Saturday, June 30, 2012


(Commercial & Residential)
Severe Storms Cause Loss of Power
to Plants and Other Facilities

Laurel –June 30, 2012: The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is issuing mandatory water restrictions for all Montgomery and Prince George’s County customers, residential and commercial. Last night’s severe storms knocked out power to WSSC’s two water filtration plants and other facilities. Crews from BG&E and PEPCO are working to restore power.

The restrictions are mandatory to preserve fire fighting capabilities and to make the water supply last while repairs are underway.

There is no estimated time for when the plants will be online and producing water again, but both power companies have assured us that WSSC is one of their highest priorities.

Due to extremely high temperatures, water consumption has been at its highest this year. And, normally we would use the overnight hours to refill the system. But, last night’s storms prevented that from occurring.

Until repairs are complete, it is imperative that all business and residential customers restrict their water use. If customers do not reduce their water use significantly, it may be necessary to issue a Boil Water Advisory that would affect all of our customers.

Customers need to:
  • Stop all outside water use – no watering lawns, shrubs, flowers; no washing cars, no topping off swimming pools
  • Use water only as necessary – i.e., shorter showers and turn off faucets after washing hands
  • Limit flushing toilets (do not flush after every use)
  • Postpone using washing machines and dishwashers.
These mandatory water restrictions apply to all WSSC customers, commercial and residential, in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. WSSC will provide updates through the local media and through until mandatory restrictions are no longer necessary.   

Friday, June 29, 2012

Maria Rodale's Five Truths About Gardening

My husband and I subscribe to a LOT of magazines and I usually don't have enough time to do much more than skim through them. But I almost always take the time to look at some of them, cover to cover.

I always love reading Maria's Page, written by Maria Rodale,  in the back of Organic Gardening magazine. In case you don't know who she is, Maria Rodale is "a  lifelong advocate on behalf of organic farming and gardening,  and  the author of five books, including most recently Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe (2011, Rodale Books)."

Her page this month is entitled "Five Truths about Gardening" and I know these truths are something that we all can relate to. Here are some excerpts:

1) You will lose tools: "A garden is like a clothes dryer, and tools are like socks. They are somewhere, but also they are nowhere......Let's face it: tools usually get lost before they wear out."

2) You body might feel stiff after gardening, but your mind and soul will feel more limber: "A good gardening session is accompanied by a combination of ouch and ahhhhh.....the ahhh is the sound of a peaceful mind, a spirit that has been literally grounded by the earth."

3) Something will surprise you: "Every interaction with your garden will surprise you with something."

4) You will confront your fears and gain confidence: "A few good books and a friend or neighbor who can answer your questions is the best solution."

5) Nature always wins: "This is the ultimate lesson of nature and gardening and perhaps life: If you can't beat her, join her! Then you, too, can be on the winning team."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Green Gardeners DO Make a Difference

We are enjoying all of the "buzz" that we have generated with our Green Gardeners Make a Difference photo contest.

Each of the 18 entrants that have made it into the voting round show one or more environmentally friendly principle that help to illustrate why Green Gardeners DO make a difference.

Some of the green elements are obvious, either by the caption, the description or the photo itself. Some of the elements aren't quite as obvious but they all still make a tremendous difference to the environmental health of the DC area.

Remember, you can vote once each day for your favorite photo.

And just as a reminder, here are some of the ways that green gardeners DO make a difference.

Generate a buzz - by attracting hummingbirds
Reduce storm water runoff – which can pollute local waterways
Enhance soil naturally - use organic fertilizers and soil additivesBar
Encourage beneficial insects – to reduce the need for pesticides
ix the noxious products– by using eco-friendly optionsarde

ning in DC

Get their soil tested. - to avoid unneeded fertilizer
Avoid indiscriminate pesticide use - by choosing eco-friendly options
Raise their mower blades to 3 inches- to have  healthier lawns
Don't sweep clippings or fertilizer into storm drains- they pollute waterways
Eliminate weeds by hand pulling, hoeing and spot treating
Nurture local wildlife - provide food, shelter and safe conditions for local wildlife
Educate their neighbors - by sharing what they have learned
Re-cycle grass clippings – to the yard provides natural nutrients
Save the rain by installing rain barrels - rain barrels conserve water and prevent runoff

Mulch - to retain moisture while adding nutrients
A void overwatering - it's a waste of money and bad for the environment
Take a closer look at their landscape  - to  work with mother nature
Take out the trash - and create compost with it 
Enjoy the birds and bees - and other beneficial critters
Reduce lawn areas - to save water and other resources

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Beneficial Bug Buying Experiment

A few days ago, I wrote about the wasps that are eating many of the beautiful caterpillars that I have seen dining on my plants.

