Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Accurate read of Canadian's views on lawn chemicals?

Are Canadian's feelings against the use of common synthetic pesticides on lawns as strong as the responses to recent news articles suggest? Or is the weight of these responses misleading because people with strong feelings regarding a particular issue tend to be more outspoken in expressing their opinions about it?

Your answer, I suppose, depends on which side of this issue you favor.

The action by liberal provincial leaders effective April 22 banning the sale and use of more than 240 pesticide products for the “cosmetic” use on landscapes in Ontario Province would appear to have widespread support — assuming reader responses to a recent article in the Toronto Star newspaper accurately measure citizen's sentiments.

That article briefly notes that new Democrat MP Pat Martin introduced a bill in the nation’s House of Commons to impose a national ban on pesticides on lawns, gardens and parks. While his proposal isn’t expected to go anywhere (not soon anyway), it generated a spat of responses on the Star website, most of them seemingly in favor of a national ban.

Click on the headline and check out the responses, an indication perhaps of how effective activists have been in regards to the lawn pesticide issue? — Ron Hall

National Arboretum unveils first solar-powered irrigation system

The U.S. National Arboretum is "going green" with the installation of its first solar-powered drip irrigation system that will save electricity and water at the 446-acre facility operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Washington, DC., writes Stephanie Yao for the USDA.

The new system is part of a long-range plan to update and improve the arboretum grounds. Future plans include installing a larger solar collector near the National Capitol Columns and solar shingles on the Arbor House, which houses the gift shop and visitor restrooms.

Installation of the new system marked the end of a week-long workshop conducted by students and faculty from Alfred State College of the State University of New York. The workshop—attended by arboretum staff, contractors and homeowners—provided hands-on instruction on how to construct and use the system and its many benefits.

Located in Nursery 5, which is used to conduct research aimed at the development of improved trees for landscape use, the new system consists of six solar panels that collect sunlight, a battery that stores the energy, and a converter box that converts the stored energy into electricity used to run the nursery's drip-irrigation system. Because of the nursery's remote location, installing solar panels was less expensive than running an electrical line from the main power source, approximately a half mile away. As a result, the arboretum will see immediate savings on costs.

The latest project is a staff-driven effort to cut energy costs and conserve resources. The new system took less than one year to complete. Arboretum Director Tom Elias first met Alfred State representatives during the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Bio Energy Awareness Days (BEAD II) exhibition held at the arboretum last June. The meeting led to a five-year cooperative agreement to develop and install green technologies that will help the arboretum reduce its carbon footprint.

The arboretum's new system serves as a model for more energy-efficient landscape gardening. Solar power can be used in urban and suburban areas and is applicable to all types of power systems. Gardeners can use it to power water features, such as fountains and waterfalls, and irrigation systems.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

USDA gets in on the Earth Day 'People's Garden' action

WASHINGTON, D.C. — I’m beginning to get the feeling that the U.S. government, perhaps channeling Thomas Jefferson’s vision of America, would like us to return to being a nation of self-reliant, small-scale truck farmers/landscapers.

I'm not sure we've still got the grit for that because many of the people I know take cheap food an American God-given, and that it's always available neatly packaged at any local super store. Somehow it just miraculously appears on store shelves. No fuss. No problem.

I can confidently say that that's not the case, having misspent the summers of my youth working on truck farms in northern Ohio, most of which have long since disappeared, the land apparently being better suited for growing houses and strip malls. Based upon the many days I spent hoeing peppers and cucumbers, pulling sweet corn at the crack of dawn and picking green beans, tomatoes and all sorts of other edibles, I think I'm qualified to say that farmng, include its smaller cousin gardening, ain't that easy.

Landscaping, I've since learned, isn’t something for the untrained or sedentary either, although I think the point the U.S. government is trying to make in regards to some of photos ops it has staged recently involving the planting of vegetable gardens in places like the White House is that we've got to do a better job of taking care of our land.

That said, at the Earth Day ceremony at the USDA headquarters here Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared the entire grounds at the USDA Jamie L. Whitten Building as 'The People's Garden' (whoa there, sounds too much like the People’s Republic for my taste) and unveiled plans to create a sustainable landscape on the grounds.

