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Home and Garden 2D March 23, 2011
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER
Plant ‘em and Pick ‘em By AMY JONES Associate Editor
More and more Shelby County residents are choosing to plant their own vegetables these days. To help, we’ve made a handy chart with information about when to plant and when to pick your favorite veggies.
Broccoli No spring planting dates Aug. 1-15 55-75 days
Cucumbers April 15-May 15 July 1-20 50-65 days
Green onions No spring planting dates October-February 40-55 days
Spinach Feb. 15-Mar. 15 September 40-45 days
Depending on the time of year you’re planting, some of these vegetables are planted as seeds, and some are planted as transplants. Crops that should be planted as transplants are denoted with an asterisk. For more information, check the Alabama Cooperative Extension System website at Aces.edu. (Information courtesy of the Alabama Cooperative
Carrots March July 20-Sept. 20 60-80 days
Eggplant April 15-May 15* July 1-20* 65-85 days
Peppers April 1-May 10* July* 65-85 days
Summer squash April August 1-15 40-55 days
Cauliflower Jan. 1-Feb. 15* July 25-Aug. 10* 60-75 days
Lettuces Jan. 15-February Aug. 15-Sept. 1 45-85 days
Irish potatoes February Aug. 1-15 70-90 days
Tomatoes April* July* 70-90 days
Extension System). Check out the chart below to find all the information you need for the following vegetables. Information is listed as follows: Vegetable Planting dates (spring) Planting dates (fall) Days to maturity
Collards No spring planting dates July 1-Sept. 15 60-80 days
Mustard Feb. 1-March 15 Aug. 15-Sept. 5 40-50 days
Sweet potatoes April 15-June 15* No fall planting dates 90-120 days
Turnips Feb. 1-April 1 Aug. 10-Oct. 1 40-60 days
Sweet corn March 15-June 1 No fall planting dates 65-90 days
Okra April 10-June 30 No fall planting dates 50-65 days
Pumpkins No spring planting dates July 90-110 days
Watermelons April June 15-30 80-90 days
Home and Garden March 23, 2011 3D
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER
Controlling yellow jackets, wasps, hornets Guest Columnist Nelson Wynn
Yellow jackets, some wasps and some hornets can pose a health threat to humans because of their painful sting. As the weather warms, these pests often intrude on outdoor recreation areas and can quickly ruin any picnic. To keep your outdoor space stinger-free this spring and summer, try some of the control methods below. Yellow Jackets Yellow jackets are about 1/2- to 3/4-inch long and have black and yellow bands on their thoraxes and abdomens. They usually ground nest in areas such as old rodent burrows, beneath landscape timbers and heavy mulch or in rock walls. They may also be found in the wall voids of homes. Each year, the yellow jacket nest starts with one fertilized queen. In early spring, the queen emerges from her overwintering site and locates a suitable cavity of some sort to start a nest in. After the nest is constructed, she deposits her first batch of eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the queen forages for food to feed the larvae. The larvae become pupae and then adults. The colony of yellow jackets can grow to thousands of individuals by the end of summer, peaking in August or September.
