Monday, April 30, 2012

Hidden dangers of homemade pesticides

hornworms In an effort to eliminate chemicals around our yard, my husband and I have often made home-made products to control pests and weeds. We know that harsh, unnecessary chemicals can harm organisms on our own property, but can also get washed into local waterways where they can cause fish kills and other water pollution dangers.

I have to admit that the primary reason we have done this is for convenience and to save money. When we see some unwanted pests around the yard, it certainly seems easier to just run inside and mix up a concoction of our own to try to tackle the problem.

But when I recently wrote a post about ways to keep wandering cats from digging in gardens, long time reader Alison Gillespie (author of the great blog Where you are Planted ) pointed out the danger of using mothballs to repel animals. This, in turn, made me think about the potential dangers of all homemade landscape products.

So before mixing up any do-it-yourself pesticide or weed killing products, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. ANYTHING you add to the ground has the potential of upsetting the natural eco-system and possibly killing good organisms along with the pests.
2. Homemade pesticides do not have the benefit of scientific evaluation and do not have label directions that the user can follow to ensure safe use or the desired pest control result.
3. Homemade pesticides may burn or damage plants.
4. While some homemade pesticides (such as soap and water) pose little risk, combining them with other ingredients may be harmful.
5. Often, home garden remedies are mixed in bottles and cans used for food. This is a very dangerous practice, especially with the presence of small children.
6. Other possible risks associated with the preparation and use of homemade pesticides include: inhaling harmful fumes, irritating eyes and skin, and contaminating clothing.
7. Homemade pesticides should be used immediately. Do not store.
8. Do not leave homemade pesticides unattended or spray them near children, pets, and other family members.
9. Purchasing organic pesticides from reputable companies rather than making your own helps to support businesses working towards a green future.
10. Just because something comes from a plant doesn’t mean it is safe.
     a. Nicotine – Nicotine is a potent pesticide that acts on the insect nervous system. Nicotine is also highly toxic to humans, dogs, cats and other mammals. According to oral toxicity trials, nicotine is more toxic to mammals than some commonly used synthetic pesticides such as malathion (Source)
     b. Rhubarb – Oxalic acid may be extracted from rhubarb leaves and is often recommended for aphid control. However, oxalic acid has been associated with deaths of goats, swine and humans through ingestion of high quantities of rhubarb leaves (source)
    c. Chrysanthemums – Pyrethrum can be extracted from chrysanthemum flowers and is one of the most commonly used insecticides in the United States. Although Pyrethrums have low toxicity towards humans and other mammals , thousands of reports of mild symptoms of pyrethrum poisoning are reported annually across the United States.

For more information:
Organic Pest Control : What Works, What Doesn’t
Organic Pest Control Methods Explained

Homemade pesticides are dangerous

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Keeping Champion Trees Strong

Volunteer Opportunity with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Sunday, May 6 from 9 a.m. to Noon-“Keeping Champion Trees Strong

A grove of very rare trees, Franklinias were found at Triadelphia Recreation Area.  But invasive weeds have also found them-and we need to get rid of the invasive weeds from these groves.  Triadelphia Recreation Area, 2600 Triadelphia Lake Road, Brookeville

For more information, visit the WSSC website.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Composting Workshop – May 9th

What: GREEN LIVING SERIES WORKSHOP: Composting Fundamentals
When: Wednesday, May 9th, 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Where: Discovery Communications, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Would you like to understand the science behind composting and how it relates to what you do in your backyard?

Would you like to learn the “Seven Compost Lessons” that are essential to making "Black Gold?"

Then plan on attending this workshop to hear Master Composter Sam Patsy outline the fundamentals of composting so that you can improve your garden soil.

Mr. Patsy was raised on a small farm and has been composting all his life. From 2003 to 2010 he was head of the composting group for the Maryland Master Gardeners.

Register here for this workshop: Backyard Composting

The event is free, although donations will be accepted.

The event is being organized by Silver Spring Green (SSG), a local grassroots organization that brings together individuals, organizations, businesses, and government working together to improve our environment, economy and shared sense of community.

Information for this post provided by Kathy Jentz, editor/publisher  of Washington Gardener Magazine

It’s Arbor Day – What is Your Favorite Tree Memory

georgia In honor of Arbor Day, I decided to write a post about my favorite memory of trees. I soon realized that it was a difficult task, because instead of one distinct memory, there is a whole crowded forest of tree memories in my life.

