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How to choose a fertilizer

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Fertilizer is a gardening essential. It feeds the soil and gives your plants the nutrients they need to grow and produce good yields. However, there are several elements to consider when choosing the right one.

Fertilizer type
Organic and mineral fertilizers come in both liquid and solid forms. The type of fertilizer you choose affects how quickly it works, how easy it is to use, the number of applications needed, and how it should be stored.

Specialized fertilizer
You shouldn’t use the same fertilizer for all your plants and flowers. Every plant has different nutrition needs, which can vary according to its growth period.

Water and substrate
The quality of the water you use (its pH and supply source) can react positively or negatively with your fertilizer. Moreover, the content of your substrate can influence the type and dose of fertilizer you should use. Test your substrate regularly to find out how well your plants and flowers are absorbing nutrients.



Visit your local garden store for advice and carefully check the fertilizer labels before buying.

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Fun summer finance lessons for the kids

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Dread it. Run from it. Summer arrives all the same. Kids once stuck in school now have some weeks to unwind. While summer was initially set aside so kids could help with farming, few get behind the plow these days. Children definitely deserve some R&R, but the summer offers a great opportunity to build life skills, like finance and budgeting, as well.

Sound like a drag? Approached wrong, it could be. However, finance can be fun and help prepare kids for adulthood. Heading off for a vacation? Instead of buying mementos on-demand, give your children a fixed souvenir budget upfront. You might also set monthly entertainment budgets to cover trips to the movies, video games, participating in sports leagues, and whatever else.

A survey by Braun Research found that just 28 percent of children do chores around the house. If your kids don’t have an allowance and chores, set them up. Talk with them about what they can do around the house. Sure, it’s often quicker to unload the dishwasher or fold the laundry yourself. Yet the end goal isn’t simply cups in cupboards, but teaching your children the value of earning money.

Some families let kids choose what’s for dinner on certain nights. Why not take things a step further? Instead of simply selecting the meal, you could provide a grocery budget so they can buy the ingredients needed for their cuisine of choice. Then, together, you can cook dinner.


Have older teens? Consider a finance movie night. Yes, really, finance movies. Those are a thing, and some of them are awesome. Two of the best are Margin Call and The Big Short. Both cover the 2008 financial crisis and make complex financial topics accessible. Beware that some, like Wolf of Wall Street, push the upper bounds of R ratings.

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Are you using too much drinking water?

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If you’ve decided to adopt environmentally responsible practices at home, you may need to adjust your purchasing and energy consumption habits. However, have you considered how you use your drinking water? Here’s what you need to know.

Bad habits
Water flows from the faucet on demand, giving you the sense that it’s an infinite resource. But wastewater treatment is costly, both economically and environmentally. Eliminate some of the following bad habits to reduce your daily water consumption.

• Cooking vegetables in a whole pot of water rather than steam cooking
• Waiting for the tap water to run cold before filling your glass
• Letting the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving
• Using tap water to clean the yard
• Taking frequent baths or long showers
• Flushing with just a little urine in the toilet
• Using drinking water on your trees, flower beds, and vegetable garden

Sensible solutions
There are many strategies to reduce your water consumption. Use a rainwater collection system to reduce tap water usage in your garden. In addition to limiting your shower time, you can install low-flow toilets and faucets in your bathroom. For cold drinking water, simply keep a full pitcher in the refrigerator. A front-loading washing machine is another water-saving solution.


Did you know?
Roughly 30 percent of tap water consumed by American households is used outdoors. A rainwater collection system can help you significantly reduce your tap water usage.

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6 tips for growing rhubarb

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Here are six tips for growing rhubarb in your backyard.

1. Choose a sunny location with rich, relatively moist soil. Ideally, pick somewhere other than your vegetable garden. Rhubarb takes up a lot of space and can cover up smaller plants.

2. Allow at least three feet between your rhubarb and other plants. This ensures it has plenty of room to spread out.

3. Apply compost and all-purpose organic fertilizer annually. Make sure to read the package instructions for the proper application.


4. Remove weeds at the base of the rhubarb plant to avoid attracting pests like weevils. Make sure to remove wilted stems to promote growth regularly.