As the yellow jackets’ natural food supply begins to decrease during the fall, they tend to become more of a problem to humans. As the weather cools, we tend to picnic outdoors a little more. Yellow jackets will not hesitate to feed on our picnic foods in order to fulfill their dietary needs for protein and carbohydrates. Yellow jackets can also become a problem around dumpsters and trash cans at public facilities. Control Methods The first thing to do is to locate the nest in the daytime, if possible, and mark its location. Do your treatment at night. Yellow jackets are similar to people in that they “go home” at night. Do not shine a flashlight directly at the nest because you may startle the yellow jackets. Use a dust formulation or at least one gallon of a liquid insecticide labeled for yellow jacket control. Gently puff the dust at the nest entrance, or thoroughly drench the nest with a liquid insecticide. We recommend that you wear fully-protective clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves and a bee veil when attempting control. Several traps are also available that may help you locate the source of the yellow jackets or simply trap the few that have become a problem. These traps can be purchased at many stores. The instructions may ask
you to add a protein source (a meat) during the early summer or a carbohydrate source (fruit juice) during late summer and fall since the yellow jackets’ nutritional needs change through the season. In sensitive areas, such as public facilities or schools, empty and clean trash cans or dumpsters regularly to eliminate food sources. When possible, use trash cans that have lids or are otherwise closed. Yellow jackets can become very aggressive if disturbed. Call a pest control professional for difficult yellow jacket problems. European Hornet The European hornet is in the same family as the yellow jacket. This hornet is large at almost 1-1/2 inches long. It is brownish in color and has orange stripes. The European hornet feeds almost exclusively on live insects and is an excellent predator. European hornets normally nest in wooded areas in tree hollows. However, nests can also be found in attics and wall voids. The colony may contain between 200 to 400 individuals. Although the European hornet is not as aggressive as the yellow jacket, its sting is potent. In addition to their sting, a common complaint about European hornets is that they girdle twigs and branches of trees and shrubs. This girdling can sometimes kill the plants. The hornets use the sap from the plants and plant
Vegetable garden Q&A: Shelby County Master Gardener Kristen Goad What does a person have to do to become a Master Gardener? It’s a program offered through the extension service. It’s six hours of classes a week for nine to 10 weeks. It’s a very in-depth class taught by extension agents and Auburn professors. You have to complete a certain amount of volunteer hours before you can become certified. What’s the first step in creating a small vegetable garden? The first thing you need to do is decide what type of small garden you’re going to have. There are three types: container, raised bed and small plot gardens. A small plot is good if you have good soil. For a vegetable garden, you need fertile, well-drained soil. If possible, I would recommend doing a soil test. You can pick these up from the extension service for about $7. You send it to Auburn, and they send you back recommendations. Based on the recommendations, you can make soil amendments, though you’d probably want to wait until next year to plant. If your soil isn’t good, then you should go with a container or raised bed. What’s the difference in those two? A container can be anything, from a fivegallon bucket to a plastic pot. Most vegetables don’t have large root systems and don’t need a huge container for their roots, just some good soil. You can fertilize in a
container as well. For a at least one inch of water raised bed garden, you per week. could buy some landscape timbers How nice is and build a 4-foot it to be able to by 8-foot raised create a small bed. garden, espeThis helps with cially if you drainage and don’t have the keeping weeds space for somedown. Whether thing bigger? it’s a container or It’s wonderful. raised bed, you If you decide you Goad add soil. want to have a salad, you can go out and pick your fresh What are some of lettuce and things to go in the best types of vegyour salad. etables to plant this What do I want for dintime of year? For the beginning ner tonight? You go out to middle of April, this and see what you have would include a wide in your garden to pick range of things: beans, from, instead of going to cucumbers, eggplants, the store. It makes you proud. squash, tomatoes, cantaloupes, cabbage, peppers, It’s relaxing to have a radish, watermelons, garden. peas and corn. How much sun do Where is the best they need per day? A full day of sun is best, place to put your garbut you need six hours at den? It’s really important to the minimum. make it in a convenient location because it is Where should something that requires people go if they have attention on a regular additional questions? basis. There is tons of great Location is very key information on any garso that when you do have dening topic you can a few free minutes you think of at Aces.edu. Or can go over and do a little you can call the Master gardening and weeding. Gardener help line at Make sure you have an 1-877-252-GROW (4769). available water source near your location. A Q&A by Brad Gaskins, vegetable garden needs staff writer.
