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Record low temperature predicted for tonight, don't panic in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

mystery lettuce under row coverEven though it won't get cold enough to kill things like lettuce, a floating row cover will make the plants happier. Photo by Doug Oster

There's a possibility temperatures will reach a record low of 21 degrees tonight and that could adversely affect some plants in the garden. Don't panic though, most of these plants have seen this many times over the years.

Lets start with things we're not worried about and/or couldn't really protect anyway. Most shrubs and trees will be fine. Things like azaleas and rhododendrons shouldn't be affected along with dogwoods and pines. Magnolias and fruit trees might get the worst of it. In my garden, both are too big to do anything about, so all I can do is cross my fingers. If the magnolia has started to bloom, flowers might get zapped and if not, the buds stand a chance of freezing out.

For spring blooming bulbs, I won't do a thing. They have been through this for centuries, worse case scenario there will be some bud blast and loose the blossoms for the season. This is most likely to happen on daffodils.

I'm not worried about pansies or violas either, they should be able to take the cold.

Most of what I'll be protecting is in the vegetable garden. Peas and greens like lettuce, arugula, spinach and more won't be killed by these temperatures, but will be happier with a little protection.

The easiest thing to use is a floating row cover. It's a spun bound translucent fabric which is so lightweight, the plants themselves can hold it up.

Since soil temperatures have warmed up, I'm not too worried about one night of cold. We should reach 50 by tomorrow afternoon. Lets hope that's the end of the really cold weather, but don't forget, we'll get frost all the way through May.

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Secrets in the daffodil patch; spiders and flowers beyond yellow trumpets

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog secrets spider 3Secrets are revealed when you get close to the flowers. This tiny spider tried to hide behind a daffodil petal. Photos by Doug Oster

The forest is filled with scrawny deer, tired and hungry from a brutal winter. But even though they are starving, the four legged thieves turn their noses up at daffodils, that's one of the reasons I grow so many.

I love yellow trumpets, but their are countless other colors and flower forms to experience.

Spring is officially here when the daffs begin to bloom, but the season can be extended by choosing early, mid and late season varieties. I enjoy the subtle differences each one offers. It's fun to get close to the flowers, and when you do, surprises can happen. As I was cutting bouquets I saw a tiny spider jump behind a petal, hoping not to be seen. I slowly laid down on the soft, cool soil with camera in hand. The close-up lens was perfect to capture the tiny hairs of the hidden spider's legs.

My connection with daffodils goes back to 1967, when I visited the graves of my grandparents at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. Behind me were thousands of flowers in bloom on Daffodil Hill. The area was started in the 1940's with an initial planting of 100,000 bulbs. I was profoundly affected by those flowers and when I moved to Pittsburgh, told my mother I would create my own Daffodil Hill in memory of my grandparents. I'm a long way off from 100,000 bulbs, but I'm working on it.

I had the honor of being in Rick Sebak's Cemetery Special talking about Daffodil Hill and how it changed my gardening life.

Here's a look at many of the early flowering daffodils in my garden. I'm looking to add more each season, this is the time to decide where I need more. I'll shoot some pictures so when fall planting time comes around I'll know where to plant them.

When I see the flowers in bloom, I always remember that day in 1967 and smile thinking of my grandparents.

blog secrets pink daffI've recorded the cultivars of every daffodil I've planted. They are tucked away in garden journals so in this garden it's all about enjoying the flowers not the names. I love this pink throated beauty.

blog double yellow daffDouble daffodils might be my favorites.

blog secrets whiteThis patch was here when I moved in, I think they are an old fahsioned favorite called Mt. Hood.

blog secrets 2It's fun to see al the different variations in daffodils.

blog secrets bridalGet close to the flowers and really take a good look.

blog secrets daffodil 1Daffodil season signals the "real" start to spring.

blog secrets orange heartThis one is also a favorite.

blog secrets still tightOne trick to extending the season is planting varieties which bloom at different times.

blog secrets yellow and orangeSimple, elegant and beautiful.

blog tight bridal daffsFor some reason flies are attracted to this variety.

blog white and orange doubleAnother cool double daffodil.

blog secrets daffodil overallThere's nothing wrong with yellow trumpets. These are some of the toughest and most beautiful daffodils in the garden.

