HOM BRIEFS -- The weed war

If you're tired of the constant battle to control weeds, this book is for you.

Lee Reich, the garden writer for Associated Press and a former agricultural researcher, argues that the conventional style of cultivating gardens tends to encourage weeds and damage the soil. His book "Weedless Gardening" advocates a different style of gardening that is intended to be less work and better for the earth.

Reich argues that the annual turning of the soil with a shovel or tiller gives weed seeds the sunlight and air they need to grow. Injecting all that oxygen into the soil triggers a sudden release of nutrients, which leaves the soil weaker in the long run. He advocates a detailed process that minimizes soil disruption and leaves the surface of the garden covered with a layer of organic material that smothers weeds and preserves moisture.

He also advocates drip-line irrigation. This system -- in combination with the rest of his method -- leads to a garden that uses dramatically less water, needs less fertilizer and other chemicals, and takes less work.

The 200-page paperback "Weedless Gardening" sells for $8.95.


For clematis lovers

This is for lovers of the aristocrat of climbers.

This completely noncommercial Web site bills itself as "a public service" for gardeners everywhere. The goal is the advancement of, what else, the noble clematis. The plant is an especially useful landscaping element, producing colorful blooms from late winter until early fall.

The site's authors note that much of the reference material on clematis was written in England, where the climate is so different that the advice has to be modified for gardeners in America. It features information on planting, pruning, disease control, and other aspects of growing and caring for clematis.

The photos are nice, too.

The site: Home of Clematis

The address:

Bug patrol


Heard some concerns about the possibility of this season's mild winter producing a giant crop of bugs this summer. True, says Jeff Hahn, an entomologist (bug expert) with the University of Minnesota. "Insects have better chances to survive during a mild winter. But, "for the most part we really won't notice any difference. There undoubtedly will be some insects that will have higher-than-normal populations but it really is not possible to say which ones at this time."

Hahn notes that the last several winters have been mild but entomologists weren't successful in predicting bug populations then either.

"Spring weather will more greatly influence the summer insect populations (early warm springs mean large numbers of wasps, rainy springs mean more mosquitoes). "We know that forest tent caterpillars will be more numerous this spring, but that is unrelated to the winter weather -- it is natural cycle they go through.

Pressure-treated wood

Now that the EPA and the manufacturers of CCA preservatives, which contain arsenic, have agreed to phase out wood treated with CCA, what can the homeowner expect? Not much, according to the experts. Prices for the new alkaline copper quaternary-treated wood are expected to be higher -- at least for the immediate future. Performance is expected to be the same with the new treatment as with CCA. Wood color will be different. While CCA-treated wood was green and eventually weathered to gray, the wood will be brown that weathers to gray.

Wing tip broth

With the popularity of Buffalo Wings (and all the variations) the world is stuck with a lot of wing tips (the third and outer joint of the chicken wing). If you section your own wings for appetizers, save the tips. Freeze them in batches until you have several pounds. Use them just as you would backs or necks to make stock. You can even lightly brown them in the oven before starting to make a delicious brown chicken stock for soups and sauces.

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