Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clean Produce with Water and 'Elbow Grease'

Regardless of fresh-food contamination scares, produce lovers should always thoroughly wash their food. It won’t guarantee that it’s safe, but it helps, say University of Georgia experts.
"It has not been determined whether the current cases of salmonella illnesses related to fresh tomatoes are linked to contamination on the fruit’s surface," said Elizabeth Andress, a UGA Cooperative Extension food safety specialist.

“In reality, we don’t know what the real problem is yet,” she said. “We don’t know if the bacteria are just on the outside or if they are on the inside, too. Until we know where the problem is coming from it’s hard for us to give consumers advice.”

Fresh water and friction

"The best way to clean produce at home," she said, "is to simply rub it while running fresh water over it."

Soaking the produce in a weak chlorine solution will reduce bacteria, too, but it won’t get it all if it is contaminated. “It is certainly not an answer to the problem,” she said.

Don’t soak produce for more than one minute in a chlorine solution. Still rub it under fresh water after the soak.

“Dirt or any kind of organic material that the vegetables add to the solution will use up available chlorine before any free chlorine can sanitize,” she said. “Free chlorine will bind with organic material first, and it's only what is left over that will be available to kill microorganisms.”

Nooks and crannies

Cleaning the surface of vegetables like cantaloupes can be a difficult task.

“There are so many nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide in on produce,” said Judy Harrison, a UGA Extension food safety specialist. “They can get down in the openings for respiration on the surface of leaves or inside stem scars.”

In addition to providing county agents with consumer information, Harrison works with UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences food scientists to develop post-harvest safety recommendations for farmers.

"The key to preventing contamination is to take precautions at all steps along the way -- from the farm fields to home tables," she said.

Follow these tips

To reduce health risks from contamination, Harrison offers these tips:
* Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after preparing fresh produce.
* Wash all produce before eating.
* Don’t wash it with soap or detergent or commercial produce washes.
* Remove damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating. Throw rotten-looking produce away.
* Wash produce even if you plan to peel it.
* Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
* Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Safe, Effective, All-Natural Formula Keeps Bugs Off Kids and Adults for Hours

NF Note: If it's a mosquito repellent that is natural, we're sure to check it out. We haven't tried this one, but it sounds interesting. My personal favorite mosquito repellent for the yard is a concentrated garlic spray. Yep, my house can smell like an Italian restaurant for a couple of hours. The smell does keep the mosquitoes away and I've yet to see any vampires! So it must work!

PRNewswire/ -- EcoSMART's new 6-ounce organic insect repellent can help families enjoy a DEET-free, mosquito-free summer, harnessing Nature's own defense against insects -- essential oils.

EcoSMART's non-toxic, botanical skin repellent is safe for use on children of all ages, and works as effectively as DEET and synthetic chemicals.

A revolutionary plant based formula is the secret to the efficacy of EcoSMART's insect repellent. Unlike conventional DEET-based formulas, EcoSMART's patented technology uses 100 percent food grade ingredients to keep mosquitoes, gnats and more away for hours. It has a fresh, natural scent, is non-oily and dries quickly.

"We recommend that parents choose an insect repellent that is as non-toxic as possible, as well as protecting children by reducing the amount of exposed skin that must be treated with repellent," said Christopher Gavigan, CEO/Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Healthy Child Healthy World, which offers credible information and expertise to help create healthy environments for families and children. "DEET is known to have adverse health effects when overused, especially on children. EcoSMART's new botanical repellent is an effective alternative to DEET-based products," he noted.

Parents can find additional tips to keep mosquitoes from biting at http://www.healthychild.org/, including:

-- Remove sources of standing water, such as old tires, bird baths, and planters.

-- Use goldfish or freshwater minnows to control larvae in ornamental pools.

-- Plant scented geraniums, lemon thyme, marigold, tansy, citrosa plants, sweet basil, rosemary and/or sassafras near your home.

  -- Use screens on windows and doors, and keep them in good condition.
-- Turn on the air conditioner in place of opening windows and doors.
-- Stay inside at dusk and early morning when mosquitoes are most active.
-- Do not use scented products, which attract mosquitoes.
-- Wear lightweight, long sleeves and pants.
-- Use the appropriate repellent.




Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Home Depot Launches National CFL Bulb Recycling Initiative

NF Note: One at a time, all working together-- we can conserve energy.

PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Home Depot(R), the world's largest home improvement retailer, today expanded its long-term commitment to the environment and sustainability by launching a national in-store, consumer compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb recycling program at all 1,973 The Home Depot locations. This free service is the first such offering made so widely available by a retailer in the United States and offers customers additional options for making environmentally conscious decisions from purchase to disposal. The Home Depot Canada launched a CFL recycling program in November, 2007.

At each The Home Depot store, customers can simply bring in any expired, unbroken CFL bulbs, and give them to the store associate behind the returns desk. The bulbs will then be managed responsibly by an environmental management company who will coordinate CFL packaging, transportation and recycling to maximize safety and ensure environmental compliance.

In addition to the CFL recycling program, The Home Depot has also launched an in-store energy conservation program to switch Light Fixture Showrooms in U.S. stores from incandescent bulbs to CFLs by Fall 2008 and save $16 million annually in energy costs.

The CFL recycling program is an extension of The Home Depot's Eco Options program. Eco Options, launched in April 2007, is a classification that allows customers to easily identify products that have less of an impact on the environment.

"The CFL recycling program is another example of how The Home Depot is empowering customers to help make a difference in their own homes, and have less of an impact on the environment," said Ron Jarvis, senior vice president, Environmental Innovation. "With more than 75 percent of households located within 10 miles of a Home Depot store, this program is the first national solution to providing Americans with a convenient way to recycle CFLs."

Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs is an easy change consumers can make to reduce energy use at home. According to the EPA's ENERGY STAR(R) program, if every American switched out one incandescent bulb to a CFL, it would prevent more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars. As the largest retailer of light bulbs in the country, The Home Depot sold over 75 million CFLs in 2007, which saved Americans approximately $4.8 billion in energy costs and 51.8 billion pounds in CO2 greenhouse gases over the life of the bulbs.

Other environmental initiatives The Home Depot has implemented since the launch of Eco Options in April 2007 include:

-- Store recycling program in the U.S. of shrink wrap and mixed plastics, which will result in 50 million pounds of waste diverted from landfills each year.

-- Internal recycling initiative at corporate headquarters that is projected to increase the amount of recycled materials from 30 percent to at least 65 percent.

