Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day great time to “Leap” towards more water savings

The EPA Watersense program is encouraging people to use Leap Day as a reminder to checkout irrigation systems to make sure that they aren’t wasting water.

Here is an excerpt from the Winter 2012 Issue of The WaterSense Current

Do you have a landscape watering system with preset controls? Experts estimate that as much as 50 percent of water applied by irrigation systems is wasted due to overwatering caused by inefficiencies! 

Leap Day, February 29, is a great time to stop and use a few of those extra minutes to check your irrigation system’s control settings and schedules. 
It’s important to adjust your irrigation controller based on the season; in most climates, plants don’t need summer levels of watering during the rest of the year. A simple check and adjustment can ensure that your system operates at its maximum efficiency. 
If your system uses a traditional clock timer, you may want to consider installing a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller, which uses local weather data to automatically adjust watering schedules and systems to better match plants’ water needs. WaterSense recently released a final specification for these controllers, which do the thinking for you in terms of when and how much to water. WaterSense labeled models of these weather-based irrigation controllers should be available soon; visit the WaterSense website for more information.
Even if you don’t have an irrigation system, it’s still a good time to consider low-maintenance landscaping that uses less water and still looks lovely. Consider some new, drought-tolerant plants for your yard this spring. Native plants that don’t require supplemental irrigation will help you keep your water bills low and provide a beautiful landscape. You can find a local plant list from your water utility, cooperative extension service, or on the WaterSense website.
And for those who like a lush lawn, take a little leap on your grass this spring to avoid overwatering. If you step on your lawn and the grass springs back, it does not need to be watered. Use this easy method to save on water while still keeping your lawn healthy and learn more outdoor watering tips.

And here are some previous blog posts from this blog that might interest you:
Find a WaterSense Irrigation Expert
Beneficial Drought Tolerant Plants for the DC Area – Part 1
Beneficial Drought Tolerant Plants for the DC Area – Part 1

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spring Lawn Care for Northern Virginia

Tuesday, March 6, 6:30 - 8:30 pm. 

Join Virginia Tech Specialist Dr. Mike Goatley for a discussion of best management practices for establishing, renovating and maintaining lawns in Northern Virginia.  Topics to be covered include turf selection, soil test and preparation, fertilizing, mowing, weed control, water and drought management, and insect and disease management.  

Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington.  

Free parking on- and off-street.  To register, call 703-228-6414 or email  For more information, visit

Offered by the Arlington Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension with Support from Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Helping Trees to Thrive

Volunteer Opportunity with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Sunday, March 4 from 9 a.m. to Noon-“Helping Trees to Thrive”

Join WSSC as we remove weeds from trees trying to grow next to the Patuxent River.  This is an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful serenity of the river and a woodland that very few people get to see-while making a difference to the Chesapeake Bay.  

Supplee Recreation Area, 16904 Supplee Lane, Laurel, MD.

For more information, visit the WSSC website.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I wonder if moose and elk poop are good for gardens?

moose Hubby and I are headed out west to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a week of skiing and moose watching (Tom skis. I moose watch) so its been a busy few days getting our yard ready for our absence.

Tom has rigged up an elaborate watering system that will turn our irrigation system on and deliver water through drip irrigation tubes, ONLY if the rain sensor says that it’s needed. Other plants that are in pots have been moved to areas to reap the runoff from our rain barrels, if nature provides it. On a previous trip, some of our plants blew over and dried out, because they weren’t able to catch any rainfall while on their sides, so today I went out and staked up a few pots so they don’t blow over. I also got all the bird feeders and bird baths filled.

When I got ready to pack, I realized that both of our big suitcases are REALLY beat up. I splurged and bought one new one and I’m hoping that the other one will last through one more trip without resulting in our dirty laundry being strewn all over the luggage carousel at one of the airports.

And I’m thinking that the old, torn up suitcase might be a perfect container to use for a portable garden. My friend Leslie uses old dresser drawers that she finds in people’s trash to plant her herbs in, but the suitcase might be even better, because it will let water flow through AND has convenient handles on the sides to pick it up and carry it. I’ll have to think about that when I get back.

We will get to visit our good friends Jon and Kim while we are out there. Jon and Kim are the couple that were featured in the slideshow for my post about The 12 Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening back in September, 2010.

I love Jackson Hole because there is so much wildlife. They have a huge elk refuge out there where up to 10,000 elk come down in the winter to graze. You can also see moose, wolves, bison, coyotes and bighorn sheep all within a short drive.

There won’t be any gardens for me to visit on this trip (Jon said there is two feet of snow in his yard right now) but I’m sure I’ll be thinking of my gardens back here at home. I’ll have to remember to ask the rangers what they do with all of the elk poop from the wildlife refuge. It sure seems like it would make great compost. 


