Friday, September 30, 2011

Hydroponic Gardening Seminar

On Tuesday, October 4, the DC chapter of the Holistic Moms Network is hosting a seminar on hydroponic gardening from 7:00 – 9:00 pm in the community room of the Takoma Park Public Library. The meeting is open to the public for first time members.

Agnes Traynor, Master Gardener, will demonstrate different ways of growing your own greens and herbs indoors year-round. She will have a hydroponic garden on display and green, nutritious samples to share. This will be a terrific opportunity to learn how to garden indoors when it is too cold outside! She will also discuss microgreens growing. Microgreens are seedlings that have not yet developed their true leaves. Packed with nutrients, they provide a colorful and unique punch to salads, soups, and sandwiches. Some common varieties of microgreens include broccoli, kale, beet, amaranth, and arugula. You can harvest these homegrown greens within 7-10 days of planting and can enjoy them year-round.

Agnes Traynor is a Master Gardener and Wildlife Habitat Steward with the National Wildlife Federation. She owns Home Food Gardens, a local business promoting hydroponic gardening and supporting local kitchen gardens. Agnes demonstrates her commitment to urban agriculture by growing food for her family in their suburban front yard garden while supplementing each season with produce grown hydroponically indoors.

The “Hydroponic Gardening and Microgreens Growing” meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 4, from 7:00-9:00 pm in the Community Room downstairs at the Takoma Park DC Public Library. The Takoma Park DC Public Library is located at 416 Cedar Street NW, Washington, DC 20012. There is street parking, and the library is also metro-accessible from the Takoma/Red Line stop.

For more information, visit the Holistic Moms DC website

Looks what's in our nest box now!

Tom and I were just out taking a walk around the property. I looked up at one of the nest boxes and for a minute, I thought our screech owl was back. But looking is full of bees! I'm pretty sure they are honey bees. We've had them on the property once before and they hang out for a day or two and then disappear. Pretty cool sight, though. Notice them coming out of the side, too. That is an air hole we made for the owls.


Takoma Hort Club Annual Bulb Sale

The Takoma Horticultural Club (THC) is participating again in the 30th Annual Takoma Park Street Festival by hosting a booth (near Carroll and Tulip) where you can find all your spring bulbs. This is the club's only fundraiser for the year, so please come out, and bring your neighbors and friends! Rain or shine! (We have a tent, and bulbs don't mind getting wet.) Bulbs make great gifts, and extras can be bought for easy indoor forcing to brighten those grey winter days.
The festival will have live bands on three stages, over 200 artists and crafters, community groups, food vendors, and much more. Members of the Takoma Horticultural Club get a 10% discount on all bulb purchases. You are welcome to renew or join the club at the Fair. The membership fee is $18 for the rest of this year and through 2012; or you can become a Life Member for $125.
See you at the Fair with cash or checks and your reusable tote bags!
(Sorry, we cannot accept credit cards.)
Directions and details at
This information was provided by Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine, who also provided this BONUS information about bulbs:
BONUS Bulb Tips from Washington Gardener Magazine:
- plan to plant between mid-Oct and Thanksgiving — but if you get them in by the end of the year, you are still fine
- in general, pointy-side up 
- in a hole 2- to 3-times as deep as the bulb's height
- daffodils are most reliable for returning every year, they multiply in future years, and are deer-resistant
- look on packages for "early season", "mid season" and "late season" – try to buy a variety from each of these to lengthen your blooming time over a 6-8 week period rather than all bulbs blooming at once
- buy only bulbs that are firm, large and unblemished (no mold or mildew)

Kathy Jentz
Washington Gardener Magazine

Right Plant, Right Place - Seminar - October 14th

When: Friday, October 14, 12pm-1pm

What:  Landscape for Life Brown Bag Lecture Series: Right Plant, Right Place?

 Where: U.S. Botanic Garden, Conservatory Classroom

Bill McLaughlin, USBG Curator

Truly successful gardens provide beauty, require little chemical input and give back to nature. By emphasizing Mid-Atlantic native plants and understanding their requirements, the homeowner can have it all!

The USBG, in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, has developed Landscape for Life (, a program for home owners on sustainable gardening and based on the principles behind the Sustainable Sites Initiative. This Landscape for Life series serves to highlight how home gardeners can incorporate sustainability into their personal landscapes. These brown bag lectures can be done individually or as a series.

 Location: Conservatory Classroom

 FREE: Pre-registration required: Visit

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Any way you say it, it's good for the planet

Remember those puzzles when you were a kid that said "How many things can you find wrong in this picture?" Well, this post is kind of like that.

I found this article entitled 20 Simple Ways to Conserve Water the other day. It is obviously written by someone from another country who doesn't understand the English language very well. OR, maybe there is some sort of translating software that had its way with the author's words.

In any case, it's so "unique" that it might give you a few laughs. I've copied it in it's entirety here, just because I assume that eventually an editor might find it and pull it off of the site or at least clean it up a little.

The point is, no matter how you say, a lot of this advice is good for saving water (although I'm not sure I would trust any of the statistics cited).

I especially like #2, which seems to indicate that taking a bath in a bucket will save water.

Very few of us our aware of the fact that water reserves of the earth. While the supply being finite, we use, or rather waste it infinitely. Water is inevitable for our survival. We need water not only for drinking and cleaning but also for manufacturing, agriculture and other household activities. It is high time that we should stop wasting water and conserve it for our lives to sustain and for our future generations. 

Not just the technicians, soil scientists, farmers, hydrologists, wild life managers and other professions but every individual should also realize the importance of conserving energy and water in every form. By saving and reducing the usage of water and recycling waste water, we can do our bit to save the mother earth and also ourselves. 

20 simple ways to save and conserve water are suggested below: 

1. Water conservation in and around the house: Do not keep the tap open while washing hands, brushing our teeth and while bathing. Every drop of ‘water saved’ is ‘life saved’. 

2. Do not bath for too long: If a person shortens his every day shower time by a minute, he can save 150 gallons of water per month. Using a bucket while bathing instead of a shower can also do the needful. 

3. Re-use your towel while staying in a hotel: While putting up in a hotel you can do your bit by opting to reuse your towel even the next day and save gallons of water in turn. 

4. Recycling waste water: Recycle waste water by bathing your pets in the lawn and washing your cars in the garden area and water the respective areas at the same time. This will serve to purposes therein and save a lot of water. 

5. Water your plants when required: Water your plants only when they need it. Excessiveness is never good, it might kill your plants. 

6. Use dustbin instead of flushing the waste: You should always throw used tissue papers in the bin rather than flushing them. This activity can save water in gallons. 