I mentioned that the wasps are seen as “good bugs” by many people, while the caterpillars are seen as “bad bugs.”

Since we don’t use any chemicals that we consider harmful to the environment, we are always looking for alternative means of getting rid of the pests we don’t want and encouraging the critters that we do want.

With that in mind, a few years ago I ordered several kinds of beneficial insects online. I had previously purchased a bag of ladybugs from my favorite local garden center, but they immediately flew away when I released them, so I decided to try a few more insects ….and to better follow the directions this time.

Here is what I learned:

Ladybugs - Both the adult and larval ladybugs help control aphids, scale, mealybugs, spidermites and whiteflies, as well as other insects. The adult female ladybug lays up to 50 eggs per day, usually on the upper side of leaves of infested plants. The eggs hatch into orange and black marked larvae which can consume 400 or so aphids during this 29 day stage of their life. Ladybugs live about 11 months as adults.

Live ladybugs can sometimes be purchased from local garden centers. In many instances, 90 to 95 percent of the ladybugs you release in your garden will immediately fly away. To increase the number of retainees, follow these suggestions: water the site before releasing the ladybugs or release after a rain; release the bugs in the evening, never in the heat of the day; have plenty of their favorite plants in your landscape. Another suggestion is to release only a few ladybugs at a time, over a period of about a week, instead of emptying the entire bag all at once. The rest can be stored in the refrigerator (NOT in an airtight container!) until their release.

The first time I purchased and released live ladybugs, I had the experience that many people do:  they all immediately flew away. But for the purpose of my “beneficial bug buying” experiment, I ordered some that were called Sta-Home Lady Beetles (900 for $13.95) from a popular online source for “Environmentally Responsible Products.” According to their advertisement, their ladybugs are ‘screened to remove parasitized bugs, they are ready to lay eggs, and they are hungry for pests.’

After releasing the ladybugs into my garden, I was quite impressed that many of them stayed around for weeks and even months. I did not do anything to retain them, but I did have a plant that was well infested with aphids. However, I rarely see ladybugs in our yard now so they haven’t seemed to stay around over the years.

Green Lacewings – Many sources cited lacewings as the most effective predators you can buy. They eat aphids, thrips, mealybugs, scale, moth eggs, whiteflies, small caterpillars and mites and are thought to stay around a little better than ladybugs. You can purchase lacewings as eggs, larvae and adults. The larvae are the most voracious form of this insect but it is suggested that they be purchased as eggs and allowed to hatch.    Unlike ladybugs, lacewings should be released during the day. Lacewings are less likely to fly away than ladybugs if you provide the adults with sources for food, such as pollen, nectar and honeydew.

I ordered my lacewings as eggs (1000 for $11.95) but some had already hatched by the time they arrived, I scattered them around my garden, as directed, and never saw them again. Nor did I see any adult lacewings.
However, I have plenty of ants in my gardens and ants eat lacewing eggs and defend aphids from these predators to protect the honeydew that aphids secrete. Therefore, lacewings may not be a good choice if you have too many ants in your plants.

Although I rarely see green lacewings now, I DO see their eggs all the time, so I know they are still around our property doing their job. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the ones we bought for my bug buying experiement, but I guess it could!

Praying Mantids – Although praying mantids are readily available for purchase, I read that they were of little use as effective pest control. When small, they are excellent soft-bodied insect predators. However, as they get bigger, they indiscriminately eat anything that passes in front of them including honeybees, butterflies and supposedly, hummingbirds. Because of their indiscriminate eating habits and their poor survival rate, I decided not to buy any.

Trichogramma Wasps -These tiny wasps are very popular and very effective Lepidopteron egg parasitoids, which means they are either loved or hated in the garden, depending on whether you like butterflies or not. These wasps reproduce by laying their eggs in the eggs of many Lepidopteron species (butterflies and moths). They are useful for controlling gypsy moths, codling moths, tomato hornworms, cabbage loopers, imported cabbageworms and European corn borers. If you are a butterfly gardener, they will also kill many butterfly species.

The adult wasps lay up to 300 eggs each, into the eggs of 300 soon-to-be destructive caterpillars. Instead of pests hatching out, more tiny wasps hatch out from the pests’ eggs.

