Thursday, March 31, 2011

Urban Nature Gardening With Kids - April 2nd

I'm a big fan of Alison Gillespie, both for her writing and for her dedication to helping to preserve the beauty of the landscape around us.

This Saturday, April 2, 2011, Alison will be presenting a talk on how to turn even tiny spaces into places where children can experience the wonders of nature.

The program, presented by the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS), will be from 10:00am - 12:00pm at the AWS Office, 4302 Baltimore Avenue, Bladensburg, MD 20710

About the program:

When you dreamt of being a parent, you imagined chasing butterflies through meadows and counting acorns in the woods with your kids. Now, in present day reality, you find yourself living on a city lot the size of a postage stamp and worry that your child with grow up with "nature deficit disorder." Local gardener, writer and parent Alison Gillespie will share ideas for meeting these challenges, as well as a practical list of ideas and plants that can turn even a tiny space into an arena for experiencing the wonder of nature. Inexperienced gardeners are welcome and encouraged to attend! 

RSVP: Please e-mail or click here to RSVP so we can plan accordingly!

To get a sample of some of the "wonder" that Alison has to impart, read this post that she shared with us back in February, or visit her blog:

Where You Are Planted

For more information about the Anacostia Watershed Society, click their logo below.

And be sure to visit our Calendar page for more upcoming events sponsored by the Anacostia Watershed Society and other great local groups.

More dog safety in the garden

I've written a couple of posts about pets in our gardens, primarilly about how the chemicals we use in our landscapes can harm our pets. In fact, according to WebMD, poisoning is one of the Top Ten Dog and Cat Injuries.

But my friend and fellow blogger Susan McCullough, author of the popular Northern Virginia Dog Blog, pointed something out to me that many gardeners don't think about: there are many other things in our gardens that can hurt our pets, including poisonous plants, mulch and what we put in our compost piles.

Many dog owners know that certain foods are unhealthy for dogs and keep them out of Fido's reach in the kitchen. But these same foods may end up in the compost pile where curious canines are sure to sniff them out.

Here are some excerpts from the great article Susan sent me entitled: ASPCA Guide to Pet-Safe Gardening.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions who’ve had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants. 

"Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you've stepped outside," says Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert. "Protecting your pet from potential hazards in your yard is just as critical." 

While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions.

Poisonous Plants 
When designing and planting your green space, it's a good idea to keep in mind that many popular outdoor plants—including rhododendron and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. Please visit our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your garden. 

Pet parents, take care—the fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. 

Cocoa Mulch 
Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. 

The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer's label carefully for proper usage and storage. 

You're doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth—you're composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you're tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding your pet

Garden Tools 
Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet's body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. 

Allergy-Causing Flora 
Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don't give him any medication that isn't prescribed by a veterinarian. It's also smart to keep your pet out of other people's yards, especially if you're unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there. Keeping your pet off the lawn of others will make for healthy pets and happy neighbors.

Be sure and read the whole article from the ASPCA, as it contains much more great information for pets. And now that you know about the Northern Virginia Dog Blog, head on over there when you are out there sniffing around for something new to dig into.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do we really need more rules to make us do the right thing?

An article in yesterday's Washington Post reports that a new study by the Environment Maryland  Research and Policy Center "calls on Maryland to consider following other states, such as New York and New Jersey, which recently banned the use of fertilizers with phosphorous…" Basically, the article is saying that home landscapes contribute a lot of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and that "the state" should impose restrictions on what products homeowners can use in their landscapes to help control the problem.

The article contains some great information:

Grassy turf, not farmland, is the most dominant crop in the bay watershed. There were almost 1.3 million acres of planted turf in Maryland in 2009, compared with 1.5 million acres of all other crops, says the study by the Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center. 

Yet it is the least regulated of the state's major crops.  

Pollution in the bay increases when nutrients wash into its waters from snow and rainfall. And many lawn fertilizers have an excess of two problematic nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous.

And the 33 page report that the article references does have some great information about how our actions, as property owners, affect the water quality of the Bay. It then goes on to  list  recommendations for what changes could be made to regulate fertilizer use in home landscapes. Words such as dictate, ban, require, enforce, and prohibit are used.

 The question that came  to my mind is, do we really want and/or need more laws to get us to do the right thing in our landscapes? Or are we, as property owners, responsible and smart enough to make our own decisions?

My attitude has long been that we each need to take responsibility for our own share of the planet, but I admit that I'm a bit of an idealist.

The article goes on to quote Senator Cardin of Maryland as saying:

“All 17 million of us who live in the watershed need to be part of the restoration effort,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin(D-Md.). Not just wastewater facilities, municipalities and farmers, he said, but “homeowners and businesses also need to be part of the solution by reducing the chemicals we put on our lawns and other green spaces.”

The question is, are we responsible enough to make the right decisions on our own? Or do we need to wait for someone to make the decisions for us?

You can download the full 33 page report, Urban Fertilizers and the Chesapeake Bay here. And then you can let me know what you decide to do with your share of the planet.

Other posts about "shoulds" in the garden:

Should anyone else be able to tell you how you "should" garden?

"Shoulding" all over the place

Related article: Scott's to remove phosphorous in fertilizer

Patuxent River Clean-up Day – April 2

"To clean up a river, somebody has to get dirty!" ~ Patuxent Riverkeeper

As part of Earth Month, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the Patuxent Riverkeeper are  encouraging residents to join with their watershed neighbors, scout troops and school groups to help pick up trash along Maryland’s longest river, the Patuxent River on Saturday, April 2 from 9 a.m. to Noon.

The Patuxent River is home to more than 100 species of fish, including bass, catfish, chain pickerel, and bluefish. The Patuxent sustains nesting and over wintering bald eagles and a large extended habitat for indigenous wildlife. Among overall Bay tributaries, the Patuxent ranks seventh in fresh water flow into the Chesapeake Bay.