7. Smart thinking saves water smartly: Do not throw an ice cube or any water left out anywhere in the wash basin, use it for your house plants instead. 

8. Channelizing waste water to landscapes: For automatic water saving, you can channelize water from rain gutters and HVAC systems to a place where the water loving plants are grown. 

9. Insulating your faucets: Your faucets should be insulated with hot water pipes to ensure immediate supply of the same to the tips, thereby saving both water and energy. Also, installing water saving aerators on all your faucets can also serve the needful. 

10. Group bathing: A very simple and easy way to save water in your everyday routine is by bathing your siblings of the same age group together. You unrealistically save a lot of water without putting in any extra effort. 

11. Use Eco-friendly toys which use less water: Avoid using toys which involve the usage of constant flow of water like recreational water toys. Educate and encourage your children to use water-friendly toys. 

12. Carefully handling your gadgets saves a lot of water: You can save 1000 gallons of water just by being a little precautious in running your washing machines, be it for clothes or utensils. 

13. Installing leak detection units: You should get leak detection units installed in your pipe fittings in the bathroom to monitor and control any water lost in the form of leaks and drips. 

14. Your duties at the work front to save water: Even at office fronts, you can play your part as a water conservationist by keeping the maintenance personnel. Beware of any leakage or drip in the toilets of your department. Hold discussions with your colleagues and raise consciousness in people regarding saving of water. It will be fruitful.

15. Using water saving products to conserve water: These days many water saving products are available in the market to support and induce consciousness in consumers to save water at home. Evolve shower heads and waterless urinals are some of them in this list. 

16. Be smart while working in the kitchen: Start using a compost pile to dispose off your kitchen waste rather than an electric one. Don’t leave the faucet open, while washing dishes under the tap . 

17. Refrigerating drinking water: For drinking water, keep a pitcher in the refrigerator to cool rather than using running tap water to cool it off. Anyny leftover water should be used for your plants rather than throwing it in the sink.

18. Conserving water in outdoors: Water your lawn or garden in the cool parts of the day, especially in the morning or evening hours and not in the day time to conserve water. Avoid watering on windy days when most of the water gets drifted away by the blowing wind. 

19. Use sprinklers for plants wisely: While watering your lawn you should always adjust the sprinklers so that you do not waste water unnecessarily by watering the house, sidewalk and street. However, smaller areas should be watered by hand and not by sprinklers to avoid wastage. 

20. Creating awareness amongst people of your area: Educating people on conserving water can be a boon and this can be done if you take an extra effort to induce your school systems and local government to teach children and adults by holding seminars and other programmes for the same. 

Water Conservation is much needed and it is high time we all should wake up and contribute towards saving the most inevitable element of our lives. 

P.S. Mam, Kindly note that I am not getting relevant pictures according to the size, I request you to help me if u can and insert some pictures for me. I have tried to do some on my own.The images loaded are not getting adjusted to the relevant size, but they adhere to the topic. Kindly bear with me for the inconvenience.



D.C. is America's Top Green Power Community

Here is some fun "green" news to pass along.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the communities of Washington, D.C. and Brookeville, Md. as winners of the first Green Power Community Challenge. The year-long challenge encouraged communities across the nation to voluntarily increase their use of green power generated from renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and low-impact hydropower. By using green power, communities help to reduce their carbon footprint, improve public health, and advance the market for renewable energy. 

Washington, D.C. surpassed all other challenge participants to win the competition title for the most amount of green power used annually. District of Columbia businesses, residents, and the District Government are collectively using more than 772 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, enough to meet 8 percent of the community's total electricity use. 

Brookeville, Md., is the challenge winner for the highest green power percentage of total electricity use. Forty-five percent of Brookeville’s local government, residential, and business electricity usage comes from green power sources.

For more information about the Green Power Community Challenge, visit the EPA website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DC School Gardens Bike Tour

Come out and join fellow bicyclists (or van riders) on Saturday, October 1 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. for an exhilarating tour of DC School Gardens. Both the van and bike tours will begin and end at the same locations this year, giving you the opportunity to meet more people and share what you learn.

Everyone will meet at Watkins Elementary where a free breakfast will be waiting, return together at Tubman Elementary where everyone can recap the tour over a free lunch (thanks Chipotle). You can choose to either bike or take the van — both will allow you to experience school gardens, talk to the hard-working and inspiring people involved in sustaining these gardens, and ask questions.

Please RSVP to and indicate whether you’d like to participate in the van or bike tour. If you don’t have a bike, but would like to participate in the tour, let us know- we’ll hook you up with a bike courtesy of Capitol Bikeshare! Be sure to come along for the entire ride as fabulous prizes will be raffled off at each garden! BicycleSPACE has generously donated a $50 gift card.

Click here for more information.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Professional car washes better for environment

Here's an article that falls under the "you learn something new every day" category. Apparently, its better for the environment to have your car washed at a professional car wash than to wash it at home.

Here are some highlights from a news release put out by the International Carwash Association®.
  • Washing your car at home in the driveway with a garden hose uses about 7 gallons of fresh water every minute. In as little as 15 minutes, washing with a hose can use nearly 100 gallons of water.
  • Carwashes enrolled in the WaterSavers program ( more than 800 car washes across the United States and Canada) meet stringent environmental standards for water use and treatment. WaterSavers car washes use a maximum of 40 gallons of water per car in conveyor and in-bay/rollover systems. Self-service washes in the program maintain high-pressure systems that use 3 gallons of water per minute or less.
  • “It’s important to note,” says Eric Wulf, CEO of the Chicago-based International Carwash Association, “that washing vehicles on paved surfaces sends runoff containing soap and other harmful chemicals into storm sewers that empty into our streams, rivers and lakes. In contrast, professional car washes collect, treat and recycle waste water, discharging any remaining water into the local water treatment system, where it is processed before being released into waterways.”
  • Research shows that runoff from driveway or pavement washing can harm wildlife. A Washington state environmental firm collected actual runoff from a car wash fundraiser held in a parking lot. Rainbow trout were exposed to the runoff, and all the fish died within 24 hours. A second test, of water that contained the same concentration of detergent a car owner might use to wash a vehicle at home, produced similar results.
There is a really great, promotional video about the program on their website You can also locate the Watersaver carwash that is closest and most convenient to you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maryland First State to Require Environmental Literacy in Schools

I was visiting a garden center one day and I overheard an elderly couple talking about creating a butterfly garden. They were in their 70's or 80's I'd say, and they were very excited about the prospect of being able to attract butterflies to their yard. They had learned all about butterfly gardening, they said, from their granddaughter, who had learned it in school.

