Monday, February 28, 2011

Peanut Shaped Community Garden coming to DC

I’ve seen several articles about the new eco-friendly Nutmobile in the news recently and I didn’t pay much attention until I saw that the legume shaped low-rider will be bringing a new peanut shaped community garden to DC.

Here are excerpts from an article by Leslie Guevarra on Click here to read Leslie's article.

With the help of The Corps Network and neighborhood volunteers, Planters plans to turn disused plots of land in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York City into peanut-shaped community greenspaces.  

The Planters Groves, designed by landscape architect Ken Smith, will feature native trees and plants as well as benches and other amenities made from reclaimed building materials in an eco campaign that includes the rollout of the company's latest Nutmobile, which now runs on biodiesel and sports solar panels and a wind turbine.  

The efforts, part of a promotion the company is calling "The Naturally Remarkable Tour," blend urban revitalization, conservation and volunteerism with whimsy to create what Planters hopes will be engaging community projects that serve as living lessons in sustainability.  

Though designed by Smith, funded by Planters and coordinated with The Corps Network, each grove is to be built and maintained by local volunteers and neighborhood groups.  

"We want to let people know what it's like to be a planter," said Jason Levine, senior director of marketing for Planters. The initiative is based on a concept that's core to the company — peanut crops help replenish the earth — and underscores the firm's sustainability efforts, he said.  

Sites are being scouted for the groves in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York City. 

"These will be great places for communities to get back to nature and experience the outdoors," Levine said.

The New Orleans grove is expected to be complete by late March, with all four groves complete by the end of the year, Jones said. The Planters "Naturally Remarkable Tour" will thread its way from project city to project city with the new Nutmobile in the vanguard.

Read more:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't let the bugs bug you

Dealing with insects in the landscape is sometimes a challenge for the eco-friendly gardener.

Many people who really love the outdoors are still unreasonably "bugged" by bugs. And although  biting insects can certainly make outdoor activities unpleasant, most other garden insects are relatively harmless and some are even beneficial insects.

Keeping your plants healthy and inviting wildlife to your yard are two good environmental choices for cutting down on insect problems. Healthy plants can usually fend off damage from insects, and birds and other forms of predatory wildlife help by eating what they can catch.

Remember, anything that you decide to spray to kill insects has the potential of making its way into local water supplies. Also, most pesticides are indiscriminate—they may take care of your pest but they also kill all the good insects that help your garden function.

However, if you still feel that a perfect environment is an insect free environment, keep these principles in mind:
  • Some of the insects that you may be eliminating are actually beneficial to your plants and the environment. For example, caterpillars turn into pollinating butterflies and ladybugs eat other leaf chewing insects. Try to identify the insects before you eliminate them.  There are several websites listed below to help with insect ID.
  • Spot treat when and where you see insect damage. Don't spray your whole yard thinking you will keep insects away. Most pesticides don't work as repellents.
  • Practice Integrated Pest Management- Integrated pest management (IPM) is a wholistic approach to pest control. It integrates chemical, cultural (cultivating, weeding, mulching), and biological pest control techniques to reduce the pest population and keep damage to an acceptable level.
  • Many insects can actually be controlled by handpicking, pruning or spraying with water.
  • Ask for safer alternatives to traditional, chemical pesticides at your local garden center. These include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and products containing a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).
For more information:
For help identifying insects:

Friday, February 25, 2011

DC Schoolyard Greening Meeting, Mar. 2

DC Schoolyard Greening will hold their first meeting of the year on March 2 at 4:30 pm at the DDOE Headquarters.

DC Schoolyard Greening (DCSG) was formed in May of 2003 by a group of local and national non-profit organizations, city government agencies, teachers, and concerned individuals.  In 2006, it became a program of the DC Environmental Education Consortium.

DCSG's mission is to increase and improve schoolyard green spaces to promote ecological literacy and environmental stewardship among students, teachers, school staff, parents, and the surrounding community.

For more information,  feel free to contact Josh Volinsky, or Trinh Doan, 202-535-1653.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Zen and the Art of Landscape Maintenance

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
~ Buddha

Most people today seem to be constantly busy --constantly rushing from one place to another -- constantly texting or talking on cell phones or checking the internet or listening to music.

The big problem with that, for me anyway, is that my mind doesn’t have the chance to just open up and think. I’m assaulting it with so much activity, that there are no empty spaces in there for original thoughts or discovery or enlightenment.

I’ve read quite a few self-help and philosophy books in my life and many of them say that you should learn to meditate--that you should set aside time and clear your mind and not focus on anything, except perhaps your breathing. You should try to attain what is called “zen mind”. I just can’t do it. I never have been able to. Either my mind just continues to race or I fall asleep, trying.

That is, until I step into my garden. There is just something about working outside in nature that gets me more in touch with my inner thoughts. The deeper my hands dig into the soil, the deeper my thoughts seem to become.

One of my favorite activities for deep thought in the garden is hand-pulling weeds. Manually pulling weeds is one of the best forms of organic weed control. It's easy to do, doesn't pollute the environment, and its free!

When I weed, I go out into my yard, sit down on the grass, sometimes on a towel or a short stool, take a deep breath, and using a weeding fork or trowel, I start removing weeds.

When I find a weed, I grab the plant close to the ground, insert my weeding fork or other tool into the soil and gently loosen the roots of the weed and remove the plant.

I’m careful not to dig too deep so I don’t disturb the roots of any nearby plants or bring deeply buried weed seeds up closer to the surface where they could sprout.

As long as the weeds don’t have any seeds on them, I pile them up to toss into my compost pile.

I’m not sure why this process is so relaxing. Perhaps its because it takes enough concentration to keep my mind from wandering anywhere else. I have to focus on finding the weeds and digging down deep enough to get all of the root. And it takes just the right amount of pressure. Pulling too hard will tear the leaves off the plant, leaving the roots behind. But it is also a rather mindless activity, leaving me time to concentrate on the other sights and sounds around me. And then every now and then, out of no where, some really deep thought will pop into my mind.

