Category: Features

Take your gardening out of the box

With the sunshine and bearable temperatures hanging around a bit longer and for multiple days, it’s time to rid your yard of traces of the crazy and wet winter as well as get your gardening projects started. With some progressive (and easy!) gardening techniques, you can accomplish both tasks. Whether you choose to try bales of straw or hay or do what’s known as hugelkultur, both methods harness composting power, self irrigation and minimal work for you. Bale Gardening Hay bales or straw bales are one of the most popular forms of alternative growing and though you may not think it, are a form of container gardening as the bale acts as both the container and the soil. The bales take the hassle of loosening and prepping the ground of a permanent garden, and allow you to easily grow something where sun conditions are ideal but perhaps the ground and soil are not. Though straw bales are thought to be more favorable with less seeds in them and disease risk, hay bales have the advantage of holding in water better and will also leave you with a more nutrient rich compost for your next project after your bale garden is gone. Regardless of type, the bales don’t even need to be in great shape — if you have some that have been exposed to the elements, you may be...

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Pussy willows whisper ‘Welcome, spring’

A robin’s song used to be the first sign of spring. But with robin migrations mitigated by warming temperatures, now the lucky robin plucking a worm from the warming soil is also regarded as the true harbinger. But for evidence pointing to winter winding down, there’s an even earlier “bird” to watch for, a different “animal” altogether — the pussy willow, which makes its debut in late February and March here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Known scientifically by its proper Latin name, Salix Discolor, it’s native not only to Maryland but throughout large swaths of the northern United States...

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Ground rules for under-the-canopy gardens

When you think garden, do you envision open space graced by boundless sun? If your answer is “yes,” walking in the woods might open your eyes to other possibilities. Smaller trees and shrubs — think rhododendrons and dogwoods — enhance the understory. Shade-tolerant and dappled sun loving florals—think spring cyclamen and lady slipper—discreetly please the eye. If your homestead harbors arbors of stately oaks or elms, a charming garden paradise can still be yours by layering. Heather McCargo, of Maine’s Wild Seed Project, advises using the forest as template for a woodland garden, first analyzing your site’s light levels then deciding on plants. Deciduous trees allow greater amounts of direct and indirect sunlight to filter down to the forest floor than evergreens, she stated. Early spring — before the trees fill in with leaves — is a prime time for many wildflowers (and bulbs) to bloom. Other understory plants seem able to wring enough light from less optimal locations. “These are the plants that can tolerate the immediate north side of a building which is usually in complete shade. Farther out, the light levels can increase depending on the time of year,” she advised. Varied vegetation layers, including smaller understory trees and larger shrubs, help to duplicate the ecosystem found in natural forest habitat, adding visual interest and attracting wildlife and pollinators, McCargo attested. Woodland soil, nutrient laden courtesy...

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Save space for your stored food

Do you feel that constant nag on your to-do list that you need to go grocery shopping, yet when you get home from a grocery trip, it never seems like there is any space to stick what you just bought? Aside from your pantry and your refrigerator, you might even have a chest freezer that’s filled to the brim as well. While it’s great to stock up, has the same sad can of chickpeas peeking at you in the back of your pantry since your child’s birthday … before last? Or by the time you pulled the steaks you got for such a great deal out of the bottom of your freezer, they were too freezer burnt for anyone except for your dog to enjoy? As the real, actual Maryland spring is finally approaching, so is cleaning season and the transition from crockpot meals to meals being prepared on the grill with fresh vegetables, making this a perfect time for a pantry and freezer cleanout. Pantry Purge Focus on your pantry first, emptying it all out on your table or countertops. Start with a clean sweep of anything that is expired or stale to the point you can’t eat it and try to compile items into groups such as breakfast items, baking items, things for lunches, things for kids, etc. As you put items back in, place your groups...

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