fibers in constructing their nests. European hornets become a problem during the summer and fall. At night, they fly to lights on porches, at campsites and other places people frequent. Control Methods Wear fully-protective clothing as described for yellow jacket control. Locate the nest during the day, and treat at night as described previously. The nest may be high in a tree and difficult to treat. In this case, use a pressurized container that can shoot a stream of insecticide. Some containers can spray up to 22 feet away. Use a liquid insecticide containing a pyrethroid such as resmethrin and pyrethins for outside treatment. If the hornets are nesting in a wall void, puff a dust formulation into the void. Do not plug the hole right away. The hornets may try to chew through another place in the wall. A pest control professional may be able to collect the hornets from a wall void, using a vacuum cleaner, or may be able to treat the void with products not available to homeowners. Traps or baits that may work for yellow jackets probably will not work for European hornets because these hornets prey on live insects. Paper Wasps, Umbrella Wasps and Red Wasps These wasps are also in the family Vespidae but are in the
genus Polistes. These wasps are easily recognizable by the nests they construct. The nests look like inverted umbrellas and are visible from below. Nests are built under eaves, fire escapes, decks and ledges. All the females in the nest have the potential to become the queen. The queen is usually the female who begins laying eggs and constructing the nest first. The other females then become subservient to her. If more than one female begins laying eggs at about the same time, the female who eats the eggs of the other while replacing them with her own eggs becomes the queen. Control Methods Since these nests are quite visible, control is easier than with ground-nesting species. Wear fully-protective clothing, and treat at night, using a pressurized liquid insecticide labeled for wasps and hornets. These products can be purchased at almost any department or grocery store. Other wasps that homeowners may encounter include mud daubers, digger wasps and cicada killers. These wasps generally do not warrant any control. They are all excellent predators and are considered beneficial insects.
Nelson Wynn is a regional agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Home and Garden 4D March 23, 2011
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER
AROUND THE COUNTY • HOME & GARDEN CALENDAR Farmers markets
Mondays, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Contact: Mary Lou Williams at 665-1519 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
CALERA FARMERS MARKET: Located in parking lot of Oliver Park at 9758 Highway 25, Calera. Open June 1-Aug. 31. Tuesdays, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Contact: Rebecca Krueger at 281-1975 or at info@ calerafarmersmarket.com. More info: Calerafarmersmarket.com. COLUMBIANA FARMERS MARKET: Located at West College Street, Columbiana. Opening mid-April. Saturdays, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Contact: Randy Glenn at 305-8632.
MT LAUREL FARMERS MARKET: Located at 38 Manning Place, Birmingham. Opening June 4 - Oct. 1. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. Contact: Kelly Burley at 408-2717 or at email@example.com. VALLEYDALE FARMERS MARKET: Located at 4601 Valleydale Road, Birmingham. Open May 14-Sept. 3. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. Contact: Jed Park at 868-4575 or at jpark@ brighamwilliams.com.
HELENA MARKET DAYS: Located at 4151 Helena Road, Helena. Open June 4-Sept. 24. Saturdays, 8 a.m.noon. Contact: Cris Nelson at 2966153. MONTEVALLO FARMERS MARKET: Located at the corner of Island And Boundary Streets, Montevallo. Open June 6-Aug. 8.
BOB & JOYCE BALCH: Blueberries. Open June 19 until August 6. Open Wednesday-Saturday, from 7 a.m.dark. 361 Lake View Drive, Sterrett. More info: 672-2526. J.T. & SHIRLEY LYON: Blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, okra and butterbeans. Opening June 7.Open Tuesday-Saturday, from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. 1700 Hwy 56, Wilsonville. For more
info: 669-9205 or 602-4926. Directions: U.S. 280 South on Shelby County 55, on to Shelby County 61, to Shelby County 56. Farm is 3/4 mile on right. MORGAN CREEK VINEYARDS: Blueberries. Open June 15-August 15 Open Monday-Saturday, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. $12/gallon blueberries; $5/gallon muscadines. 181 Morgan Creek Lane, Harpersville. More info: 672-2053 or info@ MorganCreekWinery.com. SMITH U-PICK: Blueberries. Opening June 18. Open Tuesday-Saturday, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-6 p.m. 8939 County Road 51, Sterrett. For more info: 678-6994. BARBARA REYNOLDS: Blackberries and muscadines. Open June-August/September. Open six days a week, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 1280 Highway 89, Montevallo. More info: 665-1585.