5. During dry spells and intense heat, water your plant in the evening to prevent shock. Avoid getting the leaves wet, and don’t oversaturate the soil.

6. Don’t pick any rhubarb the first year. Wait until the third year to harvest heavily. However, never pick all the stems because this can weaken the plant.

Talk to your local garden center staff for more tips and advice.

 

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Keep kids reading with these summer challenges

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School’s out, but that doesn’t mean a break from learning. Books are the perfect screen-free activity when it’s rainy or too hot to play outside, and with a few incentives, kids will keep their brains busy all summer long.

Mega-bookseller Barnes & Noble offers extensive summer reading lists for all ages and preferences on their website and offers a free book incentive for kids who finish enough books and fill out a reading journal. Visit https://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/our-stores-communities/summer-reading-program/ for more information.

Scholastic’s Summer Reading program provides books, kid-friendly activities, and monitored online spaces so kids can safely connect with other readers. Visit https://www.scholastic.com/site/summer-reading.html for more information.

Showcase Cinemas’ Bookworm Wednesdays program lets kids earn free admission to a select children’s movie in exchange for book reports about their summer reading picks. With free admission for any accompanying parents or guardians and children under six, you can make it a family event.


Your local public library is also an excellent place to connect your favorite kid with a summer reading challenge or just give them a steady supply of free, age-appropriate books.

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How much mulch?

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Organic mulch is a powerful tool for gardeners. However, it’s not always easy to calculate how much you need to cover your flower beds. Here’s what you need to know.

Why you should use mulch
Mulch is a layer of organic material that covers the soil around trees, shrubs, and flowers. Whether it’s made of cedar, cocoa shells, hemlock or bark, it’s an essential element for beautiful, healthy flowerbeds. Mulch helps:

• Slow down weed germination
• Keep the soil cool
• Preserve soil moisture
• Reduce the number of insects and diseases
• Enrich the soil through decomposing

How much mulch do you need?
Most greenhouses and big-box stores sell mulch in two cubic feet bags. Moreover, horticulturists agree you should lay down at least three inches of mulch.


One cubic foot of mulch covers about four square feet of space to a thickness of three inches. Therefore, a standard bag would cover about eight-square feet of space. To calculate the total square feet to cover, divide it by eight to get the number of bags to buy.

For example, for a garden bed measuring 20 feet by six feet, the calculation would be 20’ x 6’ = 120 square feet to cover; 120 square feet ÷ 8 square feet = 15 bags.

Some nurseries carry mulch in bulk or sell it by the square yard, equivalent to 27 cubic feet. You would probably need about one square yard for an average-sized project: 27 cubic feet ÷ two cubic feet (one bag) = 14 bags; 14 bags x 8 square feet = 112 square feet covered.

Happy gardening!

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Why use a rain gauge in the garden?

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A rain gauge is a practical instrument that measures rainfall.

Using a rain gauge can help you adapt your watering schedule to avoid over or underwatering your plants. However, to make good use of the data you collect, you must first know how much water each type of plant requires.

You can use a rain gauge to compare the amount of rainfall from year to year, which can help you plan your future crops.

Visit your local garden store to find a rain gauge that will serve you well for years to come.


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Upcoming Events

Jul
1
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Jul 1 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
Jul
2
Sat
10:00 am A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 10:00 am – Jul 3 @ 11:00 am
A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Join Shenandoah Chapter Master Naturalist Paul Guay and explore the rich natural history of trees along the park’s Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Discover the tips and tricks of basic tree identification and the[...]
11:30 am Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
Jul 2 @ 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
On 2 July, at 11:30, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will read the Declaration of Independence on the porch of the Archives at the Warren Heritage Society. [...]
12:00 pm Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Log Cabin in the Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log Cabin to see what tasty treats are cooking on the hearth. Watch as a Sky Meadows volunteer dons historic clothing and cooks delicious[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Jul
6
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jul 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Jul
8
Fri
6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Jul 8 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
Jul
9
Sat
all-day Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 9 – Jul 10 all-day
Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Don’t miss your chance to camp out in the beautiful Historic Mount Bleak backyard. See all that Sky Meadows has to offer through activities beginning at noon on Saturday and running until noon[...]
Jul
13
Wed
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jul 13 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]