gardens and Irish flag at front of house in Tonawanda

‘Lazy gardener’ shares tips on how he created Irish pub in backyard

by Connie Oswald Stofko It’s an Irish pub. It’s an outdoor living room. And it has gardens. That’s what you encounter when you visit Michael Ryan’s backyard on Englewood Ave., Tonawanda. It’s the party place for his family and friends. Visitors are amazed and assume he must spend lots of time maintaining his landscape, but he insists that he’s a lazy gardener who uses lots of short cuts. “It’s two weeks of work at the beginning of the season, then…

straw bale gardening

Save those straw bales; grow vegetable plants in them next spring

by Connie Oswald Stofko If you are using a straw bale in your autumn decorations, don’t throw it away! You can grow tomatoes and other vegetables in it next spring. I saw photos of the technique called straw bale gardening on the Vegetable Gardeners of WNY Facebook page. I was delighted that Gina and Tony Kruzel allowed me to visit their Kenmore home early in October to see what they had done. They decided to try straw bale gardening because…

street trees in autumn in Western New York by Stofko

Make the most of these wonderful autumn leaves in Western New York

by Connie Oswald Stofko This has been a gorgeous autumn with a wonderful display of autumn leaves. Now that those leaves are falling, let’s put them to use. Crunch them for compost or mulch If you have a lawn mower with a bag on it, it’s easy for you to crunch up and collect your fallen leaves. If you don’t have a bag, rake your leaves onto a concrete or asphalt driveway, then go over them with the lawnmower. That…

raised bed made with cinder blocks

Are cinder blocks OK for vegetable gardens? Answers to that & other soil safety questions

by Connie Oswald Stofko Is it safe to use cinder blocks in a raised bed, or might chemicals from the concrete blocks leach out of the blocks to contaminate your soil and food plants you grow there? Can you use pressure treated lumber? Can you grow food plants in the hellstrip, the area between the street and sidewalk? John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County, responded to my questions on soil safety. Cinder blocks in raised…

Lewiston GardenFest

Tip: Plant Egyptian walking onions & mark your calendar for Lewiston GardenFest

by Connie Oswald Stofko Carol Ann Harlos will give a talk on herbs at the 10th annual Lewiston GardenFest, which will be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 20 and 21, on Center Street in Lewiston. I asked her to share one tip as a preview. “Plant Egyptian walking onions,” Harlos said without hesitation. Why? “Because they walk through your garden!” she said. The plants get bulbils or bulblets at the top of the stem, the…

rue at Mike Weber Greenhouses in West Seneca NY

7 unusual uses for easy-to-grow herbs; you can plant them all summer

by Connie Oswald Stofko Everybody knows you can use herbs to season your food, but there are many other uses for these wonderful plants, said Jen Weber, retail manager at Mike Weber Greenhouses, 42 French Rd., West Seneca. Today we’ll talk about just a few of the 90 varieties of herbs grown by Mike Weber Greenhouses. What I like most about herbs is that they’re easy to grow. “They just don’t want to be overwatered,” Weber said. As I’ve said…

cut dead perennials in spring in Buffalo NY

17 reminders for your early spring garden in Western New York

by Connie Oswald Stofko As I sat outside yesterday in shorts and bare feet, it felt as if summer was here to stay. But that’s how it feels every spring in Western New York, and every year our spring weather takes us on a roller coaster ride. The high was in the 70s yesterday, yet you know we’re still going to get freezing temperatures before summer really arrives. Some years we’ve had flakes of snow flying around in the air in May. I know…

hellstrip with flowers in Buffalo NY view from sidewalk

Tips for planting an unused space: the ‘hellstrip’ between street & sidewalk

by Connie Oswald Stofko People call it the “hellstrip.” It’s that section between the sidewalk and street where people generally grow nothing but grass. It’s where the plows deposit the heavy, salty snow from the street. Garbage cans get tossed there. Dogs do their business there. What in the world could you grow there? Flowers and herbs. That’s what Elaine Clutterbuck of Buffalo grows in the three-season garden she has established in her hellstrip. This past summer her garden was…

Fascinating green roof project under way in Springville; you can help

by Connie Oswald Stofko The Springville Center for the Arts is seeking volunteers to start seedlings for its green roof project. You’ll get seeds that you are asked to start in containers and nurture until they’re ready to be transplanted onto the green roof. You don’t have to live in Springville to participate. In addition to the seedling program, volunteers are needed for the installation of the green roof on the building that the arts center is rehabilitating at  5 East Main…

Start seeds inside now for cool-weather crops; start seeds for tomatoes in a few weeks in WNY

by Connie Oswald Stofko It’s finally time for us to start thinking about starting seeds inside! Cool-weather vegetables Let’s keep our fingers crossed that all this snow melts at a nice, steady pace so that our garden beds will be dry enough to for us to plant cool-weather vegetables in April. As the folks from Lockwood’s Greenhouses in Hamburg told us in a previous article, cool-weather vegetables are the crops that can take some cooler weather and light frosts. They…