Friday, December 30, 2011

What Hangovers and Eco-Friendly Gardening Have in Common

Raise your hand if you think you will wake up bright and early on Sunday morning without a hangover. Uh huh. That’s what I thought.

On January 1st, a very large percentage of the people in this country will wake up with a pounding headache, queasy stomach and a brain that just isn’t working very well. Ahhh, but the night before was worth it all…..wasn’t it? The memory may be a little blurry.

Now come the cures. You are desperate to feel good again. To be able to stand up without feeling dizzy. You want your head to quit pounding . You want to be able to remember where you left your car. So what steps do you take? What remedies will help?

I wanted to write a post about how drinking and gardening have a lot in common, but I didn't want it to sound like a lecture. Nobody needs that as we prepare to say goodbye to the old year and ring in the new. Still, the similarities are pretty strong, and this is a gardening blog, so here is a list of a few things that hangovers and gardening have in common.

I will say that I’ve done a lot of damage to my body and to my garden by overindulging over the years, and now I don’t. But it took me a long time to learn these lessons, even though I knew them to be true.

What hangovers and eco-friendly gardening have in common

1) A hangover is your body’s response to being poisoned by a bunch of unhealthy toxins being ingested. Once they are in there, it takes awhile to reverse the damage. In gardening, a lot of damage can be done by adding unhealthy toxins. And it takes awhile to reverse the damage.

2) In gardening and in socializing, we think we need to add the toxins to achieve the desired result. We can usually achieve what we want without the toxins.

3) Even if we know what is right for ourselves and our gardens, it’s very hard to avoid peer pressure.

4) In gardening and in socializing, we think that the cure to our ailments is to add more toxins. Hair of the dog doesn’t work well for hangovers or for gardens.

5) Adding healthy nutrients to a body and a garden will help fight the effects of toxins. Keeping your soil and landscape healthy by adding natural compost and other nutrients will help them make it through added stress.

6) Listening to your body – and your garden - helps. The first time we have a hangover, we SWEAR we will never do it again. And then we do. We know what our bodies can handle, we eventually figure out how many drinks are too many and which foods help or hurt the whole situation. But for some of us, it takes a good many mornings leaning over the porcelain throne for the lessons to sink in. Listen to your body. The same is true of your garden. If you just quit pouring things into it for awhile, it will tell you what it needs to be at its best.

7) Overindulgence of alcohol or chemicals in the garden can have a far reaching affect. You stand the risk of not just hurting yourself, but of hurting others.

8) The one thing that gardening and hangovers DON’T have in common is that adding lots and lots of water before during and after your drinking can help eliminate a hangover. Adding too much water to a garden is always a bad thing.

Okay. End of lecture. Now, here are some:

Ways to prevent and ease hangovers

1) Before you drink, eat. Having food in your stomach will help decrease the affect of the alcohol. Good choices are something with Vitamin B and Vitamin C, such as fresh fruit, and fatty foods such as steak or pizza (natural sugars and fat both help absorb alcohol.)
2) The gentlest choices of alcohol are beer and clear liquors such as gin and vodka.

3) Fruit juice is a better mixer than diet colas. Research suggests that consumption of fruits, fruit juices, or other sugar-containing liquids can decrease hangover intensity.

4) Many of the symptoms of hangover are caused by dehydration so keeping hydrated will help. Drink plenty of water, before during and after drinking. While you drink, always order a glass of water to go along with it.

5) Eat while you drink – food will help absorb the alcohol.

6) Take vitamin B and C before you go to bed. Vitamin B complex almost always makes me feel better when I overindulge.

7) Take aspirin if you need it but DON’T take acetaminophen. Alcohol disrupts how the liver processes acetaminophen, possibly leading to liver inflammation and permanent damage.

8) Make yourself throw up if you feel sick but remember that vomiting can add to your dehydration

9) Coffee is NOT good for a hangover, since it leads to more dehydration. After a night of drinking, it’s best to avoid anything with caffeine. Instead, sip water and sports drinks to counter dehydration and replace lost electrolytes.

10) Bouillon soup is good for replacing salt and potassium depleted by drinking alcohol.

And all kidding aside, never, never drink and drive.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program has again relaunched the SoberRide program in an effort to curb would-be drunk drivers.

D.C.-area residents who find themselves unable to drive after a night of drinking can call for a free cab between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Anyone over the age of 21 can call 1-800-200-TAXI or #8294 on your AT&T Wireless phone.

WRAP's SoberRide provides a free cab ride home up to a $30 fare.

Callers are financially responsible for anything over $30.

You must be 21 or older to use the SoberRide service. All calls must originate in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties in Maryland; the Cities of Rockville, Bowie, College Park, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt and Takoma Park in Maryland; the District of Columbia; Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Eastern Loudoun Counties in Virginia; and the Cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia.

You cannot reserve a SoberRide or schedule a pickup in advance. Since 1993, WRAP's SoberRide program has helped more than 49,000 people get a safe trip home after drinking.

Have a safe and happy New Year's celebration. 2012 is going to be a GREAT year!

Avoiding Hangovers - WebMD

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dog Poop Ain’t Sexy, but picking it up can be

When someone first asked me if they could add dog poop to their compost pile, my immediate response was a firm NO! No Way! NADA!

But just to make sure, I decided to consult an expert. And who better to consult than the self-professed Queen of Dog S*%t, Susan McCullough, author of HouseTraining for Dummies and blogger at the Metro DC Dog Blog.

Susan and I are on similar missions. We both blog about what we love (gardening for me, dogs for Susan) but we also try to encourage people to take care of the planet while they are diggin’ and doggin’. We both know that things like chemicals and dog poop should NOT go into the groundwater.

Anyway, Susan did recommend that people not put pet poop in their compost piles. But since Susan always has the latest scoop on poop, she also went on to tell me about how Cambridge, Massachusetts uses dog poop to power lights in their park and how Ithaca, NY was collecting dog poop for possible future composting.

She also showed me this hilarious video that I just wanted to pass along to my readers, since I know there are a lot of you out there who love dogs as much as I do. I’m hoping this dance will catch on and be the new rage in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fairfax County Residents – share your views on the environment – January 17th


The Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council has scheduled a public hearing to solicit comments on the state of the environment in Fairfax County.  The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center.  

The public is encouraged to attend EQAC's public hearing to share views on the state of the environment and to identify environmental issues applicable to Fairfax County.  Environmental issues considered by EQAC include water quality, air quality, noise, hazardous materials, solid waste, stream valley protection, wildlife management, light pollution, visual pollution, climate change response and adaptation, energy conservation, land use, transportation and the use and preservation of ecological resources.  EQAC welcomes written and/or verbal testimony.

A Bee’s Eye View of Native Plants

What: A Bee’s Eye View of Native Plants Seminar

When: Thursday, January 19, 2012, 7:30 pm

Where: Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd, Alexandria, Virginia

Reverse the lens and look at native plants from the perspective of a key slice of life that is tied to these plants...bees. Regionally, there are over 400 species of native bees and many are only found on the flowers of specific plants. Why 400? Why not just one kind of bee? The complexity of color, architecture, and phenology of native flowers is a clue to that relationship.

