Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finding answers for your landscape

I have limited computer access this week so I can't look up answers to all the fun questions I have gotten through the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog. But I wanted to share my favorite way to find answers for those that have questions that just can't wait.

I've always thought that government websites are some of the best places to find answers to gardening, environmental and other questions. They aren't trying to sell you anything and they have the benefit of having scientists and other highly educated professionals on their staffs. But I was discouraged because the information seemed to be spread out all over the place and difficult to find.

Then one day, I discovered . This website is the official portal for all USA government websites. So if you have a question on compost or environmentally friendly landscaping or mosquito control, you can enter that in the search box on and come up with a LONG list of websites to help you find your answer.

Many of us have learned that great gardening advice is available through Cooperative Extension system offices in our states. Since the Cooperative Extension system is a branch of the US Department of Agriculture, much of the information through the extension system offices is available through However, there are many, many more organizations that provide valuable information that many of us probably don't even know about.

For gardening, I always suggest that people narrow their search by going into the Advanced Search page and scrolling down to where it says "Search In" to select your state. It's that easy!

So next time you have a question that just can't wait for an answer, try using to see what you can find. I have found this site to be an invaluable tool for creating my environmentally friendly landscape.

2010 Conservation Landscaping Contest

2008 Winner Professional Category, Greener than Green Gardens

I always think it’s nice when people that are doing the right thing get recognized for it, so I was excited to learn about the 2010 Conservation Landscaping Contest sponsored by the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council.

This contest allows environmentally friendly landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay region to be entered to show off their conservation landscaping pride!

Almost anyone can enter, including home gardeners, students, schools, businesses and professionals.

Properties entered must be located within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A USGS map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed can be viewed at

Applicants must submit a detailed application, and include at least 6 photos of the property. To enter, a property must meet the Eight Elements of Conservation Landscaping listed below:

A conservation landscape:
  1. is designed to benefit the environment and to function well for human use;
  2. contains locally native plants that are appropriate for site conditions;
  3. has an ongoing management process to remove existing invasive plants, and to manage the property to prevent future alien plant invasions;
  4. provides wildlife habitat;
  5. promotes good air quality and is not a source of air pollution;
  6. conserves water and promotes good water quality;
  7. promotes healthy soils, composts plant waste on site, and amends disturbed soils to encourage native plant communities;
  8. works with nature to be more sustainable with less input.
New this year is a portion of the application that includes EPA’s WaterSense Program “Water Budget Tool.”

An entry fee of $10 is required for each site application and deadline for entry is September 1, 2010.

Winners will be selected in four categories:

Student (new category!)
Non-profit/garden group

Winning sites will be featured on the CCLC website and the EPA WaterSense Program website. One applicant for each winning site, with the exception of CCLC Board Member organizations, will receive a complimentary registration to the 2011 Turning a New Leaf Conference

For more information, including the complete rules, visit the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council site.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Too hot to garden? Stay in and create a garden blog

“A Garden is a Friend You Can Visit anytime” ~ anonymous
The temperature in the Metro area has been hovering in the high 90’s with the heat index soaring up to 100. If you can’t take the heat outside, why not stay inside and create your own garden blog to share?

Gardeners love visiting other people’s gardens, and it’s not just because digging in the dirt and getting closer to nature makes people nicer! We love the inspiration we get from other gardeners almost as much as we love the shared wisdom and passalong plants.

Since we can’t visit everyone’s garden, the next best thing sometimes is visiting other gardener’s blogs.

I’m a firm believer in keeping garden journals. In fact, I think every gardener should carry a pen and a small notebook with them while they are out in their gardens not only to record the whys and whens but also the wonders.

If we keep track of where we bought things and when we planted them and what we do to them from day to day, we will be better able to figure out what we are doing right and wrong in our gardens. I think this is especially true now that so many of us are trying to create more environmentally friendly landscapes. It’s a new way of gardening for many of us and we are learning things that we need to share with our fellow gardeners.

But I also think that gardening is both a left brained and a right brained activity -- as much about inspiration as it is about perspiration. The left side of the brain can learn and process the scientific principles necessary to make your landscape healthier. The right brain, however, can help discover enough wonders and mysteries in your garden to remind you why it is worth the extra effort to protect it.

Digital cameras are also excellent tools for learning about your garden. Pictures of garden pests, weeds, plant ailments and other garden curiosities can be shared for answers and suggestions or can be used for further research in reference books, on the internet or posting to online garden forums to learn from the knowledge of others.

