Friday, May 6, 2011

Get Rid of old garden chemicals, get free compost - May 7th



Residents also may pick up free compost.

The DC Department of Public Works  will hold its monthly household hazardous waste/e-cycling/document shredding drop-off Saturday, May 7, 8 am to 3 pm, at the Ft. Totten Transfer Station, 4900 John F. McCormack Road, NE.*

“It’s spring,” said DPW Director William O. Howland, Jr.  “People are cleaning out their garages and basements, getting rid of insecticides, old cleaning solutions and paint solvents and oil-based paint.  The best place to take these and other toxic items is the household hazardous waste drop-off, where they will be disposed of properly.”

Director Howland added that most paint sold today is latex, which is not hazardous, and can be dried out by adding some kitty litter to the can, then put in the trash after it’s dry.

District residents may bring up to five, medium-size boxes (no larger than the standard District recycling bin, which is approximately 20” x 14” x 14”) of personal documents to be shredded. Only paper (staples, paper and binder clips on the paper are okay) and credit cards will be accepted.  No business or commercial material will be accepted.

The remaining 2011 HHW/e-cycling/shredding drop-off dates are June 4, July 2, August 6, September 3, October 1, November 5, and December 3.

For a list of all household hazardous waste and e-cyclables accepted by DPW, please click on the HHW link at

*Directions to Ft. Totten:  Travel east on Irving Street, NW, turn left on Michigan Avenue, turn left on John F. McCormack Road, NE and continue to the end of the street.

Smithsonian Garden Fest - May 7th

Smithsonian Gardens presents Garden Fest  for people of all ages on  Saturday May 7th from 11am to 3pm.

Musical entertainment will be provided  by Cuttin' Grass, a traditional Bluegrass band, and Swing Dixie who perform Dixieland Jazz.

Activities will include beneficial insect releases, a "historic" photo booth, creating a garden gnome plant stake, mural painting, creating your own seed packets and more!

Gardening experts will be on hand to discuss topics ranging from sustainable lawns and heirloom vegetables to growing orchids.

Full program information is available online at

Plant More Plants - For Mother's Day

The Maryland Department of the Environment urges everyone to pay tribute to Moms — and Mother Earth — by planting more plants.

The Chesapeake Club's "Plant More Plants" campaign encourages consumers to celebrate the holiday by giving the gift of a tree, shrub, or perennial – "gifts that keep on growing."

Potted plants, shrubs, and trees can be planted in Mom's yard, ultimately improving stormwater absorption and contributing to cleaner waterways. Stormwater runoff is the fastest-growing source of Chesapeake Bay pollution and contributes about 20 percent of Maryland's nitrogen load to the Bay. The campaign provides an online listing of native, "bay-friendly" plants. Its website also includes two videos, "Wage War on Runoff" and "Keep Up With The Joneses."

 Here are some simple, "bay-friendly" basics from the Plant More Plants campaign to help you and Mom "grow some good" while benefiting the Bay — any time of year:

