Monday, January 30, 2012

“When it comes to the environment, our fates are the same”. FY11 “Green” report card for DC

The District Department of the Environment recently released their FY11 Accomplishments Report which lists the many ways that Washington DC government is working hard with citizens and organizations to keep DC “clean, vibrant and healthy for future generations.” It’s another one of those documents that I really wish I could publish here, in its entirety. But since I can’t, I encourage you to download the document and at least skim it to learn about all of the great things going on in DC.

Here are a few excerpts:

Green Together [teamwork, friends and funds]
Individuality defines who we are. We are unique. One in billions. Yet, the billions of us have one thing in common: our planet earth. When it comes to the environment, our fates are the same. We share the sun. We breathe the same air. Whether we believe the “butterfly affect” – a theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether a distant butterfly flaps it’s wings – as hard fact science or just poetic metaphor, we, as a collective force, have much more influence over climate change, for example, than we could ever imagine.

  • The District is #1 per capita in the amount of LEED certified and ENERGY STAR buildings.
  • The District uses more green power than any other jurisdiction in the US EPA Green Power Community.
  • The District has the largest bicycle share program in the country and is second in the country in the number of commuters who walk to work and take transit.
  • The DDOE WPD's RiverSmart team had an outstanding FY11. TheRiverSmart Schools team worked with five District public schools to identify, plan, and construct low impact development (LID) retrofits and outdoor learning gardens, and funded numerous teacher trainings on effective use of schoolyard gardens in the school's curriculum.
  • Through its grantees—the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Casey Trees, and DC Greenworks—DDOE installed 575 rain barrels, permeable pavers on 14 driveways and patios, and 180 rain gardens; and planted 151 native plant gardens and 681 trees. Collectively the practices installed in FY11 through RiverSmart Homes are treating 21 acres of land in the District.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trees Tame Stormwater - cool interactive map

Okay. I know I said I was going to quit writing about trees for awhile, but sometimes trees - and great topics about trees - just sprout right up and can't be ignored.

 I found this cool interactive map on the Arbor Day Foundation website that shows you the benefits that planting trees has on preventing stormwater runoff. 

You can use the slider at the top of the graphic to show the difference that trees play in a landscape.

 As the site explains: Rain refreshes the land and nourishes the green landscape. But as houses, stores, schools, roads and parking lots spread and natural tree cover is lost, so is the absorbing effect of vegetation and soil. The welcome rain becomes costly stormwater runoff. Without the benefit of trees and vegetated infrastructure, waterways are polluted as oils, heavy metal particles and other harmful substances are washed away. Fish and wildlife suffer, drinking water becomes expensive or impossible to reclaim, property values are reduced, and our living environment is degraded.

Placing the slider at the far left, with few trees, shows a fairly bland landscape with popup boxes that explain the various consequences such as overwhelmed sewer systems. Moving the slider to the right not only shows a beautifully, wooded town, but also explains many of the benefits that I listed in my previous post of today, 20 More Benefits of Trees Hop on over to the Arbor Day Foundation website and check out the map. They also have beautiful pdf versions of the files that can be downloaded and printed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

10 Very Human Benefits of Trees

I’ve been writing a few posts on trees lately to go along with this month’s poll (see sidebar). I’ve learned a lot of great things that are worth sharing.

Here is my list of:

10 Reasons that Trees are Good for Humans.

(Sources listed at bottom of post)

1. Trees help children concentrate: Children who have parks and trees to play around concentrate better. MC

2. Trees reduce stress: Trees, community gardens, and parks can help reduce physiological stress and aesthetically improve an area. MC

  • It has been shown that exposure to trees can decrease blood pressure and reduce muscle tension FCV

3. Trees lower UV-radiation: Trees provide shade from harmful ultraviolet radiation, particularly in playgrounds, schoolyards, and picnic areas. MC UV radiation is what causes skin cancer

4. Trees reduce crime:  The psychological benefits of an urban forest can reduce property crime by 48% and violent crime by 56%! Aggression and violence are reduced with nature nearby (DDOT)

5. Trees strengthen neighborhoods: When neighborhoods are full of trees, residents spend more time outside mingling with neighbors—building personal ties, stronger communities, and a greater sense of well being. MC

6. Trees help heal - Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. BG

7. Trees provide lumber to build things - Downed trees can be used for more than wood chip production. Depending on the tree size, species, and how it is removed, the wood might be re-used for a new purpose such as art or furniture. Think outside the chipper! MC Trees also provide firewood and kindling

8. Trees Calm Traffic - The Institute of Transport Studies at England’s University of Leeds has found that street tree plantings have a traffic calming effect. Tree lined streets act as psycho perceptive measures, which subtly slows traffic and encourages speed limits of 25, 30 or 35 mph by making roadways appear narrower. PT

9. Trees provide food – almost too obvious to list, but so important to all of us!

10. Trees can be planted by one person but benefit many

Sources: Casey Trees (CT)
Montgomery County Department of the Environment (MC)
District Department of Transportation (DDOT)
District Department of the Environment (DDOE)
Fairfax County Virginia (FCV)
District Department of Transportation (DDOT)
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR)
Plano Texas (PT)
Bowling Green Kentucky (BG)

The Woods in Your Backyard – a Workshop

Although this is a little outside of the Metro DC area, it sounds like a very interesting workshop and goes along with the theme I’ve been writing about lately – TREES!

The workshop, entitled The Woods in Your Backyard, consists of two sessions, scheduled one week apart, to give you time to put what you’ve learned into practice between sessions. It is geared towards property owners that own less than ten acres of property – wooded or not! The primary focus of the workshop is to learn to create and enhance natural areas around your home so that certainly can apply to any size property.

