About Michael Harvan

Michael Harvan has been a member since January 28th 2012, and has created 1030 posts from scratch.

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Community Service Work Garden

There is a lot of community service work that is wasteful effort, but a community service work garden project in McKean County, Pennsylvania is anything but that. Kate Day Sager writes about a project that really is a beautification project. I get annoyed when I see tens of thousands of dollars spent on a “beautification” project that decorates a bridge with multiple names of a city in the area. How does that beautify anything? But to the point. Kate writes about a community service work garden that really does beautify an area as well as provides offenders of whatever sort a worthwhile project in which to become involved.

 Need for a community service work garden here.

Need for a community service work garden here.

Many area residents have likely seen and wondered who planted and cared for the beautiful flower gardens seen along U.S. Route 219 near the Kendall Avenue area. . . “There’s going to be perennials in there to start with and then a bunch of annuals added to it, so it will be beautiful,” said Mike Barnard, community service coordinator with the McKean County Adult Probation department.  Barnard said the three-year-old project is an on-going cooperative effort with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Highway Beautification Program.

Leave it to Pennsylvania to make wise use of our tax supported Highway Beautification Program.  Flower gardens will really beautify and not just sprinkle a little kitsch here and there.  We’ve got one of those bridges on I77 in Stark County, OH.  It’s the Pro Football Hall of Fame Bridge.  It crosses the interstate and has large orange arches that provide no structural support for the bridge at all.  Then we have images of football players in various poses hanging from panels along the arch.  Oh, and did I mention that the football players are lighted (when the bulbs aren’t burned out) at night?  I have to admit, though, that I have actually seen much worse expenditures of Highway Beautification tax dollars.  Beautification Dollars? Sorry. Back to Kate’s article.

Phil Causer, community service specialist, was serving as supervisor at the Kendall Avenue garden, and said the workers were installing raised beds and a watering system for the plants. . . Causer said the community service workers, who were not identified, were selected to build the flower beds because of their carpentry skills. He said he workers enjoyed helping with the project and other gardening projects in the county.

You can read the rest of Kate’s article by clicking here or on the link below.  There is more than one community service work garden around the county, one of which is a large vegetable garden used to feed jail inmates.  Kate says that you wouldn’t recognize people working along the highways as community service workers.  Read her article to find out why.


Photo by Orange County Archives

Recovery Through Community Gardening

Caroline Bauman has written an inspiring article about recovery through community gardening.  The drug court judge in Kansas City, Judge Joseph Losario, saw an opportunity to help turn around the lives of people he sees in his courtroom through participation in a community garden.  Caroline writes about how people “sentenced” to work in the community garden get in touch with their past, remembering what it was like when they gardened with their parents or grandparents.  They remember the good feelings they had at those times, and apparently, the seeds not only of plants are growing, but also recovery through community gardening seems to be taking place.

Recovery through community gardening.

Recovery through community gardening.

The garden, started by the Kansas City Municipal Court last year, was so popular that this year it has doubled in size to a 40-by-50-foot plot, deputy court administrator Stephanie Boyer said. “Many participants reflect back to childhood here, back to gardening with their parents or grandparents,” Boyer said at the garden on Saturday. “For the judge and us as a staff, this is a time to work alongside them, and it helps our relationship.” The idea came from a desire to offer court participants a therapeutic, healthy activity, said drug court judge Locascio, who is also the presiding judge of the municipal court.

What is so cool about this program is that it gives the judge a wider range of options for helping those who come into his courtroom.  Most of the people working through their drug addiction, if not hardened in their use, would certainly prefer to spend time in the garden rather than in jail.  Working alongside those same people who pass judgment on them in the courtroom creates a sense of togetherness in working on a problem rather than one of being adversaries.  There is an increasingly larger number of corrections facilities looking at gardening as an approach to helping those who come come into their realm.

Nancy Leazer, president of Friends of the Kansas City Problem-Solving Courts, said community gardens have become a common practice in corrections. The Friends nonprofit was created to support the city’s drug, mental health and veterans’ treatment courts, and it rents the two plots of the garden for $25 each, she said. Leazer said she worked at the Municipal Correctional Institution, which closed in 2009 and where inmates had a similar garden program. “It was a profound experience to see how much it gave to them,” Leazer said. “Gardening teaches healthy habits. It’s something they can take with them, and even pass down to their families.”

You can read Caroline’s article by clicking here or on the link below to enjoy the personal story of people who feel they have been helped by being involved in the community garden project.  If this approach to rehabilitation were attempted in large numbers and in different branches of corrections, it would be interesting to see how much recovery through community gardening could occur.  Would it work for not only drug offenders but for violent offenders?  For those convicted of robbery and fraud?  Hmmm. . . Wouldn’t gardening be even more wonderful if it would be at least a partial solution to our overcrowded prison population!


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article519647/Seeds-of-recovery-sprouting-from-court%E2%80%99s-community-garden.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article519647/Seeds-of-recovery-sprouting-from-court%E2%80%99s-community-garden.html#storylink=cpy

Photo by USDAgov

Gardens Suffered From A Harsh Winter

If your gardens suffered from a harsh winter, you would not be alone. This past winter produced more than the usual amount of winter kill in gardens across the country. Many plants that were supposed to be hardy in their zones did not survive the winter. Ellen Barcel has written an article about how her gardens fared this winter. She provides the reader with some good recommendations about what to do if your gardens suffered from a harsh winter.

Many gardens suffered from a harsh winter.