The life span of these parasitoids is roughly seven days in their immature stages, then up to 10 days as adults. To get the right species of Trichogramma wasps for your climate and pests, it is recommended that you discuss your needs with the supplier, which I didn’t do. The wasps arrive ready to emerge from host eggs, which are glued to a card. Timing is critical when introducing trichogramma wasps to your garden. Prey eggs have to be available since the wasps can’t parasitize the larvae.

The Trichogramma wasps I ordered came on a small card, which was supposed to have the wasp eggs on it (4000 for $5.75). I could not see them with the naked eye and since I did not have a caterpillar problem in my gardens, I couldn’t really tell whether the wasps emerged and did anything.

I have seen an increasing decline in my butterfly larvae population over the years, which I thought may be related to those wasps. However, the wasps I see are eating the caterpillars themselves and not the eggs, so I think they are a different type of wasp.

So before you spend your money buying beneficial insects, I suggest that you try to lure them to your yard. As with most things in the garden, all it takes is the right habitat.

Related post: Attracting Beneficial Insects for All Natural Pest Control 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Green Gardener Photo Contest - It's Time to Vote!

Is a picture worth 1000 words? Help us pick a winner
Here at the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog, we are always trying to spread the word about the many benefits of Green, eco-friendly gardening.
We’ve had some great photos entered into our Green Gardeners Make a Difference photo contest and now we would like your help in picking our winners.
There are 18 photos, of 18 yards, which have been advanced into the voting round of the contest. All of the photos meet the requirements of the contest, which were to show at least one of these eco-friendly principles:
  • 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

If the eco-friendly principle doesn’t seem obvious in the photo, please be assured that the entrants did list the principles when they submitted their photos. We know all of the great benefits that these properties provide and we are thrilled that these gardeners have decided to share their “green” efforts with our readers.
We hope that you will help us encourage more Green Gardeners by adding your comments to the photos, sharing them with your friends and voting on your favorites.
Click on a photo Title to read more information, to add a comment, or to share it. There is a button to share the photos on Facebook, but you can also add the link to Twitter or to your Pinterest Board to help get more votes.
Remember, you only get ONE vote per day, through July 13th, so be sure to ask all of your family and friends to add their votes!
I love them all, but I’m not allowed to vote!!

Rain Barrel Workshop, July 28th

Rain barrels are a great benefit to any eco-friendly landscape. They not only help conserve water, but they also allow us to re-direct rain water, helping to cut down on stormwater runoff, which can cause flooding and water pollution. To learn more about the benefits of rain barrels, plan on attending the Rain Barrel Workshop, being hosted by University of Maryland Extension Prince George’s County.

What: Rain Barrel Workshop

When: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 9:30-11:30am

Where: University of Maryland Center for Educational Partnership,6200 Sheridan St., Riverdale, MD 20737

Connect with other concerned citizens for a workshop to learn how to recycle rainwater for use on your property while also combating stormwater pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay.

Information session with rain barrels provided at completion

Workshop Only: Free
Workshop plus 1 rain barrel: $70
Workshop plus 2 rain barrels: $140

Contact Christie Balch at or at (301) 779-2806 x706 for more information.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eco-Friendly Gardening Helps you Beat the Heat

Last year, I wrote a post entitled "Eco-Friendly Gardens are No Sweat". In it, I mentioned how many of the actions that make a garden eco-friendly, such as incorporating native plants or using mulch to conserve water,  also end up requiring less work. This means that when others are out dragging around hoses to keep their landscape alive, we can be relaxing in our hammocks, deciding what we want to plant next.

I recently saw an article on Consumer Reports .org entitled The Slackers Guide to Lawn Care which goes a step further. Not only does it list many of the same eco-friendly items that I had in my "No Sweat" post, but it also lists how many hours you can save, annually, by adopting these "green" landscaping practices.

