Friday, October 29, 2010

Virginia is for (garden) lovers

Brrrr, the temperatures are dropping but it is still a wonderful time of year to be outside, appreciating the colors and the cool fall weather.

Before we head into the holiday madness that is fast approaching, why not spend some time this weekend visiting one of the wonderful public gardens in the area?

There are public gardens to inspire and delight you, no matter what your image of the perfect outdoor paradise entails. Plantations, deep forests, flora, and fauna will greet you on the garden paths of these wonderful Metro Area gardens.

Virginia Gardens - Visit the nation's oldest gardens right here in Virginia! From the most historic Berkeley Plantation to the spectacular displays at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and George Washington's Mount Vernon, Virginia's gardens are breathtaking and inspiring.

Maryland Public Gardens - Visit Maryland’s public gardens and discover hidden gems of the Free State. The gardens feature topiary, sculpture and colonial gardens, large and small cultivated pockets of horticultural delights, as well as forests and meadows celebrating Maryland’s native flora.

District of Columbia Public Gardens and Garden Walks - The U.S. Botanic Garden, the National Arboretum and others give you plenty of choices for getting outside and enjoying our beautiful fall weather.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

First rooftop garden built for bees!

As an eco-friendly gardener, I love honey bees! I love fresh honey and I understand the vital role that pollinators play in the production of some of my favorite plants (such as coffee and chocolate!)

So I was excited to see the news releases about the First Green Roof for honeybees that Green Roof Service LLC and Architecture and Design Inc (ADI) are creating on the rooftop of an historic Ice Storage House in Baltimore on November 9th.

Green roofs are beneficial for several reasons: they reduce the Heat Island Effect, absorb rain water and effectively reduce the amount of contaminants that reach the Chesapeake Bay. But by using bee-loving plants for a green roof, they can also help encourage beneficial pollinators!

One of the greatest threats to honey bees today is the lack of habitat due to urban sprawl. A rooftop garden for bees can provide an ever-blooming habitat and water source for bees while reducing the building’s energy consumption.

Jörg Breuning, founder of Green Roof Services LLC and a native of Germany, has worked for over 30 years in green roof design and installation and helped bring green roof technology to the United States. Breuning, who has been a key figure in establishing guidelines and regulations used by trade organizations to standardize the green roof industry, feels that the combination of modern green roof technology with honey bees is a 100% natural and successful symbiosis.

“Sustainable growth of plants in an urban environment and on green roofs benefit from pollinators as natural players,” said Mr. Breuning.

Diane Odell GRP, of ADI Architecture and Green Roof Service’s certified Green Roof Professional/landscape designer Kathryn Harrold sourced locally grown plants that are suited to the harsh environment of a green roof, yet also offer a rich source of food for the honey bee menu.

Lee Jaslow owner of Conservation Technology and the warehouse is proud of "practicing what he has preached" over the years. He stated that this is the first green roof with honey bees in Maryland and one of the first of its kind in the country. Conservation Technology provided all technical components of the green roof and will be in charge of maintenance ensuring its future success.

Construction for this historical moment for Baltimore's ecology will take place on Tuesday November 9th from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Demonstrations explaining green roof technology will be held throughout the installation, and staff will be on hand to answer any questions about the installation and beekeeping. Admittance is free and open to the public.

Please visit the website: for project info or visit the company’s websites: or

The historic Ice Storage House is located at 330 W. 23rd St. a block off Howard Street. For more information on this project or to attend the installation, please contact or visit
To learn more about the importance of pollinators, visit these great sites:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Pollinators
U.S. Forest Service Pollinators
Pollinator Partnership

Creating Sustainable Landscapes - today!

"CREATING SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPES," discussed by Holly H. Shimizu of the U.S. Botanic Garden, sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension. 9:30-11:30 a.m., Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington County. Free, registration required. 703-228-6414.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fertilize with care

The first thing many people do when a plant looks stressed or doesn't seem to be growing quickly enough is head for the fertilizer. This might not only harm the plant, but unnecessary fertilizers (and other chemicals) are sure to harm the planet.

Excess chemical fertilizers are washed into our waterways, releasing nutrients that can cause algae blooms that rob the water of dissolved oxygen and can lead to fish kills. Excess chemicals in fertilizer may also find its way into local drinking water supplies.

Whenever possible choose plants that require little or no fertilizer. Native plants are usually a good choice for this. Having your soil tested will also help you determine what nutrients are lacking.

Amend the soil by adding homemade compost and other nutrients. Healthy soil will provide plants enough nutrients without the use of additional fertilizers.

If it is determined that a plant needs fertilizer, choose an organic fertilizer or one that contains nitrogen in a slow-release insoluble form. Nitrogen is one of the chemicals in fertilizer that has the most potential for harming the environment. The other chemical of concern is phosphorus. Always follow manufacturer’s directions when using fertilizer.