There are many spots to choose from for this cleanup, including Supplee Lane Recreation Area. To participate,  meet at the parking lot at 16904 Supplee Lane Road, Laurel or Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area, 2220 Ednor Road, Silver Spring. 

Wear old clothes and sturdy shoes.  WSSC will provide plastic bags and gloves.

For a complete list of all cleanup sites, download this pdf file: Annual Patuxent River Spring Cleanup

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recycled Worm Info

I'm weeding through a stack of old magazines at home and I keep finding great information that is worth sharing.

If you read my previous article on earthworms, you know that I think that earthworms are some of a green gardener's best friends.

Here are some excerpts from an article called Worms' Work, by Amy Stewart in the April/May 2004 issue of Organic Gardening Magazine.

Worms….change the soils composition, increase its capacity to absorb and hold water, and bring about an increase in nutrients and beneficial microbes. You could say they move the earth.

A happy Home

Can you introduce worms into your garden? yes, but it's better to increase the worm population already present. 

* Sweeten the soil. Worms prefer a neutral pH of about 7. If a test shows that your soil is very acidic, add bonemeal, limestone, or crushed oyster shell to raise the pH. 

* Add a layer of organic mulch. Worms thrive under manure, grass clippings, dead leaves, and compost. 

* Avoid disturbing the soil. Tilling and double-digging damage earthworms. Layer organic matter on the soil's surface instead. 

* Worms love clover. Consider planting it as a cover crop in winter and turning it under in spring.

* If you must add worms to your soil, find a spot where they're abundant, dig up chunks of soil with worms, and carefully place the chunks in a hole you've dug for them.

For more information about earthworms, see my previous post: Earthworms - Wriggling Wonders of the Garden

Wheaton High School Mulch Sale - April 9th


Brought to you by the Wheaton High School PTSA

When:  Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where: Wheaton High School, 12601 Dalewood Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20906

Time:   Pick up from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at WHS. Delivery in WHS area for $20 starting at 9 a.m.The Wheaton High School PTSA Mulch will take place rain or shine.

$4.25 per 3-cubic-foot bag of Country Boy’s Riverside Hardwood Shredded Mulch

For more information and to order mulch online, visit:
Wheaton High School PTSA webiste
Website says that online orders may be made until April 2nd.

Questions: Please e-mail or call Susan Conbere at 301-587-5587.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Organic Gardening For Babies

My home office has big windows with views of my yard, which is usually filled with birds, butterflies and beautiful blooms. The view always reminds me of both the reasons and the results of being an eco-friendly gardener. I’ve often said that I do it for the wildlife (I’m a real nature nerd) and the water (my husband is an avid fisherman who gardens green to keep the waterways healthy).

Inside my office, I have photos of the other important reasons for being a “green gardener” – the wee ones of the next generation. Three of them are in the beautiful photo above of my niece’s triplets.

As more and more of my friends and relatives are welcoming children and grandchildren, the importance of eco-friendly gardening becomes more evident to me.

Just in case you need any reminders, here are:

10 Reasons that Eco-Friendly Gardening is Good for Babies

1) Eco-friendly gardening means gardening without chemicals. Eliminating chemicals from our landscapes makes our gardens safer places for children to play. Because babies, kids, and pets spend most of their time playing outdoors on the grass, or indoors on carpets, where lawn chemicals have been tracked in on shoes, the tiniest members of our family are also the most vulnerable.

2) Eco-friendly gardening conserves water. Conserving water in our gardens helps to insure that we preserve the world’s water supplies for future generations – water is not a renewal resource.

3) Eco-friendly gardening creates wildlife friendly spaces. Creating wildlife friendly landscapes allow children a bird’s eye view of all of the wonders of the world.

4) Eco-friendly gardening insures that these wonders, such as hummingbirds and butterflies, will be around for them to appreciate and share with their own children.

5) Eco-friendly gardening prevents storm-water runoff. Preventing storm water runoff helps us maintain clean drinking water and provides beautiful recreational resources for future generations.

6) Growing food in eco-friendly, organic gardens provides healthier food sources for children.

7) Eco-friendly gardening saves time, which leaves more time for you to play with your kids (or grandkids). Choosing plants which are compatible with your site conditions will require less work.

8) Eco-friendly gardening saves money which you can spend on your kids (or grandkids). Learning to work with Mother Nature, Not Against her, will save money on water, chemicals and plants that don't flourish and need to be replaced.

9) Eco-friendly gardening decreases energy use (and air pollution associated with its generation) because less pumping and treatment of water is required.

10) Eco-friendly gardening is good for your soul. And good souls are important for raising good kids.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Water Day - Rain is a Terrible Thing to Waste

In honor of World Water Day 2011, I wanted to remind everyone to put out some rain barrels and not waste any of the wonderful Springtime rain!

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: "A rain is a terrible thing to waste."

So I hope you have your rain barrels up and functioning. If they are already full, get more barrels or open the spigots and fill up all of your watering cans.

And if you don't have any rain barrels, the obvious question is Why Not?

Rain barrels collect and save rain, which provides wonderful pure fresh water for plants and landscapes. A rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months.

Which means, of course, that rain barrels save money by allowing homeowners to use rainwater rather than tap water, cutting down on utility bills.

If you make your own rain barrel, you are saving space in a landfill by keeping a nice big plastic barrel out of there.

Rain barrels also help prevent stormwater runoff which can pollute our waterways.

To encourage more property owners to reap these eco-friendly benefits, many local Maryland and D.C. government programs offer discounts as an incentive to get even more of these water savers into backyards across the DC region. Some of these programs are listed in our previous post How to Earn Green by Going Green.