But before I invite you to wander down that wooded path with me, I wanted to share just a brief history of Arbor Day, which I found on the website. I love the history of this event because, like many important environmental actions in this country, it was planted by an enthusiastic environmental writer.
“Among pioneers moving into the Nebraska Territory in 1854 was J. Sterling Morton from Detroit. He and his wife were nature lovers, and the home they established in Nebraska was quickly planted with trees, shrubs and flowers.
Morton was a journalist and soon became editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. Given that forum, he spread agricultural information and his enthusiasm for trees to an equally enthusiastic audience. All of the pioneers missed the trees of their homelands. But more importantly, trees were needed as windbreaks to keep soil from blowing and for fuel and building materials, as well as shade from the hot sun. 

Morton not only advocated tree planting by individuals in his articles and editorials, but he also encouraged civic organizations and groups of every kind to join in. His prominence in the area increased, and he became secretary of the Nebraska Territory, which provided another opportunity to stress the value of trees.” (You can continue reading about the history of Arbor Day here)
And now, here are some of my favorite tree memories:
  1. My sisters and I planting a peach pit in our backyard in Mt. Holly, NJ and seeing it grow into a beautiful tree. I think we were all surprised when that wrinkly old pit actually became a tree.
  2. Long walks through the woods with my sisters and mother growing up in NJ, where I feel my love of nature really took root and grew.
  3. Long walks through the woods with my sisters, friends and others throughout my life. Walks in the woods are such a great place for nurturing relationships and helping them to grow.
  4. The walks I used to take through a wooded park with my mother as she eased into her senior years.
  5. The beautiful oak tree that my brother in law donated and planted in that same park in memory of my mother when she passed away.
  6. Every single day on the beautiful piece of wooded property that my husband and I now own.
  7. The GORGEOUS wooden bench that my husband built me out of a huge fallen oak from our property, and the sadness as we watched it slowly get eaten up by boring beetles.
  8. The countless wonders I have seen by looking up at trees; the peaceful murmurs I have heard as wind rustles their leaves;  the sensory pleasures of bark and fragrance and falling leaves
  9. The time that my husband gave an oak sapling as a baby gift, with a handwritten note that said “For his first tree house”.
But my favorite tree memory that I often share is this one, about when I first met my husband, Tom. Reprinted here from a previous article I wrote:
Last year I met a man named Tom. He had curly black hair and a joyful smile, and I warmed to his pleasant, natural personality almost immediately. But it wasn't until he came to my house and brought me a gift that my heart opened it's doors to him and welcomed him inside.
"It's an oak tree," he said, handing me a slightly rusting tin can with a 9" plant sprouting healthily out of the strong, black soil. "I grew it from an acorn and I want you to have it."
I don't know how he knew about my love of plants or that I would like that more than the roses that most first dates would bring. But somehow he knew. And somehow, seeing that nurturing side of him on our first date made all the difference in the world.
So today, on Arbor Day, I hope that you will take some time to think about trees and some of the important memories that they have helped to create in your life. And whether you decide to go out and hug one, plant one or write about one, I hope that, in your own way, you will celebrate them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Build Your Own Rain Barrel Workshops

What: Build Your Own Rain Barrel Workshop
When: Saturday May 12, 2012 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Where: Lee Center, 1108 Jefferson St. (Map This)


Saturday, May 19, 2012 10:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.
Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive, Reston, VA 20191

Event Details:

As part of their Eco-City Alexandria initiative, and in coordination with the Northern Virginia Rain Barrel Program Partners, participants will discuss water quality issues and how they can be part of the solution by learning to build a rain barrel, building a rain barrel, and taking it home at the end of the workshop. The rain barrels are made from sturdy, repurposed barrels and are very affordable. Please visit the provided link to pre-register. You must pre-register to attend.


Contact Person: Jesse Maines

Contact Phone No.: 703.746.4071

Contact Email:

Fees: $55 (please visit registration link)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Garden therapy is my favorite prescription

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, April 28th

I treat my body the same way that I treat my gardens. When it comes to health, my first line of defense is always a natural one, and I only turn to chemical solutions as a last resort.

But every now and then, I’ve accepted a prescription medicine for something because it just seemed so easy at the time. I have filled prescriptions for pain killers when I’ve had minor medical procedures. And more than once, I’ve accepted something from a doctor who thought some symptom I had was related to stress.

And then I realized that I didn’t need the drugs after all. The anticipated pain never came or A day in my garden took away all of my stress.

Accepting unnecessary prescriptions may seem like an easy thing to do if you have health insurance that covers the cost for you, but it causes a major problem: how to dispose of those medicines safely.