Community FARM DAY: Montevallo’s Farm Day will start with a tractor parade March
26 at Montevallo High School at 9 a.m., and the displays and booths will be open until 4 p.m. Info: 682-6484. FUN ON THE GRILL: Come and learn new techniques that will improve your grilling at home during this class at Jefferson State Community College Shelby-Hoover Campus. March 31 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. $75 a person. Info: 983-5306. SPRING FLING: The City of Wilton is holding its annual Spring Fling April 9 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. An Easter egg hunt will begin at 11 a.m. behind City Hall. Call 665-2021 for more information.
Park. Come enjoy more than 50 artists, live music and food vendors. The Montevallo Community Band will perform at 10:30 a.m., the Klezmer Band at noon, the Neo Jazz Collective at 1:30 p.m. and Giants and Toys at 3 p.m. Free admission and parking. Info: Montevalloartscouncil.org or email Info@montevalloartscouncil.org or call 616-4392. SPRING FESTIVAL: Mt Laurel is holding a spring festival on April 9 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 Mt Laurel Avenue, Birmingham. It will be free fun for the whole family. The festival will feature a farmers market and craft fair with a huge variety of vendors, plus new home tour.
BLUEGRASS AND BURGERS: Spirit of Hope Youth Ranch, 194 King’s Ranch Drive, Wilsonville, is celebrating Bluegrass and Burgers April 9 from noon-3 p.m. Come for horse training demonstrations, face painting, balloon animals and crafts. For directions, visit Sohyr.org. Call Joy O’Neal at 223-1362 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
WINE & JAZZ: Vizzini Farms Winery is holding Wine & Jazz in the Vineyard April 16 from 5:30-10 p.m. The New Orleans-themed event offers a dinner of gumbo, red beans and rice, and Muffuletta sandwiches, along with a jazz band. $5/person. Reservations not required. Info: 6850655.
MONTEVALLO ART SHOW: The Montevallo Arts Council is hosting the Fifth Annual Montevallo Art Show April 9 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in Orr
CONCERT: Morgan Creek Vineyards is holding a concert with fireworks May 21 at 6 p.m. Call 672-2053 for more information.
Artistry for the everyday landscape By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT Staff Writer Landscape artists Jim Paramore and Ginny Barr spend their days creating ethereal designs for clients’ yards before wielding shovel and spade to breathe life into their creations. Paramore, a 30-year veteran in the landscaping business, is the president of Columbiana’s American Tree Maintenance. Paramore suggests homeowners begin with deciding on a budget before contacting a landscape artist for design and execution. “Best place to begin is a budget,” he said. “From there, you can immediately go into spending money to have someone do a design around a plan, a master plan. That’s critical. “By coming up with a budget and a plan, you can decide if you need to break it up and do it incrementally or whether you’re ready to spend money and do the whole thing. I think that’s the first place to start,” he added. Paramore said building a relationship with a landscape artist is essential.
“Develop a relationship with someone you know and trust in the industry,” Paramore said. “Landscaping isn’t something you really want to bid out. There are too many variables. “You’ll get five different prices, and they’ll all be miles apart for different reasons,” he said. “It’ll make a difference of thousands of dollars depending on the size of the job just for the size of the plants.” Illumens Landscape Lighting’s landscape artist, Ginny Barr, is a Greystone resident with a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Cornell University. She agrees wholeheartedly with Paramore’s advice. “First, I think you need to find out if they’re licensed. Then, I think some of it is really just personality and if you like their ideas. It’s a gut reaction,” Barr said. “You have to feel comfortable with them. “You have to have a relationship where you can say, ‘No, I don’t like that.’ It’s not about us. That’s my philosophy when I meet clients,” she said. “I talk to (the clients) and come up with ideas, and if they don’t like them, that’s fine. It
evolves. It’s not about me. I’m not going to live there. “If they want to do something that I think is harebrained, I’ll tell them why and discuss what’s good about that and what’s bad,” she added. Paramore also sees his share of “hare-brained,” impractical ideas, and takes the educational approach, as well. “We would educate them. I tell people when I come to look at their trees that it’s not my job to tell them which trees to take down; it’s my job to educate them so they make an educated decision. They’re not my trees,” Paramore said. “I’m a tree-hugging arborist, but I’m a pragmatic one.” Both landscape artists highly recommend homeowners check the credentials of anyone hired to work on their lawn. “In hiring someone to cut your grass, there are thousands of guys running around out there doing it, but people don’t realize they don’t know what they’re doing,” Paramore said. “They’re breaking the law every time they put out a product they’re not licensed to put out.”
