Saturday, March 29

Earth Hour Tonight, March 29th: make a statement

Tonight, March 29, 2008 join millions of Earth residents in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund Climate change project.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Today, at 8:00pm your local time, please switch off the lights in an effort to make a statement about climate change.

Better yet, turn off all non-essential electricity in your home of workplace for at least that one hour. Experience the quiet of no-electricity!
Along with many other corporations supporting Earth hour, Google is darkening their search page to promote Earth Hour. Darkening the search page (making it a black background) daves absolutely no energy, nor does it change anything at Google headquarters. They are doing this to raise awareness among the millions of people who search Google everyday -- hopefully, just having this unusual black google page will make people wonder what it's about, and hopefully they'll take the time to learn about Earth Hour.

Thursday, March 27

Save significant energy by working out outdoors

It's more fun and interesting to get my workout by taking a walk or riding my bike -- plus I take my camera along and have a photo shoot along the way. Now that our dog, Sam is 19 years old, our walks are anything but aerobic workouts. So I have to fit in a walk or bike ride by myself every couple of days to get any significant exercise. Still, I enjoy walking with Sam -- it gets me out of the house no matter what, every day. Baggins (cat) goes on walks with us most of the time.

According to Ideal Bite, working out on a gym treadmill uses alot of energy.

10 treadmills in the average gym use 13,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. To put that in perspective: that energy would power your water heater for 19 days or let you run your hair dryer nonstop for more than a year.

So, if you want an easy way to save electricity -- stop working out in the gym or cut your gym time in half and get outside!

Saturday, March 22

Do you know the last killing frost date for your town?

Just a wee note to my fellow Montana and Helena gardeners (and would-be gardeners) ... check the climate summary charts at MSU Extension service Garden Guide for the last killing frost dates for your area (scroll down to Lewis & Clark County for Helena) As usual, don't take these for gospel ... every year is different. Still, it's good to note when to plant according to data from years past.

Exploration Garden at the Helena YMCA, seedlings planted by kids.
Photo © Maureen Shaughnessy

Tim and I usually plant our vegetable garden on Memorial Day weekend or the next weekend. Hardy shrubs and perennials can be planted earlier. I like to cover our garden beds with a layer of black plastic to warm up the soil earlier than it would if left uncovered. We've discovered we get huge veggies that way. Well, we also amend our garden soil every year with lots of leaves, compost and aged manure -- I guess that has something to do with our gardening success. (grin)

MSU Garden Guide articles for March
MSU Extension list of yard and garden publications

Friday, March 21

Easter Humor perfect for Helena, Montana

Thanks to cartoonist Roy Doty.

In Helena, where it seems everytime the city makes a decision on what to "do" about the deer problem someone puts the kabosh on acting on it .... well, one of the few coping mechanisms left to us ordinary citizens is humor.

Anyone posessing a good sense of humor -- and an opinion about the "urban deer problem" in their town, will get a chuckle out of Roy Doty's series of human/wildlife interactions. Check out his comics at the Safari Club Foundation.


Thursday, March 20

Sowing a Native Grass Lawn

Native Grasses seeded on slope at my clients' home near Helena

After a long hiatus from blogging about landscape design and sustainable landscaping, I want to try to get back into blogging about Waterwise Gardening and the like -- after all, this is how I make my living (not by blogging, but by creating landscape designs...)

I subscribe to a weekly email newsletter from SantaFe Greenhouses in New Mexico. Last year, they published an excellent article on sowing a native grass meadow and now that it's spring again, I am reminded that a native grass lawn or meadow is probably one of the best ways to deal with the "deer browse" problem many of my clients ask me about.

Gleaming meadow, originally uploaded by Linda6769.
Linda has so many gorgeous photos of wildflower meadows, grasses and ferns on her Flickr site. Check out her other meadowish pics. And thank you, Linda for letting me blog your photo here.

October Meadow, originally uploaded by jimfrazier.
Thank you Jim for allowing me to use your photo for this blog post.

Southwest Gardens and their partner company High Country Gardens, have several seed mixes formulated for them, one of which would be ideal to sow native grass meadows in the part of Montana where I live, in growing zone 4 with cold winters and dry summers.