Some people decide to keep the medication just in case they may need it sometime in the future. Who knows when some mysterious, unbearable pain may occur, right? Unfortunately, this attitude can prove disastrous or even fatal.
  • Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.
  • The number of young children being poisoned after inadvertently ingesting over-the-counter or prescription medications has risen dramatically in recent years. A study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that visits to U.S. emergency departments due to medication poisonings of children five and under rose 28 per cent between 2001 and 2008 — and 95 per cent were due to kids getting into the drugs on their own.
  • Pets, too, are in danger of being poisoned by human medications. In 2007, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received 89,000 calls related to pets ingesting over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Flushing medications down the toilet or disposing of them improperly can cause the same kinds of environmental problems as disposing of unwanted lawn chemicals inappropriately.

If you have any surplus medication laying around your house, I urge you to take advantage of the DEA's Take-Back Initiative.

This Saturday, April 28th, 2012, from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to provide a venue for persons who want to dispose of expired, unwanted and unused over the counter or prescription drugs.

Americans that participated in the DEA’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29, 2011, turned in more than 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal (helping to keep those drugs out of the hands of our children and out of our waterways)

To find a location to turn in your unwanted medication, visit the DEA website and input your zip code.

And next time you feel a little stress starting to run you ragged, why not try a little Zen Gardening. It always works wonders for me!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rain barrels help you work WITH Mother Nature

rainbarrelpl  One of the first suggestions that I make to people who want to start practicing “green”, eco-friendly gardening, is to learn to Work WITH Mother Nature, Not Against Her. What I generally mean when I say that is that one of the best ways to NOT harm the environment in and from your own landscape, is to get to know the piece of property you are working with, including such things as plant hardiness zone, areas of sun and shade, pH levels of the soil, and  plants which are native or invasive. Here is a post  that explains those ideas in more detail: Working With Mother Nature

But another way to Work With Mother Nature is to adapt our gardens and our gardening practices to work with Acts of Nature, which include times of drought, rain, wind and freezes.

The recent near-drought-to-heavy-rain which many of us experienced was a perfect example of how rain barrels are a great way to work with Mother Nature. Those who already have rain barrels installed at their homes now have a good supply of water saved up (depending on the number and size of barrels that they have) to help deal with the next drought.

buckets My husband LOVES his rain barrels.  During our recent rains, he was outside in a raincoat checking on his rain barrels, making sure they were all working correctly, and filling up our very large assortment of watering cans to capture as much of that free water source as he could.

But hubby also knows that rain barrels play another important role in protecting the environment. By collecting runoff from rooftops, rain barrels can also prevent stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is caused when heavy rains  run directly into streets and storm sewers, carrying it (and the pollutants it collects) directly to the local waterways.

Rain barrels require little maintenance and are a great way to save money and conserve water as a natural resource.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a rebate to help cover the purchase price of your rain barrel.  In DC, see the RiverSmart Homes site; In Montgomery County, see Rainscapes Rewards; in Gaithersburg, Rainscapes Rewards; Rockville – Rainscapes Rewards.

Rain barrels are fun and easy to build and there are lots of rain barrel workshops in the area:  Northern Virginia Rain Barrel Registration

You can build your own, without a workshop: Rain Barrel Assembly (pdf)

Or you can buy one, readymade: Local Rain Barrel Sources

Some of Mother Nature’s other Acts are a lot harder to deal with. Rain barrels help to make rain and drought some of the easier ones.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Helping Out the Dragonflies

Volunteer Opportunity with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Saturday, April 28 from 9 a.m. to Noon-“Helping Out the Dragonflies

The best spot to see dragonflies and damselflies in central Maryland is Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area in the summer.  But they don’t need trash and invasive weed covering up their food sources.  So we need your help to tidy up their favorite spot.  Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area, 2220 Ednor Road, Silver Spring, MD

For more information, visit the WSSC website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fantastic Friday – Great Earth Day video to share

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than some of the great eco-friendly videos that are out there online are worth millions.
Here is a great one I found today from EPAGOV

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Now is a good time to start your fertilizer diet

Fertbagno My poll question on the blog and our Facebook page this month is about fertilizer, specifically: What time of the year do you apply fertilizer to your lawn? After you take a few moment to add your answer to the poll, you can see what horticulture experts recommend by visiting our page, “10 Tips for a “Green”, Eco-Friendly Lawn”

Fertilizer is “in the news” in the area recently because of the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011 for Maryland, which limits the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that may be contained in lawn fertilizer products and  also puts restrictions on how and when homeowners and lawn care professionals can apply these products.

Although the Maryland law will not officially go into effect until October 1, 2013, Maryland State Agriculture Secretary Buddy Vance is encouraging homeowners to start implementing these changes now.

"According to our state chemist here at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, about 44 percent of the fertilizer sold in the state of Maryland is applied to lawns - that's a pretty amazing factoid," Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said during a press conference Monday. "Everybody assumes that agriculture is the biggest user, but lawns use almost as much fertilizer."

