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Saturday, September 29, 2007

National Toilet Repair Month 

What do National Toilet Repair Month and gardening have in common? Well, it's about water conservation. In the garden we try to plant drought tolerant and native plants that require less water use. Same thing in our homes - we find ways to reduce water usage such as fixing a leaking faucet or toilet. Why you ask? Two reasons - it supports the environment and saves money, and who wouldn't want to do both?

According to the IATP Trade Observatory, a leaking toilet can be one of the greatest sources of water waste in the home using up to 78,000 gallons of water a year or the equivalent of enough water to fill two average- size backyard swimming pools. The Environmental Protection Agency tells us that "the typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of their water outdoors for irrigation. Some experts estimate that more than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation or runoff caused by overwatering."

For more information about water conservation in the garden, visit the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. To learn more about limiting water usage in your home, visit the EPA's links page. If it's specifically your toilet that needs repair, visit Fluidmaster for the how-tos including how to find a good plumber. And, just for fun, try taking the EPA's online water quiz. It's fun and a great way to learn more. Not to brag but I scored 765, making me a WaterSense Expert. What's your score? Happy Gardening and don't call the plumber pictured here. I don't think he'd be much help.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What flower are you? 

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Well, the only way to find out is to take the quiz at Hanna's blog, This Garden is Illegal. While you're out there read her posts - she shares some great info and pictures. Happy Gardening.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blog Action Day - October 15 

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Everyone participating will write about what relates to them and their vision of how to make a better future. Visit Blog Action Day for more information. I plan to join in, how about you? Happy Gardening.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bees - not just for honey anymore 

Did you know that honeybees can be trained to sniff out explosives? It's true. In a study published last year, Los Alamos National Laboratory has proven that honeybees can be trained to find explosives. Apparently bees have a better sense of smell than dogs and have successfully smelled explosures in thousands of trials. The Department of Defense does not plan to use the bees for military purposes, but the study's leader, Timothy Haarmann, thinks it might make sense for other uses such as at airports or borders.

On another bee-related note, the honeybee population has been dropping significantly. Roughly 50% of hives have disappeared, and scientists are beginning to hone in on the culprit. They now believe it is a combination of a virus and a parasite. Losing huge numbers of honeybees could have a disastrous impact since they pollinate so many of our crops.

Finally, is it honeybee or honey bee? Either is correct. Entomologists use it as two words, most folks show it as one. For more honeybee information, visit the Backyard Beekeepers site. Happy Gardening.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Growing wintergreen 

I recently read a short article about how rodents (rats, raccoons, mice, etc.) dislike the smell of wintergreen. It went on to mention trash bags folks can purchase that are impregnated with the natural oils of wintergreen and eucalyptus. Apparently, this deters rodents from feasting on your garbage. This started me thinking if you could use the trash bags you already had and, when full, spray them with the oils mentioned. That led me to ask myself if a person could grow wintergreen and I had to question whether I had ever seen wintergreen as a nursery or garden center selection.

I let my fingers do the walking and found several sites offering wintergreen including Hartmann's, Spring Hill Nursery, Seedland, and Wayside Gardens to name a few. It is grown as a ground cover typically in zones 3-8. Gaultheria procumbens prefers shade but will grow in sun once well established. The plant forms white bell-shaped flowers in the summer becoming bright red berries in late fall, lasting until June of the following year. The berries contain the wintergreen oil as do the leaves. The leaves make a tea and the berries are edible. A word of caution, however. According to the CU Herb Society wintergreen oil is poisonous in large amounts and can actually be fatal to young children who drink it. They say the oil can also burn the skin although I assume you would have to slather it on like a sunscreen for that to happen.

Mystery solved - you can grow wintergreen and it's widely available in more northern climes. For us down in the south, do you think wintergreen gum in the trash bag will accomplish the same thing? Happy Gardening.

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Thanks to Andrew Stenning who contributed the photograph for our masthead

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