Urban Gardening

Q & A

Visiting local farms when you're on vacation can be a fun change from the typical tourist destinations.
Visiting local farms when you're on vacation can be a fun change from the typical tourist destinations.

Question: We are driving with our reluctant teens up the coast of northwest Michigan in July. Would you know of any green opportunities for learning, staying etc?

Answer: What a great idea, and don’t worry about the reluctance. I have taken many unenthusiastic youth on nature trips. Years later they always remember them fondly and are glad for the experience. Western Michigan has a plethora of state parks and farms. Check for guided tours and volunteer days at the state parks. Call local farmers (look in the phone book or do a Web search) to see if they accept (liability permitting) a few extra farmhands, or if they would give you a tour. Another option is to call local civic centers and participate in stewardship or cleanup projects.

Question: On my rose bush, right on the stem next to the leaf, there is a foam-like substance. Matter of fact, this foam is on three different stems. What is it? Is it harmful to my bush? What should I do about it?

Answer: The foam is probably from spittlebugs. In their juvenile stages they create and live inside the protective foam that hides them from predators. Spittlebugs are relatively harmless sapsuckers. However, if they are on the growing tips, they may damage new growth. Use a hose to simply wash them away.

Question: I am enjoying learning about different plants and flowers that thrive in Florida. What I don't know is how to put together a plan for the entire backyard that includes a deck and maybe a pool. Is that something a landscape designer considers? I do not want to waste money by putting in plants just because they will do well.

Answer: I commend you on your foresight. Planning now will help keep you on track as you work towards your dream garden. Before hiring a landscape designer, answer a few questions for yourself:

  1. What is the purpose of the garden? Is it relaxation, recreation, fruit and veggie production, botanical collections, wildlife habitat, cut flowers, privacy screening, entertaining, etc.?
  2. How is the space used now? Do you have pathways, play areas, utilities, a compost pile?
  3. What is the desired ratio between garden, lawn, and patio/deck?
  4. How much maintenance are you willing to do? Thirty minutes a day, an hour a week, whenever the mood strikes?
  5. Do you want one large continuous garden space or a collection of garden rooms?
  6. Do you want to incorporate hardscapes (benches, decks, fountains, waterfalls, pergolas, raised beds)?
After answering these questions, your discussions with landscape designers or consultants will be more productive. This information will help them create a design that is personalized and reflects your wishes, instead of some generic plan altered to fit into your space.

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