Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eco-Friendly Landscaping Quiz

Whether you do your own landscaping or hire a professional, having a basic understanding of environmentally friendly principles will help you make the right choices for an eco-friendly landscape.
©2010 Metro DC Lawn &Garden Blog, Created by Betsy S. Franz 

Wildlife Wednesday - What's In Your Garden

Welcome to our second Wildlife Wednesday. This is how it works.
  • Every Wednesday, I encourage all bloggers to wander through their property and take a photo of whatever critter is visiting at the time. Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, snakes, deer - think of this as the Noah's Ark of the Internet. Every critter is welcome.
  • Next, create a post on your own blog, including a little bit about where and when you saw the critter. Include photos, of course!
  • Now, visit the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog Wildlife Wednesday post and add your name and url on the Mr. Linky widget. Then leave a comment to tell us what wonderful wildlife you saw so we can pay you a virtual visit!
If you don't have your own blog, the National Wildlife Federation has a Facebook Page for posting Wildlife Wednesday photos.

If you don't HAVE any wildlife in your landscape, then your gardens might need a little eco-tweaking. Environmentally friendly landscapes that incorporate native plants and eliminate chemicals just naturally attract more birds and butterflies and other little critters. So keep visiting the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog and we'll help you create an environmentally friendly landscape that rolls out the welcome mat for wildlife!

Have fun! I can't wait to share your wildlife wonders with the world!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mandatory water restrictions lifted

Laurel, MD July 26, 2010: General Manager Jerry N. Johnson has announced the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is lifting the Mandatory Water Use Restrictions, effective immediately.

WSSC’s Potomac Water Filtration Plant on River Road lost electrical power Sunday afternoon when a storm moved through the region. PEPCO restored power to the plant about 5:00 a.m. today. The plant returned to full production late this morning and storage capacity throughout the system has been replenished to an acceptable level.

“We appreciate the patience of our customers, many of whom are dealing with a loss of power and storm damage,” said General Manager Johnson. “Maintaining an adequate supply of water pressure to fight fires and handle other emergencies is a critical responsibility for WSSC and we needed to take immediate action to ensure those needs could be met.”

The Potomac Plant provides about 70 percent of the water for all WSSC customers.  The Commission’s Patuxent Water Filtration Plant in Laurel never lost power and remained fully functional.

WSSC worked closely with PEPCO through the night as the utility restored power to the Potomac Plant. “I thank PEPCO for their swift repair efforts which allowed WSSC to quickly resume our mission,” said Johnson.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mandatory water restrictions still in place

Laurel, MD July 26, 2010 – Mandatory Water Use Restrictions remain in place for all customers, both residential and commercial while the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission’s (WSSC) distribution system continues to replenish.

The storm that passed through the region on Sunday caused the Potomac Water Filtration Plant on River Road to lose electrical power. PEPCO restored power to the plant about 5:00 a.m. today. The plant is now at full production, however until the storage capacity throughout the system returns to normal, the mandatory water restrictions remain in place. It is imperative that WSSC maintain an adequate supply of water pressure to fight fires and right now the system is not at full capacity.

WSSC is constantly monitoring the distribution system and will continue to provide updates.

The Potomac Plant provides about 70 percent of the water for all WSSC customers. The Commission’s Patuxent Water Filtration Plant in Laurel never lost power and remained fully functional.

WSSC serves approximately 1.8 million residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Water reduction steps include:

Stop all outside water use – no watering lawns, no washing cars, no topping off swimming pools

Use water only as necessary Limit flushing toilets (do not flush after every use)

Limit using washing machines and dishwashers (wash full loads only)

Mandatory water restrictions for WSSC customers

The storm that passed through the region on Sunday caused the Potomac Water Filtration Plant on River Road to lose electrical power. PEPCO restored power to the plant about 5:00 a.m. today. It will take about three hours for the plant to return to full production. Once that occurs a decision will then be made as to when the mandatory water restrictions can be lifted.

The Potomac Plant provides about 70 percent of the water for all WSSC customers. The Commission’s Patuxent Water Filtration Plant in Laurel never lost power and remained fully functional.

WSSC serves approximately 1.8 million residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

WSSC wants to ensure that there is adequate water pressure to fight fires and therefore the restrictions must remain in place.

Water reduction steps include:
  • Stop all outside water use – no watering lawns, no washing cars, no topping off swimming pools
  • Use water only as necessary
  • Limit flushing toilets (do not flush after every use)
  • Limit using washing machines and dishwashers (wash full loads only)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tips for eco-friendly landscaping. Just remember C-P-R

Eco-friendly? Organic Gardening? Waterwise? Xeriscape? Native Landscape? What do they all mean? And what’s the difference between them all?