Many gardens suffered from a harsh winter.

Last fall was very dry. We also had a very cold and snowy winter and a cool spring . . . the dry autumn, unless you went out of your way to make sure that your plants were well watered, meant that many plants went into the winter in a weakened state.

Ellen makes a good point of why it was more difficult for plants to survive the winter, having gone into winter in a weakened state because of the dry fall.  I hadn’t given that any thought.  She notes that the polar vortex more than once dropped below it’s usual location.  Additionally the polar vortex was not in any great hurry to leave the area, so that plants were exposed to extreme cold for a longer than typical length of time.  So what can you do if you have experienced winter damage to your plants?  Here is one thing that Ellen recommends.

Prune out dead wood. Hopefully your plants will survive and even come back well. Take into consideration the overall shape of the shrub as you do that. Remove from your property any dead wood that appears to have suffered from a disease.

Ellen has four other recommendations that you can read by clicking here or on the link below.  One that I think is particularly wise to consider is to go one level below the hardiness recommendation of your area when buying new plants.  If we continue to get colder winters,  gardens that suffered from a harsh winter this past year are likely to continue to get treated rudely by future winters.  Ellen recommends hedging your bet.


Photo by F. D. Richards

Method To Successfully Transplant Seedlings

If you are looking to find a method to successfully transplant seedlings, I don’t think you’ll find a better one than that contained in the article written by Linden Staciokas. Though he writes for his readers in Fairbanks, Alaska, what he has to say will apply anywhere. The only variable is when you should transplant your seedlings. As long as you are beyond the date of the last frost expected in your geographic area, Linden’s method will work for you. I love what he says in his article initially, in a word or two, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” But if your method isn’t working or if you’re new to gardening, you’ll want to read about his method to successfully transplant seedlings.

Here's a method to successfully transplant seedlings.

Here’s a method to successfully transplant seedlings.

I water all the transplants slated for moving that day and then I leave them alone while I go off to dig all the holes I will need. I do not remove any seedlings from their containers prior to the completion of all my hole digging. This keeps the fragile roots from drying out while I am deciding that this area will take 15 artichokes. No, wait, 19. No, wait, 12 …  

Linden is trying to give his seedlings the best chance to survive that he can.  Sometimes I’ve not thought about the proper sequence when I’m anxious to get those seedlings into the ground.  Digging the holes first!  What a simple idea, but one to which I haven’t given a lot of thought.  My usual procedure is to dig one hole, remove one seedling, plant it and then go dig another hole.  Linden loosens the seedlings from their trays by watering them, then he digs all the holes he needs before he plants any of the seedlings.  And how does he prepare the holes?

There is nothing magical about the holes — they just need to be deep and wide enough that the plants can be pushed into the ground to the same depth they were in their containers, plus about another inch. The exception is indeterminate tomatoes, which can be planted so deep that only the top leaves are left showing; the covered stems will develop roots and the entire plant will become more robust.

There may not be anything “magical about the holes,” but it’s what Linden does with the “plus about another inch” that makes his method to successfully transplant seedlings different from what you and I might do.  To find out what he does with that other inch, read his article by clicking here or on the link below.  He follows a specific procedure with that final inch that just about guarantees a successful transplanting of his seedlings.  If you have less than average success transplanting your seedlings, check out Linden’s article.  You will find a method that you will probably never stop  using.




Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography

Native Illinois Plants Surpass All

When asked what was his favorite plant of all, Allsup gave a surprising answer.  Native Illinois plants surpass all others in his estimation for a variety of reasons.  Though he has seen the most beautiful plants from all over the world, why would this horticulturist say that native Illinois plants are his favorite?  Allsup’s answer comes not from his background as a horticulturalist, but rather from his developing interest in the environment.  In his estimation, native Illinois plants surpass all because of their contribution to the environment.

Native Illinois plants surpass all other non-natives.

Native Illinois plants surpass all other non-natives.

As a horticulturist, I am often asked to name my favorite plant. . .I chose native Illinois plants because somewhere along this journey of “all things University of Illinois horticulture,” I became an environmentalist. In addition to growing beautiful flowers, I fell in love with insects and their interactions with plants and flowers. As gardeners, we learn that non-native plants cannot compete with native plants when it comes to attracting butterflies.

As is often the case, we ignore the beauty in front of us to pursue the beauty of something far distant.  We miss the obvious that is right in front of our eyes.  Those wildflowers that grow in ditches along our roadways, tiger lilies, chicory, black-eyed Susans, butterfly milkweed, and yes, hay-fever sufferers, even Queen Anne’s lace, are viewed as beautiful by those who have never seen them before, but we often look at them as no more than common weeds.  Were we to cultivate some of these native plants and put them in our gardens, we might be contributing much more to our local environment than by our planting some exotic non-native plant.  Allsup gives Illinois gardeners some native options that could replace non-native plantings.

Instead of planting butterfly bush or shrub lespedeza to attract butterflies, plant native Hyssop, Milkweed, Liatris, Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm and Joe Pye Weed.

Instead of invasive burning bush for brilliant fall color, plant Highbush Blueberry, Chokeberry, Summersweet and Fothergilla.

You can read Allsup’s article by clicking here or on the link below to read about his other suggestions.  Perhaps native Illinois plants don’t surpass all plants in every aspect, and there may be some non-native plants that will fit in a landscape scheme better than a native plant, but I suspect we would be kinder to our local environments if we were to grow more native plants.  And who wouldn’t like to see more butterflies in the garden?


Photo by free photos & art

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