For information about buying supplies and instructions to build your own rain barrel, visit my previous post on rain barrels.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tips from Maryland Home and Garden

The Spring 2011 issue of Maryland Home and Garden, a publication of the University of Maryland Extension, is chock-full of great information for creating eco-friendly landscapes, including a detailed article about getting your soil tested.

The article starts out by saying:

The importance of soil to plant growth can be summed up in the aphorism "it’s better to plant a $2 tree in a $25 hole, than a $25 tree in a $2 hole." Soils contain the nutrients, water, and living organisms that help create healthy and sustainable gardens and landscapes. The first step to improving your soil is to invest a small amount of time and money to have your soil tested.

Other highlights from the current issue include:

• Many home gardeners over use fertilizers. This results in excessive nutrient runoff and water pollution. Over-fertilization especially with fertilizers high in nitrogen, can lead to overly-succulent, weak growth and encourage sucking insect pests like scales, aphids and adelgids. Most landscape plants get adequate nutrition from a healthy soil rich with organic matter. 

• Poor, compacted soils can be improved through the generous addition of organic matter. This spring, spade or till in a 6-8 inch layer of leaf compost or well-rotted manure. If you want to grow vegetables, flowers or herbs this year and your soil is especially poor, consider building a raised bed and filling it with a purchased mixture of topsoil and leaf compost. 

• April marks the beginning of the mowing season. The height and how frequently you mow your lawn is very important. Cool season grasses such as tall fescue, creeping fescue, and bluegrass should be maintained at 3.0 inches. Try not to remove more than one third of the leaf surface at any one time, repeated mowing that removes this much of the blade will ruin the lawn. 

Mulches should be applied only 2-3 inches deep around ornamental plants and kept away from direct contact with shrub and tree trunks. Mature trees do not benefit much from being mulched except to provide a protective barrier around their trunks from riding lawn mower damage. 

Click here to download the entire newsletter: Spring 2011 Maryland Home and Garden

Friday, March 18, 2011

#1 Happiest Large City - Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

According to a post on CBS called  The 10 Happiest (and Saddest) Cities in the U.S., the Washington Metro Area is #1 on the list of the 10 Happiest Large Cities.

It's probably because of all of the Bare Naked Gardening!

DC Water Hosts World Walks for Water 6K

DC Water Understands that Water is Life. That's why they are hosting the World Walks for Water 6K this weekend on Sunday, March 20th in Support of World Water Day 2011.

The walk will begin at Archives Metro Station - 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

For more information, visit World Walks for Water or the DC Water Press release.

Wildlife Moves Me! - LET'S MOVE Butterflies to the White House Garden

Wildlife Moves Me!  

The idea for this  post sprouted from many fertile seeds:

1) Mrs. Obama recently replanted the White House Garden for 2011. The White House garden is a part of Mrs. Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign to get kids outdoors to help combat childhood obesity.

2) March 14th – 20th is National Wildlife Week - a week designated by the National Wildlife Federation to teach kids about wildlife.

3) Sunday, March 20th, is the first Day of Spring

4) My fellow garden blogger Jan Huston Doble is running a campaign called the Gardener's Sustainable Living Project to encourage people to post what they are doing for Earth Day, which is April 22.

5) Marc Daniels is encouraging kids to email the president about a White House Peace Seed Planting to help Weed Out Hate

6) America's Great Outdoors Campaign , an effort of the Council on Environmental Quality, is looking for ideas to get kids to interact with and appreciate nature

7) The Children and Nature Network is kicking off their Let's G.O. Campaign in the month of April, to get more kids to Go Outside!

8) I believe that butterflies can help save the planet.

That's right. I said butterflies.

So I decided to create my own post called Wildlife Moves Me to help combine all of these efforts.

I believe that encouraging kids to create an eco-friendly garden to attract wildlife is one of the simplest and, by far, the most fun way to inspire them to take care of the environment. It is also an excellent way to combine the efforts of many organizations into one goal:  getting kids outside to move them, inspire them, educate them and encourage them to protect the planet.

There is just something magical about the process of learning how easy it is to attract such small, beautiful wonders as the iridescent hummingbird or how awe-inspiring it is to watch the transformation of caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and to know that the steps that you took are what brought those wondrous creatures to your yard.

I think that the process is so transforming, that I would  LOVE to see Mrs. Obama create a special garden at the White House to provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. It would be a great way to get kids outside in nature and help to educate and inspire our next generation of environmental stewards.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend to get your kids outside in nature, why not help them to create their own wildlife or butterfly garden? The change it will bring to your children, your life and your landscape will be magical!

The lessons one can learn and teach in a wildlife friendly landscape are too numerous to list, but here are just a few:

1) Taking care of the planet begins in our own backyards. Everything we do in our yards affects the rest of the planet. The benefits of conserving water and being aware of stormwater runoff are two of the easiest lessons to teach.

2) Gardens can feed people and wildlife too! Choose plants to  provide food sources for local wildlife. Adding parsley and dill to the White House Gardens will attract some beautiful butterflies!

3)  Eliminating chemicals in your organic garden is good for the food and for the local wildlife.

4) Some insects and garden creatures, such as worms and ladybugs, are very good in the garden

5) Counting birds and other species can help citizens  make important discoveries to help scientists

Here are some previous posts to help you get started on your wildlife-friendly garden.

10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Landscape

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Create a Butterfly Garden, Easy as 1-2-3

Plant More Plants - but water wisely

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), along with a number of other Chesapeake Bay Program partners in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., is encouraging homeowners to “Plant More Plants” as a way to mitigate stormwater runoff and erosion and ultimately help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  

The message to homeowners is simple: by planting more plants, they not only improve their lawns and landscapes but they also help protect one of our most important resources – the Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the United States.  