It makes me wonder if Buddha, the original “father” of Zen thinking, spent much time in a garden.

Back around 500 B.C., Siddhartha Gautama (also known as Buddha) set out to achieve enlightenment. It took him years of struggle, but he finally realized that “everything changes, nothing remains unchanged”. His conclusion from all of this was that the only thing that is really important in life is the joy and pleasure and experience we receive from each passing moment.

Unhappiness, Buddha decided, is a result of attachment to specific things or circumstances which, by their very nature, are impermanent. “By ridding oneself of these attachments, one can be free of suffering.” This is the basis of Zen and somehow, to me, it all seems very relevant to gardening.

We all have certain attachments to ideas about what our gardens should be. And then along comes the weather (freezing temperatures, drought), financial restraints, homeowners regulations and other things that can interfere with our grand schemes – like weeds. What’s a gardener to do?

Perhaps the secret is to adopt some Zen thinking for our gardens. No matter what we plant or how much money and time we spend in the garden, none of it is permanent. Instead of measuring our gardens in the number of beautiful blooms and fruit-bearing plants, perhaps we should measure the success of our gardens in the number of enjoyable moments we spend there.

Certainly there is no pleasure in dousing weeds with broad spectrum herbicides, polluting the planet as you go. But to gently reach down into the earth and pull these stray plants free, listening and watching and inhaling all of the sights and sounds and smells around you….those are the moments that can turn landscape maintenance into landscape magic.

Perhaps that is what Buddha was doing when he said:

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky” ~ Buddha

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Favorite Native Plants ~ Alison Gillespie

For number three in my series of favorite native plants, I asked Alison Gillespie, a local naturalist, writer and avid gardener. Although I have followed Alison's blogs for some time, I was still pleasantly surprised by the eloquence and beauty of her response to my question about natives.

Alison lives and writes about gardening and the environment from her home in Silver Spring, Maryland. She specializes in making small urban lots more livable for both people and wildlife, and sometimes coaches others through the process as well.  

Wintering Over: A few native plants Can Feed Your Soul, and the Birds 
by Alison Gillespie

I really love winter.  People are always surprised to find that out, especially if they know me through gardening circles. 

But I actually think that it’s the gardener in me that needs winter.  I need the break, the slow down, the empty browns and grays that fill those empty lots along Metro’s tracks.  Winter, I think, is the positive image that reflects summer’s intensity. 

Maybe it’s the intensity of my gardening passion that makes me love the break so much; when I read those articles about gardeners who brag of living in warmer climes where they can garden 12 months a year it just makes me tired, not jealous.  There’s also a refreshing sense of having one’s palette cleaned each winter, as the flowers fade away.  Garden mistakes and misfortunes fade from memory like vegetable peelings in the big black bin out back. 

But I also believe that my love of native plants contributes to my contented winter feelings.  If I lived in the city without a garden, I’d probably be miserable.  But this morning, for example, I awoke to cold, clear, sunny skies and found mockingbirds feasting on bright winterberries outside the kitchen window.  The color, the animation of the birds, and the contrast of reds, blues and gray-browns made my heart sing and not a single guilty feeling about weeding entered my brain.  With coffee and a warm robe I was thankful for the garden and enjoyed the view.  This, I thought out loud, is what makes living close-in with a tiny city lot area bearable.

There are lots and lots of native plants that urban gardeners can use to add color to a winter landscape.  Most are so carefree that you can plant them and almost forget about them.  Winterberries (Ilex verticillata), like many shrubs, are one of those natives.   Deciduous cousins to the better known American hollies, they are nondescript during the warmer months, although their small leaves and tiny, fragrant, white blossoms attract loads of bees.  In the fall, the leaves give way to stems spackled with bright red berries which are often imitated by plastic wreath makers at Christmas time;  there are so many berries on each branch that you can’t even see the woody stem underneath.  Then, at the end of winter, the berries prove irresistible to many species of native birds, who arrive to gulp them down one by one and strip those branches bare.

This winter I have also been enjoying the stand of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) which has finally matured in my garden.  I scooped up three of the variety known as Heavy Metal  for a very cheap price from a clearance shelf last winter at the local garden center.  It was a risk – they were hastily planted last December at the back of the garden, shortly before the huge blizzards dumped so much snow upon us all here in DC. 

My risk was rewarded this fall, when I realized how often my eye was drawn to the gentle swaying of the grass stems.  Now the birds have arrived to feast on the seeds, and I realize I’m not the only one whose been watching and waiting. 

The birds are also drawn to my  brown, dried up swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius).  Don’t let the name scare you – you need not have a swamp to get luscious yellow blossoms from this beautiful native perennial.  It will do just fine in average soil, although I think this plant particularly likes it near downspouts in urban yards.  You also need a lot of vertical space for them, since their stems can sometimes reach eight feet or more in height. 

In our yard, the swamp sunflowers were allowed to stay all winter, even though they turned brown and made enormous arcs across the areas which held our tomatoes last summer, and now the juncos seem to find their seeds yummy.  Many afternoons when the sun weakly surrenders to the cold and dark, the birds are out there in a flocks, hopping around like miniature penguins and beep-beep-beeping to each other in gossipy tones. 

Inside, we watch and make plans for long games of chess and cocoa, and curl up with seed catalogs.  Our palettes have been cleansed, our souls refreshed.  We dream of rolling up sleeves and churning compost, and immerse ourselves in delirious fantasies that this year’s garden will surely be the best ever.  In winter it all still seems very possible.

Thanks, Alison, for sharing such a wonderful post with our readers.

If you would like to read more of Alison's work, you can visit her blogs: Where You Are Planted and Sligo Naturalist

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Favorite Native Plants ~ Steve Bates

This is the second in my series of favorite native plants of local gardeners. Today's choices are from Steve Bates, a longtime gardener and journalist and author of The Seeds of Spring: Lessons from the Garden.     Steve grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where he still lives.  He has won numerous awards for his writing and spent 14 years as a reporter and editor at The Washington Post.  
Steve's Favorite Natives

Virginia has a wide range of native plants, which isn’t surprising, given the fact that it has such a wide variety of garden settings. We have sandy coastal areas, rolling piedmont and some mini-mountains, at least by Colorado standards. But my favorite native plants are the ones that can take some shade, given that I’ve never owned or rented a house with a sunny side yard or back yard big enough for a decent-sized display of annual and perennial plants.

