The 7th Annual Schoolyard Roots Garden Party will be held on Nov. 11 at the Tuscaloosa River Market. From 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., attendees can sample fresh, delicious food from 18 local farmers, 16 restaurants, and three breweries. Local musicians will provide live music, and guests can bid on art provided by local artists.  

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It’s not what you think

By Amelia Pilsch

In an early Master Gardener class, when the topic was preparing soil for planting, a member asked the speaker about “lasagna gardening.” Now, I had never heard this term before, and it felt a little sketchy when the speaker appeared to brush over the question.  I asked my seat mate about it, and later, "Googled" it to learn more.

Preparing a new garden bed using the lasagna method refers to building a garden by adding layers of organic materials that will “cook down” over time, resulting in rich soil that will help your plants thrive. Also called sheet composting, you don't have to dig at all - you simply layer your materials directly on top of the ground where you’ve planned your new garden, even on top of the grass

Being a single, teacher person, and getting a little long in the tooth, I thought my days of creating a new garden space were over. Honestly, cutting the grass has even become a chore, but I still prefer that chore over the alternate, indoor kind. The idea of creating a new bed without the hours of back breaking labor seemed very appealing to me. Plus, I already had a space in mind and, I’d been saving an inspiration picture...don't judge me. I decided to give it a try.

I started my garden in the fall after a friend built the trellises along the wall. I used my garden hose to outline the new space, then covered the entire area in cardboard and newspaper. Here's a tip: I filled my garden cart with water and soaked the newspaper to keep it from blowing around before I added another layer.

The paper and cardboard are an invitation to earthworms, they love paper and are vital for good soil. Earthworms aerate the soil as they move by burrowing small holes. They process organic matter in their bodies and return vital compounds to the soil, increasing the nutrients available to plants.

The second layer that I added was peat moss. I have learned that using peat moss is environmentally unfriendly and non-sustainable. I'd recommend mulch instead. Sometimes, peat moss can turn into a wet, mushy bog, but not to worry, my bed is fine. I topped the peat with wheat hay, covered the entire concoction with a tarp and left it for several weeks. From time to time, I’d uncover the space, add another layer and wet it with the hose. I used manure, mushroom compost, more hay, grass clippings, and hardwood leaves.

When spring came, I started adding items to my new bed. I decided to experiment with espalier, training a shrub to grow flat against a wall using my trellises. I selected Camellia Sasanqua "October Magic" because I needed something evergreen and loved the idea of having blooms in the fall. I also added three dwarf lorepetulums. Existing plants included a hydrangea, a gardenia, irises and day lilies. Instead of a fountain, I installed a bird bath.

I needed a way in and out so I put in pavers, but hope to replace those with personalized, stepping stones, mementos of my family. It's still a work in progress but that is the beauty of gardening isn't it?

Follow Tuscaloosa County Master Gardeners on Twitter @TuscCoGardeners

Photos: Amelia Pilsch


Article sponsored by First South Farm Credit.

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By Tori Linville


If your deck or patio has seen more dried up leaves, stray grass and weeds this summer than actual activity, you might be in need of an outdoor living space overhaul. Or maybe you just don’t feel like you’re getting enough out of your outdoor space. Well, we’ve gathered three of outdoor entertainment’s go-to and top trends to help you fix your outdoor woes in order to reach your seasonal escape.


First things first – start with an ideal outdoor room.


The classic outdoor room not only establishes an outdoor area, but also makes for a welcoming environment that guests will enjoy. The experts at have some great tips and tricks that make this seemingly overwhelming task a pretty easy fix.


·      Start with a roof that frames your outdoor area – a pergola with some vine potential or even an awning are some options to check out. After dealing with the roof, go to the ground: lay out an outdoor rug that compliments your color scheme and/or outdoor furniture.


·      Speaking of color schemes and what not, go for bulky(ish) furniture and earth tones that will obviously compliment the surroundings. Furniture pieces that allow for a guest to kick back and relax are almost always preferred over a dainty lawn chair (if those even exist). Easy care fabrics are an obvious choice for weather-wear.


·      Lastly, add some lighting. String lights here are a popular craze, but anything you prefer will do. Just as long as you have some to illuminate the area when it’s dark out.


Check out more info. here on how to get the perfect backyard escape.


Next up: an unforgettable grill


If there’s one trend that will never go out of style, it’s the outdoor stovetop otherwise known as a grill.


High-tech grills with tons of features can be found virtually everywhere. For example, the Saber Smart Edge Grill was Consumer Reports’ favored grill with infrared top and optional ceramic glass lid. If watching the food slowly cook wasn’t enough, the grill hooks up to WiFi so a phone can keep track of when to cook, when to clean and when to fuel up.


If you’re looking for a more straightforward number, other Consumer Reports grills included the Weber Spirit E-220, the Weber Spirit SP-320 and a Kenmore grill. See them (and other cooking gadgets) here.


Lastly, throw in a fire pit for a multipurpose focal point


Don’t actually throw one, but you get the point. Fire pits have been all the rage for a while and for good reason. As a center point for décor arrangements, the fire pit isn’t just for show. It’s also warmth, light and even serves as a Smores maker.


