compost in lid

Tip: How to keep worms in your compost pile

by Connie Oswald Stofko I like to have worms in my compost bin to help break down the plant matter that will turn into rich compost. When I harvest my finished (or partly finished) compost from the bottom of my bin, it’s full of worms. I don’t need the worms in my gardens or containers; I’d prefer to keep them in my compost bin, but I don’t want to take the worms out one by one. Here’s a quick way…

lawn in yard using permaculture

This Grand Island landscape is suburban in front, natural in back

by Connie Oswald Stofko It’s like visiting a home out in the country–depending on what side of the house you’re on. In front, the home of Denise and Don Freedman has a typical suburban landscape. In back, it’s more natural, with fruit trees, a rain garden and trees that were there when they bought the land. They’ve been using permaculture techniques before they ever heard that word. What does permaculture mean to them? “It’s using your land to your advantage,”…

clay in soil

Clay soil: compost is better than sand

by Connie Oswald Stofko When you have clay soil, should you add compost or sand? Compost. “In the long run, by far, the best thing you could possibly add is organic matter,” said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. Organic matter can be compost, autumn leaves, peat moss or other plant material. Organic matter is better because you have to add so much sand to loosen the clay, it’s not practical, Farfaglia said. I asked this…

autumn leaves on grass

It’s leaf season! 9 tips for using autumn leaves in your garden

by Connie Oswald Stofko We enjoyed many weeks of beautiful autumn color in Western New York this year! Now it’s time for the leaves to fall. The bad news is that our recent strong winds brought down branches as well as leaves. I hope you didn’t sustain any damage. The good news is that the fallen leaves give us things to do in our landscapes at this time of year. And those leaves can be used in so many ways!…

seeds

New seed library for WNY opens; it’s free!

by Connie Oswald Stofko The WNY Seed Library–the first free seed library of its kind in Western New York– has opened in Amherst. “There was no place in Western New York where you can get seeds for free,” said Brenda Snyder, who started working on the WNY Seed Library in June 2018. Food security is one of her goals. She feels that no one should go without food because they can’t afford it. The seed library aims to provide heirloom…

broom leaves on perennial bed in Western New York

How to mulch ground cover, plus 4 more tips for autumn leaves in WNY

  by Lyn Chimera of Lessons From Nature  Many people dread raking up autumn leaves, but you should look forward to it. Leaves are a free resource for your landscape, a bonus from nature. Don’t throw them away! Here are five tips on using autumn leaves in different parts of your landscape. Leaves on the lawn If there is a light covering of leaves on your lawn, you can mow right over them and leave the chopped-up leaves on the lawn. They…

compost makes garden beds beautiful Hamburg NY

Hidden ‘factory’ is what makes this garden gorgeous

  by Connie Oswald Stofko My photos, taken in harsh afternoon sunlight, don’t do justice to the landscape of Molly and Douglas Mailey, which I saw on the Hamburg Garden Walk in July. Molly has lush and colorful garden beds. Just by looking, you may be able to pick up on some of the techniques she uses to add beauty to her landscape. She has shady areas, and chooses her plants well to fit the lighting conditions. Her garden beds curve and are…

seeds

Free seed library starting in Amherst for organic veggies, herbs, flowers

by Connie Oswald Stofko Brenda Snyder was looking for a seed bank–a place where seeds are collected and shared–but she couldn’t find one in Western New York. “There were no seed banks I could even drive to,” Snyder said. “I thought, ‘How is that even possible?’ I decided somebody just needed to take the bull by the horns and get it rolling.” Working with other volunteers, she is setting up the WNY Seed Library, a free seed library for anyone who wants…

shrubs in snow

Winter is a good time to assess your yard

There may not be much growing in your garden right now, but that’s why it’s a good time to take a look at your landscape. Now is when you can see the skeleton of your landscape, said Peggy Koppmann, Master Gardener, in the latest issue of WNY Gardening Matters, published by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County. In the article “This Month in the Garden,” Koppmann suggests thinking about where you might put new shrubs. Winter…

dew on blades of grass

Seeing child make sand castles out of pesticide caused landscaper to change his practices

by Connie Oswald Stofko Caution. Warning. Dangerous. Keep out of reach of children. That’s what you’ll find on the labels of pesticides and other chemicals that people routinely spray on their lawns, said Paul Tukey, and he used to spray them, too. Tukey shared his story of how he went from routinely using chemicals with warning labels to using all-organic practices in his landscaping business. Now he is chief sustainability officer for Glenstone, a contemporary art museum in Potomac, Maryland….