Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hummingbirds – Jewels of the Garden – June 23rd

What: Hummingbirds, Jewels of the Garden

When: Saturday, June 23rd, 1:00 pm

Where: Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia

Nothing captures a gardener’s eye quicker than the sparkle and aerial acrobatics of hummingbirds. Learn fascinating hummingbird facts and how to create a garden habitat for hummingbirds with Green Spring horticulturist, Nancy Olney. Invite a parade of these delicate winged beauties to your own garden with plants provided by Green Spring Gardens.

Click here to register: Register

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Disconnect and redirect – Earn $50 and enter our photo contest

aftersmall I often mention the problems that can be caused when rainfall from our roofs flows directly into storm drains. Even during short rainfalls, a huge volume of water rushing in from streets, parking lots, and other paved areas can contribute to flooding and sewer overflows in waterways such as Rock Creek, the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers.

To help alleviate this problem, the District Department of the Environment and Rock Creek Conservancy are sponsoring The Downspout Initiative: a do-it-yourself rebate program to offer District residents $50, per downspout, for the disconnection and redirection of downspouts which are contributing to this problem.

If the downspouts on your home or garage are directly connected to a storm drain pipe, or if the water flow is  directed to hard surfaces, they may be contributing to stormwater problems.

By disconnecting downspouts and re-directing the rainfall to lawns, into gardens, mulched areas, or trees, District homeowners can help water sink into the ground, nourishing landscapes, and naturally infiltrate back into the earth.

The Downspout Initiative website provides step by step instructions for disconnecting your downspout and applying for your $50 rebate.

AND, since you have to provide before and after photos of your downspout disconnection and redirection process, keep in mind that the AFTER photo would be a great entry in our Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo contest, in which we are encouraging home gardeners to share photos of their “green” gardens.

For more information about the Downspout Initiative rebates, visit the Rock Creek Conservancy page: The Downspout Initiative

For more information about the Green Gardeners Make a Difference photo contest, visit the contest page on Facebook

Wildlife Habitat Workshop – Family Fun - June 2nd

What: Wildlife Habitat Workshop

When: Saturday, June 2nd, 2:00 pm

Where: Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, Virginia

Children learn the requirements for creating a certified wildlife habitat. See how Green Spring Gardens attracts birds, bees, and butterflies.Learn to use recycled materials to attract birds and receive seeds from butterfly friendly plants. Teachers and other adults welcome.

Click here to register: Register

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Help show the world – Green Gardeners DO Make a Difference

photocon Metro DC is often earning accolades for everything from green buildings, green roofs, green energy and even green college campuses.  But we, of the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog,  think it’s time to recognize the individuals who are doing their part to help protect the planet from their own homes and yards – the area’s “green” gardeners.

Beginning  May 25th, 2012, the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog is launching the Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo Contest for residents of the Metro DC area.

Participants can take a photo of a “green”, eco-friendly aspect of their home landscape, and enter it online. Judges will advance all qualified entrants into a final round, where website visitors get to vote for their favorites. Winners of the contest will win one of two great prize packages.

If you want to join in the fun (and help show the world that Green Gardeners DO Make a Difference), take a photo of your home landscape depicting as many of the following eco-friendly gardening practices as you can, in one photo:

  • Eco-friendly plant choices (ie: Right plant/right place, waterwise plants, native plant species)
  • Water conservation techniques – ( Rain gardens, rain barrels, mulch to retain water, drip irrigation, etc.)
  • Reduction of stormwater runoff – (rain gardens, rain barrels, downspout redirection, permeable surfaces)
  • Elimination of chemicals – (hand weeding, beneficial insects, compost)
  • Creation of wildlife habitat – (such as butterfly garden, berry laden plants, etc.)
  • Reduction or replacement of lawn areas

Write a short description explaining which of the six eco-friendly practices your photo represents. Keep in mind that some things can represent more than one principle.

Enter your photo and you’ll be on your way to a chance at winning some great garden goodies!

Only one photo per person is allowed, so make sure you read the full rules before uploading your image.

Good luck!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Green Gardener Photo Contest Kicks Off May 25th

“Every garden has a story to tell, and every time you enter that garden with your camera you have an opportunity to tell a beautiful, compelling story.” ~ Matthew Benson, author of The Photographic Garden
There are so many great reasons to take our cameras into our gardens with us.

