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Tips for Protecting Kids and Pets from Pesticides

Posted on June 16, 2015 by | Comments (2)

shutterstock_12425845_WEBI recently ran across a great resource from the Elizabeth River Project on managing weeds without the use of chemical weed killers. My interest was immediately piqued.  I have a young child who loves to play in our yard. This makes me want to never, ever, ever, (like EVER) put chemicals on our lawn and garden. Sure, I worry about the environment and how excess chemicals in stormwater runoff will impact local waterways and marine life. What good environmentalist wouldn’t worry about this? But, honestly, what really keeps me up at night is that children and pets are especially susceptible to the hazards of lawn chemicals because they are most likely to end up with these chemicals on their skin and inside their bodies. It’s not good.

So if you’re all about keeping lawn chemicals off your kids, pets and potentially your next seafood dinner, make sure to check out this fact sheet of natural weed prevention strategies.

Here’s some quick weed prevention tips from the list:

  • Aerate Your Soil. Aerating will give your grass a fighting chance by ensuring proper circulation of air, water and nutrients to the root system.
  • No Buzz Cuts. We recommend keeping grass at two or three inches tall to block sunlight from weeds and to promote a strong root system.
  • Water Wisely. Grassy lawns only need one inch of water per week so use a rain gauge to monitor rainfall and only water when needed.
  • Fix Your Soil. Weeds are often a result of poor soil conditions like acidity. Perform a soil test and, if needed, decrease soil acidity with lime to discourage weeds. (Fun fact: Are your hydrangeas blue? If so, you have acidic soil!)
  • Explore Natural Options for Flowerbeds. Something as simple as vinegar or citric acid may kill the weeds in your flowerbed.

Posted in: Lawn and landscape, Lawncare, Outdoor tips

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Make Hampton Roads the State Favorite – Vote For Nancy!

Posted on June 11, 2015 by | Comments Off

Nancy2

Nancy Degges presents a volunteer appreciation certificate at VBCCC’s annual Volunteer Recognition Event.

When we nominated Nancy Degges as Virginia Beach’s choice for the City’s Cox Conserves Hero, it was because of her dedication, passion and expertise as a volunteer. She was selected as the Cox Conserves Hero of Hampton Roads and is in the running for the State title. How can you help? It’s as easy as clicking here and pressing “vote” beside her name.

Voting is now open through June 19.

As the Hampton Roads’ finalist, Nancy is donating the $5,000 she received to the Virginia Beach Clean Community Commission’s 501(c)(3), VB Clean Community Volunteers, Inc. There are three regions in Virginia – Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and Roanoke. For two years in a row, Roanoke’s representative won for Virginia. If Nancy gets the most votes, she will be the 2015 State Cox Conserves Hero and receive an additional $10,000 to donate.

Nancy Degges with askHRgreen.org Recycling & Beautification Committee Chairman, Dan Baxter

Want to know a little more about Nancy? For the last ten years, she has served as a volunteer, Treasurer and Commissioner for the Virginia Beach Clean Community Commission (VBCCC) as a City Council appointee. She has earned a reputation for being a behind-the-scenes worker who gets the job done right, well and within budget. Nancy brought her professional talents as a Certified Public Accountant to the management of finances for the Commission. She is a quality individual and a pleasure with whom to work. She consistently shows dedicated, excellent service and has donated more than 2,000 hours to the VBCCC. Nancy goes the extra mile to preserve the earth and support others like coordinating the annual Clean the Bay Day Picnic sponsored by VBCCC. Nancy coordinates resources and food from local restaurants to provide a welcome respite from the three-hour local cleanup. For the annual Earth Day celebration in Virginia Beach, Nancy serves as Hospitality Chairman. Over several months, she arranged sponsorships and organized collaborative efforts with local businesses who provide support for the 200+ volunteers and 50 exhibitors. Nancy also led the intensive, quality effort to make “VB Clean” a 501(c)(3) organization that gives back to the community in countless ways.

Why should you vote for Nancy? Nancy is the kind of person the Hampton Roads community counts on to provide insightful information, enthusiastic volunteerism, and motivating leadership. Virginia is better for having Nancy as a volunteer who cares about a cleaner, more beautiful environment.

Guest blog submitted by Linda S. Minner, APR. Linda is the City of Virginia Beach Recycling Bureau Manager and VBCCC Public Works Liaison.