If using a purchased fertilizer, choose one that contains at least 30 percent slow-release nitrogen. Also, check the three numbers on the front of the bag to select the right mixture for the type of plant you are fertilizing. The numbers represent the fertilizer's nitrogen (first number), phosphorus (second number) and potassium (third number) contents. Using high nitrogen fertilizer on a plant that does not need it is a waste of money and will eventually be washed away by storm water if not used by the plant.

During the 2009 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Chesapeake Bay Phosphorus Reduction Act prohibiting the sale of lawn fertilizer that is not low-phosphorous fertilizer. On or after April 1, 2011, lawn fertilizer sold in Maryland must contain not more than 5 percent of available phosphoric acid. 

Fertilizers with higher concentrations of phosphorus will be allowed only in special situations and for new lawns and turf. Newly planted areas require more phosphorus to promote root growth, while established plants and turf need very little phosphorus. 

The legislation helps protect the Chesapeake Bay from high concentrations of phosphorus that can lead to algae blooms and oxygen depletion. County residents can do their part now by seeking out low phosphorus fertilizers for lawn treatment. It is also a good practice to conduct soil tests before applying fertilizers so that treatments are tailored for local soil conditions. Source

If a plant is looking pale or showing other symptoms of ill health, take a piece of the plant to your local Extension Service office or trusted garden center for help with diagnosis of the problem.

Fertilize during the dry months, when possible, and use the least amount of fertilizer necessary. Do not apply fertilizer within 50 feet of a water body and never fertilize when rain is predicted.

For more information, see: Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More "green" gardeners in 2011?

According to a report by the Garden Media Group , more gardeners will be practicing "green" gardening techniques in the coming years.

Garden and outdoor living expert Susan McCoy explains why. “We had trouble wrapping our heads around saving the rain forests,” she said, “but we clearly can wrap our arms around saving our own backyards. Digging and planting gardens brings awareness that we’re all earth’s caretakers.”

As backyard conservationists, gardeners are transforming yards, gardens, rooftops and even urban alleys into green and productive spaces, knowing they are making a positive impact. Here’s a look at top emerging garden trends that McCoy and her team are seeing for 2011:

  1. Gardening with a Purpose 
  2. Eco-scaping 
  3. Edible Ornamentals 
  4. Sustainable Containers 
  5. Succulents 
  6. Indoor Gardening 
  7. Growing UP 
  8. Urban Farming 
  9. New Urbanism 

Gardening with a Purpose  In the wake of the shocking Gulf coast images of oil-sheen waves and coated   wetlands and wildlife, we’re taking measures to protect and conserve valuable natural resources. This trend   is echoed by Patricia St. John, president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, that          “gardens continue to reflect awareness of how our landscapes enhance and improve the  environment         around us.”

There’s no disputing that we all need to work together to rejuvenate, regenerate and restore Mother Earth.   Choosing eco-friendly products over toxic chemicals is a pro-active step to making our world cleaner and   greener.

According to the recent National Gardening Association’s Lawn & Garden Survey, survey, 9 out of 10        households want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally- friendly way. Consumers are      turning to all-natural repellents to keep unwanted pests from mowing down lawns and valuable plants. Eco-friendly repellents keep garden foes away and are guaranteed effective and safe for people, plants and pets. 

Click here to read the full report from the Garden Media Group. What are the top 2011 Gardening Trends

Monday, October 25, 2010

Make your Neighborhood Tree-rific

Audubon Maryland-DC’s Patterson Park Audubon Center is teaming up with Tree Baltimore and other local resources to present a free, full-day workshop for educators, community leaders, and citizens on how to take action to plant more trees in the city. This free workshop will be held on October 30, 2010 from 9-4 to learn how you can:

•Work with neighbors and groups to plant more trees
•Choose the best trees for your space
•Care for your trees
•Invite birds to your yard
•Educate children and neighbors about the benefits of trees
•Access resources, funding, and other support

The workshop will be held at:
Hampstead Hill Academy
(Across from Patterson Park)
500 South Linwood Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21224

For more information, visit the Audubon Maryland-DC's website

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Protect the groundwater

Everything that goes into the ground at your home has the potential of finding its way to local groundwater supplies. This is called nonpoint source (NPS) pollution and is one of the country’s leading causes of water pollution. Fertilizers and pesticides are the two worst offenders, but other elements such as soaps used for car washing and animal wastes are picked up by rain and irrigation systems and are washed out into the storm water lines. Follow the guidelines about fertilizer and pesticides on this website to help prevent NPS pollution. Here are some other tips for preventing storm water runoff.
  • Yard Waste - Avoid blowing lawn clippings into the street or piling them on storm drains.
  • Mulching - Mulch allows rainwater to seep into the ground and forms a firm ground cover, filtering pollutants and holding soil in its place.
  • Sprinklers and Downspouts - Turn downspouts of rain gutters into planted areas instead of toward paved surfaces such as driveways.
  • Pet Care – Collect pet waste and dispose of in wastebasket or toilet.
  • Use permeable surfaces such as wood decks, bricks, and concrete lattice to let water soak into the ground.
For more information about protecting the groundwater: Looking closer at NPS Pollution Pick up after your pet

Friday, October 22, 2010

Butterfly Gardening lecture - October 24th.

