landscaping

Early Signs of Spring

By Lina Younes

Truth be told, this winter season has been relatively mild around the greater Washington, DC area and across the United States. So when the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow forecasting six more weeks of winter, my first thought was: “what winter?”

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather this past weekend, my husband, our youngest daughter and I decided to take a walk around Allen Pond, Maryland near our home. Although it was mid-February, it felt more like early April. In fact, during our walk, we were seeing early signs of spring all around us. There were robin red-breasts hopping on the grass. Several shrubs were showing some signs of budding. The leaves from bulbs were pushing up through the ground making way for an early appearance. The fresh scents and lively sounds of spring were already in the air.

We were also taking advantage of that lovely afternoon to get out and move. While the short winter days seem to give us the perfect excuse to enjoy more sedentary activities, the change in seasons should be an ideal opportunity to get out of our self-imposed hibernation. And what better way of fulfilling a resolution of becoming healthier in 2012 than taking a long nice walk with the family in the park on a beautiful day?

So, do you have any plans for the spring months? Looking forward to gardening? Planning any greenscaping techniques? Please share your thoughts with us. As always, we’re interested in keeping these greenversations going!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Gardening With Water Use In Mind

By Amber Lefstead

This year, for the first time in my life, I purchased a gardening spade and seeds for my garden. I love a beautiful garden, but the task of creating and maintaining one has always been daunting. But from the moment I began, I fell in love with it. There is something so satisfying about gardening—feeling the dirt crumble between your fingers as you loosen the earth, planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is. But, seeing your yard transform into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment makes it so rewarding. Before I started my garden, it was barren with a Magnolia tree stump in the middle. Now, it is full of flowers, ground covers, and mulch. The flowers feed the neighborhood bees, butterflies, and birds, while the ground covers and mulch blanket the soil, keeping it moist and cool.

After planting my garden, the real trick has been maintaining it. With this hot, dry summer in Washington D.C. , that has been no easy task. As temperatures rise during the peak water season, it’s a good time for everyone to consider their outdoor water use. Peak water season is usually late July and early August and is the time when residential water use is highest.

Water use was a big concern in creating my landscape. I work for the EPA WaterSense program and, among other things, I create educational materials for consumers on water-efficient landscaping, so I kept water in mind at every step:

  • I purchased low water use plants and seeds that would need minimal supplemental water
  • I amended sandy soil patches with compost to help hold moisture at the root zone
  • I loosened plants’ roots from their potting soil before planting to encourage deep root growth
  • I covered exposed soil with mulch to hold in moisture and minimize evaporation

I also make sure to water at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. And I water deeply and infrequently to encourage the plants’ roots to spread into the surrounding soil so they are resourceful and drought tolerant. In the next year or so after their roots establish, they should need minimal supplemental water beyond normal rainfall. I’ll let you know how that goes!

About the author: Amber Lefstead joined EPA in 2009 as the Outdoor Coordinator for the WaterSense program. Her recent low water use garden installation was inspired by her work at the Agency.

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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The City of Tucson Goes Gray

On September 23, 2008 I was touring the Upper Santa Cruz River with Amy McCoy of the Sonoran Institute as my watershed tour guide. The trip was awesome; I never knew that the southeast corner of Arizona was so beautiful.

Towards the end of our day trip Amy was anxious to get back to Tucson to attend an important City Council meeting, I didn’t know it until later that it was the vote on the Grey Water Ordinance that Amy was trying to make it to. The Sonoran Institute, using EPA Targeted Watershed Grant funds, helped to put together the ordinances for the City Council vote.

Because there’s so little surface water in the Tucson area, the city’s major water source has always been groundwater. The Grey Water Ordinance is aimed at reducing the use of scarce drinking water to irrigate desert landscapes. The city estimates that 45 percent of water use is for landscaping, and using rainwater and gray water would greatly reduce this.

image of green rain barrell under downspoutThe ordinance requires rainwater harvesting plans and capturing systems for any new commercial building built after June 1, 2010. The Ordinance requires that new homes built after that date be plumbed for gray water irrigation systems. This means having a drain for sinks, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines separate from drains for all other plumbing, to allow for future installation of a gray water system.

A key factor contributing to the success of this ordinance was the involvement from the entire community, from plumbers and landscapers to the Friends of the Santa Cruz River, they all added their support for the ordinances success. In addition to the community support, an EPA grant helped finance some of the work towards creating the ordinance language.

The City of Tucson was selected for a Pacific Southwest Regional Environmental Award and on the day of the awards ceremony, I had no idea who was coming to accept the award, but had heard that Councilman Rodney Glassman was coming. He was the driving force behind the ordinances, but I had no idea what he looked like. Well, Rodney is about 6’8”, and super energetic, really hard to miss. Once we connected it was great to sit and chat with him, he is very passionate about the ordinances, Tucson, and Arizona. Way to go Councilman Rodney Glassman and the City of Tucson!

About the author: Jared Vollmer works in the Watersheds Office at the EPA, Region 9 office. His work is primarily with the State of Arizona, Department of Environmental Quality, on reducing nonpoint source pollution in Arizona’s impaired watersheds. In addition, Jared works directly with the Sonoran Institute, a recipient of EPA’s Targeted Watershed Grant, located in Tucson in the Santa Cruz Watershed.

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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