Kiddie Pool 21/08/12

Family fun for the weekend


The Friends of Aine’s 9th annual Try-Athlon is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15, starting at 8 a.m. The event will take place at the Bedford town pool (on County Road) and the nearby Bedford High School and will feature swimming, biking and running events specially designed for kids of all abilities in the 4 to 10 age group and the 11 to 15 age group, according to, where you can register for $40 per kid in advance (registration on the day costs $45). There will be a post-race family festival with food, games, vendors, face painting and more, according to the website.

Old Home Days

As mentioned in This Week on page 9, there are several Old Home Days coming up on the calendar. For families looking for some fun, here are some of the events they can expect.

Hudson’s Old Home Days runs Thursday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 15, at Hills House (211 Derry Road in Hudson). Events with special interest for kids include a fairgrounds trick-or-treat from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday with costumes encouraged so kids can join the Parade of Horribles at 6:30 p.m. and then kids games starting at 7 p.m.; kids cornhole during the adult tournament (which starts at 7 p.m. on Friday), and kids games from noon to 4 p.m. and a haystack hunt at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Rides and food vendors will be available throughout the event, which runs 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. See for details.

Epsom’s Old Home Weekend begins Friday, Aug. 13, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 15, with events happening at Webster Park in Epsom. Friday’s events from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. include a cookout, s’mores and popcorn and storytime for the kids, according to the town’s website. Saturday’s schedule of events runs from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and includes a parade, kids games, a pony ride, a petting zoo, food and other vendors, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament (including for youth sixth grade and up) at 2 p.m., a climbing wall, a bouncy slide and fireworks at dusk. On Sunday, events run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include a road race (running or walking; starting time for that is 8:30 a.m.) and a resident yard sale, according to

Londonderry’s Old Home Days starts the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 18, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 21. According to the event’s schedule, Wednesday is senior night with bingo at 4 p.m., a barbecue dinner from the Lions at 5 p.m. and a 7 p.m. concert with Neurotic Gumbo (a classic rock band) at the Londonderry Town Common. Find the event on Facebook for more information.

Take a drive for family fun

Head to the meadow at Castle in the Clouds (455 Old Mountain Road in Moultonborough; 476-5900, for a free family fun day on Saturday, Aug. 14, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day will include lawn games, kite flying, a scavenger hunt, balloon animals, a gaga pit, disc golf, crafts, live music and an opportunity to feed the rainbow trout in Shannon Pond, according to a press release. Lunch, ice cream and beverages will be available for purchase at the Cafe in the Clouds, the release said. Castle in the Cloud is partnering with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and the Moultonborough Recreation Department, the release said.

The annual Hampton Beach Children’s Festival kicks off Monday, Aug. 16, and runs through Friday, Aug. 20, with programing on Hampton Beach, according to the Hampton Beach Village District website ( and Facebook pages. Monday’s programming includes a BJ Hickman magic show (10 a.m.), rainbow sand art (11 a.m.) and movie night featuring Moana (PG, 2016) at dusk. Tuesday find magician juggler Robert Clarke (10 a.m.) and a touch-a-truck with Hampton Fire and Police (2 p.m). On Wednesday, DrumatiX performs tap dance and percussion (10 a.m.), there will be games on the beach (11 a.m. with OfftheWallKidz), a hula hoop performance with Little Legume (3:30 p.m.) and fireworks (9:30 p.m.). On all three days face painting is available from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — all according to a schedule posted on the group’s Facebook page. The week is capped off with a children’s costume parade on Friday (11 a.m.) and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus (1 p.m.), according to the schedule.

Live performances

The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) continues its 2021 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series. Finishing up this week’s run is Rapunzel on Thursday, Aug. 12. Next week, the production is Cinderella, Tuesday, Aug. 17, through Thursday, Aug. 19. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $10 per person.

The Prescott Park Arts Festival wraps up this year’s musical, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, with shows Thursday, Aug. 12, through Sunday, Aug. 15. Thursday and Sunday shows start at 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. Go online to to see the reservation options. Prescott Park is at 105 Marcy St. in Portsmouth.

Movie night

See the tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast, on Friday, Aug. 13, in Wasserman Park (116 Naticook Road in Merrimack) as part of the town’s summer movies in the park. The screening starts at dusk and the films are free and open to residents and nonresidents, according to the town’s Parks and Recreation website.

This Friday’s “Pics in the Park” film at Greeley Park in Nashua is Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13, 2019), which will start screening at dusk on Friday, Aug. 13, at the park’s Bandshell, 100 Concord St. The screening is part of the city’s SummerFun lineup; see

The Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) will be screening some films to raise money for the Ballet Misha. On Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m., catch Disney’s animated Tangled (PG, 2010). On Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m., the theater will screen Frozen (PG, 2013). Tickets to either show cost $12.

Save the date

The Manchester Millyard Museum (200 Bedford St. in Manchester; will hold an American Girl Doll Tea Party on Saturday, Aug. 21, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10 per person and include tea party and a craft, according to the website. Advance reservations are required.