One of the main changes from the Fertilizer Use Act will be the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that is contained in fertilizer.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are key ingredients in lawn fertilizer, but can be harmful if used in excess. When it rains, these nutrients can wash into local waterways and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay where they can fuel the growth of algae blooms and threaten underwater life.

Jon Traunfeld, director of the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center, suggests that homeowners get their soil tested to determine the exact fertilizer needs of their lawn and also suggested that homeowners use compost to supply these needs.

For More Information: Maryland’s Lawn Fertilizer Law
And here is a link to a similar fertilizer law for Virginia : Virginia’s Fertilizer Law
And here’s the link again to our post: 10 Tips for a “Green”, eco-friendly Lawn

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Share the Wonder

huffpost1  I saw a short article on the Huffington Post the other day asking readers to share their photos of something that they consider a Natural Wonder.

As a wildlife lover, I consider all creatures Natural Wonders, so I decided to share this photo of sandhill crane babies that were born on Earth Day, 2008.

I encourage you to get outside and take a look around your home and garden, or go through some of your online photos and share one with the Huffington Post Readers! I’d ask you to vote for my photo, just for fun, but I can’t seem to get the voting mechanism to work!

Here is the link to the page on Huffington Post with my photo.

The Original Earth Day – an idea Planted for the Planet

planted It’s inspiring to me to read about the history of Earth Day, primarily because the seed for Earth Day was planted by one man.

Back in 1970, this one man, Gaylord Nelson, who was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, was so concerned about the environmental problems of the times, that he announced the idea of a “national teach-in on the planet” to educate the masses about many of the environmental problems the world was facing. Nelson gathered a small group to help get his idea started: Congressman Pete McCloskey as his co-chair; Denis Hayes as his national coordinator and a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

Keep in mind, this was before email and cell phones, Facebook and twitter. But the actions of this small team of 88 people opened the eyes of the entire world.

As a result, on the 22nd of April (1970), 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked." ( website)

It is hard to pick up a newspaper or get on the internet without seeing evidence of how this man’s “gamble” has paid off. Businesses and corporations, big and small, are pledging money to environmental groups. Celebrities are putting their names behind their favorite causes. Rallies and events are already being held throughout the country and the world.

According to Wikipedia, Earth Day is now observed on April 22 each year by more than 500 million people and several national governments in 175 countries, but if you visit the website, you’ll see that the numbers are probably much higher than that.

The point that I hope you will take away from all of this is the power that YOU have, as an individual, to make a difference. Gaylord Nelson took a gamble back in 1970 by planting the seed for Earth Day. Now, we all have the opportunity to help keep this idea growing.

As a Green Gardener, here are some suggestions for how to influence others on Earth Day.

Or you can visit the website for other ideas about what you can do.

Whatever you decide to do, I encourage you to use the power of social media to let others know about it. Facebook, twitter and other forms of social media are the perfect fertilizers to help keep your positive ideas growing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Celebrate Earth Day – Get some cool garden goodies

What: Celebrate Earth Day, Plant a tree, Learn about wildlife gardening

When: April 21st, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Where: Chevy Chase Community Center

In partnership with the DC Dept. of the Environment, the Chevy Chase Citizens Association is celebrating Earth Day with a free educational, hands-on workshop to help people create backyard habitats for wildlife. The date is Saturday, April 21 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm in the Chevy Chase Community Center, 5600 Connecticut Avenue, NW.

Topics covered by the Audubon Society and other environmental groups include conservation landscaping, gardening for wildlife, plant selection, and general landscaping design principles. Participants will help plant a tree and a demonstration garden and receive a habitat kit containing a native plant guide, an invasive plant booklet, a book on wildlife gardening, a birdhouse kit and a live plant! If you need more info, email

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Painting the Town Green – How to Influence Others on Earth Day and Everyday

“People don't resist change, they resist being changed.” - Peter M. Senge
holdingplant I saw a Facebook discussion this weekend in which a gardener was concerned about a neighbor who was spraying chemicals in an adjacent yard on a windy day. The discussion soon led to the inevitable question “How do we influence others?”

As eco-friendly gardeners, or as any environmentally concerned citizen, how do we educate, encourage, motivate and influence others, without offending, angering or annoying them? This, of course, is the answer we all want and need, and it is probably the obvious one: The best way to influence others is to think of what it takes for something to influence us.

What would it take to get you to change YOUR mind about something? Certainly not criticism or condemnation. What, then? What would encourage you to learn? To change? To begin acting differently?

I put some thought into what tactics might influence me, and here are the tips I came up with:

16 tips to help encourage more “green” gardeners

1) Get rid of the attitude "It's My Way or the Highway" - Extreme environmental opinions are a sure way to turn many people off.

