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PGU: Deer-Proofing Your Property with Doug

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog deer in cloverDeer are hungry, tame and love to eat out of the garden. Photos by Doug Oster

I'll be presenting "Deer-Proofing Your Property" as part of the PGU educational series on September 24th at the Post-Gazette from 7-9 p.m.

For over 25 years I've battled the deer in the garden and have many different techniques to keep the garden free of these four legged marauders. My garden is right in the middle of a forest filled with deer. I've learned how to keep my plants safe and look forward to sharing what I've learned.

As with any PGU I teach, I'll bring lots of cool garden stuff to give away. As we get closer, I'll post an list of what I'll be handing out to everyone who participates.

The seminar is $35. Register here or by calling 412-263-1741.

Here's one tip, Max the Wonder Dog is a great deer chaser.

Blog max the wonder dogMax the Wonder Dog won't hear of any deer coming into the yard while he's on patrol. That's one tool for dealing with deer!

 

 

 

 

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YMCA garden feeds body and soul

Written by Doug Oster on .

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blog 20140819dohomesymca2Rodney Tucker and Micheal Rushin in the Boxy Caufield Memorial Garden at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side. Photos by Doug Oster

By Doug Oster / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

blog 20140819dohomesymca3inches“I love tomatoes and cucumbers,” says Rodney Tucker as he pulls bright red, tennis ball-sized fruit from the plants towering over him.
Mr. Tucker has lived at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side for the past five years and is one of the founding forces of its garden, now in its fourth season.
A wide strip of grass was transformed into a series of raised beds now filled with shrublike kale, greens, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers and much more. Early on, the garden benefited from help provided by master gardeners, local nurseries and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. As it grew, Grow Pittsburgh’s City Growers program pitched in with a grant to purchase everything from plants to hardscape.
The garden is thriving, filling with much-needed produce. Its riches are due in part to all the rain, but also “because of all the tender loving care we give it,” Mr. Tucker says, laughing.
He works the garden with fellow resident Michael Rushin and others as they come and go from the facility.
“It’s special because a lot of us come from different backgrounds, Mr. Tucker says. “To get the camaraderie of people [from] different cultures to participate in our garden venture, it’s amazing. It gives you a lot of pride when you see everyone come together.”
Mr. Rushin watched as the garden went in the first season and then visited to enjoy a variety of treats harvested from its beds. The second year he jumped in to help. He can now be seen daily doing garden chores.
“You got to pick it and pluck it and pull weeds,” he says. “I like doing it.”
blog lettuce20140819dohomesymca6One of the benefits of the garden is providing nutritious produce for some of the 105 residents.
“It’s pretty hard for a lot of the guys to get fresh food here,” he says. “But when we do get it, we take advantage of it. You can taste the difference between store food and garden food. It tastes totally different.”
Since 1926, the Allegheny YMCA has provided a place for men to live. They aren’t homeless; they pay rent to stay there. Office manager Mary Collins says many residents don’t make a lot of money, have health issues, prefer to live a simpler life or just like it there.
“A lot of the men who are longtime residents feel this is a family home,” she says with a soft smile.
Ms. Collins says the garden is more than a source of healthy food for residents who work there.
 “Their personalities really changed. It just gave them a purpose, It gave them a lot of self-worth.”
Planting parties, with pizza sometimes as an incentive, bring more residents down to help. The garden isn’t fenced, but the men can see it from the windows. Each visitor is scrutinized from above, but in a good way.
“Oh, there’s a lot of pride,” Mrs. Collins says. “[The garden] made it more like a place to live instead of a place to stay.”
The plot’s name, the Boxy Caufield Memorial Garden, was a unanimous choice, taken from a longtime resident instrumental in getting the project started who died of cancer. He was a much loved character at the YMCA, and a classically trained musician, too. Even though he wasn’t too interested in planting and caring for the plants, he worked tirelessly to recruit helpers and find donations to make the garden a reality.
“He was a guy who went out of his way for everyone,” says executive director Bill Pricener. “It’s a tremendous tribute to him. The men really loved him.”
As Mr. Rushin finishes his garden chores, he remembers Boxy, too. “He was a good all-around gentle, humble guy.”
As he stands in the garden, beaming, he tries to explain what he finds there other than good things to eat.
“I get peace of mind. I relax. All my stress is gone. I spend hours out here, just messing around.”

blog 20140819dohomesymca5Michael Rushin shows off kale from the garden.

 blog 20140819dohomesymca4Rodney Tucker picks one of his favorite crops.