Workshop dates are 2/15 and 2/22 from 6:30 pm – 9:00 p.m.
The sessions are being held at:

Howard Conservancy -Gudelsky Center
10520 Old Frederick Road
Woodstock, MD 21163

The workshop uses the manual The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.

And includes the following topics:
• Forest Ecology
• Wildlife enhancement
• Woodland inventory techniques
• Tree & shrub identification
• Tree planting and care
• Invasive species control
• Developing goals and objectives
• Resources for your land

You can register and download the brochure about the program on the Forestry for the Bay website.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why there will be trees in Heaven

Oh course, none of us really knows what happens after we die. But I have this theory about Heaven. I think that if there is a Heaven, then it will be filled with everything that we took the time to love and appreciation in this lifetime. If you love something, then you get to spend eternity with it.

So when I die, if there is a Heaven, it will be filled with trees.

Here are ten reasons that I would love to spend eternity surrounded by trees.
  1. Trees gather together to create forests – I am just completely at peace in a forest. When I die, if there is a Heaven, mine will be wooded.
  2. Hummingbirds like trees – There is something magical about seeing a tiny hummingbird sitting in the branches of a huge, giant oak. Both hummingbirds and huge oak trees fill me with wonder.

  3. Trees Provide habitat for other wildlife- I’ve seen a LOT of creatures hanging out in the trees of our little wooded forest. Owls, woodpeckers, hawks, squirrels….even swarms of bees. If I ever need to get back in touch with nature, all I have to do is look up.
  4. Trees play with the sunlight – I absolutely love to start the day with the sun shining down through the branches of the trees, creating big rays of light. It’s like the trees and the sun are working together to say “Behold! A new day is here!”
  5. Trees whisper – If you don’t know what I mean, go stand in the woods for a while when there is a gentle breeze blowing. Listen quietly until you hear their whisper.
  6. I love wood grain – I know you can’t really appreciate the grain of wood without chopping down a tree and making something out of it, but I just love wood grain. Hickory and oak are some of my favorites.

  7. Candy bars grow on trees – Who doesn’t love chocolate bars filled with nuts.

  8. Books grow on trees – Forget the internet, Kindles and books on tape. I’ll take a good old fashion book, that I can hold in my hands and turn the pages, any day, both for reading and for writing. And paper, of course, comes from trees.

  9. Trees smell beautiful – Both the flowers and even some of the wood itself (think cedar) provides wonderful fragrance.

  10. Trees make perfect memorials to people I love – I can plant a tree in memory of someone I’ve loved, and take comfort in the thought that when I get to Heaven, they will be right there waiting for me, under our tree.

  11. And so I plant trees.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Number one reason to plant trees: Hummingbirds Love Them


I’ve been running a poll on this blog and on our Facebook page, asking why people plant trees. To go along with it, I started a post this morning listing the benefits of trees. Well, the list just kept growing and growing and growing so I haven’t gotten it finished just yet.

In the meantime, I wanted to share one of the main reasons I love trees – they attract hummingbirds!

People sometimes ask me how they can attract hummingbirds to their property and I often mention that they should plant a tree. Yes, hummingbirds are attracted to certain tree species that have nectar flowers, but they also love having trees that provide them with a place that they can sit and keep an eye on their “domain”. Hummingbirds are very territorial and they love to sit in a tree and overlook the other hummingbird plants in your garden or the feeders that you place out for them. As soon as they see a rival hummingbird appear, they will immediately swoop down and chase them away, and then return to their perch in the tree.

They also eat gnats and other small insects that fly around trees and certain species have been known to eat sap that oozes  from holes created in trees by woodpeckers and sapsuckers. Hummingbirds also typically nest in trees.

The first time I saw a hummingbird sitting in one of our oak trees, I was in complete awe. And I have to admit that I spent a good part of that summer moving a ten foot ladder around my yard and taking thousands of photos of those little guys.

So, the number one reason that I will ALWAYS recommend that people plant trees is, hummingbirds love them!

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“America’s Great Outdoors” starts in your own backyard

The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative was established by President Obama in April at a White House Conference to start a “National Conversation” to gather input for projects to help reconnect Americans, especially children, with nature.

The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality were asked by the President to host 12 -20 “listening sessions” around the country to hear from people and groups involved in conservation and recreation efforts and programs. The topic was: how do we get more people outside, involved with nature.

In addition to the formal and informal listening sessions (some of them were online chats), comments, stories and ideas were collected through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative webpage on the Interior Department’s website:

Anyway, as soon as I heard about the Initiative, I started inundating the website (listed above), their Facebook page, and their online chats. What were my ideas? Basically, that connecting people with nature doesn’t necessarily mean taking a trip to a park somewhere. Nature starts right outside our back doors, in our gardens.

Well, the results of all of their surveys and data collection were recently released in a 111 page report: America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations February 2012. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but what I have read has inspired and enthused me. I wish I could print the whole thing here, but I encourage you to download a copy for yourself and give it a read.

Below are some excerpts of the report:

  • “America’s Great Outdoors begins when you open your front door and step outside— whether it is onto an urban stoop, a suburban sidewalk or a rural front porch. Before we can reach the National Parks, Trails, or Wilderness Areas, we enter into our neighborhoods, downtowns, community gardens and parks. Appreciating the Great Outdoors means exploring the places where we live, work and play; the places that define the human environment. By first cultivating a sense of stewardship in our communities, we encourage stewardship of cultural and natural resources beyond our immediate surroundings.”(Written comment from website)
  • “We need a philosophical change of what the great outdoors is. We don’t need to go out west or to some faraway place. It can be a little stream, out your door, even if it’s in the city. It exists where we exist.” (Listening Session Participant, Hyde Park, NY )
  • Many people articulated a need to redefine the “great outdoors” to include iconic national parks and forests, wildlife refuges, and cultural and historic sites, as well as neighborhood and city parks, community gardens, and school yards.
  • AGO (America’s Great Outdoors) seeks to empower all Americans—citizens, young people,and representatives of community groups; the private sector; nonprofit organizations; and local, state, and tribal governments—to share in the responsibility to conserve, restore, and provide better access to our lands and waters in order to leave a healthy, vibrant outdoor legacy for generations yet to come.
  • Americans communicated clearly that they care deeply about our outdoor heritage, want to enjoy and protect it, and are willing to take collective responsibility to protect it for their children and grandchildren. In fact, they are already doing so. They are restoring rivers and streams, building and improving hiking trails and bike paths, ensuring the long-term conservation of their private lands, sponsoring beach and roadside cleanups, planting trees and gardens, and restoring migratory bird habitat and populations.