Self-watering success

Worth giving containers a try

Recently I was at my local food coop and chatted with a friend about her gardens. She told me that she is having fabulous luck growing tomatoes, peppers and more in a bucket system she constructed. Her inspiration was a book by Vermont’s Ed Smith, who has written a number of great books, including The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible. And although I have used the Ed Smith system in the past, it’s good to see how another person uses it, so I visited her to see what she has done.

Susan Pillsbury has nine or 10 self-watering containers, each made from two 5-gallon buckets. Here is what she did: The bottom bucket is the water reservoir; the top bucket, which nestles inside it, holds soil mix. There is a 3- or 4-inch piece of PVC plumber’s pipe (3-inch diameter) that stands up in the bottom bucket and is full of holes she drilled in it.

The piece of pipe sits in the lower bucket and supports the upper bucket. She used a 2-inch hole saw to put a wide hole in the bottom of the upper bucket, right in the middle.

Holes in lower bucket allow watering from below and draining in times of heavy rains. Courtesy photo.

That short piece of pipe gets filled with soil mix, and because it is sitting in the water reservoir, the soil is constantly wet. Like a wet sponge, it wicks water into the soil in the upper bucket. The wicking action keeps the soil for the plant roots lightly moist. The problem with growing veggies in big pots or buckets is often that they dry out or get waterlogged.

Her lower buckets all have one-inch holes drilled just below the bottom of the upper bucket. If she gets a flood of rain, water passes through the upper bucket and out the lower bucket through those holes. This also allows her to fill the water reservoir from the bottom with a hose. Susan also drilled lots of quarter-inch holes in the bottom of the upper bucket for added drainage.

I asked Susan what kind of soil she used in the buckets. She bought potting mix and mixed it with her own homemade compost in a 50-50 mix. Because a 5-gallon bucket has plenty of soil for roots, and she uses a rich mixture, she does not add any fertilizer.

What does all this cost? Not much, really. Her biggest expense was the plastic buckets, which cost about $5 each, though they are often available free from building contractors. A big bag of potting soil might cost $10 to $12 and would be enough for three or four buckets, once mixed with homemade compost. Purchased compost would add to the cost, but most gardeners make their own. Plastic pipe is not expensive.

I noticed that Susan’s tomatoes were free of disease. Most tomatoes planted in the ground have at least some blight that blackens and kills lower leaves, eventually leaving a plant bare of leaves by September. The most common form of blight lives in the soil and splashes up onto leaves when it rains. But since her plants are in potting soil and cured compost, she has avoided the disease — at least so far. Not only that, her plants are in a fenced dog pen (to avoid deer) and no tomatoes have been grown in there in the past. Obviously blight could blow in and infect her plants, but so far, so good.

Next year Susan intends to grow corn in her self-watering containers. She will use six sets of buckets, each with one or more corn plants. Placed in close proximity, this should allow good pollination. From what she has read, she will need corn plants that are relatively small, given the amount of soil each will be planted in. I watched an online video of corn planted in 30-gallon totes with up to 11 plants in each tote. The ears were large and each plant produced more than one ear.

My Veg Trug grows peppers, herbs and flowers this year. Courtesy photo.

I called Ed Smith to see if he had any updates since writing The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible. He and his wife, Sylvia, still grow some vegetables in containers as well as in the ground. Ed turned 80 recently and likes using containers so he doesn’t have to bend quite so far.

Ed told me that he doesn’t bother with self-watering containers any more. He has several 2-foot by 3-foot containers he got from Gardener’s Supply as self-watering containers, but removed the baffle separating the water reservoir from the planting space, giving him deeper containers that he waters as needed from above. He is semi-retired and rarely travels, so that works for him. If you are at work five days a week, a self-watering container is probably a better idea for you.

I‘ve experimented with self-watering containers and ordinary containers. The best type I’ve used is called a “Veg Trug” and is sold by Gardener’s Supply. It is a tall V-shaped wooden bin 6 feet by 30 inches and 16 inches deep in the middle. I’ve grown tomatoes, peppers, herbs and flowers in it with good success — and no bending over. It’s made of cedar; mine is in its fifth summer of use and still going strong. I empty it each winter and put it inside, but reuse the potting soil, just adding a little compost and fertilizer each spring.

Even if you’re a city dweller with little space you can grow a few things on a deck or between the sidewalk and the street. Give it a try!

Featured photo: Tomatoes growing without blight using self-watering system with buckets. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/08/05

Family fun for the weekend

Family outings

• Get kids in the entrepreneurial spirit by seeing other kids sell items they designed and made at the Acton Children’s Business Fair, held at 45 Beacon St. E in Laconia. Up to 36 kid-run businesses will be featured at the fair, which will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, according to

• New England Vendor Events will hold a Summertime Family Fun Day on Sunday, Aug. 8, from noon to 5 p.m. at the White Birch Catering & Banquet Hall (222 Central St. in Hudson). A $5 ticket allows access to games and activities; free tickets that just allow access into the event are also available, according to the Eventbrite page. A portion of the ticket will benefit the Hudson Food Pantry, the page said. The day will feature food, music, vendors, children’s sack races, a bounce house, a cornhole tournament and more, according to the group’s Facebook page. Email

Live performances

• The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) continues its 2021 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series. Finishing up this week’s run, catch Beauty and the Beast on Thursday, Aug. 5. Next week, the production is Rapunzel, Tuesday, Aug. 10, through Thursday, Aug. 12. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $10 per person.