The Plant More Plants website provides many tips for creating a more eco-friendly landscape. Here are some of the suggestions for conserving water

There are three steps to practical landscape watering: Find out how much water your plants need. Know how much water each part of your watering system applies. Match your watering system output to your plants’ needs. To reduce watering and maintenance, group plants with greater water needs together, and place them in a spot that is naturally moist, such as a low-lying area or at the bottom of a hill. Whether you’re irrigating by hand or using an automatic timer, grouping like with like can simplify your watering sequence. 

When is the best time to water? Avoid afternoon watering, which results in a 20 to 25 percent loss of water through heat and evaporation. Watering in the evening prevents evaporation, but it increases the risk of fungal disease and damage from nocturnal insects searching for water. Morning watering is preferred. Avoid watering during the heat of the day, as water will be lost to evaporation. Apply water at a rate of half an inch per hour. Faster application will cause runoff, wasting water and money. 

Sprinkler Systems: Are you overwatering your yard? Many plant problems arise not from underwatering, but from overwatering. A good way to prevent overwatering is to install rain or soil moisture sensors to override your automatic. With hand watering, you can easily avoid overwatering.  

Click here to read more watering tips (pdf file) 

For more great tips from Plant More Plants, visit their website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Snakes in the Home Landscape - Respect them from a distance

The sun is shining, the days are getting warmer and in my landscape, that means that I need to be a little bit more wary about where I reach and step.

Although I love most critters that share my yard and gardens, I will probably always get a little creeped out when I see snakes.

On the one hand, I appreciate them because they eat rodents and other pesky critters. On the other hand, they are sneaky little boogers that can camouflage themselves very well and I often get surprised by their presence. Although I find many of them beautiful, I would just as soon have them stay out of sight while they carry out their rodent control duties.

Here are some facts and tips to help create a peaceful coexistence between you and snakes in your Metro DC area landscape. The highlighted information is from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Document: Managing Wildlife Damage: Snakes

1) The Northern Copperhead is the only venomous snake in the DC area (photo above). The information on this page from the Virginia Herpetological Society will help you learn all about this beautiful but venomous snake.

2) Large snakes provide an important service by helping to manage rodent populations (e.g., rats, mice, and voles) that can cause serious economic problems for homeowners, farmers, and businesses. In fact, farmers used to pay local kids a small “reward” to go out and collect ratsnakes to release around the barn and farmyard as a way to keep rodents in check. Many of the smaller species feed on insects and other invertebrate pests common to our gardens and landscape plantings.

3) All native snakes in Maryland are protected by the Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act. This means that native snakes cannot be killed without first acquiring the proper permit from the Department of Natural Resources.

4) It is illegal to kill any species of snake in Virginia unless it presents an imminent threat to one’s personal health and safety. Snakes are classified as nongame species and therefore are afforded full protection under existing nongame regulations, similar to all other species in this category.

5) Snakes can enter homes through very small openings. All possible snake entry places should be blocked. Galvanized screen can be used to cover drains or ventilators. Insulation can be used in cement cracks or where pipes go through outside walls. Places to concentrate your efforts would be where utility service (e.g., water, sewer, electric, telephone, cable) enters the home; where the clothes dryer vent exits the building; around doors, windows, and bulkheads to the basement or garage (including the gap under a large garage door); and where the house sits on its foundation.

6) Vegetation should be kept short around buildings. Mowed lawns near the house are less attractive to snakes and the rodents they feed on. A three-inch layer of pea-size gravel around the foundation will help plug small holes. Thin or reduce the amount of landscape plantings that exist immediately against the foundation of the home. Thick, lush gardens and layers of growth located against the home provide perfect cover and protection to both snakes and their prey.

7) To help keep snakes out of your yard, you need to take away anything that attracts their prey. This would include things like spilled bird seed, accessible pet food supplies, open containers of dry goods, and similar potential food items. Transfer all stored dry goods to metal or glass containers that cannot be chewed by rodents.

8) The most effective way to minimize or prevent a chance encounter with a snake outdoors is to modify the habitat such that the snake no longer can fulfill its basic life needs easily. Basic life needs, in this case, refer to food, water, cover, and space. By manipulating the habitat around your home, you can make it very difficult for a snake to survive there. Examples of actions that might be taken include: 

a. Eliminate, remove, or relocate brush piles, refuse, stored building products, stacked firewood, or other  materials that may provide useful cover and hiding spots for both snakes and the prey species they hunt. 

b. Thin out or selectively remove weedy or overgrown patches of vegetation that may harbor small prey animals such as rodents and provide cover for hiding snakes. 

c. In areas where small children or pets play, keep the grass well-mowed and maintain an expanse of well-cropped vegetation between the play area and the surrounding woods. Snakes usually do not like to be exposed in the open and away from cover. 

d. To create a snake-free play area, encircle the area to be protected with a fine-meshed (1/8- to 1/4-inch) fence, about 36 inches in height, that has been dug into the ground so that no gaps exist .

9) Although there are a number of commercially available products that have been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as snake repellents, research to investigate their effectiveness has yet to show any demonstrated success. Readers are reminded that use of any other nonfood-grade ingredients or “home-brewed” snake repellents made from chemicals for which an EPA product registration does not exist is a violation of federal law.

10) There are no chemicals or products registered or approved by the EPA for use as a means to kill snakes. Remember, it is illegal in Virginia to kill any species of snake and in Maryland to kill native snakes.

11) If you really don't like the thought of snakes on your property, professional wildlife control operators may be available to help you remove them.

12) If you are bitten by a snake, seek immediate medical attention. Current recommendations for proper treatment, provided by health professionals at the National Institute of Health, can be obtained from this link: Snakebites. Print the information and have it on hand, but always call 911 first if you think you may have been bitten by a poisonous snake.