What’s really great about this whole project is that we, the citizens of this country, were asked our opinions about what needs to be done to reconnect people with nature. And from our answers, action is being taken to help make a positive difference. You can see a list of some of the projects that are being implemented across the country in response to the input from the Great Outdoors Initiative by visiting this website: Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. Projects include:

  • Interfaith-Intercommunity Nature Gardens in Washington DC - Work with partners to develop a “toolkit” for greater Washington, D.C. houses of faith that will help create a multi-denomination Sacred “Green Corridor” in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
  • Patuxent Tidewater Conservation Plan in Maryland - A regional landscape conservation plan for Southern Maryland guiding land conservation efforts of the Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust and encouraging collaborative initiatives with local public and private partners.
  • Groundwork Richmond - Develop plans for adaptive reuse of Richmond brownfield sites that support environmental restoration, neighborhood revitalization, youth engagement, and urban park development goals.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Go Green on Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King was a man who dedicated his life to standing up for the projects in which he believed. And Lisa P. Jackson, on the EPA website, reminds us that Martin Luther King day is a great day to volunteer for the projects that we believe in and want to support.
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve.” Those words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have inspired millions of Americans over the years to step up and serve. And they’re the words that come to mind each January, when we honor Dr. King’s legacy on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Each year, people across the country come together for volunteer service, to strengthen their communities and make a difference for the people around them.
The Martin Luther King website that Ms. Jackson mentioned allows you to put in your zip code and locate volunteer activities in your area. There are plenty of opportunities to find a project to help you answer the question that MLK once posed: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"

If you can't find a project that compels you to participate, Ms. Jackson has several suggestions for making a "green" difference on a personal level.
There are countless ways to be part of a Green MLK Day: Start using biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Learn about composting and give it a shot in your own backyard. Pick up litter at a local park or field. Organize a “green club” in your workplace, school or community.
There are many more suggestions for going green on this blog, including eliminating chemicals, creating compost, and installing rain barrels. You can use the search tab at the top of this page to find a great green option to get you started or check out a post such as this one on Bare Naked Gardening, that sums many of them up in one place.

Whatever you decide to do on this day of remembrance, Jackson encourages you to share your project on twitter with the hashtag #greenMLK

Right Tree, Right Place Workshop

Virginia Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and Arlington-Alexandria Tree Stewards will present a forum on “Right Tree in the Right Place: Selecting, Planting and Maintaining Trees and Shrubs” on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fairlington Community Center.

The program is free. For information, call (703) 228-6414

Event Location: Fairlington Community Center
3308 South Stafford Street
Arlington, VA 22206
Contact Name: Master Garden Helpdesk
Contact E-mail: mgarlalex@gmail
Contact Phone: 703-228-6414

Friday, January 13, 2012

Global Warming? Blame it on termite farts

My friend Sidney emailed me a cute article she found online about a speech a young girl named Sophie Paterson from  New Zealand made about farts. (see copy below) The article is getting passed (no pun intended)  around the internet quite a bit, mostly because no matter how mature or sophisticated we think we are, farts still make us titter.

So, of course, I had to try to find a way to fit it into my eco-friendly blog, and here it is:

According to Ms. Paterson's essay, termites are number one on the list of top farters. AND, according to the EPA website, termite farts are the second largest natural source of methane emissions.

Termites. Global emissions of methane due to termites are estimated to be between 2 and 22 Tg per year, making them the second largest natural source of methane emissions. Methane is produced in termites as part of their normal digestive process, and the amount generated varies among different species. Ultimately, emissions from termites depend largely on the population of these insects, which can also vary significantly among different regions of the world.
And methane is one of the contributing factors to global warming.

So quit blaming the cows, sheep and elephants for all of that errant methane. Blame it on the termites.

Favorite Trees – Casey Trees Staff members answer the question “why”

caseytrees2 Ask someone if they have a favorite tree, and many are quick to name a particular species. It often takes a little more “digging” to come up with the answer to “why”.  But since digging is one of my favorite things to do, I decided to ask around. I started with some of the staff at Casey Trees.

If you don’t know about Casey Trees, they are a  D.C.-based non-profit group  committed to restoring, enhancing and protecting the tree canopy of D.C. They plant trees,  teach other people about trees,  and work with elected officials, developers, and community groups to make sure that the population of trees in D.C. continues to grow forth and multiply. Ten years and over 10,000 trees since their beginning, it’s obvious to see that they DEFINITELY “dig” trees.

Jared Powell, Director of Communications and Development for Casey Trees helped me poll a few of their staff members to get some answers to the question “What is your favorite tree, and why?” Their answers reflect childhood memories, aesthetic admiration and respect for the environment that help to explain why Casey Trees is so devoted to helping Washington DC remain “The City of Trees.”

Native trees, which are generally better suited for the local environment, are marked with an (N)

Jared’s favorite tree: The eucalyptus, while not native to North America, has certainly made itself at home along the west coast particularly in California where I am from. Growing up, I would build forts at the base of these giants using its tessellated bark for roof materials, soak up its sweet scent emitted from its distinctive long, blue leaves and lounge in its shade on hot summer days. In short, the eucalyptus tree reminds me of home and a time when my only worry was when the end of recess bell would ring.