-- Renewed commitment to use transportation partners registered in SmartWay program and ensuring The Home Depot distribution facilities and stores further promote emission reduction.

For more information on the CFL Recycling Program or Eco Options, please visit www.homedepot.com/ecooptions.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Container Gardens Perfect for Annual Color

A flower bed bursting with colorful annuals is the summertime dream of many gardeners. But many don’t have the space or time to care for them. With a bit of planning and good choices, flower-lovers can enjoy their favorite blossoms in containers.

"First, select a good pot. They are available in a variety of materials like foam, fiberglass, plastic or wood," said Krissy Slagle, a program assistant with the University of Georgia Master Gardener Program.

“If you’re going to use plastic, make sure it’s double-wall plastic,” she said.

"Containers made of low-quality plastic or wood will deteriorate quickly. To extend the life of a wooden container, line it with heavy-duty plastic," she said. "Spray black plastic pots with plastic-friendly paint to make them more attractive."

Use clay pots only in partly shady areas. “They dry out quicker,” she said. “So, I put them in afternoon shade or fill them with succulent plants.”

Concrete containers retain moisture and crack in the winter. “Plus, they are almost impossible to move,” she said.

Over the years, Slagle has seen gardeners select some very unique containers like bathtubs, toilets, wheelbarrows and children’s wagons.

The next step is soil selection. Use a soil-less mix for good drainage. Regular garden soil can have disease and be heavy, she said.

Don’t be scared to replace old soil or to pay for good soil. “It’s better to spend the money on soil than to be disappointed by plant losses halfway through the season,” she said.

Fill up the container with soil to two inches below the rim. This will allow you to water the plant without soil spilling out of the container.

Once you have selected a container and soil, pick a good location for the container. Plant selection is often based on location.

“Every container garden should have a thriller, a filler and a spiller,” Slagle said. “The thriller is the focal point, the filler fills the container and the spiller spills over the edge.”

She recommends cannas or elephant ears as thrillers, coleus or ornamental peppers as fillers and sweet potato vines or petunias as spillers.

“Coleus has been rediscovered by gardeners,” she said. “It comes in some many colors and leaf shapes.”

Use tall plants to attract attention or a small statuary as a focal point. Slagle says mixing plants with different textures will also create an interesting affect.

Gardeners who like to change out plants frequently may choose to place a pot in the center of their container garden. “This way you can swap out flowering colorful plants as often as you’d like,” she said.

When it comes to color selection, Slagle says this is a personal choice. She prefers plants that flower in the same color scheme. Others prefer blending opposites, like pairing plants with blue flowers with plants that produce orange flowers.

“Neutral colors like white, black and gray add depth,” Slagle said.

Keep plant proportions in mind, too. Small containers should have plants that are small and will continue to be so.

“Persian shield is very popular now,” she said. “It may start small, but it can grow to four feet.”
Make sure all the plants you select have the same water and sun requirements, Slagle said. Don’t combine shade-loving plants with plants that require five hours of daily sun.

Despite all the choices involved in creating a container garden, Slagle said remembering to water your garden is the hardest part.

“One way to use less water is to plant in big pots. The bigger the better,” she said. “The soil doesn’t dry out as quickly in larger containers.

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Biofuel: What Everyone Should Know

(NAPSI)-In the world’s continuing effort to find alternative energy sources, one word powers many of the current discussions and debates: biofuel.

What is it?

Biofuel is any fuel that is derived from biomass-recently living organisms or their metabolic by-products, such as manure from cows. It is a renewable energy source, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear fuels.

Agricultural products specifically grown for use as biofuels include corn and soybeans (primarily in the United States) as well as flaxseed and rapeseed (primarily in Europe). Waste from industry, agriculture, forestry and households can also be used to produce bioenergy; examples include straw, lumber, manure, sewage, garbage and food leftovers. Most biofuel is burned to release its stored chemical energy. The largest advantage of biofuel in comparison to most other fuel types is that the energy within the biomass can be stored for an indefinite time period, while remaining resistant to all weather conditions with no corrosive behavior.

The production of biofuels to replace oil and natural gas is in active development, focusing on the use of cheap organic matter (usually cellulose, agricultural and sewage waste) in the efficient production of liquid and gas biofuels that yield high net energy gain.

Who’s doing it?

Sustainable Power Corp. (OTC: SSTP) has received global accolades since 2006 for its research and creation of a celebrated biofuel-a world-changing discovery and green-energy advancement that is made from 100 percent renewable resources and yields three times more fuel than other methods. Specific benefits of the company’s products include:

• SSTP’s biofuels are 100 percent biological and require zero blended petroleum.

• SSTP’s biodiesel and Vertroleum require zero engine modifications in all vehicles. As a result, people don’t have to spend money to save money or be forced to modify their cars.

• SSTP’s biofuels are made using the Rivera Process, which does not work with food crops-instead utilizing such plant materials as jatropha, hay, palm waste, straw and chickweed, which are free of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

The company’s biofuel demonstrates a per-gallon performance rating that’s higher than current petroleum products and is made at a fraction of the production cost of any green alternative, providing perhaps the most viable green-energy solution available.

For additional information, visit www.sustainablepower.com.

Sustainable Power Corp.’s celebrated biofuel is a green-energy advancement that is made from 100 percent renewable resources and yields three times more fuel than other methods.

Monday, June 16, 2008

First tomatoes

Yesterday I "harvested" the first two tomatoes off my home-grown plants. One from each. I brought the tomatoes in, handed one to my husband with pride, and we each popped one in our mouth. The entire tomato in one bite. Oh, they were so good!

Grape tomatoes in case you're wondering!

I worked hard for those little buggers. (Bad choice of words! No bugs in those two 'maters).

I cleaned out a garden that luckily has some natural and man-made protection from our many deer. One side is shaded to a small degree by bushes, the other is sided by our driveway. We live in the middle of Fayette County in an area where wildlife abounds. I love seeing the deer in the yard, the rabbits hopping along the edges of the woods and the chipmunks playing in the woods. But I don't want them plundering my garden.

I've long neglected the plot, letting the older flowers the previous owner planted go native. I finally had to dig it all up last year when some tenacious weed took hold. Nothing short of digging up all the dirt would get rid of it. I had even, finally, as a last resort tried Round-Up (the super-duper kind when the regular didn't work) and then put down a few layers of Preem afterwards. The shiny, quick multiplying bushy weeds came back!

