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My Messy (on Purpose) Garden

Posted on September 19, 2017 by | Comments (0)

suburbs

Tidy lawns – but where’s the habitat?

If a stranger were to pass by my house, they may think my yard is unkempt. The blanket flowers and coreopsis are sprawling and leggy. The seedheads of cone flowers are not trimmed back. The butterfly bush grows just a bit unevenly. Look closely and you may even see the remnants of leaves from LAST fall in the flowerbed. But what you wouldn’t know by just looking at my yard is that it’s messy on purpose.

I saw a great article recently from the Habitat Network promoting messy gardens. The Habitat Network allows people across the country to connect with tools and resources to help improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes. And how oh-so-important that is now that homeowner associations rule the land. It isn’t that a “working” yard suffers from a lack of care or maintenance. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Those who let their yard complement their local environment are caring for all the residents of the neighborhood – big and small. Nature is a little messy — and our yards should be too!

So why should you get messy?

  • Native plants protect natural resources because they thrive in this region without needing extra water, fertilizer or chemical pesticide.
  • Seedheads left on dried flowers are an important food source for song birds and migratory birds.
  • Dead limbs and fallen leaves provide habit for wildlife including overwintering insects like ladybugs, butterflies and bees.
  • Gardens can be “alive” all year if we embrace lazy gardening.

Goldfinch & ConeflowerI’ve seen big changes in my yard since we went messy. We have a family of gold finches that started frequenting our yard this spring. The rabbits love the dense cover of our shrubs and raised their babies in our yard. We’ve seen hummingbirds, Monarch caterpillars, swallow-tail butterflies and even a hawk that likes to perch on our fence at midday. All this smack-dab in the middle of suburban Hampton Roads. So let your garden get messy and see what wildlife will show up for a visit.

Want to get messy? Here’s what to do:

  • Plant native plants that invite wildlife and insects to your yard.
  • Don’t remove spent flowers or berries from plants visited by wildlife.
  • Mulch mow your grass and rake fallen leaves into the mulched areas of your yard.
  • Ditch chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Reserve your yard maintenance for early spring when temperatures have reached at least 50 degrees for several days. This will protect any wildlife that has called your yard home during winter.

 Everything you need to know for creating a “working” habitat in your yard is available from the Habitat Network.

Posted in: Beautification, Gardening, Going Green, Outdoor tips

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Keep Drainage Flowing and the Bay Clean

Posted on August 3, 2017 by | Comments Off

Mailbox in Flood WatersIf you live in Hampton Roads, you have flood stories.  It’s part of living near the water.  Here is the good news:  You can take steps to reduce flooding.  And that flood reduction work will very likely help the environment too.

Flooding in Hampton Roads is caused by:

  • High tides that flow upstream, flooding low lying areas and blocking stormwater from leaving the land;
  • Intense rain storms that overwhelm stormwater drainage systems.

Turning back the tide is not an option.  Our goal has to be finding ways to increase the capacity of our drainage systems.  Cleaning ditches is one way you can help create more capacity.  More ditch volume means less flooding. 

How does cleaning a ditch help the environment?  The Chesapeake Bay is dirty – literally. Dirt (also called sediment) and  yard debris can be carried in stormwater to local waterways. To help clean up the bay, your city or county is required to reduce the amount of sediment entering waterways from drainage systems.  The cleaner we keep our ditches and drainage pipes, the less sediment we send to the bay. 

Local government crews do their part by clearing public drainage systems.  They remove debris and re-grade ditches that have filled in by dirt carried in stormwater.  Citizens can help  by making sure that fences, foot bridges and other structures do not block ditches.  In most cities and counties blocking public drainage easements with structures and landscaping is prohibited.   

Many ditches are privately owned and not maintained by your local government.  Property owners are responsible for cleaning these ditches.  It’s an easier job if you keep yard debris and grass clippings out of ditches and storm drains.  Also, do not store fallen leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris near drainage features like storm drains. You should also think before you plant.  Keep trees and other large plants out of the ditch and away from the sides of a ditch.   If possible, coordinate your drainage-clearing work with your neighbors’ efforts.  That way longer stretches of the system will be free to flow.  Neighborhood teams may be able to help elderly residents or other owners who are not physically capable of cleaning their ditches.  But always ask for permission before working on someone else’s property. 

Do your part to keep the water flowing and save the environment.  Fewer flood stories is a good thing.

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Waterways

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askHRgreen.org Holds Office Litter Cleanup

Posted on May 1, 2017 by | Comments Off

IMG_3919On Friday, April 21, staff of askHRgreen.org, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) and Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) celebrated Earth Day by hosting a community litter cleanup in Chesapeake. Staff members were invited to spend an hour outside cleaning up litter that had accumulated around the nearby bus stop, along the roadway, and in the parking lots and canal surrounding the regional offices. Some staff members even brought kayaks that allowed litter to be removed from the waterway. The most commonly littered items around the HRPDC/HRTPO building were cigarette butts and convenience products such as disposable drink bottles and food wrappers. This is a common theme that is seen not only statewide but internationally. There were a few unusual finds, however, including a hub cab, bedroll, car battery and even a bike that was partially submerged in the muddy bank of the canal.