Explore the plant-pollinator relationship from the bee point of view and learn why what we plant has consequences for these fascinating creatures

Presented by the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society. VNPS programs are free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary. and

Information provided by Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine

How/Where do you give back? Do you have a favorite charity?

As the year draws to a close, now is the perfect time to remember the organizations that help to bring happiness to your life, and to the lives of others. We still have a few days left to make our charitable donations for the 2011 tax year.

I once read a short book entitled The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth,  by Richard Paul Evans.

I especially like lesson five: Give Back.

Evans says, "Hoarding wealth will make your life small and cold. Giving will expand it." He goes on to say, "And service, through sharing our wealth and our time, is love made visible."

Evans believes in financial karma: that "we get back when we give", and I agree. I believe that life, like gardening, is all about sowing what you hope to reap.

I admit that I don’t always feel like I have extra money to donate. But between the two, I usually find that I have more money than time to contribute. There are so many worthwhile charitable organizations that are doing so much for all of us.  So I make an effort to make at least one donation during each tax year and I encourage you to do the same.

You probably already have a favorite charity. There are many groups that help to preserve nature, create public gardens, educate potential green gardeners, etc. But if you are looking for a new group to make a donation to, the IRS has an online resource that can help.

On the IRS site, you can put in a keyword and a state, and the site will display a list of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable donations. You can search for keywords such as nature, wildlife, garden, Chesapeake, DC, trees or anything else that comes to mind.

There are also other sites, such as and but these lists don’t seem to be as comprehensive.

Happy giving!
Albert Einstein: It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.

Anne Frank: No one has ever become poor by giving.

John D. Rockefeller Jr.: Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.

Maya Angelou: I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.

Peyton Conway March: There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else.

Thornton Wilder: Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow.

Winston Churchill: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Disposing of Christmas Trees in Metro DC Area

If you are looking for the best way to dispose of your Christmas tree, first consider some of these ideas for using your tree in your garden.

If none of those ideas appeal to you, there are different rules for tree disposal depending on where you live. Also, keep in mind that many of these trees are ground into mulch, which is later available to you for little or no charge.

This effort has many beneficial results and also conserves space in the landfill.

Mulch is good for:

  • Soil temperature moderation
  • Moisture/water retention
  • Reduction of competition (weeds)
  • Recycling of nutrients through decomposition
  • Conserves government funds through a reduction of purchased mulch

For more information about the benefits of mulch, read Mulch Helps Your Plants Snuggle in for the Winter

In Fairfax County, if your tree is less than 8 feet, you can put it out by the curb during the first two weeks of January for no additional cost. If your tree is larger than 8 feet, contact your trash hauler for collection details. Mulch created by Fairfax County is available to residents free of charge at these locations.

The Montgomery County solid waste website says: We will collect Christmas trees on your recycling day from Monday, December 26, 2011 through Friday, February 3, 2012. Please put your Christmas tree at the curb by 7 a.m. on your collection day. After February 3, 2012, you may still recycle your tree through their curbside yard trim collection. Please note that the tree must then be cut into smaller pieces. Mulch created by Montgomery County is available to residents free of charge at these locations.

For District residents, the website says:  Holiday trees and wreaths will be picked up curbside from January 3 to January 14. Remove all decorations and place the greenery in the treebox space in front of your home between Monday, January 2, and Monday, January 9. Please do not put the trees in plastic or cloth bags. Trees collected between January 3 and 14 will be recycled. Any trees not collected by January 14 should be set out with your trash to be picked up as space in the trash trucks allows over the following weeks. Residents also can bring trees to the Ft. Totten Transfer Station weekdays, 1 pm-5 pm, and Saturdays, 8 am-3 pm, for free tree chipping.

Arlington Virginia tree pickup info: Christmas Tree Collection will be from January 3-17, 2012 on your regular refuse day. Since trees will be ground into wood mulch, please remove the tree stand, lights, and decorations. Please do not place the tree in a plastic bag. During the first two full weeks in January, Christmas trees are collected curbside for residents with curbside refuse and recycling service. Residents are reminded to place the tree on the curb no later than 6 am on your regular trash collection day and to remove all decorations, nails, stands, and plastic bags. After the trees are collected, they will be ground into wood mulch for garden use. Special unbundled brush or metal pickups will be suspended during this time. More Info
Information about getting free mulch from Arlington Virginia is available here.

In Frederick County, Md., residents can drop off their trees at the following drop off points starting Dec. 26 and ending on Jan. 25, 2012.

    • Reichs Ford Road Yard Trimming Area
      9031 Reichs Ford RD, Frederick, MD 21704

    • Ballenger Creek Park (second parking lot on the left)
      5420 Ballenger Creek Pike, Frederick, MD 21703

    • Kemptown Park (lower left parking lot)
      3456B Kemptown Church RD, Monrovia, MD 21770

    • Middletown Park Recycling Center (area next to maintenance shop)
      7628 Coblentz RD, Middletown, MD 21769

    • Point of Rocks Ruritan Club (left side of parking lot)
      1637 Ballenger Creek Pike, Point of Rocks, MD 21777

    • Eyler Road Park Recycling Center (fenced area on right)
      30 Eyler RD, Thurmont, MD 21788

    • Heritage Farm Park (yard trimmings collection site)
      9224 Devilbiss Bridge RD, Walkersville, MD 21793

    Information about mulch from Frederick County is available here.

    The City of Frederick, Maryland Christmas Tree Drop Off and Recycling program will begin on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 and continue through Tuesday, January 31, 2012. The four drop off points will be:

    • Harry Grove Stadium in the Lower Lot
    • Husky Park (Yard 2) - Highland Street
    • Max Kehne Park  -  West 7th Street
    • Taskers Chance Park - Key Parkway behind Westridge Shopping Center

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    To My Eco-Friendly Santa Baby

    christmas1 My husband just LOVES Christmas but he always worries too much about what gift to get me. Since my life is already so good, I can rarely think of a darn thing to tell him that I want or need.

    Truth be told, as corny and romantic as it sounds, sharing my life with a wonderful, joyful man like Tom kind of makes every day feel like Christmas.

    I’ve mentioned before that he is the one who taught me much of what I know about being an eco-friendly gardener. And he really still is the primary gardener in our household. He not only carefully tends our gardens in a complete organic and eco-friendly way, but he always makes sure that my bird and hummingbird feeders are full and that the birdbaths are ready for visitors. In other words, much of the happiness that I get from living in our own little woodland habitat of critters, birds and butterflies; eating meals made from fresh, home grown organic produce; and knowing we are doing our part to help take care of the planet, is because of my live-in Santa Claus, my husband Tom.

    So, sweetie, if you want to know what to get me for Christmas, just keep gardening with me. I love what we are growing together.

    And readers, I’ll apologize in advance for this REALLY corny poem. And I promise it will be my last one for this holiday season!