2nd Annual Community Clean Water Summit

summit The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection invites residents interested in the health of Montgomery County’s streams to attend the second annual Community Clean Water Summit on March 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veteran’s Plaza, One Veteran’s Place, Great Hall, Room 1.   The goal of the summit is to help residents understand how their commonplace actions may contribute to stormwater pollution where they work, live and play. 

Stormwater pollution can result from ordinary actions by residents who may not be aware that they are affecting the health of streams, such as littering or ignoring trash, over-fertilizing lawns and not picking up after pets.  

Register for this free event at, space is limited.

Light lunch will be provided and door prizes include: an REI 3 season tent, rain barrels and more! (must be present to win).

For more information, contact Ryan Zerbe at or 240-777-7744.

Related post: Protect the Groundwater

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Driving your message home – new specialty license plate for Virginia

polplateI didn’t used to believe in putting bumper stickers or specialty license plates on my car. But then I realized what a great opportunity  I was passing up  to spread the word about eco-friendly gardening.

If you are a “green gardener” in Virginia, you  have the opportunity to help encourage others to create eco-friendly gardening for pollinators.

This beautiful specialty tag is enough to make anyone want to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to their yard, and we all know that means getting rid of chemicals and planting more native plants!

Here’s the info I read on the Virginia Native Plant Society Facebook page:

A group of local nature lovers is hoping to attract support for a new Virginia license plate with the inscription “Protect Pollinators.” The plate is meant to bring attention to the role pollinators — bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, etc. — play in supporting the vitality of the earth’s ecosystem and food supply.

“So far we’ve had quite a lot of interest from Beekeepers, Master Gardeners, Naturalists (including native plant and pollinator enthusiasts), and the Audubon Society,” said pollinator plate organizer Samantha Gallagher. “Like all of the proposed new Virginia plates, we need 450 applicants, the General Assembly’s vote, and the DMV’s approval.”

According to the Virginia Pollinator Plate web site, supporters have signed up 44 people so far. They need another 406 commitments by November 2012 to move on to getting legislative and DMV support. An electronic application can be found here.

Gallagher says the purpose of the plate is not to raise money, but to raise awareness.
“Our plate costs $10 annually and isn’t a shared revenue plate, but our hope is that it provokes interest and conversation in pollinator conservation,” she said.

For more information about the Pollinator Plate, visit the Virginia Pollinator Plates website or visit them on Facebook

For more information about attracting pollinators to your yard, here are some related posts:

10 Ways to Observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week

February 26 - March 3, 2012
Washington, DC

A week of activities, briefings, workshops and events focused on strategizing solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national and international scales.
Full Description:
National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) includes activities, briefings, workshops, and events focused on strategizing solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national and international scales. Visit the NISAW website for complete information and to register. Participants may attend some or all of the events. The total cost to participate is $85.

If you can’t attend the events, here are TEN WAYS TO OBSERVE NATIONAL INVASIVE SPECIES AWARENESS WEEK (from the the February 26 – March 3, 2012
1. Do Some Research:  Get on the Internet and find out what’s invasive in your area, region or state. Identify which species might be growing in your backyard or neighborhood.  Visit to get started.
2. Join in an Eradication Effort: Many parks and nature reserves manually remove invasive plants (and sometimes animals) with the help of local volunteers. These outings are a great way to get some exercise, enjoy time outdoors, meet new friends, and gain the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping to protect your natural heritage.
3. Become a Citizen Scientist:  Whether you are collecting scientific data to be used by local, state, or national agencies and organizations or actually helping get rid of the invasive plants and animals, you will be able to see up close and personal the impacts of invasive species and the results of your efforts. Visit Citizen Science Central ( to learn more.
4. Visit a Garden, Park or Nature Center: Spend an afternoon at a botanic garden, park or natural area and familiarize yourself with the native flora and fauna in your area. See if a guided tour is offered.
5. Read a Book: Not an outdoor type?  Find a book and read up on the threats posed by invasive species.
6. Donate: If you can’t give time, you might be able to give money. Even small amounts can help local invasive species organizations with control and management and other costs.
7. Start a Garden: Replace your invasive landscape plants with native alternatives. Unlike many non-­‐native plants, native plants are hardy, less susceptible to pests and diseases and are unlikely to escape and become invasive.  They help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money on fertilizer and pesticides. (bloggers note: and save the planet in the process)
8. Legislate: Write a letter to your local state representative or get involved with an activist group. Let your lawmakers know your opinions about the impact of invasive species on our natural heritage.
9. Take the Invasive Species Challenge: One of the most effective ways to manage invasive species is for recreationalists such as boaters, fishermen, pet owners, and gardeners to not be unknowing vehicles of dispersion. Download the pdf for more info.
10. Spread Awareness: Take your National Invasive Species Awareness Week commitment beyond this week. Tell your friends, family, neighbors and others about invasive species!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

8th Annual EcoSavvy Gardening Symposium

What: Birds, Bats, Bugs and Bees: The Importance of Pollinators
Where: Green Spring Gardens
When: February 25th – 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Green Spring Master Gardeners are committed to showing homeowners and gardening professionals how everyone can make a difference in the health of our environment.