Posted in: Community events

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askHRgreen.org Launches Regional Program to Reduce Cigarette Litter

Posted on June 5, 2015 by | Comments Off

They can be seen almost everywhere in Hampton Roads: one of the most unsightly things on street corners and intersections, gutters, parks and beaches and outside doorways and bus shelters. What am I talking about? Cigarette butts!

CigButtLitter-PostHeader-470x182-v01This summer, the team at askHRgreen.org with support from Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and local volunteers will organize a region-wide campaign to reduce cigarette litter using a proven strategy making an impact all across the country. Funding for this program was made possible by a grant from the KAB Cigarette Litter Prevention Program and proceeds from 2014′s inaugural Keep Hampton Roads Beautiful Golf Tournament. In seven project areas across Hampton Roads, the positioning of cigarette waste receptacles combined with positive reminders, education and awareness building will help smokers do the right thing. The askHRgreen.org team will be talking directly with smokers, encouraging them to be mindful of their disposal habits and offering them a pocket ashtray or auto ashtray that fits right into the cup holder of their vehicle.

Portable AshtraysKAB has researched cigarette litter quite a bit and found that cigarette butts are the MOST littered item in our beautiful country. Cigarette butts account for over a third of all litter collected from roadways, recreation areas and storm drains.

And they stick around – cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable. Cigarette filters are made of a plastic material that lasts a long time. If they are on the ground, they will stay there or get carried through storm drains to local wetlands and waterways. Who wants to swim with cigarette butts? They can be especially harmful when eaten by animals, birds or fish.

If you don’t smoke, it is easy to point your finger at smokers. But this campaign is not about smoking. The members of askHRgreen.org and our partners want to help change the behavior of smokers after smoking – to encourage proper disposal. There is so much of this litter and the habit is very common. So what can be done about it?

We are asking everyone in Hampton Roads to share this message:

Cigarette Butts = Litter.  

If you smoke, please dispose of cigarette butts in their proper receptacles. Carry a portable ashtray when you are on-the-go or find an ash receptacle for disposal. And never throw butts out a car window. Tweet us at @HRGreen and let us know how you are supporting the #NoCigaretteLitterNow campaign. Let’s keep Hampton Roads clean!

Look for more updates from across the region as local leaders head up targeted projects in the following places:

  • Norfolk: Civic Plaza and Light Rail Station at City Hall
  • Hampton: Buckroe Beach
  • Virginia Beach: Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area
  • Portsmouth: N’Telos Pavillion
  • Newport News: Hilton Village
  • Downtown Suffolk
  • James City County: I-64 Park and Ride Lot

 For more information about how you can help, visit http://askhrgreen.org/cigarette-litter

Posted in: Beautification, Cigarette Litter, Cigarette Litter, Community events, Don't litter!, Golf Tournament, HR Green campaign updates, Keeping storm drains free, Outdoor tips, Waterways

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Save the Monarchs!

Posted on June 3, 2015 by | Comments Off

No, not the Old Dominion University sports teams. We’re talking about the monarch butterfly, a pollinator that is in trouble and needs our help.

The monarch is native to North America and has a remarkable life cycle. Like most butterflies, the monarch has several short-lived generations during its breeding season in the U.S. and Canada. What is unique about the monarch is that the final generation of late summer begins a long distance migration of up to 3,000 miles to a single region in central Mexico. There, the monarchs overwinter on a specific type of fir tree in large colonies. How the butterflies find this area of Mexico where they have never been is a mystery. The following spring, these monarchs begin their trip back north, laying eggs along the way. To make such long trips down and back, the butterflies need nourishment from the nectar of a wide variety of flowers.

monarchMonarchs are also unique because they lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. Monarch caterpillars have evolved to eat the milkweed to get that plant’s toxic compounds, which help keep other insects and birds from eating them.

Monarchs are in trouble, primarily due to the loss of milkweed and nectar plants in the U.S. and Canada and threats to their forested wintering habitat in Mexico. As recently as 1996, there were some 1 billion monarchs, but their numbers have declined by about 90 percent.  The decline is so drastic that Mexico, the U.S. and Canada established a working group to save the monarch.