Supplies for the cleanup were provided by the City of Chesapeake and included safety vests, gloves, litter grabbers and trash bags. Staff’s efforts will also be logged as part of the Great American Cleanup, America’s largest community improvement program, powered by more than 5 million volunteers nationwide.

Get involved in a Great American Cleanup project near you or contact your local Litter Prevention Coordinator to organize an event for your workplace or neighborhood.

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Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!

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When Bottled Water Reigns, Our Environment Loses

Posted on March 10, 2017 by | Comments Off

water-bottle-910787_960_720I’m reminded of a Beatles song this morning…”I read the news today, oh boy!”

And, oh boy, the news is not good. Business Insider reports that bottled water sales have now surpassed the sale of carbonated soft drinks. Now that’s great for our country’s health and our collective waistlines but it’s oh so bad for our environment. Bottled water consumption grew by 9 percent to 12.8 billion gallons in 2016. The most frustrating part of the bottled water trend might be the fact that half of bottled water is not from a mountain spring in a pristine forest somewhere in the Pacific Northwest or a remote tropical island. Nope. Bottled water is often regular municipal tap water, pumped through a filter and into a bottle at 2,000 times the cost of filling up a reusable bottle. Bottled water is even produced in drought-plagued areas of our country contributing to local water crises in places like California and Maine. Other baffling facts surrounding the bottled water trend include:

  • Bottled water is not held to the same quality standards as municipal tap water. Municipal tap water is constantly monitored by a local lab with standards set through the EPA. Bottled water has only moderate monitoring standards set through the FDA . For example, coliform bacteria testing is done once per week for bottled water and more than 100 times per month for municipal tap water.
  • It takes three times the amount of water to produce a plastic water bottle than it does to fill it. That’s 36 ounces of water used per 12 ounce bottle of water.
  • An estimated 17 million barrels of oil are consumed each year to produce and transport bottled water. That’s enough to power 1 million cars for a year!
  • 22 billion water bottles end up in landfills each year and will take hundreds of years to decompose.
  • You can refill a 20 ounce refillable water bottle at any tap in Hampton Roads 1,500 times for the same cost as a single container of bottled water.

So don’t be a sucker. Don’t fall prey to the hype. Instead, pick up a reusable water bottle to fill with tap water to make a healthy choice for your body and our environment.

To learn even more about the true cost of bottled water, check out the documentary Tapped.

 

Posted in: Clean and safe tap water, Don't litter!, Reduce reuse and recycle, Using water wisely

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The 2017 Great American Cleanup is Underway!

Posted on March 2, 2017 by | Comments Off

GAC2016Hampton Roads volunteers will be out in full force working across the region to pick up roadside litter, clean up beaches and shorelines, improve community parks and more. The 2017 Great American Cleanup™ is underway, now through June, and residents can find a list of planned community projects, or find out how to start their own, by checking out this regional list of happenings.

Cared for communities tend to be safe, desirable places with great curb appeal. But participating in a Great American Cleanup event is about so much more than protecting neighborhood property values. It’s also important for protecting our region’s rich natural resources, booming tourism industry and overall quality of life. 

LMinner-GAC_2016_2Spearheaded by Keep America Beautiful, the Great American Cleanup is the country’s largest community improvement program. Litter cleanups and recycling events typically top the list of activities led by local Keep America Beautiful affiliates, but there’s also a focus on individual neighborhoods. The “Clean Your Block” theme promotes not only clean communities, but also community engagement, pride and stewardship – behaviors that lead to lasting, positive block-by-block impacts nationwide. Citizens are encouraged to organize a beautification or cleanup project in their neighborhood and celebrate their hard work with a block party once that project is completed. It’s a great way to see neighbors, meet new friends and understand how we’re all connected to the region.

FINWR: Volunteer Site Captains conduct a cleanup on Fisherman Island National Wildlife Refuge. Cleanups can be public or private. And while neighbors are bonding and strengthening their sense of community pride, the region’s natural resources are gaining the long-term benefits of cleaner communities. In 2016, nearly 4,500 volunteers across five cities and counties recovered over 100 tons of trash from over 400 sites. And that’s just a fraction of the real impact when the work done by all 17 cities and counties is taken into consideration.  

Organizing a clean up or beautification event for your business, office or neighborhood is the perfect way to create safer, more beautiful spaces for both man and animal. Get involved and learn how to organize your own “Clean Your Block” project for the Great American Cleanup!

Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

Volunteers cleanup in Ocean View Photo Credit: Keep Norfolk Beautiful

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Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Don't litter!, Reduce reuse and recycle

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  • LOOKS LIKE FUN!