Sustainable Gardening News May 2009


GardenRant edition. Here's the whole issue.

In the News

  • A survey of all those
    "green" products finds that only 2 percent of them are legitimate.  98 percent
  • The Greener Gardens Act
    would offer homeowners a tax credit up to $1,000 to turn in their gas-guzzling
    lawn and garden equipment for machines powered with alternative
  • In the Whodathunkit
    Department:  Rodale
    reports findings that farmland does a better job cooling air than forests. 
    That link won't explain why, though, and I don't get it.
  • "Is fake the new green?"
    asks this terrific
    article about artificial turf
    that includes comprehensive lists of the pros
    and cons of real v. fake.  

On the
Sustainable Gardening

Gardenblogger Out and

  • My whirlwind overnight trip to Pennsylvania
    included visits to the Rodale Institute, the Rodale publisher, and Burpee's
    Open Day
    event at their Fordhook Farm and Garden.  Two wonderful  garden
    writers – Rosalind Creasy and Graham Rice – gave
  • I spoke to
    an Elderhostel group visiting the
    Historic Homes and Gardens of Washington – about urban and sustainable
  • Coaching clients attended my Open Garden/Plant
    event and took dozens of extra plants off my hands.
  • This must be Make New Friends month because I got to hang out with 3 garden
    writers I hadn't met before:  Mackenzie Carpenter, Polly Nell Jones and Renee
    Shepherd. Renee was in town to provide seeds to the Congressional Wives Club's
    Big Event (with Michelle Obama in attendance) and Polly made that happen.

    For Earth Day, I hung out with a bunch of sustainable ag types (including
    three from the Rodale Institute) at the USDA's
    People's Garden


One more
overnighter in the Philly area, this time to see Chanticleer, the Morris
Arboretum, and the Scott Arboretum, plus the personal garden of its
horticulturist Andrew Bunting. (I'm prepared to be blissed out.) Then over
Memorial Day weekend I'm off to the Garden
Blogger Spring Fling in Chicago
– more amazing gardens and tons of fun.  And
I'm giving a talk on Lawn Alternatives for the American Horticulture Society.

Update on the Green the Grounds Campaign

  • Nice
    write-up about Green the Grounds in the Christian
    Science Monitor
  • That was followed immediately by a phone call from Maria Shriver's press secretary, asking
    that her plans for a veg garden in State Capital Park be included, there being
    no official governor's residence in California.  When asked about landscaping practices, he assured me that they're very green and that their horticulturist would call me with details. (That was almost a month ago now, so…)
  • The CSM story also resulted in an interview by Rod Thorson of WLPO radio in Illinois about Green the Grounds.
  • Feature story coming soon in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • NBC and CNN anchors have expressed interest in the Green the Ground story,
    so stay tuned.
  • We received a long, fully detailed response from the South Carolina
    governor's horticulturist – much appreciated and the results are impressive

National Arboretum photo by Afagen.

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Susan Harris

Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).
  • Also in Greenbelt, MD, writing the e-newsletter and serving on the Board of Directors for the cooperatively-owned music and arts venue and restaurant called the NEW DEAL CAFE.

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.


  1. Hate fake turf. Hate hate hate it. It’s hot, it’s ugly, it’s petroleum based, and it kills the soil.

    Icky stuff.

  2. Just a quick comment on the farms cooling the air more then forests. Its the same principle as white cars are less painful on a sunny day then a black car. Crops are fairly light in colour, reflecting a lot more heat then the dark canopy. Add that to the amount of water on a farm (think getting misted) the temperature is bound to drop… at the local level.

    The trick is, it doesn’t address the root of the problem. A fully grown forest has far more biomass to clean the co2 out of the air for us. Since with high amounts of co2 in the atmosphere, the heat that farms reflects can’t escape anyway so will just move along in the higher atmosphere.

  3. It’s windy above flat ground, which increases evaporation which increases cooling, except during a Cincinnati tropical summer, where no evaporation can take place, because the humidity is 140% and it’s too hot to condense and form plain old rain.
    But I know when I’m driving around town during those purgatorial summer days (hey, it’s my job to drive around town, back off about my emissions!), a drive through Mt. Airy forest tells me it’s at least ten degrees cooler than the surrounding territory. Especially down by the creeks.

  4. How about those who have NONE to turn in since they have been using a push mover for YEARS? And can prove it! That’s right…punish those who HAVE been doing right!

    See above – “Act would offer homeowners a tax credit up to $1,000 to turn in their gas-guzzling lawn and garden equipment for machines powered with alternative energy.”

  5. Nice to read a non biased and evenly weighed report about artificial turf.
    The product has its attributes and it can be the appropriate choice for certain site specific locations.

    Take the apartment dweller with a roof top space or the elderly on a limited budget who lives in an arid region with a small back yard or the homeowner living with water rationing who has small kids and a deep shady area unable to support the growth of grass .
    Yes, there can be situations that support the choice of installing a permeable, non lead content artificial turf surface.
    It’s not for every one or every site, but it’s nice that it is there as a choice for those whose lives can benefit from it.

  6. Re: Greenwashing…

    The Rant had a piece on peat moss some time back. So I was in the local Home Depot two weeks ago attempting to find container garden soil that did not contain artificial fertilizer or soil amendments. The only “organic” soil I could find was the Scotts brand and it contained peat moss.

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