After realizing first, I don't like pesticides and didn't want them in my home-grown produce, and two, I wasn't going to be able to nuke the stupid weeks out of existence, I took off the top 6 inches or so of soil, put new soil down along with fertilizer and soil treatment. I then planted two grape tomato plants, a Better Boy tomato, an assortment of herbs and the obligatory marigolds.

Guess what? The weeds are trying to come back. However, now as they come back up, I'm pulling them. I will win this battle!!!

I've faithfully watered the tomatoes and plucked the nasty horned caterpillars. I staked the plants, and then re-staked when I realized I'd thought a bit too small when choosing the type stakes to use.

Many years ago I grew large gardens. I'd clear out a plot big enough for lettuce, cucumbers, corn, watermelons and other favorites. Over the years I've moved from the garden to the grocery store for my produce. I have missed the taste of a real tomato grown on the vine until completely ripe.

Now, finally, I'm at a place and time when I can at least grow my own tasty tomatoes. It is so satisfying to grow something and to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Hmmm.... fruit. I haven't thought about trying my hand at growing fruit. Maybe next year.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gardening Doesn’t Have to be a Pain in the Shade

Few things are more impressive in the landscape than large, majestic oak trees or maple trees bursting with fall color. They add dimension and needed shade in the summer, too. They also provide a challenge to a gardener looking to add color to a shaded landscape.

While the list of plants for sunny locations seems to be endless, the shade gardener must be a little more selective to ensure good plant survival. Luckily, there are many plants available to enhance shadowy real estate.

First, determine how much shade you have. Is it a couple of hours in the afternoon caused by a few pine trees? Is it dense shade caused by a group of magnolia trees? There is a big difference between what we call partial shade and full shade. There are also areas of shade that fall between these two categories.

Some plants thrive in almost cave-like shade. Others handle light-filtered shade. It is best to check the yard for shade at different times of the day and throughout the year to see what you really have. A site can be modified with the removal of a few tree limbs.

Many vines can thrive in low-light areas and add color. Common jasmine does well in almost any soil condition and can handle moderate shade. It has bright yellow blooms. Carolina jessamine is another good choice. Both vines need support such as a post or trellis.

Other vines for shaded areas are honeysuckle, cross vine, trumpet vine and large flowered clematis. Most of the ivies will also do well such as Algerian ivy. Avoid invasive types such as English ivy.

For areas that require small plants or ground covers, consider holly fern, lenten rose or even daylilies. Others are pachysandra, periwinkle or possibly mondo grass. Many of these are available in a variegated form, which can brighten dark areas.

Ferns certainly top the list for thriving in shaded, moist areas. Whether you choose the Christmas fern, Japanese painted fern or one of the other dozens available, they are sure to provide unique interest with their delicate foliage. Ferns can range in size from a few inches across to several feet.

Other moist-area selections include willow gentian. It’s a perennial that grows three feet tall with arching stems bearing ultramarine-blue trumpets in the fall.

Bottlebrush buckeye is another possibility for moist shaded areas. It is a native shrub that has white bottle brush shaped flowers. This plant can reach over six feet.

Oakleaf hydrangea is a large native plant with spectacular white blooms in the spring that will also survive well in moist shaded areas. This plant is best sited in areas with plenty of room. Mature plants can be eight feet tall with a 10-foot spread.

When it comes to shrubs, the list includes short, tall and medium plants as well as deciduous and evergreen varieties. Azaleas and yews are popular shade-tolerant shrubs. Within the world of perennials, the best-known example is the hosta.

Hardy ferns of all kinds are easy to grow. Two favorites include autumn fern and cinnamon fern, so named because of its distinctively colored new fronds.

Here are a few more shade-tolerant plants:

Annuals: begonia, coleus, impatiens, forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica), pansy (Viola)

Perennials: astilbe, bleeding heart (Dicentra), bugbane (Cimicifuga), campanula, columbine (Aquilegia), coral bells (Heuchera), foxglove (Digitalis), goatsbeard (Aruncus), hellebore, daylily (Hemerocallis), hosta, Virginia bluebell (Mertensia pulmonarioides), fern, monkshood (Aconitum), phlox, primrose (Primula), lungwort (Pulmonaria), cardinal flower (Lobelia), Siberian iris, veronica

Groundcovers: ajuga, wild ginger (Asarum), sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), epimedium, lamium, liriope, mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), pachysandra, spirea, vinca

Shrubs: boxwood (Buxus), daphne, gold dust (Aucuba), holly (Ilex) hydrangea, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), leucothoe, Oregon grape (Mahonia), mock orange (Philadelphus), nandina, cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), rhododendron and azalea, viburnum, yew (Taxus)

Trees: dogwood (Cornus), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), stewartia.

Bob Westerfield
University of Georgia

Bob Westerfield is the consumer horticulturist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

“Gardening in Georgia” Introduces New Hydrangea

Plant new perennials and hydrangeas while keeping weeds at bay on “Gardening in Georgia with Walter Reeves” June 25 and 28.

"Gardening in Georgia" airs on Georgia Public Broadcasting stations across Georgia each Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Keep up with the ever-changing hydrangea as Walter visits with Gene Griffith and Elizabeth Dean at Wilkerson Mill Gardens. They’ll show off vining hydrangeas with flowers shaped like a sheep’s head.

There’s a new perennial in town. Watch as Stephanie Turner at Park Seed teaches Walter about Heuchera, a plant many did not know about 10 years ago.

Walter explains three common landscape weeds: mulberry weed, yellow oxalis and copperleaf. Knowing these weeds could save your garden.

Planting fruits next to vegetables may seem like a bad idea. Fears of the plants cross breeding into a nasty-tasting “veggie-fruit” are wide spread. Walter talks about pollination and genetics to explain why this isn’t a problem.

“Gardening in Georgia” is coproduced by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and GPB. It's underwritten by McCorkle Nurseries and the Georgia Urban Agriculture Council.

More on "Gardening in Georgia" can be found at www.gardeningingeorgia.com.

By Kristen Plank
University of Georgia

Kristen Plank is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Showstopping Performer Is A Winner In The Landscape

(NAPSI)-The “golden rule” for America’s favorite perennial has always been that gold (or yellow) daylilies bloom longer than lavender, pink, purple or red daylilies. Meanwhile, “trophy” or “exhibition” type daylilies, with dramatic markings and petal edges, bloom less than “landscape” types that have smaller, less dramatic blooms.