I'm using their estimates for annual time saved to repeat some info I've had in previous posts.  Most of the info is from our post, 10 Tips for a Green, Eco-Friendly Lawn. Be sure and jump over to the Consumer Report website and read their great, information packed post:
  • Save up to 12 hours annually by letting the lawn go brown during dry spellsWater Efficiently – The amount of water that your lawn needs will depend on the grass species and weather conditions. But remember, overwatering can often do more damage than under watering, to both the grass itself and to the local environment. In general, applying one inch of water per week is the recommendation when there is insufficient rainfall during the spring and summer.The best rule is to water only when the lawn begins to wilt from dryness –– when the color dulls and compressed footprints stay visible when you walk across your grass.
  • Save up to 8 hours annually by fertilizing less frequently - Fertilize in the Fall for a Healthy Lawn and Community - Before you fertilize, test your soil to learn what, if anything, it needs. Applying too much fertilizer can damage the lawn and is a major source of water pollution. Contrary to popular practice, spring is not the time to fertilize your lawn. Fertilizing in the spring forces energy into the blades rather than the developing roots. This can lead to disease and insect problems later in the season. It will also require more frequent mowing. Fall is the best time to fertilize, when the roots that will sustain the plants through the following summer are actively growing. Slow-acting, organic fertilizer products are available which are kinder to your landscape and to the surrounding environment.
  • Save up to 10 hours annually by mowing less often - Follow the “1/3rd rule” of mowing – Lawn experts recommend that you shouldn’t remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade when you mow. Removing too much of the foliage while mowing shocks the grass, forcing it to redirect its food resources from roots and stems towards new leaves. That means that if you want to mow to a 3” height, you shouldn’t mow until your grass is 4.5” high.
  • Save up to 5 hours annually by learning to live with certain pests and weeds - . Practice Integrated Pest management – One of the first rules of eco-friendly gardening is, not all insects are bad. If you see insects in your lawn, take them to one of the local extension service offices for proper identification. Then, always select the least harmful form of insect control. Here is a list of IPM Specialists from the University of Maryland Extension.
  • Save up to 15 hours annually by leaving your grass clippings on the lawn rather than bagging -  Mulch lawn clippings for a healthy lawn – When you mow your grass, leave the grass clippings where they lay. Grass clippings provide free, natural nutrients for your lawn, reducing the need for supplemental fertilizers or the labor intensive chore of bagging and removing lawn waste. Many mowers are outfitted with mulching attachments that chop clippings into fine pieces for quick breakdown. But if you follow the 1/3rd rule, you should never produce enough clippings to cause problems with your lawn.
  • Save up to 15 hours annually by choosing a low maintenance grass variety - Get to know your grass – As with everything in your landscape, it’s best to get to know as much as you can about the species that you are dealing with so that you can make the right choices in taking care of it. Whether you already have an established lawn or are putting in a new one, get to know your grass. Here’s a great document from the Virginia Cooperative Extension about Selecting Turfgrass.

The Slacker's Guide to a Great Lawn: Consumer Reports

10 Tips for a Green, Eco-Friendly Lawn: Metro DC Lawn and Garden

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What acorns and invasive plants have to do with ticks and Lyme Disease

Several years ago, I wrote a post about the abundance of acorns in the area, entitled "Abundant Acorns a Harbinger of Good Things to Come?"

Well, apparently they were a harbinger of BAD things to come, in the form of ticks.

I’ve read comments on several local garden sites recently about people seeing a lot of ticks in their gardens and apparently acorns may be partly to blame for the problem.

An article in the Summer edition of Maryland Home and Garden blames part of the problem on the huge numbers of acorns that we have had over the last few years.

Here are a few excerpts that explain how the boom and bust in acorns have led to more ticks in our yards:
The article goes on to say that certain invasive PLANT species are known to attract and harbor these dangerous pests:

The article goes on to say that certain native plant species may be adding to the problem: 
According to a New York Times article on December 2, 2011, the boom and bust cycle in acorn production over the past two years will likely result in a very high incidence of Lyme Disease in areas with lots of oak trees in 2012. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., said, “We expect 2012 to be the worst year for Lyme disease risk ever.”

Bumper crops of acorns, like the one we saw in 2010, provide a huge source of food for many mammal species, including the field mouse. This surplus in food led to a population explosion in field mice in the summer of 2011. Because the 2011 acorn crop was very small and unable to support the bigger population, field mouse numbers are expected to crash this year.

This food boom and bust cycle trickles down to other species, like deer ticks—also known as blacklegged ticks or bear ticks. Just as more acorns mean more mice, more mice mean more ticks. When the mouse population crashes, ticks will be in search of other sources of a blood meal, including humans.

The number of tick bites on humans is therefore expected to increase, and the percentage of ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacteria is expected to be higher, leading to an overall increase in human cases of the disease.
The article goes on to say that certain invasive plants species can add to the problem:

One of the ways that humans help the disease thrive is through the spread of invasive species like Japanese barberry and bush—or Amur—honeysuckle. These plants create the perfect habitat for both ticks and their hosts by creating a thick layer of cool and moist undergrowth. Studies have shown that tick populations are 67% higher in barberry-infested areas, and that there are three times as many ticks infected with the Lyme disease bacteria than in areas with no barberry.

