Let me see all the green thumbs out there – raise them up high!
Sadly, my thumb is not in the air. I’m just green with envy at your planting abilities. I love gardens, I love being outside, I love playing in the dirt and yet I have this uncanny ability to bring about a slow, sad death to anything I attempt to plant. Probably because I end up forgetting to take care of it after about two weeks. But not this spring! This year I’m getting help – from native plants.
You may have already heard us say “plant more plants” but more specifically, we’re hoping you’ll plant more NATIVE plants. Native plants are those that live in the region in which they evolved. In other words, they’d grow here whether or not we plant them ourselves.
The reason we like native plants for our environment so much is because they can grow here naturally without needing all the extra water and fertilizer and pesticides that those foreign species need. The reason I personally like them so much is they require less attention from me. They’re much harder to kill and this is a major bonus for lazy gardeners like me.
So what are some native plants you can choose from? I’m sorry but that palm tree in your neighbor’s front yard that was wrapped with plastic all winter is not on the list. But there are plenty to choose from! The Cooperative Extension has a whole guide for our region available online. Don’t be intimidated by this huge list! A few of my favorite natives include: black-eyed susan, dwarf azalea, sweetbay magnolia and flowering dogwood. There are also lots of ferns, grasses and large trees on the list. Be sure to pay attention to the light and moisture requirements to be sure the plant will thrive in your yard.
Join me this year in my gardening laziness by planting easy-going native plants!
Homeowners across Hampton Roads are gathering their trowels, gloves and trimmers and heading into their yards to cleanup after the long harsh winter. The warming temperatures and longer days make spring the perfect season for perfecting your curb appeal. With a little advice from the experts at askHRgreen.org, you can have a great looking yard without all the back-breaking work or environmental impact. A low maintenance yard, is an eco-friendly yard! Follow these easy-to-do tips when planning your landscape and get the easy on the eyes, environmentally-friendly yard of your dreams.
Test your soil. Applying fertilizer to your lawn may not be necessary. Soil in the Hampton Roads region actually has naturally high levels of many nutrients including phosphorous. An inexpensive soil test can help determine if fertilizer is needed in your yard and if so, how much. Cutting back on fertilizer saves you money and improves local water quality. Details at www.askhrgreen.org/put-your-soil-to-the-test/
Seed bare spots. Bare spots in your grass are unsightly. But they are also bad for the environment. Soil testing may reveal a nutrient deficiency that can be addressed through soil amendments like compost or fertilizer. Or maybe you just don’t get enough sun for the grass you are growing. Consider other ground cover options or flowerbeds which may be more suitable for turf-grass-hating areas of your yard.
Plant more plants. Grass is better than bare dirt, but plants and trees are better than grass! Flowers and trees make your yard look great and soak up lots of rainwater, keeping pollution out of waterways. Bonus? Less grass means less mowing!
Choose native plants. Native plants are often drought tolerant, disease resistant and perfectly suited to thrive in our climate. Because of this, they require little to no fertilizer while still providing the landscaping look you seek. Just put them in the ground and watch them thrive. Now that’s low maintenance!
Leave grass clippings on the lawn. Don’t blow grass clippings into the road or down storm drains. Just leave them right on your grass, where they work like a FREE source of fertilizer. You also won’t have to struggle with bagging and dumping those grass clippings anymore.
Consider compost. Dead limbs, grass clippings, pulled weeds – oh my! Composting is the best way to dispose of unwanted plant scraps because the byproduct is an eco-friendly source of nutrients for your soil. It will also decrease your contributions to local landfills. Yard waste should never go in your curbside recycling container, but may be accepted for composting at a drop-off center in your community. Find out at www.askhrgreen.org/recycling-information-by-locality/
Mulch your beds. Mulch gives any flowerbed a uniform, finished look. But did you know that it’s also eco-friendly? Mulch helps retain moisture (meaning less watering) and also controls erosion, weeds and soil temperatures.
Water wisely. Grassy lawns only need about one inch of rain per week to thrive. Use a rain gauge to track rainfall and determine if watering is necessary. When watering, do so early in the morning and be sure to adjust sprinklers so they are watering plants, not pavement.
Put rain to work. The roof of your home puts off lots of rain, but you don’t have to let it go down the (storm) drain. Installing a rain barrel for less than $100 will allow you to store rainwater for all your outdoor watering needs, while reducing your property’s contribution to local water quality.
We want to know – how do you work smarter, not harder in your yard? Share your gardening tips with us now!
This Saturday, March 28th the world will go lights out for the 9th annual Earth Hour. Earth Hour challenges everyone across the world to shut off their lights for just one hour at 8:30 pm local time. This black out shows support for sustainable solutions to climate change and other environmental problems – whether of local, national or worldwide importance.