For more information

All About Snakes in Maryland

10 Most Commonly Seen Snakes in the DC Metro Area

Snakes in Virginia

Managing Wildlife Damage: Snakes

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Volunteer opportunity this weekend

Join the Izaak Walton League-Wildlife Achievement Chapter and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission on Sunday, March 20th from 9am - noon, as they remove invasive weeds from trees and plant pawpaw, elderberry and pin oak seedlings to replace the trees that didn't make through the winter.

9 a.m. to Noon, Pigtail Recreation Area, 5400 Green Bridge Road, Dayton,MD.

For directions to the site - Contact Meo Curtis by email at

Wildlife Wednesday - something to screech about

If you have followed this blog for very long, you know that one of the main reasons that my husband and I are "green" gardeners is because we like to share our landscape with the local wildlife.

We were rewarded for our efforts this weekend when we looked up and saw this beautiful little screech owl sitting in the opening of the large nest box we had built.

We built the nest box a few years ago when we saw a pair of barred owls hanging around. Although we have never seen the barred owls use the box, all sorts of other birds and critters visit or live in the box, from time to time.

This little screech owl is definitely the cutest!

For more information about gardening for wildlife, visit this post:
10 Tips for a Wildlife Friendly Garden or use the "Search this site box" to search for widlife, hummingbirds, birds, butterflies, etc.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Spring Gardens - Upcoming Events

Green Spring Gardens is a "must visit" for everyone in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. It's a year-round gold mine of information and inspiration for the home gardener. It's an outdoor classroom for children and their families to learn about plants and wildlife. It's also a museum, a national historic site that offers glimpses into a long, rich history with colonial origins.


Urban Small Space Gardening (18-Adult) Click to Register with Parktakes Online
Location: Green Spring Gardens Park
Start Time/Day: 10am Sat
Whether you have a townhouse garden or a small lot in the city, we'll talk about creative ways to cope and maximize the space. Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine's Editor/Publisher provides a glimpse at lovely gardens in the area, including Alexandria, Georgetown, Capitol Hill and Falls Church to provide you with ideas for your garden.


Basic Gardening: Gardening for Birds Click to Register with Parktakes Online
Location: Green Spring Gardens Park
Start Time/Day: 1:30pm Fri
The Green Spring Master Gardeners are here to guide beginning gardeners on a journey that never ends but gets richer and richer with each passing season. Join us for these intimate, informal classes that reveal gardening basics.

For more upcoming gardening and environmental activities, visit our new Events, Classes, Volunteer Opportunities Page for local calendars.

A Community of Gardeners - the movie

Wow! I have only seen the trailer of the new documentary, A Community of Gardeners, but it is awe inspiring! The film, directed and produced by Cintia Cabib, "explores the vital role of seven D.C. urban community gardens as sources of fresh, nutritious food, outdoor classrooms, places of healing, links to immigrants’ native countries and oases of beauty and calm in inner-city neighborhoods."

A Community of Gardeners Trailer from Cintia Cabib on Vimeo.

There will be a showing of this documentary on  Thursday, March 24, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm at the  National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave., NW., Washington, DC

Join other Sierra Club supporters in attending an Environmental Film Festival selection focused on D.C., "A Community of Gardeners":
Throughout Washington, D.C., people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities are gardening side by side, growing vegetables, fruits and flowers in community gardens. Some are looking for basic sustenance, others for a way to remember their homelands, still others for a place to find a respite from their troubles. Through the voices of young people, senior citizens, immigrants, garden volunteers and educators, this documentary explores the vital role of seven D.C. urban community gardens as sources of fresh, nutritious food, outdoor classrooms, places of healing, links to immigrants’ native countries and oases of beauty and calm in inner-city neighborhoods. The film also looks back on the history of community gardens in the United States, from the potato patch farms of the late 19th century, to the victory gardens of World War II, to community gardening’s current renaissance. Directed and produced by Cintia Cabib.

RESERVATIONS are encouraged for this showing and can be made by emailing or calling 202-783-7370.
Tickets: $5, General Admission; $4, Members, Seniors and Students.

For more information on the film visit: A Community of Gardeners

Monday, March 14, 2011

Washington Youth Garden spring volunteer orientation

The Washington Youth Garden will be having their annual spring volunteer orientation on Saturday, April 9th from 9am to 12pm. Volunteers are asked to attend an  orientation before they volunteer. If you can't make it on the 9th, they will be having more orientations throughout the season on the first Saturday of the month.

After you attend the orientation, they have volunteer opportunities every Tuesday and Saturday from 9am to 12pm.

Information about what the WYG does and directions to their site at the Arboretum can be found on their website:

For more information, contact:

Kacie Warner
Education Coordinator
Washington Youth Garden
Friends of the National Arboretum
office: 202-245-2709

Fix a Leak Week - Mar. 14th - 20th

You probably didn't even realize that today is the first day of our country's 3rd annual Fix a Leak Week!

Okay. I admit it. I missed the first two Fix a Leak Weeks entirely, but now that I am trying to be more eco-conscious, it seems like a great idea to pass along.

During the week of March 14th – March 20th, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Watersense Program encourages all citizens to check their home plumbing for leaks and get them repaired.

aterSense Fix a Leak Week: March 15 - 21, 2010

Every Drop Counts 
Did you know that an American home can waste, on average, more than 10,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks?  

Nationwide, more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. That's why WaterSense reminds Americans to check their plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems each year during Fix a Leak Week.