Animal pollinators such as birds, bats, bees, and bugs are needed by more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants.  Without them, we would have very little to eat and a lot less beauty to enjoy in our gardens.

In this eighth annual EcoSavvy Gardening symposium, you will learn about the importance of pollinators and practical tips to make your garden more pollinator-friendly.    

Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension. Call site by February 17 to order a vegetarian or non-vegetarian lunch for $12

Click here to download brochure.

Or register online, here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Continuing More than 50 Years of Beautiful Garden Memories

Volunteer Opportunity with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Sunday, Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. to Noon-“Continuing More than 50 Years of Beautiful Garden Memories”

WSSC planted an azalea garden over 50 years.  This fall, we added over 150 plants. But weeds have also found the azalea garden-and we need your help to remove them.  Brighton Dam’s Azalea Garden, 2 Brighton Dam Road, Brookeville

For more information, visit the WSSC website.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Starting Your Vegetable Garden From Seeds Indoors - Seminar

Wednesday, February 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

Walter Reed Community Center,2909 16th Street South, Arlington, VA

Learn the basics of successful plant propagation, including seed selection, requirements for germination, tips on transplanting, and the importance of hardening plants before moving them outdoors.  

To register call the Master Gardener Horticulture Help Desk at 703-228-6414 or e-mail   

Maryland Farmers Offer Bay Friendly Gardening Tips - with links

Well, I’ve seen this headline and read this media post on at least 5 sources, including CBS Baltimore, The Washington Post,, and others.
The media release says this:
Maryland farmers are offering homeowners tips on bay-friendly backyard gardening practices.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture says the educational campaign highlights the importance of garden planning during the winter for stronger, healthier gardens and lawns and a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. Topics include proper use of fertilizers, pesticide alternatives, erosion and runoff control and water conservation.
Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance says many routine farm-based conservation measures can easily be adapted to lawn care and gardens.
Gardeners can get tips by visiting the department’s website or calling the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center at 410-531-5573 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
The problem is, none of the sources provide the direct link to the bay-friendly gardening tips.

So for everyone else who had a hard time finding the tips, here are some of the gardening tips provided by Maryland Farmers: Backyard Actions for a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay

10th Annual Good Gardening Symposium – March 10th

Prince George master gardeners will present their 10th annual Good Gardening Symposium, "Indulge Your Senses" from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Prince George High School, 7801 Laurel Spring Road.

Featured speakers will be Ruth Burch, with Butterfly Society of Virginia; Bill Swanson, master gardener in Powhatan; Kathy Chain, owner of The Herbs of Happy Hill; and Wanda Johnson, with VCE, VSU. Topics include identifying butterflies; how to harvest the most produce from a given space, a hobby that leads you around by the nose, and new and interesting ways to prepare your vegetable harvest.

There is limited seating at the symposium. The registration fee is $10. For more information, call 804- 733-2686, visit the Master Gardener website at or email . Read more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Create a birding adventure in your own backyard

woodpecker I stopped by my friend Leslie’s house the other day to drop off some native plants for her. I meant to just leave the plants and continue on with my chores but, as usual, her yard made me linger. The second I stepped out of my car and heard the lovely musical tweets, chirps and twitters coming from her wildlife friendly landscape, I just HAD to stay and soak it all in for awhile.

Leslie and her husband epitomize what it means to share a landscape with wildlife. Although my husband and I have left our yard natural for the wildlife, Leslie and her husband have taken a typical suburban lot and made it into the perfect bird sanctuary by planting the entire property with native plants, installing rain barrels and water features, eliminating chemicals and hanging multiple feeders throughout their property. They even special order seed that they know the birds love and hang pieces of fruit in the trees for woodpeckers and squirrels.

My thought as I was driving away that day was “Wow, they sure get a lot more birds than I do.”
And then when I got home, I stopped and listened for awhile and realized that my yard was filled with almost as much birdsong as hers was. It’s just that I was taking the time to listen while I was visiting Leslie, while sometimes at my house I get too busy with my chores and indoor activities to pay enough attention to what’s going on outside.

That is one of the great things about the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) that starts tomorrow, February 17th, and runs through February 20th. Now in its 15th year, the GBBC is an annual 4 day event that encourages participants to count the various bird species that visit their own backyard and record their findings online. Not only does the GBBC provide data that helps scientists track bird populations and trends, but it provides a great opportunity for anyone to get better acquainted with the wildlife that visits their own yard.

