• How to Maintain a Beautiful Garden in July - Monday, June 30, 2014 at



  • Hot and dry July weather can cause havoc in gardens so use water wisely and keep up with plant maintenance so gardens look their best this month, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities.

    Water Wisely: You can still have a beautiful garden without using a lot of water, even during the summer. Early morning watering allows for deep soil penetration (six to eight inches) and reduces evaporation. Consider using a water probe to check moisture levels. Use soaker hoses for gardens and water in the early morning as well. Be sure to add mulch. Mulch will retain water, which is important during the year's hottest months--and keeps roots cool even during the heat of the day. It also reduces erosion so its use on hillsides and slopes is recommended.

    Remove "Dead Heads": A daily July task in a flower garden is to cut back droopy or brown flowers. This will not only keep the garden looking fresh, but will encourage new flower growth for the remainder of summer.

    Add Color to Your Garden: Stop by any nursery in July and you will see an array of plants with brilliantly colored flowers. If there is a bare spot in your garden, an easy quick fix is to add already-blooming annuals. The color will not last long, however, typically through early fall.

    Harvest Vegetables: Pick vegetables as soon as they are ripe. Also, remove any overripe fruit immediately since this fruit quickly attracts bugs. Do not let zucchini get too big. They are at their best when four or five inches long. Watermelons will be ready to pick when the vine leading to the fruit turns brown, the watermelon skin becomes dull and its bottom (the part touching the ground) is a yellowish color.

    Still Time to Plant Vegetables: Add vegetable plants to your garden for a late summer, early fall harvest. These vegetables include beans, beets, carrots, corn, cantaloupe, okra squash and spinach.

    For more gardening tips, go to www.agromin.com.




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  • Think Before You Toss: Green Waste in Green Waste Barrels Only - Monday, June 16, 2014 at

  • The summer growing season means households generate more green waste from their yards. Most of this waste is then placed in residential green recycling barrels for weekly pickup and eventual composting. Unfortunately, during summer, more plastic material finds its way into these barrels designated for green waste only.

    "We always see an increase in items such as plastic plant containers and plastic potting soil bags coming from the green recycling barrels each summer," says Bill Camarillo, CEO of Agromin, an Oxnard, California-based manufacturer of earth-friendly compost products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California cities.

    The material collected from residential green barrels is delivered to Agromin sites. The company then uses a natural process to turn material into compost for use by landscapers, growers and residents. "Before composting can begin, workers must pick through the green waste piles and remove any non-compostable items," explains Camarillo. "This is a long process, especially in summer when the amount of green waste and trash increases. Only when the green waste is cleaned thoroughly can it be transformed into reach, nutrient-filled compost."

    Agromin reminds residents that only the following items should be placed in green waste recycling barrels:
    --grass clippings
    --plant trimmings
    --leaves
    --small branches
    --weeds --shrubs
    --cut flowers
    --house plants
    --recyclable flower/plant containers

    Items that should not be placed in green waste recycling barrels include:
    --plastic bottles  and other plastic containers
    --glass
    --pet waste
    --treated wood
    --plastic bags
    --yucca and palm leaves

    "Putting recyclable materials in the proper barrels goes a long way to helping produce healthy and environmentally-friendly products that can be used by all of us," says Camarillo.
    For more gardening and recycling tips, go to www.agromin.com.

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  • Extended Learning Academy Gardens Bring Outdoor Joy to Ventura Seniors - Friday, June 13, 2014 at

  • Suz Montgomery

    Seniors in Ventura who thought their gardening days were over can once again dig in dirt, plant vegetables and eat the vegetables they grew themselves because of the commitment of Suz Montgomery and her Extended Learning Academy. Suz teaches organic kitchen gardening classes for nursing home patients and residents at The Californian convalescent hospital and Coastal View Healthcare Center and to seniors at the Ventura Avenue Adult Center

    Suz says many of the seniors remember Victory Gardens during World War II, when the population was encouraged to grow their own food to help with the war effort. When she first started teaching senior classes 11 years ago, she didn't know what students wanted to learn. She quickly found out that many of her class members were former business professionals and teachers themselves so she needed to find subjects that were stimulating and challenging.

    One day, a student asked if they could plant tomatoes at the Californian's small garden. Suz knew she had her focus and her calling. As a formally trained executive chef coming from an Italian family that owned its own restaurant, she already understood the importance of soil and the benefits of eating organic food. Each week, her students examine the etymology of a food--analyzing its nutrients, determining how it can be best grown and then creating a dish containing the vegetable or herb. "I teach at a graduate school level," explains Suz.

    The gardens have evolved from tomatoes to producing just about everything including artichokes, beans, broccoli, lettuce varieties, eggplant, strawberries, blueberries, all types of herbs, cucumbers, carrots and radishes.

    Some of Suz's students (rehab patients) are as young as 20. Her oldest student is 107. "Gardening is transformative," says Suz. "People are sometimes hesitant to talk, but put them in a garden and in five minutes they open up. A garden brings them back to a better time and a better memory. I find they want to get their hands dirty, they want to feel the soil." Family members even join the classes and work with their loved ones side by side.

    Agromin donates the soil for the planter boxes. In all, 27 business and city partners take part in building and maintaining the gardens. The City of Ventura Fire Department, for example, donated and installed the garden irrigation systems. Lumber for the garden boxes was donated from Ojai Lumber with Ventura's City Corps constructing the boxes. Fiona Dunne of Blackrock Design did all the landscaping, even driving a skip loader--donated by Ventura Rentals. Plants come from the Camarillo Seed Company, "It’s been a community outpouring of love," says Suz. "It's beyond wonderful!"

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