What this means for gardeners:

The following information is provided on the EPA website for outdoor water leak problems and solutions

  • If you have an in-ground irrigation system, check it each spring before use to make sure it wasn't damaged by frost or freezing.
  • An irrigation system with pressure set at 60 pounds per square inch that has a leak 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • To ensure that your in-ground irrigation system is not leaking water, consult with a WaterSense irrigation partner who has passed a certification program focused on water efficiency; look for a WaterSense irrigation partner.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and ensure a tight connection to the spigot using pipe tape and a wrench.
  •  Or hire a WaterSense irrigation partner to inspect things  for you. These professionals have passed a certification program focused on water efficiency. They will not only help you detect and correct leaks in the system, but also maximize its efficiency.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

USDA encourages Public to Sign-up and Show their People's Gardens

WASHINGTON – March 11, 2011 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today urged people across the Nation to start People's Gardens in their communities and to register their gardens in the new People's Garden database, a tool for USDA partners to showcase their People's Gardens on an interactive map. This past year, thousands of USDA employees and partners heeded Secretary Vilsack's call to give back to their communities by volunteering their time to participate in the department-wide People's Garden initiative. 

"Real and effective change starts small and it starts in our own communities, and through the People's Garden initiative, people can be engaged in their own towns and neighborhoods to promote access to fresh, healthy food, as well as sustainable practices," said Vilsack. 

With the opportunity for the people to enter their People's Gardens into the database, they will be able to describe each garden, identify who is involved¸ where it is located as well as attach photos and add the contact information for their partners. For those who start a People's Garden, they can ask to have a People's Garden sign shipped to them. To view the interactive People's Garden map and access the database, go to

Click here to read full news release.

Free and low-cost compost and mulch

In response to a request for a good place to find low-cost soil or compost, Dodie Butler, DC area realtor and gardener, provided this info on a local forum:

Here is a link to the page in College Park's website that describes it's 'Smartleaf' Compost, likely some of the prettiest 'dirt' around. It can be picked up or they will deliver, and it may not seem cheap, until you picture what a couple of cubic yards looks like compared to a few bags of 'soil.' While Takoma Park's composted leaves are chopped up, good for 'mulch' but not really 'compost,' College Park really manages its composting by mixing leaves and grass and turning their piles and producing true compost. Super clean (no glass or paper bits), rich compost. 

I would start with a pile of the good compost and maybe mix in some sand to better approximate 'dirt.' Or add some dirt, but not much. Don't just buy bagged garden soil, it's not nearly as good as this compost. 

(BTW, while many of us find the smell of fresh compost to be lovely, when first delivered it can be pretty strong. First time I had it dumped in my driveway it didn't occur to me that there would be a smell. I had neglected to engage my neighbors in the plan and the smelly mountain of compost sat right under their kitchen window. I was mortified, but fortunately persuaded them to take a bunch of the compost. So aroma at initial delivery is a good reason to try to engage neighbors in compost purchases. The compost smell goes away quickly with exposure to the air.)  

To also pitch Takoma Park leaf mulch — anyone can go dig at their mulch piles and take the chopped leaves away for free. (I went into the public works office there a few years ago and asked a human before I believed that my D.C. plates wouldn't cause me to be challenged for taking mulch, but was assured it was OK.) Their chopped leaves are also quite clean and superb as mulch. If you really want to kill weeds, surround the plants you want to keep with sheets of newspaper and then cover with the leaf mulch.  

Takoma Park's website tells how much they charge for filling people's trucks with mulch and has the following prices for out-of-TP deliveries:  

Outside The City Price
3 yards delivered $65
7 yards delivered $105
10 yards delivered $105 

With either the College Park or Takoma Park deliveries, consider doing a group purchase with nearby neighbors, then the cost goes down to almost nothing.

Dodie Butler, Realtor
Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.
Dodie, thanks for giving me permission to reprint this great info. I've got a few more locations listed on the Links and Resources page.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Favorite Native Plants ~ Thomas Rainer

Today's list of Favorite Native Plants comes from Thomas Rainer, a landscape architect by profession and a gardener by obsession. Thomas has worked on projects such as the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and The New York Botanical Garden, but is happiest puttering in his small garden in Washington, D.C.

Picking my favorite natives is like picking my favorite foods: I love so many; it’s hard to know where to begin. But I think I’ll focus on a few underappreciated natives that make great garden plants. 

Most gardens have shade and these areas are typically the areas of our garden we neglect the most, or fill with invasive groundcovers. My absolute favorite fern is Dryopteris x australis or Dixie Wood Fern. This plant is a naturally occurring hybrid that is found in moist areas from Louisiana all the way to Virginia. The plant has strikingly upright fronds that grow three to four feet in height. What I love about this plant is how vigorous it is. In places where Ostrich Fern or Cinnamon Fern have limped along, Dixie Wood fern thrives, covering the ground in dense, glossy foliage. Plus, this fern is semi-evergreen, holding much of its form during winter. Combine this fern with other perennials with contrasting foliage such as hostas, Solomon’s Seals, or native sedges. You won’t be disappointed.

My favorite grass at the moment is Sporobolus heterolepsis or Prairie Dropseed (click here for photo). This plant is finally getting the attention it deserves. Low, neat clumps of fine textured grass hug the ground for most of the growing season. During late summer, the grass adds fine inflorescences that smell a bit like coriander (or burnt popcorn). The grass has lovely orange tones in during autumn. I love to use this plant in large masses, particularly against the edge of a lawn where it gives the look of a ‘rough.’ And because this plant is so low and fine-textured, it is an excellent plant to interplant flowering perennials into. A lovely, drought-tolerant, and tough grass. Chanticleer has a large mass of this grass at the edge of a large lawn . . . it’s stunning. 

Finally, last year I fell in love with Monarda punctata or Horsemint. This low perennial sports hot pink whorled leaves just below the flowers that dries into a lovely silver color that glows in the moonlight. Unlike most Monardas, this plant tolerates poor soil and drought. Pollinators love this plant. Since this plant can get a bit gangly by itself, I plant it in pockets on the edge of the border, or better, interplanted into a matrix of low grasses like Sporobolus, Schizachyrium, or Elymus. Last year, I easily grew this plant from seed and it bloomed during the first season. 

