Your garden may be winding down for the winter, but it doesn’t have to! A simple cold frame can provide a perfect micro-climate for growing vegetables to extend the garden season. A cold frame, like the one pictured above, is essentially a bottomless box that sits right on the ground. It should face south so the slanted glass door on the top will allow sunlight to heat things up.
You can actually start sowing seeds of your cold frame crops, such as scallions, chard, parsley, escarole, endive, dandelion, radicchio and carrots as early as mid-summer. If inspiration to start a winter garden hasn’t come until now, try planting arugula, mâche (a salad green), spinach, claytonia, radishes, and lettuce, and in just a few weeks, you’ll have a fresh harvest!
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Autumn is not only a beautiful time of year, but it’s a perfect time for lawn and garden maintenance. I am not a fan of lawns, as they require too much time, energy, money and maintenance to keep green and are actually detrimental to the environment (Read my earlier post here). However, most people do have lawns, and learning how to care for them is essential to the well-being of the environment, as well as your children and pets.
Conventional, chemical-laden fertilizers and pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides and rodenticides) are down right dangerous. Here is a list of tips for organic lawn and garden care that is safe for you and the earth:
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Each October, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) coordinates nationwide tours of homes, commercial and municipal buildings that feature green technologies. The purpose is to show others how cool green buildings can be. The 9000 sites on the tours use sustainable strategies that increase energy efficiency, use solar energy, conserve water, use reclaimed or recycled materials, and generally have a smaller impact on the earth than their conventional counterparts.
Tour attendees will learn from home and business owners about some of the great benefits of going green: saving money on utility bills; finding federal, state and local incentives to fund green projects; and of course reducing one’s environmental impact to help leave the planet in good shape to sustain future generations.
ASES also hosts an Annual National Solar Sweepstakes where winners walk away with generous gift cards that can help make their residences or businesses green.
If you’re lucky enough to live or work in an innovative green home or business and would like to add it to the tour list, there’s still time to register. Most tours take place on Saturday, October 5th, but some start as early as September 20th.
Visit the American Solar Energy Society for details and tour maps.
photo above of the 2010 tour participant Talcott Mountain Science Center, courtesy of Environmental Headlines
As fall approaches, night temperatures add a chill to the air, but days bring lots of sunny skies. Your garden beds may be generally dry, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be filled with lively, colorful plants until frost. Color is not only born from flowers, but from interesting foliage as well. Here, we take a cue from our natural surroundings where the fall colors take center stage.
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If you haven’t seen the PBS Nova series, “Making Stuff: …Smarter, Safer, Stronger,…,” then you’re missing out on seeing incredible science making our world a better place. In the “Making Stuff: Cleaner” episode, David Pogue provides us with an entertaining look into some of the latest technological advances in creating and storing energy to power our cars, homes and factories.
Pogue visits Nate Lewis, a chemist at the California Institute of Technology who is working on artificial photosynthesis, imitating how plants convert sunlight into energy. Modeled after the leaves of the Aspen tree, Mr. Lewis’ silicon is 10 times more efficient than plants in capturing, converting and storing the Sun’s energy into chemical fuel. It’s similar to our existing solar panels, but is less expensive and more durable!
Learn more and watch the episode here or check your local TV listings.
The annual event where metered parking spaces are temporarily transformed into parklets is almost here! Park(ing) Day, started in 2005, celebrates public spaces in cities around the globe. Anyone, from everyday citizens to landscape architects, can participate in this altruistic event which begs, “To call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat.”
The design and theme of Park(ing) spaces are limited only by one’s imagination. Some are simple green spaces, perhaps featuring a shady place to sit on a bench, while others have branched out to offer “free health clinics, urban farms, ecology demonstrations, political seminars, art installations, free bike repair shops and even wedding ceremonies!”
There’s still time to participate in and support your local Park(ing) Day, Friday, September 20th! Learn more from Park(ing)Day.org.
What is porous pavement?
Porous pavement is a surface material that allows rainwater to filter through the surface to a stone reservoir beneath it. From there, rainwater can infiltrate deeper into the ground and recharge aquifers, making it a practical and effective stormwater management tool. It can be made of gravel, recycled rubber, even asphalt and concrete, and it has a multitude of applications.
Porous asphalt and concrete can be used for sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. Poured-in-place bonded recycled rubber is perfect for playgrounds and trails where it offers a forgiving spongy surface underfoot.
So, why is it important to use porous pavements?
Stormwater management is a pressing issue throughout the U.S. because many cities and municipalities have what is called combined sewer systems. These systems handle both household waste water and stormwater, where it is transported to sewer treatment plants for cleaning. Because of the immense amount of impervious surfaces (those surfaces that don’t allow water to infiltrate into the soil below), the amount of stormwater runoff is overwhelming to the treatment plants.
In turn, both the stormwater runoff and waste water ends up in our rivers and streams without first undergoing treatment. This water now contains dangerous levels of bacteria, pollutants (oil, trash, etc.) from the street and heated water (from flowing over hot paved surfaces). The effects are devastating on aquatic creatures and plants that live in our waterways, and our own drinking water supplies become contaminated, as well.
So, in areas where paving is necessary, porous pavements can reduce our impact on the environment. Learn more about stormwater management on your own property in my previous post here.
Photo above of Herron Park, Philadelphia, which features a porous recycled rubber surface for the playground. The surrounding neighbors welcomed the transformation of the basketball court where the sound of bouncing balls is absorbed by the porous asphalt surface! And, the addition of rain gardens and dozens of trees and shrubs bring nature to this city block. Courtesy of Langan.
While most houses are not passive solar homes (designed and oriented so as to capture the sun’s warmth in winter and keep the house cool and comfortable in summer), there are some easy things we can do with our landscaping to compensate for this that will lower our utility bills.
The upcoming fall season is actually a great time for planting. When strategically placed around your property, trees and shrubs will reduce your heating and cooling bills year after year. Be sure to use native plants whenever possible, since they are naturally adapted to your region and provide a multitude of benefits. Plant selections will depend upon your plant hardiness zone, region and site conditions.
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The annual migration of millions of birds and butterflies over thousands of miles is an amazing feat. Look up, and you might even see it, as it’s happening right now through the fall months across the country! Creating welcoming habitat on your property, where these incredible creatures can safely rest and find food & shelter along the way, is key to their survival.
The vast majority of land in the U.S., especially in the Eastern, Midwest and Great Plains regions, is privately owned. This means that the welfare of our feathered friends depends largely on private landowners. According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “75% of threatened or endangered species occur on private lands,” so you can see that collectively, we can create an environment that is good for them and for us! It’s more important than ever that we do so because of habitat loss.
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In my previous post, I showed the top 5 ways to make a driveway, yes driveway, more environmentally friendly. Even our driveways can be more green! Now there’s evidence that sealing our driveways and other blacktops with coal tar sealants is toxic. These sealants not only contaminate our soil and drinking water supplies as rain water washes down them, but they raise the risk of cancer in living things exposed to it.
Two states, and many townships have already banned coal tar sealants, and many schools have opted for safer alternatives for their paved surfaces because studies show coal tar sealants contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which are carcinogenic and mutagenic.
What you can do:
- Sign the petition here to get Congress to ban this toxic sealant.
- Avoid using sealants on your own driveway that contain: coal tar, refined coal tar, coal tar pitch or RT-12. If you must seal your driveway, use latex sealants or asphalt-based sealants.
- If you have your driveway sealed by professionals, make sure they are not using coal tar sealants. Consumer buying power will make a difference!
- If you are putting in a new driveway or replacing an old degraded one, check out these cool eco-friendly options.
photo courtesy of Rodale News