Monday, June 30, 2008

Grow native plants in your yard

The next time you are at a plant nursery eying that exotic Brazilian plant, remember something- it is to your advantage and to nature's benefit to bring home something that indigenous to the region. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

Flowers, shrubs, and trees that are native to an area are already acclimated to the local temperature, rainfall, soil nutrients, etc. Therefore, it will be less work for you if you chose these species, since they will most likely not need special care or extra attention.

Many exotic plants require extra water, meaning you will have to turn on your sprinklers more often. Remember from the last post, water = valuable resource + money! You want to conserve it, not find ways to use it up.

Additionally, these plants may require special fertilizers or pesticides since they may not have developed protection against local insects or need nutrients not found in the area's soil. Let me explain to you why the less fertilizer/pesticide you use, the better.

After you apply these chemicals to your land, they stick around in the soil and on the plants. When rain comes, they are washed away with the runoff. Eventually, most of the runoff flows in bodies of water such as lakes. Now, pesticides and fertilizers from farmlands and yards accumulate into the lake. The pesticides can kill off beneficial organisms that are essential to the ecosystem of the lake.

The fertilizers also cause a grave problem, known as eutrophication. In this phenomenon, the nutrients in fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorous feed the algae in the lake. Because of the excess food, the algae can grow to enormous proportions, in groups known as "algal blooms." Now, when the algae die, bacteria swarm in large numbers to decompose the massive blooms. These bacteria use up a lot of the oxygen in the lake and cause oxygen-free areas known as "dead zones." With little to no oxygen, fish and other creatures die. Eutrophication is a major issue today, especially in the Chesapeake Bay.

Lastly, native plants simply cost less! They don't have to be ugly either- there are many attractive species located in all areas of the world!

The other dangers of exotic species will be addressed in an upcoming post, hopefully. Meanwhile, pay attention to what you are planting in your yard!

The above image is from

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Check for leaks

Here's an easy way to cut down on water usage. Every time you use the faucet, shower, hose, etc., make sure to turn it off very tightly. Sometimes, even if the water seems to be cut off, there is still a tiny imperceptible drip. These precious drops of water add up to a lot. A slow rate of one drip per three seconds (yes, it is a long time- one...two...three) can lead to over 1000 gallons a year! That's crazy!

American Water Works Association has a fun calculator that will tell you exactly how much water you waste, right here.

Here's another calculator, which takes into account the number of faucets you have in your home. So, the average household has around 2 bathrooms, right? Each one has a sink and a shower/bath. Plus the kitchen sink, and some people also have faucets in a utility room. Oh, and some homes also have a half bath. Let's plug this into the calculator, still using the 1 drop per 3 seconds. Yikes! More than 3,500 gallons!

3,500 gallons, to give you some perspective, is the same size as this guy's pond that he built by hand, according to this Myspace video. Yeah.

So, by turning off all faucets tightly, you can save a pond-full of fishies! But, seriously, check your faucets. It shouldn't take more than 5 seconds a day to squeeze them a little tighter.

This lovely image is from the Daily Green.