When the National Gardening Association conducted its 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey, they asked participants, "How knowledgeable would you say you are about how to maintain your home lawn, garden, and landscape in an environmentally friendly way?" 22% of the respondents said that they aren't very knowledgeable and 8% said that they are “not at all knowledgeable”.

The problem may be that, when it comes to landscapes, most people just don’t know what “environmentally friendly” means.

There are just too many terms that are used to describe “environmentally friendly” landscaping. The terms “green” gardening, eco-friendly landscaping, organic gardening, Waterwise, Xeriscape, native landscaping, wildlife friendly and greenscaping are just a few of the terms you will run across in your search for environmentally friendly answers. A beginning eco-gardener may not know where to start.

But other than the term Xeriscape, (which is a registered trademark), most of the terms do not have any “official” definition. And for the most part, the practices that they encourage are all very similar and even overlap.

When you dig down into the details of these programs, in fact, you will find that they all grow from the same strong roots of Conservation, Preservation and Restoration or C-P-R.  

Conservation – Conserving water is the basic concept behind Xeriscaping, also known as Waterwise and drought tolerant landscaping, and is an important consideration in every kind of environmentally friendly gardening. Many techniques branch off of this root, including using mulch and micro-irrigation, capturing and re-using rainwater, eliminating water hogging lawns, etc.  

Preservation – Preserving the natural eco-system and our natural resources is another concept important to all eco-friendly gardening. Your goal should be to create a landscape that works with Mother Nature, not against her. To do this, you need to get to know your site; choose plants and utilize techniques that don’t disrupt the current site conditions; eliminate chemicals which could harm natural water supplies and prevent runoff which can wash healthy nutrients out of the soil.  

Restoration – When your home was built, the characteristics of the property were changed. You, and all of the homeowners that lived there before you, have probably added chemicals and other elements to the soil. Your house is also taking up space that was once wildlife habitat. Restoring your site to a more natural condition will benefit local wildlife and the local eco-system.

That’s it. Those are the three basic concepts. It doesn’t really matter whether a program is called Waterwise or eco-friendly. As long as it keeps one or more of those concepts in mind, it’s going to provide some much needed CPR for your landscape.

So next time you are trying to determine if something you are doing is environmentally friendly, just give it the CPR test. If it helps to Conserve, Preserve or Restore the local environment, then you are on the right track.

(*The term CPR for the planet was adopted from the work of David Brower, famed conservationist and author.)

For more information about eco-friendly landscaping, visit these sites:

The National Gardening Assocation - Plant finder, weed library, articles and other tools for your garden

Creating a Water-wise landscape - Virginia Cooperative Extension document outlines many of the concepts utilized in Xeriscape

Greenscaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard - EPA website on creating environmentally friendly landscapes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday – What's in Your Garden?

I love being able to work from home. Our property (two acres worth) is a wonderful wildlife habitat and I can look out the windows and see all sorts of things like rabbits and butterflies and birds and turtles and bees and many, many other little critters. I feel incredibly lucky to have this garden view but I do sometimes find the critters a bit distracting.

Take this morning, for example. There are so many birds on my feeders and butterflies on my flowers that I almost thought about pulling down the blinds and turning on the radio so that I wouldn't be distracted by the wonderful sights and sounds. Hah! Not likely.

But then I thought of something much more fun. I'll start my own Wildlife Wednesdays. Every Wednesday I will post a photo of whatever wildlife I see in my yard that day, and encourage other bloggers and gardeners around the internet to join me.

I know this isn't an original idea. I got the idea for Wildlife Wednesday from fellow garden blogger, Carol and her blog May Dreams Garden. Way back in February of 2007, Carol decided to start keeping track of what was blooming in her garden from year to year by posting photos of flowers on the 15th of each month. It was kind of interesting that she decided to start her Garden Bloggers Bloom Day in the middle of the winter, but that didn't stop fellow gardeners from stopping by and adding their lists.

Since then, the popularity of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day has grown! To participate, garden bloggers post photos of what is blooming in their yard that day and then list their blogs on the list on the May Dreams Garden blog. This past week, on July 15th, 2010, 136 people listed their blogs on her site. And anyone who wants to wander through the flowers in other gardener's landscapes can just click on the links listed on the post.

So with credit to Carol, I would like to officially launch Wildlife Wednesdays. Here's how it works.
  • Every Wednesday, I encourage all bloggers to wander through their gardens and take a photo of whatever critter is visiting at the time. Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, snakes, deer - think of this as the Noah's Ark of the Internet. Every critter is welcome.
  • Next, create a post on your own blog, including a little bit about where and when you saw the critter. Include photos, of course!
  • Now, visit the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog Wildlife Wednesday post and add your name and url on the Mr. Linky widget. Then leave a comment to tell us what wonderful wildlife you saw so we can pay you a virtual visit!
If you don't have your own blog, the National Wildlife Federation has a Facebook Page for posting Wildlife Wednesday photos.