My favorite has to be the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica). I have a few in my back yard, or at least, I did. Their foliage hasn’t shown up yet, and the foliage doesn’t tend to stick around long after they finish blooming in the spring. So they are kind of a phantom plant. But I trust they are coming.

The buds start out almost pink, and even at peak their shade of blue is not as deep as some of the more prized blue flowers you can buy. Also, they arrive at a time—April—when many other showy plants are at their peak. But when they are in full bloom, naturalized in a wooded area—often near water—they can be breathtaking.

No matter how busy I am, I try every spring to take a walk along Goose Creek, near my home in Loudoun County, and enjoy their short-lived splendor. You can see them in other parks in Northern Virginia, and even from the Washington and Old Dominion trail if you know where to look. But the (well-hidden) hiking path that connects Goose Creek, a scenic waterway in its own right, with the Potomac River is a terrific one. The path begins near the ruins of an old stone bridge, and it slides northward in an easy one-hour hike. If your timing is right, every time you take a turn in the path, you come upon a patch of bluebells even better than the last one. Somehow, I always forget to take my camera….

I’m very fond of mountain laurel and rhododendron, also native Virginia plants. But you sort of drop them in the ground and run, so there’s not much mystery or work involved.

Butterfly weed is a nice, colorful addition to a sunny garden spot. And you can’t go wrong with black-eyed susans. Still, if I could grow or simply enjoy only one native Virginia plant, it would be the bluebell.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your thoughts.  

To read more about Steve's gardening experiences, look for  The Seeds of Spring, which  follows the challenges, failures, joys and revelations that Steve experiences as he cultivates vegetables, fruit and flowers in a remarkable setting.

The book intertwines practical, “how-to” gardening advice with deep insights as Steve recognizes the richness and simplicity of the outdoor life and the importance of sustainability for individuals and the planet. The Seeds of Spring takes the reader beyond the ordinary, revealing the extraordinary in everyday activities amid the all-too-familiar setting of suburban sprawl.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Favorite Native Plants ~ Nature Friendly Gardener Marlene A. Condon

Native plants are wonderful additions to eco-friendly landscapes for many reasons. But which natives are right for you and your gardens? I decided to poll the local gardening community for some of their favorite native plant species to help you decide.

Today's choices are from Marlene A. Condon. Marlene is a nature writer and the author of The Nature-friendly Garden (see note below). She lives in Crozet, Virginia, where her yard has been showcased on Virginia public television.

Marlene's Favorite Natives 

My most favorite plant is the Trumpet Creeper vine, Campsis radicans. It's one of the most used-by-wildlife native plants I can think of even though it gets bad press as being "invasive". However, all outdoor gardening involves pulling out unwanted plants (I don't like the term "weeds") and in a nature-friendly yard, Trumpet Creeper is not that much of a problem.

That's because so many animals make use of its seeds and thus limit how many are available to germinate the next spring. Mammals such as Gray Squirrels feed on them from early fall to winter and birds such as Tufted Titmice, Dark-eyed Juncos, and American Goldfinches take them in winter. Sphinx Moths feed at the flowers and I have found caterpillars feeding on the seeds inside the pod in the fall (I haven't been able to identify the caterpillars yet). Many species of ants either get sap directly from the plant by chewing open a tiny spot or indirectly by tending aphids and feeding on their honeydew. 

The Sourwood tree (Oxydendron arborium) is another favorite of mine. It's lovely in the spring when it's covered with white flowers that the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and numerous species of insects feed at. In the fall, the leaves on this smallish tree turn a lovely red or maroon and still looks as if it's in bloom with its noticeable seed capsules. From fall into winter, squirrels and juncos feed on the seeds. 

And you can't beat the attractiveness of the Monarda genus of flowers for people and wildlife alike. Lilac-colored Wild Bergamot blooms (Monarda fistulosa) feed butterflies, bees, and numerous other insects. The red-colored Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) is very attractive to hummingbirds. And these plants are one of the few kinds that the White-tailed Deer does not eat.

As a fellow wildlife gardener, I can appreciate all of Marlene's choices. I was mesmerized watching a ruby throated hummingbird push itself almost all the way into trumpet vine flowers one day.

Marlene is offering copies of her book, The Nature-friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People (Stackpole Books), to readers of the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog at a special discount. For an inscribed and autographed copy of her book at a special price of $10.00 plus shipping ($4.00) , please visit her web site at to contact her. Be sure to mention the Metro DC Blog to receive the discount.

Thanks Marlene! And happy gardening.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project

The Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project was created by Jan Huston Doble on her beautiful garden blog Thanks for Today as a way for gardeners to share ways that they are actively practicing a greener lifestyle and contributing to protecting our environment.

If you are a gardener, garden blogger, garden writer, or garden merchandiser, Jan invites you to join in and share what you do to help, rather than hinder, nature.

"Just because we are gardeners doesn't mean we're operating 'sustainably'," Jan says. "Let's find ways to garden by taking into account our impact on the environment and whether that has a positive effect on our health and that of Mother Earth."

In Mid March Jan will encourage gardeners to write blog posts and leave comments regarding their sustainability efforts at home and in the garden. She asks you to tell what YOU do, or plan to change, about the way you live and garden.

According to Jan, "you do NOT need to be 'green' to join in--just interested and aware of our environment and willing to look at what you can do to contribute positively and eliminate or reduce unnecessary actions."

For more information about how you can participate, read Jan's post on the Sustainable Living Project.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Does eco-friendly gardening help local wildlife populations?

As a critter lover, I am a big fan of eco-friendly gardening. Eliminating chemicalsprotecting the groundwater  and using native plants are all beneficial to local wildlife. When you make these changes, it doesn’t take long to see an increase in the number of butterflies, birds, bees, hummingbirds, dragonflies and other garden visitors in your landscapes.

