Preparing for the Beautification Watch Awards

by Morgan Looney, Communications Intern

April is beginning to wind down so it’s time to start preparing for another largely anticipated program here at KAB: the Beautification Watch Awards! The Beautification Watch Awards isn’t a competition, but a way for Keep Akron Beautiful to recognize and thank the locals and businesses who care about how their private property looks to others. Properties are nominated during the month of July either by neighbors or KAB volunteers who canvass city routes throughout the month.

Even though July is still two months away, it’s never too early to start preparing your lawn. To help, I’ve compiled some tips to help make sure your lawn looks beautiful and ready when July and the Beautification Watch Awards roll around!

  1. Eliminate broadleaf weeds once they’ve sprouted and ideally before they flower. These include dandelions, white-flowering clover, and big-leaf plantain and can be removed by hand if there are only a few of them. If they are out of control, consider spot treating them by applying natural weed control products. Talk to your local lawn and garden supply experts for assistance.
  2. Feed your lawn. Look for a natural feed from your local lawn and garden supply store experts.
  3. Aerate your lawn. Aerating your lawn improves air-to-soil interaction, allows water and feed to penetrate the soil deeper and easier, reduces soil compaction and also opens space for grass roots to grow and spread, while naturally choking out weed population.
  4. Mow your lawn high and frequently. Mowing your lawn too short can damage the grass and allow weeds to set root. A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than a third of the grass blade.
  5. Keep your mower blade sharp. A dull blade tears the grass, which results in a ragged edge that can make your lawn look grayish brown.
  6. Grass will go dormant in bouts of drought but does not die. Consider it a gift from Mother Nature and skip the mowing. If you must water your lawn, the best time is in the morning rather than at night to eliminate prolonged moisture on the blades, which can leave the grass vulnerable to some diseases.

Now remember, the Beautification Watch Award volunteers do not get out of their cars and check lawns for weeds nor do they go into backyards. They are looking for standout properties that are visible to the public and capture their attention as they drive through neighborhoods. So noticeable flower and shrub beds should be weed free.

For more information about the Beautification Watch Awards, including the criteria used to judge the properties, visit our website. In the meantime, start looking out for properties you think will be deserving of a nomination come July! If you would like to do an entire route of homes and businesses, contact us by email at

How to Plan and Plant Your Flower Garden from the KAB Expert

by Cindy Pantea

Here are some tips for home gardeners to help you plan and plant your flower garden from Flowerscape Director Leah Heiser. Information was from the 2017 Volunteer Adopt-A-Site Clinic. For information on becoming a Keep Akron Beautiful Adopt-A-Site volunteer next year, visit our web page at

Begonias and Hostas

Dorothy Francis and Sylvia Martin 2015 Adopt-A-Site nicely filled in with Begonias and Hostas, which can handle both the sun and shade of this site.

Plan Before You Shop

Tips to help plan your garden before shopping for flowers or plants:

  • Check your bed to see how much sun or shade the spot gets.
  • Check the soil to see if it is typically dry or if it holds a lot of water after a rain.
  • Plan for deer or groundhog visitors and pick plants that deter them.
  • Plan heights. (Take into account whether your lot’s corner gardens need shorter plants so as not to obstruct the view of drivers on streets.)

Armed with this knowledge, the planting instruction tags will help you determine before purchase the types of flowers or plants that will best suit your needs.

Know Before you Buy

Before you buy flowers, keep in mind that flowers and plants—some more than others—may need deadheading to encourage more blooms or to keep your beds looking nice. The flowers known for needing consistent deadheading are: Ageratum, Cosmos, Geraniums, Marigold, Cannas. Also, some flowers have an early or later blooming life or blooms may even close when there is no sun.

