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Add Drought-Tolerant Color to Your Yard

Posted on April 3, 2017 by | Comments Off

1There is nothing lovelier than a yard awash in colorful blooms. However, lush gardens can be difficult to maintain during the dry, hot months of summer.

Fortunately, there are many eco-friendly, drought-tolerant plants that can add vibrant color to even the driest of yards. The key to a beautiful color landscape is choosing plants that thrive in their environment. Keep these tips in mind as you shop for plants.

Stay Close to Home

Look at species native to your area when choosing plants for your garden. Local plants have evolved to survive on the average rainfall in your area and should require very little supplemental water. These plants are also accustomed to the insects and other wildlife in your area, which is best for the ecosystem.  

Stay away from invasive species and plants that are not ideal for your growing zone. It is much harder for non-native species to do well—they often require more water and are less pest- and disease-resistant. You avoid the need for chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides if you choose plants that naturally thrive in their surroundings.

2

Think Succulents
In desert-like, extremely dry areas, some of the most popular drought tolerant plants are succulents and cacti. The fleshy leaves of these plants hold water and allow them to thrive in even the driest of environments. You can find succulents in a huge variety of colors, sizes and shapes, making them a great fit for almost any garden. If your area gets a hard freeze in the winter, consider growing succulents in pots and containers so you can bring them inside once the weather turns cold.

3

Pick Perennials

You may immediately think of flowering annuals when you think about garden color, but there are an unlimited number of flowering perennials that can add pops of color to your space year after year as well. Perennials tend to be hardier than annuals and come in a variety of types. You can find perennial ground covers, climbing vines, grasses, shrubs and even roses and flowering bulbs, many of which are drought tolerant. Remember that perennials come back year after year and continue to grow, so when putting them into the ground, make sure you leave enough room for the plants to expand.

4

Change It Up with Annuals

Annuals complete their life cycle in one season and are a great way to add supplemental color to your yard or garden. Because of their short lifespan, annuals tend to be prolific bloomers and are showier and bolder than their perennial counterparts. Planting a few new annuals every year allows you to change up the look of your planting beds.

In some warmer climates, annuals can survive multiple seasons, which make them act like pseudo-perennials. You may want to experiment with different varieties to see how they do in your specific zone.

5

 

Consider the Foliage

We often associate color with blooms, flowers or fruits, but foliage can be a long-lasting and easy to maintain source of color in your yard. Colorful grasses and shrubs add large bold swaths of color, while trees can not only provide seasonal color, but can also add shade and protect the plants below from the heat and direct sun of summer.

Just like other plants, drought-tolerant trees do best when planted in their native climate. Keep in mind that many trees are only considered drought-tolerant once they are established. Small trees and saplings require more water to promote proper root growth and expansion.

Be Wise About Water

Conserving water in your garden and yard shouldn’t end with your plant choices. You can reduce the amount of water you need to use in your garden if you’re smart about your watering habits. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure you water plants during the cooler hours of the day.
  • Use drip line irrigation instead of sprinklers, which lose a lot of water to evaporation.
  • Add mulch and compost to your planting beds to trap in moisture.

 

A beautiful garden begins with good plant choices and lasts with proper care and maintenance. Focus on native plants that do well in your specific zone and won’t require a lot of additional water or pest prevention. Then add color through blooms and foliage, and consider both annuals and perennials to give the perfect balance of seasonal color and hardiness.

With her three kids and a busy home life in the San Francisco area, Kim Six is a DIY home improvement blogger who keeps her eye on organizational techniques. Kim writes her home lifestyle and organizing tips for Home Depot. For gardening options for all environments, visit the Home Depot site here.

Posted in: Beautification, Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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How to Shop for a Greenhouse

Posted on February 16, 2017 by | Comments Off

Green HouseDeciding to buy a greenhouse catapults the novice gardener into the big leagues. Even a small model provides the space and the conditions to extend the gardening season and try new techniques, such as starting seeds early, that just are not possible in most gardens. Here are four questions to ask yourself when deciding on a greenhouse that meets your needs.

1.       How will I use the greenhouse?

The answer to this will help determine the size and the features you may want. Walk-in greenhouse kits designed for residential use range in size from 5×5 feet up to 8×20 feet. You can find smaller, portable kits for about $100, but more permanent kits can cost from several hundred up to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and features.

Smaller models are great for getting a jump on spring planting by starting seeds early, but if you want to grow plants to maturity, you will need a bigger model. Your plans for the greenhouse will also determine the “extras” you will need (see below). Of course, you will have to balance your gardening needs with your budget and the available space for constructing the greenhouse.

2.       Where will I put it?

If you plan on growing plants to maturity or using the greenhouse over the winter, you will want maximum sun exposure—at least six hours a day. It’s best to situate the greenhouse so that its longest dimension faces south, which means most of the space will receive direct sunlight. This is especially true in the winter when the sun appears lower in the sky.

Select a spot that is convenient to get to and has access to water. You may also want access to electricity.

Before you purchase a greenhouse, check with the local building department to ask about zoning requirements, such as how close you can erect the greenhouse to the property line, and whether you need a building permit. In some locales, any structure on a foundation requires a permit, and some kits require a concrete slab or a wooden foundation.

3.       What are my options in materials?

Greenhouse frames are available in a number of different materials:

  • Aluminum and galvanized steel. These provide the strongest greenhouses, but they are the most expensive.
  • PVC pipe. These don’t provide the structural heft of an aluminum or steel frame, but they are relatively inexpensive. PVC structures are often used for portable greenhouses.
  • Wood. These provide a rustic, classic look and are usually made of insect-resistant woods such as redwood or cedar. Be aware that wood components will require periodic sealing or staining.

