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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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Tackling Restoration Through Beautification in Newport News

Posted on June 7, 2016 by | Comments Off

 The City of Newport News has an integrated program of public awareness and action concerning stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Our programs employ cigarette litter awareness and other forms of litter as outreach and engagement opportunities. The program is a collaboration between various departments including Public Works Resource Recovery, Storm Water Management, Environmental Management System  and Engineering. Litter of any form is an active challenge for our city. We have engaged our citizens, civic and faith-based communities and local business groups in awareness of cigarette litter specifically and litter in general as a stormwater pollution issue. We currently have five separate target areas where Cigarette Litter Prevention Programs in partnership with Keep America Beautiful and askHRgreen.org are in place and several are set to expand this year. We enjoy great partners in our community who share our passion for stewardship and dedication to maintaining a beautiful and clean Newport News.

DBaxter-WawaAwardRecently, the Newport News Recovery Operations Center recognized the Wawa Convenience Store located at 12093 Jefferson Avenue with the Newport News Clean Business Award winner for the Second Quarter of 2016. This was largely in recognition of their exemplary efforts in litter management and specifically cigarette litter on their very busy property. Their management staff takes great strides to ensure that the facility and property are litter free as they understand how important this is to the businesses remaining viable and attractive for customers. Their diligence and commitment is a fine example of the commitment of the corporate leadership, store management and their dedicated staff to the preservation and protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

DBaxter-NNRainBarrelWorkshopFor the past seven years, Newport News Resource Recovery and Newport News Waterworks have been partnering with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Newport News Master Gardeners to hold Rain Barrel Workshops for residents of Hampton Roads. These workshops empower participants to harness rain water with rain barrels for irrigation and to reduce stormwater runoff from their properties. Hundreds of these rain barrels have been made since the program’s inception saving thousands of gallons of polluted runoff from entering local waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. These

The Newport News Resource Recovery, Recovery Operations Center (ROC) , located at 330 Atkinson Way in Newport News, has been a focal point for stewardship and recovery efforts for the residents of Newport News for many years. Recent improvements to the facility include: an integrated household hazardous waste and electronics collection system, white goods recovery and extraction system, tire  recovery program, larger bulk recovery containers for metals and co-mingled recyclables and an improved yard debris collection and management program. Our increase in size and convenience for our solid waste user fee customers has been very effective in reducing landfill costs while improving recycling opportunities for our residents.

The Resource Recovery Center, Recovery Operations Center,  also houses one of the largest compost and mulch production facilities on the Peninsula. Compost is created on-site from leaves and other compostable yard waste and is certified by the US Compost Council and routinely tested by Virginia Tech and Penn State Universities. The compost is a very effective soil amendment, allowing soil to let in more air and water for healthier plants and increased absorption of stormwater runoff. Leaf mulch provides a cost effective soil erosion protection for areas under trees that preserves top soil and helps to reduce soil degradation. The mulch products that are created provide a cost effective beautification product that provides moisture retention and soil erosion protection. All of these products are available to any resident of Hampton Roads at competitive prices, For more information, click here or call 757-886 7947.

Blog post contributed by Daniel A. Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator, NIMS Public Works Blue Team Coordinator for City of Newport News Recovery Operations Center.

Posted in: Beautification, Don't litter!, Going Green, Keeping storm drains free, Lawn and landscape, Lawncare

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