Participating in wildlife monitoring programs, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, may  help prove these eco-friendly benefits to others.

Various  programs around the country encourage wildlife lovers  to help monitor local wildlife.  Participants in these counts are called  ‘citizen scientists’, and  their contributions are invaluable in the study of wildlife  populations and migration trends. Some even feel that data from ‘citizen scientists’ is helping researchers to investigate far-reaching questions such as the impacts of West Nile virus, global warming, and acid rain.

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 find their way into your landscape.

Digital cameras are excellent tools for the budding ‘citizen scientist’ or backyard naturalist. Pictures of birds, butterflies and other forms of wildlife can be used in researching a species in books or on the internet.

If you think you find something truly unique, such as a bird or insect that you have never seen before, don’t be reluctant to ask the experts. You never know what discoveries you might find, or what difference you might be making to the environment, right from the comfort of your own backyard.

No matter what sort of wildlife you find interesting, there is probably a monitoring program that will encourage you to study it a little closer. Here are some local and national programs to get you started on your journey to becoming a "citizen scientist":

The Virginia Frog and Toad Calling Survey  is conducted by a group of volunteers from across the Commonwealth who spend three nights a year surveying various wetland habitats for frogs and toads. The survey involves listening and then identifying the various species by their call, and recording the approximate number of individuals.

Loudon Wildlife Conservancy has several wildlife monitoring programs, including stream monitoring, bluebird nestbox monitoring, amphibian monitoring and an annual butterfly count.

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries,  Wildlife Mapping  is an outreach program that allows school children, citizens, community groups, and other city, county and state organizations to collect wildlife-related information that will be available to everyone. The program provides an opportunity for students and volunteers to perform field studies that contribute to the state's biological databases.

 The Great Backyard Bird Count, The Christmas Bird Count and Project FeederWatch are all studies compiled primarily from information provided by individual citizens. These studies, which are joint programs between Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, involve citizens across the country counting birds on specific days and reporting their findings. Once the results are tallied, they are analyzed by scientists and posted online.

North American Butterfly Association – A membership-based not-for-profit organization working to increase public enjoyment and conservation of butterflies, the NABA  conducts an annual butterfly count to provide important information about the geographic distribution and population sizes of various butterfly species.

Monarch Watch – An educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas that engages citizen scientists in large-scale research projects.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Program – The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is a citizen science project involving volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. It was developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota to collect long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat.

Operation RubyThroat– Started by South Carolina resident Bill Hilton Jr, this cross-disciplinary international initiative utilizes citizen scientists to study behavior and distribution of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Wildlife Watch –Participants in Wildlife Watch share sightings of wildlife and plants where they live. National Wildlife Federation and their Wildlife Watch partners collect and review findings so that they can track the behavior and health of wildlife and plant species nationwide.

Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change – Geared primarily towards students from K-12 grade, this organization engages participants to track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, bald eagles, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes — and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great Backyard Birdcount Starts Feb 18th


Put out the birdseed and grab your binoculars. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) starts tomorrow!

Once I started gardening for wildlife, I was quick to go from casual birdwatcher to full-fledged critter loving nature nerd. In fact, right now I have my thrift-store baby monitor turned on and placed outside my window so I can enjoy the sound of the robins on my birdbath.

I also have my bird guide and binoculars ready so that I can start counting birds tomorrow for the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count.

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that encourages bird watchers to count their backyard birds and report their findings on-line. This year, the GBBC runs from February 18th – 21st.

Although it may sound silly to count your backyard birds, these counts are very useful in helping scientists learn where birds are across the continent and to see how populations compare with previous years. This helps to determine how things like development, pollution and weather may be affecting various species.

Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts and you can count for as long as you want each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

If you want to participate, here are the quick and easy steps from the GBBC website:  

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.  

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you're likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.  

3. When you're finished, enter your results through GBBC's web page. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore the results from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

I always think its fun to go back and read the results of previous counts.

You can search by state. Here are the five highest counted species from 2010 for DC, Maryland and Virginia

DC: American Robin – 737; House Sparrow – 396; European Starling – 317

Maryland: Canada Goose – 38,118; Snow Goose – 20,317; Common Grackle – 18,240

Virginia: Common Grackle – 25,421; Dark-eyed Junco – 20,005; Red-winged Blackbird – 19,446

Or you can search by species

American Robin – 737 in DC; 5,489 in Maryland and 13,311 in Virginia

For more detailed information, visit the GBBC website or download this pdf file of instructions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Garden Sharing vs Guerrilla Gardening - Give Peas (and Peace) a Chance

I’ve always had a problem with the idea of “guerrilla gardening”. To me, gardening is all about peace and  sharing. We spend peaceful time outside cultivating the soil and we share the beauty and bounty of our gardens with visitors and passersby. There really isn’t anything “guerrilla” about it.

By definition, the word guerilla is all about warfare and overtaking your enemy in subversive ways. I just don’t think it fits with gardening.

My understanding of guerrilla gardening is that gardeners go out and garden on a piece of  land without the owner’s permission. This “gardening” is sometimes in the form of “seed bombs” and other forms of clandestine planting.  The land that is  gardened is usually abandoned or neglected by its legal owner and the guerrilla gardeners take it over to grow plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe they are  reclaiming land from perceived neglect or misuse and giving it new purpose. (If I don't have a clear understanding of guerrilla gardening, I welcome all comments.)

Garden sharing, on the other hand,  is an arrangement which connects those who have the space to garden with those who would like to garden but don’t have the space. It is a win-win situation for both. Apartment dwellers and others without suitable garden space are provided a place to dig,  plant and grow to their hearts content. Property owners reap the benefits of beauty or bounty in their unused garden space. Many times, garden sharing is used for growing food, and the homeowners  receive a portion of the produce that is grown in exchange for the use of his land.