Nadine Scott, who is very much into native plants and butterfly gardening, discusses "Butterfly Gardening, Bring on the Natives" at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, as the fall lecture for the Butterfly Society of Virginia.

For more information, visit this post on Kathy Van Mullekom's Diggin' In blog.

Conserve Water

An American family of four can use 400 gallons of water per day, and about 30 percent of that is devoted to outdoor uses. 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.

As populations increase, demand on our water resources will grow. Conserving water can prevent or postpone the expense of building or renovating new water supply facilities.

By making changes to some of our landscaping practices, we can all make a difference in water conservation.

Here are some suggestions to reduce the amount of water used for your home landscape:
For more information

Find a Watersense Irrigation Specialist
Wise Water Use
Conserving Water Outdoors
10 Tips to Conserve Water Outside
Waterwise Landscaping Guide

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Free Lecture: Maryland Native Plants and the Pollinators that Love Them

On October 26th at 7:30 PM, The Maryland Native Plant Society Montgomery Chapter will feature Sam Droege, Biologist, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, talking about the intricate interaction between pollinators and plants.

Location: White Oak Library - Large Meeting Room  

Directions: Exit the Washington Beltway at New Hampshire Ave (exit 28). Go north about 2 miles. The library is the first building on the right, once you have passed under Route 29, just after the Sears store. Directions and map.

There will be refreshments and door prizes. Pot luck refreshments are always welcome.

For more information, visit the Maryland Native Plant Society website.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Right Plant, Right Place

The most environmentally sound practice that you can use when selecting plants is to select plants that are compatible with your site. In other words, drought tolerant plants should be used in dry, exposed areas while plants adapted to wet soils should be planted in low spots or areas of low drainage. Light, humidity and soil type also need to be considered. Plants should be grouped according to their water, fertilizer and maintenance needs for ease of care. This will help prevent overwatering as well as over fertilization, which can harm local water supplies.

Proper placement of plants can reduce heating and cooling costs by providing shade or wind barriers.

If your goal is to provide for wildlife, select plants with berries, fruit, and nectar as well as plants that provide areas for shelter and raising young.

Native plants are an environmentally sound choice for many reasons, including ease of care and providing food sources for native wildlife. Since the goal of eco-friendly gardening is to help preserve the beauty of the local environment, we encourage the use of some native plants in your landscape. However, as with any plant, the proper location is important for its survival. Just because a plant is native to the area does not mean it will thrive if placed in the wrong location in your yard.

For more information about plants for the Metro DC area:
Subscribe to this blog to find out more about creating eco-friendly landscapes.

Work With Mother Nature, Not Against Her

What is the number 1 rule for creating an eco-friendly landscape? Learn to work with Mother Nature, not against her. To do that, you need to get to know your property on a deeper level.

Most of the ill effects of improper gardening are from too much water or too many chemicals. Choosing plants which are compatible with your site conditions and grouping them by their maintenance needs will require less of both.

A few words about water, or why you "should" be concerned about your landscape 

Although we have access to an abundance of water most of the time in the DC metro area, water conservation is still something we should all be concerned about. An American family of four can use 400 gallons of water per day, and about 30 percent of that is devoted to outdoor uses. 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. 

As populations increase, demand on our water resources will grow. Conserving water can prevent or postpone the expense of building or renovating new water supply facilities. 

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 into our streams, reservoirs and lakes. These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water, and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant.

How well do you know your property?

As property owners, we each own a piece of the earth. To take care of it, and the rest of the surrounding eco-system that it connects to, we need to get to know our property.

There are some things that you can learn about your site conditions from books and online resources. For others, you need to go out and spend some time in your yard.

For example, you probably already know your Plant Hardiness zone. This zone number is listed on many plants and will help you buy plants that will tolerate our winters.

You may also already know the average rainfall and high and low temperatures for your area.

For the other aspects of your property, I suggest at least five nice slow walks around your property. Ideally, these walks should be taken at different times of the day and during different weather conditions. Why? Because you want to find out things such as where the sunny and shady spots are and where water collects after a rain.

If you have a printed survey of your property, make a copy of it and use it as a diagram to make notes during your garden walks. If you do not have a printed survey, it will be helpful to draw a sketch of your property and make notes about what you learn about your landscape.

When you take your walks, pay attention! Turn off your ipod. Leave your phone inside. And really notice what is going on around you.

In a previous post, I suggested that you keep a garden blog or journal. A journal is the perfect place to keep track of what you discover while you are getting to know your property.

If you are making a drawing, mark areas of shade and sun, slopes in the terrain, low spots that will hold water and any large trees and plants that you plan to keep. If you enjoy gardening for wildlife, I also suggest that you make note of any birds or butterflies you see in your yard and what plants or natural elements they are using.  