I love passing along that story, because I think it is such a great example of why environmental literacy is so important.

I don't remember learning much about the environment when I was in school. I do remember refusing to participate when we were asked to dissect frogs. And I remember a horrid "lesson"  that required us to follow the progress of eggs in an incubator, taking one out each day and breaking it open to see the various stages of the developing baby chick. That experience made me almost nauseous at the thought of eating eggs for many years. I honestly can't remember one thing I learned in school that helped to foster my present day love for the environment.

But much of that is changing in today's school systems, especially in the state of Maryland.

Maryland has become the first state to make “Environmental Literacy” a requirement in the school curriculum for all enrolled students as of 2011.

"The standards are very broad," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. "Maryland is so connected to its environment through bays, mountains and the ocean. This is just a natural progression of what we are already doing. For kids, it's always a highlight of the school year to be involved in environmental course work."

Officials said most schools and districts were already meeting the requirements, and the new standards were to ensure every student was getting the same level of education on the environment.

"Each elementary school in Anne Arundel County is building a garden for monarch butterflies, as a hook to understand monarch butterflies and ecology of the bay," said Tom Zolper, a representative of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which helped push for the requirements. "Often times kids are helping to build the gardens, then they are recording and making graphs, working it into math, social studies and biology. That's in your schoolyard, but kids are using streams that are a block away and taking nets and seeing what microvertebrate are present. "

Imagine getting kids so excited about the environment that they can go home and explain to their parents the dangers of pesticides and wasting water and other things that we didn't learn because we were following the stale old curriculums of 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. Congratulations to the state of Maryland for taking this step. I hope that other states will soon follow their path.

You can read more about this initiative from the article I found on

Or you can follow this link to take a look at the Maryland State Environmental Literacy Curriculum (Draft)

Raingarden seminar

WHAT:   Seminar to promote the environmental benefits represented by rain gardens.  Homeowners will learn how to properly site, design, construct and maintain do-it-yourself rain gardens.

WHEN:    Saturday, October 1st, 9:30 – 12:30.   Check-in begins at 9 a.m.

WHERE:     Marymount University – Caruthers Building, room 1021, 2807 North Glebe Road, Arlington        

WHO:   Hosted by the Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works and MarymountUniversity, respectively, in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, the Community Appearance Alliance of Northern Virginia, and ArtSpace Herndon.

WHY:   Stormwater runoff is the number one water quality problem throughout Northern Virginia, carrying pollutants to local streams, larger bodies of water and ultimately theChesapeake Bay.  Rain gardens allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, slowing its flow and preventing pollutants from reaching local waterways.  Due to their ability to retain and filter water, rain gardens also aid homeowners in solving drainage or standing water problems.

 COST:              The seminar is free and open to the public.

CONTACT:       Registration is requested.  To reserve a seat for the seminar, contact Laura Grape, Senior Environmental Planner with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission at or 703-642-4625

 For more information, visit

Friday, September 23, 2011

This Just In! Maryland has the most beautiful minds

A study conducted by a natural products company, Life'sDHA, and the National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA) has concluded that Maryland has the most beautiful minds. Washington DC came in second.

America's Brain Health Index, a state-by-state measure of the nation's brain health, evaluated the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia based on 21 factors including diet, physical health, mental health and social well-being. In addition to providing a ranking for each state, America's Brain Health Index also includes comparative data showing how each state has either progressed, held its own or lost ground in taking measures to improve brain health over the past two years.  

The 2011 America's Brain Health Index shows that the top two brain-healthy geographies in the United States are Maryland (No.1) and the District of Columbia (No. 2). Index comparative data also shows that Maryland has overtaken Washington for the No. 1 spot since 2009. Both Maryland and Washington D.C. are home to two of the Beautiful Minds who are being recognized for their commitment to brain health. View the complete rankings at

I was going to attribute these great rankings to gardening, since we know that gardening is good for your physical health and good for your mental health. But I know that Viriginia has just as many gardeners as DC and Maryland, and Virginia came in at # 22!

Here is a sampling of "brainpower-boosting tips" available on the study's education website,
Diet and nutrition — incorporating a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and added sugar but rich in brain-enhancing foods such as good fats like DHA omega-3, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and algal DHA supplements. {And growing your own antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables is fun!}
Physical health — staying physically active for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week and making wise lifestyle decisions such as getting enough sleep and not smoking. {It's easy to stay physically active for at least 30 minutes a day while gardening!} 
Mental health — continually challenging the brain through activities such as game playing, creative pursuits like gardening, dancing or painting, or learning a new language or skill. 
Social well-being — nurturing human connections and engaging in social activities to give life purpose, such as volunteering. {There are all kinds of ways to volunteer tomorrow, for national public lands day}

If you want to read more about the study, you can direct your beautiful mind to this article.

Autumn Honey-Do List for the Garden

Good morning honey! Happy first day of Autumn. Why don't you take a few minutes to relax while you revisit my post from last year and think about the beautiful time of year that starts today.

And now, put on your gardening gloves because I have a nice little honey-do list for you to get the gardens ship shape for Autumn. (Excerpts from the Maryland Home and Garden Newsletter)
Make more Compost - Fall is a good time to start a compost pile by mixing together spent plants, kitchen scraps, fallen leaves, old mulch and grass clippings. Shred your materials with a lawnmower, string trimmer or machete to speed-up the breakdown process. Keep twigs, branches and other woody materials out of the pile. Related Post

Keep the critters happy - Keep birdbaths cleaned and re-filled. Don’t remove the large seedheads of black-eyed susans, coneflowers, and other perennials for birds to feed on over the winter. Leave hummingbird feeders up through October. Related posts: Autumn in the Garden, Great Time for Backyard Birds

Mulch the leaves - Leaves that fall onto the lawn can be shredded with a lawnmower and left to decompose naturally. Run over the accumulated leaves several times with the mower to break them into small pieces. The decomposing leaves release nutrients and add organic matter to the soil; they will not hurt the turf. Remove deep piles of leaves or turf crowns may smother and die. Related Post

Move some trees - Remember those trees that were really scary because they seemed a little too close to the house during all the wind from hurricane Irene? Now is a good time to plant or transplant trees. 
However, dogwood, tulip poplar, pin oak and evergreens should not be dug up and moved (transplanted) in the fall; these species will usually fail to establish a root system in the fall. Related Post

Deal with the poison ivy - Poison ivy leaves turn red in the fall. Now is a good time to walk around the property and find where all of the poison ivy is. Deal with it as you see fit. Related Post

Cover your bald spots - Bare soil is prone to erosion especially over the winter and should be covered with mulch, groundcovers or turf. Related Post

Dispose of the chemicals - Avoid storing pesticides over the winter in sheds and garages. Cold temperatures can cause these materials to become ineffective. If you have questions about the efficacy of your pesticides call the manufacturer, using the phone number listed on the label. Related Post

When you are done with your other chores, you can. 