You can read more of Thomas' views on gardening and landscapes on his blog, Grounded Design

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Native Plants ~ Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine

Last month I started a little series of "Favorite Native Plant" posts, reaching out into the local gardening community to discover what native species are favorites. Since many of us are in the planning phase of our gardens for the coming season, I thought I would continue the series.

Today's favorites are from Kathy Jentz, editor, publisher and founder of Washington Gardener magazine.

My three favorite native plants  

It'd have to be Virginia Bluebells for sheer beauty. They are just stunning and photos never seem to really capture it. Worth the hike to see them in our local parks along stream bed valleys. En masse near Carderock Falls is my favorite Bluebell-peeping location.  

For all around best in show, my favorite is the Serviceberry. Whether you call it Shadbush or Saskatoon, this small tree hits on all top plant attributes. It has seasonal interest, glorious spring flowers, attracts wildlife, easy to grow, and the berries are not just edible - they are, in fact, downright yummy.  

Finally, I adore Beautyberry. It really comes into its own in late Fall when much of the rest of our gardens are growing weary and wan. Did you know it is also a mosquito repellent? If they are bugging you on a hot summer day, grab a few green leaves off the Beautyberry, crush them, and rub them on your wrists plus ankles.

Thanks Kathy. Beautyberry is one of my favorites, too, just because of the abundance of wildlife that it attracts.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New controversary about invasive species?

I was wondering why I was seeing so many articles about exotic and invasive species recently and then I discovered that last week was National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

The articles that I have seen floating around on local blogs and garden discussion groups seem to be slanted towards the opinion that exotic species might not be quite as bad as they were once thought.

A contributor to the WashingtonGardener Yahoo group mentioned Mark A. Davis's new book, Invasion Biology, in which he states that invasive species might actually be getting a bad rap.

Davis certainly doesn't say that ALL invasive species are okay. But he does say that if an exotic species is “not causing significant harm,” then “altering one’s perspective is certainly much less costly than any other sort of management program. ”

In my mind, Davis's highly controversial opinion does make sense. There seems to be a tendency to assume that all exotic, non-native species are bad and that all native species are better.

Much of this is, of course, a matter of semantics. Many people seem to interchange the words exotic and invasive and, of course, all exotic species are NOT invasive and some are even considered beneficial by many (did you know that many species of honeybees are non-native?)

According to the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center, an invasive species is defined as:

1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 

2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

By this definition, the fact that a plant or animal is alien (exotic) does not, by itself, make the organism invasive.

According to another website, over 85% of exotic species are NOT invasive.

Continuing the discussion on the Yahoo group, trumpet vine was mentioned as being both Native and Invasive. Again, this is a matter of semantics.

The NC State University website states that:

Native plants are never invasive. The term invasive applies only to exotic plants and not to native plants; invasive implies a negative effect on native plants and animals. On the other hand, native plants that establish quickly in your garden and spread readily are more appropriately termed “aggressive”.

The same website goes on to provide this statement:

There are many exotic plants that do not become invasive, and many can safely be planted in your landscape. However, it takes scientists many years or even decades to fully understand an exotic plant's potential invasiveness. New information is being gathered, and you should check with your local nature center, botanical garden, or Cooperative Extension agent to find out about a plant's invasiveness before introducing it to your property. 

We can easilly heed that advice by referring to these local lists of problematic invasive species in Maryland and Virginia.

Invasive Species of Concern in Maryland

Invasive Alien Plant Species of Virginia (pdf file)

Another term to add to the discussion is the word "noxious", which I found on a National Park Service website. 

Noxious Weeds.  The term noxious is a legal designation used specifically for plant species that have been determined to be major pests of agricultural ecosystems and are subject, by law, to certain restrictions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates noxious weeds. Plants can also be designated as "noxious weeds" by states and counties, usually through "noxious weed boards". Many noxious weeds are designated for their impacts to agriculture also threaten natural areas.

You can refer to this USDA page to find plants listed as Noxious Weeds in your state: State Noxious Weed Lists

Grants for gardening

Scott's Miracle-Gro, the World’s Largest Lawn and Garden Company, wants to help communities to Cultivate Green Thumbs

With that in mind, Scott's has launched their new GRO1000 Grant Program, offering $1,500 grants to deserving communities and organizations in the hopes it will get people involved in creating more community gardens and green spaces where they call home.

The goal: to plant 1,000 gardens and green spaces across the U.S., Canada and Europe by 2018.

“Something happens when communities grow and learn together,” said Jim King, ScottsMiracle-Gro’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. “People develop a sense of pride and accomplishment when they get involved in cleaning up their neighborhoods, growing flowers, or cultivating their own healthy local food, and we want to help them get the job done.”

Communities interested in pursuing 2011 GRO1000 grassroots grants can apply online at by March 31, 2011. Projects should include the involvement of neighborhood residents and foster a sense of community spirit.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting grant applications for $1.9 million in funding for environmental education projects and programs. The purpose of the grants is to promote environmental stewardship and help develop knowledgeable and responsible students, teachers and citizens. EPA expects to award at least 20 grants nationwide ranging from a minimum of $15,000 to a maximum of $100,000 and will accept applications until May 2, 2011.

The grants provide financial support for innovative projects that design, demonstrate, and/or disseminate environmental education practices, methods, or techniques. Projects should involve environmental education activities that go beyond disseminating information.

The Environmental Education Grant Program provides funding to local education agencies, state education or environmental agencies, colleges or universities, not-for-profit organizations, or noncommercial educational broadcasting entities. Tribal education agencies, which are controlled by an Indian tribe, band or nation, may also apply, including a school or community college.