    To My Santa Baby (Tom)

    Santa baby, slip some compost under the tree
    with me,
    I’ve been an awful good girl
    Santa baby
    so help me spread some compost tonight

    Santa baby, another rain barrel too
    light blue
    I'll help you hook it up, dear
    Santa baby, let’s make another barrel tonight

    Think of all the run-off that we’ve missed
    By being eco-friendly con-ser-va-tion-ists
    We’ve been being oh so good
    By being eco-friendly like I know we should
    Boo doo bee doo

    Santa honey,
    I wanna plot and really that's not,
    a lot
    I’ll keep it chem-ic-al free
    Santa baby, just help me plant this garden tonight

    Santa cutie, there's one thing I really do need
    Some seed
    For these critters of mine
    Santa cutie, so help me fill the feeders tonight

    Santa baby,
    I've got a few little more proj-ects
    We’ll get them done in no time
    Santa baby, so hurry while we’ve still got day-light

    Help me trim those old oak trees
    To even out our forest can-o-py
    I’ll hold the ladder
    still for you
    Let's just see
    How well we’ll do
    Boo doo bee doo

    Santa baby,
    forgot to mention one little thing,
    to bring
    Bring some firewood inside
    Santa baby,
    so we can light the fireplace tonight.

    And we can cuddle by the firelight
    And we can cuddle by the firelight….

    Ohh, Santa Baby!

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Fried Green Tomato Hornworms

    eatbugs Here’s another idea for a Christmas gift for eco-friendly gardeners. You can let the recipient decide whether it is a gag gift or not. I know it almost made me gag when I first read about it.

    I was poking around on Facebook the other day and saw a conversation about eating Hornworms.

    Now, I’m all for finding alternative means of garden pest disposal, since I don’t believe in using chemicals on my property.  I usually do hand pick our hornworms and, on some occasions, have probably gotten enough for a nice hardy snack. Still, I doubt that I’ll ever be  tempted to take a nibble out of my hornworms, any more than I’m tempted to eat crickets, grasshoppers, bees or any of the other bugs mentioned in The Eat A Bug Cookbook: 33 ways to cook grasshoppers, ants, water bugs, spiders, centipedes, and their kin, by David George Gordon (aka The Bug Chef).

    Gordon says that eating protein rich bugs is good for you ("Crickets are loaded with calcium, and termites are rich in iron), and good for the earth ("Raising cows, pigs, and sheep is a tremendous waste of the planet's resources, but bug ranching is pretty benign").

    Gordon collected info from bug-eating cultures around the world and includes information on how to cook each bug and which wine to drink with them. He even provides tips on how to catch your own insects – a great eco-friendly means of pest control!!

    I think I’ll buy a copy of the book just so I can have it laying on my coffee table. It will certainly be…ahem…food for thought.

    If you do decide to try any of the deep-fry recipes, just remember to can the grease when you are done. Putting grease down the drain can eventually mean clogs for you, potential backups into your basement and sewage overflows in the local sewer systems.


    So please do your part by disposing of fats, oils and grease the proper way. 

    1. Pour them into a can;
    2. let them cool;
    3. then throw the can into the trash.
    4. And keep the can covered so it doesn’t spill while you’re waiting to add more grease.

    (If you are a WSSC customer, you can even get free lids to store your canned grease.)

    For more about the Can the Grease campaign, visit these websites: Arlington, VA and MWCOG.

    By the way, while reading about the book I noticed that a local restaurant, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana on 7th Street in DC sells  Chapulines: The legendary Oaxacan specialty of sautéed grasshoppers, shallots, tequila and guacamole for $5.00

    Recipe for Fried Green Tomato Hornworms, printed with permission of the author, David George Gordon

    What does a tomato hornworm taste like? Well, what would you taste like if you'd been stuffing yourself solely with tomato leaves for the better part of a month? Hornworms are ridiculously chlorophyll-rich. They taste great with just about any summer vegetable, but my favorite recipe draws inspiration from the cuisine of the Whistle Stop Cafe, that fictitious Alabama diner made famous by novelist Fanny Flagg.

    "You'll think you died and gone to heaven," boasts Flagg of her recipe. To which I add, "If you do go to heaven, ask the Powers That Be to keep the tomato hornworms out of my vegetable patch."

    3 tablespoons olive oil
    16 tomato hornworms
    4 medium green tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
    Salt and pepper to taste
    White cornmeal

    In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil. Then lightly fry the hornworms, about 4 minutes, taking care not to rupture the cuticles of each insect under high heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    Season tomato rounds with salt and pepper, then coat with cornmeal on both sides.

    In a large skillet, fry tomatoes until lightly browned on both sides
    Top each round with 2 fried tomato hornworms.
    Garnish the paired hornworms with a single basil leaf.

    Yield: 4 servings

    George Washington - Founding Native Gardener

    I am NOT a history buff. Trying to wade through the details of what happened ages ago, regardless of the impact those events had on present day life, isn’t something that would normally hold my attention. The same is true of most biographies. So before I picked up Andrea Wulf’s book, Founding Gardeners: the Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, I have to admit that I knew very little about George Washington, other than the fact that he was the first president of the United States. But now I feel as if I know the man intimately. Why? Because now I know how he felt about his gardens.

    “His love for his country was deeply rooted in his passion for nature, agriculture and gardens.” To me, one of the best ways to get to know someone is to walk with them through their gardens, listening to their stories of how they discovered certain plants, the struggles and secrets they have learned in growing them, and why they particularly like one species over another. Ms. Wulf has provided all of that information, not just about George Washington, but about some of the other Founding Fathers of our country such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. But nothing in this book is as staid or boring as many history books. Wulf is an elegant writer that brings the details of history to life through the eyes of devoted and dedicated gardeners who seemed to be forever planning their gardens, even when miles away fighting for our country. “…the condition of his soil and the new shoots of spring were far closer to Washington’s heart than any strategy of war.”

    In 1776, while Washington is preparing to defend Manhattan from 32,000 invading British troops, Wulf writes: “Washington brushed aside his generals and his military maps, sat in the flicker of candlelight with his quill and wrote a long letter to his estate manager and cousin Lund Washington at Mount Vernon, his plantation in Virginia. As the city braced itself, Washington pondered the voluptuous blossom of rhododendron, the sculptured flowers of mountain laurel and the perfect pink of crab apple. These “clever kinds[s] of Trees (especially flowering ones,” he instructed, should be planted in two groves by either side of his house.”

    Wulf goes on to describe WHY thoughts of his garden were so dominant in Washington’s mind. Washington was planning an American Garden. “Washington’s new garden was to be truly American, a radical departure from the traditional colonial plots, for it was the first ornamental garden to be planted almost exclusively with native species.”

    “Only American natives should be used, he instructed, and all could be transplanted from the forests of Mount Vernon. As the young nation faced its first military confrontation in the name of liberty, Washington decided that Mount Vernon was to be an American garden where English trees were not allowed.” So Washington’s “native” garden was as much a political statement as it was for any other reason.

    I had never really thought of state or country loyalty when listing all the benefits of native plants. (I prefer them primarily for their ease of maintenance and wildlife value.) But if you are a history buff, an avid gardener, or both, I encourage you to read Founding Gardeners, or give it as a gift to the good little gardeners on your list. And once you receive it, I encourage you to go outside, find a quiet spot, and allow yourself to be immersed in the history of our Founding Gardeners.

    “Washington recommended that the troops make “regimental Gardens” in order to produce vegetables for army rations and also because he believe it would be healthy and comforting for his men – what we would call therapeutic.”

    Now its your turn to answer the question. Why do you have native plants in your landscape?

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Naughty or Nice – how to have a natural landscape without annoying your neighbors

    weedwarriors Let’s face it. Gardening is all about choosing what we do and don’t want to grow on the chunk of land that surrounds our home.