While glass may be the traditional glazing material, greenhouse kit manufacturers are now turning to plastics such as polyethylene and polycarbonate panels because they are lighter and easier to handle. Polycarbonate panels can provide either direct sunlight or diffused light to the plants. They also come in a variety of thicknesses, making them a better insulator than glass. Look for panels that are treated to block the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

4.       What extras will I need?

There are a lot of extras available to make your gardening experience more enjoyable:

  • Shelves and benches. Some kits come with shelves, but not all do. They make caring for plants easier. Make sure the frame can support the shelves and the plants.
  • Ventilation. Greenhouses get hot, so you will need at least one operable vent in the roof. Some kits feature vents that open automatically when the greenhouse becomes too hot. Larger models can accommodate ventilation fans.
  • Watering system. You can pull the garden hose into the greenhouse to water the plants, but automatic watering and misting systems are available. Some greenhouses include gutter systems that allow you to collect rainwater.
  • Heaters. Greenhouses placed in cold climates will need a heater for year-round use.
  • Sensors and controls. Keep the greenhouse functioning properly with controls that track the temperature and humidity levels and can automatically operate watering and ventilation systems.

A greenhouse kit can enhance your gardening experience, and the right kit will provide years of gardening pleasure.

Fran Donegan writes on home improvement for Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author and has written several books, including Paint Your Home.

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Lawncare

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Free Soil Testing for New Bay Star Homes in October

Posted on October 3, 2016 by | Comments Off

Soil Test-FallThemeDuring the month of October, any family that signs up to become a Bay Star Home will be automatically entered to win a free soil test! Soil testing is the only way to know whether or not your lawn really needs chemical fertilizers. And when you accidentally apply unneeded fertilizer to your yard, you contribute to local water pollution. Also, as part of your pledge to become a Bay Star Home, you’ll receive a welcome packet that includes great tips from askHRgreen.org, local information from your city or county, and a garden flag or other gift in recognition of your commitment to a cleaner Hampton Roads. Get started now!

Free soil testing made possible by funds generated from the sale of Chesapeake Bay license plates. Learn more at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions/cbr.htm

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Waterways

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Go Organic with Worm Poop

Posted on August 31, 2016 by | Comments Off

My 5-year-old LOVES worms. She is scared to death of most creepy crawly things, spiders in particular, but she practically turns the worms in our yard into pets. They come second only to roly polys. I get it. There is just something about digging around in the dirt and discovering little critters that is so enjoyable and satisfying. Turns out this love of worms also runs on my husband’s side of the family, because I recently discovered his grandmother has her own “pet worms”, or worm farm as she more aptly describes.

Marj and her worms.

Marj and her worms.

 

Vermicompost!

Vermicompost!

Marj’s worm farm is all the way in Australia, but we visited my in-laws earlier this year so we had a chance to check out her worms for ourselves. Over the years Marj has turned most of her yard into an organic garden full of gorgeous flowers and tasty fruits and veggies. It puts my backyard to shame. Really it would put anyone’s yard to shame, so I should have known right away that she was onto something when she started talking about worms. Unlike my 5-year-old who simply enjoys collecting and talking to worms, Marj puts them to work.

Worms are great decomposers, and what needs decomposers? OK that’s a trick question, technically worms are detrivores and EVERYTHING needs decomposers and detrivores. They do super important work – remember the food web you learned in grade school – Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers? Producers are plants that make food with the energy from the sun and are eaten by the Consumers (herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores). Whenever anything dies or is pooped out, the decomposers break down the nutrients and return it to the soil to be used by more Producers. Does anyone else hear the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King in your head right now?

Worms at work in Hampton Roads.

Worms at work in Hampton Roads.

OK that is grossly simplified but back to my original question…COMPOST needs decomposers! Decomposers break down organic materials (like kitchen scraps) into more stable and non-smelly compost that is full of nutrients and can be used as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Microorganisms are also decomposers, but worm composting, or vermicomposting, can get it done faster than microorganisms alone. Instead of throwing your organic material into a compost pile or bin, you feed them to your pet worms and after happily feasting on your leftovers and lawn trimmings, they do what we all do. They poop. But this isn’t just any poop. The material that passes through the gut of a worm is called a worm casting, and according to Moose Hill Worm Farm, worm castings are made up of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter, and animal manure that create water-soluble plant nutrients that contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil. And get this – worms can process their body weight in food each day, so a pound of worms can process a pound of kitchen scraps EACH DAY. Not only are you keeping kitchen and yard waste out of landfills, you are performing the ULTIMATE type of recycling: turning waste into a resource!

Here are a few resources and tips to get you started:

1. For information on how to make your own vermicompost and care for your worms visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Vermicomposting site.

2. The Norfolk Botanical Garden offers Worm Composting workshops where you can get everything you need to make your worm bin – including the worms!

3. Moose Hill Worm Farm in Gloucester sells worm castings and has a blog with information and tips on how to use worm castings.

4. Worms do not do well in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to keep your worm bin in a shady spot during our hot summer months.

5. In addition to the worm castings, you can also get a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer by draining your worm bin into a bucket.

Posted in: Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Enter to Win Free Soil Testing!

Posted on July 8, 2016 by | Comments Off

Free-Soil-Testing-July16Become a Bay Star Home in July and Win!

During the month of July, any family that signs up to become a Bay Star Home will be automatically entered to win one of 75 free soil tests! Soil testing is the only way to know whether or not your lawn really needs chemical fertilizers. And when you accidentally apply unneeded fertilizer to your yard, you contribute to local water pollution. Also, as part of your pledge to become a Bay Star Home, you’ll receive a welcome packet that includes great tips from askHRgreen.org, local information from your city or county, and a garden flag or other gift in recognition of your commitment to a cleaner Hampton Roads. Get started now!

Posted in: Gardening, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Waterways

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