Things to Keep in Mind as you Get to Know Your Property
  • Are there any local deed restrictions or other ordinances that will affect your landscaping plans?
  • Take digital photos of any unknown plants to your local nursery or extension service office for help with identification. Are any of your current plants native or invasive species?
  • What kind of soil do you have? Read this article, Knowing Your Soil, to find out.
  • Have you had the pH of your soil checked? Here is a pdf document to help you with this step: Soil Sampling for the Home Gardener.

Decide what you want for your landscape and make a plan

What are your goals with your landscaping? There are many benefits to proper landscaping, including aesthetics, improved resale value, noise reduction, climate control and wildlife habitat.

How do you plan to use your yard? Do you need play areas for children, relaxation areas for adults, or vegetable gardens for nourishment? Do you enjoy gardening or would you rather have a yard that practically takes care of itself?

If you don't intend to do your own landscaping or lawn maintenance, read these Tips for finding an eco-friendly lawn care company.

For more information on planning your landscape, visit Virginia Cooperative Extension's Creating a Waterwise Landscape.

Local Cooperative Extension Centers: Virginia Cooperative Extension, Maryland Cooperative Extension

Once you have gotten to know your landscape and developed a garden plan, you are ready to move onto the next step in creating an eco-friendly landscape. : Right Plant, Right Place.

Subscribe to this blog to read the next step for an eco-friendly landscape.

6th Annual Washington DC Green Festival Oct. 23 - 24

Are planning on going to the 6th Annual Washington DC Green Festival this year?

Here are some of the green gardening activities and vendors that will be on hand.
  • Walk through a real organic garden, learn about the Local Food Project and see how easy it is to grow your own food
  • Observe how composting has taken WDC by storm
  • Spend happy hour in the local organic beer and wine garden

Aldertree Garden - Environmentally friendly garden design

American Plant - A Washington Dc local Garden Center Offering Organic and Natural Gardening Alternatives.

Aquabarrel Rain Barrels - Rain barrels designed by a person that actually uses their rain barrel for rain water containment.

Bamboo Ecoline- BAMBOOECOLINE provides eco-friendly, biodegradable flower pots, nursery pots and candle holders made from bamboo powder,grain husks,crop stalks and natural binding agents.

Razarsharp Inc. - Environmentally friendly products dedicated to URBAN gardening solutions for small city yards

Sustainable Garden Supply, Inc. - Grow organic vegetables, fruits and herbs without the hassle! No dirt,no weed, no herbicides.

The American Horticulture Society - one of the oldest and most prestigious gardening organizations in the United States whose mission is to educate and inspire people of all ages to become successful and environmentally responsible gardeners by advancing the art and science of horticulture.

And many, many more. Visit the Green Festival Website for more info.

Rain Garden Workshop - October 23rd

Beautifying Your Yard for Clean Water - Rain Garden Seminar for Homeowners
Saturday, October 23
9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Virginia Tech's Northern Virginia Center Room 100 7054 Haycock Road Falls Church, VA 22043

Homeowners will learn how to properly site, design, construct, and maintain a small scale do-it-yourself rain garden!

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, Virginia Tech - Natural Resources Program, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Community Appearance Alliance of Northern Virginia.

Rain gardens, also known as bioretention areas, are attractive landscape features that allow rain water and snow melt to infiltrate into the ground. A layer of mulch and plants intercept water running off streets, driveways, and rooftops, slowing its flow and removing pollutants before the water reaches local streams, the Occoquan River and the Potomac River, drinking water supplies for the region.

For more information, visit the Northern Virginia Regional Commission website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The best thing you’ll ever eat – Thanks to local honey bees

I have a neighbor who raises honeybees. I was intrigued by the whole process, since bees are such important pollinators, so he gave me a tour of his hives. When he gave me a jar of fresh honey from his hives, I went online to find a recipe to make something yummy with the golden nectar.

I chose a recipe for banana bread on that looked pretty healthy, and I made a few modifications of my own. I love the recipe so much that I always have a loaf in the house. It is a perfect bedtime snack.

But last night, I discovered something that turned my satisfying snack into a scrumptious, luscious, heavenly treat: I added some Häagen-Dazs® Butter Pecan Ice Cream.

So if you want to discover the Best Thing You’ll Ever Eat, follow these steps:
  1.  Locate and buy some local honey (see sources below) 
  2.  Make Honey Wheat Banana Nut Bread (recipe below) 
  3.  Cut a thin slice of banana bread and warm in toaster oven 
  4.  Put toasted slice of banana nut bread in a bowl 
  5.  Add scoop of Häagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream 
  6.  Dig in!
While you are enjoying your scrumptious snack, learn about the plight of the honey bee, the Häagen-Dazs loves Honey Bees™ campaign, and how you can make a difference at

Honey Wheat Banana Nut Bread Recipe

This is a very moist and very healthy banana bread. It is not REAL sweet (which I like) but sometimes I sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar or dribble extra honey on the top before baking to give it a little added sweetness. Since it is so moist, I usually toast slices in the toaster oven before I eat them. Yummy! I got the original recipe from and made some modifications.