Marty O’Brien, COO: When I was growing up in Minneapolis in the late 1970s, there were many big and beautiful elm trees lining the boulevards in our neighborhood and throughout the city.  At some point the city came through and marked many trees with an orange “X” and soon removed all of those trees.  It drastically changed the character of the neighborhood and the city for the worse so, at about 10 years old, I realized for the first time the impact that trees could have.  We didn’t know what we had until it was gone.  So that is why I chose the American elm (N) as my favorite tree.  It was the first real connection I had with trees.

Mark DeSantis, Development Associate:  It’s not just the bursts of golden yellow leaves that dot D.C.’s streets during the fall that make the ginkgo my favorite tree – though in my opinion there are few things more beautiful to see in this city. For me it’s more their history and the fact that they’ve been around for so long that fascinate me. They are truly a relic from the past that has survived for so long – something few things in this world have managed. It’s this uniqueness that I find beautiful.

Oliver Pattison, Communications Associate: I am a fan of the pin oak (N)  because it is a great large-canopy street tree with a significant presence along certain D.C. streets. I know that oaks are not everyone’s favorite type of city tree because of concerns about falling acorns, but they more than make up for it with their beautiful fall foliage. I discovered that I liked pin oaks in particular by walking around Mount Pleasant and Kalorama Park in the fall.

Christopher Horn, Communications Associate: There are many species of oak in my home state of Kansas, but none like the willow oak (N). When I moved to D.C., I was not only amazed at how many trees there were, but also by the uniqueness of the willow oak. The tree has a dense canopy and its oblong willow-like leaves go from a bright green in spring to a beautiful yellow-orange in the fall. The willow oak is a sight to see in any season.

Sara Turner, Urban Forestry Manager: The artist in me loves sassafras (N)  for its color and three distinct leaf shapes, some simple others lobed, which make this tree's identification fun. I especially love the one shaped like a mitten resembling the state of Michigan, where I studied woody plants. In the fall, the leaves transition to striking hues of orange, red, and yellow. I am easily charmed by the spotting of Sassafras on a fall hike. 

Lisa Morris, Planning and Design Associate: Allentown, PA, where I’m from, has beautiful sycamore (N)  lined streets where the branches form an almost solid mass. These giant trees framed the streets I grew up on.

Michael Potts, GIS Specialist: The blackjack oak (N)  is a small, scrubby survivor, though one can grow very large if given proper resources. There are some small specimens at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland, but I first came upon them as they grow natively on my family’s ranch in Texas. I loved taking walks through the forest populated by blackjacks and  post oaks. They always had a rugged appeal to me.

Tom Buckley, Director of Technical Services and Research: Having a favorite tree is a little like having a favorite ice cream.  I don’t think about it much.  But the Baobabs in Zimbabwe surprised me, as a little kid on safari.  You could crawl around inside them.  I had a tree-house, but this was a tree that could actually house you.  And they grew very large in dusty, dry climates

Rather than choosing one favorite tree, Shawn Walker, Urban Forestry Instructor, described the importance of following the practice of right plant/right place. In my opinion, right plant/right place is even more important than choosing natives. Choosing trees that are suitable for your property’s site conditions will generally require less water and less harmful chemicals – both of which are great for the local environment.

Shawn Walker: I chose “right tree, right place” because it’s kind of a theme around here: for a planted tree to thrive one must consider the site-specific constraints and chose a species thus suited – ‘right tree, right place’. When I came to work at Casey Trees a year ago, I was surprised that no other staff had chosen this as their favorite, so I nabbed it right away!

‘Right tree, right place’ describes a thoughtful approach to tree selection and landscape design but it also reminds us that there is room for our attitudes towards trees to be more nuanced, something more than simply ‘I like/dislike that tree’. Take the argument about native versus non-native species, for instance. I used to staunchly believe that native species should always be planted when possible. However, as I have become more aware of the threats to our urban forest from climate change and exotic pests, this bias has become somewhat murky. 

Our international trade patterns have resulted in the introduction of numerous harmful tree pests from Asia, and their potency as pests results from the fact that they are new invaders in a new land with few, if any, natural enemies to keep them in check. Of course, we should do what we can to control pests like the Emerald Ash Borer that continues its wholesale ash-murdering rampage but we can also take measures to make our urban forests more resistant to Asian pests by including Asian tree species within our palette.  The Manchurian Ash (Fraxinus mandschurica), to site a specific example, coevolved and shares native habitat with the Emerald Ash Borer, and it just so happens that it has a high degree of resistance to the pest. If we love ash trees and want to include them in our species composition, should we not consider the Manchurian Ash as one of many arrows in our quiver? Thus continues the ‘right tree, right place’ discussion…

Now that we’ve started digging, how about you. Do you have any favorite trees?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wood Ashes in the Garden: Good or Bad?

One of the things I love the most about cooler weather is the nice cozy fires that my husband builds in our fireplace and outdoor fire pit. Whether it’s because he is a Sagittarius (one of the fire signs of the zodiac) or just because he grew up in a campfire loving family, Tom starts building fires as soon as the temperatures begin to fall.

Needless to say, we end up with a LOT of wood ashes. The first time I cleaned out our fireplace (over ten years ago now) I piled huge buckets full of ashes into our compost pile. It just seemed somehow logical to me, putting decomposed wood back into the earth. Tom, my green-gardening guru hubby, just shook his head. Then he told me to get a shovel and he helped me dig them all back out and put them in a metal container so we could better control their use in our landscape.