To keep a garden journal you can use a plain spiral notebook, a blank journal purchased from a bookstore, or a journal that was specifically created for gardening. Or, you can invite the rest of the world into your garden by creating a garden blog.

There are several websites that allow you to create free blogs. Two of the most popular are and With little more than an afternoon of self-training, you can share thoughts, photos and even videos of your garden.

If you already have a garden blog, or know of a good garden blog that pertains to the Washington DC metro area, please share it with us.

Just use the contact link to send an email message containing a link to your blog.

From time to time, we would love to share your photos, your thoughts and even your short videos of a walk through your garden. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got growing!

To find other garden blogs to inspire you: Garden Blog Directory

To find other GREEN garden blogs: Best Green Blogs - Gardening

Friday, June 25, 2010

Six "Green" Things I’ve Learned to Do Around my Property so that My Husband Can Keep on Fishing

I mentioned the other day that my husband is the one that really got me started on learning more about environmentally friendly gardening.

I have always loved nature and gardens and wildlife. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey where I inherited my love of gardening from my parents, who always had beautiful elaborate flowerbeds filled with multi-colored, sweet scented blooms. As soon as I was old enough to start living on my own, every home I lived in, whether rented or owned, soon became filled with my own beautiful gardens.

But taking my parent’s lead, I thought that beautiful gardens meant lots of chemical fertilizers and foul smelling pesticides. I was happy with the occasional bird or butterfly passing through and I blamed the lack of more of those gardener visitors on all the new construction going on around me.

Then I met my husband. He was the rugged, outdoor type and when he started trying to tell me everything I was doing wrong in the garden I thought “Yeah, right. What does a construction worker/outdoorsman know about gardening?”

And then I went to his home and saw his gorgeous organic vegetable garden, full of huge ripe vegetables and I watched him hand-picking insects off of them instead of spraying chemicals and when I asked him why he gardened that way, he told me it was because he likes to fish.

Like most gardeners, I have learned my gardening habits from many other gardeners. I’ve learned from my childhood gardens in New Jersey, my inlaw’s gardens in Michigan, and my grandmother’s farm in Oklahoma. But when I met my husband, I soon learned that many of the things I was doing in my landscape were not only harming the birds and butterflies that I loved so much, but the environment in general, and that meant it was having an impact on people that like to fish.

He taught me how everything, from washing my car, mowing my lawn, and walking his dog, could affect his fishing hobby. I should add here that when my husband first taught me many of these things, I thought that he was just trying to save time and money so he’d have more of both to devote to fishing. But I’m from Missouri (the Show Me State) so I did plenty of research that helped to prove that sometimes it really DOES benefit the environment to do a little less around the yard instead of more.

So in an effort to keep the good ol’ boy that I married happy, here is a list of the “Six Things I’ve Learned to Do Around my Property so that My Husband Can Keep on Fishing.”

1. Watch what goes in the groundwater - Everything that goes into the ground around a home has the potential of finding its way into local fishing spots. This is the most important lesson of all. All of the chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that are used in landscapes can get picked up by rain and misdirected sprinkler heads and get washed out into the stormwater lines where they can find their way to rivers, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and even underground sources of drinking water. This type of pollution is called nonpoint source pollution and is one of the major contributors to degradation of the Metro area’s waterways. Many fish species are affected by nonpoint source pollution. The affects of chemicals in the waterways are so far-reaching that in a study performed in the Potomac River, 79% of the male bass which were studied were either producing eggs or showing other “intersex” characteristics. The solutions to preventing stormwater pollution are simple. First, don’t put dangerous chemicals into the ground (see #2 and #3 below). And take steps to make sure that water remains in your landscape rather than washing into storm drains. Always remove any debris or chemicals from driveways, roads and hard surfaces. Don't let them wash into waterways.

2) Switch to natural fertilizers - Chemical fertilizers in local waterways can cause algae blooms that kill fish. You can meet a plant’s nutritional needs in ways that are not as harmful to the environment by using compost or allowing grass clippings to remain on the lawn. My hubby only let’s me use natural fertilizers such as fish emulsion and liquid seaweed – both good choices for fisherman and for the environment - and, of course, compost.