(My modifications are in parenthesis. Some of them were suggested by other users from the site

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup honey (or ¼ cup honey and ¼ cup brown sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup mashed bananas
1 ¾ cup white whole wheat flour
¼ cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts (I use pecans and also add about ¼ cup raisins)
Extra chopped nuts and cinnamon sugar for topping

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
2. In large bowl, mix applesauce, honey, brown sugar, and eggs. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Add flour. Add baking soda TO HOT WATER. Stir to mix, and then add to batter. Add nuts and raisins. Spread batter in greased 8x5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar and extra chopped nuts on top before baking.
3. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for ½ hour before slicing


Where to buy local honey: The Honey Locator; Or enter your zipcode in Local Harvest's Honey search

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Share Your Bounty - Help Feed the Needy - Make a Difference

When it comes to growing food, most gardeners know that their crops tend towards either feast or famine. When we are just learning the ins and outs of growing edibles, we may end up with one measly green pepper or a few stunted tomatoes. But once we get the hang of it, we can end up with far more fruits and vegetables than we can eat.

In these tough economic times, when one out of every 8 Americans does not have enough food for an active, healthy life, an ideal solution is to donate your home grown products to local food banks and soup kitchens.

The problem is that some of these resources only accept non-perishable food items and finding the ones that do accept green goods can be difficult and time consuming. Fortunately, there are resources available to help match up growers with the organizations that can put their surplus produce to the best possible use. And sharing your surplus produce is a great way for gardeners to help others for Make a Difference Day.  

Finding a Place to Donate

The ( campaign is one group that is working hard to make sure that gardeners can find good outlets for their produce. Started in 2008, was created specifically for backyard gardeners to help share their bounty. Gardeners can search the AmpleHarvest database by entering their zip code or city and all registered pantries within a specified distance will be listed. Entries include not only name, address and other contact information, but also days and hours that gardeners’ donations can be accepted.

Many food pantries operate out of houses of worship. Your best bet may be to check several of the larger churches in your area. Or you may search Angel Food Ministries ( which lists thousands of churches across the country that help get food into the hands of the needy. ( has a link to locate food banks in your area. If you find a conveniently located foodbank, contact them to find out if they accept fresh produce. ( has a searchable listing of farmer’s markets, family farms, and other sources of locally grown food. Some of the local farmers in your area may be able to tell you where they donate their own surplus produce.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saving Water in the Landscape - from The Green Blue Book

Earlier this month, I mentioned The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life by Thomas M. Kostigen. Although I wasn't very impressed with the author's 'virtual water' numbers that he listed for many products that we use in life, I do think that the book has some merit for the handy water saving suggestions that it includes. Here are some of the suggestions from the author for saving water in a landscape:

1) 2 inches is about the best height to mow grass. Shorter grass requires more water. And leave the clippings as a natural fertilizing blanket.

2) Get a sprinkler timer and set it for the early morning hours. Less water will be wasted due to evaporation.

3) Make sure that you aren't watering the road or sidewalk. Adjust your sprinkler heads.

4) Use a shutoff nozzle on your garden hose. Water flows from an unrestricted hose at a rate of more than 12 gallons per minute.

5) Get drought-resistant plants and you could save up to two thirds of the water you'd use on thirstier plants.

6) Create a Xeriscape. An acre of Xeriscaped land can save about 850,000 gallons of water annually.

7) Water only once or twice a week. Most outdoor plants are over-watered by 50 percent.

8) The type of soil you use makes a huge difference in the amount of water your garden needs. Find out what kind of soil you have so you can water accordingly.

9) The type of fertilizer you use can also reduce your garden's watering needs. Just 5 pounds of organic compost mixed into 100 pounds of soil can hold an additional 25 gallons of water.

10) Go natural. Indigenous plants and those that grow easily in the local area should require less water.

The Green Blue Book is loaded with other water-saving hints and tips. Give it a read!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

City of Alexandria Fall Tree Sale - Oct. 23

The City of Alexandria Urban Forestry Steering Committee will hold its 6th Annual Fall Tree Sale Saturday, October 23 "Great Trees, Great Prices, and Great for Alexandria".

The sale will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mt. Vernon Ave. The goal of the sale is to promote the preservation of the Alexandria’s tree canopy by encouraging the planting of trees on private property throughout the City. Alexandria Tree Stewards and Master Gardeners will be on site to answer questions about tree selection, planting and care.

The City’s tree supplier, Denison Landscaping and Nursery of Ft. Washington, Md., will provide the same varieties of trees the City plants in three to fifteen gallon containers. Trees will be sold at below retail market prices to encourage private planting in Alexandria, a major goal of the UFSC.

To read the full press release about this event, click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Learn to create backyard wildlife habitat - Oct. 13th & 15th

I love having wildlife in my garden! The birds, butterflies and other little garden visitors turn our yard into a private little wonderland for me and my husband to enjoy.

