greenscaping

Making Your Yard Wildlife-Friendly

By Lina Younes

While enjoying the fall foliage on a recent walk with my dogs, I noticed that the birds seemed to be chirping more than usual. Perhaps they were saying goodbye to their friends, who were starting their trek to warmer settings.

Since not all birds are migratory in nature, how can we help those species that remain in northern areas, even during the winter? Personally, I’ve always debated whether it’s better to allow them to find their own food or have bird feeders. I’m concerned that, by providing bird feeders, we might be making birds more dependent on humans and interfere with their feeding habits. Either way, greenscaping is a great way to create a natural environment that’s friendly to many animals, including birds, butterflies, and bees.

Here are some tips to help you create this welcoming environment in your own backyard.

  • Plant native trees, bushes and plants, especially ones with berries, fruits and flowers.
    When planting your garden, plan in advance.
  • Plant shrubs and trees that will blossom at different times throughout the year so our feathered friends and wildlife will always have food available.
  • Check with your local cooperative extension office or environmental authorities to identify plants that will attract birds and wildlife in your area.
  • Consider composting at home to enrich your soil without using chemicals that may be harmful to birds and wildlife.

Have you seen any interesting birds in your area this fall? Have you taken steps to greenscape your yard? As always, we love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greenscaping for a Beautiful Lawn and Garden

By John Butler

If you are like me, you want a beautiful lawn and garden that are inexpensive and easy to maintain. Greenscaping allows you to do just that while reducing harmful effects on the environment. Greenscaping uses simple measures that help you practice responsible lawn and garden care.

First, get to know your lawn and garden. Different grasses and other plants grow well in different environments. Research native plants that will flourish where you live. Your local nursery or County Extension Service likely can help.

Don’t water your lawn or garden in the evening. Dampness overnight can encourage disease. Whenever possible, water in the early morning before 10 a.m. This will help prevent the grass and plants from drying out during the day.

Long, deep watering is better than short, frequent watering because it encourages strong, deep roots. An easy test is to walk on your lawn. If you see footprints, it needs watering. One inch of water per week is sufficient. And remember, during drought conditions, letting the lawn go dormant is okay – it will recover.

Weeds in the lawn raise your dander? Here is a quick trick: simply raise your mower height. Three inches is ideal and leads to stronger roots and a more lush lawn. As a true greenscaper, I leave the grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. This can save water and money, and reduce the need for fertilizers and weed killers.

As for pesticides, don’t assume that you need them just because you see a bug. Some bugs are not harmful. Here again, your local nursery or County Extension Service can likely provide guidance. Always consider natural products for pest problems before choosing a chemical solution. If you do need to use pesticides, absolutely make sure you read the label and apply accordingly.

Incorporating these simple practices into your lawn and garden care can make a big difference for the environment and can save you money.

To get the rest of the dirt on Greenscaping go to: http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/tools/greenscapes. You can also listen to our podcast at: http://www.epa.gov/region03/multimedia/playercontents/audio/Greenscaping2.html. And, to learn more about integrated pest management go to: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/ipm.htm.

About the author: John Butler is the Regional Pesticide Expert for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Green Rest Area

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By Lina Younes

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español… ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

This past weekend I was walking around Allen Pond Park in the City of Bowie enjoying the beautiful autumnal day. During my walk, I was admiring the migratory birds that had stopped along their yearly trek to warmer surroundings. There were many in the pond, flying, bathing, eating and the like. Luckily, around the Bowie area we have plenty of trees, waterways, and settings that are welcoming to birds and nature’s creatures.

While a visit to a park is a great way to connect with nature in an urban area, you can actually create an environment in your own garden that can be equally inviting to birds and pollinators all year round.  You can achieve this objective through greenscaping techniques that integrate pest management practices and planting native shrubs and trees that will be inviting for birds and wildlife through the seasons.

Certain evergreen shrubs and trees will produce small fruits during the fall at a time when migratory birds in the Northern Hemisphere are starting their journey south. While other flowering plants and trees will produce needed food for birds, pollinators and other wildlife during the spring and summer months.

By planting a variety of native annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, you will have plants that will provide food and shelter to birds and wildlife for their basic needs. I’m including a GreenScapes Seasonal Planner that may help you to incorporate greenscaping practices into your lawn and garden care. Basically, let nature do the work!

Have you seen any interesting birds in your area lately? As always, we love to hear from you. Feel free to share ideas. To share photos using Flickr you could participate in our photographic State of the Environment project.  We would love to see them.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Early Blooms and Bugs

By Lina Younes

Due to the mild spring, many bulbs and flowering plants have been blooming early.