I encourage you to visit the Great Backyard Bird Count website and find out more. You even have the opportunity to win great prizes, just for participating!

To get an idea of the birds you might see,  enter your zip code on the website to get a list of some of the birds  in your area. Here is a link to the list for Washington, DC.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run!! I hear the birds calling.
Related post: Does eco-friendly gardening help local wildlife populations?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And the survey says….Green is the new sexy

couple1 It's no secret that I think the environment….and taking care of it…are sexy. But the new Eco-Love Survey conducted by Timberland, a company that specializes in shoes and other clothing for the great outdoors, revealed that an awful lot of people agree with me.

77 percent of the people surveyed said that they regard eco-consciousness as an appealing trait in a mate and 50% are attracted to those who practice eco-friendly behavior around the house such as conserving water, recycling and turning off the lights. Which means, of course, that those who practice eco-friendly gardening by planting waterwise plants, using rain barrels and eliminating chemicals, aren’t just helping the planet. We are bumping up our sex-appeal!

The online poll surveyed over 1000 men and women 18 years of age or older and was conducted in January 2012.

Timberland then took the survey findings to the next level, partnering with dating gurus from the free dating site OKCupid to create the Timberland Green Guide to Dating and Love, full of tips for those on the hunt for their eco-sweetheart.

58% of those surveyed said that they would prefer to meet that special someone outdoors, at a venue such as a farmer’s market, community garden or volunteer activity. They even suggested planting a tree or gardening together as a great first date activity!

On the other end of the spectrum, nearly half of respondents say a date who is an “environmental zealot” is a turnoff.

So if you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to start your eco-friendly garden. And then next time you are out on the town looking for a date, don’t be afraid to say “Let me tell you about my rain barrel!”

Eco-friendly gardening is sexy – Valentines Day and Every Day

owl I can think of few things as sexy and romantic as lying in bed early in the morning and having my husband reach over and gently nudge me awake and whisper those words that always give me a little shiver.

"Hootie's outside," he'll say. And a huge smile crosses my face as I snuggle back into his arms and listen.

Hootie is the name that we have given to a large barred owl that lives on our property. The sound is often so faint through the windows, that I don’t know how my husband hears it. But he does. And knowing how it makes me feel, he wants me to hear it too.

Sharing the wonders of nature together has become a very special part of our relationship. It has made us more aware of our surroundings...more tuned in to the sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations of the world around us. And of course, those feelings have spilled over into our relationship.

One of my favorite things in life is spending time in the yard with my husband. It’s not just that I enjoy watching him nurture and care for the plants. But he always takes a break from whatever he is doing if he finds some “wonder of nature” that he thinks I should see. Every time he shares something like this with me, it is as if he is giving me a gift, because he is reminding me of all that is special and wonderful in our lives.

We garden specifically to attract these wonders of nature. Our yard is very natural, filled with native plants and free of all chemicals and other dangers that would discourage the wildlife.

Albert Einstein once said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Perhaps that is the secret to all of life's relationships. Never forget to be amazed by the wonders around you. Hold on to that incredible joy that you felt when you first saw your newborn infant, that heart-racing rush of love when you first kissed your spouse, and the incredible sense of wonder that you experienced when you first heard the call of a wolf late at night while camping under the stars or first saw a tiny iridescent hummingbird fluttering around your gardens. And remember, remember, remember that none of those things will last forever unless you make an effort to protect them and nurture them and let them know you care.

So next time you are in your garden, look for the wonders. Soak them up, savor them, and then share them with someone you love.  

Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Relationship Rule #2 for People and Gardens: Don’t Drown them with Love

deadrose In keeping with my Love theme for Valentine’s Day week, I am expounding on some of the rules that I wrote about a few years ago in my post The 12 Relationship Rules for Gardeners. Today’s rule: There is a fine line between showering with love and smothering with love.

In human relationships, everyone likes a little attention from their romantic partner. Certainly, none of us want to be ignored. But there is a fine line when just enough can become too much. And the tricky part is, the line is different for everyone, depending on just how much attention they require to thrive.

For me, a dozen roses and a fancy dinner at an elegant restaurant is almost too much attention. I had a boyfriend who once sent me three dozen roses for Valentine’s Day and, quite frankly, I probably could have bought groceries for a few weeks with the money he spent. On the other hand, a hand-written love note and a home-cooked dinner by candle light will keep nourishing the love in my heart for months!

The same principle can certainly be applied to gardens. Over-doing almost anything in the garden is a bad thing, from water, to fertilizer, to plants themselves.

So how do we know how much is too much? We get to know each other, really well.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of  getting to know your garden and the site conditions of your landscape. Once you know your garden, you will better understand just how much of everything it needs to thrive.