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Red Ripe and Roasted tomato and garlic festival Sunday helps the hungry

Written by Doug Oster on .

 blog Oster RRR Tomato3I pay my daughter $25 to dress up like a tomato for the festival, that's fair...right? Photo by Doug OsterIt’s the 10th year for Red Ripe and Roasted, the tomato and garlic festival I helped start with the help of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. On Sunday August 24th, 2014 from 11-4 p.m. visitors can enjoy great food, a farmer’s market, participate in a tomato contest and more. I’ll be cooking my Extreme Garlic Pesto recipe at 12 noon for you to taste.

The idea of the festival is to get as much fresh produce for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The festival is free, but gardeners who bring a bag of food get into the conservatory for free to see the Summer Flower Show and Butterfly Forest.

Bring your own tomatoes to be judged for the biggest, smallest and ugliest fruit.

The festival includes a farmer’s market of all certified naturally grown produce, cooking demos and fun activities for kids.

It’s also a place where gardeners can buy a wide variety of garlic for planting without paying shipping.

I’ll be signing copies of Tomato Garlic Basil and my friend and colleague Miriam Rubin will have her book Tomatoes to sign too.

Please join me for a day of fun and help the hungry.

Hope to see you there!

Here's a spot from Pittsburgh Today Live with Jordyn Melino, exhibit coordinator for Phipps. She teams with me to talk about the festival and I cook Extreme Garlic Pesto.

 

 

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Indestructible dahlia thrives after stem is severed

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog indestructible dahlia2'Latin' dahlia from Longfield Gardens is blooming like crazy despite the stem being broken. Photos by Doug Oster

blog dahlia broken stem2Hard to believe this flower keeps blooming after the squirrels did this to the stem.When this 'Latin' dahlia from Longfield Gardens was planted near a bird feeder, I never thought the squirrels would try to use it as a launching pad to get to the seed.

They cracked the stem in two and I didn't have much hope for the flowers. I love dahlias, they are the queen of the summer garden and it's always fun to try a new variety.

These things have a way of getting forgotten as garden chores and life in general get in the way.

It wasn't until the yellow flowers started to bloom that I realized the plant was still viable. It's certainly not going to grow in the same manner, but hey, a flower is a flower.

'Latin' is filled with blooms which are great for cutting. I'll save the tuber in the fall, but those details are for a post when the weather gets cold.

The garden is always filled with surprises and seeing this flower thrive is certainly one of them.

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Ligularia 'Britt Marie Crawford' explodes with color in the shade

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog britt6aThe yellow/orange daisy like flowers of 'Britt Marie Crawford' are wonderful to see this time of the year. Photos by Doug Oster

blog britt3Check out those deep purple stems supporting the flowers.The dark yellow flowers of ligularia 'Brit Marie Crawford' explode with color in the shade. I love this plant.

The deep green leaves are supported with purple stems and looks beautiful on its own. The yellow/orange flowers emerging now are the gravy.

The plant is indestructible, thrives in shade and enjoys a good watering once a week. This season's rain has made it very happy.

After the flowers fade, the seed heads will put on a show through fall and into winter.

I originally threw these plants under a big Japanese maple where they struggled for a few seasons. Once they were moved to where they could enjoy a little rainfall, the plants thrived.

Either this fall or next spring I'm going to move one or two of these to a new spot. It's great to have a plant hitting its stride this time of the year.

'Britt Marie Crawford' is a winner that should find its way into most shade gardens.

blog britt 6bThe plant is growing outside the vegetable garden along side large leaf hostas.

 

 

 

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