Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sustainable Gardening... Better Late than Never

Jan, at Thanks for Today, recently sponsored her annual "Gardeners Sustainable Living Project" event (3/15/11 - 4/15/11).

Sixty four garden bloggers posted entries (links included on Jan's blog site) about their sustainable garden efforts, and at last count - 170 comments were posted as well.  While I didn't post during the event 'dates' - I've thought a lot about "sustainability" and "reducing my carbon footprint".
(Thanks to the imagery of Microsoft Clip Art)
While the buzz words are new - the concept of treading softly is hardly cutting edge.  Back in the 70's Greenpeace made a name for themselves - certainly more visible and radical than most.  It certainly made 'saving the earth' headline news.  Way before then - back in the 40's, there were Victory Gardens.  Growing up, I have very fond memories of my grandparents gardens - 2nd generation Victory Gardens.  My siblings and I spent many summer mornings picking Rhubarb from my grandmother's flower garden - for Strawberry Rhubarb pie that night, or green beans or corn from my grandfather's garden.

(Thanks to Microsoft Clip Art)
"Green Initiatives" have effected me both personally and professionally.  At work I team with my organization to reduce utilities, recycle legacy electronics, re-purpose office furniture and recycle paper & plastic.  Many years ago we teamed with a in-house grassroots environmental group (volunteer employees) to replace acres of grass with natural prairie (with IL natives).  One of our other anchor facilities is currently installing a field of solar panels to augment power resources.  While I'm sure most corporations have the same initiatives, it is rewarding to know the contributions we've made.

(Image by Microsoft)
Personally, the view of the my world has changed notably over the last 20 years.  Our yard has gone from all grass (a mono-culture, susceptible to a host of problems), some standard foundation evergreens, a single Sugar Maple sapling in the back yard & the parkway tree (whatever it might be?) - to an ever evolving footprint of "more garden and less grass".  I may have mentioned in an earlier post that a neighbor referred to my backyard as a 'field of dreams' last summer.  It made me smile.

Gone are the days of the "green carpet" lawn and single sapling!
I've previously talked about re-purposing the busted up concrete from our renovation project, to be used as stepping stones in my Shade Garden.  It's a path used every time we walk from the front to the back - and it too makes me smile.  I'd like to add a small dry creek bed along side of it, to redirect rain water to the back gardens.  I've been salvaging old stone mulch for reuse here - it might not be much, but at least it doesn't end up in a landfill.

This area has grown so much - - and no more annuals
(like the Wax Begonias in this photo), only Shade-happy perennials
I'm becoming bolder as a gardener and garden designer.  Plants, like hair cuts (just roll with me on this), are forgiving --- if you cut too much, it grows back, and usually much healthier.  My gardens are larger - I have greater aspirations for more plants.  I'm deep in "natives" homework, and last year I splurged on a tumble composter (still figuring that out as I go).

No, I'm not composting in my family room
 - just putting it together where I wouldn't lose the nuts & bolts
So as I look out on a 40 degree day, as the rain (and snow?!?) streaks down - I look out on my 'field of dreams' and I'm encouraged.  My plans for 'bird & butterfly'-friendly plants excites me.  We certainly know the bunnies are comfortable in my yard.  Robins and rabbits call the Colorado Spruce 'home'.  The 'Cottage Garden', thick with sphagnum moss and mushroom compost, is full of worms - so the birds are in heaven.  I'm not at peace with the dandelions yet - I guess that will have to be a stretch goal.  Currently we co-exist, or I periodically dig them up.

Growing in the gardens - on a rainy day (4/16/11)
(Yellow Day Lilies, Double Pink Knockout Rose [a recent bunny chew bone],
Paprika Yarrow, Pink Guara and PJM 'Rhodie' surrounding the Crab Apple)
So, if you haven't had a chance, check out Jan's project.  Here are just a few quick links to some of the project's participants (both amateur and professional gardeners): Alan Becker-Garden GuruCurbstone Valley Farm, Carolyn's Shade GardensDeb's Garden, Elephant's Eye,  Jean's Garden, and Rosey at Dung Hoe, There are some tremendous initiatives (big and small) out there - not very far from where you live.


  1. Great post - no worries that it's late. I love that your neighbor calls your garden a field of dreams, too. That is such a compliment. Love that field of solar panels. If you've got worms, you're doing something right!

  2. Super post! I think we in the gardening blogosphere are educating and inspiring one another to make changes that improve the environment for us all, and we also have the opportunity to educate our neighbors, friends, and family. You are doing a great job!

    Thanks for including my link in your list of GSL project participants. I appreciate it!