How too much attention can harm your garden:

Over watering: Over watering is usually a death sentence for plants, especially when accompanied with poor drainage. Waterlogged soils limit oxygen uptake by plant roots, which in turn affects the plant's metabolism, nutrient uptake, water absorption and photosynthesis. Over watering causes runoff, which can wash harmful chemicals from your yard into natural water supplies. Over watering also wastes water resources and reduces water supplies.

Over fertilizing: Too much fertilizer can be harmful to the lawn and plants in your landscape.  Not only can it burn a plant’s roots and make the plant more vulnerable to insects and diseases but it  may lead to water pollution through run-off or leaching of nutrients. Excess fertilizer which finds its way into waterways can cause unsightly algal blooms which reduce oxygen, often resulting in fish kills.

Pesticide Use: In my opinion, any use of chemical pesticides is too much. Pesticides are usually indiscriminate, killing the good bugs as well as the bad bugs. They can also have harmful effects for humans and other forms of garden wildlife.

Over planting: Even the practice of overcrowding a garden can be harmful to your plants. Overcrowding can cause weak growth and reduce air movement, resulting in increased insect and disease problems.

So when it comes to your relationship with your garden, don’t be an obsessive lover. Get to know what it wants and needs and then shower it with just the right amount of affection. That’s the best way to keep your relationship growing!

Gardening Symposium - March 24th-25th, 2012

The Loudoun County Master Gardeners present their Third Annual Gardening Symposium - two days packed with gardening inspiration and practical information from knowledgeable and engaging speakers. This year's line-up of speakers and topics offers something for every gardener and lover of the landscape. Network with others, pick-up new ideas and get in gear for spring. Speakers:
  • Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Professor, Department of Forestry. Virginia Tech, Remarkable Trees Two, An Update
  • Nancy Hugo , Gardener, author and lecturer, Seeing Trees
  • Chip Osborne , President, Osborne Organics LLC, Simple Steps to Organic Lawn Care
  • Mary Stickley , Manager of Gardens and Grounds, Museum of Shenandoah Valley, The Lazy Gardener
  • Donna Williamson , Garden designer, teacher, Seven Strategies for Garden Success
  • Adria Bordas , Urban Horticulturalist, Fairfax County Extension Office, IPM is Like a Green KISS for Your Garden
  • Karen Rexrode , Horticulturalist and teacher, Why Challenge Yourself?
  • Peter Deahl , Arborist, the Pruning School, Pruning Woody Plants Naturally
  • Jeffrey Pfoutz , Loudoun County Beekeepers Association, Pollination Under Pressure
  • Paul Gibson , Organic gardener, Prince William County Master Gardener, Organic Sustainable Vegetable Gardening
  • Debbie Dillion , Urban Horticulturalist, Loudoun County Extension Office, It's a Small World -- Small Fruit that is!

Prices include the conference, lunch and trade show. Lunches include vegetarian options. One day: $37.50 Two days: $65 Holiday Inn Leesburg at Carradoc Hall For more information and to register, visit the Loudon County Master Gardeners website.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The right way to love your garden


"Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you." — Wayne Dyer
A few years ago, I wrote a post entitled The 12 Relationship Rules for Gardeners. In it, I mentioned that many of the same “rules” that work in human relationships also apply to our relationships with our gardens.

This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I will be going over some of those rules.

To get things rolling, I will start with what I think is the number one rule in both relationships and gardening, and that is “Don’t try to change the object of your affection.”

In human relationships, no matter how much we think we love someone just the way they are, eventually we come up with something that we think needs to be changed about them. Perhaps we want them to go on a diet or to drink less. Maybe we think they should be more affectionate or more talkative or less opinionated. Whatever the change may be, we think, for some reason, that we should be able to modify this human being that has already been existing just fine on their own, to better suit our desires. And we expect them to be happy about it. Or at least to accept our version of the new and improved “them” without protest. But this rarely works. And so the secret to a happy long-term relationship with another human is to get to know as much about them as you can, before you commit to them, to make sure that you can live with them just the way they are. And then instead of trying to change them, spend your life encouraging them to be the best of what they already are.

The same theory holds true of our landscapes. To have the most successful relationship with a landscape, you have to get to know as much about it as you can before you start trying to co-exist with it. You need to learn how it has been living up until the time it met you. How much does it like to drink? What does it like to eat? Is it showy and flamboyant or is it more laid back and natural?

Sure, we have a lot more control over modifying a landscape than we do another human being. But the result in both cases is the same. To have the happiest, most successful, maintenance-free relationship with a person or a garden, learn to work with and bring out their natural beauty rather than trying to change them into something else.