Have a beer with the slugs - The three types of slugs found in this area are the spotted garden slug (3-5inches), the tawny garden slug (2-3 inches) and the gray garden slug (2-3 inches). They cause damage (large holes in leaves) to a wide variety of annuals and perennials. Set out shallow saucers of beer or yeast mixed in water and a teaspoon of soap to attract and drown the slugs. ( Read more...)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Still blooming in September

Fellow blogger Jan Huston Doble always has such beautiful photos on her blog, Thanks for Today.

Check out the gorgeous blues, purples and pink flowers she has that are still blooming in her garden this September. I admire her gardens AND her photography.

Thanks for sharing your photos today and always, Jan.

Jan's Note:

  The weather is cooling down and it's been comfortable, in the 60's and 70's, lately. A few days we've even woken up to 45 degrees here in northern VA. The plants are much happier than they were this summer, and I haven't added any additional water in weeks. It has rained on and off, which is just what my garden needed to lose that 'crispy' look.

Check out the photos!

CSI (Critter Scene Investigation?) for Garden Pests

As a green gardener, I always try to encourage people to deal with their garden pests in an environmentally friendly way.

I list many organic pest control methods in this post, Organic Pest Control Methods Explained.

But the first step in controlling insects in the garden is to identify what sort of critter you are dealing with in the first place.

Here's a great little video that I found on the University of Maryland Grow It Eat It website. It's very information and I really like the bug guy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

National Public Lands Day - September 24th

Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the whole world will be clean. -- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
I'm pretty big on encouraging everyone to take care of their own share of the planet by maintaining an eco-friendly landscape. But in a broader sense, the public lands in your area are an extension of "your share".

September 24, 2011 is National Public Lands Day (NPLD). It is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States.

NPLD began in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. It proved to be a huge success and NPLD became a yearly tradition.

Last year, 170,000 volunteers worked at over 2,080 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and in many U.S. territories. NPLD volunteers:
  • Removed an estimated 450 tons of trash
  • Collected an estimated 20,000 pounds of invasive plants
  • Built and maintained an estimated 1,320 miles of trails
  • Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
  • Contributed an estimated $15 million to improve public lands across the country
As the hometown of the headquarters of National Public Lands Day (NPLD) and the National Environmental Education Foundation, Washington, D.C. has a strong connection with public lands. The District has a land area of only 68 square miles, but is home to 22 national parks, such as the National Mall and Anacostia National Park. Public lands are intertwined with the culture and history of Washington, D.C.

There are many events scheduled for NPLD in the area. If you are looking for a way to meet other eco-minded people and clean up some of the area parks, why not spend a few hours at one of these great events:

Rock Creek Park is the location of a National Public Lands Day signature event. Over 200 volunteers will come together to beautify the park in the morning. Later on, they will celebrate at a recreation and health fair in the afternoon..

If you find yourself on the National Mall, head to President’s Park and the Ellipse for the Nickelodeon World Wide Day of Play. There will activities and games for families to get outside and get moving. The focus will be on Let’s Move Outside and recreation education. The National Environmental Education Foundation will be on the Ellipse to join in on the fun.

In the District of Columbia
In Maryland
In Virginia
For More Information, visit the National Public Lands Day website  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Wetland and Gardens for Hardy Middle School

Here are some excerpts from a neat article that I found this morning in the Georgetown Patch. Use the link at the bottom of this post to read the entire article.

Plans for a new wetland and gardens at Hardy Middle School will provide an outdoor classroom for students and could serve to better connect the community with the school. Through the District Department of the Environment, Hardy received a grant to build a new wetlands area, butterfly garden and vegetable garden in a marshy patch of grass next to the tennis courts. 

According to Trinh Doan, an environmental protection specialist at DDOE, Hardy was one of five schools to receive a grant out of approximately 20 that applied. 

The main goals for the new outdoor classroom are: 

1. To give students a better sense of the natural world, to teach them to become environmental stewards
2. To open up the school to the community by inviting them to meet the students
3. To create an environmental certificate program earned by Hardy Students from sixth through eighth grade.

This project is “different from anything else I’ve seen” said Hill, so the DDOE team is “trying out some new things” to work with the existing natural environment. 
The wetlands and the future gardens have been a true collaboration of local businesses and organizations. Garcia said the Butterfly Garden will be supported through the Monarch Sister Schools Program. DC Greens has also “given us quite a bit of support” said Garcia. 
The wetlands will be planted during D.C. School Garden Week Sept. 26 through Oct. 1. The butterfly garden will be planted in the spring and the vegetable garden will be part of next fall’s lessons.

What makes this project so different? Read the original article for more info.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raingarden Seminar

WHAT:   Seminar to promote the environmental benefits represented by rain gardens.  Homeowners will learn how to properly site, design, construct and maintain do-it-yourself rain gardens.

 WHEN:    Saturday, September 24, 10 a.m. – noon.  Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:  ArtSpace Herndon, 750 Center Street, Herndon        

WHO:   Hosted by the Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works and MarymountUniversity, respectively, in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, the Community Appearance Alliance of Northern Virginia, and ArtSpace Herndon.

 WHY:   Stormwater runoff is the number one water quality problem throughout Northern Virginia, carrying pollutants to local streams, larger bodies of water and ultimately theChesapeake Bay.  Rain gardens allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, slowing its flow and preventing pollutants from reaching local waterways.  Due to their ability to retain and filter water, rain gardens also aid homeowners in solving drainage or standing water problems.

 COST:              The seminar is free and open to the public.

 CONTACT:       Registration is requested.  To reserve a seat for the seminar, contact Laura Grape, Senior Environmental Planner with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission at or 703-642-4625

 For more information, visit

Virginia GoGreen Garden Festival


The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announces the sixth annual Virginia GoGreen Garden Festival Saturday, September 24, 2011, at the Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 West Broad Street in Richmond, VA. Activities take place in the Gardener Pavilion rain or shine. The multi-faceted event, sponsored by the Virginia Green Industry Council, runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, free for children 12 and under. Parking is free on the museum lot.