    It is up to us to decide what is welcome and what is not. We define what is a weed and what isn’t….what forms of wildlife are a nuisance and what forms are welcome. We usually even decide what areas the plants and animals must remain in, setting up garden borders and designated feeding stations for wildlife.

    Other people may not agree with or even understand our gardening style. A front yard full of vegetables may fill your heart with joy and your refrigerator with fresh food, but may earn only raised eyebrows from your neighbors. The same is certainly true of a yard that welcomes birds, bunnies, squirrels and deer. You may look at these visitors with awe and wonder and your neighbors may be having visions of venison and rabbit stew. And a yard left to “go wild” with native wildflowers and shrubs may be called weedy and unkempt by those with a penchant for a more manicured look.

    “Green”, eco friendly gardeners may face additional challenges when it comes to being accepted by the rest of the neighborhood, as they integrate rain barrels and compost piles into their landscape design.

    But eco-friendly gardening has many benefits. The use of native plants, the elimination of chemicals, the capture and re-use of rainwater and garden waste all do their part to help protect not just one garden, but every interconnected piece of property and, eventually, the entire planet.

    So how do you keep peace with your neighbors while you are creating a more eco-friendly landscape? Just remember that it is all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

    R – Recognize the right of other people’s opinions. Remember that although you have a right to your coneflowers and native grasses, your neighbor has the right to a manicured lawn, plastic geraniums, and cement lawn deer if they want.
    E -  Educate. You have good reasons to create an eco-friendly landscape -- let others know them before you start. If you tell your neighbors why you're tearing up the lawn, or planting native plants, or constructing a rain garden, chances are that they will be more likely to accept it. Share the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog with them so they can learn more.
    S – Set it apart. Something as simple as keeping a neutral zone between your eco-friendly landscape and the property of others can go a long way in keeping the peace. A simple border of lawn, hedge or fence provides a nice transition area between landscapes.
    P – Personalize it. Add interest to your yard with paths, benches, sculptures and other human elements, letting your neighbors know that your yard is as much your own personal sanctuary as it is a place for environmental stewardship. Decorate or disguise rain barrels and compost piles to make them less obtrusive.
    E – Ease into it. You will reduce expense, increase the effect of your learning curve, enjoy your efforts more, and engender less resistance from neighbors if you start in small steps.
    C – Certify it. Once your eco-friendly landscape is established, it may easily qualify as a National Wildlife Federation certified habitat. Applying for certification and displaying the Certified Habitat sign will let everyone know that your yard is a special place, deserving of recognition and admiration, not contempt.
    T – Trim, tend and primp. Although eco-friendly landscapes often require less care, that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. Keeping your plants pruned and your flowerbeds weeded and mulched will help to give “green” gardens the neighborhood seal of approval.

    Remember, your eco-friendly landscape is a great gift to the planet. Taking a few extra steps to make sure that your landscape fits in will help your efforts earn the recognition and respect that it deserves.
    For more information, visit the Wild Ones Handbook on the EPA website.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Why do you like native plants?

    I love native plants in my landscape for several reasons. Probably the most important reason, to me, is that they attract native wildlife. But there are several other reasons that native plants make great additions to a landscape and since many of us are already planning our Spring gardens, I'll be talking about the benefits of native plants for the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'd love to know why you choose native plants. Please take our poll to let us know:

    Why do you have native plants in your landscape?

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Christmas Bird Count Starts December 14th

    I've often written about the fun and important function of Citizen Science Programs. What I call Citizen Science programs are any programs that encourage people to go out and monitor various forms of wildlife and report their statistics so that scientists can study the habits and habitats of local wildlife. 

    There are wildlife monitoring programs for birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, frogs and other forms of wildlife. These programs are open to anyone with an interest in wildlife. In most cases, the only skill required is the ability to count! They are a great opportunity to get outside with your family and explore the creatures that live around us.

    The best known of these counts are the various bird counts conducted, in part, by the National Audubon Society.   Starting on Wednesday, December 14th, you can participate in one of the more popular of these counts: The Christmas Bird Count.

    The National Audubon Society website describes the Christmas bird count in this way:
     From December 14 through January 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.
    Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.
    If you would like to get more information about a bird count in your area, use this search tool to find the count nearest you.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Gifts for “Green” Gardeners

    butkit Yikes! How can there be less than two weeks until Christmas? If you are still looking for gift ideas for the eco-friendly gardener on your list, here are a few last minute suggestions.

    *Please note: catalog links provided are for reference only and are not recommendations on my part. Many of the products were chosen for their unique or “green” qualities. Whenever possible, I suggest you shop local.

    Pamper your gardener. Forget the day in the spa. To pamper your favorite gardener, give them gifts to protect their hands and skin. Every gardener needs garden gloves but eco-friendly gardeners are often more hands-on than other gardeners. Why? Because we don’t stand back and spray weeds or bugs with toxic chemicals. We get right down there in the dirt and hand pull weeds and hand pick bugs. Gloves are good. Along the same lines as gloves, eco-friendly gardeners can use kneelers for getting down close to their gardens and hand tools used for weed removal. And hats are great to help protect faces from harmful UV rays. All of these products can be found locally at garden centers or even big box stores.

    Give the gift of water AND cleaner local waterways. You can buy or make a rain barrel to give. But make sure the gift is used and appreciated by helping the recipient install it. Other options for saving water are water timers ($19.95 from Plow & Hearth) which provide automatic shutoff after a designated amount of watering. And there are even high-tech models that check the weather on the internet $499.00 from CyberRain) and then set your irrigation systems for you, depending on the weather forecast.

    Nurture their soul - Butterfly or hummingbird garden kits can be purchased ready made, or you can make your own by checking our lists of plants for hummingbirds and butterflies and picking up seed packs at your favorite garden supply center. Don’t forget to include a book (or pages printed from the internet) about how to create a butterfly or hummingbird garden.

    Keep them organized and enlightened with a Garden Journal – I love garden journals (and I wish I would remember to use my own more often). Keeping a garden journal is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t in your garden, and to write down those “deep thoughts” that always seem to come when your hands are deep in the dirt. You can buy very inexpensive empty journals at many book stores, or go all out and buy a ten year, cloth bound journal with A Gardener’s Journal stamped on the front cover ($39.50 from Lee Valley)

    The gift that keeps on giving: Compost Buckets – IMHO, everyone should compost. But having a big pile of decomposing plant matter in the corner of one’s yard isn’t for everyone. But compost buckets come in all shapes, sizes and designs. From stylish kitchen designs that sit on a kitchen counter and allow for collection of coffee grounds and eggshells, to high tech under counter kitchen  models that do all the dirty work for you($199 and up from NatureMill). You can even go a step further and buy worm composters or even products that compost pet poo. But again, these gifts are only appropriate for the dedicated green gardener.

    Subscription to local gardening magazine – One of the main principles of eco-friendly gardening is to learn to garden WITH Mother Nature, not against her. That means plant things and use techniques that are known to work in the area that you live. When things like rain, snow (or dark of night) keep the avid gardener inside, there is nothing quite like curling up with a great garden magazine that makes you eager to get back out there in the dirt. Since 2005, Washington Gardener Magazine has been providing information to gardeners in the DC/Virginia/Maryland region. A yearly subscription is $20.00 and contains six issues.