Native Grass Species in Mix
  • Blue grama, Hachita (Bouteloua gracilis) 15%
  • Little bluestem, Blaze (Schizachyrium scoparium) 10%
  • Indian ricegrass, Rimrock (Achnatherum hymenoides) 10%
  • Sideoats grama, El Reno (Bouteloua curtipendula) 15%
  • Galleta, Viva (Pleuraphis jamesii) 5%
  • Alkali sacaton, VNS (Sporobolus airoides) 5%
  • Western wheatgrass, Arriba (Pascopyrum smithii) 5%
  • Sand dropseed, VNS (Sporobolus cryptandrus) 5%
  • Buffalo grass, Texoca (Buchloe dactyloides) 10%
  • Sheep fescue, Covar (Festuca ovina) 10%
  • Green needlegrass, Lodorm (Nassella viridula) 5%
  • Perennial ryegrass, Linn (Lolium perenne) Nurse crop 5%

Although some of the grasses in the list above are not native to my area, after calling and inquiring about the mix, I learned that even if they don't all germinate, a meadow sown from this mix will settle out to a "natural" balance of grasses, a subset of the above mix, with the hardy ones thriving and the non-hardies simply failing to return.

Goldenrod and Fencepost, originally uploaded by jimfrazier.

Here are some articles from High Country Gardens specifically about Native Grass Lawns (that one has a bit about interspersing a few perennials in with the grasses for a colorful lawn.) Other articles are available on planting a Blue Gamma grass lawn from seed (Blue gramma grass is a low-maintenance, low-water lawn alternative) and waterwise lawns.

One of my clients' native grass lawn. NativeDesign.

I have to caution you before you dive into a native grass meadow or lawn project, that of the remarks my past customers have made is that native grass lawns tend to look "weedy" or unkempt after awhile. This may happen if you don't get out and mow more often than the 2 times per season I recommend. Also, when the grasses are very tall, their height obscures any lower growing plants in the meadow, or in surrounding plant beds (plants like Oakleaf Sumac, Potentilla, dwarf pines and perennial wildflowers.) A solution to that problem is to plant only short-grass native grasses, so that you can "let the meadow go" but it will not get out of hand, height-wise. Read about a low-maintenance, waterwise native grass lawn at High Country Gardens where they sell a Dwarf Fescue seed for native lawns. The dwarf fescue stays short (under 12 inches) naturally, therefore it's a lower maintenance natural-lawn alternative.

Even if you don't live in New Mexico, the Santa Fe Greenhouses e-newsletter is extremely informative and inspiring. To subscribe to their excellent newsletter by email, click here. They also have their past newsletters archived, so check it out.

Wednesday, March 19

Garden Joys and Garden Tasks can be one and the same

Marguerites and Delphinium are two perennials with a propensity to re-seed. The marguerites are especially prolific - I would almost consider them "invasive" though when they bloom their golden hearts out like this at the exact time the dark blue delphs are at their peak -- how can I not forgive them their spreadingness?

Other plants (like Marguerites) in the sunflower or Asteracea family, are prone to prolific re-seeding. Watch out if you choose to leave the spent flowers and seedheads on any of these plants! You will soon have a garden full of their offspring.

Daylilies open one bud each day -- and each bud lasts only one day. Each stalk of buds contains from 6 to 20 buds. Deadheading the spent lilies encourages the plants to set a few more buds.

Star-shaped pelargonium geranium in a pot near my tomatoes. Deadhead your potted geraniums to encourage more bloom.

Near our back gate, marguerites, delphiniums and a few volunteer sunflowers greet us as we come and go. The delphiniums keep blooming, though on shorter, weaker stalks, if you deadhead the main flower stalk as soon as the petals fall. Sunflowers will often set more buds if you cut off the main flower at the next node.

Sunday, March 16

Think You're Old??? This is an old dog!

Today is the day we celebrate Sam's birthday, March 16th. Every day we count ourselves as incredibly blessed and lucky this wise soul is still with us and happy to be with us. Enjoying his life to the fullest! Each year we recognize that he has come another year and is still healthy, enthusiastic, curioius ... we can hardly believe it. Sam was supposed to be euthanized with a tumor growing around his esophagus and windpipe over 8 years ago, yet here he is, wolfing down his food and breathing/snoring/woofing as if he had never had a tumor at all.

This year we didn't make a sam-cake with candles as we did last year --Sam was afraid of the lit candles. Today he got the super-dooper-senior-dog treatment: lots of treats and a great walk in the sun. Tim made buckwheat-spelt waffles for all of us this morning. Sam had a plate of waffles with chicken, cherries, cherry-juice along, and a whole piece of sausage. Baggins also shared his food (a half can of tuna) with Sam but says, "only on his birthday."

I shot these photos this morning after a late breakfast. Satisfied dog and happy humans. Happy Birthday to you, dear old friend. I wish for you many more days of life and love and joyful-dog-dreams.

He's giving out Free Hugs today