• Student performers from the Palace’s summer camp program will have a production of their own this weekend: Frozen Jr. will be performed Friday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 7, at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $12 to $15.

Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate will perform a free show of pirate-themed kids music at Abbie Griffin Park (6 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack) on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. See

Summer movie fun

• The summer kids movie series concludes with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PG, 2001) at O’neil Cinemas at Brickyard Square in Epping (24 Calef Highway; 679-3529, on Monday, Aug. 9, and Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 10 a.m. Tickets to the screening cost $2 for kids ages 11 and under and $3 for ages 13 and up. A $5 popcorn-and-drink combo is also for sale.

• The Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) will be screening some films to raise money for the SEE Science Center. On Tuesday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. catch Matilda (PG, 1996). On Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m., the theater will screen Back to the Future (PG, 1985). Tickets to either show cost $12.

The Goonies (PG, 1985) will screen Wednesday, Aug. 11, at area Chunky’s Cinema Pubs (707 Huse Road in Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave. in Nashua; 150 Bridge St. in Pelham, at 7 p.m. including a treasure hunt. Doors open one hour before showtime for a hunt for boxes of goodies in the theater. Tickets cost $4.99.

Responsible gardening

What to do about invasives

Since ancient times, explorers have brought back seeds and plants from exotic lands. Some, like the apple, have been a boon to the citizens of their adoptive home. Others, like the notorious Japanese knotweed (a.k.a. “bamboo”), have been more headache than boon.

New England, with its cold climate, is blessed with a natural defense against some invasives: our winters. But many others have settled in and are taking over —‌ or trying to. It is up to us, the gardeners, to be responsible; we need to learn what the problem plants are, and we need to get rid of any we have growing on our property.

Invasive plants are those that reproduce rapidly and take over wild habitats, out-competing the plants that Mother Nature provided, stealing light, water and nutrients from less aggressive plants. By definition, they are alien species, plants that have come here from other countries.

Most invasives produce large numbers of seeds that are distributed by birds, by the wind, or by water. In most cases, invasives are also difficult to remove or eradicate once established and have extensive root systems that preclude simply pulling them up.

Back home, in their country of origin, most invasives have predators —‌ insects or diseases —‌ that keep their numbers in check. They may have come inadvertently or been brought by well-intentioned people who thought they were pretty or had some use for them. Some, like burning bush, barberry and Norway maple, have been introduced and sold because they are essentially indestructible —‌ and pretty.

For starters, you can learn to identify the prohibited species in your state, and eliminate them on your own land. Check with your local University Extension service to obtain a list for your state.

Getting rid of invasives, however, may not be easy for two reasons: you may like the invasive species, and may have planted it before you knew better. Secondly, it may not be easy to eliminate —‌ even with the use of herbicides (which you probably don’t want to use anyhow).

‘Crimson King’ Norway maple looks great, but out-competes our native maples in the forest Courtesy photo.

The Norway maple, for example, is a lovely-looking tree that grows fast and survives well even in urban areas. It will grow in sun or partial shade and is not bothered by road salt. If you have one that is shading your house, I can understand why you might be unwilling to cut it down.

If you are a city dweller, you may assume that since there are no forests nearby, it shouldn’t matter if you keep your Norway maple (or other invasive species). But it’s not just wind or birds that distribute seeds. Runoff can carry seeds to an outlet in a natural environment. Seed from your tree can end up in streams, rivers, ponds. Thus even city dwellers can make a difference, helping to control the propagation of this invasive tree by cutting down theirs.

To see if maple trees growing wild near you are Norway maples, do this simple test: Snap off a leaf at its attachment point, and look at the stem. If it oozes a milky sap, it’s a Norway maple. The leaves also tend to be broader and larger than sugar or red maple leaves.

For organic gardeners, getting rid of invasives is not easy. For herbaceous weeds, think lawnmower. Once you have the stalks (and as much of the root mass as possible) removed, plant grass seed. Mow it every week and the roots will not get recharged. Stems will continue to grow for years, but if you mow it, you can win.

Digging the stump of an invasive shrub like barberry, bush honeysuckle or burning bush is a pain in the neck, but you probably can do it. Digging the stump of a large Norway maple is not practical. But there are folks with backhoes and stump grinders, and the expertise to do it.

If your woods are full of small seedlings of invasive trees or shrubs, you may wish to get a tool for pulling saplings called a weed wrench. This tool has a gripping mouth-like part and a long handle to provide the leverage. A weed wrench of the proper size allows a 150-pound office worker to pull out shrubs and small trees that otherwise would not be possible to yank.

Why bother digging out invasives? You may decide to do it for the sake of your grandchildren, or for the environment. Even in states with good laws prohibiting the sale of invasive plants, no one can force you to cut down or pull out your invasive plants. But being a little selfish is OK, too. Think of all the great plants you can buy and plant if you get rid of those invasives. And think how wonderful it would be if wildflowers and native plants started flourishing in your woods.