    Should you give plants? I don’t really recommend giving plants to people unless you are sure about the site conditions of their property and how much time and energy they plan to devote to gardening. I think a gift certificate or gift card at a local nursery is much more thoughtful and allows them to choose their own plants or opt for something more soothing to their garden soul, such as a wind chime or bird bath.
    Here’s a gift that I have to share just because of its uniqueness. The Kangaroo pocket apron lets you pull weeds and trim plants and carry the trimmings to your compost pile in a Kangaroo style pocket ($38.50 from Lee Valley)

    Of course, one of the best things that you can give to any new gardener is your time, your expertise and your enthusiasm. Being generous with all of them may be the greatest gift of all.

    And of course, the greatest gift for a garden blogger?????? Our followers! Thanks so much to all of you and remember, you can join us on Facebook, too!

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Casey Trees Newsletter

    Are your on Casey Tree’s email list? If not, you are missing out on a lot of great information that they send out periodically in an online e-newsletter called the Leaflet. Here are some highlights from the latest issue:

    Data from a new study released by the Center for Chesapeake Communities and Pinchot Institute for Conservation shows how valuable D.C.’s urban forest really is.
    • Trees in the Washington, D.C. area remove more than 8.3 million pounds of nitrogen dioxide each year. More than 274,000 cars would need to be taken off the road each year to achieve the same amount of pollutant reduction.
    • Based on studies of the costs of pollution to society such as health care, the District’s tree cover saves nearly $51 million each year annually.
    • Trees in D.C.’s Rock Creek Park remove 63,500 pounds of ozone-forming pollutants each year, which has a value of $285,000 dollars.

    More articles in this issue:

    • Clues make winter tree identification possible
    • Trees continue to provide benefits through winter months
    • Kids Corner - Edible Evergreen Tree Decorations

    I encourage you to signup for their newsletter, and take some time finding out what Casey Trees is all about!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Seeds Bombs: For or Against?

    packet As a garden blogger, there are a couple of topics I tend to shy away from because opinions on both sides of the topic are so strong. Cats, for instance. Many gardeners love cats in the garden. Others feel just as strongly against them. Same thing with deer.

    And a third topic, and one that has been getting a little bit of “news play” lately, is seed bombs and guerilla gardening. Normally, I would stay away from this controversial topic, too. Except for the fact that I think that seed bombs can be harmful to the environment.

    I wrote about guerrilla gardening back in February of 2011. I admit that part of my problem with both guerrilla gardening and seed bombs are the words, themselves. (Back in my hippy days, I used to get together with a group of people that discussed things like words that brought violent thoughts to mind, and those two words just do, to me.)

    Anyway, Frederick Maryland resident Brian Slagle has been in the newspaper and even on TV lately because of the seed bombs that he makes and sells online and at local stores. Apparently, they are a hot item for Christmas.

    I was ALMOST swayed to change my opinion about seed bombs when I was reading the article about him on CBS I read about how these bombs of wildflower seeds, thrown into vacant lots and bare land, can attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. ‘Ahhhh,’ I thought. ‘More hummingbirds and bees and butterflies!’

    But here is my concern with seed bombs. The whole point of seed bombs are to grow things on other people’s property. The online video on even shows a picture of Slagle’s kids throwing the bombs onto a piece of property bearing a sign that says Private Property – No Dumping Allowed. WHAT IF THE PEOPLE WHO OWN THAT PROPERTY DON’T WANT THE PLANTS THERE AND USE CHEMICAL HERBICIDES TO KILL THEM? Even using a gas mower to mow the plants down puts pollutants into the air. And if the local government comes in to mow or clean up the property, who do you think pays for that?

    I do understand the principle behind taking over a vacant lot and planting vegetables or other plants, IF YOU TAKE responsibility for the care and maintenance of the plants. But seed bombs are something else all together.

    My suggestion for seed bombs is this: Plant native plants on your property to attract birds. They will eat the berries and seeds and create their own seed bombs when they poop them out across the city.

    And if you want to spread the joy and beauty of flowers, by giving seed bombs or other seed packets, encourage people to plant them in their own yard. If they want to know more about the joys or gardening for bees, butterflies or hummingbirds, I’ll be happy to tell them.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    12 Days of Christmas for Eco-Friendly Gardeners


    Written by Betsy S. Franz

    On the first day of Christmas my garden gave to me
    An eco-friendly native tree (Native plants are often excellent choices for eco-friendly gardens, since they require less chemicals and less water to maintain)

    On the second day of Christmas my garden gave to me
    Two new loves – (when you look closely enough, every day in your eco-friendly garden will bring you something new and wonderful to love.)
    And an eco-friendly native tree.
    On the third day of Christmas my garden gave to me
    Three full bins - (kitchen scraps, leaves and garden discards keep my compost bins full)
    Two new loves
    And an eco-friendly native tree.

    On the fourth day of Christmas my garden gave to me
    Four hummingbirds – (planting the right plants and eliminating chemicals make hummingbirds regular visitors to my garden)
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree.
    On the fifth day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Five less wat-er-ings - (eco-friendly gardens conserve water with adequate mulch, drought tolerant plants, and rain barrels)
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree.

    On the sixth day of Christmas my garden gave to me
    Six trees a swaying - (Trees protect water quality, clean the air and provide wildlife habitat.)
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the seventh day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Seven barrels brimming - (rain barrels not only conserve water, but help keep harmful pollutants out of our waterways)
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the eighth day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Eight monarchs milking - (Okay. Monarch butterflies don’t really “milk” milkweed, but their tiny caterpillars need these native plants to grow into beautiful butterflies)
    Seven barrels brimming
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the ninth day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Nine ladies dancing - (Painted ladies are another beautiful butterfly that you can attract to your DC area garden by planting the right plants for them)
    Eight monarchs milking
    Seven barrels brimming
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the tenth day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Ten worms a creeping - (Worms help aerate the soil while producing valuable nutrients)
    Nine ladies dancing
    Eight monarchs milking
    Seven barrels brimming
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the eleventh day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Eleven pipes a piping - (we direct all excess rainwater, and overflow from our rain barrels, into the grass and other permeable surfaces)
    Ten worms a creeping
    Nine ladies dancing
    Eight monarchs milking
    Seven barrels brimming
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree
    On the twelfth day of Christmas my garden gave to me

    Twelve weeds succumbing - (chemical free weed control helps keep our weeds under control)
    Eleven pipes a piping
    Ten worms a creeping
    Nine ladies dancing
    Eight monarchs milking
    Seven barrels brimming
    Six trees a swaying
    Five less wat-er-ings
    Four hummingbirds
    Three full bins
    Two new loves and
    An eco-friendly native tree

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Volunteers Needed – Common Good City Farm

    Common Good City Farm is seeking volunteers for its Green Tomorrows Program. The Green Tomorrows (GT) is a gardening and education program providing fresh food to low-income individuals or families in DC. If you are interested in helping low-income individuals in DC and improving our food system, this would be a great opportunity

    Common Good  needs people for the following committees
    -Program development
    -CSA (Community supported Agriculture)

    Please email

    Common good city farm's Mission is to grow food, educate, and help low-income DC community members meet their food needs. Our Vision is to serve as a replicable model of a community-based urban food system.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Sustainable Landscaping Conference - Starts Tomorrow