There are numerous garden sharing programs on the internet including Yardsharing in Portland, Oregon, Yards To Gardens in Minneapolis and Urban Garden Share in Seattle.

In the DC area there is Sharing Backyards DC.

Sharing Backyards DC is the local segment of Sharing Backyards, a project that was originally started in Canada in 2007 to  encourage urban gardening. It is a do-it-yourself, online matchmaking system that allows would-be gardeners to find a place to putter in the dirt.

Whether you are a property owner with land to spare or a gardener looking for a place to get your garden off the ground, you start by selecting your city on the Sharing Backyards website. This will bring up a map of the area  with icons representing those looking for space or offering to share their space.

Property owners can click on the little binoculars symbol to bring up people who are looking for garden space. And gardeners can click on the little garden icon to find people who have some space to share. Your address and email address are hidden but a popup box allows you to share messages through the site.

There are no restrictions on how you might choose to share your space.  However, Sharing Backyards suggest that you treat your first meeting with prospective yard-sharing partners as you would with meeting a roommate or potential tenant, first speaking to them on the phone and perhaps meeting in a public place before bringing them to your home.

If you decide this person is someone you'd like to share your yard space with, they also suggest that you come up with a clear understanding of the Considerations for Sharing Your Backyard Garden, including when they may garden, what they can grow, and what, if any, of your stuff they are allowed to use.

In addition to the friend vs foe aspect, there is another definite advantage to the Backyard Sharing program over guerrilla gardening: it provides the gardeners with the opportunity to share their knowledge and friendship as well as their land.

Eco-friendly and organic gardening skills are wonderful things to share with others and many of the listings I saw on Sharing Backyards DC were interesting in this type of gardening.

So whether you want to share your land, your labor or your love for the environment, why not check out Sharing Backyards DC – where you can give both peace, and peas, a chance. Who knows what the process may lead to. Before you know it, you might be sharing some Bare Naked Gardening with a new friend.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are you itching to get out into your garden? Watch out for poison ivy!

Since I’ve been itching to get out into my garden this winter, I decided to spend some time a few weekends ago pulling out vines and digging up plants along the edges of my property that were little more than dead-looking, leafless stalks and vines.

My body was completely covered, with long pants, socks, shoes, a long sleeved jacket and gloves. And still, I developed a rash that is most definitely poison ivy. Since I have had some pretty bad outbreaks of poison ivy induced rashes at various times of my life, I feel fortunate that this time I only have a small, ½” rash that developed in an area that must have gotten exposed in between my long sleeves and my gloves. But as anyone who has ever gotten into poison ivy knows, that little rash itches enough to cause all kinds of misery.

So the lesson learned is, you CAN get poison ivy in the winter.

Poison ivy is fairly easy to identify when it is displaying its beautiful “leaves of three”. The Virginia Cooperative Extension provides this description:

Poison ivy can grow as a groundcover or small bush in woods, fields, at the edges of openings and trails, and pretty much everywhere else. Poison ivy also grows as a vine that climbs on trees, barns, and fences for support. The vine has small aerial roots along the stem that make it look like a fuzzy rope and often has much longer aerial roots as well. Because the plant grows in so many different forms, its leaflets are the best way to identify poison ivy. The leaflets grow in clusters of three. Hence the old saying "leaves of three, let it be." These leaflets are from two to four inches long with pointed tips. The middle leaflet is usually larger than the others. The edges of the leaflets don't always look the same. They might be smooth, or they could have teeth. The leaflet surface can be many different shades of green and appear glossy, dull, or in between.

But since poison ivy is a deciduous plant, it loses its leaves in the winter, making it very difficult to identify. As the leaves turn yellow, orange and red in the autumn, they begin to drop and may no longer be “leaves of three”. And of course, in the winter, they fall off completely, resulting in nothing but bare sticks and vines.

Unfortunately, these dormant, leafless poison ivy plants still contain the irritating oil, urushiol, which can cause the insufferable rash. In fact even dead poison ivy plants may cause an allergic reaction for several years.

What Causes the Rash?

All parts of the poison ivy plant, including the roots, stems, bark, and leaflets, are poisonous year round. The blistering rash people get is caused by an oily toxin known as urushiol. The most common way this toxin gets on your skin is when you touch the plant, especially one that has been damaged in some way, such as being stepped on or run over with the lawnmower. The toxin is oily and sticky, and is easily spread around when you touch other parts of your body. For example, if you are weeding a flower bed and pull up some poison ivy, then wipe your face later on, the chances are pretty good that a rash will develop on your face. You also can contract the rash by picking up the toxins from animals, clothes, or other items that have been in contact with poison ivy. And, if poison ivy is burned in a brush pile, the resulting smoke carries the toxins. It is very important that you avoid breathing the smoke of burning wood or brush if poison ivy might be part of the pile.

Poison ivy grows fairly quickly and spreads by underground rhizomes. Other plants are started by birds and small animals which love the berries and quickly spread the seeds.

Poison ivy can be tackled (I have yet to see any real evidence in our heavily wooded yard that it can be completely eliminated) by either hand pulling and digging or by spraying the foliage with non-selective herbicide. Since there is no foliage on the plants in the winter, herbicides are not a winter option. However, if you have already identified poison ivy in your landscape during the warmer months, winter can be a good time to remove some of the plants by digging and hand-pulling because the plants are more dangerous in the spring and summer when the oil content is the highest.

Before removing any plants that could possibly be poison ivy, consider these Facts and Tips:

1) Dormant or dead poison ivy is very difficult to identify. You can sometimes identify the larger vines by the hair-like roots growing from the vines.

2) You can develop a severe allergic reaction to poison ivy even if the plants are dormant or dead.

3) The oil from poison ivy plants can make its way through thin layers of clothing, especially if you are sweating while you work.

4) Wash your hands with soap and cool water immediately after touching anything that is suspected of being poison ivy. Warm water may cause the resin to penetrate the skin faster.

5) If burned, the oils in the smoke can cause severe allergic reactions.

6) The oil from poison ivy can be picked up on tools, clothing and the fur of pets and later transferred to your skin. Anything that may be carrying the oil should be thoroughly washed.