If you would like to learn how to create a wildlife habitat in your yard, why not plan on attending one of the FREE educational workshops put on by The District of Columbia Department of the Environment and Audubon Maryland-DC’s Audubon At Home. The next two workshops will be held on October 13th and 15th from 5pm - 8pm at Hearst Park, 3600 Tilden Street NW.

These hands-on workshops will help you learn about plant selection, conservation landscaping and will discuss the basic needs of wildlife.

Participants will receive a FREE habitat kit at the conclusion of the workshop. The kit will contain a native plant guide, an invasive plant booklet, a book on wildlife gardening, a birdhouse kit and live plants.

For more information or to register, visit the District Department of the Environment website.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Swap Seeds at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C.- Oct 23-24th

Start saving your seeds!!

There will be a seed swap sponsored by the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange at the Mother Earth News Fair Pavillion as part of the Green Festival on October 23rd and 24th.

Share your seeds, your knowledge and your enthusiasm for different plant varieties with other gardeners and farmers! Connect with folks who might be your neighbors, or from anywhere in your bioregion and bring any seeds you have to share. Bring all seeds, whether you’ve saved them yourself or even have varieties leftover from this year’s garden! This is an informal, relaxed event and beginners are welcome.

For more information, visit the Mother Earth news website.

10 Eco-Friendly Garden Apps for the iPhone

I’m probably one of the few people left on the planet who only uses my cellphone for actually making phone calls. I don’t even know how to text on it, or to READ a text if someone sends me one, much less use any of the more complicated functions it has. So I’m amazed when I casually ask a question in a group of people and suddenly thumbs are flying across tiny keyboards searching for an answer. Apparently, there is an “App” for everything.

There seem to be almost an endless number of Apps for gardeners, but it took me a bit of digging (pun intended) to uncover the Apps that were geared for eco-friendly gardening. Here are ten that I thought looked interesting.*

1) Garden Insects, by Natural Gardens LLC - The North Woods Garden Insect Guide features 18 of the most common garden pests that thrive on the hard work you put into your vegetables each year. Wouldn't you like to be able to identify them and learn environmentally friendly ways to discourage and eradicate them from your plantings? This app was designed to do all of that.

2) Compost - "Compost" is a calculator utility designed to help household composters achieve an optimal mix. A well functioning compost decomposes at a good rate and does not smell bad. To achieve the proper environment, experts recommend a Carbon:Nitrogen ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Users input the pounds of food waste and/or grass clippings they have available and then select from dry tree leaves or newspaper as their high-carbon source. "Compost" suggests an appropriate amount of leaves or newspaper to use. This is another one that users say isn’t worth the price.

3) Organic Garden– A comprehensive guide with the most common vegetables, with their botanical names, descriptions, needs of light, water, soil, climate, sowing time, bloom time, cares, diseases, nutritional info, association, enemies, etc.

4) Organic Gardening for Beginners – Beginner’s Guide to Growing Your Own Organic Vegetables – In this easy-to-read guide, you will learn how to garden using no chemicals or outside man made products.

5) GardenID – Once you set your location, you can select from a master list of fruits & vegetables, or you can see what grows best around you. You can even see what’s best to grow now, so you waste waste time or money on plants that are out of season.

6) SoilPH - Many struggling gardeners don't bother learning about their soil. It certainly isn't as much fun as choosing plants. However, if you choose the wrong plants for your soil you might just be throwing money away. Soil pH is one of the easiest factors to measure and account for. Unfortunately, it is often neglected because it sounds difficult and reminds people of their old school chemistry lessons. This app was designed to help you test your soil PH, correct your soil PH and find the correct PH for your plants.

7) Rain Harvest - Have you ever wondered how much rain falls on your roof during a typical rain storm? Use this simple rain harvesting calculator to find out. You will be amazed at how much water can be collected from your roof (or any other surface) during even the shortest of rain storms. Why not collect and store this wonderful natural resource and put it to good use later to water your organic garden?

8) Gardening Toolkit - Not sure what to plant and when to plant it? The Toolkit can you give the advice you need. This feature-packed app also tracks what's in your garden, keeps notes in a handy to-do list and even lets you search a photo-filled encyclopedia of hundreds of plants

9) Vital Almanac – Vital now offers you the complete gardening enthusiast’s almanac for growing your organic fruits and vegetables by using the power of the moon.

10) Florafolio – Native Plants of the North East – The ultimate native plant resource for gardeners and nature enthusiasts. Florafolio 2 is an easy to use, interactive field guide to native plants of North Eastern North America. Florafolio is the perfect guide for anyone who wants to identify species in the wild or garden with native plants. *Keep in mind that I don't have an iPhone, so I'm not personally recommending any of these apps or the AppShopper site. However, I did find that the search function on the AppShopper site was one of the more user friendly ones.