So, the number one rule for successful gardening is: Get to know your site conditions and learn to Work With Mother Nature, Not Against Her

Getting to know your landscape and its needs and wants will help you chose the right plants which are properly adapted to your site conditions. It will help you conserve water and will reduce the need for unnecessary and unhealthy garden additives such as chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

There are way too many beautiful people and beautiful pieces of land in the world that are suffering because someone is trying to make them into something they are not. And when any of that natural beauty fades away and dies, the whole world suffers for it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Green Living Expo

Saturday, March 17th, 10 AM – 4 PM.  

The Green Living Expo will feature green products and suppliers, exhibits and seminars presented by green building experts, activities for kids, raffles, and more!

Learn practical ways to green your lifestyle and lighten your carbon footprint with a focus on energy conservation, solid waste reduction, eco-friendly transportation, green home remodeling, sustainable landscaping, and healthy homes.

Washington-Lee High School, 1301 N. Stafford St. For more information:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Community Gardening 101 Workshop - Feb. 28th

What: Community Gardening 101 Workshop for Community Groups When: Tuesday February 28th, 8:30 am– 12:00 noon Where: Fairlington Community Center 3308 S. Stafford St. Arlington VA. 22206 Cost: Free

CONTACT: Kirsten Conrad Buhls, Agriculture Natural Resources AgentVirginia Cooperative Extension Arlington County VA703-228-6423

Representatives of non-profit organizations, neighborhood associations, and community and volunteer groups are invited to attend this seminar on Community Garden Development. Sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, the workshop will cover Checklists for Successful Garden Startups, local resources for community garden leaders, an overview of local, regional, and internet resources for community garden leaders, and materials from the American Community Garden Association.

The day will also give participants a chance to hear from established community garden leaders about the trials, successes and planning that goes into a successful garden and will allow attendees to network with other garden leaders.

To Register: Call 703-228-6414 or email

Why We Plant – A great post on one of the blogs I love

I know that I probably bandy the word “love” around a bit too much. I have the habit of emailing people like Richard Louv and telling them how much I love them, and I think they might fear I am some sort of obsessed fan. In the future, perhaps I’ll work on finding a more appropriate word to use -- “admire”, perhaps. But for now, with Valentine’s Day on the way, I’m going to just keep dropping the “L” bombs.

With that being said, I just LOVE Thomas Rainer’s blog, Grounded Design. It’s not that he just writes great things about gardening. It is HOW he writes that really has me hooked. There is nothing boring or superficial about this blog. Rainer digs deep into the human aspects of gardening. Here are some excerpts from his recent post “Why We Plant”.

We can survive without gardens, yes, but the question is, can we live without them? What I love about plants, in particular, is their ability to reveal the invisible world. The way a grass moves in the wind, or the way a seedhead glows when backlit by the setting sun. The goal of great planting design is not simply to arrange pretty plants in pretty patterns. When garden design becomes another form of interior decorating, it loses its soul. No, what interests me is creating landscapes that are more alive than we are, but in a completely different way. When we enter into a landscape brimming with life and let that life enter into us, let it move through us, then we get a glimpse of the horizon we were created for.

…..Designers don’t create beauty. To believe otherwise makes us guilty of forgery and blasphemy. But what we can do is create the conditions where people can have an experience of beauty.

…..This is why the goal of planting design is to make people see again, to make them remember. We arrange plants in ways that will enable people to have an experience of the ephemeral. It is not the plants themselves as objects that have power. But it is their patterns—particularly archetypal patterns—and that can become animated as light and life pass through it.

We do not create beauty. But we can create thresholds through which people enter and have an experience of beauty.

It’s a fantastic post from a fantastic blog and I encourage you to read the whole thing. My guess is that you’ll LOVE it as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snow and Ice on the way? Learn about de-icers

I mentioned the other day that one of the great environmental benefits of this mild winter is that there hasn't been much need for the use of de-icers. Most de-icing products contain high levels of salt, which can be detrimental to the environment. But with the prediction of snow and ice on the way, now may be a good time to think about the use of de-icers and how they affect our environment. What kind of de-icers do you use?

Today is Laugh and Get Rich Day

Did you know that today is Laugh and Get Rich Day? Well, according to Chase’s Calendar of Events (and the other resources that I use to see what’s happening each day), it is. But it took me awhile to find out the origin of the “holiday”. And in the process, I found another great blog to follow to keep me “up-to-date” on the dates.

The blog Lisa Loves Holidays has this explanation for a day that I plan to take full advantage of! Here is an excerpt from the Lisa Loves Holidays blog about:

Laugh and Get Rich Day

Celebrated every year on February 8th. Laugh and Get Rich Day is predicated upon the principal that, in the business world, if you have a good sense of humor it can have a positive influence on your success. Laugh and Get Rich Day is based on the teachings of the best selling book Laugh and Get Rich, How To Profit From Humor in Business written by retail expert and marketing guru, Rick Segel. In an article on the Rick Segel and Associates website, Mr. Segel says, "Many times the biggest thing that differentiates our business is the 'Likeability Factor' of our business. The fastest way to likeability is with the use of Fun, Humor, and Playful Behavior."