In our area, forsythia and bulbs were the first to make their appearance. Azalea bushes that normally bloom around Mother’s Day already peaked several weeks ago. Even rose bushes have some breathtaking flowers earlier than usual. As I was taking a walk, I couldn’t resist capturing the moment through some pictures which I’m sharing with you.

Unseasonably mild temperatures have also ushered the early arrival of other living creatures to our neighborhoods: bugs. While we welcome beneficial insects, especially pollinators such as butterflies and bees, we will not be putting out the welcoming mat for pests such as ants, termites, ticks and mosquitoes. Special measures will be needed to control biting insects that can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Our web pages indicate which insect repellents are most effective in controlling specific biting insects. When using insect repellents or any pesticide products, always remember to read the label first.

So, as you’re getting your garden ready for the planting season, adopt greenscaping practices to attract beneficial insects. By planting the right native trees, plants and shrubs you’ll create an inviting environment for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Any gardening projects in the making? Please share your ideas with us.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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When Should I Plant My Bulbs?

By Lina Younes

In the Washington, DC metropolitan area, we’ve been fortunate to have a mild fall this year.  In fact, for the last two weekends, temperatures have been unseasonably warm.

The reason I mention this is because I wanted to start planting bulbs this past weekend. I was looking at bulbs that will bloom in the spring such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. Traditionally, gardening experts recommend that the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs in our area is around Thanksgiving.  This year, I might have to wait until later in December for planting. Why may you ask? Well, it is recommended that nighttime temperatures should remain consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks before bulb planting can begin. If you plant bulbs too early, you run the risk of having the bulbs rot or even to start growing prematurely if you get a warm spell in winter.

So, what is an amateur gardener to do? Well, for starters, you can check with your local agricultural cooperative extension offices. There you will find gardening experts who may answer questions on the phone providing excellent information related to the right plants for your area and other useful tips.

In the meantime, there are many steps that you can take to greenscape your garden. These techniques will help you grow a healthier yard, save time and money, and ultimately protect the environment. There are useful tips on how to apply greenscaping techniques for all seasons.  With the proper planning and care during the fall, you may be rewarded with beautiful blooming plants in the spring.

So, have you had a chance to plant any bulbs already? What are your gardening plans?  We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Hoping for an Early Spring

By Lina Younes

When news reports across the United States announced that Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, did not see his shadow, I couldn’t have felt happier. Given the inclement weather we’ve had this winter, the mere thought that this ground hog was heralding an early spring, was music to my ears. Even though the ground hog’s predictions are not scientific, I’m sure there are many people across the country that want to cling to that positive thought even if for a brief moment.

In light of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions, I ventured to my back yard to see what I needed to do in preparation for spring. My garden’s situation is pretty dismal. A magnolia tree nearly broke in half due to heavy snow and ice. Several bushes will also require major pruning. However, before bringing out the shears or even thinking of adding any chemicals to the soil, I decided to do some research on greenscaping on our website and found an interesting seasonal planning calendar that gives some good pointers. I wanted to share it with you.

Springtime is one my favorite seasons. In the Washington, DC area we are fortunate to enjoy a wide variety of flowering trees and shrubs that usually make an early appearance once the temperatures start getting warmer. The beautiful cherry blossoms motivate tourists and residents alike to visit our parks and monuments during springtime. I think of it as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors after months of virtual hibernation.

Even though we’ve had unseasonably cold temperatures in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, when you put things in perspective, things around here haven’t been that bad in comparison the weather in neighboring states. So whether you have a green thumb or simply want to enjoy the outdoors, it doesn’t hurt to hope that the ground hog’s predictions will be right this time.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greenscaping For All Seasons

By Lina Younes

The leaves in the Washington, DC area will soon reach the full range of the fall spectrum. Since we have been having unseasonably warm weather, we still can see many flowering bushes in bloom in gardens and parks in the area surrounded by the multicolor autumn foliage. In fact, I’m actually looking forward for the temperatures to become steadily cooler so that I can plant bulbs that will blossom in the springtime. I guess I’ll have to be more patient.

As we’re talking about the changes in seasons, we should start to think about taking special steps to protect our gardens. With careful planning this autumn, we will be rewarded with colorful flowers and green lawns next year. We can achieve this goal without resorting to chemicals. We can go green in our yards through greenscaping!