This year’s Festival features plants for display and sale by Virginia growers, plant raffles every half hour, gardening products that can help make your yard the envy of the neighborhood, landscaping services that give your yard that wow factor, information on creating rain gardens using native plants, presentations by Sandy of Sandy’s Plants about fall gardening and perennials that thrive in Central Virginia and much more. Other attractions include Richard Nunnally of WCVE-TV’s Virginia Home Grown answering your plant and gardening questions and Catherine Zimmerman of The Meadow Project with a presentation on urban and suburban meadows. She will sign her book Urban & Suburban Meadows, Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces.

Food is available for purchase and Triad from Glen Allen will perform blue grass and popular music. The Silly Bus with entertain children with interactive music, and the sales area includes crafts, garden products, the Countryside Bakery, fall decorations and more. Exhibits will focus on garden and landscape design, green roofs and environmental stewardship for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This annual family event is produced by the Virginia Green Industry Council to promote the Virginia horticulture industry, encourage interest in gardening and promote environmental stewardship.

Make plans now to attend the Garden Festival Saturday, September 24. Enjoy a few hours of fun and information for the entire family and go home with plants, decorations and ideas to make your garden the best it can be. For more information on the Festival, contact Rick Baker at or 301.275.2077.

Eco-Friendly Resources for the Metro DC Area

September 19th - 25th, 2011 is National Pollution Prevention Week, a week that highlights the efforts of the EPA, its partners, and the public in making pollution prevention a cornerstone of sustainability.

There are a lot of great resources on the EPA's website to educate the public about ways to prevent pollution. For gardeners, they have topics such as:
But rather than just sharing the national information on the EPA website, I wanted to bring you information specific to the Metro DC Area. With that in mind, I have created a new page called:

Eco-Friendly Resources for the Metro DC Area.

Here, you will find lots of great resources for ways to be eco-friendly in the DC area.

Bookmark the list. Link to it from your blog or website. Share it with your kids. Thumb through it on your lunch hour. Or bring it up instead of that game of solitaire that you usually jump too when you need a break from your regular routine.

As it says on the EPA Website:

You Can Change the World — Get Started Now!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Grow Your Own Environmentalist

Recently, the Nature Conservancy conducted a survey of 602 young people to get their attitudes about the environment. The good news from the survey is that spending time in nature helps encourage kids to want to protect it. The bad news is, they don’t seem to realize that “nature” and the environment start right in their own backyards.

The poll was conducted from July 28 through August 4, and asked kids between the ages of 13 and 18 about their attitudes toward nature, outdoor activity and environmental issues.

Topics included: why kids don’t spend more time in nature, how spending time in nature makes them feel and their attitudes toward preserving nature and the environment.
The data suggests that if American youth are given more opportunities to have a meaningful experience outdoors, they will be more likely to value nature, engage with it, and feel empowered to do something about it.
However, only about 10% of those surveyed say that they spend time outdoors every day.

There was a wide range of reasons kids gave for not spending time outside. Discomfort from heat and bugs were at the top of the list. But many of the other reasons given seem to indicate that kids don’t seem to connect time in their OWN yards and gardens as time spent in nature. 62 percent said they did not have transportation to natural areas !!! 61 percent said there were not natural areas near their homes !!! Others cited fear of crime and other safety issues in nature areas.
Clearly, either those who conducted the survey or the kids themselves don’t realize the incredible opportunity to connect with nature in a green, eco-friendly landscape.

This is especially discouraging because, among the outdoor activities that the kids expressed an interest in, 78% of them said “seeing something beautiful or amazing in nature” which of course, is something that all of them could experience outside in their own eco-friendly yard.

66 percent of those surveyed said that they "have had a personal experience in nature," that made them appreciate it more. Those who DID have such an experience were almost twice as likely to say that they prefer spending time outdoors over being indoors and more than twice as likely to agree that protecting the environment is cool. Clearly, getting kids to see the beautiful and amazing things in nature is key to getting them to care about the environmental issues of our day.

Here is an excerpt from the report, Connecting America’s Youth With Nature:
Kids who have experienced something “beautiful or amazing in nature” are:
  • Almost twice as likely to say they prefer spending time outdoors;
  • Significantly more likely to express concern about water pollution, air pollution, global warming,and the condition of the environment;
  • Ten points more likely to agree that we can solve climate change by acting now;
  • 13 points more likely to say environmental protection should be prioritized over economic growth;
  • More than twice as likely to “strongly agree” that protecting the environment is “cool;”
  • More than twice as likely to consider themselves a “strong environmentalist,” and
  • Substantially more likely to express interest in studying the environment
Other findings of the survey:

• 76% of youth today strongly believe that issues like climate change can be solved if action is taken right now. This means that there is great potential to mobilize members of this generation to get involved and make a difference.

• Nearly three-quarters of youth surveyed associate being in nature with being peaceful, free, calm, and happy. Just being outside can help them to cope with stress and anxiety. This makes for happier kids, and happier parents.

What does this survey mean to us, as green gardeners? It means that we have the opportunity to not only protect the environment NOW, with our own environmental efforts. But we also have the opportunity to help educate the next generation of environmental stewards by taking the time to share our gardens with our own children, our friend's children or children in our neighborhood.

There are many lessons to be learned through green gardening. If kids like to go fishing, you can teach them the importance of preservering and protecting water around the home. If they like birds and hummingbirds, you can teach them why native plants are better at attracting them. If they like butterflies and insects , you can teach them the importance of eliminating chemical pesticides.
The findings of the report definitely show that American youth are concerned about the environment and want it to be protected. In fact, 86 percent go so far as to say that it is “cool” to do things to protect the environment. What they lack are opportunities to engage more meaningfully with nature. The more youth are given the chance to get involved with nature, the more their instinctive concern about the environment can be solidified and cemented into long-term commitment to protecting it.
There are many articles on this blog that contain lessons that can be learned in an eco-friendly garden. Some of them are listed below.

But here are a few ideas that I like to share with the kids that visit my yard and habitat:

1) Have a scavenger hunt in your yard (can also be carried out at a local park): Wake up early and take a quiet walk around your yard with a notebook in hand. Look for at least ten wonderful, curiosities of nature that aren’t easily noticed and make a list of them. Perhaps you will see some caterpillars dining on a host plant or a beautiful spider web stretched across two tree limbs or a tiny little tree frog hidden in the leaves of a flower. Make a list of your finds (but not their locations). Give a copy of the list to each of your children or other participants and have a scavenger hunt in your yard. Whoever finds all the items first wins!