THE 1-2-3 OF LANDSCAPE ARTISTRY Decide on a budget.
“I think being honest about where you want to be monetarily is a huge thing,” Barr said. “If your company’s honest, they’re not just going to try to design a postage stamp and make it worth what you’re going to spend.”
Build a relationship with a licensed professional.
“Instead of hiring a licensed, qualified professional to do the work, people hire the cheapest guy. Is he qualified? Does he care?” Paramore asked.
Design a master plan with the final product in mind.
“They need to know what the customer is expecting. They need a roadmap,” Paramore said. Paramore said customers should look for a licensed ornamental turf/pest supervisor. Barr spoke of the importance of a license, as well. “In the landscape industry you have to be licensed in the state, but it does have a low start-up cost,” Barr said. “It does attract people who think, ‘I’m unemployed now, and I have a pick-up truck.’” The two said the biggest factor is having a trusting, secure relationship with the landscape artist hired for any project.
“(Licensed professionals are) miles ahead of those people who don’t know or don’t care,” Paramore said. “There’s a reason people should hire a professional. There’s a reason to make sure you have a relationship with this person. “Don’t just hire the cheapest person,” he added. “Don’t be in too big a hurry. Concentrate your time and efforts in finding the right person or company to do the work.” Paramore can be reached at 669-1925, while Barr can be reached at 702-4428.
Simply redesigned: Tips to transform homes Guest Columnist Tricia Garrett
Have you ever walked into someone else’s home and thought, “This is gorgeous! So warm and inviting — I wish I could live like this!” Here’s a secret: you can, through the art of redesign. Redesign is the art of using your existing furnishings and accessories in new and different ways to create completely new spaces. The idea is to re-purpose things you already own to make your home more beautiful and livable for you and your family. Major life changes, such as having a baby or grown children moving out, also present opportunities for redesign. Perhaps the nursery must now become an office, or you want the
kids’ old room to be a guest room. In many of my redesigns, the only material investments are paint, fabric and perhaps some accessories or fixtures. Maybe you have some cash to invest in new items to enhance a redesign, but the idea is to try to use as many of your existing items as possible. My simple secrets to redesign: Define the space: Clearly define what purpose the space will serve or what your objective is for the space. For example, is it a guest bedroom that you now need as an office? Or perhaps you want to make your living room better for entertaining, rather than a catch-all room for the children’s toys. Also, define your style and color scheme. Clear a nd c lean: Completely clear the space you want to redesign — ideally every-
thing — window treatments, art, rugs, etc. should be removed. Light fixtures can remain, but they may change. After clearing the space, thoroughly clean and paint, if necessary. This gives you a clean slate and new perspective. Identify key pieces: Identify the pieces you must have in the space to support the function of the room (such as a crib and changing table in a nursery or a desk in an office). Start placing the biggest pieces of furniture
in the space. You may need to move these several times to determine how they best fit the space, flow and purpose. Shop your house: Find complimentary items that will suit the space and defined style. Go through your house, garage or attic to find pieces that will work. Make sure styles, colors and finishes work well together — they do not need to match exactly, but they should create a sense of balance and be pleasing to the eye. Don’t be afraid to paint or change hard-
ware — this can breathe new life into a forgotten piece. Accessorize: End with accessories, but keep in mind, less is best — many people try to cram too much into each space, just because they think it all must be used. It is more important to ensure function, scale, style and color scheme align. Enjoy! And when you’re ready — tackle another space! If this
still seems overwhelming, hire a professional or seek help from a friend whose home styles you admire. Tricia C hismer Garrett helps the designchallenged throug h her business, Staging Alabama, based in Pelham. For more information or to set up a redesign consultation, please visit Stagingalabama. com or call Tricia at 7572081.