If you don't HAVE any wildlife in your landscape, then your gardens might need a little eco-tweaking. Environmentally friendly landscapes that incorporate native plants and eliminate chemicals just naturally attract more birds and butterflies and other little critters. So keep visiting the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog and we'll help you create an environmentally friendly landscape that rolls out the welcome mat for wildlife!

Have fun! I can't wait to share your wildlife wonders with the world!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Central Virginia Organic Gardener

I recently came across another great local blog which I'd like to share. It's called Central Virginia Organic Gardener and is written by Judy Thomas. Judy calls herself "a domestic goddess, obsessed gardener and teacher."

I love her blog. It's fun and informative AND Judy does her best to keep everything organic and eco-friendly.

Check out her recent post on straw-bale gardening. This is something I had never heard of before but something that I definitely want to try.

Also, take a listen to her podcasts.

Thanks for dropping over to say "Hi", Judy. And thanks for joining in the conversations here on the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Study shows that deep conversation leads to happiness – Talk to me!

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. ~Chinese Proverb

Although I thoroughly enjoy talking to my tansies and trilliums, I sometimes enjoy a conversation with a little more depth and meaning. In fact, when I recently read this short article in USA Weekend entitled “Want to be Happy? Have a Conversation”, my first thought was about how much I miss some of my old friends that I used to have nice long talks with.

Since I work from home, there can be entire weeks when I don’t talk to anyone other than the sales clerks at the grocery store and the employees of the local library.

Thankfully, being a writer often provides an opportunity to discuss great topics with great minds, such as professors, scientists and other deep thinkers out here on the worldwide web.

Take, for example, my original post to this blog on the Psychology of Green Gardening. I had the opportunity to contact both Dr. Richard Ryan, a Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester and Dr. Michael Steger, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Counseling Psychology and Applied Social Psychology programs at Colorado State University. We discussed ideas about the relationship of gardening and doing good and whether they thought that environmentally friendly gardening could be good for the soul. How fun!

I love that sort of conversation, even when it is held online or through email. An intelligent exchange of ideas with inspired and educated people just energizes me. I swear, if Albert Einstein was still alive and had email or twitter or a Facebook page, I’d track him down!

Which leads to the study mentioned above, in the USA Today article.

Dr. Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, conducted the original study on conversation and happiness. In Dr. Mehl’s study, they found that “higher well-being was robustly related to having less small talk and more substantive conversation.” In other words, deep thoughtful conversations make people happier than idle chitchat.

Collectively, the studies of Ryan and Steger and Mehl can mean only one thing: you need to invite people to your garden to sit around and have deep, interesting conversations! 

However, there are SOOOOOoo many people out there on the worldwide web that we want to discuss ideas with, and we can’t invite them all to our gardens! But we can share conversations with them online. Even Dr. Mehl, in our brief email conversation, admitted that he thinks “there are probably ways to have substantive conversations and really connect to other people on the internet.”

So talk to me! Add your comments to this blog, follow us on Twitter, join or start a conversation on our Facebook Fan page, or use the Contact link to send an email. Share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions or even your criticism. I'd love to know what you are thinking!

Friday, July 16, 2010

No lawn is a good lawn – Why Dr. Stabler challenges the poll

From time to time, I run poll questions on this blog about various topics related to gardens and landscapes. The current poll asked how high your mower blades are set: 1, 2 or 3 inches. There was also a selection for "Not sure/don't know".

The purpose of these questions is to encourage people to think a little bit about their gardening and landscaping practices.

The height of our mower blades has a direct effect on the health of our lawns and on the planet. Experts recommend that you mow your lawn at a height of 2 to 3 inches. Longer blades of grass provide for a more vigorous lawn with a thicker turf and fewer pests. There is a very in-depth resource and podcast entitled Mow Like a Pro on the Virginia Cooperative Extension Center website.

A blog reader, Dr. L. Brooke Stabler, an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Central Oklahoma contacted me with this comment:

I don't have any lawn, so I'm not sure how to answer your poll. There are just too many eco-friendly reasons not to have a lawn. Something like 60% of domestic freshwater use goes to water lawns, which of course then leads to the need to mow. Gas powered lawn equipment puts out more CO2 and other pollutants (plus noise) per hour run time than a Hummer. Fertilizers and pesticides run off or percolate into the soil and end up in water, polluting it. The good old American meticulous lawn is one of the biggest environmental disasters there is. Doing away with a lawn and instead installing native vegetation is one of the most eco-friendly things a person can do. Ironically, many cities have ordinances that would consider such a practice "letting weeds grow" and would fine home owners for doing it. 