2) Play Got W.O.N.!: Similar to the scavenger hunt above, in this activity, each participant is sent out into the yard to see how many Wonders of Nature (W.O.N) that they can find in an allotted time. At the signal of the timekeeper, each participant heads out looking for wonders. When they find something of interest, they yell “Got W.O.N.”, and the name of the Wonder of Nature that they have discovered. An example would be “Got W.O.N. – Hawk feather!” or “Got W.O.N. – monarch chrysalis.” At the end of the allotted time, the person with the most Wonders is the Winner!

3) Get sensitive: Encourage children to use all of their senses to explore your yard and gardens. Start with eyesight and have each participant mention several things that they see in their surroundings. Then have them close their eyes and mention things that they hear. Do they hear birds, bees, hummingbirds? Next, try smell. If you grow flowers or herbs, be sure and share those wonderful aromas with them. For touch, have them close their eyes and guide them to touch various textures, such as tree bark or grass. Can they guess what they are touching? If you grow your own fruit or vegetables, include whatever is ripe (and clean) in your sensory explorations

4) Be a Detective: Take your digital cameras out into the yard and take photos of as many different plants and critters as you can find. Challenge your kids to use the computer to help ID them.

Whatever you do, however you do it, take the time to notice some of the wonders of your garden each time that you spend time there. Sharing them with others is a great way to help ensure that those wonders will still be there, for generations to come.

More articles of interest:

You May Already Be a Nature Nerd

Every Time You Garden Green a Butterfly Gets Its Wings

Does Eco-Friendly Gardening Help Local Wildlife Populations

Wildlife Moves Me

10 Tips for Creating an Eco-Friendly Landscape

10 Reasons that Eco-Friendly Gardening is Good for Babies

Friday, September 16, 2011

Angelina Jolie - My New Favorite Nature Nerd

For several years, I have been on the look-out for celebrity nature nerds. Nature Nerds, by my definition, are people that don't just give money to environmental causes. They are the ones that actually get out there and play with bugs and get eye-to-eye with the critters in their yards.

So I LOVE this short little article that I read about Angelie Jolie this morning on

Angelina Jolie is Bugging Out 
The actress — who is a mother of six — says she is such a fan of veteran anthropologist and ape expert Jane Goodall that she and partner Brad Pitt make a point of encouraging their children to be hands-on with nature. 

“I remember the stories about how Jane used to keep worms in jars when she was little and bring them into the house and I look for that in my children,” says Jolie who appears on a TV biography of the 77-year-old animal lover. 

“If ever my children want to take care of a bug I know it’s very important to help them do that because it’s symbolic of love and nature. Maybe then you’ll have a little Jane Goodall on your hands!”

Way to go Angelina! We need more celebrities like you who encourage their kids to go outside and get eye-to-eye with nature so that they can learn, firsthand, about the wonders that we are all trying to protect!

If you want to know more about my great search for nature nerds, here is a blog post that I originally wrote back in 2007!

You May Already be a Nature Nerd

© 2007 Betsy S. Franz
When I was growing up, there were two distinct types of people: the cool people and the nerds. The cool people were the football players, the cheerleaders, and anyone in a rock band. The nerds were the ones who got good grades, wore black rimmed glasses and were much more likely to have a microscope or a telescope at home than they were to have a date on Friday night. 

Generally speaking, the birdwatchers and the backyard botanists fell into the nerd category. Cool kids didn’t even know what a chrysalis was much less have one in a jar in their bedroom. 

But times have changed. Protecting the planet and all of its creepy crawly inhabitants is not only sociably responsible AND socially acceptable but it is also suddenly cool. 

Sure, there are many different shades of ‘green’, and environmental responsibility takes many forms. Every day citizens and celebrities alike are proud to proclaim their passion for solar energy and hybrid automobiles. But how many of them are ready to come out of the closet when it comes to the more nerdish pastimes such as bird watching and butterfly gardening? How many of them are ready to admit that they not only hug trees, but they also fondle flowers and even caress critters from time to time? 

Certainly we can imagine animal activist celebs such as Mary Tyler Moore and Ellen DeGeneres getting eye-to-eye with the bunnies and squirrels in their yard. And Martha Stewart must surely appreciate the serenade of songbirds in her flower filled gardens. 

But what about other well-known environmental celebrities? Do nature lover Darryl Hannah and inner-city gardener Bette Midler welcome the wonders of wildlife to their backyard landscapes? Has Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Bacon or Ed Begley Jr. ever marveled at the metamorphous of a butterfly? Do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan hang nectar feeders to attract hovering hummingbirds? Has Ted Danson, Willie Nelson or Robert Kennedy, Jr. ever pulled out a magnifying glass to help identify an unknown insect? 

If they haven’t, then perhaps they should. It’s a wonderful cause to want to save the planet but it isn’t a planet of asphalt and steel and carbon spewing monolithic factories that we are trying to save. It’s the miniscule miracles. The sights that, in the past, only the nerds have taken the time to notice. And it is there, perhaps, when one gets eye-to-eye with the birds and the butterflies and the creatures that visit our gardens and wander through our yards, that we realize what it is we are working so hard to protect. 

So whether you are a star studded celebrity, a prima ballerina or a single parent , it’s time to admit your nerdiness to the world. Go ahead and get excited about the tadpoles in your garden pond and the butterflies eating your herb garden! Grab the magnifying glass and a good nature guide and share the great outdoors with the ones you love. 

And if you still aren’t sure whether you want to admit that you are a nerd or not, here are a few questions to help you decide: 

You may be a nature nerd if:

* You monthly bill for birdseed is greater than your TV cable bill.
* You feel bad for the bugs that splatter on your windshield.
* You have ever stopped traffic and played crossing guard for turtles, squirrels, ducks or other critters who   are trying to cross the road.
* You have a birding Life List.
* You don’t mind when caterpillars eat all of your plants and are even happy to buy them more.
* You have funerals for the critters that die in your yard.
* Your neighbors have ever reported you for having an overgrown yard because you have let your landscape “go native”.
* You have ever reported your neighbors for cutting down trees that are protected.
* You have visited at least one of the stops on the Great American Birding trail.
* You know the difference between a lepidopterist and an ornithologist AND you know how to spell them both. 
* You have suddenly become the “eccentric” neighbor who wants everyone to keep their cat out of your yard.
* The binoculars you keep by your back window are for bird watching, not people watching.
* You have given first names to all of the various critters that come to your property and you recognize them by name. 
* You are one of the 70,000+ people who has had your yard certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
* You’d rather capture a bug or spider and take it outside than squish it.

And the number one way to tell whether you may be a Nature Nerd…..
* You not only know what a chrysalis is but you have one in a jar in your bedroom. 