7) Always wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, socks and gloves when handling poison ivy. Launder the clothing separately from the family laundry and wash your hands after placing the clothes in the washer.

8) Heavy growths of poison ivy should never be removed by hand because of the obvious hazard. When leaves are present, spray them with a non-selective herbicide or poison ivy killer. Use these with care to protect other plants from being harmed by the spray.

9) Control with chemicals is most effective during active growth especially in early to mid summer. The chemicals are most efficiently absorbed and translocated through the leaves of the plant at these times.

10) However, winter is a good time to sever poison ivy vines at ground level and paint the severed edge with a suitable herbicide.

11) Be careful not to bring firewood into the house with poison ivy vines attached.

12) Contact your local Extension agent for more information on preparing herbicide mixtures and applying them safely; and always be sure to follow the directions on the product label.


Poison Ivy: Leaves of Three, Let it Be! – Virginia Cooperative Extension

Poison Ivy(pdf file) – Maryland Cooperative Extension

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Information Center

Outsmarting Poison Ivy

Photos courtesy of

Toxicodendron radicans– Wikipedia entry with good photos

Winter Weeds: Poison Ivy - a blog post with photos of poison ivy in the winter

Friday, February 11, 2011

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Plants to attract hummingbirds for the Mid-Atlantic Region
Plant suggestions from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Prince William County Office

Plants marked with an * suggested by local gardeners. If you have a hummingbird plant for the Mid-Atlantic region to recommend, please leave it in the comment section below.
Links have been added for the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog

** Remember: Eliminate chemical pesticides from your garden before you begin to garden for hummingbirds!
Trees Exposure Moisture Requirements
Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida
Part sun to light shadeMoist but well-drained soil
Flowering crabapple
Malus spp.
Full sunMoist but well-drained rich soil
Red Buckeye
Aesculus pavia
Light shadeMoist but well-drainedsoil
Shrubs Exposure Moisture Requirements
American cranberrybush
Viburnum trilobum
Full sunMoist but well-drained soil in full sun
American Elderberry
Sambucus canadensis
Full sunMoist
Arrowwood Virburnum
Viburnum dentatum
Full sun to Partial sunMoist but well-drained, rich soil
Butterfly bush
Buddleia davidii
Full sunMoist but well-drained,soil
Syringa spp.
Full sunWell drained, fertile,slightly alkaline soil
Partial shadeMoist to dry fertile,acid soil
Scarlet Firethorn
Pyracantha coccinea
Full sunWell drained soil
Flowers Exposure Moisture Requirements
Ageratum houstonianum
Full sun topartial sunMoist well drained richsoil
Astilbe x arendsii
Partial shadeRich, moist soil
Impatien Balsamina
Full sun to part shadeMedium water requirements
* Basil
Ocimum basilicum
Full sunWell drained soil
Bee Balm
Monarda didyma
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia fulgida
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Butterfly weed
Full sunMoist to dry soil
Cardinal Flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Full sunWet to Moist soil/ bog
Flowers Exposure Moisture Requirements
Cleome hasslerana
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Aquilegia canadense
Sun/Partial shadeMoist well drained soil
Coral bell
Sun/Partial sunMoist well drained soil
Cosmos spp.
Full sunMoist well-drained soil
Evening primrose/ sundrops
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Mirabilis jalapa
Full sun topartial sunMoist well drained soil
Fuchsia spp
Morningsun/ shadeMoist but well drainedrich soil
x hortorum
Full sunMoist but well drainedrich soil
Globe thistle
Echinops ritro
Full sunDrought tolerant
Full sunDrought tolerant
Heliotropium arborescens
AfternoonshadeMoist well drained richsoil
Althaea or Alcea
Full sunMoist well drainedaverage soil
Indian Pink
Spigelia marilandica
Full sun tolight shadeMoist well drained soil
Full sunMoist to wet soil
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Impatiens wallerana
Partialsun/shadeMoist well drained richsoil
Lobelia spp.
Full sunMoist to wet soils
Full sunMoist well drainedloose soil
New England aster
Aster novae-angliae
Sun to lightshadeMoist well drained soil
Full sunMoist well drained richsoil
Full sunRequires perfectdrainage
Petunia spp
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Phlox paniculata
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Flowers Exposure Moisture Requirements
Pineapple sage
Salvia elegans
Full sun topart sunMoist well drained soil
Purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Red-hot poker
Kniphofia uvaria
Full sunConstantly moist soil
Salvia coccinea
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Mexican Sunflower
Tithonia rotundifolia
Full SunMoist well drained soil
Full sunMoist well drained richsoil
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Zinnia elegans
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Vines Exposure Moisture Requirements
Cardinal Climber
Ipomoea quamoclit
Full sunMoist well drained.Mulch over roots
Cross Vine (Trumpet Flower)
Bignonia capreolata
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Mandevilla splendens
PartialshadeMoist well drained rich soil
Trumpet honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens
Full sunMoist well drained soil
Trumpet Creeper
Campsis radicans
Full sunMoist well drained soil

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pets and pesticides

Do you remember the Crosby Stills and Nash song from the 70’s called “Our House”? When I was growing up, for some reason that song epitomized my idea of the perfect home and relationship, all the way down to the “two cats in the yard.” For a good part of my life, I was a real “cat person” and letting my cats wander around outside just seemed natural.

Then, one of my favorite cats came home poisoned. The vet thought she had ingested transmission fluid and we assumed that it was an accidental ingestion (certainly, no one would have poisoned her on purpose) and we paid the exorbitant vet fees and she got better. Another time, she ate a poison lizard and almost died. Again, we paid the fee and the vet fixed her up. She finally died from being hit by a car. There was no fixing her up that time.

Eventually, I quit letting my pet cats roam outside. After that, my tolerance towards other people’s roaming pets changed pretty quickly. I’ve had my screened patio torn up by free-roaming cats. I’ve been chased indoors by mean, snarling dogs. And I often step in both dog and cat poo, because I assume that  I shouldn’t have to look out for it on my own, petless property. But now that I garden for wildlife, my biggest problem with free roaming pets is that they chase, maim and kill birds, rabbits and other forms of wildlife that visit my yard.