2) Do it for them, not for you – It’s easy to look at someone else’s actions and see how they may be negatively affecting you. But that’s probably not the best attitude to take when trying to influence others. Adopt the attitude that you want to help them learn, NOT that you just want them to stop what they are doing.

3) Make friends with them – Most of us are more readily influenced by friends than by strangers. If you want to influence your neighbors, take the time to get to know them. Knock on their door. Smile. Introduce yourself. Take them some flowers or produce from your garden or some homemade cookies.

4) Find out what motivates them - By getting to know someone, you can determine what it will take to influence them. Talk about nature. Talk about money, family, health or yard work. See which topics spark their interest. Knowing how they feel about these topics will let you know what tack to take in educating them.

5) Adopt the “We’re in this together” attitude – Don’t assume the role of educator . No matter how much you think you know about eco-friendly gardening, you probably don’t know everything. Take the approach of learning with them, not teaching them.

6) Ask for advice, don’t give it –Instead of saying “Why are you spraying those awful poisons all over your yard” try asking their advice instead. Say “Do you know anything about eco-friendly pest control? I’m trying to cut down on the chemicals in my yard.”

7) Compliment them – Take a look around their yard and pick out some of the best features. Compliment them on the aspects you see that are eco-friendly. Do you see butterflies? Is there mulch in the garden? Are there permeable paths? They may be helping the environment and not even be aware of it. Teach them by complimenting the benefits of what they are already doing.

8) Keep your own yard looking nice – One of the best ways to influence others is by example. And as green gardeners, one of the best examples we can set is to keep our own yards tidy. In an article, Why Visual Appeal Matters , which I found on a Sierra Club website, writer Arvind Kumar says this: “your garden influences people every time someone walks by or drives by. People form impressions and opinions based on what they see; they are much more likely to emulate you if their impression is favorable”.

9) Show and tell – Invite them to your yard. Show them the things that you have already learned about eco-friendly gardening. Show them how beautiful native plants can be. Explain how your rain barrel works. Show them the caterpillars munching away in your garden and explain to them that they will soon be beautiful butterflies which help pollinate the flowers.

10) Make it about people , not about the planet - Studies show that people are more willing to make the right environmental choices if they understand the benefits to people, instead of the planet. Share what you have learned about the personal, physical dangers of pesticides or herbicides rather than more abstract ideas such as global warming.

11) Share the green goods– Nothing tastes better than fresh, home grown food. If you grow your own fruits, vegetables or herbs, share them with your neighbors or bake them into scrumptious snacks to share. If you have some extra insecticidal soap or other eco-friendly products, offer to share them. Or share your recipes for home-made products. If you have a rooted cutting or seedlings of a native plant, share it with them. Explain the benefits. If you are going to pick up a load of free compost, offer to share it with them, too.

12) Get their kids involved – Your neighbors may not be excited by your earthworms , hummingbirds and butterflies, but their kids probably will be. Converting the kids is often the best way to convert the parents.

13) Challenge them – Friendly competition is a great motivator. Once they start their “green” gardening, make it a competition. Take our Eco-Friendly Landscape Quiz together and compare scores. Participate in critter counts or other Citizen Science programs together. See who can attract the most birds and butterflies or who can achieve all of the steps necessary to get their yard recognized in a certification program such as the NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.

14) Offer to lend a hand – You may have already learned the steps to install a rain barrel or start a compost pile. Offer to help your neighbor with theirs.

15) Show them the money (savings) –Explain how rain barrels can save money. Tell them about some of the local rebate programs or where they can get free mulch in the area.

16) Share The Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog and other websites - There is a lot of great information available online. Sharing some of your favorite blogs and websites with them is a great way to help them learn more on their own. Maybe they’ll even learn something that they can teach YOU!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Five Ways to Help the Earth – From WSSC

Mother’s Day is in May, but April is a great month for remembering Mother Earth. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is hosting a variety of fun and educational Earth Month events that you and your whole family can enjoy. And, in some cases, students can earn service learning hours.

H2O Fest – Saturday, April 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant, 6600 Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro

Join your friends, neighbors and environmentally minded local agencies this Saturday and celebrate how thinking green can protect blue. Included in the free festivities is the chance to tour the Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant for an up close look at what it takes to run waste treatment systems. People of all ages can learn how to help preserve and protect our water sources through a variety of activities and resources, including: WSSC Demonstrations, Green Building and Green Products Information, Children’s Activities, Environmental Cars and much, much more.

Partnering with WSSC for this event are Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Transportation, Prince George’s County Planning Department, Department of Environmental Resources and Master Gardeners.