3) Don’t Let the Pests Pester YouPesticides and herbicides are two more substance that are almost always found in unhealthy fish. If you keep a healthy yard, bugs and weeds are less of a problem. Healthy plants are less vulnerable to bugs and predators such as bigger bugs, toads and birds usually take care of the ones that sneak in. Anything that you decide to spray to kill insects, again, has the potential of making its way into the groundwater so if you do decide to use chemicals, ask your retailer for the least toxic solution for a particular bug and ONLY spray the bug or infected plant. Broad spraying of an entire garden or yard is rarely needed or effective. Broad applications of products such as weed and feed are also harmful. Many pest problems can be treated in ways that don’t harm the environment. You can handpick bugs or prune off infested parts of plants. Weeds can be handpicked, blocked with mulch or treated with corn gluten meal (CGM) a natural weed control.

4) Don’t waste water – Fish depend on the rise and fall of ground water levels for survival, so wasting water at home reduces water in fish habitat and increases the concentrations of minerals and contaminants in the remaining water. The results are crowding, disease and eventually fish die-offs. Wasting water can disrupt the natural cycles in wetlands, ponds and lakes.The biggest waste of water in the Washington DC metro area (and most states) is landscape irrigation. Planting drought tolerant plants, using rain barrels, mulching and properly managing your irrigation system can save thousands of gallons of water annually.

5) Quit fighting mother nature – Many of the problems caused by non-point source pollution and excess watering can be solved by creating a more natural landscape. A landscape plan that follows the natural contours and soil conditions of the site and utilizes native plants which are well-suited to the site conditions will require less fertilizing, less pesticides and less watering. The ideal plant for any location will have needs that match what your site already provides. Native plants are often excellent choices because they require less maintenance (which allows more time for fishing). Correct plant selection and placement can help filter pollutants out of groundwater and reduce heating and cooling costs by providing shade and wind barriers.

6) Don’t coddle your lawn - A healthy lawn helps protect local waterways by acting as a filter to trap sediment and pollutants. Fortunately, keeping your lawn healthy usually means less work, not more. Over watering, over-mowing and over-fertilization weaken a lawn by not forcing it to develop a strong, healthy root system. This harms the lawn AND the environment. As with other plants, it is important to choose a species cultivated for the region, such as the red and tall Fescues. Proper lawn mowing also keeps the lawn healthy. Keep mower blades sharpened to avoid damaging the grass blades and never remove more than one third of the grass blade when you mow. Tall grass shades and cools the soil, discourages weeds and shelters beneficial ants and ground spiders that prey on pest insect eggs in the turf.

Since I’ve learned these things, I’ve devoted a good part of my life trying to teach them to other people. Some folks think I do it all to attract more wildlife and to help grow delicious chemical free produce. But mainly I think that if I convince enough people, maybe my husband won’t think that he has to go out every weekend to check on the fishing!

For additional information about these principles, visit: Landscaping and Gardening, Fairfax County, Virginia From Creeks to the Chesapeake, Protecting our Watershed (pdf file) (City of Rockville) Conservation Landscaping (City of Rockville) Water Quality Stewardship Guide, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

National Mosquito Control Awareness Week

I almost made it through the whole week without realizing that June 20 - 26th, 2010 has been designated as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week by the American Mosquito Control Association.

I don't really need anything to remind me of the mosquitos out there in the garden. My arms and legs are usually covered with bites. I sometimes try to get into the ultimate nature lover mode and just think to myself that mosquitoes need to eat too, and if they were just an annoying itch, I could probably tolerate them.

But since West Nile Virus and other diseases can be spread through the bite of a mosquito, its important for all of us to take these annoying little pests seriously.

Local county programs such as the Fairfax County Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insects Program want to remind everyone to take mosquitoes seriously. They provide educational materials through their “Fight the Bite” campaign on their website.

For personal residences, the best way to eliminate mosquitoes is to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home.

More resources: Mosquito and West Nile Virus Information, City of Rockville.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A rain is a terrible thing to waste

I spent the last couple of weekends working very hard in my landscape. By “work”, I mean that I sat and watched my husband while he built a beautiful paver pad for our new rain barrel to sit on. I did hand him tools from time to time, but for the most part, my attention was divided between watching him build the pad and watching a dove build a nest almost directly over his head in a big tree.

We had built the rain barrel several weekends before. It took us less than an hour, I’d say. So it seems a little extreme that he has spent two weekends working on a pad to put the thing on, but my husband really loves rain barrels.

If you don’t already have a rain barrel (or two) in your yard, consider the ways that rain barrels help you save:

Rain barrels collect and save rain, which provides wonderful pure fresh water for plants and landscapes. A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.