In my mind, there are many reasons to NOT let domesticate animals roam free in neighborhoods, including possible harm to both the pets and wildlife and inconvenience or property damage to fellow homeowners. (As a gardener, there are few things as unpleasant as running your fingers through your beautiful soil and finding a pile of newly deposited cat poop). But since this is an eco-friendly garden blog, I have decided to focus this message on pets and pesticides (and other garden chemicals).

Let’s face it. If there is a chemical on the ground, it is very likely that it will end up inside of a pet. Cats and dogs walk and sit on chemically treated lawns and gardens and then lick their paws and.….sitting areas. They also dig in chemically treated soil, eat plants and  kill and eat birds and rodents which have ingested posions. And even if you don’t use chemicals in your own yard, letting your pet roam free can subject them to the chemicals found in the yards of your neighbors.

So whether you are a gardener, trying to decide if you want to keep using chemicals in your landscape or a pet owner who allows your pet to go on the occasional (or frequent) unsupervised romp around the neighborhood, here are some facts about Pets and Pesticides. Although many of these facts specifically mention dogs,  keep in mind that pesticides that are toxic to dogs will have adverse effects in cats also, due to their more delicate digestive system.
  • A study published in 1995 in the academic journal Environmental Research shows a “statistcally significant” increase in the risk of canine malignant lymphoma in dogs when exposed to herbicides, particularly 2,4-D, commonly used on lawns and in “weed and feed” products.
  • One product of particular concern is snail bait. A common ac­tive ingredient, metaldehyde, is tasty and attractive to mammals. Unfortunately, it is also highly toxic to all mammals, and causes blindness, excessive salivation, seizures, and sudden death.
  • A study by Purdue University found that Scottish Terriers ex­posed to pesticide-treated lawns and gardens are more likely to develop transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder, a type of can­cer.
  • Avermectin B1: An insecticide used for fire ants, causes leth­argy and tremors in dogs.
  • Allethrin: Used on flies and mosquitoes, has been linked to liver cancer in dogs.
  • DCPA: An herbicide used in lawns and gardens,  is suspected to cause adverse effects in the liver of dogs.
  • Dogs and cats use their noses to poke around and explore. The nose is a mucous membrane and an easy place for pesticides to enter their bodies.
  • Dogs, in particular, absorb pesticide residues by chewing or eat­ing plant material that was treated with pesticides.
  • Cats absorb more chemicals than dogs due to their grooming habits.
  • Because cats are specialist carnivores, they lack certain en­zymes in their liver that decontaminate chemicals,  making them especially vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals.
  • Cats and dogs hunt, and it is natural for hunters to pick the weakened animals as prey. Animals that have been poisoned are easy targets for predators because they are easier to catch.
  • Symptoms of secondary poisoning may not occur for weeks after a dog or cat eats a poisoned animal, and may not be recog­nized as such.
The topic of free-roaming pets, or cats in particular,  is a touchy one with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. But no matter what your opinion is, the fact is that chemicals in the landscape can be harmful – to pets, to people and to the environment. The best answer for most of us is to learn to get by with fewer chemicals. We can spot treat weeds or pull them by hand and learn to attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects.

For more information, see the publications listed below:

Who Let the Dogs (and Cats) Out – Protecting backyard wildlife from our pets

Avoiding Chemicals helps keep Pets Safe

Pesticides and Pets – pdf file

Pets and Pesticide Use – pdf file

Dogs and Pesticide Use – pdf file

Avoiding chemicals helps keep pets safe

To go along with today's post about Pets and Pesticides, here is some information about ways to control weeds in a landscape without resorting to chemicals. These suggestions are from the document Pesticides and Pets from  

Lawns, Landscapes and Gardens  

Prevention: Again, the most effective way to treat unwanted plants is to stop them from establishing themselves on your prop­erty at all.  

Do this by creating a thick, healthy turf:
  • Mow at 3-3.5 inches to shade out weed germination and foster deep roots.
  • Leave the grass clipping on the lawn after mowing. Grass clip­pings are a free natural fertilizer and will improve soil conditions!
  • Aerate your lawn in order to help air, water, and fertilizer to enter.
  • After aerating, fertilize lightly in the Fall with a natural, slow-release fertilizer. Re­quest organic fertilizers at your local nursery or order online.
  • Overseed with a grass spe­cies that is naturally resistant to fungal diseases and/or insects. Use native species.
  • Use corn gluten meal on weed prone areas in the ear­ly spring and early fall. Corn gluten keeps selected weed seeds from germinating, yet is high in nitrogen so it fertil­izes your lawn at the same time. Do not seed at the same time.
Control: In addition to prevention, there are easy and direct ways to control unwanted plants without the use of toxic herbicides.
  • Hand pull weeds from the roots.
  • Flame weeding machines use a targeted flame to kill weeds. This option is not advisable for drier climates.
  • High-pressure steam and boiling water can both be used to kill weeds.
  • Goats and geese can both be used to remove weeds.
  • Horticultural vinegar is a powerful acid that will non-selectively kill weeds. You can buy horticultural vinegar at a plant nursery or even make your own. Avoid contact with skin, as it is an acid.
  • Herbicidal soaps are refined soaps that dry out plants and kill them.
From Pesticides and Pets

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Critter cams - the next best thing to being there

Nothing keeps me quite as warm in the winter as cuddling up with critters.

When the days are cold and dreary,  I curl up in my nest (which is a big old comfy arm-chair) with my laptop and check out other nests (hummingbirds and eagles are some of my favorites)   through webcams and online videos.  There may not be much critter activity in my own yard right now, but there is always plenty of it online.

A webcam is a video camera that feeds its images in real time to a computer or computer network. They are great for  checking the weather conditions before a vacation, among other things. For nature nerds like me, they also allow a birds-eye view of wildlife.