Yet the newest winner of the All-American Daylily Selection Council (AADSC) award breaks this rule: a stunning “exhibition” type daylily that blooms longer than most of the yellow varieties.

Known as Blushing Summer Valentine (Hemerocallis “Blushing”), this blossom has striking pink blooms featuring a magenta eye and picotee edges. A winner in the landscape and exhibition categories, Blushing Summer Valentine blooms 30 to 150 days per year in zones 5 to 10 and adds drama to any landscape or border.

Since 1994, AADSC has been awarding its “All-American” on hardy, beautiful blossoms with scientifically proven superior performance. The title is not just an award granted to the prettiest cultivar, but rather given only to those rare daylily varieties that have demonstrated superior performance in dozens of criteria across at least five USDA hardiness zones.

The award differs from others in that its results are based on rigorous scientific methodology. Since 1989, AADSC has operated a network of test sites throughout the U.S. and has collected data on more than 50 performance characteristics so that consumers can purchase All-American Daylilies with confidence, knowing that these low-maintenance, sun-loving beauties will thrive in their backyard beds, front-walk borders or sundeck containers.

In 2001, rust resistance was added as one of the key test criteria. In selecting for “bulletproof” performance, the AADSC has focused on identifying and promoting the most rust-resistant daylily varieties. The 2008 All-American variety is a tried-and-true cultivar whose test scores earned it the AADSC’s top honor. This winner offers a unique combination of beauty, performance and flexibility, making it a guaranteed success in any garden.

Blushing Summer Valentine joins the previous All-Americans to provide gardeners with a steady stream of tried-and-tested perennial beauties. They are available at garden centers and can be a beautiful and successful addition to virtually any garden. Past winners include:

1994-Black-Eyed Stella, best known for its landscape performance as a nearly continuous bloomer.

1998-Lullaby Baby and Starstruck, honored for exquisite beauty and balance in the exhibition category.

2002-Bitsy, featuring a petite personality with powerful performance; Leebea Orange Crush, which commands attention in any setting; and Judith, a large, vigorous variety, with a profusion of glowing pink blossoms-a trophy in anyone’s garden.

2003-Frankly Scarlet, a vibrant red that not only sustains but builds color intensity in the heat; and Plum Perfect, a clear, vibrant bloom with a striking symmetry of foliage that offers purity of color, vigorous growth, multiple bloom periods and wide adaptability.

2004-Lady Lucille, a large, showy bloom that starts off just as most other daylilies are winding down; and Chorus Line, which offers a mass of blooms that provide a splendid display of color with fragrant, well-formed, wide, ruffled pink petals.

2005-Red Volunteer, a velvety, crimson beauty with striking eye appeal; and Miss Mary Mary, a wonderfully compact border plant.

2006-Buttered Popcorn, a large, buttery-gold bloom that boasts nearly continuous blooming from mid-season into fall and up until frost; and Persian Market, a large, showy salmon-pink with a rose halo.

2007-Lavender Vista, which pairs profuse, lavender blooms with lush, evergreen foliage.

For more information about the All-American Daylily winners, or to download high-resolution photos, visit www.allamericandaylilies.com. Consumers can also go to the site to locate the closest garden center offering All-American daylilies or to place an order online.

Beauty and hardiness are complementary characteristics of plants that earn recognition as “All-American Daylilies.”

Green Garden Furniture Is Going Mainstream

As Americans begin gearing up for the warm summer months they will discover an increase in environmentally-friendly garden furniture in many familiar stores. According to a National Wildlife Federation survey of major outdoor furniture retailers, consumers can expect to find a wider variety of styles and prices of sustainable wood garden products.

No longer just for the passionately eco-conscious, such environmentally friendly furniture has gone mainstream, being sold at retailers ranging from Wal-Mart to Pottery Barn. “Outdoor furniture can now be good for the environment and good for the pocketbook,” said Stacy Brown, forest certification coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation and overseer of the survey. “Sustainable wood garden products are most often competitively priced with conventional garden furniture.”

Reflecting this increase, the National Wildlife Federation expanded the number of companies invited to participate in its second annual Garden Furniture Scorecard from 13 to 22. Crate & Barrel and Pier 1 Imports scored highest for the second year in a row, with The Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and Gardener’s Supply Company also scoring well. Notably, the majority of retailers that were part of the scorecard last year improved their scores in 2008, meaning a higher percentage of their wooden outdoor furniture options are environmentally friendly.

The U.S. is the world’s largest single importer of wooden furniture from tropical timber-producing countries, with garden furniture representing about one-fifth of the wooden furniture market. U.S. imports of all tropical wood products have increased four-fold over the past decade. As a result, the once biologically rich forests of countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil are being depleted at an unprecedented rate.

“Deforestation, especially in tropical forests, accounts for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing significantly to global warming,” said Eric Palola, senior director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Forests for Wildlife campaign. “Unsustainable tree harvesting also greatly contributes to the rapid disappearance of the world’s remaining natural forest habitats. As more retailers offer wooden garden furniture made from sustainably-harvested forests, and those products become more popular with consumers, trends in tropical forest loss can begin to reverse.”

Several species of neo-tropical birds that summer in the U.S. and Canada depend on threatened tropical forests in Latin America. A major cause of deforestation is the legal and illegal logging of remaining primary forests to meet the global appetite for tropical wood products.

At current rates of deforestation, the remaining biodiversity-rich natural forests in countries such as Ecuador, Columbia, Guyana, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to disappear within a decade.

Stacy Brown recommends that consumers look for and ask for products with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, which means the wood is traceable to a sustainably-managed forest. An FSC distinction assures that wildlife and forest ecosystems are conserved through rigorous ecological standards that an independent company audits on an annual basis.

Fortunately for buyers, FSC-certified furniture is becoming easier to find as more products bear the FSC label and more stores are using the label in advertising to identify products. ""At Wal-Mart we believe that selling FSC certified furniture not only shows our commitment to the environment but also to quality products that have added value for our customers,” said Tom Flynn, Strategic Sourcing Senior Manager at Wal-Mart. “Displaying the FSC logo on FSC-certified products and in our advertising demonstrates this commitment and helps our customers feel good about saving money so they can live better, while supporting sustainable forestry practices."

However, consumer vigilance is still necessary since many green marketing claims lack independent verification and may not be truly eco-friendly. By insisting on FSC-certified goods, buyers can influence retailers’ supply of sustainably-forested products.