For others without an iPhone, here is an on-line app that I find very cool. It is called the National Tree Benefit Calculator and it was developed by Casey Trees and Davey Tree Expert Co. This tool allows you to input your zipcode and select a tree to find out the various environmental benefits including: stormwater benefits, property value, energy, air quality and CO2.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fall White House Gardens & Grounds Tours

If you have never taken a tour of the White House Gardens, you have a chance to do so on October 16 or 17th during the Fall White House Gardens and Grounds Tour.

Visitors to the gardens will be able to view the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden and the South Lawn of the White House.

The tours are open to the public; however, a ticket is required for all attendees, including small children. The National Park Service will distribute free, timed tickets at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion located at 15th and E Streets on each tour day beginning at 8:00 a.m. Tickets will be distributed -- one ticket per person -- on a first-come, first-served basis.

In case of inclement weather, the Garden Tours will be cancelled. Please call the 24-hour information line at (202) 456-7041 to check on the status of the event. For more information, visit the White House Gardens and Grounds Tour site.

Landscape for Life Brown Bag Lecture - Friday, Oct. 8

The U.S. Botanic Garden will hold a Landscape for Life Brown Bag Lecture on Friday, October 8th from noon - 1pm. The topic of the lecture is Health & Well-being/Water, Soil & Materials

The Sustainable Sites Initiative recognizes the importance of Human Health and Well-Being as a critical factor in sustainable landscapes. Considerations include creating outdoor spaces for social interaction, providing views and quiet outdoor spaces for mental restoration, and reducing light pollution, as well as protecting and maintaining unique cultural and historical places. At this lecture, learn why human health is integral to a sustainable landscape and how the appropriate use of water, soil, and materials is crucial to your success.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is a partner in the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) together with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In conjunction with a diverse group of stakeholder organizations, SITES is establishing and encouraging sustainable practices in landscape design, construction, operations, and maintenance. A web version of SITES has been created for use by home gardeners. This series of programs serves to highlight how home gardeners can incorporate sustainability into their personal landscapes.

Date: Friday, October 8
Time: 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Location: Conservatory Classroom
FREE: Pre-registration required: visit or call (202) 225-1116

Information is from the USBG website

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Live in Maryland? Save $25.00 when you plant a tree

"Planting a tree is a lifetime our state and in our future." Governor Martin O'Malley

Did you know that if you live in Maryland, you can get $25.00 towards the price of buying and planting a tree? That's a sweet deal for every property owner and a great way to have a positive impact on the local environment.

Trees protect water quality, clean the air and provide wildlife habitat. One large tree can eliminate 5,000 gallons of stormwater runoff each year, and well placed trees can help reduce energy costs by 15 to 35 percent. Because of their tremendous environmental benefits, the state of Maryland has partnered with local businesses to provide discounts for trees. Their goal is to help plant 1 million trees by 2011!

They have an excellent website called Marylanders Plant Trees which provides information about different tree species, participating nurseries and a downloadable coupon for the $25.00 discount.

One really interesting tool that they have on the site will help you calculate the environmental benefits of different species of trees before you make your selection. Here is one page of the results that I got when I input a Live Oak (one of my favorite trees for wildlife).

Don't have room to plant a tree? Consider giving the gift of trees for holidays or to honor the memory of a loved one. The gift of a tree is actually three gifts - one to someone you care for, one for future generations and one for the environment. For more information, visit The Gift of Trees page on the Plant Trees website.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Green "Tricks" to Enhance your Gardening - Recycle Everything

Here's an online article that I can really relate to, although I think the title might deter some readers that aren't specifically into vegetable gardening. The article, Improve Your Vegetable Garden! Green Living Tricks to Enhance Your Green Thumb Success, is really about tricks for re-using various household items in your garden.

I am really into recycling and re-using almost anything that comes through our household, but writer Alex Bhaswara had a few suggestions that I haven't tried yet.

Here is just one idea from the article, referring to what you can do with the lids from metal cans.

Now, don’t throw away those lids! The lids can be placed at the base of light loving plants, such as tomatoes! The lids will reflect sunlight, thus providing extra light. In addition, the reflected light has been shown to repel plant eating insects and aphids. To deter birds from your fruits trees, punch holes in the lids and hang them from tree branches. Apparently the reflected light and movement scares these rascals away.

Other suggestions offer new uses for used jello and pudding containers, styrofoam produce trays, gallon milk jugs, popsickle sticks and other items. If you like to re-cycle everything, like I do, check out the article for more details!

Monday, October 4, 2010

What's the water footprint of the foods we grow?

I recently came across a book called The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in your Life, by Thomas M. Kostigen. The premise of the book is that "everything in your life" has a 'water footprint', which is made up of it's 'virtual water' content, or the total amount of water that it takes to make or grow something. Kostigan wrote the book to make readers aware of just how much water goes into the products that we use everyday so that we can make choices that will help us save water.

Although I think saving water is a really important fact of life, I'm not sure that knowing that the water footprint of a pound of beef (1500 gallons, according to The Green Blue Book is going to help encourage people to eat more soybeans (224 gallons per pound).

