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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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Winter Storm Checklist

Posted on January 4, 2017 by | Comments Off

IMG_20140129_110644494Each winter we must battle Old Man winter to protect ourselves, our property and the environment! Cold temperatures bring the possibility of frozen water pipes, slippery sidewalks and lots of hazardous. This handy winter storm checklist will help you prepare for winter while being easy on the environment.

  • Prevent your pipes from freezing and causing costly damage to your home by:
    • Keeping doors and windows near your water pipes closed during cold weather.
    • Sealing air leaks and cracks in the crawl space or basement.
    • Closing crawl space air vents or covering them from the inside.
    • Checking to ensure pipes are insulated in unheated parts of the house. Wet insulation is worse than no insulation, so be sure to replace any you find.
    • Disconnecting garden hoses and storing them in a garage or shed.
    • When temps drop to the teens or lower, you may choose to drip your faucets to prevent pipes from freezing. Pick a single faucet at the highest level in your house and make sure droplets are about the size of the lead in a pencil. You’ll only waste money (and water) if you leave the faucet wide open.
  • Apply deicer before snow falls to prevent ice from forming on sidewalks, driveways and walkways. Look for deicers with magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate because they are less likely to harm your pets, sidewalks, grass and plants. Never use lawn fertilizers as a substitute for deicers.
  • Stay off roads during winter storms. Most traffic crashes happen within the first two hours after a storm starts. Get road conditions by calling 511 or visiting www.511Virginia.org.
  • Get supplies before the storm. Have enough non-perishable foods, water, and batteries on hand for at least three days in case you become snowed in. Don’t forget other necessities as well – like baby supplies, medications, pet food, and toilet paper!
  • Never plug space heaters into extension cords. Always plug them directly into a wall outlet. Keep space heaters at least three feet from other objects, and turn off before going to bed.
  • Stay informed during power outages with a battery-powered and/or hand-crank radio. Get one with the NOAA Weather Radio band so you can hear winter weather reports directly from the National Weather Service as well as news reports from local radio stations. 
  • Don’t use candles during power outages. Many home fires in winter are caused by candles. Flashlights are much safer. 
  • Have a family emergency plan. If your family cannot return home because of severe weather or closed roads, you need to decide now on alternate locations for riding out the storm.

For more winter preparedness tips before, during, and after extreme cold, check out ReadyHamptonRoads.org.

Posted in: Household tips, Outdoor tips

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Don’t Let Your Neighborhood Go to the Dogs!

Posted on November 4, 2016 by | Comments Off

askHRgreen-PetWasteStation-HomepageSlideDon’t let your neighborhood go to the dogs! askHRgreen.org offers free pet waste stations through a regional grant program. If your Hampton Roads neighborhood/HOA/community association is ready to make scooping the poop a priority, then you’re invited to apply. Pet waste stations encourage residents to pick up after their pets by making it easy and convenient to do so. They are also one small thing a community can do to help keep our local waterways clean.

Scooping the poop is not only important for a clean neighborhood, it’s important for our local waterways. When pet waste is not picked up, it becomes a major source of pollution in our water. Rainwater carries nitrogen and bacteria from pet waste into our storm drains and directly into our rivers, lakes, and streams. This excess nitrogen and bacteria transform the water into a cloudy, green, foul-smelling mess that lacks oxygen and becomes an aquatic dead zone. The same pollution is responsible for beach closures, fishing restrictions and warnings on eating local seafood. Installing a pet waste station is one easy way to combat water pollution in your community.

The grant program is open to any neighborhood, community group, or property management company with the ability to install and maintain the pet waste station. To apply online for a free pet waste station, click here. Supplies are limited, so apply today!

The askHRgreen.org pet waste station grant program is made possible, in part, by funds generated from the sale of Chesapeake Bay license plates. Learn more at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions/cbr.htm

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Pets, Waterways

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Preparing for Hurricane Matthew

Posted on October 4, 2016 by | Comments Off

floodingWell, it’s looking like we might not miss out on the 2016 Hurricane season. Hurricane Matthew has ripped through Haiti and now has its sights set on the eastern coast of the U.S. Add to that the fact that we’ve already experienced huge amounts of rainfall recently and it could shape up to be a rough weekend. If Hurricane Matthew decides to make landfall in eastern North Carolina, Hampton Roads is likely to experience strong winds, high storm surges and huge rainfall totals in a short window of time.

Your city or county Public Works Department has already started working to clear ditches and clean storm drains so that rain won’t back up into streets and cause flooding. But for those in low-lying tidal areas or in the event of flash floods, no amount of storm prep will stop the water from rising. It’s still important to take the proper steps to secure your possessions so they don’t become litter and storm debris further clogging our already overburdened storm drain systems.

Please do your part and take action now to secure your home and help prevent street flooding in your neighborhood. Flood waters and storm damage know no property lines – help your neighbors prepare as well.

  • Check Your Emergency Supplies – Make sure you have the following items on hand in the event of prolonged outages of utility services: batteries, bottled water, flashlights/lanterns, easy to prepare meals, ice, activities for the kids, food for the “furry” kids and any medical care items you or your family may require. A battery operated radio is also essential for latest emergency information and updates during the storm. And gas for your generator if you happen to be so lucky!
  • Clear Gutters and Ditches – Clear away vegetation, litter, tree branches and yard debris from any ditch, channel, storm drain, etc. on your property. This will help the flood waters flow freely into the stormwater system.
  • Secure Loose Items – Look around your yard for any item that may fly or float away and move it to a secure location. Loose items that float off into flood waters will worsen flooding by clogging drainage systems and flooding your street or yard. In the event that we receive high winds from Hurricane Matthew, loose items may also be dangerous projectiles that can endanger people and property.
  • Trim Your Trees – Cut back trees and remove any weak or dead branches that could pose a threat to your (or your neighbor’s) home.
  • Shelter Your Waste/Recycling Containers – Secure your trash/recycling containers indoors (i.e. garage, shed, etc.) to prevent trash from entering the stormwater system. If you are unable to secure the containers inside, attempt to weight the bottom of the receptacle and secure the top with a bungee or duct tape.
  • Prepare for Rising Flood Waters – If you live in a low-lying area, it’s not too early to think about moving important belongings off the ground in flood-prone areas of your home or garage. In addition to your personal belongs, move hazardous household chemicals off the ground to prevent them from spilling into flood waters. Examples include motor oil, gasoline and lawn chemicals typically stored in your garage or shed.
  • Tune Into Local Emergency Communications – Your city or county will be providing a lot of information regarding city services during the storm. For important updates and news regarding closures, suspension of municipal services, shelter locations or evacuation requirements, please check in with your locality often. To find emergency information where you live, visit Ready Hampton Roads.

You may also consider mentioning these tasks to your neighbors or better yet, pitch in and help them prepare their homes and yards. Debris knows no property lines. Stay safe Hampton Roads!

Posted in: Outdoor tips, 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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