Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finding answers for your landscape

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010 Conservation Landscaping Contest

2008 Winner Professional Category, Greener than Green Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winners will be selected in four categories:

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

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

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

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