Featured photo: Purple loosestrife is beautiful, but can take over a wetland, but will also grow in dry places if given a chance. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/07/29

Family fun for the weekend

National Night Out

Several towns are celebrating the National Night Out, a community event featuring law enforcement, civic groups and others, on Tuesday, Aug. 3 (see Here are some of the highlights:

• In Bedford, the celebration features a police department versus fire department softball game, according to the town’s parks and recreation website ( The game starts at 6 p.m. at Selvoski Field on County Road.

• In Concord, the event will be held at Rollins Park (33 Bow St.) from 5 to 8 p.m., according to The evening will feature music, police and fire equipment, K-9 demonstrations, touch-a-truck and food for sale, the website said. Call 225-8600, ext. 3738, with questions.

• In Goffstown, the event will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at Goffstown High School (27 Wallace Road) and feature food, a car show (antique and muscle cars according to a video on the police department’s Facebook page), a dunk tank, a bounce house, a climbing wall, a petting zoo, tractor rides and live music, according to a July 13 post.

• In Hollis, the police, library and recreation commission will hold the event starting at 6 p.m. on Nichols Field behind Lawrence Barn (28 Depot St.) and will offer bounce houses, music, a cookout and a screening of Finding Nemo (G, 2003), according to

Hooksett celebrates its fourth annual National Night Out from 5 to 7 p.m. in Donati Park (51 Main St.), according to The evening will feature food, music, a bounce house, touch-a-truck, a K-9 demonstration and more, the website said.

• In Hudson, the police department and the Rodgers Memorial Library are partnering for the event, which will take place in the parking lot of the library (194 Derry Road) from 4:30 to 8 p.m., according to the library website. The evening will feature Frisbee dogs, a climbing wall, giant games, live music, touch-a-truck, food trucks and more, according to

Manchester’s event will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. in Arms Park (10 Arms St.) with demonstrations, activities, food, a DJ, representatives from local nonprofits and more, according to a July 13 post on the police department’s Facebook page. There will be a display of emergency service vehicles, the Drone Unit, a K-9 unit demonstration and the Mounted Unit, the post said.

• In Merrimack at Abbie Griffin Park (6 Baboosic Lake Road in Merrimack;, 882-1046) the event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with games, crafts, music (DJ Mike Kelly), food (including hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream and more) and booths from local groups, including the Merrimack Police Department. At 8 p.m. the movie The Croods: A New Age (PG, 2020) will screen.

• In Nashua, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua (1 Positive Place) will host the event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The evening will feature raffles, free food, a meet and greet with local agencies, demonstrations from the Nashua Police Department and more, according to a July 17 post on the Boys & Girls Club Facebook page.

More movie fun

• This Friday’s “Pics in the Park” at Greeley Park in Nashua is Tom and Jerry (PG, 2021), which will start screening at dusk on Friday, July 30, at the park’s bandshell, 100 Concord St. The screening is part of the city’s SummerFun lineup; see (See page 9 in this issue for information about Saturday’s FairyTale Concert.)

• Follow the Yellow Brick Road to a screening of The Wizard of Oz(G, 1939) at O’neil Cinemas at Brickyard Square in Epping (24 Calef Highway; 679-3529, as part of the summer kids movies series on Monday, Aug. 2, and Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 10 a.m. Tickets to the screening cost $2 for kids ages 11 and under and $3 for ages 13 and up. A $5 popcorn and drink combo is also for sale.

• A movie for the retro-loving teen in your life: 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting (PG-13) starring Elisabeth Shue. It will screen Monday, Aug. 2, at 8:30 p.m. as part of the Prescott Arts Festival’s Monday Night Movie Series. Reserve a spot for this movie in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park at (reservations start at a $5 general admission with other options for tables or blanket seating).

• The Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) will be screening some films to raise money for the Manchester Police Athletic League. On Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. catch Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon(PG, 2021). On Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. the theater will screen Rock of Ages (PG-13, 2007). Tickets to either show cost $12.

• Another movie for the teens with a taste for retro blockbusters: Jaws (1975, PG-13) will begin a run of screenings at Chunky’s Cinema Pubs in Manchester (707 Huse Road), Nashua (151 Coliseum Ave.) and Pelham (150 Bridge St.) on Wednesday, Aug 4, with shows through Saturday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. plus screenings at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost $4.99 and can be purchased in advance on


• The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) continues its 2021 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series. Finishing up this week’s run isThe Little Mermaid on Thursday, July 29. Next week the production is Beauty and the Beast, Tuesday, Aug. 3, through Thursday, Aug. 5. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $10 per person.

• RB Productions presents The Wizard of Oz (Young Performers Edition) at the Capitol Center for the Arts’ Chubb Theatre (44 S. Main St. in Concord;, 225-1111) on Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students. RB Productions is a nonprofit community theater organization founded to provide theater opportunities for youth and young theater professionals, according to the website.

• The Prescott Park Arts Festival’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, this year’s musical in its annual outdoor musical series, continues with shows this weekend on Thursday, July 29, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 31, at 3 and 8 p.m. (the final matinee of the show this season, according to the group’s website). Also, on Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1, at 10 a.m., the kids in the festival’s camp program will present Frozen Jr. For all Prescott Park shows, go online to to see the reservation options, which start at $5 per person. Prescott Park is at 105 Marcy St. in Portsmouth.