Although I generally love a good debate with Dr. "Brooke" (she's my sister), I have to admit that this time, she's right. Less lawn (or no lawn) can be much better for the environment. Plus, even more than a good debate, I love having a sister that takes time away from her busy career to visit my blog. 

So in deference to Dr. Stabler's comments, I have changed my poll to reflect a new option: "My eco-friendly lawn does not require mowing."

Here is a link for more information about the Benefits of Reducing Your Lawn

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hummingbirds trying to beat the heat

These photos weren't taken locally, but I just had to share them. My friend Pam Winegar moved across the country to California and she and husband Richard are always sharing the most wonderful photos with me. She gave me permission to share them with you.

Pam's Comments:

"We enjoyed watching a pair of hummingbirds at a cherub fountain at Filoli Gardens. The birds were dipping their bills into the fountain to wash off yellow pollen. Sometimes the hummingbirds put their whole heads underwater - it was quite a sight!"


Free mulch and other garden goodies

I was just standing in line at the local dollar store listening to a couple of women talking about how they just MUST bring home toys for their dogs every time they go shopping so that Bowzer and Fido don’t get their feelings hurt.

I thought it was kind of amusing that people would admit to being so well-trained by their pets.

Then I looked at what I was buying and realized that I am the same way with my gardens.

Today I was buying ten-for-a-dollar packages of flower seeds, a small misting bottle and a watering can. But truth be told, I rarely come home from running errands without bringing SOMETHING home for the garden. This could get pretty costly, but some of the things that I bring home are free (or pretty close to it).

Take compost and mulch, for example. Compost and mulch are both great for putting nutrients back into the soil and for retaining moisture, helping your plants through times of heat and drought. And there are plenty of ways to get free compost and mulch.

Many gardeners already know that Starbucks introduced Grounds for Your Garden back in 1995, which offers customers complimentary five-pound bags of used coffee grounds to enrich garden soil. Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker (is there still anyone out there that DOESN’T drink coffee) you can stop by your nearest Starbucks to pick up a bag of these garden goodies (and maybe just ONE little sweet goodie for yourself, too, while you are there.)

Another thing that I’ve learned to do is to ALWAYS buy the largest produce, when it is sold by the piece rather than the pound. I used to be on the lookout for the smallest cucumbers or packages of Romaine because I didn’t want to be wasteful and then I realized “Ooooooh. The leftovers are free compost!”

I’ve also been known to ask my neighbors for piles of leaves they just raked up or the grass I see them emptying after they mow their lawn (although I don't know why anyone uses a grass catcher when it is so much healthier to just let the grass fall where it may.)

You can also get mulch from various waste management departments in the area. It is always best to call ahead of time to make sure that mulch is available.

Frederick County offers low cost single ground and double ground mulch as well as premium compost for as little as $8.00 a ton. They’ll even load it into your open bed truck for you. This mulch is made from collected yard trimmings, brush, landscape debris and other valuable organic matter. More information about this low-cost mulch, including where and when it can be picked up, can be found on the Frederick County Government site or you can call 301-600-2960 for more information.

Residents of Arlington Virginia can get free mulch or even have the mulch delivered. More information can be found on their Brush, Mulch and Fill Dirt page or call 703-228-6570.

The City of Falls Church also has free mulch available. The do not provide delivery, but their website includes a Residential Mulch Hauling Referral List to help you find someone who will deliver the mulch for you. For more information call 703-248-5176.

Do you know of any other great sources for free or low cost garden goodies? If so, let us know!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How dry I am. How dry we'll be….

Ugh. I just read that ALL of Virginia is now under a drought watch. A news release issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is urging all residents to minimize non-essential water use and to do their part to conserve water to help protect water supplies.

For tips on how to save water in your landscape, visit the Water Wise Use tips and Tips for the Home Gardener for Efficient Water Use

Monday, July 12, 2010

Compost helps plants through heat and drought

Previously, I had posted a question about whether it would be okay to put cooked, whole wheat pasta into a compost pile. We always seem to cook too much and I hate to throw anything away. The pasta didn’t have any ingredients that I thought were questionable, other than egg whites, which I wasn’t sure about. So I was seeking some expert opinions.

Composting, of course, is a very eco-friendly and easy process for any home gardener. When used as an additive for garden soil, it can help plants make it through times of drought and hot weather.

Organic matter such as yard and food waste make up about 23% of the waste that is generated in the United States. Composting is a way to re-use this organic waste to keep it out of the landfills while creating natural soil additives for your gardens. When worked into the soil, compost provides essential nutrients, improves soil texture, moderates temperatures, and increases the ability of the soil to absorb air and water. It also suppresses weed growth, decreases erosion, and reduces the need to apply commercial soil additives, thereby saving you money.