Home and Garden March 23, 2011 5D
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER
Time to tackle home improvement By NEAL WAGNER City Editor As the weather warms up and Shelby County begins to thaw from a cold and rainy winter, the sounds of hammers, saws and lawn equipment begin to fill many local neighborhoods. Spring typically brings weekends filled with home improvement projects, which often times are completed by hired contractors. But simply knowing how to complete a home improvement task, when to complete it and the equipment necessary can turn what may seem like a daunting chore into a relatively easy weekend of work, according to Eric Zarko, who works at The Home Depot in Pelham. By purchasing materials yourself and providing your own labor, do-
it-yourself jobs can help you save some cash this spring. “When you put a contractor to work for you, and he goes out and buys the materials for the job, he is going to add 10 percent on top of what it cost him to buy them,” Zarko said. “Some of them charge you even more than that.” New materials, such as bamboo flooring and EnviroTile outdoor tiles made from recycled tires, are easy to install in a weekend. The materials also will not break the bank at $1.99 per square foot for bamboo flooring and $6.99 per 18-inch-by18-inch EnviroTile. “Bamboo is one of the hardest materials you can use, so you aren’t going to damage it as easily,” Zarko said. “And I think it looks as good as anything else you can buy.”
For those looking to repaint a room this spring, new products such as the Behr Premium Plus Paint and Primer can drastically cut down on the amount of time needed for the project. “You usually have to do a layer of primer, wait for it to dry and then paint over it. But with this, you can do one coat and that’s it,” Zarko said. “I’ve used it, and I was actually amazed at how good of a job it does.” Spring is also an ideal time to complete energy cost-saving and home maintenance projects, Zarko said. “If you have mold or mildew on your house, you need to pressure wash it now. You may have to go back and paint some spots, but you’ve got to do it,” Zarko said. “And you need to go
ahead and pressure wash your driveway after the wet winter. “A lot of times, the changing temperatures will cause your driveway to crack,” Zarko added. “And you really need to seal those cracks up.” Weekend projects, such as properly insulating your house, sealing around windows or even just changing regular light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, can pay for themselves quickly in the form of reduced energy costs. Home improvement stores, such as The Home Depot, have tool rental sections carrying everything from hand tools to backhoes, which can help with any size project. “We also rent trucks so you can get everything to your house,” Zarko said with a laugh. For those looking to
REPORTER PHOTO/NEAL WAGNER
Home Depot employee Eric Zarko takes a walk through the tool rental section at the company’s Pelham store. tackle their own homeimprovement projects, knowledge is the best tool available. “Every weekend, we hold several PK (project knowledge) classes. And everything we teach
is also available on our website,” Zarko said. “No matter what you’re looking to do, just walk in anytim,e and we will tell you what you need, how to do it and about how long it will take.”
Doing spring cleaning behind closed doors Guest Columnist Lisa Phillips Spring cleaning rolls easily off our tongues, but for some reason, it truly is easier said than done. Having the discipline every day to organize and declutter keeps us from having to do marathon sessions that no one has time for.
However, things that are in sight are easier to deal with than the things we put behind closed doors. Now that we are tempted to open windows, let’s open a few cabinets and see what we have hidden and possibly forgotten. Medicines: Check the expiration date on all medicine, even over-the-counter drugs. One way to dispose of expired medication is to keep them all in their original container with childproof lids attached.
Add rubbing alcohol to the container. This makes most medicines congeal and easy to throw away. Mark through all names and information on the labels. Call your pharmacist for more options. Sunscreens: Any product that has an active ingredient like an SPF will have an expiration date. Check your pool bag now before risking severe sunburn with an outdated sunscreen. Acne medication: Most acne medication has an active
ingredient, so double check the shelf life. Cosmetics: Bacteria thrives in dark, damp places so it is a good idea to discard mascara every three months. Most cosmetics will have a shelf life of three years unopened, one year opened. When in doubt, smell the product. If it does not smell good, out it goes. Spices: Open up each spice and if it still smells strong, then use it. Check Penzys.com for more information on the shelf life of
spices. Coupons: Paper continues to be the most challenging aspect of organizing our home. Check any mail, promotions, coupons, etc., for the expiration date. Once you have cleared out the offers that are no longer valid, you can now see what you have and be able to manage the rest more efficiently. Lisa Phillips is the owner of SimpleWorks. She can be reached at lisa_phillips@ bellsouth.net or at 981-7733.