Begonia with hosta

Begonias with Hostas from Sunnyside Neighbors’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site

    • Begonias – Good in sun and shade. Does NOT require deadheading. Great for making designs in your flowerbed because they hold their shape.
    • Celosia – Sun loving. Loves dry, infertile soil.
    • Coleus – Shade loving. Deadheading puts more energy into leaf BUT no deadheading creates plumes that pollinators love.
    • Dahlia – Sun loving.  Deadheading required. Dahlia tubers, however, are sustainable and can be trimmed, dug up and overwintered.
    • Dianthus – Annual and perennial varieties exist. Annuals are self-sowing, so deadheading is important to reduce volunteer plants plus encourage additional blooming. Perennial varieties are short blooming and should be propagated by division, tip cuttings or even layering.

      dusty millers

      Dusty Millers lighten Parkway Estates’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site and Coleus have inviting plumes for pollinators.

    • Dusty Miller – Lovely addition to garden to lighten space. Great with spreading petunias and ornamental grasses. Deer resistant. Hold shape and are great for making designs in your garden.
    • Gomphrea – Can be cut at end of season and used for dried flowers in vases because they hold their color.
    • Lobelia – Great shade plant for area with consistent moisture.
    • Marigolds – Deter deer. Seed pods easy to harvest (by allowing to turn brown and then picking off) for planting following year. Otherwise, deadhead consistently to keep garden looking great.
    • Nicotiana Saratoga – Grows in both sun and shade. Likes fertile, well-draining soil. Hummingbirds love them.

      kab flwsp with cannas

      This 2016 Adopt-A-Site by Overwood Neighbors has perfect cluster of Cannas for height, yellow Inca Marigolds and a border of Begonias. A great example of a nicely arranged full-sun site.

    • Cannas – Full Sun. Deadheading and pruning needed. Bright colors may attract hummingbirds, especially pink. Look better in beds when massed together.
    • Vista Bubble Gum Spreading Petunias – Hardy and grow in sun to part sun. Both Leah and former Flowerscape Director Polly Kaczmarek have said, “You get a lot of bang for your buck with petunias.”
    • Portulacca – Likes hot, dry and sunny. When sun is not out, blooms will close, so plant with other types of blooms.
    • Verbena – Likes sun. Deer resistant. Summer to fall bloom. Do extremely well if using liquid fertilizer.
    • Zinnias – Pollinators love! Pair with Marigolds that hold its blooms. Best if watered in morning rather than at night.
    • New Guinea Impatiens – The preferred variety of Impatiens plant to buy that is less likely to get Downy Mildew virus. Likes 4-6 hours of afternoon shade.
    • Vincas – Hardy, sun loving and NO deadheading required.

Mix and match plantings for a garden that blooms with the season and adds texture. Plant perennials, too. They add texture and help fill in bare spots. Hostas and ferns are great perennials!

Planting Your Garden

Before planting, pull weeds by the root and turn soil with shovel or rototiller. Environmentally speaking, it is preferred that you pull weeds by hand rather than use weed killer. In a case where weed killer was necessary, you may want to wait two weeks before planting. Then, when you’re ready to plant, follow these tips:

  • Make sure to water your plants before planting.
  • Break root balls before planting so they have a chance to spread out.
  • Follow spacing rules on the instruction tag, as crowding can cause unwanted mildew disease—Profusion Zinnias are known for this.
  • Water after planting.
  • Watch closely one to three weeks after planting.
  • Once established, water once or twice a week—with a sprinkler and in the morning is best.

Remember that ordinary mulch robs your soil of nutrients. Want a better option? Try Sweet Peet Organic Mulch, EXCEPT for acidic loving Rhododendrons and Azaleas. In such cases, use premoistened peat moss as a soil amendment.

Final note from Leah: If you notice that insects are eating away at your hard work, consider Googling types of Integrated Pest Management before going to insecticides. Sometimes a problem can be solved by reducing fertilizer or water or even adding plants that attract birds to eat the insects, creating your own ecosystem!


