Free workshops help you garden with better success

The secret to success with a happy, healthy yard is knowing what to do and what not to do.

The methods you use should be based on scientific research, not marketing campaigns that push products.


Virginia Cooperative Extension workshops offer some of the best research-backed information, so now through spring — before you're in the garden again — is a good time to take advantage of anything coming your way.

Like the new Hampton Yards Improvement Week series this month. Three extension experts will discuss how to landscape with minimum money, work and impact to the environment, including:

Keith Starke, environmental horticulture agent in Virginia Beach, 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 on soil and turf maintenance.

Mike Andruczyk, environmental horticulture agent in Chesapeake, 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, on shrubs and trees.

Megan Tierney, environmental horticulture agent in Hampton, 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Nov. 17, on landscape design during an on-site consultation that a class participant wins.

"My program is for homeowners who may not know the variety of plants out there and may not be away of the problems of some plants that are currently cheap and available — red maple, Indian hawthorn, Leyland cypress, Callery pear, etc.," says Andruczyk.


"We will look at both plant selection and after care to reduce problems in the landscape to keep it simple and beautiful."

Tierney plans to focus on low-care landscape looks that give homeowners good curb appeal.

"Have you heard of no-till? she says.

"When you till soil, you release significant amounts of carbon, per square foot of soil, into the atmosphere, and deplete the soil of a necessary resource which, in turn, increases your need to fertilize."


She will also discuss how plants are important soil stabilizers and pollutant filters, absorbing runoff like a paper towel.

And, she'll explain biochar, the product that comes from heating organic material such as fallen plant debris including branches, twigs, sweet gumballs and walnut shells. The process used to create biochar stabilizes its natural carbon so it's used in the soil, and not released into the atmosphere.

"Biochar can then be used as a soil additive to increase habitat for friendly microorganisms that help break down nutrients in the soil for plant to use," says Tierney.

The classes are free, but advance registration is required; call Tierney at 727-1401 or email

In addition, Hampton master gardeners are planning new evening classes on vegetable gardening; call 727-1401 to learn more and to register.

Think native plants

Native plants are always a surefire way to go in your yard because they better adapt to changing weather patterns.

Jan Newton, education coordinator with the local John Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society, discusses how to use native species that bring butterflies and birds to your garden at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, during a meeting of the Hampton Roads Horticultural Society at the Woman's Club of Newport News, across from Riverside Hospital on J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News.

Newton is known as the "plant lady" for her work with the Stonehouse Elementary School's habitat garden that she helped design and now maintains in James City County. Her program is free and open to the public.

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