Which means, of course, that rain barrels save money by allowing homeowners to use rainwater rather than tap water, cutting down on utility bills.

If you make your own rain barrel, you are saving space in a landfill by keeping a nice big plastic barrel out of there. And in the Metro DC area, rain barrels help to “Save the Bay” by decreasing the amount of storm water runoff that finds its way into the Chesapeake Bay.

Even knowing all the advantages, we had put off buying a rain barrel because we didn’t know how fun and easy they are to make. But after taking a rain barrel workshop, we now know that when we are looking for something fun and useful to work on out in a nice shady corner of the yard, a rain barrel is a perfect weekend project.

My husband is a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to building things so our plan is a little different than some. But the basic steps and tools needed for rain barrel construction are all similar. The difference will be in how elaborate you want to get with hooking your rain barrel up and using it.

Whether you decide to build your own rain barrel or buy one that is already made, you will be doing something fun for your garden and for the environment. I can’t really explain why, but watering our plants with water that we collected ourselves in our homemade rain barrel is almost as much fun as eating homegrown food fresh from our garden.

You can register for a “make your own” rain barrel workshop or purchase one readymade by visiting the Northern Virginia Rain Barrel Program site at: . For more information, contact or call 703-324-1428.

Other local sources for rain barrel information are listed below:

You can buy rain barrels manufactured from 55 gallon recycled food grade barrels from Scott Key Center. For more information, email the Scott Key Center, a division of the Frederick County Health Department, or call (301) 600-1600

To buy empty barrels so that you can make your own:

For information on how to build a rain barrel without attending a workshop:

Build a simple rain barrel – Maryland environmental design program.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Should"-ing all over the place

“Personally, I can think of no greater barrier to a fulfilled life than any use of the word ‘should’…” ~ Michelle Slung
I hate the word ‘should’. I cringe every time I hear it, or anything that implies it, especially when it comes to fun pastimes like singing, painting, writing or gardening. As with most creative endeavors, I feel that gardening is a very personal experience and no one else can really tell you how it “should” be done.

If you want to tend to the weeds and nurture them like prized flowers, then that is your prerogative. If you want manicured flowerbeds and neatly trimmed trees that, too, is okay.

In my yard, I welcome the bunnies and caterpillars and other critters that eat many of my plants right down to the ground but I certainly don’t think that anyone else “should” blindly adopt my style of gardening, especially if they would rather have a few more veggies and herbs for themselves instead of the wildlife.

The thing that makes gardening different from other creative activities is that gardening is not an isolated endeavor. Anything that you do to your landscape, from what you plant to how you mow and water, affects everyone else. There really is no way around that.

So, although I will make a sincere effort to avoid “should”-ing on you, I will, from time to time, provide information to help you can make your own informed decisions.  

What’s up with the water?

Most of the things that people do wrong in a garden have to do with water, in one way or another. When you waste water or pollute water, you are affecting everyone’s water, not just your own.

Although residents of the Metro DC area usually have access to an abundance of water, conserving it is still important to all of us. An American family of four can use 400 gallons of water per day, and about 30 percent of that is used outdoors. More than half of that outdoor water is used for watering lawns and gardens. Nationwide, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day.

Many things in a landscape affect the amount of water that is used, including plant choices and placement, use of mulch and irrigation techniques

As the population grows, demand on water resources will grow, too, which will eventually mean the need for expensive new water supply facilities. So conserving water saves you money now and saves everyone money down the road.

Going hand-in-hand with the topic of water conservation is water pollution. Everything that goes into the ground around your home has the potential of finding its way into local water supplies. Rain and irrigation systems wash pesticides, fertilizers and other substances out into the street where they find their way into our waterways. This is called stormwater runoff and it can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.

Again, there are many things that homeowners can do around the yard to prevent and protect stormwater runoff and I look forward to sharing some of those tips with you.

I take care of my landscape the way that I do because my husband taught me that I “should”. That’s right. He says “should” a lot. And his reasons have nothing to do with making the yard friendly for visiting wildlife. In fact, all the visiting birds, butterflies and bunnies really came along AFTER I started taking better care of the yard.

Does it bug me when he says “should”? Well, it used to. But then we learned how much fun it can be enjoying the birds and the bees and other exciting things in our environmentally friendly landscape together. In fact, I rarely shudder at his “shoulds” anymore.