I wasn’t WRONG about the nutritional value of wood ashes. The truth is that wood ashes contain most of the 13 essential nutrients that soil must supply for plant growth. The secret is just to make sure that you utilize those nutrients ONLY as needed.

When applied directly to garden soil, wood ashes will raise the pH level. This is great if the pH level of your soil is low. Not so great if the pH level of your soil is already high. In fact, over applying wood ash can cause serious imbalances in your soil.

The pH value is a measure of a soils acidity or alkalinity and directly affects the ability of plants to utilize the nutrients available to them. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers less than 7 indicate acidity while numbers greater than 7 indicate alkalinity.

So how do you determine the pH value of your soil? You get your soil tested.  Getting your soil tested is an excellent way to help minimize the use of chemicals in your yard. Knowing what your yard needs allows you add only what is necessary, eliminating the possiblity of harming your yard or causing excess nutrients to find their way into our waterways.

If the pH level of your soil is low, then adding wood ash may be beneficial. Again, this depends on what you want to grow. Wood ash is beneficial to most garden plants except acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Here are a few more facts about wood ashes, I found from searching

The value of wood ash depends on the type of wood you burn. Harwood ash has a higher percentage of nutrients than ash from softwoods.

Lawns that need lime and potassium can also benefit from wood ash but you should apply no more than 10 to 15 pounds of ash per 1,000 square feet of lawn and only every couple of years.

Wood ash is alkaline, which means you should use precautions when handling it.
  • Wear eye protection, gloves and a dust mask.
  • Do not scatter ashes in the wind.
  • Do not use ash from burning trash, cardboard, coal or pressure-treated, painted or stained wood. These materials can contain potentially harmful substances. For example, the glue in cardboard boxes and paper bags contains boron, an element that can inhibit plant growth at excessive levels.
  • Never leave wood ash in lumps or piles. If it is concentrated in one place, excessive salt from the ash can leach into the soil and create a harmful environment for plants.
  • Do not apply ash at time of seeding. Ash contains too many salts for seedlings.
Source: Wood Ashes Can Benefit Gardens and Lawns

Why do you love trees?

Trees. What's not to love. They give you shade, fruit, flowers, fragrance, firewood and so many other great things. So I'll be focusing on trees and the people who love them in my next few posts. In the mean time, why do you love trees? Answer our poll or use the comments section to add an answer of your own.

What is or would be your primary motivator for planting a tree in your yard?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Help Kickstart the Meadow Project

meadowproject I am so inspired by visionary garden writers who work so hard to influence others about eco-friendly gardening practices. I know, first hand, how difficult it can be to both garden AND write with the goal of encouraging others to take a little bit better care of the planet.

That’s why I love to pass along the projects and success stories of other people who work in the same field. And in the case of Catherine Zimmerman, the “field” is a low maintenance meadow.

Zimmerman is a DC based certified horticulturist and landscape designer who is accredited in organic land care. She has designed and taught a course in organic landscaping for the USDA Graduate School Horticulture program, is an award-winning director of photography, contributes to one of my favorite blogs (Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens), and has written a very cool book entitled Urban & Suburban Meadows, Bringing Meadowscaping to Big and Small Spaces.

Penny Lewis, Executive Director of the Ecological Landscaping Association describes Zimmerman’s book in this way: “Before manicured lawns, with their chemicals, mowers, and blowers, there were ecological meadows, with their butterflies, birds, and bees. Catherine Zimmerman’s Urban & Suburban Meadows reintroduces readers to the beauty and biodiversity of the meadow and reminds them of the intricate connections between wildlife and native plant communities that serve as both food source and habitat.”

I was poking around on kickstarter, an on-line fundraising forum, and noticed that Zimmerman is now working on creating an educational, documentary film to go along with the book and is looking for donations to help her get this exciting project launched! I’m excited to donate to a project that will encourage more people to cut down on their water hogging, chemical craving lawns and opt for something that attracts birds, bees and butterflies.

If you have a few dollars to spare, I encourage you to make a donation to this great project. And if you can’t make a financial donation, help a fellow meadow maven out by reposting this message for her on your own blog, on Facebook and twitter. She only has until February 20, 2012 to reach her financial goal on kickstarter.

" is an interesting fundraising website. You create an account, describe your project and set a money goal to be obtained within a specific time period. Pledges are tiered, with each tier offering different incentives. If your project doesn’t reach your pre-set (unchangeable) monetary goal in the (unchangeable) time limit, nobody pays. Backers simply can't lose — if you can’t complete the project, they don’t pay. And if you can, they get both their tier award and the satisfaction of knowing they were instrumental in seeing your project through to completion."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cool things I've learned from twitter

If you are like me, you are a little amazed and sometimes overwhelmed by all of the great info there is floating out there on the internet. For me, one of the greatest ways to sort through everything and find what  is pertinent to me is by using twitter. By selectively choosing who I follow, I have a constant stream of thoughts, ideas and articles that add information, motivation and inspiration to my life.

The really cool thing is the way that information is passed along from one user to the next. One great bit of info or insight can be passed along to hundreds and thousands of other followers by the simple use of the Retweet! Ya gotta love that technology!

Just today, I found this great article about pervious paving in a tweet from @hcconservancy . Pervious paving is a great way to allow water to seep into the earth, cutting down on stormwater runoff and pollution.

I also found this tweet from @CanarsieBK about Roasted Balsalmic Brussell Sprouts. How yummy does THAT sound? I think @CanarsieBK is also the one that had a great tweet about growing green onions from green onions, something I have been doing ever since I read it: Growing Green Onions from Green Onions in Your Kitchen

Every day, I get great motivational quotes from @AnnTran_ such as this one that she tweeted a few minutes ago. "Just be nice, take genuine interest in the people you meet, and keep in touch with people you like." — Guy Kawasaki"

I also get my daily dose of beautiful photos from twitterers such as @screek and these that were just tweeted about by @paul_steele

And since I'm mentioning people I follow, I have to mention @DerekMarkham just because he was one of the first people I followed, years ago, and he never fails to disappoint! His twitter profile pretty much sums him up: Generally green, sprinkled with randomness & slathered with peanut butter. Father, blogger, new media fool. Good man. Skilled shoveler. Full of snark.