Home and Garden 6D March 23, 2011
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER
Local kids grow little green thumbs By KATIE HURST Lifestyles Editor Nothing ends dinner more quickly than when children wrinkle up their noses and push their vegetables around on their plates with scowls. At Hilltop Montessori school in Mt Laurel, teachers have discovered an easy way to get children interested in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables is to introduce them to gardening. The school’s executive
director Michele Scott said kids are naturally interested in gardening, making it easy to get them involved. At Hilltop, students in preschool through sixth grade help out in the school’s vegetable garden, taking on new tasks and responsibilities as they get older. Preschool teacher Cindi Stehr said her students, ages 3-6, soak up gardening knowledge like sponges. “They love the exploration part of it,” she said. “I begin
with a lesson just on the seed and how the food grows out of it. They find it fascinating. The more you give them, the more they want.” Scott said gardening is an easy activity for parents to take on at home as well. Whether planting a small vegetable garden in the backyard or growing plants and herbs indoors, children can easily help out with gardening chores. “Many times it’s easier to go to the store and purchase your
vegetables, but even just a small container to grow herbs in can be fascinating for children,” Scott said. “It’s not that much work, anyone can do it.” Children and parents can both benefit from a garden at home, Scott said. It will help parents introduce new foods at meal times, and kids will have a new outdoor activity to enjoy. “Kids might not try salsa in a jar because it looks gross to them,” Scott said. “But they will try it if they helped grow
Set up a backyard play land By KATIE HURST Lifestyles Editor A backyard play set can turn an empty yard into hours of entertainment and fond memories for children of any age. Today, there are more play set options to choose from than ever before — making purchasing a set both exciting and a bit confusing. Jeff Beabout, owner of Backyard Adventures in Inverness, said the days of simple swing sets are gone and have ushered in a new era of customizable play sets. Sets can be put together with add-on pieces according to your child’s age and interests, he said. One feature growing in popularity among children and parents is the play set rock wall, Beabout said. “I’ve had a lot more inquiries from parents looking to develop their children’s upper-body strength,” he said. “I hear from a lot of parents whose kids are gymnasts or just want to shift more toward exercise elements of playground equipment rather than just the fun stuff.” Rock walls, as well as chin-up and pull-up bars, have been added to most modern play sets to meet this demand, he said. “It encourages kids, while having fun, to work on some core strength,” Beabout said. When looking to buy a play set for your yard, Beabout gives these tips: Find age-appropriate elements: Beabout said it’s almost never too early to start with a small play set. As soon as a child can crawl, they can enjoy a small fort and slide combination, he said. As the child grows, you can add fun and challenging elements to the set, such as a rock wall, swing set and pull-up bar. This way, your play set will grow and develop with your child.
REPORTER PHOTO/JON GOERING
This is one of the popular backyard play sets available at Backyard Adventures in Inverness. Assess your space: Assess your yard before purchasing a play set to ensure the size and function of the set coordinates with your space and landscape. Beabout said he does house calls to help customers with this process. For those with small yards, don’t rule out play sets too soon, he said. Backyard Adventures offers a set entitled “The Space Saver” just for that reason. Consider ground cover: “I’d say half the customers we sell to just put the set on grass in the most level part of the yard as possible,” Beabout said. However, other options for ground cover include fine wood chip mulch specially engineered for playgrounds and the bouncy rubber mulch, which can be the safest, he said. Though the rubber mulch often has a high price tag, unlike the wood chip mulch, it never has to be replaced.