As wood products, FSC-certified goods reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save energy at all steps of production. The manufacture of metal or plastic garden furniture requires greater quantities of fossil fuels and releases more carbon than the crafting of wooden furniture. In fact, the amount of carbon a tree collects from the atmosphere and stores during its natural growth processes exceeds the amount of carbon emitted when that tree is harvested and made into furniture.

NWF plans to continue its annual surveys of major outdoor furniture retailers to track the progress of making FSC-certified products available to consumers.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Don’t Let Uninvited Feathered Visitors ‘Fowl’ Your Outdoor Fun

NF Note: Feeding the ducks and geese are popular events at Lake Peachtree in Peachtree City. We certainly agree the droppings are less than desired results of the fowls' presence. Should Peachtree City get a "fake gator" for the lake? Wonder how many heart attacks that would cause?

(ARA) – It’s only human: You see a pair of Canada Geese waddling across your yard with half a dozen fuzzy goslings in tow and your heart melts; they’re so darn cute. Until you follow the same path the feathered family took, and realize they’ve left something decidedly unpleasant – and potentially hazardous – in their wake.

Goose feces can put a major damper on outdoor fun at this time of year, especially for properties near water. In fact, the birds can become such a nuisance at outdoor facilities like golf courses that it’s unlikely groundskeepers experience a rush of tender sentiment when they see little feathered fuzzballs hopping across the greens. Not only do bird droppings make an environment unpleasant, they pose a slip-and-fall hazard, and are a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

“There’s no denying how cute families of geese are at this time of year, so it’s no surprise that most people faced with a goose problem don’t want to harm the birds,” says David Kogan, a technician with Bird-X, a company that has helped convince millions of Canada Geese and other winged intruders to move along during its 44 years of business. “People just want the birds to relocate somewhere that they will not be a nuisance. Plus, killing the birds doesn’t solve the problem, because more will just move in to fill the void left by the demise of the previous residents.”

At any given time, there are 3.5 million to 5.5 million Canada Geese living in the United States. Another 9 million to 11 million migrate through the country every spring and fall. “Many of those migratory birds gladly join their stay-put compatriots to raise families on U.S. soil at this time of year,” Kogan says.

Water, food, lush greens and a safe, easy location for rearing goslings are on the “must-have” list for every house-hunting Canada goose. The key to getting them to move along – safely and effectively – is to cross off one or more of those elements from the list of things that make your location desirable. “An approach that motivates the birds on three levels – sight, sound and taste – will be most effective,” Kogan says.

Sight aversions can include devices like a three-dimensional coyote replica or a Gator Guard - a life-size, lifelike replica of an alligator head – that make birds think a predator has moved into their territory. Actual goose distress calls, broadcast from a Goose Buster sonic device, make birds believe an area is unsafe for their kind. Finally, Goose Chase, a biodegradable food-grade agent made from the bitter-tasting, smelly part of concord grapes, makes food sources such as grass and ponds taste bad.

To learn more about effective goose removal products and techniques that are also environmentally conscious, visit www.bird-x.com/ARA or call (800) 662-5021.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Fayetteville, Peachtree City, Tyrone

Friday, June 06, 2008

Roses Can Be Easy To Grow

NAPSI-Everyone agrees that roses are beautiful, but many also believe that roses are hard to grow. Today, nothing could be farther from the truth. New varieties give homeowners exactly what they want--brilliant roses that are a breeze to grow. Plus, roses are the only plant that will bloom repeatedly throughout the season: a sweet reward for very little effort.

With hybridizing advances, roses are more vigorous, fragrant and will bloom more frequently than ever before. If you have sunlight and water, you have what it takes to raise the perfect rose.

Sadly, the rose remains shrouded in misconception. Here are four myth busters that prove you don’t need a green thumb to successfully grow roses.

Myth 1: Amateurs need not apply. Think that only expert gardeners can grow roses, and the rest of us should throw in the trowel? Wrong! The truth is that roses are very easy to grow. The key is to start with the best varieties from your local garden center. Look for roses that have won the All-America Rose Selections (AARS) seal of approval. Only the very best new roses are named AARS winners. These are sure to flower to your heart’s content with minimal effort.

Myth 2: Roses are labor intensive. Roses have an undeserved reputation for being high maintenance and fussy. If you think growing roses means constantly spraying, grooming, feeding and pruning, think again. Experts agree that success can be as easy as choosing an award-winning rose plant and giving it regular water and six hours of sun a day.

Myth 3: All roses are disease prone. In reality, the number of disease-resistant roses has been steadily increasing, which means that it’s now possible to find gorgeous, worry-free roses that will flourish with little effort.

Myth 4: Only old roses are proven performers. Many people are sentimental and tend to stick with roses they know from their childhood memories. In truth, new varieties are more vigorous, have more blooms and are easier to care for. Not many people covet the old Edsels these days, so in the same vein, now is a good time to introduce a modern rose plant to your garden.

What’s the easiest way to conquer these myths? Look for the All-America Rose Selections’ “seal of approval,” which means you’ll be getting the best roses for your garden. Only AARS winners have passed two years of testing in 23 gardens across the U.S., representing all climate zones. These roses have proven themselves in the AARS gardens, so they’re sure to thrive in yours. For more tips and information, visit www.rose.org.

Today’s roses are easier to grow than ever.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Things You Can Do To Improve Your Community

(StatePoint) Most of us like where we live, but our neighborhoods and communities can be even better.

While many people are concerned about the direction in which our country is heading, it sometimes seems like one person can't make a difference. However, there are many ways - both big and small - that you and your family can improve your neighborhood and community.

Whether it's volunteering at local schools or churches, working with local organizations to improve streets and shopping areas, or simply voting in local elections, there are many relatively easy ways to help make your community better.

"Don't look for other people to lead or fix problems. You can be a leader and a contributor in your community and our country," says Mary T. Ficalora, author of the new book, "Choosing Honor: An American Woman's Search For God, Family and Country in an Age of Corruption."

"We each have the knowledge and power to help improve our communities and make our streets safe and cleaner, strengthen our schools and hospitals and even help lead our local governments," she added.

Here are some ways you and your family can work to improve your community:

* First of all, tune in, stresses Ficalora. Learn what's going on in your community, your world and your government. Think about what things you would like to improve and find out if others are working to improve these same areas. Either join their groups or start your own.