• Kids get in for free at a Shakespeare on the Green production of A Midsummer Nights Dream which will be presented on the green outside the Dana Center (Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive in Manchester). The production will run Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31, at 7 p.m. Tickets for adults cost $25. Attendees are invited to bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket, according to

Monsters and comics

If you’re looking for an indoor activity for one of these rainy days, there’s still time to enter the Summer Monster Comic Contest being held by Studio 550 (550 Elm St. in Manchester;, 232-5597). Create a one-sheet comic of at least four frames with an original monster and submit it to Studio 550 by 8 p.m. on Aug. 21 (which is the day of the studio’s Monster Hunt event), according to the website, where you can find all the details and guidelines.

Game time

• The next run of New Hampshire Fisher Cats home games at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium (1 Line Drive in downtown Manchester; starts on Tuesday, Aug. 3, with games against the Hartford Yard Goats through Sunday, Aug. 8 (when the stadium will hold a Princesses at the Park brunch, tickets to which are $24). Tuesday and Thursday’s games start at 7:05 p.m.; Wednesday’s game starts at 12:05 p.m. (For some baseball this weekend, see page 9 for information on upcoming Nashua Silver Knights games).

Mulch madness

What to use and how to use it

Mulch is commonly used to help suppress weeds and to hold in soil moisture in dry times. There are many different kinds of mulch and it is important to get the right kind, and to apply it properly if you wish to get the benefits of mulch.

The most commonly used type in flower and shrub borders is sold as bark mulch. It is sold in bags, or by the scoop at garden centers to people who have access to pickup trucks. Bulk mulch is less expensive than bagged mulch if you have a truck or can borrow one from your brother-in-law.

I’m an organic gardener, so I avoid the orange and black mulches. Read the bag before you buy any to see what is in it. According to a report from the University of Massachusetts, the dyes themselves are probably not toxic, but the wood is usually recycled wood from pallets, old decks and scrap. Those sources are dry and accept dye more easily than fresh bark or chipped branches. Recycled pressure-treated wood, if older stuff, may contain arsenic; pallets may have been exposed to spilled toxins.

I often see deep layers of mulch to keep weeds down. However, a layer 4 inches deep will also keep a short rain shower from getting to the soil and your plants. I use an inch or two of mulch, maximum. Yes, some aggressive weeds will poke through a thin layer of mulch, so I try to do a good weeding first.

Chopped leaves are wonderful mulch. Last fall we raked up our leaves and stored them outdoors in a pile. This summer we ran that pile through a chipper/shredder and turned it into a fine product we use as mulch. You can also use your mower to chop fall leaves before raking them. I have friends who store the chopped leaves in bags in the barn until needed. Chopped leaves rarely blow away after they have been rained on.

In addition to weed suppression, a layer of mulch keeps soils from drying out quickly in the hot summer sun. Essentially, it shades the soil, keeping it moist and cool. In the spring I do not mulch my vegetable garden until after soil temperatures have reached their summer level — say, 60 degrees or more.

In May, I want the sun to heat up the soil as my plants need warm soil to grow in, and seeds need warm soil to germinate. And yes, that means weed seeds will germinate too. But weeding or hoeing the early weeds is not bad and goes quickly — just be sure to get the weeds before they get too big.

Mulch gets broken down over time by soil microbes. That is a good thing — wood chips or leaves that break down add organic matter to your soil and encourage earthworms to aerate the soil and add their castings to the soil, and they are rich in minerals.

Some gardeners tell me that they worry about soil microbes using up nitrogen in the soil as they break down mulch. A nitrogen-starved plant has yellowish leaves, not dark green leaves. But I doubt that you‘ve seen that occur, even in flower beds with plenty of mulch. If it has been a problem, or you worry it will occur, apply some slow-release organic fertilizer on the soil surface before mulching.

In the vegetable garden I mulch with straw or hay. Straw is sold as seed-free and is often grown and cut before seeds are formed. Nonetheless, straw often does have seeds, much to the dismay of gardeners who have paid a premium price for it. Buy it from a source you trust!

Hay is just grass grown for animal feed that has gotten wet after cutting. Those pampered cows or horses won’t eat it, so it is sold as mulch for a few bucks a bale.

I always lay down two to four layers of newspaper on the ground before applying hay or straw. This accomplishes two things: it keeps light away from any weeds that germinate even with a layer of hay, and it slowly breaks down and adds more organic matter to the soil.

In the old days newspapers used dyes with heavy metals, including lead. But now inks are made with soy products and are said to be non-toxic, or at least free of heavy metals. The newspaper itself is made from cellulose derived from trees, though some chemicals are used in producing the paper.

Little or no mulch is needed in a mature garden bed with plants growing shoulder to shoulder. Courtesy photo.

Black plastic will keep weeds from germinating, but it breaks down and goes into the landfill. It’s also ugly, and I avoid it. There are various “landscape fabrics” to put under mulch that do help, though pernicious weeds can grow through some kinds. The woven kind is more susceptible to that.

What about papers that have been through a shredder? I don’t find them easy to use or aesthetically pleasing. What about coffee grounds? These are quite acidic, and if you collect them at your local coffee shop, use them only for acid-loving plants like blueberries, hollies or azaleas.

