Simple gardening tip: “plant native” for a truly green garden

Every spring my family and I spend a weekend cleaning the yard (an activity that can be made fun if you just try!) and planting flowers to make everything nice and cheery.

xeriscapeI’ve never given much thought to what I plant other than selecting what I think is “cute” and my “color choice” for the season, but I’ve also made some poor selections when they’ve required a lot of water to keep them bright, cheery… and alive!

Whether you’re planting flowers, trees, shrubbery or an entire lawn, make sure that your choices are native to your area. Despite having favorites that you’d like to see in your own yard, it’s wiser to choose something that will naturally thrive without watering and excess water use, and will eliminate your need for nasty fertilizers and pesticides.

This concept even has its own term, known as xeriscaping… (make sure you throw that one into a sentence today, to impress your family and friends! And oooh… I need to make an addition to my A to Z list, don’t I?).  Check out for lists of native plantflowrs by state, local nurseries and organizations too!  All of them can help you make the smartest choices.  Eartheasy also has great tricks, tips and ideas that get as green as they come.

Remember that vinegar and water is a great natural weed killer too.  Just be sure to have good aim and a quality sprayer because vinegar is NOT selective and will destroy whatever it comes in contact with.

You may not think you have a green thumb, but with a little effort you CAN have the “greenest” garden on the block!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”…

Through all 292 posts from Mom Goes Green my most popular post (by far!) discussed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific Ocean that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire U.S.).  Some even believe it is worse than we originally expected.

It troubles me to no end.  Recently Charles Moore, the unfortunate “founder” of this garbage patch, was a guest on David Letterman.  While this isn’t the most scientific forum I can think of, if it gets the message out to millions of viewers, well, that works for me!  Take a look at the interview, including Part II.

He also shares some of his heartbreaking discoveries in this presentationhow can we turn a blind eye to this undeniable destruction?

So what do we do about all of this? We need, I repeat, NEED to decrease our dependence on plastics. While we can’t un-do the damage that has been done, we can help slow the ongoing contribution of this disgusting, harmful garbage that is polluting our oceans, waterways, wildlife, fish and, ultimately… US!

Recently our family also visited a beach on Lake Erie.  While the kids were playing on the beach and I looked for sea glass (okay… in this case, LAKE glass) I was also heartbroken to find more plastics than anything else washed ashore.  Sadly, what I encountered was bottles, bottle caps, lighters, pens, tampon applicators, plastic bags, combs, brushes, and plastic toys… this isn’t a narrative on Cleveland, this is an example of human neglect for our planet… everyday, everywhere.

Please, think about what you are buying. Think about where it goes when it is discarded.  Think about the irreversible damage that is created.  We can do better… a lot better.

“Be Out There!” The best things in life ARE free!

I know this for a fact, because this weekend, our kids reminded us!

Saturday morning was spent sleeping-in (far too late), but after we got moving, we really GOT MOVING!  After long discussions about how we should spend the day, we decided to make the best of an unseasonable warm Ohio day (68 degrees!) and simply get outdoors.

bulb shovelWe went to our daughter’s school and ran around looking at all of the amazing wonders in her school’s Land Lab. This area in front of her school has a pond, decks, walking paths and large planter boxes that the families can adopt.  We cultivated our box and planted some bulbs (and will eagerly await their Spring arrival) and added a little metal sign that said “GROW”! (…somewhat of a double entendre for growing some of nature’s gifts as well as growing little minds!)

We came home and planted more bulbs in our own yard, raked leaves, the kids ran around playing every sport imaginable and jumped in (and sometimes destroyed) our perfectly raked piles.  Fortunately, living on a ravine, our leaves are simply raked down the hill so they can decompose and be recycled by nature.

The kids spent a half hour cracking open acorns to “make hors d’oeuvres” for the squirrels!  We even made ourselves S’mores over an outdoor fire and continued to run around and play, and enjoy the day long after darkness fell.  Everyone was in a fabulous mood.  And I don’t doubt for a second that it had everything to do with simply being outside and enjoying breathing the fresh air.leaf pile

I sometimes forget that a great day with my family doesn’t need to include museums or amusement parks, trips or expensive events or vacations.  Everything we need is outside our own backdoor or a short, local drive away… all found in nature, most often for free.

Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as we did (a very sad fact), so if you need ideas, reasons or simply more encouragement, check out NWFs “Be Out There” program and you’re sure to find something that clicks!

At the end of the night our daughter could hardly relax as she settled into bed.  She talked about how excited she was to see our flowers grow and proclaimed the day as “the best day ever”!

Thanks for the reminder, my little sweet pea!

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?

garbage-ptchA few months ago, I wrote a post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).

It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

I certainly got my fair share of comments and emails.  Some readers were appalled (just like I am), while others were skeptical. One particularly fine gent emailed me and wanted to know why there weren’t pictures of this “plastic island” that everyone keeps raging about and why I’m making false statements.

Well, I first think he’s taking terms a bit too literal!  It’s not an actual island where you can dock your yacht, Mr. Crabby Pants!  This garbage patch is an AREA, where the vortex of ocean currents collects all of our discarded trash.   It’s that simple.  The ocean eventually breaks down the plastics into little bits and tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes for plankton (their primary food source). It floats on both the surface to 100 feet below the surface… so NO!  No “island”, but we shouldn’t falsely believe that this is not an issue.

Now, a new expedition to study the Garbage Patch, led by a group of University of California scientists, states that they found much more debris than they expected and are concerned that the “patch” may be much larger than originally thought.

It’s hard to imagine what we can do to prevent this… even experts don’t have the answers.  The only hope is to decrease our dependency on so many plastics, improve our recycling practices and simply change our overall behavior… and clean the mess that already exists.  We must find ways to decrease the plastic trash that reaches the oceans and waterways… period.

The most disturbing part?  There is said to be another patch in the southern hemisphere… and it’s four times larger.