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DIY Under $10: reusing plastic Easter eggs

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Let’s face it. I am a word person, so any time I get to incorporate the English language with a DIY project I am all in. Easter is this weekend and after the baskets have been filled with candy and the eggs have been found, you may be left wondering what to do with all those plastic eggs. Well, why not make a learning game out of them! This week’s DIY won’t cost you a dime to do, but will be fun for your children.

You Will Need:

• Plastic eggs that split into halves

• Sharpie marker

Directions

1. It is time to make learning fun and creative for your children. Take your Sharpie and write words onto each half of the eggs.

2. Use words such as fish, cat, down, book, touch, mark, house, etc.

3. Place the halves in the empty Easter basket and let your children learn about compound words by placing the ends together. Take the end that says cat and combine it with the end that says fish to make catfish.

This is a quick and easy thing to do and it will make learning fun for your children. Try to choose words that could have multiple meanings such as treehouse, outhouse, houseboat or housewife. Make learning fun and have a great use for these leftover Easter items that otherwise may have been discarded.

Mulch, leaf mold, compost: How to put autumn leaves to good use

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 3:19 PM

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Leaves of red, yellow, orange and green color the autumn landscape with their vibrant, dramatic hues, compelling us to pull on soft, warm sweaters, pour a mug of hot cider and curl up with a good book. But when they leave their branchy homes and gently sway to the ground, the compulsion to grab a rake and head outdoors for hours of back-breaking labor erases the tranquility almost immediately. Why not just let them be?

For starters, if left in place until spring, those leaves will smother your lawn, depriving it of sunlight and air. And when the soggy, matted debris is cleared away, you’ll be left with dead patches that will require reseeding. And that’s the best-case scenario: Diseases like snow mold and brown patch, and all sorts of fungi thrive between leaf and lawn, and you’ll find dealing with the aftermath is even more burdensome than raking would have been.

But there is one way you can leave your leaves and have your lawn, too: Mulch them. This is easier than it sounds, as it simply requires running your lawn mower over the leaves to shred them into little bits. Those bits will work their way between grass blades to the soil line, where they’ll gradually decompose and even add nutrients to improve the health of your turf. If there are too many to leave on the lawn, you can run the mower over them and move the resulting mulch to your garden beds, where they’ll serve the same function.

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Mulching leaves isn’t only easier than raking — it’s more environmentally sound. Bagged-up yard debris adds nearly 33 million tons of solid waste to U.S. landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. And its decomposition under those conditions (without adequate oxygen) can result in a release of methane gas, which tends to heat up when exposed to sunlight and can result in a too-warm atmosphere — and that’s not good for plants, wildlife or us.

Another problem caused by ignoring your leaves is that many of them would be carried by wind to our waterways, where they’d release excess nutrients and can throw the whole ecosystem out of balance.

If you aren’t inclined to chop up leaves with your lawn mower, you might consider making leaf mold, an organic soil amendment and mulch that’s especially useful in sandy soils due to its high moisture content. Simply create a pile of leaves, water it lightly and cover loosely with a tarp. Visit it once or twice over winter, stirring it up a bit. Come spring, you’ll have partially decomposed nutrient-rich matter to add to garden beds and borders, or to sieve through steel mesh and add to potting mix. True leaf mold takes at least a year to develop, but this quick version will continue to break down after it’s applied. It’s almost like a shortcut to compost.

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Cooking up compost

Speaking of compost, that’s another lovely use for autumn leaves. Compost is the single best additive available for improving any type of soil. It improves the water-retention of sandy soil, improves the drainage of clay and imparts a bounty of nutrients. It’s no wonder gardeners call it black gold.

There are two components that make up compost: nitrogen-rich “greens,” such as fresh grass clippings, coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable scraps, and carbon-rich “browns,” such as newspapers, twigs, dryer lint and all those autumn leaves. The best compost is composed of a ratio of three parts “browns” to one part “greens.” (Never include fats, like meat or fish table scraps, dairy products, oils, etc., diseased plants or weeds that have gone to seed in your pile. And never add materials that don’t decompose, such as plastic or glass. Bird and rabbit droppings, and horse manure are OK, but kitty litter and dog poop are not. As a rule of thumb, excrement from carnivores is off-limits.)

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To “cook” up a batch of compost, you’ll need a place to do it. Options range from just piling up compost ingredients in a far corner of the backyard, to homemade contraptions that can be as utilitarian as a circular chicken-wire pen staked into the ground, to purchased bins or tumblers that can cost anywhere from $50 to $500, depending on how fancy you want to get.

Add your brown and green ingredients, and keep the pile slightly moist, sprinkling lightly with a hose whenever you add to it or notice it drying out. You can add to it all year long.

As ingredients break down, bacteria will heat the center of the pile first, so it’s important to mix or turn the heap regularly to ensure even decomposition. This can be done with a pitchfork or garden spade on an open pile. Tumblers have a crank or weighted design that requires less exertion, but depending on the size and design of the unit, it still might require some muscle.