Creating a Better Woods - Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. to Noon, Scott’s Cove, 11000 Harding Road, Laurel

Scott’s Cove has such a lovely woods that kudzu has decided to move in. We need your help in removing this unwanted visitor. We will be providing gloves and garden snips.

Celebrate Earth Day by Giving Back - Sunday, April 22, 9 a.m. to Noon, Scott’s Cove, 11000 Harding Road, Laurel

Help us mulch and water 250 small trees and plant wildflowers as WSSC celebrates Earth Day.

Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Open House - Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 12600 Great Seneca Highway, Germantown

See how wastewater is treated so it can be safely released back into the environment. 

Helping out the Dragonflies - Saturday, April 28, 9 a.m. to Noon, Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area, 2220 Ednor Road, Silver Spring

The best spot to see dragonflies and damselflies in central Maryland is Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area in the summer. But they don’t need trash and invasive weeds covering up their food sources. We need your help to tidy up their favorite spot.

For more about service hours or to register for any of these family friendly events, visit and click on Earth Month Events.

Information provided by Kimberley M. Knox, WSSC

Green Gardening Twitter Chat – April 19th

Arlington County's Department of Environmental Services (DES) will be hosting its first ever "Green Gardening" live Twitter chat on Thursday, April 19 from 12 - 1 p.m. in recognition of Earth Day! Join us and get answers to all of your questions related to landscaping and lawn care, native plants, and water conservation.

We will give away a free rain barrel to one lucky participant who submits a question in advance or during the live Twitter chat!

To join the conversation, follow #ARLEarthDay. You can submit questions in advance to @ArlingtonDES or on the Arlington County Environmental Services Facebook page. For more information, visit

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rain Barrel Workshop

What: Rain Garden Workshop
When: Saturday, June 16, from 9:30am-12:30pm
Where: Camp Round Meadow at Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, MD

A Workshop of the Green Homes Challenge -

Beautify your property and control your stormwater run-off! Learn about the benefits of rain gardens from experts in rain garden design.  Gain hands-on experience by helping to install a 320 square foot rain garden on site.  Learn about Frederick County’s Green Homes Challenge and how it can help your household to reduce its environmental impact.

The workshop is free and includes light snacks and refreshments. To register or find out more, contact Nicole Robinson at 301.600.1306 or

Registration deadline is June 11th. Space is limited.
Sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Trust

Earth Month Playlist for the Planet

hummingbird20243  I saw an article online the other day called Garden with the Greatest Rock Band. In it,  the writer compares gardening to many Rolling Stone songs, including “Under My Thumb”, “Gimme Shelter”, “Start Me Up”, and others.

The opening line says: “As we head into April, let us be thankful for many things: warm days, cheerful flowers and the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones rock band.”

It’s a cute article. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.

Anyway, it got me thinking about gardening songs and I thought I would try to come up with a list of  songs about gardening, or with titles that relate to gardening. I had a heck of a time and only came up with about ten on my own. So I asked some of my online friends, who came up with a few more.

So, in honor of Earth Month and our upcoming Earth Day, I thought I would ask the rest of my readers for suggestions of songs to add to an Earth Month Playlist.  My original request was for songs with garden-themed titles, but I’m open to anything that reminds you of gardening or nature.

I’ve linked some of them to YouTube videos, so if you want to start your day with a smile, check out a few of them. The Sound of Sunshine (a song I had never heard before – thanks Shannon) is sure to bring a smile to your face and  Tiptoe through the Tulips will probably make you LOL.

If you can think of more titles, I’d love to add them. Just submit them in a comment below, tweet them to me on twitter @dclawngarden, or post them on our Facebook page!

Rock (and not so rock) Songs for the Garden

    1. Ants Marching – Dave Matthews
    2. Blackbird (Singing in the Dead of Night) – The Beatles
    3. Diggin’ in the Dirt – Peter Gabriel
    4. Garden Party – by Ricky Nelson
    5. Garden Song (Inch by Inch) – John Denver and Others
    6. Grazin’ in the Grass – Friends of Distinction
    7. Hummingbird – Leon Russell
    8. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden – Lynne Anderson
    9. In a Gadda da Vida (My friend Kathy told me it was supposed to be named In the Garden of Eden)
    10. Johnny’s Garden  - Steven Stills
    11. Kiss From a Rose – Seal
    12. Let it Grow – Eric Clapton
    13. Nothing But Flowers – Talking Heads
    14. Octopus’s Garden – Ringo Starr / the Beatles
    15. Orange Blossom Special – Roy Clark
    16. Poison Ivy – The Coasters
    17. Red Roses for a Blue Lady – Pat Boone
    18. Red, red robin goes bob bob bobbin’ along – follow link for cute video
    19. Rockin’ Robin – the Muppets (haha)
    20. Sunshine on my Shoulder – John Denver
    21. The Hanging Garden – the Cure
    22. The Rose – Bette Midler
    23. The Sound of Sunshine – Michael Franti and Spearhead
    24. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley (Connie Talbot version linked)
    25. Tiptoe Through the Tulips – Tiny Tim
    26. Walkin’ on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves
    27. Where Have all the Flowers Gone – Peter, Paul and Mary
    28. Yellow Rose of Texas – Gene Autrey
    29. You are My Sunshine – Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
    30. You are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Learning from fellow gardeners – Thanks Alison