Lyme Disease is a serious health issue and the presence of ticks should not be taken lightly. For information about ticks and Lyme Disease, visit these resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease: Montgomery County Website

Click here to download the Summer 2012 Edition of Maryland Home and Garden,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

National Pollinator Week - June 18-24th

bee4 I guess it’s a little apropos that I was so absorbed with the butterflies in my yard (see my last two posts: #1, #2) that I forgot to mention that this week is National Pollinator Week. Or maybe it snuck up on me because it is typically the final week in June (which is next week instead of this week).

In any case, National Pollinator Week is a great time to learn more about the valuable benefits that pollinators play in our gardens and in world-wide food production.

Five years ago, the first Pollinator Week was celebrated with  the unanimous approval of the  U.S. Senate.  Pollinator Week is now an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

It is estimated that about 90% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollination (as opposed to wind pollination) and over 200,000 species of animals participate in the pollinating. Without pollinators, many plants would never produce fruit or set seed and many of the foods we eat would no longer be available. As if a world lacking chocolate and coffee wouldn’t be bad enough, wild creatures that rely on pollinated plants for food and shelter could also disappear.

Like so many other species, some pollinators are showing steady population declines. Although the declines in honeybee populations are mainly due to diseases, declines in wild pollinator populations are attributed to habitat loss, competition from invasive species and exposure to pesticides. This is a valuable reminder about why it is important for eco-friendly gardeners to eliminate pesticides.

There are several activities in the area to celebrate Pollinator Week, listed on the events page of the Pollinator Week website. But a visit to any of the local butterfly gardens or to a local beekeeper may be the best way to learn more about these important garden visitors.

And don’t forget that another great way to help protect pollinators is by supporting the Pollinator Plate project.

There are many posts on this blog related to butterflies and hummingbirds, two of my favorite pollinators. You can use the Topic Index at top to find them. Here are a few posts related specifically to pollinators:

Monday, June 18, 2012

There is Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so

caterpillar06 Most of us have heard the quotation above. It is a quote from Hamlet by William Shakespeare: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Shakespeare also penned the line “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” which is proceeded by the line “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy.”

As a gardener, those lines often come to mind when I think of both weeds and bugs.

Weeds, native flowers, wildflowers, flowers. Whether they are welcome or unwelcome is really up to us and how we choose to think of them.

The same, is certainly true of visiting garden critters. Good bug, bad bug, beneficial insect.

For the past week, I’ve been watching an “army” of caterpillars dining on the dill and fennel plants in our garden. Now, “army” wouldn’t be my choice of words to describe caterpillars, but it seems to be the preferred word to use when describing a collection of these crawling critters.

And although  some people would see chomping caterpillars as “bad” bugs, quickly decimating the dill and fennel plants, I love watching the whole process of egg to caterpillar to butterfly and was delighted to go out every morning and watch their progress.

But what started out as an “army” of at least two dozen tiny swallowtail caterpillars soon turned into ten, then seven and now its down to two.

What conquered my “army” of caterpillars? A wasp. The kind of wasp that many people see as a beneficial insect just because they DO dine on caterpillars. So in my garden, this good guy (wasp) has definitely turned into the bad guy.

The irony of the whole thing is, there was a time when I introduced those wasps into my yard.  I'm always trying to find alternatives to using toxic chemicals in my landscape because I know that they can pollute the environment. So to test the effectiveness of purchased beneficial insects I ordered ladybugs, green lacewing larvae and caterpillar-eating wasps. Of course, I was thinking more about getting rid of the caterpillars that I DON'T like, rather than the ones that I do, but I haven't quite figured out a way to train the wasps yet.

I know that neither the caterpillar nor the wasp is bad (or good, for that matter). They are both just doing what they need to do to survive. The Circle of Life, as my husband said.

But the defeat of my beautiful little army by one solitary wasp was a good reminder about gardens and gardening: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Related posts: Don’t Let the Bugs Bug You
Changing Your Relationship With Weeds

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15th is Nature Photography Day

 caterpillar In 2006, the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) celebrated the first Nature Photography Day. The day was designated to not only promote the enjoyment of nature photography, but to show how photographs can be used to help advance the cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes.

Today, on the seventh annual Nature Photography Day, we all have the opportunity to use our cameras to explore and share the beauty of the natural world around us, and perhaps to help influence others to see and appreciate that beauty as we do.