Insider’s Look at Clean Up Akron Month

by Morgan Looney, Communications Intern

It’s officially April and that means that 1) Clean Up Akron Month has officially started and 2) I only have about five weeks left of my internship. With those two things in mind I thought that it would be cool to give an insider’s look into CUAM and some of the work we’ve been putting into it.

I started my internship in the middle of January and since then I’ve been working hard with the KAB team as we prepared for CUAM. The end of February and the entire month of March were the busiest as we put together registration packets, sent out marketing materials to many organizations and individuals in the community, finalized important details for specific CUAM events, put cleanup supplies together, and started getting those supplies out to our volunteers.

One of the events we’ve been finalizing details for has been Super Saturday, a volunteer appreciation picnic at the Akron Zoo. A few weeks ago, I participated in the walk-through of the event at the zoo with Helen, the Communications and Volunteer Project Manager, and the two co-chairs for Super Saturday, Willa and Shelby, who are former KAB interns. We reviewed where the picnic lunch would be, where the Awards Ceremony would be held, and also finalized details on things like food preparation, dropping supplies off, and volunteer arrival times.

While we did get a lot of things accomplished during the walk-through, it wasn’t just all work! Right before we left, we took a few minutes to stop the Penguin Exhibit. We were able to watch them swim around for a bit and while we certainly enjoyed seeing them and getting a much needed dose of cuteness, I think they enjoyed seeing us just as much! We can’t wait for our volunteers to have the opportunity to experience all that the Akron Zoo has to offer as a way to say, “thank you” for their hard work.

In between all of the work for Clean Up Akron Month, we’ve been doing other things like speaking to community organizations about Keep Akron Beautiful and what we do. Two weeks ago, Helen and I went to Ohio Living Rockynol to speak to the Philanthropic Education Organization and I was able to observe as Helen spoke about our various projects and programs like Flowerscape, the Dreamscape Raffle, and Clean Up Akron Month. It was a cool moment to get out of the office and see how speaking about these things can really raise awareness and understanding and illicit interest in these programs!

Back at the KAB office, we got to work putting together the supplies for the CUAM volunteers. Luckily we had some amazing help putting together these supplies! Students from North High School came in and helped us pack the supply bags for the volunteer groups who had already registered and additional bags of supplies that we anticipate we’ll need throughout the month.

Putting together supply bags.

We want to give a huge thank you to our North High School volunteers! It’s always such a great day when we have their smiling faces around to help us prepare for one of our busiest months of the year!

Our North High School volunteers!

Something I’m really looking forward to as I participate in my first ever CUAM is the cleanup at Summit Lake on April 22. The Summit Lake Cleanup is a huge cleanup that takes place the weekend before Super Saturday and a bunch of people get involved. The cleanup in 2016 had 166 volunteers, including members of the KAB team, that helped remove over 5 tons of litter from the lake as well as 14 tires, 4 propane tanks, and a scooter in just 4 hours.

Summit Lake Cleanup 2016

I can’t wait to participate in the Summit Lake Cleanup this year! It’s been an amazing experience helping organize and put things together, but I know the most rewarding part of all of this will be being able to get in there myself and do my part. I can’t wait to see how many people come together for the cleanup at Summit Lake and to see what we can accomplish.

Registration and kick-off for the Summit Lake Cleanup will take place at Reach Opportunity Center in Akron on April 22. For more information on the Summit Lake Cleanup contact Helen Dauka at 330-375-2116 or at You can also check out the event page on FaceBook. Don’t forget to RSVP if you’re going!

There’s also still time to register for other Clean Up Akron Month projects! You can register online, stop by the KAB office to pick up a packet, or call the KAB office at 330-375-2116 and we’ll mail a packet to you!

This blog has been a fun one to write. I enjoyed thinking about all of the things I’ve been a part of since I started my internship and looking back on some of the great memories I’ve made as I start to get ready to leave KAB. Of course, I’m not leaving just yet and we still have a lot of work to do throughout April! I’m excited to continue working on things for Clean Up Akron Month and I can’t wait to take part in it myself on April 22!