I have a confession to make. Ever since I got past the age of about 12 or so, I realized that I don’t know everything. And I’m perfectly willing to admit it! I’m not an expert…..on anything. I’m not even an expert on “Me” and I’ve lived with myself for a good long time now. When it comes to all other topics….I’m learning as fast as I can, but I’m quite sure I will never know as much as I would like to.

I also hate passing along bad information so I am grateful when people help to teach me something new. ESPECIALLY if they provide links to back up what they tell me.

Recently, I wrote a post about ways to keep cats out of our gardens and I passed along some information that I found online that said to use mothballs to repel cats. I didn’t even think that mothballs might be toxic to the environment (and to other critters) so I am thankful to Alison for correcting my post and passing along more information about mothballs.

The first link that Alison sent is from the National Pesticide Information center and says: “Using mothballs in a way not specified by the label is not only illegal, but can harm people, pets or the environment.”

“Another common mistake is using mothballs in gardens or other outdoor locations to control insects, snakes or other wildlife. Using mothballs outside can harm children, pets and other animals. Mothballs used outdoors can also contaminate soil, plants and water.”

Here is the other great link she provided: Mothballs in the Garden

Thanks so much for passing along the info, Alison. I’m always eager to keep learning!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

H2O Fest

Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.-“H2O Fest”-Learn about the Patuxent, Jug Bay and the Chesapeake through many hands-on activities, kayak trips, music and crafts.  Free admission.  WSSC’s Western Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant, 6600 Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro

For more information, visit the WSSC website.

Friday, April 6, 2012

If you were an Easter egg, what color would you be?

eggs1While I worked in the garden today, my mind wandered to Easter Sunday, and the nice day I will have with my sister and her family.

As usual, one thought led to another, and I began to think about Easter eggs.

My great philosophy of the day? Life is like an Easter basket, and each one of us is a special, colorful treat to share with the world. Some people are all ears. Some are real basket cases. And some have a hard time coming out of their shells. Some are a little cracked, and some are really good at cracking US up. Some aren’t really good for us, but we love them anyway. Most of them are really great when we need a little comfort.

What kind of an egg are you? Here are some brief definitions of what different colors symbolize. I got the list from a website called and they have many, many more definitions for each color. If you want some food for thought (pun intended) when you are dyeing your eggs this weekend, think of what colors you add to the lives of those around you.

Happy Easter Everyone!

Red -  all things intense and passionate.

Pink - symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.

Beige and ivory - symbolize unification.

Yellow - Joy, happiness

Blue - Peace, tranquility

Turquoise - symbolizes calm.

Purple - spirituality,  enlightenment

Lavender - symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.

Orange - Energy, balance.

Green - Nature, environment

Brown - Earth, stability

Gray - Security, reliability

White - Reverence, purity

Black - Power, sophistication

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I love Cats, Just Not in my Yard

cat2 Many  gardeners don’t like cats in their yards. I have to admit, it isn’t one of my favorite things to be digging through my soil and come up with a hand-full of cat poop.

But the main reason I don’t like cats in my yard is because of the wildlife. Since I garden to attract wildlife,  I take my responsibility to protect that wildlife pretty seriously. So I don’t use chemicals in my yard AND I don’t tolerate free-roaming felines.

According to the American Bird Conservancy website:
  • Scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks.
  • Life for outdoor cats is risky. They can get hit by cars; attacked by dogs, other cats, coyotes or wildlife; contract fatal diseases, such as rabies, feline distemper, or feline immunodeficiency virus; get lost, stolen, or poisoned; or suffer during severe weather conditions.
  • Free-roaming and feral cats also pose a health hazard to humans from the spread of diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis.
If I see a cat in my yard and I know who owns it, I’ll talk to the owner first, before I take any other steps. After that, I feel okay doing whatever is necessary to keep the cats away. The problem, of course, is that once a cat decides it likes your yard, it is pretty difficult to deter them. 