NANPA encourages everyone to get out in nature this weekend and to share your photos on their  Nature Photography Day page. Theirs isn’t a contest, but just a spot to share a favorite photo of nature that was taken on June 15th, 2012.

While you have your camera in hand, I encourage you to take a closer look at your own yard and take your best shot to help further the cause of conservation, by showing the beauty of the plants, wildlife and landscape of your own yard.

Our Green Gardeners Make a Difference event IS a contest, and you have the chance to win great prizes. The contest is free, so you have nothing to lose! Top winners will be chosen by online voting, so even if you don’t think you have the best photo or the best garden to show off, our voters (including your friends and family) might disagree.

Whether you enter or not, I hope you enjoy taking a closer look at the nature that you have all around you, in your own home landscape.

I took the above photo in my front yard this morning. Although I can’t enter the Green Gardener photo contest myself, this photo would be eligible to enter for several reasons: it’s a photo of a gulf fritillary caterpillar (indicating I don’t use pesticides) on a native passion vine (native plants), in one of my butterfly gardens (wildlife habitat). All of those things are great steps for a Green Gardener!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There’s something special about people who garden

I recently saw a short article called Bumper Crops about a Brooklyn, NY man named Ian Cheney who decided to plant tomatoes, peppers and other produce in the back of a 1986 Dodge pickup truck. This wasn’t  a parked pickup truck, mind you. But a truck that he continued to drive around New York.

He took photos of the progress of his Truck Farm and made a time-lapse movie which became a hit documentary, and also inspired a “movement of mobile gardeners” who take their gardens on the road to raise both fresh veggies and eco-awareness. Watching the little trailer of the video online left me with just one thought: I love gardeners.

I know that is a pretty broad statement, but I’ve met a lot of gardeners in my life and I honestly can’t think of many times that I didn’t feel an almost immediate affinity with them. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. But the majority of the gardeners I’ve met in my life are generous, kind, calm and creative. They share, not only what they grow, and what they learn while they are growing, but through their gardens, they also share both beauty and benefits to the environment.

Many of them are sentimental, struggling with the tough decisions of what plants must be sacrificed in order to let others thrive. Some get so attached to particular plants that they almost mourn their passing, staring at the blank spot in their yard that once held fragrance, flowers or special memories.

Two years ago, on June 17, 2010, I wrote my first post for this blog. It was entitled The psychology of "green" gardening – is taking care of the planet good for the soul?

The post is about studies carried out by Richard Ryan, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester, who determined that: “spending time in nature not only makes people feel more energized but also leads them to be nicer, value their relationships more and to be more generous – definitely evidence that nature is good for the soul.”

With a little prodding, I got professor Ryan to admit that: “Peter Rabbit’s experience aside, gardeners are probably nicer people”. That phrase and that sentiment have certainly rang true over the past two years on this blog. 

Since then, I have read reports about similar studies, some indicating that digging in the dirt helps to raise levels of our bodies natural anti-depressants.

So perhaps there is a scientific reason behind the kindness of gardeners. All I know is that the gardeners I have met, both online and in person, add as much wonder and beauty to my life as my gardens do….probably more.

So thanks to all of you for being my garden friends, sharing your garden stories with me…..and for allowing me to share mine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Contest rules clarified – deadline extended until June 17th

We want to thank Jan D. for pointing out that we had a few inconsistencies in our Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo Contest rules. We have made some modifications so that the contest now lists all of the cities, counties and jurisdictions that are allowed to enter. We have also added a few extra days to the contest deadline, in order to allow a little more time to anyone who was confused by our contradictory contest conditions.

Gardeners and photo-bugs now have until midnight on June 17th to submit their entries for the contest, depicting one or more of the following green gardening practices:

  • 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
  • And don’t forget to include a brief description of WHY the photographed aspect of your yard is eco-friendly.

    Since Father’s Day is June 17th, this gives you a great excuse to spend some time with Dad in the garden. Just remember that if you include Dad in the photo, you have to get him to sign a model release!

    P.S. I saw some really cute pictures of Bo Obama in the White House garden today, so if Michelle decides to enter one of those photos in the contest, then the competition might be pretty fierce! Otherwise, it’s going to be a close competition when the voting begins on June 25th.

    Bo Obama busy supervising the White House garden

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Five days to enter. Fantastic odds of winning a prize

    There are only 5 days left to enter the Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo Contest and the odds of winning a prize are fantastic!