With many local jurisdictions banning yard wastes, composting is an important part of waste management in the Metro DC area.

Generally, there are certain “do’s” and “don’ts” about what can be added to a compost pile.

The “do’s” are items such as grass clippings, leaves, sawdust, fruit and produce waste, old plants, coffee grounds and shredded newspapers.

The “don’ts” include meat, fish, bones, dairy foods, fats, and oil or grease because they smell, attract pests, and retard the biological process that converts the organic material to compost.

Since pasta didn’t seem to easily fit into either of those categories, I wanted some other opinions.

I received an answer from Kelly Smith, an author who is currently writing a book called How to Build, Maintain and Use a Compost System. She said:

“There is no reason not to add pasta to your compost UNLESS it is covered in an oily sauce of some kind. Grease and oil can smother the bacteria that decompose items in your compost. But if it is just leftover spaghetti with no oily sauces don't worry about it. It will break down just fine.”

I hadn’t really thought about the oil, but I had used a bit while cooking my pasta, so I decided to just throw it in the trash. In the future, I’ll probably skip the oil when I make my pasta and go ahead and add it to my compost.

If you have ever considered making your own compost, now is the perfect time to start. Whether you just decide to create compost with your grass, leaves and other yard waste or add your kitchen scraps, such as coffee grounds, your plants (and the planet) will benefit from it.

For local information about creating compost, see our new Topics, Links and Resources Page

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nice article about passalong plants

I love sharing plants through plant swaps or any other means of getting something green and growing for nothing, so I loved it when I saw this nice article about Passalong Plants.

I'm sure I will cover this topic from time to time but for now, why not read this great article by Eileen Wekler, the DC Feng Shui Home and Garden Examiner?

Another place that I have often gone to find plants to swap is the forums section of You can even swap plants through the mail with people and it is a LOT of fun to get a surprise package of plants in the mail.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nude gardening to beat the heat

"When you're out there with a gentle breeze on you, every last hair on your body feels it. You feel completely connected with the natural world in a way you just can't in clothes."  
- Barbara Pollard

As hot as it has been outside lately, it's not uncommon to see gardeners shedding more and more clothes as they work in the garden. If you decide to go completely au naturale, I have two words of advice for you. Use Sunscreen.

Sure, I could offer more words of advice, such as the penalties for indecent exposure (which can include jail time AND a hefty fine), but what fun would that be? Maybe it will help us all stay a little cool if we at least THINK NAKED while we are out there gardening.

So in an effort to help you pass the time while you are taking a break from the heat, here are some thoughts on nude gardening:
  • Did you know that July 5 - 11th is Nude Recreation Week? I didn't either. Nude Recreation Week began as Nude Recreation Weekend in 1976 in an effort to encourage first time nudists to enjoy "clothes-free" recreation wherever they are.
  • But wait! There is also a World Naked Gardening Day, which we already missed. The fifth annual World Naked Gardening Day was celebrated this year on May 8th. While visiting the World Naked Gardening Day website I learned "Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude."
  • That website also led me to Abbey House Gardens, a unique and beautiful garden in England that is home to Ian and Barbara Pollard, authors of The Naked Gardeners. Their gardens are open to the public and they list the clothing optional days on their site.
  • I already knew that Alicia Silverstone likes to garden in the nude. She apparently picked up the habit from friend Woody Harrelson. She explained her propensity for doffing her duds to dabble in the dirt in an interview with Health magazine . “[It] probably started when I was doing my garden the first time,” she said. “I’d be out there, and it would be scorching hot, so I would take off all of my clothes and garden. And then I would jump in the pool and swim – and I always get in the pool naked. I used to spend a lot of time with Woody Harrelson, and he’s not afraid to get naked,” she added.
  • Other celebrities that have been hinted to garden in the nude include Shakira (the post I read just said that she likes to garden AND that she likes to be nude, but doesn't mention her doing both at the same time); Catherine Zeta-Jones and Eva Mendes, who was quoted as saying "I love being naked. I do everything in the nude, even the gardening. We're Cuban, and it's a hot island. Why not go nude?"
  • There is also a book (and accompanying website) out there called Gardening Nude . They aren't really about gettin' nekkid, though, but are "a Common Sense Guide to Improving Your Health and Lifestyle By Increasing Exposure to Nature, Cultivating a Green Mindset, and Building a Strong Community"
  • And the absolute BEST thing I found while poking around on the Internet during my gardening break is this great post on Planet Greenentitled: Naked is Bad (For Your Garden's Soil). This wonderful, eco-friendly post, lists several reasons that naked soil is bad, including: 1. Naked soil is vulnerable to erosion., 2. Weeds love naked soil., 3. Naked soil loses carbon, which provides nutrients to plants and soil dwelling organisms.
Okay. That's enough break time for me. I think I'll keep my clothes ON, add a little more sunscreen, and get back to the gardens!