I could go on and on about the great info that you can find on twitter. There was a time when I thought that twitter was ONLY for people who had smartphones. Until I became a twitterer myself, I didn't realize how fun and easy and important it would be!

Anyway, if you haven't yet discovered twitter, I ecourage you to check it out. And if you are on twitter, take a look for me out there. My twitter name is @dclawngarden

Friday, January 6, 2012

20 More Benefits of Trees

I guess it has become obvious that I have plenty of things to say about trees! (Almost as much as I have to say about wildlife). But I promise, this will be my last post about trees for awhile. (Sources for stats and other info are at the end of the post) 20 More Benefits of Trees Financial and Environmental Benefits of Trees
  1. Trees increase property values: Trees add as much as 20 percent to the value of your property. Studies also show that home values are higher on tree-lined streets. MC
  2. Trees increased salability of homes: The majority of realtors surveyed believe that mature trees have a "strong or moderate impact" on the salability of homes. FCV
  3. Trees increase Tourism - 700,000 tourists visit DC each year for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. CT
  4. Trees aid Commerce - Consumers are willing to spend 12% more in stores with trees in front of them than without. CT
  5. Trees provide Job Opportunities -Natural resource management job opportunities are growing in cities. CT
  6. Trees decrease heating bills up to 15 percent and cooling bills up to 50 percent. (DDOE)
  7. Trees Reduce Noise Pollution - Trees act as buffers against roadways and other noise producing sources by absorbing unpleasant sounds from the urban environment. PT
  8. Tree roots protect groundwater - Tree roots help stabilize soil which, if loose and prone to erosion, might be carried away by stormwater runoff. MC
  9. Tree Leaves Protect Groundwater - Researchers have found that evergreens, conifers, and deciduous trees in full leaf can intercept up to 36 percent of the rainfall that hits them. MC Trees can keep 35,625 tons of sediment per square mile from entering waterways every year!
  10. Trees recharge groundwater - Tree roots help to move water from the surface into deeper layers of the soil. This helps recharge the groundwater supply. MC
  11. Trees create organic matter on the soil surface from their leaf litter. MDNR Natural organic matter helps eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers
  12. Trees provide screening; increasing privacy and reducing the impacts of lights FCV
  13. Trees provide a wind break during winter. MDNR
  14. Trees provide Healthy Air - The trees of Washington filter 540 tons of harmful, health-threatening pollutants from the air each year. CT One acre of trees absorbs enough carbon dioxide every year to offset 26,000 miles of automobile exhaust!
  15. Trees give off oxygen that we need to breathe.
  16. Trees provide Cooling Shade - Trees provide shade and give off water vapor to cool the city in the summer. Homes shaded by trees have 10-30% savings in air conditioning costs compared to homes without shade. CT
  17. Trees strengthen neighborhoods: When neighborhoods are full of trees, residents spend more time outside mingling with neighbors—building personal ties, stronger communities, and a greater sense of well being. MC Strengthening neighborhoods means people stay closer to home, which reduces environmental strains of commuting.
  18. Trees improve air quality by removing small pollutant particulates (i.e. sulfur dioxide, ozone, etc.) (DDOE)
  19. Trees reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking up carbon dioxide (DDOE)
  20. Trees mitigate the urban heat-island effect by shading our homes and streets. Urban and suburban temperatures are 2 to 10F (1 to 6C) hotter than nearby rural areas. (DDOE) For more information : Sources: Casey Trees (CT) Montgomery County Department of the Environment (MC) District Department of Transportation (DDOT) District Department of the Environment (DDOE) Fairfax County Virginia (FCV) District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Plano Texas (PT) Bowling Green Kentucky (BG)

George Washington University wins grant for GroW Gardens

George Washington University’s GroW Gardens has been providing fresh food to underserved Washingtonians since 2009.

And thanks to a new $10,000 grant from Nature’s Path, an organic food company, the community garden will be enhanced and expanded in order to serve more people.

The GroW Garden projects, which has its main location in Foggy Bottom on H Street between 23rd and 24th streets and a second location on the Mount Vernon Campus, is one of three grant recipients of this year’s Nature’s Path Gardens for Good Program. The program is designed to provide funding to further organic community feeding programs.

Click here to Read more

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Class Schedule

Fellow blogger Judy Thomas, author of the Central Virginia Organic Gardener Blog, loves Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She writes about the Botanical Garden often on her blog and has recently started taking some of their classes. Here is one of her posts, entitled Documenting Your Garden,  with some sketches she did while taking  botanical illustration courses at Ginter.

Judy thought that some of our readers might be interested in the schedule of classes at Ginter so she asked me to pass it along.

Here are some of their upcoming classes:

Spring Pruning for Shrubs / February 11

Beekeeping for Beginners / February 18, 25, March 3, 10 plus a field trip, date tbd

Planning and Designing a Kitchen Garden / February 23, March 1

Worms:  The Ultimate Disposal            February 23

The Dirt on Soil:  The Life under Your Feet / February 25

Vegetable Gardens the Organic Way /  March 8

Register on line or call.  LGBG is located at 1800 Lakeside Ave., Richmond VA 23226 (804) 262-9887

Here’s a link to Lewis Ginter’s full Classes and Course Schedule.

And don’t forget to check out Judy’s blog, as well as her great podcasts.