    Currently, there are only SEVEN entries in the contest!! Which means one of those entries will walk away with the top prize of $700 worth of garden goodies! Second place prizewinner will receive $400 worth of garden goodies. And keep in mind that the winner can choose to receive a garden center gift certificate instead of the great prizes that we have chosen!

    The rules are simple. Take a photo of your home landscape depicting any of the following eco-friendly gardening practices. If you aren’t sure whether your yard will qualify, I’ve provided links to some blog posts that better explain some of these principles.

    Write a short description explaining which of the six eco-friendly practices your photo represents.

    All photos that meet these rules will be moved into the next round where they can be voted on by friends and family.

    For more information, visit the contest website:

    Good luck!

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    RainScapes Watershed Friendly Landscapes Tour 2012 – June 16th

    I have mentioned the benefits of rain gardens many times, but the The Montgomery County website describes their benefits better than I can:

    Environmental Benefits

    Most rainfall on urban surfaces such as roofs, driveways, roads, parking lots and patios ends up as stormwater runoff. In contrast rainfall on natural surfaces (e.g., forests and meadows) soaks into the ground where it can replenish groundwater and recharge streams. RainScapes techniques include rainfall capture and holding, rainfall interception, and simulating good, natural drainage which help to:

    • Reduce stormwater runoff volumes from individual properties
    • Reduce drainage problems on a property
    • Prevent stormwater pollution from entering our streams
    • Reduce water consumption during dry spells
    • Reduced need for mowing, fertilizer and pesticide applications
    • Enhance yard aesthetics
    • Enhance wildlife habitat
    • Reduce energy costs to heat and cool your home
    • Increase property values

    In order to help illustrate the benefits of Rainscapes, there will be a self-guided tour of Rainscapes in Montgomery County on June 16th from 9am – Noon. This is a great opportunity to see just how beautiful and effective Rainscapes can be.

    To download a pdf document with descriptions of the various landscapes on the tour, click here: RainScapes Watershed Friendly Landscapes 2012

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Want the secret to happiness? Share the Wonder

    Aristotle: “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

    frogs1 My husband and I have a WONDER-full habit that adds a lot of pleasure to our lives. We seek out “wonders of nature” on our property and point them out to each other.

    The “wonders”  don’t have to be much: A miniature rose bud covered with dew, a caterpillar getting ready to go to chrysalis, a mother bird feeding its young.

    Sometimes we share a smell – something sweet and blooming drifting on the air. Or a sound – northern Parulas high up in the trees are some of our favorites. Depending on the time of day, we share sunrises and sunsets, “first stars”, and full moons.

    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.

    Looking for these wonders has become a playful challenge.  It clears all of the other unnecessary crud from our thoughts and lets us just seek out ways to share joy with each other. No matter what else might have happened during our days, the shared “wonder” always seems to bring us back together.

    And whenever one of us is feeling neglected or alone, all we have to do is say those three little magic words:

    “Wonder of Nature! Wonder of Nature”

    Those words are sure to make us push away from the computers, put down our cell phones, turn off our televisions and look, instead, at the things that matter the most in our lives – the fantastic wonders of nature all around us and the people that love us enough to want to share them with us.

    June 9th is National Get Outdoors Day. It was created to “encourage healthy, outdoor fun”. It’s also a really wonderful opportunity to appreciate the Wonders of Nature with those you love. And a good reminder to appreciate the wonders OF those you love.

    Whatever you do this weekend, I encourage you to spend some time appreciating the wonders.

    Click here to find National Get Outdoors Day Activities in Your Area.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Soaking up more info about rain gardens

    I still haven’t started my rain garden yet, even though it is definitely something that I would like to get done before it becomes too hot this year. Rain gardens are such a great way to help prevent stormwater runoff, which is a leading cause of flooding and local waterway pollution.

    Since a picture is worth 1000 words, I’m hoping that some of you who do have rain gardens will enter photos in our Green Gardeners Make a Difference Photo contest so I can gain a little inspiration from your success stories. You can help educate and inspire others and you have the chance to win some great prizes (top prize is $700 worth of garden goodies).

    In the meantime, I found a great article about a rain garden success story and it also has some links for more information.

    The article is in the Severna Park Patch and is entitled Rain Gardens ‘Spring’ Back to Life by John Dawson, who is currently taking training at the Watershed Stewards Academy to become a watershed steward.

    I encourage you to check out the article.