First, photography often encourages us to look at things a little deeper…to truly examine the colors and textures of a flower, leaf or bug. To open our eyes to a part of the world we may never have seen before.

Cameras allow us to capture those perfect yet fleeting moments, when blooms and bees and butterflies all converge.

By sharing photos of flowers, weeds or bugs, we can take them to the local Extension Service or our favorite nursery for help with identification. We can share photos of our entire gardens for landscape design help or just to show off our handiwork or our success at growing difficult plants.

But we, of the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog, want to give you one more reason to take your camera into the garden – an opportunity to win great prizes by sharing photos of your “Green” garden.

On May 25th, 2012, the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog is launching the Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo Contest for residents of the Metro DC area.

To enter the contest, you can take a photo of the “green”, eco-friendly aspects of your landscape, and enter it online. Judges will advance all qualified entrants into a final round, where website visitors get to vote for their favorites.

Winners of the contest will win one of two great prize packages. The grand prize package has a cash value of $700 and the second place package has a cash value of $400! That’s a lot of “green”.

Stop by either the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog, or our Facebook fanpage starting May 25th, for complete contest rules.

Plants for Rain Gardens

iris1 I mentioned yesterday that I’m in the process of planning a rain garden. I’ve been doing a little bit of research, trying to find plants that might work for the areas we have, which are all fairly shady. As a personal preference, I also don’t want plants that are going to grow too tall and block my view of the rest of the yard.

Here’s a list I found in the Rain Garden Design and Construction Handbook which I mentioned in my previous post. The complete list (in the booklet) provides a lot more information about each specific plant. There are quite a few that look like they will work in our shady locations and not get too tall, including swamp milkweed, blue mistflower, and blue flag iris.

Here is a list of suitable Native Plants from the Rain Garden Design and Construction Handbook which I found on the Northern Virginia Regional Commission website.

Common Name Scientific Name Light Size
Flowering Perennials      
Swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata Sun-pt. shade 2-4’
New England Aster Symphotrichum novae-angliae Sun 2-4’
Turtlehead Chelone glabra Sun-shade 3-6’
Blue mistflower Conoclinium coelestinum Sun-shade 1-3’
Joe-Pye weed Eupatorium fistulosum Sun-pt. shade 3-8’
Ox-eye sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides Sun-pt. shade 3-5’
Marsh mallow Hibiscus moscheutos Sun 3-5’
Blue flag Iris versicolor Sun-pt. shade 2-3’
Blazingstar Liatris spicata Sun-pt. shade 3-4’
Cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis Sun-shade 3-6’
Beardtongue Penstemon digitalis Sun-pt. shade 2-5’
Obedient plant Physostegia virginiana Sun-shade 3-5’
Wild bergamot Monarda fistulosa Sun-pt. shade 2-4’
Beebalm Monarda didyma Sun-pt. shade 3-4’
Black-eyed susan Rudbeckia hirta Sun-pt. shade 1-3’
Rough-stemmed goldenrod Solidago rugosa Sun-pt. shade 3-5’
Blue vervain Verbena hastata Sun-pt. shade 2-5’
Ironweed Vernonia noveboracensis Sun-pt. shade 5-8’
Grasses, Grass-like Plants & Ferns      
Broomsedge Andropogon virginicus Sun-pt. shade 1-3’
Sea oats Chasmanthium latifolium Sun-pt. shade 2-4’
Soft rush Juncus effusus Sun-pt. shade 1-3’
Cinnamon fern Osmunda cinnamonea Sun-shade 3-5’
Royal fern Osmunda regalis Sun-shade 2-6’
Switchgrass Panicum virgatum Sun-pt. shade 3-6’
Indian grass Sorghastrum nutans Sun-pt. shade 3-6’
Shrubs & Trees      
Serviceberry Amelanchier canadensis Sun-shade 15-25’
Red chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia Sun-pt. shade 6-12’
Black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa Sun-pt. shade 3-6’
Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis Sun-shade 6-12’
Silky dogwood Cornus amomum Sun-shade 6-12’
Winterberry Ilex verticillata Sun-shade 6-12’
Virginia sweetspire Itea virginica Sun-shade 4-8’
Spicebush Lindera benzoin Pt. shade-shade 6-12’
Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius Sun-pt. shade 6-12’
Elderberry Sambucus canadensis Sun-shade 6-12’
Highbush blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum Sun-shade 6-12’
Arrowwood viburnum Viburnum dentatum Sun-shade 6-8’

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Planning for (another) rainy day

raingardenguide I was wandering around our yard the other day thinking that the next project we should undertake is creating some sort of rain garden.

