. Hold back even more than usual on watering and watch carefully for pests. Average household temperatures are ideal for succulents. Avoid placing them in drafty locations, where cold air may cause leaf drop or damage.

Always on the grow: Master Gardeners volunteer for many projects in county

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A recent article in Kenosha News’ “My Life” section about our local Master Gardener volunteers has people questioning if there are more Kenosha County projects in which the Master Gardeners are involved. Indeed there are!

The impact made by our trained and dedicated Master Gardener volunteers can be seen throughout our communities at local schools, municipal buildings and other non-profit facilities.

Attract beneficial insects with these easy ornamental plants

I know we are all thinking about the garden even though we’ve been hit with another round of cold and snow. But right now we have the luxury of time to do a little planning and to look for ways to have beautiful gardens and landscapes without a huge outlay of time and effort.

One of the keys to growing a successful garden without too much intervention (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) is to help the garden reach an ecological balance in which the garden is filled with beneficial insects. These insects prey on the pests that cause problems, and a good balance of predator to prey keeps your garden healthy.

Catch some rays in a winter sun space

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It’s called a “false spring” when the weather turns mild for a few weeks between rain and snow storms of late winter. The skies clear and weak winter sun comes shining through as we approach the equinox. Although it may look warm from indoors, the moment you step out, the icy wind reminds you it’s still winter.

Just imagine if you had a spot to relax outdoors where this UV energy is intensified. Block air movement and the resulting sun-drenched space becomes a naturally warmed solar sink. Similar scenarios were sought by man and animals alike as the age-old way of warming the body naturally during sunny days of winter.

First, put garden on paper

My first seeds have come, so I can’t wait any longer to plan my vegetable garden. This year I’m planning to have the best garden ever. Heard that before? I couldn’t resist ordering what sounded fun, even though I’m doing things backwards by ordering before I plan. I have enough space, though, to grow what I want so I can choose my vegetables first and then decide where to plant them. With a small garden, it’s more critical to carefully choose what to plant according the space available.

Of course, it’s hard not to order absolutely everything that’s new, sounds tasty or is even just something different that I’ve never tried. But I think I’ve done a fairly good job of remembering last year’s excesses, and I scaled back my seed order for a more modest but more varied planting.

How to build better soil? Stop treating it like dirt

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The key to a great garden? Look under your feet and start valuing your soil.

“We treat soil like dirt, and they are not the same thing,” said noted soil scientist Steve Andrews, the “Compost Crusader.” “Dirt is the stuff that your nosy next-door neighbor likes to dig up on you. Dirt is the stuff in your vacuum cleaner. Dirt gets on your clothes, the kids, the dog and the cat. But dirt is not soil.

Soil test is important tool for gardeners

Question: Why should I take a soil test of my garden soil? When is a good time to take a soil test? — T. H.

Answer: A soil test is a tool that gardeners can use to determine if the soils in their yard are suitable to obtain quality plant performance. Soil tests analyze the soil to determine the soil pH, the organic matter content and the levels of phosphorus and potassium. Also, it gives recommendations on the types and amounts of fertilizer to add to the soil.

Start spending 30 minutes a day in the garden

How does it sound to set aside just 30 minutes a day from now on to work in the garden? We were spoiled by the wonderfully warm weather last week, but it doesn’t seem we’re going to be in the frigid zone anytime soon. And even if we are, just don’t go out on those days.

I promise you that if you start now, you will be so far ahead of the game when spring really does roll around, that you’ll be able to spend quality time in the garden without the heavy toll of chores hanging over your head. It may not be quite as pleasant to pull on the down vest and gloves as it is to work in a T-shirt. But it really does feel refreshing to be doing something useful.

Let the good times roll: Making memories for Mardi Gras

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I have never been so thankful for horrible icy weather as I was on a special Fat Tuesday a few years ago, when the car’s inability get traction on the highway scored me an invite to one heck of a Mardi Gras party.

I was out shopping with girlfriends when the weather turned bad, so my friend Brenda, who lived nearby, invited us to spend the night. It just so happened she was attending a Mardi Gras party that night, and invited us to come crash the bash.

There’s plenty for gardeners to do, even in February

February garden tips:

* Take cuttings of a favorite begonia and root them for friends for May Day or a favorite mom for Mother’s Day. Take cuttings about two inches long, remove the lower leaves, dip in rooting powder and plant in sterile potting mix. Put several cuttings in one pot for a full plant.

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