    If you still haven't decided to attend the Sustainable Landscaping Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania starting tomorrow, here's another reason to make the trip. Thomas Rainer, DC area landscape architect, gardener and blogger, will be giving a talk entitled "Hot or Not: How Making Sustainable Landscapes Fashionable will Revolutionize the Movement." I'm a big fan of Rainer's blog, Grounded Design, and have mentioned it several times on this blog. Registration is still open for the 2011 Turning a New Leaf sustainable landscaping conference on Friday, December 2 in Lancaster, PA. This conference is organized by the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council and offers a great educational program with · Four tracks: Every Design Counts, Every Drop Counts, Every Plant Counts and Every Message Counts · An EcoMarketplace, featuring local organizations and green businesses · A networking reception Lancaster is also a wonderful destination for an early December weekend away! Registration is $119 and includes all sessions, snacks, lunch and entrance to EcoMarketplace and networking reception. For more information or to register, visit

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Holiday Shopping, in the bag

    The other day I mentioned that rain barrels make great gifts for the holidays. Well, here's another idea for eco-friendly gifts that are guaranteed to get plenty of use, especially if given early - reusable shopping bags.

    I know that may not SOUND very exciting, but everyone needs these handy shopping bags, and they are available in all sorts of sizes and styles that help take the drudgery out of dragging around your shopping. My favorites are the kind that you can fold up and carry in your purse.

    Plastic shopping bags have long been a bane to the environment. The United States uses about 100 billion disposable shopping bags per year, made with 12 million barrels of oil. If disposed of improperly, these bags pollute our waterways and taxpayers end up footing the bill to clean up this polluting plastic.

    Several years ago, DC enacted a 5 cent bag fee for plastic bags. The result? In the first month of its implementation, plastic bag use fell by 19 million bags! Starting in January 2012, a five-cent bag fee will go into effect in Montgomery County and discussions for similar fees are still under way for areas such as Prince George's County.

    I’m excited about this news! In the Anacostia streams in Prince George's County (and likely in many other streams in the area), disposable shopping bags are the single largest type of trash.

    I have to admit, I was a (reusable) “bag lady” long before it was either chic or cheap to do so. In fact, I take a little pride in carrying bags that help “advertise” some of my favorite causes and charities.

    So when you are trying to come up with gift ideas for your hard-to-shop-for friends on your holiday list, think of reusable bags. In fact, why not skip the wrapping paper and DELIVER your holiday gifts in re-usable bags. You’ll be helping the environment by keeping the wrapping paper out of the landfill and providing a much needed eco-tote for your friends.

    Here are some ideas for re-useable shopping bags suitable for gift giving:
    1) Reusable shopping bag – folds up and fits on a key ring – 3 for $5.99
    2) Reusable shopping bag – folds into a strawberry!
    3) Make it personal – instructions for making a fold-up shopping bag
    4) Or knit one! – I like to knit in front of the TV so this pattern works for me
    5) How to wrap a gift in a reusable bag
    6) Add your art, slogan or photo – Cafe Press and other sources let you design your own bag.

    And if you don't understand the importance of "banning the bag", here's a great video that was created for another great Bay -San Francisco Bay - but it definitely gets the point across in a BIG way.

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Katie O'Malley - First Lady helping to keep environment first

    Followers of the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog know that I've mentioned several times what a great idea I think it would be for Michelle Obama to create a butterfly garden at the Whitehouse. Although I think teaching kids to plant their own vegetables is a great way to get them outside and eating healthy, my personal opinion is that encouraging them to get up close and personal with nature provides the added benefit of creating a new generation of environmental stewards.

    Well, move over Michelle Obama. First Lady Katie O'Malley has beat you to it - she's working towards getting the entire city of Annapolis certified as a National Wildlife Federation Community Habitat. If successful, Annapolis will become the Chesapeake Bay's first Community Habitat.

    A NWF Community Wildlife Habitat is a region that provides habitat for wildlife and practices sustainable gardening ─ in individual backyards, on school grounds and in public areas such as parks, community gardens, places of worship and businesses. The objective of NWF’s Community Habitat program is to create partnerships and help the City of Annapolis raise citizen awareness about watershed challenges and issues, and build ownership of local waterways─ with the ultimate goal of engaging more individuals and organizations in stewardship practices. In addition to providing a positive impact on the environment, creating a friendly environment for birds and butterflies is bound to draw more kids outside AND turn them into great environmental stewards.

    Receiving certification as a NWF Community Habitat is no easy task. It requires property owners, schools and businesses to join together to work towards earning the points necessary for achieving certification.

    Kudos to First Lady Katie O'Malley for taking this positive step for the city of Annapolis.

    “Our Bay is one of our State’s most precious natural treasures,” First Lady  O’Malley said. “Martin and I have a garden at home, and we use it to demonstrate what each of us can do to improve our health and protect our environment by growing fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. I am very proud of our communities, schools and businesses for coming together to encourage environmental stewardship and realizing the importance of saving our Bay.”

    The Government House garden now houses a bee hive for honey, a water fountain to attract birds and bees, three water barrels, a natural setting of trees, brush and shrubs to provide shelter for animals and insects, a food garden, and natural landscape to reduce water usage and maintenance costs.

    Hmmm, how do I wrap a rain barrel?

    With lots of green gardeners on my list, I've been busy in my garage workshop making rain barrels for some of my friends. It's a very easy process that just requires a few tools. I buy the empty barrels, add a spigot and holes for the downspout and overflow and BAM! instant water savings and Bay protection in one! But wrapping and getting those babies under the Christmas tree is probably going to be quite a challenge! For lots of great information about rain barrels, including a video on how to make them, check out this post: The Rain Barrel Response. And in the meantime, why not take our poll:

    Where do the gutters on your roof drain to?

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    The Greenest Garden in DC?

    I saw an article in the Huffington Post recently, written by Nigel Sheinwald, British Ambassador to the United States. The article is entitled The Greenest Garden in Washington and lists some of the great eco-friendly features of the British Embassy.

     I love the fact that Sheinwald points out that today's gardeners need to be as concerned about the environment as they are about the good looks of their gardens.

     Below are some excerpts from the article: The single largest contributor to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is chemicals applied to lawns and farms. To do our bit to combat this trend, the British Embassy adopted an organic approach to management of the Residence garden on Massachusetts Avenue in July of 2009.

     It has not been an easy task -- certainly spraying weeds is faster than plucking them by hand. But the extra work makes for a more responsibly and sustainably run garden. 

     In order to reduce the amount of water we use, we have installed a 1,700-gallon cistern. The cistern is the central part of our grey water system, collecting rainwater that we then use in the greenhouse and elsewhere. 

    We're cutting down our chemical use, too. An integrated pest management approach is helping reduce our dependence on pesticides and herbicides: we check plants for bugs before they're introduced to the greenhouse, and use horticultural oil and soap to eliminate the pests that make their way in. 

    We now compost all weeds, branches, appropriate kitchen waste, leaves and grass clippings. Reducing what we take of public resources, and decreasing the chemicals we put into the air and water, stems from our goal of being a responsible member of the DC community. 