GardenWise 2012 - Worth the Trip

It's a bit of a drive, but the GardenWise 2012 Workshop in York, Pennsylvania on Saturday, March 10th 2012 , from 8:00am to 3:30 pm, looks like it might be worth the trip.

Susan Reed, author of the award winning Energy-Wise Landscaping Design, will share ideas and tips you can easily incorporate into your landscape.

Dr. Michael Raupp from the University of Maryland will take you on a fascinating journey to learn “why bugs and plants make the world go round”.

In between you can attend sessions on growing vegetables sustainably, using cover crops in the garden, heirloom and open pollinated plants, biorational pesticides and beneficial insects, or native plants and their role in garden design.

Early bird registration (on or before February 21) is $49.00 and includes a full day of gardening talks, handouts, continental breakfast, and lunch. To register, call Kelly at 717-840-7408 and request a GardenWise brochure. Or go online to Register early, as space is limited.

Friday Fun - Create a #natureverse

I was standing outside, feeling my morning dose of awe and wonder that nature always seems to provide, and I decided I would come in and try to stir up some shared awe.

So I came up with a short free form poem about what I felt outside, came up with an unused twitter hashtag for it, (#natureverse) and decided to see if I can encourage others to write their own natureverse.

Go outside. Stand still and look around until you become inspired. Then come tweet what you felt. Make it short enough to include the hashtag #natureverse and save room for your twitter name and an @RT if you want others to be able to share it.

Here is mine:
As I stood, silently watching the morning unfold, I saw the sun glisten off a single strand of spider silk and I felt peace. #natureverse

Have fun!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Research Shows: Getting Down and Dirty Makes You Happy

As gardeners, we all KNOW that gardening makes us happy. But new research helps to explain why. Apparently, digging in the dirt actually releases “happy chemicals” in our brains.

Here are some excerpts from an article entitled Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression by Robyn Francis on the Permaculture College Australia website which provides scientific evidence that getting down and dirty is good for the soul….and the immune system.
Getting down and dirty is the best ‘upper’ – Serotonin : Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression. 

Harvest 'High' – Dopamine: Another interesting bit of research relates to the release of dopamine in the brain when we harvest products from the garden. The researchers hypothesize that this response evolved over nearly 200,000 years of hunter gathering, that when food was found (gathered or hunted) a flush of dopamine released in the reward centre of brain triggered a state of bliss or mild euphoria. The dopamine release can be triggered by sight (seeing a fruit or berry) and smell as well as by the action of actually plucking the fruit.
Francis goes on to say that using glyphosate herbicides can take away all of those happy feelings.
Glyphosate residues deplete your Serotonin and Dopamine levels
Of course, for all of the above to work effectively and maintain those happy levels of serotonin and dopamine, there’s another prerequisite according to another interesting bit of research I found.  It appears it will all work much better with organic soil and crops that haven’t been contaminated with Glyphosate-based herbicides. A recent study in 2008 discovered that glyphosate depletes serotonin and dopamine levels in mammals. 
I guess all of this explains why seeing my husband work in his organic garden was such a turn-on for me when we first met. And why I still think working side by side with someone in a garden can be such a fun, pleasurable experience.

So next time you are feeling a little bit down, I encourage you to go outside and get dirty with a friend. But to keep those brain chemicals pumping, keep things chemical free.

You can read the full article by Robin Francis here: Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression

You might also enjoy reading: The Psychology of Green Gardening

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Think Outside the box and Plant This, Not That

PASSIO~4 Native plants are very popular in eco-friendly landscapes. Some people like them because of their drought tolerance and low-maintenance requirements. Others like them because of their wildlife value or their pure, unadulterated beauty.

I recently ran across a list entitled Plant This, Not That on the Garden Club of Virginia website that was created for their 2011 annual meeting. A paragraph at the top of the list explained how the list was compiled.

Garden club members from around the state were asked for suggestions for native plants that had wildlife value, but not in the traditional sense of providing seeds or berries for wildlife. Instead, they were asked to list plants that attract butterflies, which in turn, produce caterpillars which are used as food for many native bird species.
For our GCV Annual Meeting we are focusing on good garden practices that encourage the growth cycle of our native birds and butterflies. Many of you may know that our native birds are in decline because of loss of native habitat for the specific caterpillars that feed our young birds. Non-native plants do not offer breeding ground for any native butterflies, and 97% of our birds require insects-not seeds-to feed their young. Therefore we are asking each club to bring in a cutting or small plant that is native and attracts butterflies, and a picture of a non-native landscape plant that may be replaced by your specimen in a backyard landscape. The display will be titled "Plant this, not that!"

It’s a great list, because it helps us “think outside the box” when recognizing the wildlife value of native plants. I mentioned many of the plants on the list, including paw paw, sweet bay, milkweed and passion vine, in a post that I did on butterfly gardening. But from now on, I’ll remember to mention their value for attracting birds, as well.

Plant This, Not That – complete list (pdf format)

Here are some Favorite Native Plant Lists from our archives:

And don’t forget to take our native plant poll and check out the other lists of native plants listed under Our Most Popular Pages, both of which can be found in the blog’s sidebar.

Award-winning documentary Bag It comes to Wheaton

Bag It Intro from Suzan Beraza on Vimeo.
WHEATON, MD—GreenWheaton is partnering with Brookside Gardens, Silver Spring Green and Safeway to present a free screening of the award-winning documentary, Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?

Bag It follows ‘everyman’ Jeb Berrier as he tries to make sense of our dependency on,  and single-use mentality towards, plastic bags. Although his quest starts out small, Jeb soon finds our ‘plastic problem’ extends beyond landfills to oceans, rivers and ultimately human health.

Visit Brookside Gardens Visitor Center on January 9, 2012 at 7 PM to watch this engaging film and learn about the simple steps we can take to reverse this alarming trend. You will never look at plastics in the same way again.