I use no mulch in my mature flower beds. By letting perennials mature and spread, they will choke out almost any weeds, except perhaps in early spring. But by now, they shade out all but the most difficult of weeds.

Featured photo: This new bed needs mulch to keep down weeds and hold in moisture. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/07/22

Family fun for the weekend

Holey competition!

If the upcoming Olympics (opening ceremonies are this Friday, July 23) or the new season of ABC’s Holey Moley have your kids looking to try out their mini golf abilities, check out our July 8 cover about mini golf and all the places you can putt putt the day away. Find the issue on and flip through the e-book (past e-books are displayed at the bottom of the homepage). Or become a Hippo member to get full access to previous weeks’ stories. (Click on “Become a Member” for more information.) The mini golf story starts on page 10.

Celebrating history

The American Independence Museum (1 Governors Lane in Exeter; wraps up its American Independence Festival this weekend. During the day on Saturday, July 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can see demonstrations from artisans (including a tinsmith, cooper and milliner) and watch reenactor groups. Tickets cost $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 4 to 18, and are free for seniors and active military and veterans. Saturday night, the museum is holding a family campout from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. Sunday, July 25, with the reenactors the Acton Minutemen. Bring a tent and sleeping bag and take part in games, singing and a craft, according to the website. The campout includes snacks and a light breakfast. The cost is $20 per person or $75 for a group of four. The campout will be limited to 30 people; purchase tickets online.

Movie time

• Plaistow residents can get in the Olympic spirit with a screening of Cool Runnings(PG, 1993) on Friday, July 23, at 8:30 p.m. The screening will take place at the Plaistow Public Library parking lot and will be presented as a drive-in. Admission is being restricted to 50 cars; register in advance at

• Movie lovers of all ages can root for the forgetful fish Dory in Pixar’s Finding Dory (PG, 2016), which will screen Friday, July 23, in Wasserman Park (116 Naticook Road in Merrimack) as part of the town’s summer movies in the park. The screening starts at dusk and the films are free and open to residents and nonresidents, according to the town’s Parks and Recreation website.

• Introduce your retro-loving kids to 1980s nostalgia as the O’neil Cinemas at Brickyard Square in Epping (24 Calef Highway; 679-3529, summer kids movie series continues with The Goonies(PG, 1984) screening Monday, July 26, and Wednesday, July 28, at 10 a.m. Tickets to the screening cost $2 for kids ages 11 and under and $3 for ages 13 and up. A $5 popcorn and drink combo is also for sale.

• The Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) will be screening some films to raise money for the Palace Youth Theatre. On Tuesday, July 27, at 7 p.m. catch Disney’s Moana(PG, 2016). On Wednesday, July 28, at 7 p.m., the theater will screen High School Musical 2 (TV-G, 2007). Tickets to either show cost $12.

See a show

• The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) continues its 2021 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series. Finishing up this week’s run, catch Wizard of Oz on Thursday, July 22. Next week the production is The Little Mermaid, Tuesday, July 27, through Thursday, July 29. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $10 per person.

• Student performers from the Palace’s summer camp program will have a production of their own this weekend: Seussical Kidswill be performed Friday, July 23, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 24, at 11 a.m. Tickets cost $12 to $15.

• The Windham Actors Guild will present a youth production of Seussicalat Windham High School (64 London Bridge Road in Windham) on Friday, July 23, and Saturday, July 24, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 25, at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $16 for adults and $12 for seniors and students and are available at

• Find Frozen the Bank of NH Stage (16 S. Main St. in Concord;, 225-1111) on Friday, July 23, at noon and 1 p.m. Tickets to this all-ages-friendly show cost $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.

Over at the Capitol Center for the Arts’ Chubb Theatre (44 S. Main St. in Concord;, 225-1111), Godspell Jr.will be performed Friday, July 23, and Saturday, July 24, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students.

Both productions are from RB Productions, a nonprofit community theater organization founded to provide theater opportunities for youth and young theater professionals, according to the website.

• The Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St. in Portsmouth; 433-1100, will host a kids night of outdoor entertainment featuring music by Mr. Aaron and a bubble magic show by Kali and Wayne of Sages Entertainment on Tuesday, July 27, at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $5 per person.

Time to grow up?

Vines offer special features

The story of Jack, of Bean Stalk fame, appealed to me as a boy, and still does. I love climbing vines and grow many, including those that are perennial or annual flowers, and some vegetables. Vines are a great way to save space and to get blossoms up and visible.

A cucumber trellis is easy to build. Courtesy photo.

In the vegetable garden I have had great luck growing cucumbers on trellises. I made a simple frame to support my cukes, and you can, too. You can use four 6-foot-long 2-by-2 pieces of lumber for the framework. Attach them in pairs with simple gate hinges from the hardware store. Then space them 5 feet apart with pieces of strapping at the top and bottom, and attach chicken wire for the vines to grab on to.

I used a cordless drill and short sheet rock screws to put it all together. I made it sturdier by cutting short pieces of strapping to go from the front legs to the back legs. To ensure it doesn’t blow over, I drove a hardwood-grade stake into the ground on each end, and screwed it to that strapping. Once the vines are long enough, lift them up onto the chicken wire, and they will quickly attach to it and grow up.