     As well as being a good neighbour, we want to be an active participant in DC's verdant gardening scene. Our new rain garden slows down water flow across the property, so more water soaks into the soil. This reduces runoff onto Massachusetts Avenue, and helps us keep Winston Churchill's feet dry where he stands at the edge of the property.

     District of Columbia ordinances require properties to have some form of runoff control, and rain gardens have sprung up as a low-cost, aesthetically pleasing option. In many ways, gardening has much in common with diplomacy. 

    The seeds you plant take careful care and cultivation to turn out well. Nothing is the same from year to year. You learn from what works -- and what doesn't -- to know better what to do the next time. And the end goal of your work is a productive area where all things have a chance to grow and thrive. 

    Yes, it's a great article, but what do you think? Is the British Embassy really the GREENEST garden in DC?

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    This year, I am thankful for........

    I love Thanksgiving, but my love of the holiday has very little to do with the actual meal that is the center of so many celebrations. What it does have to do with are the other sweets, treats and blessings that make up the daily feast that is my life.

    I love the word itself -- Thanks-giving -- which is like a bright neon flashing light reminding me of everything that I have to be thankful for, not just on the last Thursday of November, but every day.

    The people, of course, are the most scrumptious part of my life. My husband, although both a turkey and a ham, at times, is really the center of everything that is good in my life. But the rest of my family and friends are the perfect side-dishes to my life. Some are nutty. Some are mushy. Some nourish me. And some are just for pure pleasure!

    But my feast doesn’t stop there. I’m thankful for my health, my home, my work, my gardens, the critters in our yard that add daily wonders to our lives, all the healthy babies that are in our extended family.

    Every single day of my life, I have much to be thankful for. But there are days when I have to admit, I let the mundane and annoying aspects of my life get in the way, and I forget just how thankful I really am.

    But that is why I like this season, when everywhere you look, you are being reminded, that this is a time for Thanks-Giving.

    What do you have to be thankful for?

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Help work off those holiday feasts! Volunteer!

    If you are looking for a way to burn off some of those extra pounds that start piling on after the holiday feasts begin, here's a way to burn a few calories and help beautify the area at the same time. Volunteers are wanted to help clean-up the Supplee Lane Recreation Area on Saturday and Sunday, December 3rd and 4th WHAT: Stream and culvert clean-up WHEN: 9 a.m. to Noon, Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4, 2011 WHERE: Supplee Lane Recreation Area, 16904 Supplee Lane, Laurel WSSC is looking for volunteers to help them clean out streams and culverts along its access road at Supplee Lane Recreation Area, 16904 Supplee Lane, Laurel on Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4. Both cleanups will be from 9 a.m. to Noon. WSSC will provide gloves and tools, but volunteers are asked to bring shovels if they have them. The Supplee Lane Recreation Area is one of the recreation areas that WSSC has on its Rocky Gorge (aka T. Howard Duckett) drinking water reservoir. The purpose of the cleanup is to reduce the amount of erosion into the reservoir. Note to high school students: This event is approved for service-learning hours. For more information, contact Kim Knox at (301) 206-8233 or

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    My Bucket List for the Planet

    “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” G.K. Chesterton

    That was one of my favorite quotes when I was a young, romantic teenager. I’m still a romantic, although not quite as young as I used to be. And I still believe that one of the best ways to really appreciate anything is to think about how empty your life would be without it. It certainly works with age and time.

    When you are young, you think that your time on earth is endless, and you waste an awful lot of it. As you get older, your time is much more valuable to you, and you really don’t want to waste any. Since you can’t do a lot about the quantity of time you have left, you start making an effort to put more Quality into your time. You start making Bucket Lists of all of the things you want to do before you die. You realize you want to squeeze everything you can out of life, and not waste a drop. 

    The problem with getting people to learn to appreciate and save things like natural resources…wildlife… the environment…and the planet in general, is that everyone thinks that there is an endless supply of those things. I just can’t imagine the day when there are no more lions or tigers or bears because of habitat loss or human predation, but it certainly could happen. Their numbers are dwindling because of stresses brought about by hunting, habitat destruction and introduced predators and diseases.

     Water, though, is another story. The planet will probably NEVER run out of water. That's because the amount of water is always the same -- it just changes in form. Water from oceans, lakes and rivers evaporates into the atmosphere where it becomes clouds and returns to Earth as rain or snow.

     However, we COULD run out of clean water. Almost all of the water on the Earth is salt water, and 77 percent of the fresh water is frozen at the Earth's poles. That leaves only a small amount for drinking, washing and growing things.

    As the Earth's population increases, more people need water and the earth’s supply of clean water gets even smaller. And a further problem, of course, is that a lot of the things that human beings do pollute water which means that we have to spend lots and lots of money to have water cleaned to make it usable again.

     As logical as this all is, people waste a heckuva lot of water. According to the EPA website, the average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day. Let’s see. The current population of the United States is 312,625,280, divided by 4, times 400 gallons =……. Sorry, my calculator doesn’t go that high. But it’s a LOT. Still, I drive down the road and see people idly running sprinklers in the rain, or letting their hose run down the driveway while they are soaping their car or dog.

     Its hard to get people to understand the importance of conserving water. Around our house, one of the ways that we save water is with our Bucket List. We have a whole slew of buckets and watering cans, and we keep them filled up with water from our rain barrels, leftover water from steaming veggies, graywater from when we clean the hummingbird feeders, etc. We try to restrict ourselves to using JUST that water on our plants and gardens. And like the hours and minutes of our lives, we try not to waste a drop.

     I encourage you to start your own Bucket List for the planet. Put up a couple of rain barrels around your yard. They not only help collect water but are great at cutting down on stormwater runoff, which is one of the main things that pollutes clean water. And then start collecting watering cans and buckets. You can find them at garage sales and thrift stores for less than a dollar. And when you have enough of them, you rarely have to waste any clean water to keep your garden growing.

     'Cause life is short. And we've got a lot more fun things to do with our time than worry about water. Betsy's Bucket List: #34 - Try to encourage a few people to take better care of the planet

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Help Get the Chesapeake Bay Off Her Diet

    In case you haven't heard, the Chesapeake Bay, whose watershed includes six states and covers 65,000 square miles, is failing to meet federal water quality standards and is being put on what essentially amounts to a “pollution diet” by the EPA.

    Both the cause and the effect of the Bay's pollution problem impact every resident of the area.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    America Recycles Day is November 15th

    As a green gardener, my favorite things to recycle are vegetable scraps, plant waste, grass clippings and leaves, which all make excellent additions to my compost pile. But for almost everything else you need to get rid of around your home, recycling of it properly helps reduce our impact on the local landfills.

    Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15 to celebrate America Recycles Day.  America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling in the United States. One day to educate and motivate. One day to get our neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together. One day to make recycling bigger and better 365 days a year. Get involved!

    There are plenty of ways to participate in America Recycles Day in the Washington DC area. Check out the list and find something fun and GREEN to recognize the importance of recycling.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Montgomery College thinks the World of Water

    As an eco-friendly gardener, I think the world of water. I know that fresh water is a limited resource and so, on my own property, I don't use chemicals and I utilize rain barrels to help keep harmful stormwater runoff from entering local water supplies.

    The Montgomery College campus is having their two-million gallon "Earthoid" water storage tank repainted, which can help remind all of us that water means the world to us.