We know the importance of keeping as much of the rainwater ON our property as possible, rather than letting it run off. This slows down the runoff, helping to filter pollutants before the water reaches local water supplies. Helping to do our part to slow down pollution is one of the reasons that we  have rain barrels on several of our downspouts and why adding more to the other downspouts is on our ever-growing to-do list.

We also have very long drainage tubes attached to the overflow pipes of our rain barrels, which allows us to direct the water away from our house and into whatever area we choose. But so far, we haven’t taken advantage of that runoff by planting gardens of water loving plants.

Right now I’m still in the planning stage, doing a little research on what plants will work well in a rain garden and also survive on our shady property.

I’ve found a lot of great information on planning and designing rain gardens, and wanted to share some of it with you if the rainy days also have you seeking solutions for your soggy spots.

Rain Gardens – Arlington, VA website

Rain Garden Design and Construction Manual (pdf)

Beautifying Your Yard for Healthy Streams - Residential Rain Gardens – Many links on this page for more info (Northern Virginia Regional Commission)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meadow Ecology Tour at Bristoe Station Battlefield Park

What: Meadow Ecology Tour

When: Saturday, May 26th, 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Where: Bristoe Station Battlefield Park, Iron Brigade Avenue and 10th Alabama Way, Bristow, Virginia

Bristoe Station Battlefield is home to a complex meadow ecosystem.  Join naturalist Charles Smith from the Prince William Wildflower Society (VNPS) for a walking tour of the 133-acre battlefield and learn about the beneficial wildlife especially the birds and butterflies that call this ecosystem home.  Learn to identify the plants that these birds and butterflies need for food and shelter.  Bring binoculars.  Wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather.  No pets please.  Advance reservation recommended. 

The walking tour departs from the Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park kiosk in the parking lot located at Iron Brigade Unit Ave and 10th Alabama Way at 9:00 am and will end at 11:00am.  The cost for the tour is $5 per person, free for children under six.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park includes 133 acres of fields and woodlands.  The Park interprets two Civil War battles and its natural resources.  Prince William County Historic Preservation owns and operates the Park.

For more information, please call (703) 366-3049 or email

Monday, May 21, 2012

Backyard Habitat Workshop – May 24th

What: Backyard Habitat Workshop

When: May 2th, 4-7 pm

Where: Fort DuPont Community Garden

The District Department of the Environment is continuing its backyard habitat workshop program through 2012. 

The next workshop will be held in partnership with the National Park Service at the Fort DuPont community garden on May 24, 2012.  They will be discussing how to attract pollinators, beneficial insects, and birds to your yard or garden, and will be planting a pollinator border around the community garden.  Attendees will receive a book (Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy) and other literature on gardening for wildlife, a birdhouse kit and live plants.  The workshop is free and open to all District residents.

To register, send an email to with “Fort DuPont Workshop” in the subject line and the names of the attendees in the body of the email.

Friday, May 18, 2012

FREE Water Quality Monitoring Training Workshop

For those who want to learn a little bit more about how substances effect our waterways:

What: FREE Water Quality Monitoring Training Workshop

When: Saturday, 5/19, 9-11am

Where: Springhill Lake Recreation Center, 6101 Cherrywood Lane, Greenbelt, MD 20770

A collaborative event brought to you by Citizens to Conserve and Restore Indian Creek (CCRIC), Camp Fire USA, and CHEARS - Chesapeake Education, Arts, and Research Society, Greenbelt Food Forest project.  Support by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Please register to attend - Click here or visit the CHEARS website at

Learn how to check the health of Indian Creek by using basic test for water quality.No prior knowledge of chemistry or biology is needed- just curiosity about the Creek!

Ocean Friendly Gardens

I’ve mentioned Bay Friendly Gardens before and Wildlife Friendly Gardens, but today I found out about Ocean Friendly Gardens.