  • Plant more plants! Not only do plants — including trees — make for a more attractive, healthier landscape, their canopies and expansive root systems also help filter stormwater runoff and minimize erosion, keeping our local waterways cleaner. Examples of flowering perennials ideal for growing conditions in D.C./Northern Virginia and Baltimore include wild bleeding heart, wild geranium, black-eyed Susans, wild columbine, and mistflower. For a comprehensive list of plants, trees and shrubs native to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed visit the Plant More Plants website.  
  • Go au natural. Natural landscaping reduces the need for excessive yard maintenance and fertilizer use, conserves water and minimizes erosion and stormwater runoff. Native plants and grasses require less water and fertilizer. They grow well together and are adapted to local conditions such as weather and insects. For a list of plants native within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, click here.   
  • Choose the right grass. Select a grass that is well-adapted to your region. Cool-season grasses (such as bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, rough bluegrass, red fescue and perennial ryegrass) are ideal for homes across much of Washington D.C./Northern Virginia and Baltimore.
  • Test your soil first. It may need less fertilizer than you think. Results should give you a good indication of the nutrients your lawn needs, as well as prevent over-fertilization, which can lead to phosphorus-rich soils. When it rains, that excess phosphorus is washed into storm drains and can enter Bay waterways. Homeowners can get an inexpensive and easy-to-use soil test kit by contacting their Cooperative Extension Agents in Maryland.  
  • Don't bag your clippings. The extra bonus – less work for you! Leaving them on the lawn provides a natural source of nitrogen fertilizer. Be sure to spread them across your lawn – away from your storm drain – for optimum benefit. Also consider using them as compost.
  • When should you fertilize? This depends on the grass varieties you have. For warm-season grasses, late spring through the summer months are best. If you have cool-season grasses, fall is optimal. Fertilizing during the proper times promotes root growth and results in a healthier, drought-tolerant lawn.  
  • If you fertilize… Use a phosphorus-free formula. Most lawns already have sufficient phosphorus to meet their needs. In addition, check for options like "slow-release," which promotes a steady, uniform growth and is less likely to wash away as runoff. Also, sweep and pick up excess fertilizer off sidewalks, driveways, and other hard surfaces to prevent runoff. Don't fertilize when rain is in the immediate forecast and never fertilize when the ground is frozen.
  • Don't forget to pick up after your pets. If left untouched, the nutrients in pet waste can infiltrate stormwater runoff and make their way into creeks, rivers, and ultimately the Bay. This results in increased nutrient loading, which threatens the integrity of our aquatic ecosystem. Furthermore, the presence of pet waste in runoff poses a threat for potential fecal bacteria contamination — a risk to ecological and human health.
In addition, consider building a rain garden with Mom using these simple, downloadable landscape plans offered on the campaign's website. Rain gardens, a shallow lawn depression filled with a variety of plants that collect water draining from roofs and driveways, are a fun and easy way to filter stormwater runoff, preventing it from entering nearby waterways.

For more information on landscaping tips and best practices, as well as a list of resources and professionals who provide "bay-friendly" landscaping services, please visit Plant More Plants. Here, you'll also find a $25 coupon towards the purchase of a tree at participating nurseries and garden centers through the Marylanders Plant Trees program

Top 10 Tips from Tesh about Intelligence for Your Lawn

Do you listen to the John Tesh “Intelligence for your Life” radio program? I like it. Every few minutes they have some helpful bit of information about life, work, family, health, relationships and all those other little topics that many of us are trying to figure out in order to make our lives a little easier and more fulfilling.

Although John doesn’t have a specific heading for Environment on the list of topics he covers (as listed on his website), I did find all of this great information on his site to keep in mind while we are tending to our lawns.