Scientific studies have proven that spending time in nature makes people nicer and more generous and makes them value their relationships more. So if you are looking for a new activity that you and your spouse can do together, all I can say is, creating an environmentally friendly garden has been a great bonding experience for me and my husband. And I really, really think you “should” try it.

Join me next time for "Six Things I’ve Learned to Do Around my Property so that My Husband Can Keep on Fishing"

Question for compost expert

I'll look this up when I get some time, but thought if I posted it here, too, maybe a compost "expert" would come forward with an opinion. I always seem to make too much pasta and I was wondering if I could add the leftover cooked noodles to my compost? I don't use regular pasta, but instead use the healthier versions. Here are the ingredients:
  • semolina
  • grain and legume flour (lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt, oats)
  • egg WHITES (not yolks)
  • oat fiber
  • durum flour
  • niacin, iron, riboflavin and folic acid
What do you think? My husband says I shouldn't add it but I thought I'd try to get some other opinions.

Best organic weed eradicator

In our landscape, we use only organic means and methods for fertilizing and weed control.

This is a photo of one of our favorite "weeders".

He's been working non-stop since yesterday morning and brings a new smile to my face everytime I look out the window or step outside.

Creating a wildlife friendly landscape is fun and easy and the visiting wildlife help to control weeds and insects.

10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Landscape

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Maryland Farmers help educate backyard gardeners

With so many flowers and vegetables greeting us in our gardens right now, it can be difficult to want to refrain from spoiling these little beauties in an attempt to keep them happy in our gardens. But over-doing it with fertilizer and pesticides can cause serious problems to our local watersheds.

Maryland farmers have initiated a homeowner education campaign, “Take it from Maryland Farmers: Backyard Actions for a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay” to help gardeners by offering fertilizer and pesticide tips and other online resources. The campaign highlights the importance of soil testing and using fertilizers wisely for healthier gardens and lawns this growing season and a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. Additional topics include trying pesticide alternatives and composting, controlling soil erosion and rainwater runoff, and conserving water. For more information about this campaign, visit:

Click here to read full news release.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fourth annual National Pollinator Week June 21-27, 2010

Thousands of plant species depend on bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators for their survival. In fact, it is estimated that about 90% of all flowering plants and over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed humankind rely on animal pollination (as opposed to wind pollination) and over 200,000 species of animals participate in the pollinating. Without pollinators, many plants would never produce fruit or set seed and many of the foods we eat would no longer be available. Many wild creatures that rely on pollinated plants for food and shelter could also disappear.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has named June 21 - 27th as National Pollinator Week to help educate people about the importance of pollinators.

 There are events schedule around the country to help spread this message. Here are just a few:

 National Pollinator Week Celebration: Saturday June 19, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg, VA 

Take guided Butterfly, Wildflower, and Family Nature Hikes. Children will also be able to do pollinator activities with Virginia Master Naturalists. See a demonstration of the Banshee Reeks Bee Survey and find out how we are contributing to an international project in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey. Learn about Pollinator Gardens, Virginia Native Plants, and attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to your backyard. Find out about the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Annual Butterfly Count. See Loudoun Beekeepers Association information about Apiaries and Local Honey. For more information call 703-669-0316. For National Pollinator Week information visit

Congressional Briefing for National Pollinator Week, Thursday, June 24th at 3:00 PM, Longworth Office Building, Rm. 1302A 
Washington, DC 20515 

Open to the public, Members of Congress, Congressional Staff, Agency Personnel, and the press. As a special pollinator treat, pollinator supportive companies Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream and Burt’s Bees will provide ice cream and lip balm for attendees. Both Burt’s Bees and Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream are committed to the health of the honey bees that are instrumental in their products and in the well-being of plants, people and animals.

For more information on National Pollinator Week, visit the Pollinator Partnership website.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The psychology of "green" gardening – is taking care of the planet good for the soul?

“Peter Rabbit’s experience aside, gardeners are probably nicer people,” Richard Ryan, PhD. Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester

We all know the benefits that environmentally friendly gardening can have on the planet: less pollution less waste of our valuable water supplies and improved habitat for local wildlife, to name a few. And of course, what’s good for the health of the planet is good for our own health, as well. But when I ran across some new studies that indicate that gardening is good for the soul, I was determined to help find out if that tied in to why more and more people are practicing environmentally friendly gardening.

Personally, I’ve always felt that spending time in my garden is far better than spending time with a therapist. There is just something about working outside in nature that gets me more in touch with my inner thoughts. I have learned the answers to many of life’s questions while I am out there with my hands in the dirt.

