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It was actually 50° here today. That is an exciting development, and a reminder that while there's still a nasty amount of dirty snow outside that's finally starting to melt, just four weeks from now baseball will started, and green grass will be seen at least somewhere here in Illinois. As we "think Spring," I can't wait to hit the garden with the girls, and I'm already scoping out some new tools for 2015 - one of which has already arrived. The folks at Scotts Miracle-Gro sent me their new Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Universal Feeder Starter Kit, and I can't wait to try it out...

It is 1° as I sit in my office typing this right now. For those of you that don't live in a cold weather climate, I'll explain that it's right about this time every year when we in Northern Illinois have just about had it with the cold and start looking forward to warmer weather. Here at Rock Father HQ, working in the yard is something we look forward to, and this year in particular I can't wait to have the snow melted and get out there. As I throw open the virtual doors of my Gardening section here on THE ROCK FATHER for 2015, my first entry for the season ahead is a little news from the folks at Toro, who sent over the details on two new models of mowers that will soon be rocking neighborhoods Nationwide - the Toro Recycler All-Wheel Drive, and customizable TimeCutter Zero-Turn. Let's take a peek...

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Rubbermaid. All opinions are that of James Zahn aka THE ROCK FATHER. #weavemade #FallFixUp  http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH

Having not lived anywhere but the Midwest on any year-round kind of basis, I can't be certain but tend to think that Fall fix-up and Spring clean-up are two things that have a parallel relationship only for those who live in regions that go through a proper four-season cycle. In the Fall you get the place all cleaned-up before winter, and then after the snow melts, you've got a whole load of surprises to clean-up in the Spring. But I love it. It's a chance to refresh things, and I'm ahead in the game this season.

If you're like me, you're always looking for, and absorbing inspiration of garden and landscape projects, filing-away a nearly infinite potential "to-do" list, while staying current on all the latest ideas and trends. The only limits: time, money and space. But one can certainly explore the possibilities, and with that in mind, the folks from Schiffer Publishing sent over the details on two new books for garden and landscape inspiration. Personally, I'm digging the idea of training fruit trees as noted in the first title...

Longfield GardensAs the old saying goes, "good things come to those who wait." Sometimes, it's like a movie - where STAR WARS (good) opens the door for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (great). The sequel trumps the earlier entry, and right now we're experiencing a similar phenomena here at Rock Father HQ in that I'm typing these virtual words to appear on your computer screen as the sequel to an entry that was posted over six months ago. Or was that entry a prequel to this post? Regardless, when it comes to gardening, patience is key - and when gardening with kids, a big payoff can make a huge impact in showing them that yes, we've grown something. Last Fall, Addie and I planted 200 bulbs that our friends at Longfield Gardens sent over, and today I can show you the end result!

Memorial Day is coming. Father's Day is looming. With outdoor activities about to ramp-up, families will be hitting the yard and the deck for some gardening and grilling, and for those looking for something a little bit... different, here's a selection of five crazy items that you won't find at the local "Big Box" (sorry Walmart & Target), but you will find over at ThinkGeek...

This year, we're trying some new things here in the Gardens of Rock Father HQ.  This being our fifth full season here at the homestead, I'm always on the lookout for things we can do differently, plants we've never tried, and some general fun and learning adventures that the girls and I can share in together. One from this past week involves some edibles - specifically Raspberries and Blueberries, neither of which have ever been grown here in the past. The folks at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Oregon shipped us a few varieties from their BrazelBerries collection to try out - varieties that should do well here in Northern Illinois.

Magic CabinLast Fall, a catalog for a place called MAGIC CABIN arrived in the mail here at Rock Father HQ unexpectedly. I'd never heard of it, but was immediately enthralled by unique, and extraordinary array of children's products they had available. What they were offering really hit my soft spot for imaginative play and educational entertainment, and when Christmas rolled around, my wife and I told a few people that almost anything from the catalog would be great for our little ones. Fast-forward to Gardening season (one of my favorite times of the year), and the folks at Magic Cabin have some unique offerings once more, and I'm going to highlight some here on THE ROCK FATHER in the weeks ahead. Up first: The Gardens to Grow by Child Sized Garden Planters. They're raised gardens for kids, and the come in a set of two.

Thursday, April 24 2014 22:37

Garden: RESCUE! TrapStik for Wasps (Review)

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This is one of those rare occasions where I get to share an item with all of you that is supposed to accomplish a very specific task... and I have personal proof that it can do what it claims. With warmer weather hitting and families starting to spend more time outside, those biting pests are going to be emerging, and even though it's still kind of on the cool side - they're here. And this is the time to wipe them out. In our case, we have a WASP (not to be confused with W.A.S.P.) problem here at Rock Father HQ that's only been getting worse by the year. Paper Wasps are making nests everywhere - under the overhangs on the house, under the railings of the deck, inside the framework of our shed, and at one point they'd actually built in the legs of my old grill. If you can "Catch the Queen" in the Spring, you can keep the Wasps from building nests. That's where the RESCUE! TrapStik for Wasps comes into play...

The first Gardening success of 2014! While Spring is off to the slowest start that I can recall, and there's been a few signs of life beginning to sprout outside, our gardening adventures for the year got started back on February 8, with the arrival of an Amaryllis kit from our friends at Longfield Gardens. Now, if you're a newer reader of THE ROCK FATHER, one that's used to stopping by for your daily dose of pop culture, you might not know it, but Gardening is a HUGE part of our daily routine here at Rock Father HQ - generally from March to November, or whatever the weather here in Northern Illinois will allow. With something like an Amaryllis, starting a bulb inside is a great way to get kids involved with Gardening, by placing something that they can track the progress of every day.

The Rock Father is a 2014 PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent) BloggerCaillou is a hero here at Rock Father HQ, my oldest daughter's first love... something that's been well-documented here on the site. There's a ton of educational value in the popular series (which airs on both PBS KIDS and Sprout here in the U.S.), and one of the biggest areas that's really hit home for us is the emphasis on Gardening. In fact, there's been an entire series of Caillou Ecology Club products, and last year, I featured one of our own adventures when I posted an entry called "Learning to Compost... Just Like Caillou." Now, just in-time for Spring, PBS Distribution is releasing a new DVD collection, CAILLOU'S GARDEN ADVENTURES, which will hit stores on February 25. Featuring six garden-themed episodes, kids and grownups can learn about water conservation, flowers, planting, and yes, even composting. Check out the details below!

My friends at the Chicago Botanic Garden are on the verge of a major milestone. For the first time in their 41-year history, they may reach 1 Million Visitors for the year. They're so close, that in order to give it a bump, they're offering $10 parking through December 31 (normally $25), and admission is free as always. There's a lot of winter goodness to explore.

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