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Urban Homesteading Series from Penn State Extension to launch in June

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog straw bale2Learn how to garden in bales of straw with the experts from Penn State Cooperative Extension. Photo by Doug Oster

URBAN HOMESTEADING SERIES PROGRAM LAUNCH

PITTSBURGH, PA, MAY 26, 2015:

Penn State Extension’s Urban Homesteading Series to Launch June 2015

Penn State Extension of Allegheny County is proud to announce the launch of the “Urban Homesteading Series”.

This series is designed for creative do-it-yourselfers with an interest in sustainable food and living adventures. Each workshop features an expert instructor leading hands-on demonstrations in a variety of homesteading activities which are scalable for home, apartment, or community projects.

Upcoming programs include:

  • June 18: Straw Bale Gardening
  • July 7: Bug Your Bugs! July Pest Walk
  • July 21: Midsummer Night’s (Berry) Jam
  • August 4: August Pest Walk
  • September 8: Winemaking
  • September 24: Gardening with Perennials

Registration is open for the first workshop of the series, Straw Bale Gardening, on Thursday, June 18, 2015 from 6 pm – 8 pm at the Penn State Extension Edible Teaching Garden at 400 N. Lexington Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208.

Straw-bale gardening is a low-cost, low-maintenance, back-friendly raised-bed gardening method. The Master Gardener instructor will lead a hands-on workshop, present the technique step-by-step at the Edible Teaching Garden where this method is practiced. Pre-registration is required and the fee for this class is $25.

Fall and winter workshops include home beer brewing in partnership with local craft breweries, gardening with perennials, yeast and sourdough bread baking classes, intercropped urban fruit orchard, pruning and lactofermentation.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER

Visit: bit.ly/1FqAp7R

CONTACT

 

Rachel Samuels, Program Assistant: (412) 482-3464, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Penn State Center Pittsburgh

Energy Innovation Center

1435 Bedford Avenue, Suite A

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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Heirloom iris reveals a family's legacy

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog irisThis beautiful heirloom iris has a story to tell. Photo by Doug Oster

Soft blue iris petals cling to drops of rain on a spring morning in the garden.

The variety was a gift to me from Bernice Born, who inherited the plant from her mother, who got it from her mother. Passing on plants to family and friends is one of the magical parts of gardening.

I met Bernice after writing this Saturday Diary in the Post-Gazette about discovering some cool vinyl records. She called to see if I was interested in some of her old records. During our conversation in her home, she told me the story of this iris and how important it was to her family. 

The flowers followed them everywhere they moved, eventually ending up on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Those pretty blooms were always the background for family photos. I promised to return when the flowers were blooming to write the story.

20140602doirishomes1aBernice Strawinski is the mother of Bernice Born, who was about 14 months old in this picture. It was shot at her grandmother's home in Torrington, Conn. The irises are in the background to the left and right. Mrs. Born has moved her grandmother's irises all across the country as she has moved from home to home.

 

Last year at this time, I spent part of the day with Bernice to tell the wonderful story of how her family has been connected with the plant for as long as anyone can remember.

As I left, Bernice insisted I take a division of her family treasure. They were planted in a bed filled with rich compost and where they get the most sun in the garden.

Tight buds started to unfurl a couple days ago and when they did, all I could think about was Bernice, her family and how important this plant is to all of them.

Every time she shares the plant, she's sharing a part of her family history; and every time it blooms the story is told again.

That's the magic of gardening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Teach your children well, Phipps Summer Camps are great for kids

Written by Doug Oster on .

1110d phipps1 b

I can't think of a better thing for kids to do this summer than learn about nature at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Phipps Summer Camps: Enrollment Still Open for 2015
Pittsburgh’s premier public garden immerses youth in the natural world. 

Pittsburgh, Pa. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is still enrolling children for a variety of nature-based summer camps touching on healthy living, art, science and sustainability. These half-day programs are held in June, July and August.

The 2015 line-up featuring immersive activities and nutritious snacks includes:

  • Seedling Scientists: Ages 4 and 5
    A Bug’s World: An expedition to find crawling, buzzing and flying garden friends
    Fairytale Forest: An imaginative interpretation of favorite stories through garden activities

  • Budding Botanists: Ages 6 and 7
    Dancing with the Plants: A movement-based experience highlighting nature and dance
    Bugs in the ‘Burgh: A time of insect-themed Conservatory exploration

  • Flowering Explorers: Ages 8 and 9
    Kitchen Creations: An awesome opportunity to grow and create delicious veggie snacks
    Nature Explorers: A scientific observation skills-building journey through garden habitats

  • Fruiting Designers: Ages 10 and 11
    EcoArtist: A cool look at how to create art from natural and repurposed objects

  • Seed Spreaders: Ages 12 and 13
    Climate Defenders: An inspiring examination of climate change and the world’s biomes

Prices range from $60 – $145. For details and registration, parents and caregivers can call 412/441-4442, ext. 3925 or visit phipps.conservatory.org.

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PG/Backyard Gardener Plant Swap and Giveaway Sunday June 7

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog a limbaugh tomatoI've been giving away 'Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top' tomatoes since 2000. They are now growing all around the world.

This will be the 13th year I’ve held the Post-Gazette Backyard Gardener Plant Swap. Although there’s some dispute with participants about how many years this has been going on. The first couple seasons I actually held the event at my house. It quickly grew and that’s when we moved to North Park.

On Sunday June 7th, 2015 the event is back to the old location in North Park across from the Ice Skating Rink on Pearce Mill Road from 12 noon until 2 p.m. Come at 12 noon, the event is usually over in about a half hour and I just wait for others to come so they

Bring divisions from your garden to trade with other gardeners. Be sure plants are labelled and please don’t bring anything invasive.

Thousands of gardeners attend every year and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet like minded people.

I’ll also be giving away ‘Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top’ tomato plants. The Pittsburgh heirloom tomato was introduced to me by the late Fred Limbaugh, here’s the whole story. The plants produce large (1-2pound), pink and meaty tomatoes.

Usually they are the last fruit picked in the garden, so grow other varieties too. There are a limited supply of plants, they will be given away on a first come, first serve basis, one to a family please.

Mindy Schwartz of Garden Dreams Urban Farm and Nursery in Wilkinsburg will have lots of plants to give-a-way too.

Here’s a video that captures the fun and camaraderie of the event from a few years ago.

 

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Growing edibles in small spaces

Written by Doug Oster on .

brazelberries-peach-sorbetBrazelberries 'Peach Sorbet is the perfect choice for a container planted blueberry.

You don't need four acres to grow things you can eat. Here are lots of ideas for growing everything from tomatoes to blueberries in a small space. This segment from Pittsburgh Today Live includes some of my favorites.

It’s all about the little things, right?

Every gardener knows that fresh produce from the backyard is the best there is. You don’t need tons of space to grow something edible either.

There are lots of ways to get that garden freshness in small spaces.

Tiny Tumbler tomato is grown in a hanging basket. Give it plenty of water and some fertilizer over the summer and you might be the first one on the block to pick tomatoes.

Lots of nurseries offer herb boxes which are already filled with plants. They are packed with everything great for the kitchen. You could even buy some herbs an pot them up yourself. Keep the container right by the kitchen to add to your favorite dishes.

Hulu Berries are a strawberry that tastes like pineapple and it's grown in a container. Easy to grow and tasty.

Strawberries can even be grown in something called grow bags.

There are lots of smaller blueberries bred for containers too.
All the plants featured on the show came from Hahn Nursery in Ross.

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