We all know that being around a person who can make people laugh (especially one who uses humor in good taste) makes us feel good inside, and we feel more positive toward that person, which could potentially be good for that person's bottom line.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ending Nature Deficit Disorder – Richard Louv coming to Virginia

I’ve mentioned Richard Louv on this blog before. He is a best-selling author whose book Last Child in the Woods helped sparked an international movement to reconnect children with nature. Mr. Louv offers a vision  of the future, in which our lives are as immersed in nature as they are in  technology. This future offers better psychological, physical and spiritual  health for people of every age.

The Piedmont Environmental Council, in celebration of their 40th anniversary, is bringing  Louv  to the Piedmont for two exciting presentations.

The first program will be  March 14th at 7pm at Tuscarora High School in Leesburg

The second is March 15th at 7pm at The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville

Tickets are only $12.00 for adults and $8.00 for students and they are expected to sell quickly, so reserve yours today and  mark your calendar!

For more information and to Order Your Tickets, visit the Piedmont Environmental Council website.

Friday, February 3, 2012

10 Ways that the mild winter might make spring and summer a bummer

Are you enjoying this mild winter? I know I am. Lower heating bills, fewer car accidents, less damage caused to the environment from the use of de-icing products. And there are plenty of gardeners out there taking advantage of these mild temperatures to get an early start on their spring gardens.

But if you are like me, you are probably wondering what this mild spring might mean for the rest of the year. And since I found quite a few NEGATIVES that might result from the beautiful days we have been experiencing for the past few months, my advice to you is Seize the Day! Get out and enjoy.

10 ways the mild winter might make spring and summer a bummer

  1. A mild winter could mean more rats in the spring. A mild winter means that fewer rats and mice die from natural causes, so more will be seen in the spring. Follow this link for tips on rat control.
  2. Mild winters could bring more insects in the spring - Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, a professor of entomology and a specialist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program says,“If the winter of 2011-12 continues in the mild pattern that most of the U.S. has seen, I think 2012 will be a very buggy year.”
  3. Mild winters affect food crops (which could mean higher priced produce)- Fruits such as peaches require “chill hours” for trees to bloom and produce good fruit.
  4. Mild winter could mean earlier allergy season - a mild winter may cause trees to pollinate earlier and bring an early start to the allergy season, and potentially a longer season (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2007).
  5. Mild winter may bring more deer to your garden in the spring - David W. Wolfe, a professor of plant and soil ecology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the chair of the Climate Change Focus Group in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future says, “A mild winter will mean bigger deer populations in the spring because the deer have more to eat with less snow cover and more vegetation exposed for them to feed on all winter.”
  6. More invasive weeds – “It also will benefit some insect pests and invasive weeds like kudzu that normally are killed back during winter because of severe cold.” (Wolfe)
  7. More fungi - Over 80 percent of our plant diseases are caused by fungi. A mild winter allows those fungal spores and structures to live on more, decaying moist plant parts.
  8. Warm winters can confuse our plants - “Warmer winter temperatures can also confuse our plants that are expecting to get cold and stay cold until spring,” Richard Hentschel, U of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist. “We often see this in early spring bulbs and tender perennials that try to start to grow too early and damaged by frosts and drops in temperatures below freezing.”
  9. Warm winter can actually make plants deacclimate to the cold, so they are weaker for subsequent winters.
  10. Less natural new plant life - with stratification officially on hold with this nice weather its very possible that nuts and some wild plant seeds will simply not germinate well.  It won't be the end of the world but if you've put something in the ground with the hopes that it will stratify I hate to say it but you might want to dig it up and use your freezer instead.

Recovering the Native Lupine Population in Maryland - AWS Lecture Series

Interested in protecting native wildflowers? Join the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) on Wednesday, February 15, for their next Lecture Series event and learn about the unique habitats where Maryland's remaining lupines (Lupinis perennis) grow, the factors responsible for their decline, and the successful efforts that are being made to save them. Presenter Sara Tangren is an instructor of Soils and Environmental Policy at Johns Hopkins University, and founder of the native gardening effort at the University of Maryland campus in College Park. AWS Lecture Series: Recovering the Native Lupine Population in Maryland Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm Location: AWS Office 4302 Baltimore Avenue Bladensburg, MD RSVP to: The Anacostia Watershed Society Office: (301) 699-6204 E-mail: Website: Information provided by Kathy Jentz, Editor, Washington Gardener Magazine

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tomorrow’s Landscapes: More Birds, Bees & Butterflies for your Garden

Here’s an upcoming, full-day conference that some of you might be interested in. It is on April 14, 2012 from 7:30am – 4:30pm at the Brandt Student Union at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA.