The event is free, but seating is limited. Safeway will be providing free recyclable grocery bags on a first come first served basis.

Please register at Bag It Registration. For more information contact Al Carr of Green Wheaton at

Information provided by Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Butterflies LIVE! – Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Friday, May 25 - Monday, Oct. 14, 2012
Hundreds of butterflies will take flight in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's glass Conservatory in 2012. The Butterflies LIVE! exhibit is back by popular demand and will feature showy tropical species from May 25 - October 14, 2012. 
The exhibit will also feature special plantings to provide food for the butterflies, allowing visitors to get an "up-close" and personal view of these fascinating creatures.
This exhibit is presented by the Robins Foundation.

A Year’s Worth of Eco-friendly Events and Garden Tips

Bookmark this list or print it out! You won’t want to miss these eco-friendly events and garden tips for 2012.


February –

March -

  • World Water Day is March 22, 1012 - International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Mark the day by adding a few rain barrels to your landscape.

April –

May –

  • May is National Wetlands Month - Support and promote wetlands by informing community members about wetlands' vital roles, "adopting" a wetland, joining a local watershed group, or participating in a wetland monitoring, restoration, or cleanup project. There are many other actions Americans can take to help conserve wetlands. To learn more about what you can do to help protect and restore these valuable natural resources in your state or local area, visit What You Can Do to Protect and Restore Wetlands.
  • National Public Gardens Day – May 11, 2012 – a celebration of botanical gardens, arboreta, and other public gardens takes place.

June -

July -

August –


October –

November -

  • America Recycles Day – November 15th - Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15 to celebrate America Recycles Day - the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling in the United States. Creating compost is a great way to recycle in the garden.


Garden Trends for 2012 bode well for the Planet

Susan McCoy and the team at Garden Media Group have come up with a list of Garden Trends for 2012 that may just indicate that eco-friendly gardening has reached the tipping point to becoming the new norm.

Their 2012 Garden Trends Report predicts a generation of environmentally conscious Gen X & Y’s, driven by a desire to preserve and protect the earth’s resources, planting drought tolerant, low-maintenance gardens as food for their bodies as well as their souls.

“Plants are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for our lives,” says McCoy, trendspotter and outdoor living expert. “Plants can live without us, but we can’t live without plants.”

Here are some excerpts of what McCoy and her team of Garden Media Group trend spotters see for gardening in 2012.

Urban-Knights. A growing army of ‘urban-knights’ are creating oases wherever they can find a patch of earth. They’re planting shrubs, flowers, edibles and pop-up gardens on balconies, in alley ways, and on street parklets – even in abandoned buildings and walk-in shipping containers. From yard sharing and raising chickens to ‘step gardening’ and harvesting rain water, urban knights are finding a ‘new good life’ by getting grounded with the earth.

Eco-scaping. Beauty and sustainability are key. People want the “beauty and romance” of a garden with less work. “Gardeners want easy, low maintenance plants that give plenty of color.”

Occupy Local. People are “occupying” local farmers markets and joining CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) for fresh produce, plants and products. “Farmers markets are our new backyard veggie gardens and are becoming our local grocery store,” says McCoy. According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, sales of “locally produced food” reached $4.8 billion in 2008.They project that locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales dominated by fruit and veggies this year.

Mindful Consumption. According to the 2010 Cone Survey, 83% of consumers still want to see more brands, products, and companies that support worthy causes. “We’ve finally moved from “me” to “we” and consider our earth and each other when we purchase,” says McCoy.

Water-Watchers. “There is no single issue greater than water,” says Dr.Hall. Recent drought and regional water restrictions are causing us to grow plants, flowers and vegetables with less water.

Seedlings. From the White House to the neighborhood schools, kids are learning how to grow their own food and take care of the planet. McCoy says we’ve ignored two generations of gardeners and need to get kids back to having fun growing things.

There is much more in the 2012 Garden Trends Report , which you can download from their website (in pdf format).

But the statement that stands out the most to me is this: A generation of gardeners that thinks of “we” instead of “me” when they garden has to bode very well for the future of our planet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Garden Gnome Lays Eggs - It's a New Years Miracle

My husband and I have a habit of pointing out “wonders of nature” to each other. But the wonder he showed me last night was the best, and most mysterious wonder that we have ever seen! It appears our garden gnome has laid eggs – and they have already hatched!

Most gardeners know that garden gnomes are supposed to bring good luck in the home and garden.

Some of the many myths that abound about garden gnomes that I found on the website are:

They guard the underground riches of the Earth, specifically precious metals and jewels

In the old days, before most gnomes elected to move above ground, they developed the ability to swim through soil as easily as you and I can walk through air. (sounds like they are probably as beneficial as earthworms).

If the local gnomes find you of suitable temperament, they will begin to let themselves be seen; and if they come to approve of you, they may be willing to move into your garden or even your home, provided you offer the proper enticements. But if gnomes do move in, expect them to do more than just party (which they'll do anyway). They'll repay your kindness with horticultural largesse in the garden, and good luck in the home.
Anyway, none of those myths have anything to do with why we have a garden gnome on our fireplace mantel. The gnome I have was made by a local artist and was given to me for a birthday over 15 years ago. The gnome is firmly affixed to a stump of an oak tree, with a small space in between the gnome and the base.

Well, last night when my husband was taking down Christmas decorations and rearranging things on the mantel, he noticed several small eggs under the gnome – and it looks like they all have hatched!

We have no idea what the eggs are. Probably something that came in with some firewood. But they are so large, we don’t know how any creature got under the gnome and laid them.

In any case, since gnomes are supposed to mean good luck, we are going to take it as a very good sign that our gnome "laid eggs" right on our fireplace mantle. Looks like 2012 is going to be a VERY fruitful, lucky, prosperous year.

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