** Links to some of my sources were left out of this post to keep the material PG rated.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Find a WaterSense Irrigation Contractor

Since July is Smart Irrigation Month it is really the optimal time to take at look at your current irrigation system or to consider purchasing an irrigation system that helps you to conserve water.

The average American household uses about 30 percent of its water outdoors. In some parts of the country, this can be as high as 70 percent. Experts estimate that as much as 50 percent of landscape water use gets lost to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by over-watering. Some households lose up to 70 gallons of water each day!

When my husband and I had our irrigation system installed, we were trying to save money. It ended up being a costly and wasteful mistake.

We knew the contractor and just assumed he would design an efficient layout so we didn’t even ask for a drawing of what he intended to install. We ended up with a minimal number of wide area sprayers and rotors and we could almost see the water being lost to evaporation every time we used it.

We’ve spent so much money RE-designing it with micro-irrigation heads and other water-wise components that I’m sure we have spent more in time and materials then it would have cost us to have it done right the first time.

I wish I had known about WaterSense® Irrigation partners at the time we had it installed.

WaterSense is an EPA-sponsored program that works to protect our nation's water supply by promoting water-efficient products, programs, and practices.

One of the things that they do through the WaterSense program is to certify professionals who have proven expertise in water-efficient technology and techniques, including irrigation system professionals.

All too often, landscape irrigation wastes water—up to 1.5 billion gallons every day across the country. WaterSense irrigation partners can help you reduce your water consumption, save money, and maintain a healthy and beautiful landscape.

In order to become a WaterSense irrigation partner, professionals in the industry must first become certified through a WaterSense labeled certification program. This process helps ensure that WaterSense irrigation partners are trained on designing, installing, and maintaining water-efficient irrigation systems.

If homeowners with irrigation systems hired WaterSense irrigation partners to perform regular maintenance, each household could reduce water used for irrigation by 15 percent, or about 9,000 gallons annually—that's the amount of water that would flow from a garden hose if it was left running for almost a whole day. WaterSense irrigation partners also can help you design and install a new irrigation system or audit an existing one to minimize the amount of water you use, greening your yard in more ways than one.

You can use this handy directory on the WaterSense website to help you find a WaterSense irrigation partner in your area. Select Irrigation Partners under the Partner Type and then select your state to bring up a list of contractors. You can then select each name to bring up more information. Look for businesses that provide Irrigation System Installation and Maintenance for residents. To search by Partner Name, you must enter the name of a particular individual, NOT a business name.

Loudon Water also provides a list of Preferred Irrigation Contractors on their website.

Scare Crows and other Natural bird control for gardens

I just spent a fantastic week in Michigan visiting my husband's family. We spent a few days at Rick and Jane's cabin on Torch Lake and then drove down to Burt to spend the rest of the time with Dutch and Dorothy.

Dorothy is one of the people that helped my husband Tom and I learn a lot about organic gardening. She has beautiful gardens of flowers and fruits and vegetables and the trees in her yard are home to what seems like hundreds of varieties of bird species.

Although Dutch and Dorothy love the birds, they aren't real happy with the fact that the birds often beat them to their strawberries and raspberries.

To try to cut down on the problem, Dorothy and I spent a few hours making this GORGEOUS scarecrow-ess, which we named Bertha. Bertha was fairly easy to construct. We used a screw gun to screw a cross-piece on an old slat from a wooden fence to serve as Bertha's shoulders. We then found an old discarded piece of chicken wire which we wrapped around the fence slat and molded a little to form Bertha's body. The face was created with acryllic paints and the clothes and wig were found in a bag of castoffs headed for the thrift store. Her arms were stuffed with empty beer cans (which were surprisingly easy to find with my husband there visiting). And the flag was added for the Fourth of July.

I know Bertha looks a little stern, but she is a nature lover like me, and really doesn't like the idea of chasing away the birds.

Dorothy was inspired to create a scarecrow after receiving a photo of this scarecrow pair that her sister, Glennie Duke and husband Jim, had made for their Arkansas gardens. I'm sure that passersby enjoy this playful pair as much as I do.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension website offers these additional tips for deterring birds from your fruit plants:

Pest Control. Birds are one of the biggest pests in the strawberry planting. It may be necessary to cover the plants with plastic netting to keep the crop from being eaten before the berries are ripe enough to harvest. Aluminum pie tins, suspended by a string or wire above the plants in such manner that they twist and turn in the breeze, may be successful in keeping birds away.

