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Bay Star Homes Fall Workshops

Posted on September 27, 2017 by | Comments Off

BSHFallWorkshop_logoHampton Roads residents have two chances in October to attend a free fall workshop presented by Bay Star Homes.

On October 16 and 17, Bay Star Homes will host workshops on fall tips for native tree selection and care and a variety of pollution prevention topics to help keep our region clean and beautiful.

Each attendee will receive a FREE TREE just for attending and two lucky attendees will each take home a FREE RAIN BARREL.

Registration is free and open to anyone but space is limited, so sign up today by clicking on the links below.

Bay Star Homes Fall Workshop in Newport News
Topics: Fall Gardening and Tree Care Basics: Planting, Pruning and Selection & Preventing Pollution: One Bay Star Home at a Time 
Monday, October 16
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Denbigh Community Center
15198 Warwick Blvd, Newport News
click here to register

Bay Star Homes Fall Workshop in Chesapeake
Topics: Fall Tips for Native Tree Selection and Care, Keeping Hampton Roads Beautiful & Stormwater Basics
Tuesday, October 17
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Hampton Roads Planning District Commission
723 Woodlake Drive, Chesapeake
click here to register

These free workshops are made possible by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund. You can support restoration activities in Virginia, such as this, by purchasing a Chesapeake Bay license plate.

Posted in: Beautification, Community events, Gardening, Going Green, Lawn and landscape, Outdoor tips

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My Messy (on Purpose) Garden

Posted on September 19, 2017 by | Comments Off

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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So What Do You Do With Pool Water?

Posted on July 28, 2017 by | Comments Off

Pool chemicalsPool ownership can be great.  You can swim anytime you want, and entertain the kids without leaving home.  All you have to do is step out into your yard to enjoy it.

Of course, all that beautiful water occasionally needs to be drained.  What do you do with the stuff?  Are you allowed to drain it into a stormwater system?

Pool water can be drained to the drainage system, but only when it is dechlorinated.  After all, you don’t want to kill our crabs, fish, and other aquatic life by releasing chlorine into the environment.  State law prohibits discharging chlorinated pool water.

Here is how to drain your pool responsibly and legally:

  • Dechlorinate pool water by letting it sit for several days without adding more chlorine. 
  • Your water’s pH level should be between 6.5 and 8.5 before draining.
  • If you are in a hurry to drain your pool, you can add sodium thiosulphate to break down the chlorine faster.  Please remember that it will still take time for the chlorine to break down…DO NOT discharge pool water immediately after adding this chemical.
  • Dechlorination times depend on the weather and the volume of water being discharged.  If you have a pool, you have a test kit.  Use it before discharging water.
  • When in doubt, let the water sit longer! 
  • Drain your pool water over grass.  This will help some of the water infiltrate into the soil.  

Pool filterNow let’s talk backwash, as in that water produced when you backwash your filters.  This water should not be drained into the storm drainage system.  Backwash water has a heavy concentration of chlorine and other pool chemicals.  It also contains sediment and small debris that had been lodged in the filter.  Run filter water through the grass to a landscaping area.  If need be, create an infiltration pit so backwash is absorbed into the ground. 

With a little bit of time and planning, you can maintain your pool in an environmentally, legal manner.  Enjoy your summer, and enjoy that pool!

Posted in: Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Algae: Let’s Get Rid of the Scum

Posted on July 12, 2017 by | Comments Off

pond_algaePond Scum. Green Slime. Mosquito-Breeding Muck. 

Nobody likes a pond covered with algae. Algae can be beneficial, but that all-encompassing, gooey mess is too much. That pond scum is a smothering blanket that blocks light and kills plants and fish. Why do some ponds turn into scum pits, while others have minimal algae growth? As a pond owner or someone living near a pond, what can you do to prevent it?

Algae grows in stagnantwaters. It loves direct sunlight and nutrients. You can discourage algae growth by adding oxygen to your pond and reducing exposure to the phosphates and nitrogen found in fertilizers. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Aerate! Bubbling aerators and fountains keep the water moving and add oxygen to ponds. Higher oxygen levels reduce algae growth.
  • Add plants! Plants add oxygen. They also use some of those nutrients that contribute to excessive algae growth. Pond plants can improve a pond’s aesthetics while keeping the water clear. Your best sources of information on plants are local nurseries and garden centers that specialize in ponds and wetlands plantings. Be aware that ponds located near tidal water may contain salt or brackish water. If that is the case, opt for salt-tolerant species.
  • Treat if you must, but use an environmentally friendly algaecide. Do not grab the stuff you would use in a swimming pool. Use only the amount recommended.

Now for the really important step: Reduce the fertilizer! If you use too much, you are fertilizing the algae. If you feed it, scum will grow. Use a nutrient management plan. That means that you should have your soil tested before using fertilizer. That way you can limit fertilizer use to what your soil needs. Extra fertilizer is not absorbed by your plants…it runs downstream. Also, avoid fertilizing near a drainage system and watch the weather! You don’t want to fertilize just before a rain storm.

Following these steps will keep your fertilizer and your landscaping dollars from washing away. In addition to the money-saving benefits, reducing algae makes ponds look better. It also helps the environment. 

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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