Determining the 'virtual water' content is pretty complicated for some things. The pound of beef listed above, for instance, takes into account the water required to grow the feed that the cow eats, the water the cow drinks, and the water required to process the beef. Kostigen doesn't go into the full details of how he came up with most of the numbers, such as the 39,000 gallon footprint for the average car.

I thought the book might list which fruits and vegetables required less water to grow, so that I could decide which ones I could plant that might survive drought conditions. After reading the book, I'm still not entirely sure that the figures he lists for fruits and vegetables JUST take into account the water required to grow them of whether something else is factored into his 'virtual water' number. Plus, although he does list that an apple, for example, has a virtual water footprint of 18.5 gallons per apple, you would have to try to figure out how many apples were on the average tree to come up with a number to represent how much water an apple tree would take. The same would hold true for the other fruits and vegetables he lists.

So, if you are trying to find a listing of waterwise fruits and vegetables to grow, The Green Blue Book probably isn't going to help much. But if you are curious about the water footprint of his book (42.8 gallons for the average book) or the computer you are reading this on (10,556 - 42,267 depending on the type of computer), you might want to give the book a read. Checking the book out of the library, like I did, will save the planet 42.8 more gallons of water.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Think pink for breast cancer awareness month

Since 1985, October has been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).

In honor of my incredible friends who are breast cancer survivors, I decided that I was going to walk through my yard and make a $1.00 donation to cancer research for every pink flower I found blooming. Well, my yard is FULL of pink blooms right now, so I couldn't be quite as generous as I had intended. But I will write my check, and I hope that I can encourage some of you to do the same.

Here are some programs that I found online that gardeners and snackers might find interesting:

Breast Cancer Awareness with Flowers- donates a portion of the sale of these special bouquets to Komen for the Cure.

Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives- Yoplait conducts the highly successful Save Lids to Save Lives® program, which takes place during September and October each year. For each pink lid mailed in by customers, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Komen with a minimum guaranteed donation of $500,000 up to $1.6 million.

Plant for Hope Program- From September 1, 2010 through November 30, 2010, EuroBlooms will sell a variety of packaged bulbs and perennials to benefit Komen for the Cure. EuroBlooms will donate 30 cents for each package of bulbs and perennials sold with a minimum guaranteed donation of $100,000.

Komen Cottage Birdhouse - From April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011, Louisville Stoneware will donate $7 from each Cottage Birdhouse sold to Komen for the Cure.

Pears Care Program- From July, 2010 through November, 2010, specially marked packages of California Pears will be sold in retail stores nationwide to benefit Komen for the Cure. On behalf of the growers of California Pears, The California Pear Advisory Board will donate $25,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure in connection with this program.

Dove Chocolate - Promises of Hope- DOVE® Chocolate Promises of Hope™ feature messages of hope and inspirations written by breast cancer survivors. These messages capture the strength, compassion and voice of women who have overcome the battle of their lives. In 2010 DOVE® Chocolate will donate $75,000 to Komen for the Cure.

Simon Pink Ribbon Gift Cards - From September 1, 2008 through December 31, 2010 Simon Malls will sell their Simon Pink Ribbon Gift Cards in their retail centers nationwide and online at Click here to find a Simon mallnear you. Simon Malls will pay $1 to Komen for the Cure for each gift card sold, with a guaranteed minimum donation of $250,000 per year.

For a list of other Corporate Sponsors of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, visit their site.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What's the best way to go green? 1616 answers and counting

Most of us know about social networking. We use Twitter to share interesting news we find or to pass along short bits of info. We use Facebook in a similar way, with room for more details and more personal comments with friends and fans. But when it comes to serious discussions, I have to say that I really prefer LinkedIn. I cross-post some of my messages from this blog onto LinkedIn and I end up with very detailed, educated responses to my questions.

But the LinkedIn discussion that really has me interested lately is one in which Dave "The Wire Man" Maskin, owner of asked, "What is the one thing every single human being on the planet can do that's considered GREEN?" Dave posted that question five months ago to the "Green" discussion group on LinkedIn and as of this morning, there were 1616 replies!!! The Green Group, by the way, was started by John Horsley, who calls himself an Internet Evangelist, and is the founder of

I haven't been following the discussion from the beginning, and I certainly don't have room to list them all here, but if you are a member of LinkedIn, I encourage you to join the Green group and follow the discussion. Here are some of the answers I found this morning:

1) Recycle
2) Adopt
3) Give up your car
4) Give up meat
5) Buy locally produced products
6) Plant a tree
7) Install a dual-flush retro kit
8) Print less
9) Use organic coffee
10) Remember - there are no small actions!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gardening Tips from the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden

I firmly believe that butterfly gardening can help save the planet. Why? For two reasons.   1) When you begin gardening for butterflies, and watch the miraculous transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, you gain a whole new respect and appreciate for nature and you want to protect the environment more; and 2) when you garden for butterflies, you need to quit using pesticides.

If you don't already garden for butterflies, here is a great video from the Smithsonian Butterfly Garden to help inspire you.

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