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Jennifer Smith

Stories by Jennifer

Garden Variety: Organic fertilizer options

Gardeners who want to grow organically face a few extra challenges when selecting fertilizer, although with a little extra care the nutrients that plants need can still be provided at a reasonable cost. The biggest challenges are understanding the need for fertilization (or lack of), recognizing organic sources, and deciphering the supply chain.

Garden Variety: Protect your home from winter bugs

Insects likely find your home as inviting as you do, and the various species of moths and beetles that enjoy plant materials may also make their way into your kitchen.

Garden Variety: Resolutions for gardeners

The arrival of a new year for many people means making goals for personal and professional improvement. For gardeners, here are a few ideas for the resolution list.

Garden Variety: Feeding birds in winter

Birds fend for themselves very well, but providing a little extra food for them in the winter can be an entertaining hobby for nature and bird enthusiasts.

Garden Variety: Bonsai basics

Culturing bonsai takes more than a green thumb: The ancient art requires patience, skill and a keen recognition of nature. Bonsai is worth a try (or several), though, as a properly tended specimen will provide its owner with beauty for a hundred years or more.

Garden Variety: Topping harmful to trees

Tree experts and professional arborists have agreed for decades that the pruning practice known as topping is detrimental to trees, but it continues to happen across the country and right here in Douglas County.

Garden Variety: 10 creative gift ideas for the gardener in your life

If you have a gardener to shop for this holiday season, there are many more creative options than the amaryllis bulb gift sets and windowsill herb planters available at many mass retailers. Here are the top 10 ideas to score big with a gardener.

Garden Variety: Curious about cranberries

Cranberries, or something that vaguely resembles the shiny red fruits, will grace many holiday tables this season, but few people know how the fruit earned its place of honor at the harvest table.

Garden Variety: Colorful corn

Fall decorations have a little more sparkle thanks to Glass Gem corn, a variety that has been making waves the last two years.

Garden Variety: Burn local firewood before spring

Fall’s cooler weather means area residents are picking up bundles of firewood for their stoves, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, chimineas and even a little late season camping. There are a couple of things to look for to ensure that the firewood you are purchasing is pest-free.

Garden Variety: Beware of oak leaf itch mites

Oak trees in and around Lawrence are reportedly dropping more than acorns and leaves this fall, and individuals who plan to spend time outdoors should be on the lookout.

Garden Variety: 7 uses for the overlooked acorn

Ask a forester what tree to plant for strength, pest resistance and versatility, and the answer will almost always be an oak. Yes, they produce acorns, but in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, plant the oak anyway. When the acorns arrive in autumn seasons to come, try these overlooked uses to make the nuts a little less of a nuisance.

Garden Variety: Easy-to-grow sweet potatoes

Lawrence area educators, farmers and businesses are teaming up to celebrate a vegetable worthy of a month-long party: the sweet potato.

Garden Variety: Hackberry pests move indoors with cool temperatures

As the trees begin to show their autumn hues and squirrels rush to stash away their bounty, a few creatures in the garden are looking for good winter homes.

Garden Variety: A lesson in apple picking

With apple-harvesting season in full swing, now is a great time to get out and pick some of the fresh fruit from local orchards or your own trees if you have them.

Garden Variety: Bringing the garden indoors

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow cooler, I am reminded that soon the only gardening I will be doing will involve the array of tropical plants that brighten the inside of my home.

Garden Variety: Upcoming Farm Tour highlights local agriculture

Even the most dedicated gardeners need a break from the garden once in awhile, and the upcoming Kaw Valley Farm Tour offers the perfect opportunity to see what else is growing in the area.

Garden Variety: Upcoming seminars on permaculture

Gardeners, wannabe gardeners and anyone else interested in the relationship among plants, humans and the environment should consider attending one of three upcoming seminars sponsored by the local nonprofit Sustainability Action Network.

Garden Variety: Re-blooming poinsettias

Remember the pretty poinsettia you picked up last winter to make your home or office a little more festive for the holidays? Poinsettias can be kept year-round, but they need a little special treatment in the fall to bloom again.

Garden Variety: Getting the lawn in shape

Whether you want a perfectly sculpted lawn or just enough grass to prevent erosion and keep down the weeds, the next four to six weeks is the most important time of year for lawn care.

Garden Variety: The root of the problem

When tree roots push above the soil surface, they can make it difficult to maintain a lawn or other groundcover. But chopping them out, piling mounds of soil over them, or shaving off the tops of the roots can impair the livelihood of the tree. To get trees and lawns (or other plants) to coexist, the best solution is to understand what is causing the problem in the first place.

Garden Variety: Tougher poison ivy

Can poison ivy really get any worse? For gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts who regularly encounter poison ivy, the rumors that the plant is becoming more abundant are starting to look true.

Garden Variety: Saving flowers for winter decor

A couple of years ago, I made it a habit to cut bouquets from my garden throughout the summer. Even a small arrangement on the corner of a desk or the middle of the dining room table brightened the time spent on chores that prevented me from being outdoors. This summer, I am taking it a step further by drying some of the blossoms for fall and winter decorations.

Garden Variety: Summer flowering bulbs

If you take a walk around the neighborhood to get ideas for your garden, the plants putting on their greatest show this month are summer-flowering bulbs.

Garden Variety: New blooms for old irises

Irises are by far one of the easiest and most reliable plants to grow in Kansas, but sometimes a hidden insect pest affects their ability to bloom.

Garden Variety: Plants to avoid if you have pets

Are pets and plants compatible? They can be, but plant lovers who also care for cats and dogs should be aware of the risks of keeping both in the same household.

Garden Variety: Ripe for the picking

Many fruits and vegetables announce their ripeness with bright colors and bigger sizes, but a few garden favorites like to leave a little more to mystery. While mystique can be good, cutting into an unripe melon is a bit disappointing. Here are a few ways to help with the guessing game of growing melons, winter squash and pumpkins.

Garden Variety: Looking for an easy fruit to grow? Try blackberries

If you have been enjoying the flavor of sweet, delicate blackberries that are in season right now in much of the Midwest, you will be happy to know the plants are a great addition to your garden. They are really the easiest fruit to grow in Kansas.

Garden Variety: With mimosa trees, don't just think pink

Mimosa trees in the Lawrence area are in full glory right now with their unrivaled fluffy, fragrant pink blossoms.

Get your garden ready for summer

With the official arrival of summer, landscapes and gardens in the Lawrence area are reaching their prime. This is the time to breathe it in, enjoy the beauty, and spend a little time to prepare the garden for the hotter, drier days that surely lie ahead. By Jennifer Smith