wrapping paper

Before you buy wrapping paper, consider this: Can you compost it?

by Connie Oswald Stofko Those glossy wrapping papers are so pretty when they’re on a package, but what happens to the gift wrap after the package is opened? You might think that adding wrapping paper to your compost pile is a great way to use up the paper, but think again. Some wrapping paper can actually contaminate your compost with heavy metals– and that could affect your garden, too. Many kinds of gift wrap contain heavy metals such as lead,…

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!…

grass with numbers representing zero phosphorus in fertilizer

“Look for the Zero;” don’t use phosphorus on lawns

by Connie Oswald Stofko Most lawns don’t need phosphorus. And if you use a fertilizer containing phosphorus on your lawn, the excess phosphorus can wash off and pollute our waterways. That’s why the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is running its “Look for the Zero” campaign. If you want to use a chemical fertilizer on your lawn, make sure you choose one without phosphorus. Fertilizer labels have three numbers. The number in the middle is the percentage of…


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…


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…

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….

rose and buds in Amherst NY

Tips from Master Gardeners for June, plus wet weather tips

by Connie Oswald Stofko To prevent and treat diseases in roses, now is the time for weekly spraying, according to June’s issue of WNY Gardening Matters, published by the Master Gardeners of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County. The tips on rose care are in the article on what to do in the garden in June. That article also tells you what you spray, including organic suggestions. The other articles in this month’s issue include one on the beautiful and…


New seed library is forming; first meeting set for March 4

The first organizational meeting of a new group, the Green Sun Seed Library/Bank, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 4 in the auditorium of the Niagara Branch Library, 280 Porter Ave., Buffalo. There is a small parking lot next to the library and plenty of parking spaces on the street. The library is on the #5 Niagara bus line. The group intends to hold seed/plant swaps, organic growing workshops and other educational events. During the meeting,…