The Piedmont-Blue Ridge Horticulture Society & Shenandoah University have teamed up to present “Tomorrow’s Landscapes: More Birds, Bees & Butterflies for your Garden” with six nationally acclaimed speakers.

Space is limited and registration is $99 until March 1st. Here is a link for more information.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

National Bird Feeding Month

btb Tomorrow may be the ground hog’s big day, but the rest of February belongs to the birds.

In 1994, John Porter, a former United States Representative from Illinois, proclaimed February as National Bird Feeding Month. This resolution was passed in an effort to help encourage people to discover the  fun and beneficial hobby of backyard bird feeding.

When I was a kid, I thought that bird watchers were real nerds. But now I start each day singing a different tune – and it is often accompanied by birdsong.

Backyard birding has been called one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the nation. According to the  National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (FHWAR), in 2006  more than 71 million people said that they enjoy wildlife watching and over 68 million  of them say that they do it around their homes. The report also says that these wildlife-watchers spent over $45 billion dollars on their hobby.  If I’m a nerd, I’m obviously one of many.

What I think is great about backyard birding is that it helps encourage people to take care of the planet. Once you start attracting wildlife to you yard, you soon learn that they like native plants and they DON’T like chemicals (such as pesticides, herbicides, etc.)

So if you aren’t already a bird watcher, I encourage you to give this fast growing hobby a peep – I mean a peak. It doesn’t take much of an investment to get started and winter is a great time to provide a little extra nourishment to neighborhood birds. Put out a bird bath or other water source or buy an inexpensive feeder and a bag of seed. Make sure that they are out of the reach of wandering cats or other predators. And then sit back and enjoy the music!

Maryland Statistics -
Total wildlife-watching participants . . . . . 1,491,000
Around-the-home participants . . . . . . . .  1,322,000
Total expenditures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $633,699,000

Virginia Statistics -
Total wildlife-watching participants . . . . . 2,312,000
Around-the-home participants . . . . . . . .  2,082,000
Total expenditures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $960,190,000

How I became a bird nerd

downy1 February is National Bird Feeding Month, so I thought I would write a post about how I got interested in bird watching.

I’ve always liked nature and wildlife but my interest really took off back in the early 1970’s.

My mother came home from a trip to Oklahoma and told me that my Aunt Fran (aka Miss Fran from Story Land if you grew up out there) had her yard certified as a National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Backyard Wildlife Habitat . Knowing my Aunt Fran (she’s one of my idols), she may have been one of the first people in the country to do so. I thought it was so cool, that I wanted to have my yard certified too. So I learned, from the NWF, what I needed to do to help attract wildlife. I made my yard wildlife friendly by adding elements that provided food, water, shelter and places to raise young and by eliminating the many dangers that could harm the wildlife.

One of the first things I learned to do, of course, was to eliminate chemicals from my landscape. Chemicals in the landscape can harm birds, bees, hummingbirds, beneficial insects and even human critters and once I cut them out, a lot more wildlife species began hanging around. I also learned the benefits of adding native plants, which are usually great sources for feeding local wildlife.

My yard began attracting birds and butterflies and life was good.

A few years later, I was writing for the home & garden section of a local newspaper and I suggested that the editor let me write about the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program. I got to visit many certified Backyard Wildlife Habitats in the area and seeing what those very eco-minded people had done with their yards just added fuel to the wildlife-loving fire in my heart.

That was the beginning of a whole new relationship with nature and the environment for me. Once I got up close and personal with wildlife, I started learning more and more ways to protect the critters, which meant learning how to protect the environment. I gave workshops to teach other people how to create environmentally friendly landscapes. And some of those people went on to train others.

I guess you can say that the seed that the NWF planted in me, to protect the environment, took root and has had a far-reaching effect.

Many people have heard of the Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program (which is now called the Certified Wildlife Habitat Program), but most of them probably don’t know that the program started from an article that they had in the April 1973 issue of National Wildlife Magazine. The article encouraged people to landscape and garden in a more sustainable, natural way, with wildlife in mind, to help restore the ecological balance of the planet.

Response to the article was so overwhelming that NWF began the Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program (originally known as Backyard Wildlife Habitat program) that same year to educate people about the benefits, for both people and wildlife, of creating and restoring natural landscapes.

There are currently over 140,000 NWF Certified Wildlife Habitats in the country and just from my own experience, I would guess that a good percentage of those property owners have made major changes to their gardening practices that have ended up having a significant positive impact on the planet.

So in honor of National Bird Feeding Month, I encourage you to take a closer look at nature. Cut down on the chemicals in your landscape. Plant some native plants. And learn to share your yard with the critters that were here before you!

10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Garden

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