* Buy from local stores. Local stores and businesses pay taxes that help the neighborhood and community. They advertise locally and help the economy where you live. Also, buying locally helps the environment by reducing energy consumption necessary to transport goods over long distances. So look to local stores and farms for groceries and other goods.

* Move your money into community banks that contribute to your neighborhood, state and region. Since we all need to have bank accounts, why not establish them in places that help your hometown?

* Remove litter near your house, even if you didn't toss it there. Get involved in local cleanup campaigns or start one of your own. You can get your family and others involved and see results quickly. These can be great projects for children.

* Join local neighborhood associations or similar groups. If one doesn't exist, organize it. You don't need to lead a group to strengthen it. Be sure someone in your family attends its local meetings. This way you can be informed and help shape your community's future. Help get other residents and local businesses involved. Make sure your association holds regular meetings with officials from local government, as well as police, fire and sanitation departments.

* Get the whole family -- and even your friends and neighbors -- involved in working in your community. Giving time together not only strengthens your family bond, but helps your selected cause. "Families are more powerful than individual family members and communities are more powerful than families," urges Ficalora. "The more people you get on same page, the more united you can be in strengthening or taking back your community."

* Vote in local and national elections. Pay attention and question the motivation of authorities. Consider giving your time to a local campaign or cause, or even running for office. Remember, you can voice your opinion not just about things that are wrong, but about how to fix them. Find out where your local tax dollars are going and get involved to help ensure they are directed to needy causes - be they local schools, emergency rooms, law enforcement, roads, etc.

These are only a few ways to get started strengthening your community and the country. For more ideas, read Ficalora's new book "Choosing Honor," available at bookstores or online at www.availpress.com.

"Take action to make changes happen in your world and be of service," says Ficalora. "Find out what is going on for yourself. Regardless of economic or social status, we each have an equal opportunity to make a change."

Top Penny Pinching Lawn Care Tips

(StatePoint) Saving money on lawn care doesn't have to mean an unkempt, weed-filled lawn that's the ugliest one on the block. By following a few easy tips you can find ways to stretch your dollar and still have a green and beautiful yard.

"As household budgets get tight, lots of homeowners are looking for a way to save a few dollars here and there, and lawn care is no exception," says Yard Doctor, Trey Rogers, Ph.D. "The key to yard care on a budget is to do the basics right and forgo some of the frills."

Here are some useful penny-pinching lawn and yard care tips from Rogers and his Web site www.yarddoctor.com, that can help you save money this season:

* Mow the right way. Don't cut your lawn too short. Instead, let it grow a little longer so you won't mow quite as often. This is healthy for the lawn and will save on gas and wear and tear on your mower. When you do mow, cut only one-third the length of the lawn.

* Fertilize when it will do the most good. Fertilizer can be expensive, especially if you have a large yard. If you don't want to part with the money to fertilize as often as recommended for your area, at least fertilize once - when it will do the most good. This means when the grass is actively growing.

* Maintain your equipment. For your mower, do preventive maintenance once a year. Change the oil, clean or replace the spark plug, and change the filters. Use a fuel preservative so the gasoline won't go stale, which it does in about 30 days. Thirty minutes of maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars in repair bills.

* Make your own compost. This costs nothing but a little time, as opposed to purchasing bags of compost at the garden center. It's easy. Start a pile that includes most leftovers from your meals (excluding proteins). Add coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peels and yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings. Keep it damp and stir it occasionally and you will have nutrient-rich compost in a few months.

* Let nature water your lawn. Your lawn needs about one inch of water a week to be green and thrive. But if water is costly where you live, let nature handle irrigation. If too little rain falls, your lawn may go dormant, but unless you are in a drought situation, it will green up again when the rain falls.

For more free tips on how to create a healthy lawn and landscape, visit the Yard Doctor online at www.yarddoctor.com. The Yard Doctor is part of the Briggs & Stratton Yard Smarts program, created to help homeowners achieve the yard they really want to have by providing knowledge and inspiration on lawn and yard care.

"Just because you're pinching pennies on caring for your lawn doesn't mean you have to settle for anything but a beautiful yard," stresses Rogers.

Drought Spreads to S. Ga., Conditions May Worsen

If dry conditions persist, Georgia is in for a very hot summer. If the drought intensifies, temperatures across the mountains could reach into the middle to upper 90s while the piedmont bakes in the low 100s. Across the coastal plains temperatures in the 104 to 106 range may not be out of the question.

Georgia is entering the climatological summer. Climatologists define summer as June, July and August. This year’s astronomical summer, the summer solstice, begins June 21.

Drought conditions have already spread into south-central and southwest Georgia. Much of southeast and coastal Georgia is now abnormally dry for early June.

After improvements in drought conditions across north Georgia during the cool season, conditions are expected to worsen over the next several months.

Summer routinely brings temperatures in the 90s. Georgians can expect hot, dry weather to cause very rapid soil moisture loss over the next week. This loss in soil moisture will also drop stream flows and groundwater levels.

Several indicators are used in drought classification: 30 day rainfall, 90 day rainfall, 6 month rainfall, 12 month rainfall, 24 month rainfall, rainfall since the previous October 1 (the “water year”), soil moisture, stream flows, groundwater levels and reservoir levels.

Across much of south Georgia, 30- and 90-day rainfall has been well below normal. Thirty day rainfall over much of south-central and southwest Georgia has been less than half of normal. Some locations reported less than one-quarter of normal rainfall over the past month.

Ninety day rainfall across the southern half of the state has been generally less than 70 percent of normal with pockets in south-central and southwest receiving less than 50 percent of normal rain.

Stream flows across most of the state are currently just above the previous record-low flows for early June. Many of the current stream-flow records across the state were set in 1988 and 2007.

A few locations are setting daily records for low flow including the Chattooga River near Clayton, the Oconee River at Milledgeville, the Flint River near Oakfield and at Newton and the Withlacoochee River near Quitman.

Soil moisture levels are extremely low along and west of I-75 and along and north of I-20. With little rainfall and temperatures in the 90s, soil moisture levels which had been in relatively good shape for the remainder of the state have been dropping very quickly over the past couple of weeks.

Farm ponds, especially ponds not fed by springs, are starting to show the lack of rain. Many ponds didn’t receive adequate recharge during the winter and entered the summer already low.

Extreme drought conditions exist in Banks, Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens counties of northeast Georgia. This means that multiple drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in 50 years.