According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associate Recreation, there are over 71 million bird and wildlife watchers in the United States. Rumors among various birding groups on the internet hint that Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Carrie Fisher and Paul McCartney may be among the many celebrities that dabble in this nerdish pastime.

For more information about how to become a nerd for birds and other backyard wildlife, visit these sites:

National Audubon Society - - - For over 100 years, Audubon has been working to protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats.

National Wildlife Federation - - Founded in 1936, It’s purpose has always been to bring together individuals, organizations and agencies interested in the restoration and conservation of wildlife resources.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology - - The Lab is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. They believe that bird enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can and do make a difference.

And if you are already a proud nature nerd, please leave a comment below to proclaim your nerdiness to the world!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Greening the Gridiron - NFL teams go green

Ahhhh. It’s that time of year again. Big, brawny men in form fitting clothes, flexing and straining their muscles as they take to the turf with only one thing in mind. Scoring!!! That’s right. I’m talking about FOOTBALL!!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the 2011 NFL Season officially began on Thursday, September 8th, and for the next few months, football will be the only thing on the minds and out of the mouths of many men, women AND children.

If you are more into gardening than the gridiron, but still want to be able to join in the football season conversations, here are some fun “green” facts about eco-friendly stadiums and teams to toss around:

 Washington Redskins and FedEx Field 
FedEX Field is the site for a game on Sunday, September 18th at 1pm(ET) between the Washington Redskins (go Redskins!) and the Arizona Cardinals, so you can share this fact over your chicken wings and pitchers of beers. See official NFL Schedule for more dates.

FedEx field is installing 8,000 translucent solar panels to cover 850 parking spaces in one of their parking lots. In addition to generating enough energy to run the entire stadium on non-game days, the panels will help protect tail-gaiting fans on those rainy game days. The project will also bring in 10 electric vehicle charging stations. Even the art will generate electricity, with several sculptures featuring thin solar film technology. And, of course, there will be a plaza featuring renewable energy and clean energy technologies for those fans interested in joining the Redskins as they move toward a clean energy future. (Source)

 Another game for this Sunday’s lineup is at MetLife Stadium, which has “set a new industry precedent for green initiatives". Check ‘em out this Sunday at 1pm(ET) as the Jacksonville Jaguars meet the New York Jets

MetLife Stadium, (Formerly New Meadowlands Stadium), Shared by the New York Giants and Jets
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consulted on this stadium, and the EPA and the teams committed to cutting the stadium’s annual water use by 25% and increasing total recycling by 25%. There are seats made of partially recycled plastic and scrap iron and public transit options for fans. The Stadium’s actions have resulted in the reduction of energy, water and solid waste production across its entire operations, including the use of aggressive recycling programs, low flow faucets, toilets and urinals in rest rooms, food composting, and mass transit alternatives. Most notable of their efforts, due to their collective, widespread efforts, the Stadium has reduced its carbon footprint by 268,828 MTCO2e (Metric Ton Carbon Dioxide Equivalent), the largest carbon footprint reduction to date, an amount equivalent to almost 53,000 automobiles. (Source)
 Next weekend, you can check out Lincoln Financial Field and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, September 25th at 1pm(ET) when the NY Giants take on the Eagles

Lincoln Financial Field, Home of the Philadelphia Eagles 
The SportsBusiness Journal called the Philadelphia Eagles Go Green initiative "the most comprehensive greening effort of any major sports team." Since launching Go Green in 2003, the Eagles have recycled thousands of tons of waste; greened their entire supply chain; and created Eagles Forest, a 6.5 acre area in Neshaminy State Park, PA where the Eagles have funded the purchase of more than 4,000 trees and shrubs.

The Eagles’ GO GREEN campaign includes tickets and programs that are printed on recycled paper and beverage cups that are made from a corn-based material and disintegrate entirely in just fifty days. The same material is used for the plastic dishes the players are served on, and the facility uses clean energy in the team area. This NFL Season, the Eagles are installing an array of systems to deliver 100 percent of the stadium's energy—2,500 solar panels, 80 vertical wind turbines, and a generation plant that can run on biodiesel or natural gas. The resources are expected to generate more than 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over 20 years, with enough excess to spare to sell back to the local utility. SolarBlue estimates that the savings from this energy are comparable to the emissions of 41,000 cars per year. (Source)

 Catch the game Sunday, September 25th – 4:15pm – Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals at Century Link Field  

Century Link Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks
The CenturyLink Event Center solar array takes advantage of the facility’s new white “cool roof” which conserves energy by reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the roof surface and lowering the need for building cooling. The system covers over 2.5 acres, or approximately 80% of the Event Center roof. CenturyLink Event Center's solar panels are projected to generate over 830,000 kWh of electricity annually, the equivalent of powering 95 Seattle area homes for a year.

 On Monday, September 26th at 8:30pm(ET), you can check out the buns (on the hotdogs, of course) as the Dallas Cowboy players and cheerleaders battle the Washington Redskins at the stadium that has been called one of the most beautiful eco-friendly stadiums in the world.

Cowboys Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. When building the stadium, they restored a flood-prone creek outside the stadium, complete with native grasses, trees and trails, designed in part to help create an atmosphere where fans were less tied to their cars. Other features of Cowboys Stadium include: Reduction of solid waste by 25%; Energy use reduction of 20%; Recycled plastic seats; Reduction of water use by 1 million gallons ; 90% of the old stadium construction waste recycled; 30 acres of grass parking to reduce toxic runoff into nearby waterways; Highly efficient LED display (world's largest); Use of native plants and trees (Source – Our Daily Green)

 You’ll have to wait until October 2 at 4:05pm(ET) to see how the University of Phoenix tries to offset 100% of their energy during game days.  

University of Phoenix, home of the Cardinals
In 2010, the Arizona Cardinals’s University of Phoenix Stadium used EarthWise Energy program to provide more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy during eight regular season home games and two pre-season ones.The renewable energy will offset electricity used in University of Phoenix Stadium -- from the concession stands to the parking lot lighting to the scoreboards. This amount of electricity, 1,135,000 kilowatt-hours over the course of 10 games, is comparable to what 60 average homes in the Valley will use annually.

I could keep going. There are 32 teams in the NFL and I was able to find green initiatives for many of them. Including:

San Diego Chargers, Qualcomm Stadium
The team has been recycling for eighteen years and regularly donates its sod to local YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Tailgating? No problem. There are 350 ninety-four gallon recycling bins in the tailgating area so there’s no excuse to not use them!  

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: The Patriots installed 2,800 solar panels at Gillette Stadium in December to help power the stadium, and they put in solar-powered compactors to collect and recycle cans and bottles around the stadium.