Just think, this simple act can connect you to a network of people in 7,000 cities across 154 countries around the world. Even some of the world’s greatest attractions go lights out for Earth Hour – over 3,300 to be exact. Some famous landmarks that have gone lights out for sustainability include the Las Vegas Strip, Times Square, the Sydney Opera House, Buckingham Palace, and the Eiffel Tower. Locally, many Virginia Beach attractions will also go dark this Saturday including the city seal at Mount Trashmore, the Virginia Aquarium, and Westin Tower to name a few.
While Earth Hour takes just one hour to complete, participation is meant to be a symbolic commitment, from both individuals and organizations, to go green and reduce their impact on the Earth. And when it comes to easy, eco-friendly advice – askHRgreen.org has you covered from your home, to your office and from your yard to your children’s school.
Join askHRgreen.org in dedicating just one hour of your Saturday night to this worthwhile blackout. Turn out the lights and have some fun – try a romantic candle lit dinner for two, s’mores with your neighbors, stargazing from your lawn or just kick back and read a book while you make your quiet commitment to a cleaner, greener world.
Earth Hour is an initiative of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), one of the world’s largest conservation organizations.
There have been several fish kills in the area recently. And they may be your fault.
It’s not fun to think that what you do on your own lawn may negatively affect the health and wellbeing of hundreds of animals in our region, not to mention the health of our local waterways. But it’s true for both waterfront homes and homes that are miles and miles away from the nearest waterway. The good news is – there’s an easy solution.
Fish kills usually happen because of a drop in dissolved oxygen in the water which we can often trace back to too much fertilizer. When we use too much fertilizer on our lawns or accidentally sprinkle some on driveways and sidewalks, that excess gets collected in the stormwater after it rains. The stormwater carries the fertilizer into storm drains and ditches and then directly to ponds, rivers, bays and the ocean. Just as you expect the fertilizer to make your grass grow, once that fertilizer makes its way to ponds and rivers, it makes algae grow. You may have seen a green, slimy layer on top of a pond before – that’s algae. This algae does several detrimental things to the water. It blocks out sunlight which kills off underwater plants, meaning less oxygen is being released into the water and also there are fewer food sources for fish. The algae also consume oxygen as they die and decompose.
So how can you make sure you’re not part of the problem?
Test Your Soil: Your yard may not need the fertilizer you’re using. Different yards require different amounts and different types of nutrients. Testing your soil first will tell you exactly what you need to bring your soil into perfect balance. Most localities will provide you with a soil test kit if you ask. Contact your Cooperative Extension or your locality’s Stormwater Division.
Follow Directions Carefully: Once you’ve discovered what your lawn needs, be sure to follow directions for fertilizer application rates. Again, the Cooperative Extension is a great resource for you (check out this page on their website).
Do Not Fertilize the Driveway: If you accidentally sprinkle fertilizer on the driveway or sidewalk, sweep it back into your lawn. Otherwise, it’s just the same as dumping that fertilizer directly into our waterways. Plus, it’s a waste of money!
Choose Natural Fertilizers Instead: This one is great for anyone who wants to save money and time. Instead of putting down chemical fertilizers, just mulch your grass clippings! When you mow, remove the bag collector from your mower and just let those clippings fly. Go over them with the mower a few times to get them very small. They will release water and nutrients as they break down to naturally fertilize your lawn. Just be sure you don’t leave those excess clippings on your driveway, sidewalk or piled loosely in the street or ditch because they will then contribute to those algae blooms we’ve been talking about.
We are all connected to our waterways. Be part of the pollution solution!
While supplies last, the Newport News Recovery Operations Center is offering their Nationally Certified Compost product at significant discount. The Compost Product offered is certified by the US Compost Council, Virginia Tech and Penn State Universities. The product is an excellent soil amendment that breaks up clay soil and is excellent for gardens and new plantings. Compost and Mulch products are available to the general public and businesses. Normally priced at $22.00 per yard (Tax Included), the sale price for compost is $12.00 per yard (Tax Included). There are also additional discounts on bulk compost purchases as listed below:
1 – 5 Cubic Yards
6 – 20 Cubic Yards
More than 20 cubic yards
Mulch is also available at $13.00 per Yard (Tax Included).
Products and pricing open to the public and businesses – there are no residency requirements.
The Newport News Recovery Operations Center, located at 530 Atkinson Way, is open from 8 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the facility at 757-886 7947
Blog submitted by Daniel A. Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator, NIMS Public Works Blue Team Coordinator, City of Newport News.