The counties north of a Carroll - Fulton - Clayton - DeKalb - Rockdale - Walton - Oconee - Oglethorpe - Wilkes - Lincoln counties line are classified as being in severe drought. This means that multiple drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in 20 years.

Moderate drought is now found in the counties north and west of a Lowndes - Cook - Tift - Turner - Crisp - Dooly - Houston - Bibb - Jones - Baldwin - Hancock - Glascock - Warren - McDuffie - Richmond line. Moderate drought classification occurs when multiple drought indicators are at levels we expect about once in 10 years.

Mild drought conditions have developed in Ben Hill, Berrien, Bleckley, Bryan, Burke, Chatham, Echols, Effingham, Irwin, Jefferson, Lanier, Liberty, Pulaski, Twiggs, Washington, Wilcox and Wilkinson counties. Mild drought means that several drought indicators are at levels we expect about once in seven years.

The following seven southeast Georgia counties are currently classified as not being in drought: Appling, Bacon, Brantley, Glynn, Pierce, northern Ware and Wayne. However, soil moisture is decreasing rapidly in these counties. Drought conditions could develop over the next several weeks in these counties.

The remaining south Georgia counties are classified as abnormally dry for early June. Localized drought conditions are starting to develop in these counties.

Widespread drought conditions are expected in these counties within the next couple of weeks. Abnormally dry means that several drought indicators are at levels that we expect about once in five years.

For the next several months, Georgia’s best chance for widespread drought relief will be tropical disturbances. However, the tropics usually don’t become active until late summer.

June and July are critical. Without major rain events the soils will continue to become drier leading to lower stream flows, groundwater levels and reservoir and pond levels.

For current Georgia drought information, go to the Web site www.georgiadrought.org. Weather information is available at the University of Georgia automated weather station network Web site www.georgiaweather.net.

By: David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gardening Anywhere, Tools and Ideas for Smaller Spaces

(ARA) - Whether it’s five stories up in an apartment building or in a tiny backyard, it’s possible to grow greenery. As long as there is access to water and sunshine, people with the desire to add a little plant life to their living space can break out the watering can and create a green space.

Small-area and container gardening are easy, relatively inexpensive activities that people of all ages can enjoy. Today’s lawn and garden market is full of products aimed to satisfy the garden enthusiast in any location. Windowsill boxes, mini-herb gardens, packaged potting mixes and containers of all shapes and sizes make it easier than ever to grow something beautiful, no matter where you live.

“A container garden offers residents in smaller, often urban, spaces the chance to grow and eat fresh vegetables and enjoy beautiful flowers,” says William Moss, a master gardener specializing in urban gardening and author of the “Moss in the City” e-newsletter for the National Gardening Association. “A well-maintained vegetable container garden can produce enough vegetables to prepare nutritious meals and save money at the same time.”

Little Time, Big Convenience
One of the many benefits of small-space gardening is the small amount of time and effort it takes. As with any type of garden, it requires commitment and care. Ensuring plants get the proper amount of sunlight and water is crucial. However, a smaller space means less weeding and fewer pests. Slow-release fertilizer and automatic watering systems also cut down on time. Miracle-Gro Watering Can Singles are great time savers, making it easy to feed plants with convenient pre-measured packets of water-soluble plant food that can be quickly poured into a watering can.

Other considerations include the plants’ location. It is important to secure plants kept on windowsills or terraces so they won’t blow away during strong winds. If plants are frequently exposed to inclement weather, they should be moved to a sheltered spot or protected using supports and cages.

Doing a Lot with a Small Space
Another important benefit of small-space gardening is the amount of room needed. Depending on the plant, almost any container is acceptable as long as it can hold eight inches of soil and has holes at the bottom for water to drain. Rocks can be put in the bottom to assist drainage if there are no holes. Containers also tend to dry out quickly, so paying attention to watering and feeding is critical. Avoid filling the container with ground soil that can contain bacteria or fungi. Instead use packaged potting soil that is supplemented with fertilizer and other nutrients. Be sure to look at the care instructions that come with the plants and follow the directions on the potting soil and supplements to ensure the best outcome possible.

Growing For Food and Fancy
Different types of flowers, fruits, vegetables and plants thrive in containers. Vegetables such as peppers, garlic and lettuce are all easy to grow in containers. Herbs are especially well-suited for pots, and are easy to maintain since most pests tend to avoid them and they’re not susceptible to disease.

As long as there is adequate sunlight, herbs can be grown outdoors or indoors. Many herbs, like basil, dill, oregano and parsley, grow easily from seeds, which are less expensive than seedlings. Plant height is important to keep in mind, as basil, parsley and dill can grow one foot or taller.

For a plant that’s a beauty and easy-to-care for, try miniature roses. Available in a multitude of colors and varieties, it is easy to find one for just about any small space. Other colorful and low-maintenance container flowers are geraniums, impatiens, begonias, marigolds and zinnias. During the summer, Moss recommends growing plants with tolerant dispositions that can stand up to heat, pests and stormy summer weather. Flowers like the crinum lily, nasturtium, trailing petunia and moss rose are all colorful, low-maintence and grow during the summer months.

“Many different plants grow well in containers, but depending on location, some plants will flourish where others will wilt,” says Moss. “Check with local nurseries for flowers that thrive in your area.”

For more tips and fun ideas on starting a container garden or growing in small spaces visit www.itsgrotime.com and check out Moss’ page on the National Gardening Association Web site, www.garden.org/urbangardening/.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Welcome to Gardening Country

You just moved to Georgia and purchased a fantastic home with a not-so-fantastic landscape. You immediately ask two questions: “Where do I start?” and “What about the drought do I need to know?”

Have no fear. With a little bit of time and energy, you will be well on your way to a beautiful landscape that can withstand a lack of water.

Before you plant a peony or lay a finger on a shovel, you should test the soil. A soil test is an easy and inexpensive means of identifying if the soil will require adjustments to the pH or nutrient levels. If you plant in poor soil, plants will grow poorly or slowly die.

The local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office provides instructions on how to do a test, read the results and on ways to adjust the soil for optimal plant growth.

Most plants require pH between 5.2 and 6.5 to grow well. However, it is not uncommon in northern Georgia for new home sites or unmaintained landscapes to have soil pH in the range of 4-5 with nutrients below levels needed for most landscape plants and turf to grow well.

Once you have adjusted the soil, you are on the road to a healthy landscape. The next step should be amending the soil.