How to greenscape?  Well it boils down to some basic resource conservation issues: reduce, reuse, and recycle. The green 3 R’s. By implementing these principles you can save millions of gallons of water, pesticides, while protecting the environment. First, reduce the production of waste in your gardens. Select native plants and perennials. Secondly, reuse products prolongs the useful life of these materials and delays their final disposal. Thirdly, recycle lawn trimmings and yard debris in a compost pile to be able to feed your lawn with minimal use of chemicals. Some work now will go a long way for a healthier environment.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Any tips? Planning anything special for your garden this year? We love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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April is Gardening Month

After the winter storms, it’s truly a wonder to see how Mother Nature comes to life during springtime. As the hours of sunlight get longer and temperatures get warmer, you see the first signs of spring in sprouting bulbs such as daffodils and early bloomers like forsythia bushes. Hints of color interrupt the gray outdoors practically overnight. Chirping birds and singing frogs also contribute to the awakening of the new season.

I confess that my backyard is a sorry sight nowadays. The trees survived the wintry onslaught, but the bushes and perennials did not fare as well. The garden will need some major care that will span several weeks maybe even months. Even though I do not have a green thumb, the time invested in gardening definitely will be rewarding on the personal and environmental level.

Since April is gardening month, it’s a nice time to roll up your sleeves and have fun planting in your back yard. Here are some green tips to take care of your garden with minimal use of chemicals. Selecting native plants is also a way to reduce the need for chemicals to control pests and use water efficiently. You might have to go to the Web to identify nurseries in your area that sell native plants or visit USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for state/territory specific information. Simple actions can go a long way to protect the environment.

Another “tradition” that I have tried to adopt at home has been to plant a tree on Earth Day. Our Earth Day trees have survived in spite of the winter storms this year. If you don’t have a back yard to plant a tree, maybe you can buy a good house plant for your apartment. Every environment counts—whether indoors or the great outdoors.

Are you planning anything special to revamp your garden this month?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greenscaping Techniques Are For The Birds, Too!

As the migratory birds of North America start their yearly trek to warmer areas, birdwatchers may feast their eyes on new visitors passing through backyards and parks. While this yearly event may be often ignored by the average citizen, our daily actions have a definite impact on bird populations no matter where you live. Certain bird species are threatened by human activities, reduced habitats, pollution, and climate change, among other factors. Simple steps we take at home and in our community can protect the environment and go a long way to protect our avian visitors during their migration.

At home, my mother and I have always debated which is better for the birds: providing bird feeders with abundant birdseeds year-round or planting native plants in the backyard. I thought that by providing birdfeeders along migratory routes you were making birds stay longer in northern areas instead of migrating on time. Research on the subject indicated that seasonal changes rather than abundance of seeds were the determining factor for bird migration. There isn’t one easy answer to the birdfeeder debate. Definitely, if you decide to set up birdfeeders in your backyard, maintenance and placement of the feeder play a role in the protection of the birds. Furthermore, you should clean the feeders regularly to prevent mold from developing and harming the birds. Personally, I prefer greenscaping techniques like integrated pest management and planting native shrubs and trees that naturally invite birds and other wildlife to your backyard.

There is no doubt that pollution prevention and bird conservation initiatives [http://www.epa.gov/owow/birds/bird.html] overall will both have a positive impact on our feathered friends and our Planet Earth. So, how about pledging to take five simple steps in environmental protection? You can start today! [http://www.epa.gov/pick5/]

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Don’t Hate The Rain!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

If you live along the Eastern seaboard, you probably were overwhelmed by the incessant rain we had experienced for the two previous weeks. I guess many people suffered from cabin fever due to the dreary weather. Nonetheless, there are some benefits from the rain that we are now enjoying. What benefits, you may ask? Well, prior to these storms, there were areas in Maryland and other Eastern states that had deficits in precipitation for 2009. Groundwater levels had been approaching potential drought levels which seem to have been erased with the recent rains. Furthermore, just prior to these storms tones of brown and chartreuse dominated the landscape of lawns and gardens due to the various pollens in the air. Now, everywhere you look, the gardens have been painted with lush greens and bright spring blooms. Another added bonus, at least during the rain, the pollen is at its minimum—a temporary reprieve for allergy sufferers.

In spite of the benefits of spring showers, we should also be mindful to reduce runoff and non-point source pollution after the rain. Here are some tips:

·    Consider greenscaping to protect the environment.

·    Consider planting native shrubs and trees in your back yard to reduce erosion.

·    Wait for the storm to pass before fertilizing.

And lastly, one final benefit after the storm? We can always look forward to the sunshine. Have a great day!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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