Lately, a very popular webcam in the Virginia area is the Bald Eagle nest at Norfolk Botanical Garden.  The second eagle egg was laid in this nest on Sunday, February 6th. Since eagle eggs typically take 32-36 days to incubate, I'll mark my calendar and make sure I start checking the webcam on around March 10th or so to see if I can see the babies hatching. There is another eagle cam at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland.

There are many other nature webcams online. Here are websites to find a few, suggested by some of my online wildlife loving friends:
Webcam List Animal Cams Part 1 ; Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nestcams ;

Of course, you can't see much on a webcam after dark. But there are plenty of online videos to help keep the wildlife gardener enthused until spring brings the little fluttering critters back to our gardens.

There is a great site called which allows you to explore the wildlife in your state by watching online  videos. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries offers several videos on this site to help you create wildlife habitats at home. The videos are titled: Landscapes, Butterfly Gardens, Native Plants, Shrubs and Woodlands.

 Maryland videos include a nice one called Springs Wings about butterflies and their habitats and another one on Bayscaping.

And of course, there is always YouTube, where you can search for almost anything like "hummingbirds in the snow" and find great little videos like the one that I shared at the beginning of this post. It might just be enough to inspire you to create your own environmentally friendly hummingbird garden so that you can share some videos of your own come springtime.

Other webcam sites: USA webcams

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rooting DC - February 19th

The 4th annual Rooting DC gardening forum is just around the corner. In addition to all types of edible gardening info, this year Rooting DC will be focusing on school and youth gardening. Rooting DC will be held on Saturday, February 19th from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm at Coolidge High School located at 6315 5th Street, NW.

There will also be presentations and workshops on community gardens and food policy, as well as healthy cooking demonstrations , free child care and much

PRE-REGISTRATION IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED. Please call the America the Beautiful Fund offices at 202.638.1649 to register immediately.

Coolidge HS can be reached by public transportation: From the Takoma Metro Station stop (Red Line) take the 62 bus (Georgia Ave-Petworth) or 52 bus (L'Enfant Plaza). You can also take the 70 bus toward Silver Spring, get off at Georgia and Rittenhouse, NW and walk east.

Visit Rooting DC on the web:

Contributed by Carl Rollins, Farm Coordinator, Common Good City Farm

Friday, February 4, 2011

Meadowscaping in Urban and Suburban Spaces

Monday, February 21st, Brookside Gardens Visitor Center

Catherine Zimmerman, author of the newly released book Urban & Suburban Meadows and sustainable landscape designer, will introduce meadowscaping as a lawn alternative. Do away with pesticide-ridden, manicured, water thirsty, monoculture lawns and restore your land to a beautiful, natural habitat for native plants and wildlife. Join the movement toward making natural landscapes the new landscaping norm!

Catherine Zimmerman is an author and an award-winning director of photography with over 35 years of experience in documentary filmmaking with an emphasis on education and environmental issues. Environmental videos of hers include global warming documentaries for CNN Presents and New York Times Television; Save Rainforest/Save Lives, Fresh Farm Markets, Wildlife Without Borders: Connecting People and Nature in the Americas, and Discovery Creek Children’s Museum.

Catherine is also a certified horticulturist and sustainable landscape designer based in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. She is accredited in organic land care through the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and has designed and taught a course in organic landscaping for the USDA Graduate School Horticulture program.

Free Event Open to the Public WHEN: Monday, February 21 Doors Open at 7:30PM Speaker starts at 8:00PM WHERE: Brookside Gardens Visitors Center, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland

Information provided by Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gardening for hummingbirds

Yesterday I posted a message about creating butterfly gardens, complete with lists of butterfly species for the area. But today, I would like to talk about hummingbirds! I love hummingbirds and I believe that the more people who garden for them, the more we will begin to see hummingbirds hanging around the area! So I hope that I can encourage you to plant a few hummingbird favorites in your garden this Spring.

Although there are more than 338 known species of hummingbirds in the Americas, only about sixteen of those are found in the United States. Of those sixteen, the ruby-throated hummingbird, is the only one that is common in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is the one that you will most likely be able to entice to your yard if you provide a habitat that they find inviting. Avid bird enthusiasts have also reported sightings of additional species in the area, including the Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds begin visiting the Metro DC area in late March or early April and stay till August or September. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries, they also breed in the area. Like butterflies, if you want to attract these little winged beauties to your yard, your best bet is to plant their favorite plant species.

Catching a glimpse of one of these jeweled acrobats is enough to fill anyone with awe. What other creature can amaze us with feats such as flying backwards or upside down?

The ruby-throated “hummer” is only about 3 inches long and weighs about one-quarter of an ounce (about as much as a penny). For their size, hummingbirds have among the largest appetites in the bird world. Hummingbirds feed about every ten or fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk, consuming more than half their weight in food every day.

Hummingbirds are said to be most drawn to tubular flowers that are either large and showy or in drooping clusters of red, orange and pink. However, there are many other flowers that attract these hungry little scavengers. Therefore, it is best to plant a variety of species, choosing native plants when available for ease of maintenance. Since hummingbirds are very territorial, space your hummingbird plants in separate groupings around your yard and at varying heights, starting at about 18” above the ground.

Nectar feeders can also be used as a supplemental food source for hummingbirds. A simple nectar can be made by combining 1 part granulated sugar to 4 parts water in a saucepan and boiling for two minutes. Let the mixture cool completely before filling feeders. Be sure and replace the mixture every couple of days because heat from the sun can cause rapid bacterial growth in the nectar solution which is potentially fatal to the hummingbirds.

Eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard if you plan to garden for hummingbirds and keep cats indoors!

For more information about hummingbirds in the DC area, read:

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

The Natural Capital: Look for Ruby throated Hummingbirds

Hummingbird Tidbits - Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries

The Hummingbird Garden (pdf)- Virginia Cooperative Extension Prince William County

Creating a Wild Backyard: Hummingbirds, Butterflies & Bees, Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

Hummingbird Handout - Virginia Cooperative Extension

Attracting Hummingbirds - Penn State

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