I checked with local organic gardeners Brian and Linda of Miolea Organic Farm** in Adamson to see what they use to deter the birds.

"On the strawberries, service berry, black and red raspberries we use the scare-eye. It's a yellow ball with black and red circle. For the blue berries and vegetables we use deer netting and or floating row covers."

Have you found other humane ways to protect your fruits and veggies from the birds and other wildlife? If so, let us know!

** Miolea Organic Farms also sells Certified Organic Fertilizer (5-3-4) for the home gardener. $2.00/lb. And CORN GLUTEN - Certified Organic-Non-GMO. Great for lawns and as a weed supressant. $2.50/lb. 20 lbs covers 1,000 sq.ft

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Great news for your plants – water restrictions have been lifted

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has lifted their Mandatory Water Use Restrictions, effective immediately. WSSC serves customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Customers can use water outdoors to help their plants through this heat.

However, just because the restrictions have been lifted, don't forget to utilize all the new water saving techniques you have learned over the last few days.

You can continue to use graywater from rinsing dishes and vegetables. During the heat of the day watering your plants with a watering can rather than a hose or irrigation system will deliver water directly to the roots and eliminate some evaporation. The evening is the best time for a more thorough watering to help avoid water being evaporated before the water reaches the plant.

To learn more tips for becoming a water-wise gardener, download this pdf file.

Home and Garden News – a great e-newsletter

I'm often touting the local extension system offices as great sources of information for our gardens.

The Home and Garden News e-newsletter from the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center is a great way to bring some of that info right to your inbox.

The July-August issue has all sorts of fun topics including:
  • Two Organic Pesticides for Vegetable Gardeners
  • Tough Perennials for mid-Atlantic Urban Conditions
  • 'Tis the Season for Lightening Bugs
  • Monthly Tips from HGIC (Home and Garden Information Center)
You can download a pdf file of the July-August issue of the Home and Garden News here. Or use this link to subscribe and have the bi-monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Visiting Sonia's garden

Last week I asked for readers to share their garden blogs with us. I just took a delightful trip through Sonia Zamborsky's garden by visiting this post that she shared from her blog. 

Although Sonia's blog isn't just about gardening, I learned a lot about Sonia and her gardens through her blog. I definitely learned enough about her to help confirm Dr. Richard Ryan's theory that "gardeners are nicer people".

Here are a few excerpts from Sonia's blog: 

In fact, this year I've decided to participate in the Grow a Row program, where the Capital Area Food Bank pairs gardeners with food banks and other nonprofits that feed the hungry.

And I particulary enjoyed this paragraph: 

At the end of the day, no matter how many veggies get eaten in our kitchen or donated to charity, I still enjoy this pursuit. There's something zen about digging in the dirt and communing with earthworms. (They sure don't talk back or complain that your project is behind schedule or ask where your updated budget figures are!) It's a connection to my mom and grandmother, who taught me to appreciate the magic of popping a seed in some dirt and coming back to find a living plant. OK, it's not as much fun as spending a month in Italy, but if we're gonna be stuck at the homestead it's not a bad way to pass the time.

Click here to read more of Sonia's gardening posts. 

Thanks, Sonia, for inviting the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog readers into your garden!

Mandatory water restrictions still in effect

Mandatory water restrictions are still in effect for Prince George's and Montgomery counties while repairs continue on a water main.

Residents are reminded that they must refrain from outdoor watering until the restrictions are lifted.

To help your plants through this period, find imaginative ways to collect more water.

  • keep a bucket in your kitchen sink to capture gray-water from washing hands, dishes and vegetables
  • save the water created from ice melting in your cooler or glasses of iced-tea
  • keep bucket of water in garden for rinsing dirty hands and tools
  • re-use water from cooking your holiday corn on the cob

WSSC's Terrific Tree Tour

What makes a tree terrific? From an environmentally friendly point of view, native trees are terrific!

Join MD DNR Forester James Eierdam for a walk along the Patuxent River on Saturday, July 10th from 9 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Learn about the benefits that native trees provide for your landscape and for local wildlife and how you can create a tree buffer at your home.

