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.

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