 

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Prom spending drops 14 percent

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Prom 400

For many high schoolers, prom night is the most enchanted evening of the year. But that fairy tale does come with a cost.

According to a survey released this month by Visa Inc., families are tightening their wallets when it comes to prom spending. The average American household will spend $978 on prom attire, accessories and activities related to the dance, down 14 percent from $1,139 in 2013

The decline comes after three years of steady increases in prom spending. The survey also showed that families out West will spend the most on prom -- $1,125 on average -- when compared to those who live in other parts of the country. Parents who are younger than 40 years old also spend less to help their children prep for the prom than those who are older. 

Other Visa survey statistics:

  • Parents who earn less than $50,000 will typically spend less on prom than the national average
  • Parents will cover about 56 percent of prom costs on average, with students paying for the rest
  • Canadian households tend to spend about 25 percent less on prom than Americans
  • Men will spend more than double what women will on prom (about $1,357 compared to $673)

The survey is based on information collected from 4,000 telephone interviews. For prom money saving tips, visit the website for Visa's Practical Money Skills for Life education program at www.practicalmoneyskills.com

And don't forget!

For prom prep tips for guys (social graces, what to wear, etc.), check out the PG's Guys' Guide to Prom.

(Photo: Getty Images/Fuse)

 

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Hostas are ready to be divided and moved

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog hosta shoots 414When shoots start to appear, hostas are ready to be moved. Photo by Doug Oster

The hostas are ready to be split and moved, but is the garden ready to accept them?

The best time to divide these plants is when they push up their tight shoots before they unfurl. For smaller plants I'll lift the whole thing and cut it in half or quarters depending on the size. For larger ones I'll just cut what I want from the sides. This job can be done anytime during the spring, but it looks better to do it before the plants get too far along.

If the soil is too wet though, gardeners must wait. I've dug some transplanting holes and found parts of my garden to be dry enough to work. If the dirt sticks to the shovel don't dig.

You don't want to destroy the soil structure. Turning over soil that's too wet will complicate gardening in that area the rest of the season. It creates clumps which will dry into bricks.

Like comedy, timing is everything when it comes to planting. I love expanding the garden by moving extra pieces of hostas to other areas. When you wait for the right day, you'll be sure to succeed.

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Living Out Loud @TheWarholMuseum

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

The Garden of Peace Project, founded by Michael David Battle, held its “Living Out Loud” party on Friday at the Warhol Museum. “Living Out Loud” was a collaborative event with the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Pittsburgh; True T Entertainment; and Cary D. Heard of Cary D. Heard Label to honor the National Day of Silence.

The National Day of Silence was held to bring attention to individuals within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ) community who have been silenced by bullying and harassment, while supporting initiatives aimed at ending such negativity.

Besides the amazing fashion show and Kiki Ball that was held, STD and HIV testing was available to the adolescents and young adults who camKIKIphoto 7e to the event.

Aisha Diori (pictured left with Riko Boone) is the founder of the Kiki Ballroom scene (youth-led, adult-supported houses), and came to Pittsburgh to inspire the LGBTQ youth to live their lives out loud. “I started the Kiki Ball scene 12 years ago when I realized that there was a space needed for young adults to build community and learn about ways to protect themselves against HIV,” she said.

 

The Kiki Ball is reminiscent of the documentary, “Paris Is Burning” for anyone who is familiar with it. (If you aren’t, I highly recommend watching it).  Many of the kids Ms. Diori has worked with are homeless youth who are looking for families and a safe place to explore who they are.

“I am compelled to do this for our kids. Many of them end up staying in school, are college-bound and get great jobs,” she said. “We bring what we know to them -- we don’t wait for them to come to us. By then, it may be too late.”

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