What your drought-tolerant landscape could look like

Drought-tolerant landscapes are an idea whose time has come. Many homeowners in Austin get this. Here’s a look at several non-lawn lawns that may inspire you. While they almost all require getting rid of that pesky turf, they’re easy to maintain later on. Most importantly, they’re not overly thirsty.

Save nature and free time — install a Pocket Prairie

Are you weary of mowing, weeding and fertilizing that yawning stretch of lawn? Consider installing a patch of native prairie. A Pocket Prairie can reduce your thirsty conventional turf, replacing it with native grasses and flowers. You’ll be feeding butterflies and birds, and cut down your grass mowing obligations, perhaps to zero.

Worried about toxic ingredients in cleaners? See our new improved list of the greenest products

When the Environmental Working Group released their scorecard on green cleaners last month, I sprang from my chair to check the label on the case of Ecover Limescale Remover that UPS had just delivered.

I don’t usually buy by the case, but this was the only way I could get this cleaner, which I adore because it transforms my shower door from an icky, opaque bacteria-generator into a sheet of glistening glass, without using toxic ingredients. Or so I believed.
Fortunately, my limescale remover skated by with a solid “B” on the EWG 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Whew!

But some of the other products I’m using did not make the grade, despite being sold as “green” or “natural” products.

That’s right. Amazingly, many green cleaners contain endocrine disrupters, suspected carcinogens, toxic ingredients with unknown effects and needlessly harsh ingredients, like sodium laurel sulfate, according to the EWG review of more than 2,000 cleaners .

DIY drip line irrigation – an efficient way to water your home vegetable or herb garden

Drip line irrigation is a great idea for gardeners who want to save water and grow plants successfully.

By soaking the ground with water, the drip line approach mimics the effect of a gentle soaking rain, instead of battering leaves with a harsh jet of water like so many sprinkler systems do. More importantly, by slowly delivering the water to the soil and plants and not spraying it overhead the air, a drip line system can better target, and thereby reduce, the water needed for landscape or edible plants.

5 reasons to quit using weed-and-feed chemicals

Ah, spring. You can smell it on the air — that bracing ammonia smell wafting off your neighbor’s lawn; the acrid odors at the local home store, where the first six aisles have been packed with heaping bags of the season’s poisons.
Hydramethylnon, glyphosate, dicambra, atrazine and 2,4-D.
There’s a little something to wipe out every potential lawn and garden interloper, but the most popular consumer weapons in the annual war on nature are the “weed and feeds.” These fertilizers-herbicide combos were conceived of more than 50 years ago in the US to enrich turf grass, while simultaneously stamping out invading weeds.

NRDC attempts to head off ‘weed and feed’ pollution

Just in time for weed-and-feed season, the Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to stop the use of the weed killed known as 2,4-D.
This neurotoxic chemical, infamous as a key ingredient in Agent Orange, is still allowed in products used to treat lawns, golf courses and in commercial operations.

Thinking about food at the holidays: Why not grow some of your own?

This week, as you express your thanks for the good food on your table, you may want to also discuss how you can assure the future of healthy food.

Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardener’s International and the idea man behind the White House garden, extols the benefits of converting your lawn into a garden in this TedxDirigo talk. You will save money, help secure safer, healthy food for your family and put land into agricultural use on a planet that’s growing short of soil and water, Doiron explains.

Please feed the butterflies

We feed birds in the winter. But Americans have not been as aggressive about feeding butterflies in the summer.
The best way, of course, is to supply many varied and native flowers for your area. Plant those with a variety of colors and shapes — bright red and purple flowers rich in nectar in trumpet and cone shapes with sturdy “landing pads” — and you will see butterflies gravitating to your yard from spring through summer. Love the look of nature? Get really saavy and plant the vines and vegetation that caterpillars need also.

ADHD triggered by pesticides?

A study published in Pediatrics today points to pesticides as a trigger for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The study’s team of academic researchers sampled the urine of more than 1,100 kids, finding that those with the highest pesticide residues in their urine from organophosphate pesticides were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Of the sample, 119 of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD.

The team concluded that: “These findings support the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence.”

Xeriscaping: The path to water independence


(Photo: Green Right Now)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about energy independence. Important, no doubt. But we need to think about preserving water too, and nothing works harder toward this goal – or offers as much creative satisfaction – as Xeriscaping. In this endeavor, one could say that being green means dialing down the green in your lawn, giving up some of that solid sheet of thirsty turf and committing more area to a low-water garden that features rocks, flowering plants, shrubs and low-growing trees. That is Xeriscaping, getting away from landscaping that drinks up too much precious water.

Start your spring garden by planting seedlings indoors

By Julie Bonnin
Green Right Now

Looking for a mid-winter activity that costs little and reaps big benefits for families who are trying to grow more of their own organic food (or flowers)?

Consider starting seeds indoors to plant outside when the weather warms up in your region of the country. Even for experienced gardeners, the sight of little green sprouts emerging from seeds when little else is growing is always a thrill. Not so thrilling is the disappointment that comes if your perky little seedlings start to droop.

Though seed-starting isn’t difficult, it’s not foolproof. There are lots of different ways to do it, and you can buy accessories like covered trays and plug-in warming pads to help the process along. But why not keep things simple, and make this an off-the-grid, green activity that takes advantage of recycled items?

It’s autumn, leave those leaves!

By Kelly Rondeau

The smell of autumn permeates the air. The cool, crisp weather signals fall’s annual crimson-colored foliage. For many an avid lawn keeper, the harvest season often means returning to the never-ending chore of raking and bagging leaves, then setting them at curbside for the weekly garbage haul-off. But stop right there.

Leaves are packed full of nutrients! Under normal growing conditions — with varied values, based on the source and condition of each tree — leaves are jam-packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, chloride, boron, iron, sodium, copper, and zinc. To simply rake and bag them up, only to be hauled off to the garbage landfill is a total waste of nature’s vast supply of rich nutrients, perfect for replenishing the soil.

So how do you go green in the fall? Start the process by not throwing away your leaves. There are alternatives. Mowing leaves, then mulching, and composting are the most effective way to reuse and recycle leaf mixtures. In addition, leaves can be used for overall soil improvement, directly working them into garden and flowerbed soils by tilling them in.

Time to grow your own food? Start with healthful, easy-growing herbs

By Julie Bonnin

There are many reasons to grow your own food, and recent unresolved food safety concerns about summer favorites like tomatoes and cilantro, the official herb of Tex-Mex cooking – are likely to have more folks cultivating an interest in growing edible plants.

Herbs are the perfect entry-level plant for first-time food growers. Given the right conditions and a minimum of care, they’re quite easy to grow, even if your outdoor space is limited to a small patio.

There are many more fringe benefits — the taste and scent of fresh herbs can’t be beat. You’ll never again pay grocery store prices for a bunch of past-their-prime herbs. Often those prices are only a little less than you’d pay for the plant itself, though growing your own, you will have to invest in pots, good soil and a few other necessities, as well as make a small investment in time.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of growing herbs is what people have known for centuries – that they have considerable health benefits to give.

Make Your Lawn Truly “Green”

By Barbara Kessler This sounds like a simple mandate. But often people simply don't know how to fertilize their lawn or deal with weeds unless they use their customary bag of "weed and feed" that typically contains toxins or synthetic fertilizers. They...
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