Here are some of the methods I found online for keeping the cats away, so that the birds, and other little critters, can continue to play:
  • Let your neighbors know how you feel about their roaming cat. The American Birds Conservancy website has materials you can download and share.
  • Squirt them (the cats, not the neighbors) with a blast of water from a garden hose or spray bottle. 
  • Get a dog (not always a good option if you like to attract wildlife).
  • Scatter orange or lemon peels or spray with citrus-scented spray around the area; cats generally dislike citrus.
  • Coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, or oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus also deter cats.
  • Sprinkle bloodmeal in your garden. Not only will it repel wildlife, but it is also a natural fertilizer.
  • Mix water and vinegar and spray at the base of trees and plants around the house.
  • Spray cat repellent (available at pet supply stores) around the edges of the yard,  top of fences and on any favorite digging areas or plants
  • Try growing rue or scattering dry rue (an herb)- cats dislike the smell.
  • Soak strips of old towels or rags in perfume or cologne and keep near target plants.
  • *** It is NOT advised to Place moth balls around the garden. Please see comment from Alison for more info. 
  • Arrange branches in a lattice-type pattern or wooden or plastic lattice fencing material over soil. You can disguise these by planting flowers and seeds in the openings. You can also try embedding wooden chopsticks, pinecones, or sticks with dull points deep into the soil with the tops exposed eight inches apart.
  • Use plastic carpet runners spike-side up, covered lightly in soil.
  • Set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.
  • Keep garbage cans covered to control rodents that may be a food source for feral cats.
  • Cover your child's sandbox when it's not in use.
  • Try an ultrasonic animal repellent that are available in lawn and garden stores
  • Use a motion-activated sprinkler so that a cat will be sprayed, but unharmed (I don’t really recommend this, since it seems like it would waste a lot of water)
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large, attractive river rocks to prevent cats from digging. (They have the added benefit of deterring weed growth.)
And here is one of the most ingenious solutions I found:
  • Put some boogie bass in your yard. Remember those old motion activated singing fish (Don’t worry, be happy). I read online where one gardener put a boogie bass in her yard and it scared the cats away!
What about you? Have you come up with any good solutions for keeping the cats away?

Related posts : Pets and Pesticides
10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Garden

Monday, April 2, 2012

Here's ANOTHER way to conserve water in the landscape

Instead of buying any new plants, I have been doing some garden remodeling lately. I spent part of this weekend rearranging  some plants that we already had by moving them to more appropriate spots. I also planted some of the things that we had started indoors in pots.

I was really enjoying having my hands in the dirt again until it suddenly dawned on me how much water I was wasting. Because I was being so careful to stay hydrated, every hour or so, I had to go into the house to take a bathroom break. And everytime I did, I had to clean all of that beautiful garden soil off of my hands. After about the third trip inside, the “AHA” light went off in my head.

After that, I filled a small tub with water and placed a towel next to it, and whenever I needed a bathroom or snack break, I would rinse my hands in the tub and dry them on the towel. At the end of the afternoon, I was able to use the water from the bucket to water some of the plants I had planted.

Of course, wearing gardening gloves are another good option, but I’m the kind of gardening who really likes to feel the soil between my fingers and tickle the little earthworms I find along the way!

Of course, there are lots of other great ways to save water in the landscape.

How do you conserve water in your lawn and garden?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Get Dirty for Some Good Clean Fun

Join other local nature lovers for the Alice Ferguson Foundation's 24th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup on Saturday, April 14, 2012, 9am-12pm

Thousands of volunteers of all ages will be picking up trash from different cleanup sites around the region.  Over the past 24 years volunteers have removed over 3 million pounds of trash from the Potomac Watershed and they hope to make this year the largest cleanup event yet. 

Help to insure clean land, safe water and healthy lives for yourself and those you love: 

VOLUNTEER by picking up trash at an existing site. Check  website for the date and time of a cleanup site near you!

LEAD a cleanup site! Have a particular creek or stream in mind? Register your site online and invite friends, family, and co-workers 

Learn more by visiting, or calling 202-973-8203.

Earth Day Celebration, April 22


What: Earth Day Celebration to Mark the 40th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act. This major event is part of Clean Water Network’s year long Power of Water Campaign to not only celebrate the past, but to elevate the issue of clean water to the top of the nation’s priority list, where it belongs.

Where: This festive occasion will take place on the Anacostia River, Earth Conservation Corps Historic Pump House Offices at Diamond Teague Park,1st and Potomac Ave. SE, Washington DC.

When: Sunday, April 22, 2012, 3:30 pm – 7:00 PM

Event Details: CWN’s Earth Day celebration will include musical entertainment, yoga classes, boat tours of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, speakers, displays and the screening of a new documentary on the water crisis, Last Call to the Oasis, directed by Oscar award winner Jessica Yu.

Contact for more information:
Natalie Roy
Briana Giosta,

Website by Water Words That Work LLC