All of these programs are really very similar. They all encourage and recognize property owner’s efforts to create landscapes while considering the effects that their actions have on the surrounding environment.
Ocean Friendly Gardens is a program by the Surfrider Foundation, a charitable organization which was started in 1984 by a group of surfers intent on protecting their favorite surf break in Malibu, California. The organization now has over 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide, all focused on protecting the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

Surfrider Foundation members understand that runoff from gardens and hard surfaces is one of the primary sources of water pollution, which means  that home gardeners play an important role in  protecting the world’s water bodies. They developed the Ocean Friendly Gardens program to educate and encourage property owners to follow the three principles of CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention.

The Ocean Friendly Gardens website describes steps that gardeners can take to apply these principles:
  • Conservation of water, energy and habitat through native plants (add allow some climate adapted plants), spaced for mature growth.
  • Permeability through healthy, biologically active soil, and utilizing materials for - or making a cut in - driveways, walkways and patios that allow water to percolate into the soil.
  • Retention devices like rain chains, rain barrels and rain gardens retain water in the soil for the dry seasons or save it to water veggies, preventing it from running off the property.
For more information about the Surfrider Foundation and the Ocean Friendly Gardens program, you can visit the DC Surfrider website.

Ocean Friendly Gardens

The David Stemper Memorial Rain Garden was created using the principles of Ocean Friendly Gardens

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nibbles from an Article on Feeding the Soil

soil   I found a great article online recently that I would like to share. It is called Feeding the Soil Builds Sustainable Lawns and it was written by Karen Fitzgerald.
The article is chock full of great “green” gardening information, from start to finish, so I encourage you to devour the whole thing. Here are a few nibbles from the article to whet your appetite for more:
“Spraying chemical fertilizers and pesticides on lawns is like giving kids junk food, says landscape designer Cathy Bilow. They’ll be invigorated for a while, but eventually they’ll crash and burn….

A sustainable lawn is one that thrives with as little inputs and labor as possible. It is better for the environment, not only because it lessens chemicals going in the ground, but it also reduces carbon emissions from mowing and supports bees, butterflies and other wildlife….

… the key to a sustainable lawn is cultivating healthy soil. “When soil is healthy, plants will thrive, and thriving plants are more tolerant of disease and drought,” she said. Instead of killing soil bacteria, insects and earthworms, we should be nourishing them with compost….

One cup of soil contains as many bacteria as people on the planet, she said….

One of the easiest ways to feed microbes is to leave mowed grass on the lawn, preferably mulched by your lawnmower to decompose faster….
A cubic yard of compost applied annually is all that is needed to fertilize a thousand square feet of soil….

Weeds will begin to move out on their own once the soil is vibrant enough to support lush growth…
Grass should be mowed at the highest setting to discourage weeds, and there should be enough room in the soil to permit the flow of air and water.

In designing a sustainable landscape, the goal is to replace as much lawn as possible with native plantings…
Bilow suggests adding a rain garden to the landscape to manage water flow and prevent soil erosion…”
As I said, those are little nibbles from a great, worthwhile article. I encourage you to read the whole thing.
And visit our new Topic Index page to find more posts about these topics on this blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eco-Friendly Benefits of Veggie Gardening

We all know the obvious environmentally friendly benefits of “green” gardening. Green gardeners often work to eliminate all harmful herbicides and pesticides from their yards, incorporate more native plants,  and conserve water by choosing plants that are drought tolerant.

But a recent article on the National Geographic website lists several benefits of veggie gardening  that go beyond these obvious ones.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, entitled How is Growing a Veggie Garden Eco-Friendly, by Fred Decker:

“Infiltration:   Rooftops, driveways, patios and lawns don't allow much water to infiltrate. However, the loose, crumbly soil of a well-worked garden absorbs water like a sponge, especially if it's well composted. This limits runoff, and maintains water quality.

Emissions -  Depending on the time of year and where you live, much of the produce you eat might have traveled thousands of miles to get to your local grocer. Every vegetable garden, and every homeowner growing vegetables instead of buying them, helps reduce [carbon emissions].

Urban Cooling - The high density of pavement and rooftops in urban areas can create "heat islands," places where the sun's energy becomes concentrated. This creates an increased demand for cooling and air conditioning, which is a drain on energy and the environment. …gardens  can  help provide cooling by reducing the number of unshaded heat-reflecting areas exposed to the sun.”

You can read the full text of the article by visiting the National Geographic Green Living website.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Environmental Concerns Native Plant Sale – May 18th & 19th

What: Environmental Concern’s  Spring Native Plant Sale!

