Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pix from our recent events

Director Christine Froehlich created a really beautiful and compelling display for RCGC in the main GardenScape exhibit hall – on short notice and a shoestring. We had streams of visitors picking up Garden Center info, and lots of new people contacting us about our programs.

Guy Coppola ready to greet the public.

Book signing with Tracy DiSabato-Aust
Tracy was such a gracious guest and lots of fun! The book signing was a success all round.

We had lots of great feedback on the Symposium. Tracy DiSabato-Aust and Bruce Zaretsky are both dynamic and articulate speakers, and we left en
ergized with new ideas for plants proven to be well worth using by one of America's best designers, and inspired with ideas for gardening in more environmentally concious ways.

Some of Guy Coppola's pictures

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things to Make Your Garden Greener

A month or two back I came down with a cold. While it is never fun to get sick, it sometimes offers us a chance to do things we wouldn't otherwise get a chance to do - like read. I read an article titled The Green Path by Stephanie Kaza (Shambhala Sun, January 2009). It is an article excerpted from her new book Mindfully Green. The book is about incorporating "green living" into all aspects of your life - it is not about just putting a blue recycle bin by the curb once a week. It is about letting a deep compassion and responsibility for the well-being of our planet color your every action and thought. It is a path to follow throughout your life. I must say that this book has garnered a place on my "must read" list.

As gardeners, we have at least one foot firmly on that "green path" but maybe there are more things that we could do to make our ever-abiding love and passion for gardening more green. Here are a few things for you to consider. Even adding just one item from the list can make a difference!

Make your garden greener by:

  1. Reduce, Re-use, & Recycle - These are the core tenants of eco-friendly behavior. Look for places to re-use plastic pots and containers. Cut strips of fabric from old clothes to use for ties. Buy products made from recycled items. Old watering cans, wooden boxes, and more can make creative planters. Look for a creative use for an item before putting it into the rubbish or recycle bin - you are only limited by your own imagination!

  2. Compost - Landfills do not need to be burdened with your kitchen waste or yard clippings. Start a compost bin. Your plants will love the black gold that comes from the compost bin! Here's a document to get you started.

  3. Skip the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers - These poisons are very earth unfriendly things and they have no place in your garden. If you do absolutely need such a product, look for products that could be used in organic gardening or for items that aren't broad spectrum in nature. Broad spectrum pesticides kill the beneficial insects as well as the problem ones.

  4. Grow your own food - There is a growing movement to "eat local." While much of this focuses on supporting local farmers, your own veggie garden is part of that too. If you don't have the space or desire for an entire vegetable garden, why not tuck a few edibles into your flower beds? Some vegetable plants are quite beautiful. There are peas and beans with colored blossoms, kales and chards for nice foliage, peppers for ornamental fruits, and even some variegated varieties (ex: fish pepper and variegated tomato). Check out this list from the 100 Mile Diet site to get some encouragement to grow your own veggies or at least visit the local farmers' markets.

  5. Try some native plants and/or some heirloom varieties - Native plants are well-suited to the climate and growing conditions. They will need little to no special care - no pesticides, fertilizers, excessive watering and more are needed for them. They also great restorers of natural habitat for butterflies and other wildlife. Heirloom varieties are old varieties of plants with terrific qualities, history, and genetic diversity. Give them a try and save some seeds for next year's planting too! Here's some reading on native plants and some reading on heirlooms.

  6. Harvest rainwater - Why not? Barrels by your downspouts provide you with free, soft water for your plants. While you are at it, household "graywater" can also be used in your gardens. See this page for more information on graywater. On the topic of water, be water-wise. Use water-wise plants, mulch to conserve water, water early in the day to minimize evaporation, and cut lawn-watering completely or to a minimum. Less watering will encourage the grass to send deeper roots.

  7. Less lawn - Less lawn reduces mowing and resource needs. Mow the grass longer to protect the roots. Leave more "wild" areas for habitat and beauty. Or plant trees and shrubs as they are the great carbon dioxide burners of the planet.

  8. Use eco-friendly garden furniture - Look for salvaged wood or sustainable wood. Skip teak unless salvaged or reclaimed. Choose woods like oak, sweet chestnut, western red cedar, larch, or douglas fir that can be used outdoors without treatment. Recycled materials are also a big plus.

  9. Go local for your garden needs - Less shipping and resources required. Shopping at your locally owned and operated garden centers and nurseries also helps to support your local economy and business people. These nurseries and garden centers are staffed by people who know and love plants. It is also my experience that they have much better quality plants than your MegaMarts.

  10. Skip the peat moss – Peat can be derived from different materials and what is usually available in the United States is from Canadian sphagnum moss. These mosses grow in specialized wetlands (bogs) or “peatland” and are home to many rare and specialized organisms. The peat moss is commercially harvested or “mined” from these bogs. The harvesting process involves digging a network of drainage ditches and settling basins so that the water drains away from the wetland and the bog begins to dry out and die. Once that happens, all surface vegetation is removed and the deposit is ready for drying and harvesting procedures. While some say that peat can be sustainable harvested, it largely is not - peat accumulation is only around one millimeter per year! There are very good alternatives such as Coconut Coir - it is free of bacteria and fungal spores. Here's some reading on peat from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. (Picture of a pitcher plant at the Zurich Bog - a very special place in our own backyard.)

Hopefully this gives you a few things to consider. And unlike Kermit the Frog, it is easy being green!