Other vines will grow up on trellises, too, including squashes and gourds of all sorts. For heavier fruits you may want to build your trellis with two-by-fours, and perhaps to use stronger wire mesh or the stuff used to reinforce concrete that comes in 4-foot by 8-foot pieces.

If you have only grown bush beans, you should also try pole beans. As the name implies, these will encircle a pole and grow up 8 feet or more. The great thing about them is that if you keep on picking them, they will produce beans all summer. Bush beans produce just one load of beans over a three-week period, and then they are done.

Beans fix nitrogen, taking it from the air and storing it in usable form in nodes in the roots, but only if the soil has a certain bacteria to work with your beans. You can buy inoculants to make sure your beans do fix nitrogen, and can add some to the soil and water it in, even now.

Climbing hydragea covers the north side of my barn and looks good all year. Courtesy photo.

Climbing hydrangea is a perennial woody vine that looks good all year. It is slow to get started, but once established (after a few years) it grows quickly. It does well on the shady north side of a building, a place often difficult for flowers. It will attach to brick or stone, but needs to be attached to a wood building, either with a trellis or with individual ties. It blooms in June, but the large white panicles look good long after, even into winter.

There are many types of clematis but all have wonderful blossoms, some 6 inches wide or more, others small but profuse. Most will grow 6 to 10 feet tall; some die back to the ground each year while others have woody vines that send out new shoots and flowers each year. The key to success is to give the vines plenty of sunshine, but to protect the roots with shade from other plants to keep them cool. There are spring, summer and fall bloomers. Some are fragrant, others not.

If you have lived in a warmer part of the country you may long for wisteria, a woody vine that blooms profusely with blue or purple flowers, and occasionally in shades of pink and white. Each blossom is actually a cluster of blossoms that hang down like a cluster of grapes. Although most wisteria varieties will survive our winters, most bloom on “old wood” and the flower buds get killed in winter.

I grow two varieties that do bloom in Zone 4 because they bloom on “new wood,” or this year’s growth. One is called Blue Moon, a hybrid developed in Minnesota. The other is Amethyst Falls, a native variety with smaller leaves and blossoms. Both bloom for me in late June or early July, and re-bloom lightly throughout the summer.

Annual vines are vigorous and delightful, too. We generally grow morning glories from seed. These come in many colors: reds, pinks, blue, purple and white. My favorite is called Grampa Ott. It is a deep purple, and can grow up to 15 feet in a season. It was one of two heritage plants that inspired the creation of the Seed Saver organization and seed company. They grow quickly so it’s not too late to plant some by seed.

Two decorative flowering beans that I like are purple hyacinth bean and scarlet runner bean. The purple hyacinth bean is a beautiful plant: The leaves are purple, along with the flowers and seed pods. It is slow to germinate and get up a pole or trellis, so it is best started in pots indoors before it can be planted outdoors. The young beans are edible raw or cooked, but the mature pods have seeds better used as dry beans.

Scarlet runner beans, like the hyacinth bean, can climb up a support and grow 10 feet in a season. They are quicker to grow than hyacinth beans, and I often start them in the soil near my hexagon cedar shade structure where I also grow wisteria. The bean has bright orange flowers and standard bean leaves. Plant four to six seeds around a pole and watch them grow — just like Jack, the bean stalk kid.

Featured photo: This fall-blooming clematis had hundreds of blossoms. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/07/15

Family fun for the weekend

Summer of movies

Head to Greeley Park (100 Concord St. in Nashua) on Friday, July 16, at dusk for a screening of Abominable (PG, 2019), an animated movie about a girl and her friends in Shanghai who help a Yeti return to his family in the Himalayas. The screening is part of Nashua’s SummerFun lineup of activities; see

Check out Space Jam: A New Legacy(PG, 2021), the update on the 1990s mix of Looney Tunes characters and live human basketball players that opens on Friday, July 16 (in theaters and on HBO Max). See a sensory-friendly screening on Saturday, July 17, at 10 a.m. at O’neil Cinemas at Brickyard Square in Epping (24 Calef Highway; 679-3529, The screening takes place in a theater where the sound is down and the lights are up.

O’neil’s summer kids movies series continues by celebrating Christmas in July with Elf (PG, 2003) screening Monday, July 19, and Wednesday, July 21, at 10 a.m. Tickets to the screening cost $2 for kids ages 11 and under and $3 for ages 13 and up. A $5 popcorn and drink combo is also for sale.

Before the fourth movie (Hotel Transylvania: Transformania) comes out this October, check out the original Hotel Transylvania (PG, 2012), featuring the voice work of Adam Sandler, at Chunky’s Cinema Pub (707 Huse Road in Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave. in Nashua; 150 Bridge St. in Pelham, on Wednesday, July 21, at 11:30 a.m. The screening is a “Little Lunch Date,” with kid-friendly lighting. Reserve tickets in advance with $5 food vouchers.

This weekend at all three Chunky’s, try to win some sweet prizes at Theater Candy Bingo on Sunday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. Admission costs $4.99 plus one theater candy.