DENVER BRONCOS: The Broncos have purchased renewable energy to offset 100 percent of the electricity used at Sports Authority Field for the 2011 season. And after implementing an energy management program, the team cut energy use at the stadium by 11 percent.  

HOUSTON TEXANS: The Texans introduced the NFL’s first interactive media guide in 2009, putting the guide on USB sticks instead of printing books. The change saved an estimated 2.6 million printed pages that year, and the team has continued this practice.

But there are too many teams and everyone has a favorite. To find out what green efforts your team is making, visit: NFL Green and Green Sports Alliance

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today is Protect the Groundwater Day

Every day, Americans use 79.6 billion gallons of fresh groundwater for public and private use, including for drinking water, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, and more. On September 13th, “Protect Your Groundwater Day,” the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) reminds all Marylanders about the value of clean groundwater and what citizens can do to protect this essential and valuable resource.

“Half of the water in Maryland’s rivers, streams, and reservoirs originates as groundwater, and all Marylanders get their drinking water from these sources,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers. “Protecting Maryland’s groundwater is a critical component to restoring our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, our work to reduce polluted runoff form urban and agricultural sources, to properly dispose of and clean up hazardous waste, and to proceed cautiously as we study potential drilling in the Marcellus Shale all protect Maryland’s groundwater as well as our streams, rivers, and reservoirs. We encourage citizens to also do their part to protect our fresh water, including groundwater, today and every day.”

Groundwater is created from rain that falls on the land, running into waterways or soaking into the ground. Water that soaks into the ground is filtered as it passes through various layers of sand, clay, or rock. However, man-made chemicals such as gasoline, fertilizers, and pesticides may not get filtered and can contaminate groundwater.

Below are just a few of the ways citizens can help keep Maryland’s groundwater clean:
  • Support Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration effort and all of Maryland’s critical clean water initiatives to reduce pollution from wastewater treatment plants, septic systems, urban/suburban runoff, agricultural runoff and even air pollution controls, which reduce the nitrogen falling on our land and water from power plants, cars, and trucks.
  • Seventeen million gallons of gas are spilled each year in America during the re-fueling of lawn mowers — fuel your lawn mower over impervious surfaces and be careful to not to overfill your tank.
  • Ensure your septic system was installed per current code standards and consider installing nitrogen reducing technology, which protects your drinking water and is good for the Bay.
  • Apply fertilizers and pesticides sparingly to reduce polluted runoff that can contaminate groundwater and water wells. 
  • Use water wisely: Don’t pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering your indoor plants or a garden, and don’t run a faucet when you’re not using water while brushing your teeth.Learn more about groundwater and Protect Your Groundwater Day here.
Information for this post supplied by Maryland Department of the Environment

Today is a Beautiful Day - Make Sure that you See It

I know it is human nature to complain about the rain/wind/snow/cold/heat and yet to ignore the days when we don't have any of those things bearing down on us. And when I read the paper in the morning, it seems like it is also human nature to want to dwell on the negative aspects of life and people. No matter what is happening with the weather or the world, my morning walks in the garden generally help me forget all the negative aspects of life and dwell on only the beautiful.

It is just gorgeous out there this morning! A light dew sparkling on all the leaves. Tiny little mushrooms popping up in the yard, looking like miniature umbrellas for the critters that crawl through the grass. Butterflies! Birds! It's going to be a beautiful day! I encourage you to take the time to notice it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Hero and His Habitat - 20 Days in a Garden

This post was written by Jeff Smith, the gentleman that I introduced a few days ago in my article entitled Planting Peace – Finding Wonder in a Warzone, about people in military conditions who go to extra efforts to create gardens. In last night's post, From Ground Zero to A Garden, I spoke of Jeff's role on September 11, 2001, as he helped to search for survivors.

I asked Jeff if he would like to provide one more guest post, and this is what he sent. As you read it, I hope you will take the time to remember all of the heroes that this country has, both civilian and military, and to give your thanks to them either silently or in person.

Please keep in mind that this blog and these posts are not meant to take sides on any political issues. They are just meant to encourage you to think a little more deeply about the heroes of our country.

From Jeff Smith:

I'm so busy trying to get everything done that needs doing on a short 20 day break. I have several fronts that need attention, so it's easy for the days to slip between my fingers. Hope it's not too late … had a few thoughts for you.  

In the light of how little time I have home from Afghanistan this year, it's difficult to explain to some people why I'm spending so much time on yard work. After living like a prisoner in Afghanistan for months, shouldn't you be out kicking up your heels, whooping it up? Why in the world do you spend all your time doing YARD work? If I have to explain, they're not going to understand. Maybe I can share with some like-minded individuals who can help me come up with a sound bite that satisfies the vast unwashed, the non-gardening masses. 

What's so difficult to explain is that, every night as I fell asleep to the sounds of war, I was building this garden in my mind for months. I remember a couple of years ago at a FOB near the Tangi valley, as four and six inch guns fired overhead into the night, sucking the air from the tent with the round's sonic boom, I was thinking about my next group of nectar and host plants for certain species of butterfly. A worried new arrival asked me if that was OK. Is it incoming or outgoing? We had nearly 100 RPGs and mortars come over the Hesco at us that month, in the less favored direction. "That's the sound of freedom, buddy. Go back to sleep." I planted a few more vines in my head, arranging them around a horse fencing trellis supported by agricultural timbers. Beautiful. Rocked to sleep by the comforting lullaby of the Howitzer. 

We have long days there. Rise at 0230, shower, stuff something in the flight suit pocket for breakfast, check the flight plan, weather, preflight, airborne at sunrise. Will today be The Day? No. Stow that. 

It's a helicopter pilot's question. One can not stifle it. If you think of every possible thing that can go wrong in a helicopter, amplify that flying low over a fluid, motivated and capable threat, you can be paralyzed. One is empowered and fueled by a wave of positivity in the rotary wing world. It's not bravery or courage – just positive energy supported by confidence, competence and planning. 

After several hours of flying missions, plan for tomorrow, try to get the one hot meal for the day, wind down, prepare equipment for tomorrow. 

So now I'm home again, cutting weeds, trimming shrubs and trees, re-arranging irrigation, spreading mulch for winter. I'm setting aside the areas for spring plantings of nectar plants. A gopher tortoise has moved in and established a few giant burrows, so I'm working around those. I'll have to build some natural barriers to keep him from munching my tender new butterfly plantings and maybe plant a little tortoise food plot with prickly pear cactus and some other favorites. Any endangered species is welcome in this little backyard habitat. 

I go back over next week. I think I'll plan a pond.

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