Organic soil amendments will improve the water-holding capacity of native soil, provide plants with a better rooting environment and allow water to infiltrate the soil surface faster, reducing runoff. These three factors will prepare your soil and plants for drought conditions and will virtually eliminate the need to irrigate your landscape.

Typically, you will not need to amend the soil more than 25 percent to observe a significant benefit. To achieve this, for example, you would place 2.5 inches of amendment on the soil surface and then till to a depth of 10 inches.

A variety of soil amendments can be used including household compost, composted yard waste and composted livestock waste. The key is to use a composted material. A non-composted amendment can rob soil of the valuable nitrogen plants need to flourish.

Now that your soil is prepared, it is time to determine what you want to plant. For those who move to Georgia from northern states, this will be a time of great excitement. Georgia gives gardeners a cold enough winter to grow many northern favorites and a not-too-cold winter and lengthy summer that allows some tropical plants to thrive.

Some examples of plants that you often won’t find in northern gardens but grow well in all but extreme northern Georgia include windmill palm, cabbage or palmetto palm, needle palm, agave, lemon bottlebrush, camellia, winter daphne, Japanese fatsia, cape jasmine, Japanese pittosporum and some cultivars of oleander. These are just a few selections.

Beyond plants, the most exciting aspect of horticulture in Georgia is the supporting cast of individuals, activities and public gardens available in this state.

Take advantage of opportunities in local garden clubs and UGA’s Master Gardener program to increase your understanding of horticulture and trade plants. There are an abundance of flower and horticulture trade shows to expand your horizons and find the next fabulous plant.

In Georgia, horticulture seems to be around every corner. Join the party and enjoy transforming your landscape into your small paradise.

By Matthew Chappell
University of Georgia

Matthew Chappell is a Cooperative Extension nursery production specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

New Plants, Less Work, Gorgeous Garden

NAPSI- Your dream garden can grow real with the help of new breeds of hydrangeas, coneflowers, roses and evergreen shrubs that let you create more beauty with less work.

Many new plants are virtually disease free and extremely low maintenance. For instance, a collection of hydrangeas provides blooms from late spring to early fall and, unlike their ancestors, will tolerate pruning at most any time. Their ability to weather wintry conditions and still produce blooms each year is another improvement.

Don't Be A Stranger To Hydrangeas

A dream garden can be beautified by Peppermint and Blue Heaven hydrangeas from Forever & Ever. They exhibit good disease resistance and respond well to sunny locations in Northern gardens and to partial shade in Southern gardens.

The Peppermint is a unique variety with gorgeous mop-headed blooms with one-of-a-kind, bicolor petals. Depending on your soil, the petals will display a brushstroke of either pink or blue in the center. Growing to approximately 24 inches tall and 36 inches wide, it is well suited for smaller gardens or patio containers.

Blue Heaven has blooms over 12 inches wide and a magnificent blue color. An adjustment in soil acidity will produce blooms in shades of pink or purple. A bit larger than Peppermint, Blue Heaven will grow to approximately 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide.

Head For Coneflowers

To complement your new hydrangeas, consider planting one of the new breeds of coneflowers--Pink Double Delight and Coconut Lime. These two beauties are tough as nails and, unlike most others, have double flowers. They are hardy, virtually disease free and tolerate drought conditions very well.

Pink Double Delight is a new variety of Echinacea that is compact and free flowering. Flowers are double upon first bloom and remain so consistently. Their stems are sturdy and numerous, creating a full appearance in containers and the garden.

For contrast, consider Coconut Lime, a double white coneflower with pale green at the center, sturdy stems and full blooms. Both these beauties will grow to approximately 26 inches high and spread about 27 inches.

The Subject Is Roses

Next, consider a new variety of a traditional favorite, the Double Knock Out Rose.

In contrast to older varieties of roses, this is a practically care-free landscape rose. It has double, fluorescent cherry red blossoms and is resistant to all the common rose diseases. It grows to about 4 feet by 4 feet and can be a great addition to your dream garden.

Everloving Evergreens

A new breed of evergreen shrub can add color to any Southern garden. Called Abelia Kaleidoscope, it lights up with bright yellow and green variegation in spring, then darkens to a deep green with a creamy, golden yellow outer edge. In summer it has abundant white flowers and in autumn, a spectacular, vibrant display of green, yellow, orange and red with brilliant red stems and abundant white flowers. The colors become muted in winter.

It will grow 5 to 6 feet tall in a sunny location.

With these beautiful new breeds, you can sit back and relax and enjoy your dream garden.

A riot of hardy hydrangeas can be an easy way to give yourself a gorgeous garden.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Governor Perdue Announces Get Outdoors Georgia Campaign

Today at Skidaway Island State Park Governor Sonny Perdue announced the launch of Get Outdoors Georgia, an initiative of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that encourages Georgians to get outdoors, get fit and enjoy their state parks.

“I want to encourage all Georgians, especially those with children, to take some time to visit one of our state parks,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Our state parks are great places to see some of Georgia’s most beautiful sites while spending quality time with your family and getting some good, healthy exercise.”

Based on findings from a five-year Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), this initiative targets the development of family-oriented, nature-based, healthy outdoor recreational and environmental education programs throughout the state.

The campaign launch, developed by the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division (PRHSD) of DNR includes the following: a Free Day in the Parks on June 14 sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company; the introduction of a Library Loan ParkPass Program to make admission to state parks and historic sites accessible through local public libraries; special recreational activities and events at state park and historic site locations throughout the state; a proclamation signed by Governor Sonny Perdue to declare June as Georgia Great Outdoors Month in recognition of this initiative and as part of a National Great Outdoors Month celebration; and the introduction of the Get Outdoors Georgia Gopher .

“Through this effort, families and individuals will discover the great treasures that are so close to home and quite often, right in their own backyard,” said Becky Kelly, director of PRHSD. “The month of June is designated as National Great Outdoors Month so the timing is perfect to launch this program and integrate our ‘Get Outdoors Georgia’ campaign into the national initiative and Georgia Great Outdoors Month.”

PRHSD manages 63 properties that preserve the state's diverse environment and history. Included are 45 state parks, three state historic parks and 15 historic sites, stretching from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Colonial Coast. Together, the sites offer an exceptional variety of resources, including mountains, canyons, forests, fields, marshes, waterfalls, lakes, swamps, rivers, battlefields, historic homes and Native American artifacts.

For more information, please visit http://www.gastateparks.org/ or http://www.getoutdoorsgeorgia.org/.