    The 100-foot tall tank was built for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in 1978 and was painted to resemble the world in 1980, based on a National Geographic globe.

    The “Earthoid” has since won the "Steel Tank of the Year" award from the Steel Plate Fabricators Association and pictures of the tank have been exhibited in numerous magazines.

    The re-painting is expected to be finished by the end of November, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission officials said in a press release Thursday.

    The tank is located at 20150 Observation Drive.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Deer Talk & Plant Swap

    What: Deer Talk and Plant Swap

    When: November 16, 7:15p.m.

    Where: Chevy Chase Community Center

    The next meeting of the Chevy Chase Citizens Association Garden Club is this Wednesday,Nov 16, and features Bob McDowell, a Maryland Master Gardener, talking about deer proofing methods for urban gardeners. Everyone is welcome, the meeting is at 7:15 pm; there is a plant swap afterward so bring one to share. The location is 5600 Conn Ave, NW in the Chevy Chase Community Center. The rain garden on the north side of the building and the Library garden both look great, check them out before the meeting. Questions? Email Barbara Baldwin:

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    How to Have an Organic, All Natural Veteran’s Day

    How to Have an Organic, All Natural Veteran’s Day

    Step #1 – Go outside. Take a 360 degree look around you. Consider how lucky you are to live in the United States of America. Now, go find a veteran. A veteran, of course, is someone who has served, or is serving in the military.

    That step shouldn’t be hard. You may have a veteran in your family, or work with a veteran. Perhaps your mailman or the elderly worker in the local hardware store is a veteran. If you aren’t sure, all you have to do is ask.

    Now, depending on your personality and temperament, the next step may be a little harder.

    Step #2 –  Say thank you. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get all mushy about it. Depending on how well you know the veteran, you can add a pat on the back, a hug or a handshake. Just let them know that you are thanking them for their service.

    That’s it. That’s all you need to do to thank a veteran. And there really isn’t anything more organic and natural then a good, in person, heartfelt thank you.

     But for a few  more ideas, here is another post called “8 Ways to Say Thank You to Our Veterans.”

     And here are some other great ideas I found online: Veteran’s Day: Ways to Say Thank You

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Native Azaleas Program

    What: America’s Treasure: Our Native Azaleas (Silver Spring Garden Club's November 2011 meeting)

    WHEN: Monday, November 21
    Doors open at 7:30pm
    Talk starts at 8:00pm

    WHERE: Brookside Gardens Visitors Center,
    1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland

    The rich flora of North America boasts 17 species of native azaleas. Don Hyatt, a noted authority on these plants, will first introduce the various species showing the range of flower color and form he has observed in the wild. Don will then shift to a series of visual tours to the scenic places where these native azaleas often grow. Join him in the Southern Appalachians when rare native azaleas and wildflowers herald the arrival of spring. Experience breath-taking vistas along the Appalachian Trail near Roan Mountain in high season when the flame azaleas and rhododendrons turn entire mountaintops ablaze with color. Climb to the top of Gregory Bald in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to see one of the most impressive floral displays of them all. Share his appreciation of gorgeous scenery, native azaleas, and wildflower companions as Don “chases the bloom” from coast to coast throughout the season. As is Don’s typical presentation style, expect an entertaining and fast-paced program filled with many beautiful photographs, lots of information, occasional touches of humor, and a few digital tricks in this multi-media presentation.

    Don Hyatt holds a Bachelors degree in Horticulture with a double major in Biochemistry, and a Masters degree in Computer Science. lthough professionally a mathematics and computer science teacher for 33 years, Don has maintained a life-long interest in plants of all kinds. He started gardening as a toddler, and continues to maintain his garden, now in its 60th year, at the family home where he grew up. After retiring from teaching in 2002, Don has devoted most of his time to horticultural interests, especially the study of native azaleas, rhododendrons, and wildflowers in their natural habitats. He has served on the national boards of both the Azalea Society of America and the American Rhododendron Society, and has received numerous awards. Don is an accomplished botanical illustrator and photographer, and has authored many articles on azaleas and rhododendrons. He has become a popular speaker at national and international conferences on a variety of horticultural topics.

    Open to the public and free to attend.
    Silver Spring Garden Club dues are just $10 a year per household.

    Information provide by Kathy Jentz
    Washington Gardener Magazine

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    8 Ways to Say "Thank You" to our Veterans, Memorial Day and Every Day

    I grew up in the 70's, back in the days of tie-dye and hemp clothing and peace signs. It's funny to me now that so many of those things have come back into vogue. I was really too young to be a "hippie", but I did dress the part. I never attended a "sit-in" or a peace rally but I vehemently opposed the idea of war, in all of its forms. I held onto that belief throughout my life ... up until September 11, 2001.

    That date, of course, changed all of us. I still can't bring myself to say that I think war is the answer to anything, but I do understand the necessity of it now. And I do have a whole new level of respect, appreciation and admiration for the men and women who serve to protect our country, as well as the families who love them.

    One very positive change that has occurred in our country since my childhood is the respect that we show our military. When soldiers returned from Vietnam, they were sometimes met with icy stares, verbal abuse and even spit upon. Now, it is not unusual to see members of the military receiving applause or pats on the back as they walk through a crowded airport. I know that I always feel a tremendous rush of feelings when I see a man or woman in uniform. It's a combination of respect and admiration mixed with a gut-wrenching awareness of how I would feel if that was my son or daughter, brother or friend.

    Whether it is Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, or no special day at all, here are some suggested ways to Thank a Vet:

    1) Say thank you - If you know a veteran, or the family of a veteran, give them a call or send an email and tell them that you appreciate what they have done, or are doing, for our country.
    2) Listen- If they want to talk about their service, let them. I don't care if you have heard your father's or grandfather's war stories before. Ask them to tell you about them again. And listen this time!
    3) Send some love - Even if you don't know any veterans, personally, it is still easy to express your thanks. Get out your phone book and find the closet VA hospital or nursing home and send a big, patriotic bouquet of flowers or a colorful collection of cookies. Add a note explaining that they are for the resident veterans, with your heartfelt thanks for their service.
    4) Attend a parade - If there is a parade close by, go to it. Take your kids, buy them some flags to wave, and really hoot and holler at the members of the military, young and old, who are marching in the parade.
    5) Visit a Veterans Day Services to pay your respects - In you can't find a parade, there are plenty of memorials that you can visit to pay your respects.
    6) Fly a flag - Flying the American Flag is a great way to show pride and respect for our country. If you don't have a flagpole, you can purchase small brackets that easily fit on the front of your home or your mailbox.
    7) Give time or money to veteran's groups - It's a tough year for everyone and you may not be able to afford to make cash donations to as many charities as you would like. But many groups will benefit from your time as much as they would from your cash donations. One of our favorite organizations is Home for Our Troops (HFOT), a non-profit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans. HFOT is currently looking for volunteers to work on several projects in Maryland and Virginia.
    8 ) Plant a tree in memory of a veteran - Planting a tree is always a great way to honor someone and will give you a permanent place to return to year after year to spend time and appreciate your freedom.

    By the way, if you are wondering what the dedication and sacrifices of our veterans has to do with a gardening blog, the answer is "everything".

    Gardeners might enjoy reading: A Hero and His Habitat : 20 Days in the Garden

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