Here is my list of Top Ten Tips from Tesh about Intelligence for Your Lawn. John’s tips are in black (along with The topic they are filed under on their website). My hints are listed at the end of each item.
  1. Don’t wear your shoes into the house (Health & Well-Being) . Dr. Mehmet Oz says that shoes track in all kinds of germs, toxins and chemicals, including E. coli, lead, cancer-causing coal tar from asphalt, and lawn pesticides, which are linked to cancer, neurological problems, and reproductive disorders. So, leave your shoes by the door. My hints: For more on this topic, see my post on Organic Gardening for Babies. 
  2. Lawn care (Money & Finance ) - North Americans spend $50 billion a year to beautify their yards, and that figure doesn’t include water usage. Keeping your lawn green all summer can account for as much as 80% of your water bill, and about half of that water goes to waste. The fix: Keep your grass at least three inches high. It keeps more moisture in the ground, and leads to healthier grass. Limit your lawn’s weekly intake to one inch of water. To keep track, leave an empty aluminum can on your lawn, with the inches marked off. Keep an eye on how fast the water rises from sprinklers, hoses, and rainfall. My hints: See our posts on water conservation for more tips.
  3. Lawn mowers (Health & Well-Being). According to Dr. Richard O’Brien of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the lawn mower is probably the most dangerous tool around the house. Studies show that 74,000 yearly emergency room visits are due to lawn mower injuries. Mostly from debris flying into the eyes or body of the person using it, and injuries involving the blades – including the loss of toes or fingers. To stay safe, remove all twigs, sticks and rocks before mowing. Wear closed-toed shoes, long pants and safety goggles. Don’t depend on sunglasses – they won’t block debris from hitting your eyes from the sides. Also, wear ear plugs so you don’t damage your hearing. My hints: Better yet, check out the LawnReform website to find out alternatives to lawns.
  4. Lawn service. (Money & Finance ) - Last year, North Americans spent nearly $15 billion hiring landscapers to mow their lawn and trim the hedges! Maybe you can justify spending $60 per week to save yourself some time, but know this: If you spend one hour mowing the lawn yourself, you’ll burn 400 calories. Over the course of a year, that could burn enough pounds to justify dropping your monthly gym membership too. My hints: See our post on the Health Benefits of Eco-Friendly Landscaping
  5. The oils from poison ivy linger (Home & Food) If you wear protective gardening clothing, know this: Rash-causing plant oils can remain on fabric for years – and easily transfer to skin. To avoid secondary contamination, rinse garden tools with dish soap, vigorously wipe your shoes with a rag, and promptly wash your clothes in hot water. Also, wash your hands with a cleanser designed to remove plant oils from skin. My hints: See our post on Poison Ivy
  6. Lawn chemicals can pollute your garden hose. (Home & Food) - Another landscaper recalled a man who treated his lawn with his hose attached to a fertilizer container. Afterwards, he unhooked the hose and took a drink. Because toxins had migrated back up the hose, he got a mouthful of poison. The fix: Make sure your fertilizer container has a backflow-prevention device. To be safe, run the hose for two minutes after removing the container to flush out leftover toxins. My hints: Better yet, skip the chemicals all together!
  7. Rover comes in from the back yard with a swollen, puffy face (Pets) - Chances are he’s having an allergic reaction to an outdoor plant, or your neighbor’s chemically treated lawn. Believe it or not, a single dose of over-the-counter antihistamine – like Benadryl – may reverse the swelling. You should also give your dog a bath using mild soap, since he may be reacting to an irritant on his skin! If the swelling doesn’t go away within a few hours, or if Rover has trouble breathing, get to the vet. My hints: See our post, Dog Safety in the Garden
  8. The best time to water your lawn. (Random Intelligence) If you want the greenest yard on the block, sprinkle it in the early morning, right at dawn. That’s according to Charlie Nardozzi, a senior horticulturist at the National Gardening Association. Morning, just before the sun rises, is the coolest part of the day, so the roots of the grass will soak up more water and stay hydrated. Plus, watering at daybreak help prevent plant diseases by preventing the grass from staying damp overnight. My hints: See our posts on water conservation for more tips.
  9. Carefully manicured, large, green lawns are going out of fashion.(Home & Food) - Scientists at the University of Michigan found the common idea that people want big homes and big lots may be a myth. Results of a new study show that people actually prefer a view of woods over a traditional lawn. This could be a huge untapped market for developers and tree-huggers. So put that mower away, sit back and watch the trees grow, instead! Not only is it the preferred landscaping, a natural view of trees reduces stress. My hints: Check out the LawnReform website to find out alternatives to lawns.
  10. Before hiring a landscaper, make sure you know what chemicals they’re using. (Home & Food)Pesticides can be extremely harmful to pets and people. One woman let her dog walk on a recently sprayed lawn. Within minutes he was vomiting and going into seizures. By the time the vet figured out it was the pesticides, the poor dog was riddled with skin cancer and tumors. Some pesticides are so toxic that they can cause Parkinson’s disease, Hodgkin’s disease and liver cancer. Instead, make sure your landscaper uses greener techniques like kelp spray or bug-eating birds. My hints: See our post, Tips for Choosing an Eco-Friendly Lawn Care Company
To find out where you can listen to John Tesh's Intelligence for your life, or to listen to him online, visit their website.

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