This delightful walk is free and open to the public and is sponsored by Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.  The walk will be held at the Pigtail Recreation Area 5500 Greenbridge Road, Dayton. For more information, call 301-206-8233.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Emergency Water Restrictions in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has put a temporary, mandatory water restriction in place that requires WSSC customers in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to NOT use WSSC water on their lawns, gardens and other landscaping until further notice. But here are some ways that your landscape can still keep green during the mandatory water restrictions:

1. Place one to two inches of mulch around your plants.
2. Use water from bathing or washing dishes. Soap will not harm plants
3. Use water from cooking vegetables or pasta.
4. Collect rainwater and use it on the plants that need the most help.
5. Collect water from your shower rather than letting it go down the drain.
6. While waiting for you shower to heat up, collect that water in a bucket for your plants.
7. In the kitchen, rather than letting the water run until the water is cold (or hot), collect the water and use it for your plants.
8. Use water collected from your dehumidifier on your plants.
9. In the future, drought-tolerant plants make a lovely garden. For an example, go to WSSC’s demonstration garden at Brighton Dam Visitor’s Center’s parking lot.

Have an idea of your own? Go to WSSC’s “Friends of Brighton Dam” Facebook’s Discussion Page and share it with others.

Suggestions Courtesy of:
Wanda MacLachlan, Area Educator - Residential Landscape Management,
University of Maryland Extension

Friday, July 2, 2010

12 relationship rules for gardeners

“99% of the world’s lovers are not with their first choice. That’s what makes the jukebox play." ~ Willie Nelson, The Tao of Willie

I’m having a lot more success with my landscape now that I’ve started thinking of gardening as a relationship rather than a hobby.

When I was younger, I used to date a LOT. The reason that I dated so much was because I wasn’t very great at making relationships last. I chose men just for their looks or their popularity, when we obviously had nothing in common. And I expected the relationships to just click, without any real effort on my part. Several hundred men later (okay, I’m probably exaggerating there) I realized that just wasn’t how things worked.

For a long time, I was the same way with my gardens. I’d walk through a garden center and pick out whatever looked good, and take it home, give it a drink and feed it once or twice and then I’d ignore it until I got bored and wanted it to entertain me again. Usually by then, it would be long gone. So I’d head back to the garden center and try again. Several thousand plants later (and I may not be exaggerating there) I’ve started to learn a few things.

The number of failed marriages in our country is about 50%. There are no similar statistics for the number of failed gardens, but since gardening is a 36 billion dollar industry in our country, I would say that a lot of that is money spent by people trying over and over again to make their relationship with their garden work.

So in order to help save you some heartache and some money, over the next few weeks, I would like to share some of the knowledge I have acquired about relationships and gardening. Here are some of the most important things I have learned.

1) Get to know your site - Get to know what you have to offer before you jump into a relationship. In life, if you don’t really know who you are or what you have to offer, you’ll have a heck of a time finding someone that is right for you. In gardening, if you don’t get to know your garden site and what it has to offer, you will have a hard time finding plants that will be happy there.

2) Plan your landscape – Proper planning and design are essential for creating a healthy relationship with your landscape. What do you expect from the relationship? Is being surrounded by beauty enough for you or do you want something that will provide food (fruit and veggies) and shelter?

3) Get tested and get healthyAs is, your property might not be ready for a good relationship. Get the soil tested and take steps necessary to get it to its optimum health. Amend the soil, remove weeds and invasive plants.

4) Get to know the plants - All of those good looking, sweet young things that you pick up around town weren’t just put on this earth for your pleasure. They have wants and needs of their own. If you want any kind of long term relationship with them, you need to learn about their needs before you bring them home. Speed dating isn’t good for relationships and impulse buying isn’t great for gardening.

5) Choose plants compatible with your site conditions - If you want to be in a relationship with sweet things that you aren’t really compatible with just because they are beautiful, it might work but it is going to require a lot of effort. Probably neither one of you will ever be completely happy. Which leads me to number 6.

6) Caring for incompatible plants can harm the environment - Some relationships require so much effort that they are just toxic to you. In the garden, certain plants will require so much water and so much fertilizer and pesticides that they are going to hurt the environment. Also, if they aren’t really happy there, they may start running around on you.

7) Choose natives over exotics - Exotic, high cost beauties are often very high maintenance. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you may find yourself spending half your paycheck on things to help make them happy. Natives are rarely so restless.

8) Set some boundaries – Your plants might be very happy if you let them act unruly, run all over the place and do whatever they want. It’s up to you to nip things in the bud when you need to.

9) Devote time to your relationship - Good gardening takes time and effort. If you want to have a good relationship with people or with plants, you have to make an effort and put some work into it. Spend some time with them. Keep checking in. See if they are getting everything they need.

10) But don’t overdo it – There is sometimes a fine line between keeping your plants happy and spoiling them. If you have chosen plants that are compatible with your site conditions, they should be pretty happy without a lot of extras.

11) If you run into problems, seek advice – Relationships are challenging. Consult experts if needed.

12) Don’t be afraid to call it quits - And, if after all your best efforts, things just don’t seem to be working out, don’t be afraid to dump your current garden and start over. Relationships are supposed to be happy and fulfilling for both of you.

Website by Water Words That Work LLC