    And whether you have a rain garden or not, I encourage you to take a walk around your yard, with your camera, and take a photo to share in our Green Gardeners Make a Difference photo contest. A native plant, a rain barrel, a butterfly on a flower – any of these things help to illustrate the eco-friendly aspects of your garden and we would love to share them with our readers.

    Urban Wood Utilization Workshop II

    What: Urban Wood Utilization Workshop

    When: June 29th, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

    Where: Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments – 3rd Floor Board Room
    777 North Capitol St. NE, Washington, DC 20002

    The urban forests in the metropolitan region produce a great quantity of wood from tree removals, storms and routine tree maintenance. Previously, this material has been chipped for mulch at best. This forum will focus on the outcomes of the Washington Metropolitan Wood Recovery & Utilization Project and feature others working in the field developing technologies and programs to put urban timber to good use. A final agenda will be posted to COG’s Web Page:

    Register Online at:

    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Doggy Dangers and Kitty Catastrophes – keeping pets safe in the garden

    cat2 I’ve written a couple of blog posts about pet safety in the garden. I’ve mentioned the dangers that pesticides, fertilizer, compost and other garden items can cause to our pets. And although I mentioned poisonous plants, I hadn’t looked very closely at the list until this weekend.

    When I did, I was surprised at how many common plants were on the list. Here are a few plants that are common to the mid-Atlantic region which can cause problems for our pets. You can view the full list on the ASPC website.

    If your pet ingests any of these plants, call your local veterinarian or animal emergency center.

    American bittersweet, Symptoms: weakness, convulsions, gastroenteritis (vomiting, diarrhea)

    Autumn crocus, Symptoms: oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage, bone marrow suppression.

    Azalea, Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, hyper salivation, weakness, coma, hypotension, CNS depression, cardiovascular collapse and death.

    Cardinal flower, Symptoms: Depression, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive salivation, abdominal pain, heart rhythm disturbances.

    Daffodils, Symptoms: Vomiting, salvation, diarrhea; large ingestions cause convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors and cardiac arrhythmias. Bulbs are the most poisonous part.

    Milkweed (this plant is a favorite in butterfly gardens), Symptoms: Vomiting, profound depression, weakness, anorexia, and diarrhea are common; may be followed by seizures, difficulty breathing, rapid, weak pulse, dilated pupils, kidney or liver failure, coma, respiratory paralysis and death

    Periwinkle, symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, depression, tremors, seizures, coma, death.

    Toxic and Non-Topic Plants – ASPCA website

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Celebrate Maryland Outdoor Days – June 9th - 23rd

    The Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature is launching Celebrate Maryland Outdoors Days, June 9-23 to help children, families and others get outdoors, exploring and enjoying nature across the state!

    There are hundreds of great ideas and opportunities on their website for you to get outside in nature with your kids and help to grow future green gardeners and environmentalists. Here are a few:

    6/9/2012 - Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies, Adkins Arboretum
    Discover & Connect with your natural world. Join Hal White for a walk to discover dragonflies and damselflies. A professor of biochemistry at University of Delaware, Hal has been fascinated by insects, especially dragonflies, since high school. His hobby has taken him from Canada to Mexico and across the United States. Advance registration is required.

    6/9/2012 - The Dangers of Pollution, Eden Mill Nature Center
    Discover & connect with your natural world. Eden Mill Nature Center is proud to offer “Saturday Nature Series”. Do you know the effects you are having on the environment? Want to know ways you can help prevent pollution? Through fun activities, come learn about the ways pollution effects everyone and how you can stop it.

    6/9/2012 - Wetlands Scavenger Hunt, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
    Discover & Connect with your natural world. Join a scavenger hunt along the marsh boardwalk to find plants and animals in the wetlands.

    Visit the Celebrate Maryland Outdoors Days web pages for many, many more!

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Family Fun Day – June 16th

    What: Family Fun Day! at the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture

    When: Saturday, June 16th, 1pm – 5pm

    Where: Arcadia Farm, part of the Woodlawn Estate, 9000 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA

    A spring celebration with healthy snacks, arts and crafts, and fun farm activities for the whole family!  

    Planned activities include:

    • Learn to make healthy farm-fresh snacks
    • Meet the chickens!
    • Check out Arcadia's Mobile Market
    • Play farm-based games with your family
    • Facepainting, arts and crafts, and more!

    Just $5 per person (Children 2 & under are free)

    Pay online or in cash at the door. 

    Rain date: Sunday, June 17th

    Bring your family for an unforgettable afternoon of fun on the farm!

    Register today at:

    Website by Water Words That Work LLC