Finished compost can be added to new garden beds or vegetable plots about a month before planting, sprinkled over the lawn and gently raked in, added by the handful to planting holes or used as a top dressing around established plants, trees and shrubs.

Woman could face jail time over garden

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 9:55 AM

Atlanta City Code Enforcement told Lexa King that her flowers are overgrown. (Photo via WSB-TV)
Atlanta City Code Enforcement told Lexa King that her flowers are overgrown. (Photo via WSB-TV)

A Georgia woman could face jail time and a large fine over her garden.

>> Read more trending news

Atlanta city code enforcement officers told Lexa King that her flower garden is overgrown.

King told WSB-TV’s Rikki Klaus that she’s been growing her garden for about 30 years. She beams when she talks about the azaleas in her yard.

"And since I pay the taxes and since I pay the mortgage and since I pay the insurance, I figure I'm the one that gets to say," King said.

Code enforcement officers see the situation, and her garden, differently.

"They said it was messy, said it was overgrown,” King said. "I said, ‘Well, this is a matter of your interpretation.’”

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In December, King said, an anonymous complaint led to an arrest citation. It details "overgrowth" in her yard and said she's violating a city code that prohibits "excessive growth."

"We asked him for a definition of excessive, which he could not provide," King said.

Klaus asked King whether she plans to cut the shrubs back.

"Not unless I'm absolutely forced to," King said.

King said she's fighting a bigger battle to protect the quirkiness of Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood.

"This is not about me. It's not about those azaleas. This is about our neighborhood and the way of life that we have here," King said.

Neighbors said they've been writing to City Council members on King's behalf.

"We're hoping for dismissal of these charges before Lexa King appears in front of the Municipal Court of Atlanta to be sentenced for her crime of azaleas," neighbor Scott Jacobs said.

Klaus researched the penalties of a court citation. King could face up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Her hearing will take place in August.

Klaus contacted code enforcement for reaction to this story. She’s still waiting to get a response. 

12 common house and garden plants that are poisonous to dogs

Published: Thursday, March 30, 2017 @ 2:28 PM

Nothing says spring like blooming flowers and the great outdoors. But if you’ve got a dog at home, there are some flowers in your garden that aren’t safe to snip and bring inside.

Dog trainer Amber Burckhalter tells Our Town magazine that the following plants can be deadly to your pet. While a lot of the entries on this list are outdoor plants, pay special attention to the potted flowers you may have inside your home too!

Read the full list of plants your dog should never eat at Clark.com.

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What’s in a (plant) name?

Published: Friday, January 13, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

Have you ever wondered why plant people need to speak in Latin? Or do you even care?

Well, in fact, it’s very important to use Latin names for plants.

Following is a great example that I borrow from my colleague Jim Chatfield, who is quite good at teaching binomial nomenclature (more on that later).

Let’s say you walk into a garden center and ask the salesperson for a red maple. She takes you over to an ‘October Glory’ red maple. You say, that’s not what I am looking for.

She then takes you to a ‘Crimson King’ Norway maple and of course, that’s also not what you are looking for.

Finally she takes you to a Japanese maple and you are happy because that’s the tree you want.

While all three have something to do with being a red tree, they are all different species of trees.

The first one is a cultivar of a red maple, or Acer rubrum. The second is a cultivar of a Norway maple, or Acer platanoides. The third one is a species of a Japanese maple that has red leaves.

In the plant world, we try to use the Latin name (also known as the scientific name) when it comes to talking about specific plants.

Carolus Linnaeus created the binomial nomenclature system to be used worldwide so that we all would be speaking the same language when it came to identifying plants.

In binomial nomenclature, there are two words used to name a plant. The first is the genus, the second is called the specific epithet and together the two make up the species.

For instance, Acer is the genus for maples. A red maple is Acer rubrum, a silver maple is Acer saccharinum, and a sugar maple is Acer saccharum.

Latin names are always written the same with the genus capitalized and the specific epithet lower-case. They are listed in italics, though some sources will underline them.

Then we have to go and mix things up a little more by adding cultivar names. Notice in the examples above that I had single quotes around ‘October Glory’ or ‘Crimson King’? That’s the style used.

These are cultivars or cultivated varieties of the species. In other words, they were discovered to have characteristics that were similar to the species but maybe were special.

They are propagated and sold by the cultivar name. Cultivar stands for cultivated variety. For instance, Norway maples have green leaves but ‘Crimson King’ was a discovery that had red foliage during the summer.

When green industry professionals are talking about plants, especially if they are ordering specific plants, they will use the Latin names.

Most gardeners don’t worry about Latin names for plants and in the scheme of things, that’s OK. However, there may be a time when you really want to impress at a dinner party and you roll Liquidambar styraciflua off your tongue.

That’s a sweetgum, by the way — but doesn’t it sound lovely!