  3. Holley - thanks for your kind comments! I love your thought about the worms -- I've been keeping an eye on that garden, since it's my latest project. (Hoping it's the perfect environment for LOTS of plants this Spring...)

    Deb - Thank you! I agree, there is such great content to learn from. It was one of the reasons I included the project 'quick links' at the end of my post! Yours was one of the standouts for me.

  4. Corporate acres of grass to natural prairie? That is a story I would love to see! Someone has before and during pictures. You can bring us today's after.

    And the dandelions? Have your read Tatyana's current post?

  5. A wonderful post;-) Of course I would love to count you in for the prizes but I need to fair to the others. But, it's never to late to spread the word;-) Thank you for linking to my project just the same, and sharing. Jan

  6. EE - I'll check out Tatyana's post today; you peaked my curiousity. I'll see if I can post a picture of the prairie later in the season - so you can appreciate the scope of it's size.

    Jan - I would never expect you to make any special considerations for this post; it's just a subject matter that I believe in - and I wanted to recognize your project!

  7. At least you made a post, Shyrlene. I kept thinking about doing it and never got around to it. Would have loved to ... just to support Jan if nothing else. Alas another 'meme' I didn't get around to.

    I appreciate your love of good design/plant useage in the garden. I wish everyone would just be 'individually' responsible and do their part no matter how small to conserve and preserve what we have. Love the move from monoculture to variation... less work in the long run.

  8. Shyrlene I love your post and all you are doing at work and at home...great work...

  9. Shyrlene, wonderful and inspiring post. Loved hearing about the corporate changes you've helped accomplish. If we can all make changes, they'll add up to big accomplishments.

    We've been so dry that the bunnies are finding my garden too. Send the rain our way...

  10. Kudos to you for making the post. SO much going on outside in my gardens of late, that I only dreamed about it. I am enjoying reading what others have posted. Very inspiring.

  11. You are doing so much already. I think as gardeners it is only natural that we care for the land, the earth. Great post.

  12. Fabulous post Shyrlene! Strawberry and rhubarb pies always take me back too. My grandparents maintained their own gardens during the war, and certainly would have lacked fresh produce if they hadn't. Long after the war was over they maintained their gardens, always growing food, and my grandad used to grow fabulous rhubarb (the strawberries were my department ;). I agree, it wasn't about buzz words then, it was just what people did. I'm so grateful to have been mentored by them, but also encouraged to see so many getting back to common sense gardening, and appreciating the bounty of the Earth. Thank you so much for the link to our GSLP post!

  13. Meems - like you, I had planned on posting on Jan's GSLP earlier - then all of a sudden, it was 4/16. Sometimes garden progress feels like 'baby steps', but I do not miss the lawn! (Lots of plant buying this year. Interested in sharing some of those gorgeous cobalt pots of yours?!!) :D

    Donna - it's great to have you stop in! Thank you for your kind words!

    Cat - Thanks! It really does 'take a village' to make those corporate initiatives happen. It's amazing to see how quickly it adds up (by the tons & millions). I tried to send rain your way, and ended up getting SNOW up here??!

    Carolyn - Jan's participants have been amazing. Thinking about how each person's contribution adds to the 'global impact' is awe-inspiring.

    Sage Butterfly - it was a pleasure to have you drop in for a visit. Your blog is wealth of information on garden sustainability! I'll be adding the link to it, for folks to check out.

    Clare - I love that you have 'strawberry-rhubarb' memories too! The posts up on Curbstone Valley Farm should not be missed. The cool things you have going on -- like the new colony of bees this year are just amazing. (I still can't believe you've bravely gone there!)

  14. Hey, Shyrlene! Great post on sustainability! I commend your company on their green initiatives. Unfortunately, I have found most corporations are not neary as committed to the green movement. You must sincerely enjoy your job - refreshing! I am a member and volunteer of the USGBC(Green Building Council)..sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get corporate America to buy in to something as simple as office recycling or donating left over job site materials vs trowing them in the dumpster.

    Your 'less lawn' garden program is coming along quite nicely. Very pretty and inviting. BTW...I think the composter in the family room could be a new trend. HA!

    Really enjoyed your post, Shyrlene!

  15. How wonderful that the corporate world is doing its bit, I love the sound of the prairies. Lovely post Shyrlene, full of heart and passion. I'm hoping FIL will let me gradually get rid of any lawn at our future home, assuming it has any to start with - though I'm happy to have a meadow!

  16. Shyrlene, I'm so impressed by what you've accomplished with your property. Using the pieces of broken concrete as stepping stones was inspired! -Jean

  17. A lovely read and what you've done is inspiring. Not surprising the bunnies love your garden :)

  18. You have given us all a lot to think about. Thanks for the insight


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