When: Friday May 18th  from 9am-4pm & Saturday May 19 from 9am -2pm

Where: 201 Boundary Lane, St. Michaels, MD

Native plants ideal for Rain Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Shade Gardens, Wetlands, Salt Tolerant Plantings and Songbird Hedgerows will be available.  Plants are grown from seed (local and regional ecotypes) right here at the nation’s first wetland plant nursery!

Pre-orders will be accepted any time up to Wednesday, May 16th.

Environmental Concern is located at 201 Boundary Lane in St. Michaels, MD.

For more information, call EC at 410-745-9620 or visit

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gardening and your Mother

mom This weekend is, of course, Mother’s Day, and I hope that everyone will spend some time in a garden with their mother.

Garden with your mother: If your mother lives close enough, plan on spending some time working in a garden with her. I’ve often mentioned what a therapeutic place a garden can be. Working side by side in a garden with your mother gives you some nice, quiet time together to dig deep into personal, bonding conversations and help your relationship grow.

Teach your mother about green gardening: Like many people of their generation, my parent’s idea of gardening was all about creating colorful, flower-filled beds, neatly trimmed shrubs and lush green lawns, using whatever chemicals and techniques were necessary to produce the best and quickest results. Take the time to teach your mother some of the things you have learned about being a little gentler to the earth, such as using native plants, beneficial insects and creating compost.

Visit a garden with your mother: There are plenty of great public gardens in the area. If neither you nor your mother have a garden of your own to work in, take your mother to a public garden or park where you can enjoy the same quiet benefits of being together in nature.

Be a gardening mother: If your favorite part of Mother’s Day is spending time with your kids instead of your mother, gardening provides the same opportunities to bond with your kids as it does with your mother.

Take care of your other Mother: If you don’t live close enough to your mom, or if she is no longer in your life, spend some time in Mother Nature, anyway. Taking care of a piece of the planet gives you a great opportunity to do some mothering of your own. You have the perfect opportunity to nurture and grow something that will add beauty to the world for generations to come.

Take photos of your garden experience: No matter how you spend time with your Mother this weekend, I encourage you to take photos. When I was getting ready to write this post, I really wished I had some photos of my mom in her gardens. She always loved to garden and she was still outside putzing around with her plants well into her late ‘70’s.

So if she doesn’t live close by, take some garden photos and send them to mom. If you do get to spend time with her, capture the experience with a few photos.

And if she laughs, hit the record button and record that beautiful sound. For no matter how much beauty you may be able to create in a garden or experience in nature, none of it can really compare to the laughter of your Mother.

"Earth laughs in flowers." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

“Wild” Garden Tour this weekend

trumpet In celebration of May as Wildlife Gardening Month, the National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with Landscape Designer John Magee, is sponsoring a 15 location Wildlife Garden Tour in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties on Saturday, May 12, 2012 from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm.

The tour will feature 14 wildlife-friendly and native inspired gardens, at sites including 10 individual homes, a church, a school and a nature center.   You can also visit NWF’s own wildlife habitat and landscape. Each of these sites provides you with an opportunity to view the garden, see some unique landscape design ideas that you can use in your own garden and  learn more about some of the plants and wildlife that call these locations home.   NWF will have volunteers at each location to answer your questions as you view the gardens. 

Newton-Lee Elementary School (Ashburn, VA) will also have activities for families, so feel free to bring your whole family to the event.  Activities include:  Exploring the two gardens at the school - courtyard and outside wildlife habitat; and examples of how to use gardens to teach – science, math, English and much more.  Hands-on activities for planting, learning about birds and making a solar art print with items found in nature.  Meet Ranger Rick and have your picture taken with the Best Raccoon around.

National Wildlife Federation Headquarters (Reston, VA) will serve as the starting point for the tour, where you can pick up your tour book before heading out to view the gardens in any order that you select.  NWF will also offer tours of its habitat and a native plant sale.  Get a great native plant to add to your garden that can help a few wildlife friends have a great summer. (Special Pre-sale day - Thursday, May 10th from 4:00 - 7:30 pm – see list of plants here.)

Activities at NWF HQ:  19 varieties of Native Plants from American Beauties available for purchase including blueberry, coneflower, sea oats and more.  Invasive species walking tour and discussion on how to best manage your habitat for invasives;  Tours of NWF property in Reston and the sustainable features and wildlife garden.  Tours available on the hour and ½ hour during the day starting at 10:30 am.