Summer of performances

The Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester;, 668-5588) continues its 2021 Bank of New Hampshire Children’s Summer Series. Finishing up this week’s run, catch Peter Pan on Thursday, July 15. Next week, the production is Wizard of Oz, Tuesday, July 20, through Thursday, July 22. Showtimes are at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and tickets cost $10 per person.

The Everlasting Characters, a group of fairytale character performers, will present “Royal Ball,” a free show at the Pelham Village Green (in front of the library at 24 Village Green) on Wednesday, July 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. Meet the characters, take a photo with them and play games, according to the website The event is free and kids are encouraged to come in their favorite fairy tale outfits, the site said.

Or check out children’s musician Steve Blunt, who will perform a free kids concert at Ordway Park (Main Street in Hampstead) on Wednesday, July 21, at 6 p.m. See for more about the events; find out more about the Nashua-based Blunt at, where you can find videos of some of his songs.

Mid-summer blossoms

It’s a quiet time for flowers

Mid-summer is often a quiet time for flowers; many gardens have fewer dramatic blossoms than in the spring. I have made an effort to have plenty blooming now. It’s true that my Japanese primroses, peonies and Siberian iris have gone by. But I have many others, both old favorites and lesser-known beauties.

Bee balm has started early this year for me. Contrary to what most gardening books say, bee balm does not need full sun. In fact, full sun makes it dry out and go by more quickly. It does well in moist, rich soil but will grow anywhere. This year I planted some wild bee balm, a native prairie plant. Its scientific name is Monarda fistulosa, and some better garden centers are selling it now, even though it is not as flashy as its domesticated cousin. It’s a light lavender in color, and shorter than the standard varieties. It is terrific for butterflies and bees.

Just finishing up for me is one of the bellflowers, clustered bellflower. It stands about 24 inches tall with purplish-blue globes of small blossoms. It is a fast spreader but pulls easily if it gets out of its place. A relative, peach-leaved bellflower, is preferred by some as it is better-behaved. It has flowers growing up its tall stems and comes in blue or white. Both species are good cut flowers.

Feverfew has been used traditionally to cure many things, but I like it as a white cut flower with a yellow center. Each blossom is small — say half an inch — but there can be hundreds on a big plant. It is rambunctious. It sows seeds and shows up around my garden, but it is easily pulled. It keeps well in an arrangement.

Betony is in bloom now, too. It is in the same genus as lamb’s ears but has green, not silvery, leaves and sends up lovely purplish flowers on stiff stalks that look great in a vase. The best variety is one called Hummelo, named after the Dutch hometown of Piet Oudolf, designer of the High Line Gardens in NYC. But Hummel means bumblebee in German, which is appropriate — it attracts bees over its long bloom time. Small flowers appear all along its tall stems.

False hydrangea comes in blue or white blossoms. Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

An uncommon flower in bloom for me now is called false hydrangea because the leaves are similar to those of the PeeGee hydrangea, although the flowers are totally different. This gem grows in full to part shade in moist, rich soil. It has small bluish-lavender cup-shaped flowers.

There is another false hydrangea, Deinanthe bifida, which has white flowers. Both are rated as hardy to Zone 5. I am in Zone 4 and have lost some plants, but others have survived.

A huge, dramatic plant is the giant fleece flower. The blooms are a bit like astilbe flowers on steroids. The hollow stems stand up to 8 feet tall, and flower panicles are sometimes 18 inches from top to bottom. It does not spread by root, but each year the clump gets larger. I just cut back a good portion of mine, as the plant was shading out nearby plants. It would take a pickax and a strong back to dig it up – which I have, on one occasion. It likes moist soil and full sun,

Campanula glomerata spreads by root. Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

Moist soil is also good for Japanese iris. In fact, it is often grown in shallow water. I have one clump that has just begun blooming, after all the others. Its foliage is similar to Siberian iris, but the “falls” or petals lie back flat, looking up. It does not like the competition of weeds, I have learned, as we weeded it well early on, and it is going to bloom dramatically this year.

Great masterwort has small domed blossoms in white or pinky-purple that look like pins stuck in a small pincushion, surrounded by delicate bracts (petal-like structures). Deer won’t eat it, and it blooms for weeks, preferably in moist, sunny locations. Each year my clumps get bigger and more wonderful.

At the front of a prominent flower bed I have installed lady’s mantle, a tidy plant with lacy clusters of chartreuse flowers, a color that accents others nicely in a vase, or in the garden. It is probably best known for its tidy foliage which traps rain drops or dew and shows them off. It works as a ground cover, spreading a bit each year and providing dense foliage that helps reduce weeds. It will grow in full sun or light shade but does not thrive in hot, dry soil.

In addition to perennials, each year I grow some annuals. Last year we started many dahlia tubers for their big, colorful blossoms, and saved the tubers indoors to reuse this year, and to share with others.

This year we bought some canna lilies for their interesting foliage — one variety has deep purple leaves — and bright orange or yellow flowers. They stand from 2 to 6 feet tall and have been blooming consistently for a month so far.

If your garden is a bit short of flowers just now, try some of those mentioned above. There is always space for a few more.

Featured photo: Betony ‘Hummelo’is a good cut flower. Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

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