Believe it or not, our area is on the migration route for eastern monarchs heading to Mexico in the late summer and fall. And of course, we are used to seeing the bright orange and black butterflies throughout the summer. So we really can do things that will help not only monarchs, but other pollinators as well. Here’s how you can help these amazing North American butterflies!

  • Plant Milkweeds – There are over 100 species of milkweed (Asclepias) in North America. Several species are native to Virginia, including orange butterfly weed and common milkweed, often seen along roadsides. If you plant tropical milkweed (which is not native here), cut it back in October to encourage the monarchs to keep flying south as the temperatures drop. Be aware that milkweeds take up a lot of room in the garden and the native species spread by underground roots.
  • Cultivate Nectar Plants – These are some plants that adult monarchs like: azaleas, purple coneflower, black-eyed susan, coreopsis, verbenas, lantanas, cosmos, marigolds, impatiens, zinnias, and pentas.
  • Avoid Pesticides – Pesticides kill all insects, good and bad.  In particular, don’t use systemic pesticides which get taken up by plants’ leaves and flowers and delivers poison to any insect (including bees) that feeds on the leaves, nectar, or pollen. It’s also long-lasting meaning the danger extends long after the pesticide has been applied.
  • Learn More – A good source of information about monarchs and their threats is the website Monarch Joint Venture. There you will find information on growing milkweed native to our area and where to get seeds and plants. The Norfolk Botanical Garden and the Butterfly Society of Virginia will host a Butterfly Festival on July 11, with demonstrations, fun activities for the kids, and experts to teach how to attract butterflies to your yard.

Blog post contributed by Karen Mayne. Karen is a biologist retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who resides in Norfolk and enjoys writing about environmental issues.

Posted in: Beautification, Gardening, Outdoor tips

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Greener Grass, Greener Rivers

Posted on May 28, 2015 by | Comments Off

Algae Wet PondEvery spring, all homeowners in my neighborhood receive a notice that they must weed, feed and overseed their lawns. This letter is cringe-worthy. Why, you ask? Well, excess lawn chemicals are one of the top polluters to our local waterways. When too much or needless chemicals are applied to lawns and landscapes, spring rain showers carry them into our neighborhood stormwater ponds or local waterways. In my neighborhood, the association notice to weed, feed and overseed is typically followed by the stormwater ponds in our neighborhood turning green, cloudy and covered in slime (aka algae). The same thing is happening to our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, albeit on a larger scale, as homeowners across the east coast try to green up their lawns in early spring.

No fertilizer was used in the greening of this yard!

No fertilizer was used in the greening of this yard!

So what’s the best course of action if and when you get the “You Must Fertilize” notice in your mailbox?

  •  Know Your Grass. If your grass is in full sun and turns brown at the first signs of frost, you likely have warm season grasses that like fertilizer applications early in the spring. However, if your grass grows well most of the year except in the extreme heat of summer, you probably have cool season grass which likes fertilizer in the fall. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Hampton Roads is better suited for warm-season grasses but the predominant lawn grass continues to be the cool-season tall fescue.
  • Test Your Soil. Follow these simple steps to collect a soil sample from your lawn and then have it tested.  This simple, low or no cost testing will tell you whether or not you need to fertilize to have healthy grass. Soil here in Hampton Roads tends to be naturally fertile making the process of fertilizing a costly mistake – both on our budgets and our local water quality. If extra nutrients are recommended, your report will also help you learn how much chemical is safe to put down. Contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office for more information.
  • Consider natural alternatives. Fertilizing doesn’t have to be your standard off-the-shelf bag of chemicals. Learn more about incorporating compost, mulched yard debris or other natural sources of fertilizer.  
  • Practice patience. Mother Nature will work her magic but you must be patient. Let the temperatures warm up, let the April showers drench your lawn and by mid-May you’ll be surprised how much progress your lawn has made naturally. Grass roots need a little time to grow before they can fuel green blades of grass. And stronger, deeper roots mean a more resilient (and less thirsty) lawn during the dry spells of summer.  So don’t even consider fertilizer until April (for warm season grasses) or September (for cold season grasses).

Stop-and-think-before-fertilizing-this-spring Keep reading for more good-to-do tips for an eco-friendly (and attractive) lawn this summer!

 Not a do-it-yourselfer? Ask these questions to your lawn care provider to make sure your grass is as “green” as you think!

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

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