Reserve your tickets now!
Cost: $15 per person or $30 for a family (until May 11th)
Day of Event Cost: $20 per person or $40 for a family
Limited to 500 participants

All proceeds from the tour will support the National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Habitat programs and its mission to protect wildlife for our children's future.

Date: Saturday, May 12, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Address: 11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190

Information provided by Eliza Russell, Director of Education Programs, NWF

Monday, May 7, 2012

Information about Soils & Landscapes from Green Builder Magazine

greenbuilder The March 2012 issue of Green Builder Magazine is dedicated to Soils & Landscaping and it has all sorts of interesting information in it that pertains to everyone who likes to garden and play in the dirt, not just those who build homes on it. The whole magazine is available online (see link below), but here are some of the highlights.

The first article of interest is called “The Secrets of Soil”, by Matthew Power. The teaser paragraph says “Abused, misunderstood, poisoned and taken for granted, soils deserve better. They’re essential to life, more complex than you can imagine, and in serious need of stewardship.”

Here are some  excerpts from that article: “$820 million has been spent trying to probe the surface of Mars with the last two rovers, ‘vastly exceeding what has been spent exploring the soil beneath our feet.’”

“A single spade of healthy garden soil …may harbor more species than the entire Amazon nurtures above ground. Two thirds of the Earth’s biological diversity lives in its terrestrial soils and underwater sediments.”

Several places in the magazine, I saw it mentioned that “observing which weeds grow is a highly efficient way of identifying what soils are lacking.” They refer to a book entitled “Weeds and Why they Grow”, by Jay McCaman

Here’s another quote from the issue, in an article called “The Edible Landscape” by Teresa Watkins. “…the time is right to include edible landscaping in every new home master plan or landscape makeover.”

The issue also includes information about rainwater harvesting and smart irrigation.

Ron Jones, the President of Green Builder Media, shares these grim statistics in his “From the Tailgate” column:

  • American lawns cover more than 40,000 square miles
  • As a nation, we spend $28.9 billion yearly on lawns
  • We use 3 times as much synthetic pesticide on our lawns as we do per acre of agricultural crops – about 67 million pounds annually
  • 54 million Americans mow their lawns each weekend, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants
  • 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment
  • roughly 10,000 gallons of water is used each summer for each 1,000 square feet of lawn

The issue also has a lot of great graphics and charts and is definitely worth reading. Here is the link to read the full issue: Green Builder Magazine March 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tips for lawn mowing

Here’s another great EPA video I found that goes along great with our new page, Tips for “Green” Eco-Friendly lawn care.

May is American Wetlands Month - How to help Protect these Vital Eco-systems

In addition to being Garden for Wildlife Month, May is also American Wetlands Month, a time “to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation's ecological, economic, and social health”.
As gardeners, we play an important role in helping to protect local wetlands.

 What are wetlands? As defined on the EPA website: “Wetlands are the link between the land and the water. They are transition zones where the flow of water, the cycling of nutrients, and the energy of the sun meet to produce a unique ecosystem characterized by hydrology, soils, and vegetation—making these areas very important features of a watershed.” Benefits of wetlands:  
  • Animal habitat – Wetlands provide habitat for plants and animals in the watershed.
  • Water storage - When rivers overflow, wetlands help to absorb and slow floodwaters helping to prevent damage from floods.
  • Water filtration - Wetlands also absorb excess nutrients, sediment, and other pollutants before they reach rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.
  • Recreation - They are great spots for fishing, canoeing, hiking, and bird-watching, and they make wonderful outdoor classrooms for people of all ages.
But the bad news is, despite all the benefits provided by wetlands, the United States loses about 60,000 acres of wetlands each year. The very runoff that wetlands help to clean can overload and contaminate these fragile ecosystems. As a homeowner, you can help protect wetlands by following other steps that help to prevent polluted stormwater runoff.
  • Plant native vegetation in your yard
  • Eliminate or limit your use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides which can pollute nearby waterways
  • Plant native grasses or forested buffer strips along wetlands on your property to protect water quality
  • Direct all downspouts to porous surfaces rather than solid surfaces such as driveways
  • Create swales (small dips in the ground) and berms (raised earthen areas) to help divert runoff to porous surfaces.
  • Install rain barrels
  • Incorporate porous surfaces Whenever possible, use bricks, gravel, turf block, mulch, pervious concrete or other porous materials for walkways, driveways or patios.
For more information: Build a wetland in your backyard. Learn how by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s web site page: Backyard Wetland Wetlands Walk: A Guide to Wetlands and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area EPA Wetlands Page

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Annual Bird and Tree Tour Saturday at Pig Tail and Greenbridge Recreation Areas

The songbirds are arriving from the south and mountain laurel is blooming to signal that spring is here.  To celebrate, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is offering free bird and tree tours on Saturday, May 5.