Also, it’s probably one of the biggest draws for winter outdoor entertainment (if you’re brave enough). That being said, a fire pit practically pays for itself.


Consumer Reports likes the Alfresco Fire N Table, Forshaw and Waterstone for a variety of reliable and quality fire pits.


Honorable Mention: outdoor movies, anyone?


A new, refreshing entertainment piece is the re-emergence of the outdoor screen for at-home enjoyment (in place of drive-thru movies, of course).


While a projector would be necessary, a screen could just as easily be made with some bed sheets and nails. If you’re feeling the outdoor movie vibe like we were, all you need is a blank wall (or screen) to get started!


Full outdoor entertainment systems are available on sites like Amazon but first, check out this article to see what it takes to blow away your guests with your outdoor film.

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Article sponsored by Bama Exterminating and the Geoffrey Shook Agency of State Farm.

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Druid City Garden Project (DCGP) is hosting a hands-on workshop titled “Organic Gardening 101” to help Tuscaloosa residents learn how to start gardening organically. It will be held on Saturday morning, April 11th from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. at University Place Elementary School.

Participants will join DCGP Garden Manager, Josalyn Randall, to learn how the basics of organic gardening including composting, soil amendments, soil preparation, seed starting techniques, transplanting, planting schedules, mulching and more.


“Organic Gardening 101 is a great resource for those just starting out in gardening and those who want to brush up on their skills before planting their summer gardens,” says Lindsay Turner, Druid City Garden Project’s executive director.


Turner says that the workshop will be appropriate for all experience levels.

Common summer favorites, such as tomatoes, peppers, and herbs will be featured.

There is a suggested donation of $20 for individuals and $10 for students. Contributions benefit Druid City Garden Project’s efforts to help diverse communities of Alabama build vibrant food systems.

A second part to this workshop, “Organic Gardening 102,” will be held on May 16, all from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.

Interested community members and students are encouraged to reserve their spots in advance by emailingThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Assorted sizes of colorful, decorative pots in Alice’s Garden will bear ancestors’ names.

By Octavia Miles


The life of a master gardener is never dull or stagnant, and we are never far away from pen and paper to make a project “to do” list.

While our mission is to increase the availability of horticultural information to Alabama’s gardeners and home owners, in reality, we are much more than that. We play very active roles in our communities – from coordinating plant sales and other events, to seminars, to community service projects. Kindred   spirits join together to complete a goal and to spread the message of enjoying the bounty of our gardens.

Often, the joy of these projects comes in preparation. Friendships sprout up and memories are created, all while completing a gardening task.

Speaking of that “to do” list, I recently made one for my 2015 project called “Alice’s Garden” (in memory of my late mother who, during the last eight of her 91 years on earth, was afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease). The chosen area in my backyard was once a bright, sunny spot, but now the trees from my neighbors’ yards have turned it into a location that only receives four hours of sunlight (10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) with a slow progression from southeast to northwest.

The middle portion of the site gets the best sun. I’ve labeled the site as “partial sun with a side dressing of shade.” This isn’t quite what I envisioned for Alice’s Garden, so now I have to revise my graph drawings and my wish list.

The proposed site for Alice’s Garden.


With revisions comes research, and I have to admit: the more pictures in a gardening book, the better. One of my favorites isEdible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy, along with Shade: Ideas and Inspiration for Shady Gardens by Keith Wiley.


I also know that my project will require visits to my family’s homestead in Troy, along with visits to the Petals from the Past nursery in Jemison. So far, I’ve added these items to my project’s wish list:


  • A garden bench (mom’s porch glider, which I’ll paint pale pink)
  • An arbor (test red cascade and Peggy Martin roses)
  • A pathway (pine straw for this first year)
  • Containers (mom’s four large flower pots from pillars in the front yard’s drive and walkways)
  • Decoration (ironwork from mom’s backyard fence, to add architectural interest and a bit of Troy history)
  • Plants (everything still living in mom’s flowerbeds, supplemented by additional ones I’ll research and purchase)


Next on the list? Functional analysis. What did I want my four siblings, my two children, my three grandchildren, my 12 nieces and nephews, and my 16 great nieces and nephews to experience when they visited my home and walked outside to see Alice’s Garden?


I concluded that those who experienced mom’s flowers through the years in her own gardens would be touched with precious memories, while those who were born long after mom left Troy and came to live with me in Tuscaloosa would be far removed from my nostalgic gesture. Therefore, I will have to be certain that Alice’s Garden has something for everyone. Because of the variation in age groups, I have decided to reserve a special section of the Garden for assorted sizes of colorful and decorative pots bearing all of our ancestors’ names. It will be called “Flower Pot People” in Alice’s Garden.


Do you have a special project you’re working on this spring? Would you like the Tuscaloosa County Master Gardeners to contribute our efforts? If so, contact Neal Hargle, County Extension Agent at (205) 349-4630 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He and I will get our many knowledgeable master gardeners organized to assist you.


For inspiration in planting this season, why not visit the Tuscaloosa County Master Gardeners Association’s annual plant sale? The sale will be held on Saturday, April 25, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the auditorium of the Extension Office. Please come by to see the many plants that we will have for sale.


Octavia Miles is the president of the Tuscaloosa County Master Gardeners’ Association (Class of 2010).

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.



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