Since the program began, EPA has provided more than $50 million in funding to approximately 3,000 agencies and organizations.

More information on eligibility and application materials:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Encourage Kids to Weed Out Hate

I recently wrote a post called Zen and the Art of Landscape Maintenance which talked about how relaxing and rewarding the act of weeding by hand can be.

But fellow gardener Marc Daniels has taken the therapeutic value of weeding a step further. In his Weed Out Hate campaign, Marc suggests that we should teach young children the challenges of weeding by hand as a lesson in weeding out hatred in the world. Highlighted text is from the Weed out Hate website.

Give them a head start by moistening the soil and using a trowel to loosen the root structure. Allow them to tug on the weed. Show them how weed-extracting aids work and inspire them to try to duplicate the functionality with their fingers. In this manner, they not only learn how embedded the roots of prejudice really are, but how much concentration and stamina it requires to properly extract them. 

The kindergardening concept was created in in Germany by Pedagogue Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel in the 19th century as a means to an ends—a method for exercising a child’s spirit as well as the mind and body. Most of us are unaware that the word kindergarten means kindergardening and not just pre-school with recess. The Weed Out Hate Initiative works because it provides needed exercise for our children. Additionally, it enables them to root out weeds throughout the school landscape, and, in the process, teaches a valuable lesson about weeding out bias and prejudice.

Daniel's Weed Out Hate campaign encourages children to email President Obama and voice their support for a White House Peace Seed Planting on August 28, 2011 - the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's famous "I have a dream speech."

Join the cause and help Weed Out Hate 

Some forty seven years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to the nation, much of his “promised land” vision has come to fruition. Unfortunately, there are still persistent weed seeds of hate that remain embedded in our collective consciousness, hindering our success as individuals and as a society. 

Let’s Finish with Our Hands what Dr. King Started with His Heart and Soul.

We, the kindergardeners of America, desire to complete the job that Dr. King started. Just as weeds compete for nutrients and water that cultivated garden plants require, our inner weed seeds, the germs of prejudice and hate, prevent us from experiencing our deepest root-connections to nature. With the right intention, removing weeds from our yards and gardens can serve as a paradigm for eradicating the inner weeds of hate and prejudice that many of us harbor and too often suppress. The physical act of weeding,therefore, enables us individually and collectively to realize Dr. King’s dream for a world free of hate and prejudice for one and all. 

Your Voices Can and Will Be Heard.

Just a few generations ago, teachers from all over the country asked their students to write President Nixon, asking him to remove phosphates from detergents. This grassroots campaign displayed the power of children’s voices in formulating policy. E-mail President Obama today and voice your support for a White House Peace Seed planting on August 28th, 2011, the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

For more information, visit: Weed Out Hate

This is such a clever campaign that I wanted to pass it on. I hope you will too!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Volunteers needed to help remove invasive species

Local reader Anne B. sent an email message after my post about local tree planting and asked if I knew of any plans to remove kudzu and ivy that are "choking" many of the trees in the area.

In response, here is a list of invasive weed removal activities which are planned. Volunteers are welcome to participate!  

Sunday, March 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Invasive Weed Removal at Scott’s Cove, 10964 Harding Road, Laurel  

Saturday, March 19 from 9 a.m. to Noon - Invasive Weed Removal at Brighton Dam, 2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookeville  

Sunday, March 20 from 9 a.m. to Noon - Invasive Weed Removal and Tree Planting at Pigtail Recreation Area, 5400 Green Bridge Road, Dayton  

Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m. to Noon at the Patuxent next to WSSC’s Office, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel  

Sunday, April 10 from 9 a.m. to Noon - Invasive Weed Removal at Brown’s Bridge Recreation, 2220 Ednor Road, Silver Spring  

Saturday, April 16 from 9 a.m. to Noon - Invasive Weed Removal at Scott’s Cove, 10964 Harding Road, Laurel, MD 

For more information, contact Kimberly Knox - 301-206-8233 or email  

More local groups that have invasive plant removal volunteer opportunities:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nothing corny about this weed killer

When I was a child, my grandmother grew huge fields of corn out in Oklahoma. I'd like to think that if she were alive today, she would be using her corn for something really environmentally friendly like bio-fuel or corn-gluten weed control.

Fortunately, other folks are out there putting corn to these great eco-friendly uses.

Safer Brand (a leader in organic gardening solutions) has introduced corn-based Concern Weed Prevention Plus, an all-natural weed control solution that is not only up to 90% effective on dandelions and crabgrass in the very first year, but will not leave harmful residuals in your lawn. Powered by corn gluten meal, Concern® Weed Prevention Plus® comes in a 25 pound bag providing you with 1500 sq. ft of natural weed prevention. Concern Weed Prevention Plus contains no synthetic ingredients and unlike traditional synthetic formulas, your children and pets can play on the lawn immediately after application. The product's corn-gluten meal formulation results in pellets that evenly distribute nutrients and kill weeds without burning grass or fragile plants.

I haven't tried this product yet myself but if I get tired of pulling my weeds by hand, I might just give it a try.

For more information, read: New Use for Corn: Weed Control

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tree Planting - March 12, 9am - Noon

Help plant trees for wildlife with WSSC and local Girl Scouts.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is having a tree planting on Saturday, March 12 from 9 a.m. to Noon at Scott’s Cove, 10904 Harding Road, Laurel, MD.

WSSC will be partnering with Girl Scouts to plant sassafras, elderberry and black cherry trees and will provide the gloves and the shovels.

The reason that WSSC choose these Mid-Atlantic trees is due to the wildlife benefits of these trees for wild turkeys, pileated woodpeckers, thrushes and northern mockingbirds.

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