Bird lovers are in for a rare treat when WSSC hosts its third annual Warbler tour at Pig Tail Recreation Area. Visitors will have a chance to see Black-Throated Green Warblers, Palm Warblers and Yellow Warblers showing off their bright colors while trying to attract a mate.

Warblers are attracted to open water, making Pig Tail a favorite.  When returning in the fall, warblers are less likely to be seen since their winter plumage is more subdued.

WSSC also will host its third annual Native Tree tour on Saturday. This year, the tour will highlight the blooming mountain laurel tree and other native plants of the low pH soils of the Greenbridge Recreation Area. The tour will be led by WSSC’s certified arborist, Doug Sievers.

What: Warbler Bird Tour

Where: Pig Tail Recreation Area, 5550 Green Bridge Road, Dayton.

When: 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 5

What: Tree Tour

Where: Greenbridge Recreation Area, 2800 Greenbridge Road, Brookeville.

When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 5. 

For more information, contact Kimberley Knox, WSSC Community Outreach Manager, at 301-206-8233.

Feathers, fur and flights of fancy – May is Garden for Wildlife Month

hatchling1 “Green” gardening and wildlife habitats go hand in hand. Some people learn the pleasures of sharing their gardens with wildlife after they have begun to create a more eco-friendly landscape and the birds, butterflies and other critters just start showing up in the native plants and chemical free, critter safe zone.
Other gardeners make a concerted effort to create habitat for wildlife, which by its nature and definition, results in a more environmentally friendly landscape.
Since May has been designated as Garden for Wildlife Month, now is the perfect time to learn how to make your own landscape more wildlife friendly.
To create a wildlife friendly landscape, a property should provide wildlife with food, water, shelter and places to raise their young. Other sustainable gardening practices which help to create a more environmentally friendly habitat are:
You can learn more about creating wildlife friendly landscapes by visiting some of the links at the bottom of this post.
I would also like to thank Donna Williamson, a fellow wildlife lover who contacted me about the photo I used  of hornworms in a bowl of soapy water as a form of eco-friendly pest control. Donna, author of the book The Virginia Gardener’s Companion, pointed out that hornworms are the caterpillars of the sphinx moth, and instead of disposing of them, another option is just to grow enough plants to share with them! Donna said:
“I wanted to share some info about the sphinx moths/tobacco hornworms - it was disconcerting to see them drowning in a bowl on your blog which I usually enjoy so much and I applaud your effort to get folks to realize the danger of homemade pesticides! I grow lots of tomatoes so the hornworms and I can share, and I also support the wasp predators that lay their eggs in some of the caterpillars.”
Thanks Donna. I really appreciate it when our readers share what they have learned to do around their own eco-friendly gardens.
Now, for more information about creating eco friendly landscapes:
May is Garden for Wildlife Month (NWF website)
10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Garden
The Proof is in the Planting
Butterflies help remind us to be good environmental stewards
Eco-friendly gardeners say "Let me tell you about my garden critters"
Gardening for Hummingbirds

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Brookside Gardens Native & Edible Plant Sale – May 5th

What: Native and Edible Plant Sale

When:  Saturday, May 5, from 9:00am-3:00pm

Where: Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902

Native plant lovers, do you want to get your paws on some Paw Paws; are you wild about Wild Ginger or a sucker for native Honey Suckle? We can service your berry. Visit the Brookside Gardens´ inaugural Native & Edible Plant Sale. Brookside Gardens and the Montgomery Parks Community Gardens will offer a tantalizing selection of native and edible plants for sale, including unusual and hard-to-find vegetables and herbs; native perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, pollinator host plants; and, plants that provide wildlife habitat.

For more information, including a list of plants that will be offered for sale, visit them online at or call 301-962-1400.


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