Choose the material: Wooden play sets remain the most popular, Beabout said. However, the type of wood can make all the difference. Red wood or cedar are the best because they are the most sturdy and durable, he said. Pine, birch and white wood can crack and splinter easily, making them not the ideal choice. Metal sets are still available though they’re often more expensive and have less options, Beabout said. On the other hand, metal sets require less maintenance. “Wooden sets need to be stained and pressure washed every couple years to keep them looking brand new,” Beabout said. “We offer that service for customers who don’t want to do it themselves.” Research the warranty: Nearly every play set comes with some sort of warranty to cover untimely damages, Beabout said. “What the warranty is, is the company’s way of saying this is how long this will last,” he said. “If you ever have an issue with the wood or the metal, it should be covered under the warranty.” Those with longer warranties tend to be more of a quality product, he said. Test it out: No matter where you purchase your play set, it’s important to take it for a test drive first, Beabout said. “When it comes to choosing a play set, you need to make sure you can get up and test the unit,” he said. “Before you buy it, you need to see it. We have a play set graveyard from all the old ones we’ve hauled out of people’s yards that were rickety and cracked after only a few years. You need to get up in the play set yourself, shake it, feel it and see how sturdy it is.” For more information on play sets available at Backyard Adventures, call 402-9818.
Students in Ms. Stehr’s preschool class share the keys to gardening: “You plant it, it grows and then it dies.” -Elizabeth Bandura Bandura
“Earthworms, they help the plants.” -Zac Desmond Desmond
By BRAD GASKINS Staff Writer Garage sale guru Rhoda Montgomery, who writes the popular Southern Hospitality blog, offered some great garage sale tips for Shelby County residents: Plan ahead/get up early: Most garage sales start early, usually between 7-9 a.m. “The first hour is the most important hour,” Montgomery said. “That’s when everything is going to start getting picked over very fast.” To get there early, plan ahead. Check papers and Craigslist.com in advance and map out a specific area to visit. Spring is the good time: Lots of garage sales happen in the spring, including massive neighborhood-wide garage sales. Though lots of people are likely to be there also, big neighborhood garage sales are good places because there are so many sales concentrated in one small area. “There are lots of people, but you can generally find good stuff,” Montgomery said.
Dress for comfort: You’re out to find bargains, not attending a fashion show. “Don’t try to be a fashion diva,” Montgomery said. Like it? Pick it up: If you see something you like at a garage sale, pick it up and hold it. You can find out a lot by flipping an item over and looking for labels such as brands or original price tags. Open drawers on furniture. Also, holding an item and flipping it over multiple times can help you figure out how good — or bad — condition an item is in. Undecided? Don’t put it down: If you see an item you’re interested in but aren’t sure, that’s OK. But do hold on to it. Don’t sit it back down. Carry the item with you as you peruse other items. If you set it back down, somebody else will pick it up and buy it while you are still trying to decide. Haggle: Haggling is part of garage sales, and most sellers are open to haggling. Just be respectful. Make a polite offer by saying something like
“will you take less than …” or “will you take this amount instead of …” Sometimes sellers say yes, sometimes they say no. Either way, don’t haggle down to an insulting price to give yourself the best chance to succeed. Potential: When you’re checking out at item, such as a lamp, don’t necessarily see it in its current condition. Consider what a little paint can do for the item. “I don’t mind repainting or changing things out to make them work in my house,” Montgomery said. Waiting game: If you’re in the market for, say, a new couch but don’t need it immediately, just wait: chances are you can find a good couch at a garage sale within two or three months. Your patience can result in saving a ton of money. Bring cash, large vehicle: Come with cash, not checks or credit/debit cards. Also, drive the largest vehicle you own or can get your hands on. “There’s so many times I’ve tried to cram a big picture frame in a
car,” Montgomery said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” If it doesn’t, maybe a neighbor can help you pick the item up later. Best bet: roll large. For more tips, check out Montgomery’s blog at Southernhospitalityblog. com.
“You plant a seed or plant something so it can grow.” -Tyndal Ann Griffith
“Take care of your garden by feeding it water.” -Arhum Pabani Pabani
Find the best garage sale bargains
the tomatoes, picked them themselves and watched you chop them up. It does make a difference in what they eat.” By helping dig, mix soil, plant seeds and water the plants, children will learn about nature firsthand, she said. “Too often kids stay inside watching TV or playing video games,” Scott said. “Gardening is a way they can get out in nature and get some fresh air and sunlight. You can see that in your own backyard.”