So I was intrigued when I began to see the quote “nature is fuel for the soul” popping up all over the internet because of several studies co-authored by Richard Ryan, PhD, a Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester. Through their research, Ryan and his colleagues have concluded that spending time in nature not only makes people feel more energized but also leads them to be nicer, value their relationships more and to be more generous – definitely evidence that nature is good for the soul.

“When people are exposed to nature, it changes their attitudes,” Ryan said. “We’ve known for awhile that nature has an impact on people: in helping them heal faster and reducing their stress. But what our findings show is that it also makes people more pro-social. So when people are exposed to nature … they are more likely to have better feelings toward their community, want to give more to other people, and be more concerned with social outcomes.”

Since, for many working Americans, being in nature means working in the garden, I jokingly asked Ryan if he thought these studies indicate that gardeners are just nicer people. “I think it clearly stands to reason that gardeners are on average likely to be nicer people,” Ryan said with a bemused tone. “I don’t know if there is empirical evidence on this, (though I believe there are a few gardening studies out there), but it would be consistent with our research on positive relations between contact with nature and pro-social tendencies. So Peter Rabbit’s experience aside, gardeners are probably nicer people.”

Since being in nature (gardening) makes people more concerned with social outcomes, I wondered if this study could also help indicate why more and more people are starting to garden in a more environmentally friendly way. According to statistics collected in the National Gardening Association’s (NGA) 2004 and 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden surveys, the number of households that practice environmentally friendly gardening increased from an estimated 5 million households in 2004 to 12 million in 2008. And this trend is expected to increase in the future. In fact, 89% of the households surveyed said that they thought practicing environmentally friendly landscaping was important.

“That could make sense,” Ryan said. “Our studies showed that when people are in nature, they are more in touch with their own core values and interests,” Ryan explained. “They feel more connected with the world as a whole. And this probably breeds more sense of responsibility for that larger whole.”

Since I had also read studies that indicated “doing good makes people feel good”, just for the sake of discussion, I asked Ryan if he thought that gardening in an environmentally friendly way might have its own emotional rewards.

“I think that theory is sound,” Ryan said. [Environmentally friendly gardeners could reap] “…both the wellness benefits of being in nature and the wellness benefits of being generative and good.”

To try to get more proof for my theory that environmentally friendly gardening provides extra “fuel for the soul”, I contacted Dr. Michael Steger, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Counseling Psychology and Applied Social Psychology programs at Colorado State University who has done extensive research on what makes people happy.

“My best guess would be that people gain the most happiness and meaning from gardening when they garden in a way that is most consistent with their values and what they want to get out of gardening,” Steger said. “If people are gardening to serve a societal need or to help the planet through eco-friendly means, then doing so will make them happiest.”

According to the NGA survey referenced above, 73% of the people surveyed said that they garden in that way because it is better for the environment, so perhaps for those gardeners, at least, green gardening may bring them extra happiness.

“As much as it would fit with my own values to say that the 'best' kind of gardening takes the earth's considerations to heart,” Dr. Steger said. “I really don't think there's evidence for it.” And indeed, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any scientific studies that have been conducted to help prove that eco-friendly gardening is better “fuel for the soul” than any other kind of gardening.

But from my own experience, I know that it is. And so, I would like to challenge you to help me prove it.

Join me on this blog as we share tips and hints about how to take a little bit better care of the planet while tending to our landscapes. Spend some time getting to know your landscape on a deeper level and find out what you can do to be more eco-friendly while you are out there. And then share your thoughts with us along the way. I think that you will find that your soul will be happier for it. But if not, at least your soil will be.

“A lot of times, we don’t really take time to immerse ourselves in nature, to really appreciate the surroundings that we have, the green living things that exist everywhere around us,” Dr. Ryan said. “We’re pretty busy, we’re rushing through life and we aren’t in touch with those things. What our scientific studies showed is that, to the extent that we really pay attention to the living things that are around us, it connects us more closely with the human race. “

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome to my garden

Our gardens and landscapes are so much more than the exterior dressing to our homes. They are our canvases, our playgrounds and our quiet spots for personal reflection and renewal. Whether we grow food, flowers or fragrance, gardens allow us to get in touch with ourselves and with the world around us.

I hope that you will join me on this blog as we dig in the dirt together and see what we uncover. Life is our garden. Let’s plant something good!

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