A positive gesture, a symbolic gesture, a reminder that we should get off our fannies and get reconnected with the land that we live on, but, alas, mostly an opportunity for a photo op?

Here's the release (shortened) from the USDA regarding the Earth Day ceremony. You can click on the headline to be taken to the news release and a slew of images of the ceremony so you can judge for yourself.

"USDA is an every day every way kind of department and this garden will help illustrate the many ways USDA works to provide a sustainable, safe and nutritious food supply as well as protect and preserve the landscape where that food is produced," said Vilsack. "The garden will help explain to the public how small things they can do at home, at their business or on their farm or ranch, can promote sustainability, conserve the nation's natural resources, and make America a leader in combating climate change."

The People's Garden is designed to provide a sampling of USDA's efforts throughout the world as well as teach others how to nurture, maintain and protect a healthy landscape. If practiced, these garden concepts can be the general public's, government's, or business' contribution to providing healthy food, air, and water for people and communities.

In response to the overwhelming public support and hundreds of letters the 'People's Garden' concept has received, Secretary Vilsack challenged USDA facilities around the world to plant their own 'People's Gardens.'

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan officially kicked off the Earth Day event at the Whitten Building with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Brings Plenty who performed a traditional song and planted seeds at a ceremonial Three Sisters Garden to celebrate American Indians' contribution to American agriculture. Merrigan led volunteers and USDA staffers in planting vegetables, herbs and flowers to complete the first phase of The People's Garden. Eventually, the garden will include organic raised vegetable beds, organic transition plots, an organic urban container garden, an organic kitchen pollinator garden, rain gardens and a bat house.

A Three Sisters Garden is a traditional garden consisting of corn, beans and squash that has been planted by American Indians for centuries. Stories of the Three Sisters refers to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that has provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of American Indians.

The People's Garden is not confined to USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Secretary Vilsack has challenged all USDA facilities-across the country and around the world-to create similar gardens and create healthier landscapes. — Ron Hall

Monday, April 20, 2009

Making the connection with Mexican workers

Emeric McCleary, a first generation U.S. born Mexican-American who lives in Alexandria, KY, maintains a blog for businesses that employ Latin American workers.

The tips and advice he offers on the blog help Green Industry employers of Hispanic workers (primarily Mexican) reduce frustration and identify potential profit-killing mistakes that business owners are prone to make before they happen.

McCleary offers the tips and strategies in a respectful win-win style, yet he doesn’t mince words. Check out his blog at www.MexicanWorkerTips.com (or click on the headline).

He would like to hear your comment, especially regarding any area of concern and interest you would like addressed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Battery-powered robot mower in your future?

BOISBRIAND, QUEBEC — RobotShip and BelRobotics have signed a distribution relationship to improve distribution of battery-powered BigMow and ParcMow commercial robot lawn mowers and a robotic BallPicker for golf practice ranges.

RobotShop says the lawn mowers mow properties of up to 2.5 to 5 acres respectively. Large properties, private and commercial, can benefit from these automated mowers by reducing labor overhead, noise and emissions. They also follow a set of mowing patterns that improves property aesthetics.

"The agreement between BelRobotics America Inc. and RobotShop Inc. marks the dawn of our first steps into cyber space, a world premier for the Belrobotics group. We have great hope in this new channel of distribution and the RobotShop team," shared M. Christophe Sepulchre, President of BelRobotics North America.

The BallPicker is an automated golf ball picking robot that can collect up to 12 000 golf balls a day. The BigMow-ParcMow and BallPicker make a great combination for golf practice range owners, merging efficiency with silent operation and no emissions.

"Belrobotics products are green, producing absolutely no emissions and are autonomous. Our product line focuses on lawn care for small, medium and large surfaces and golf ball picking on practice range," stated M. Christophe Sepulchre, President of BelRobotics North America.

For more information on the BigMow, ParcMow and BallPicker, visit robotshop.com or click on the headline.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Colorado lawn care pros get into Earth Day spirit

DENVER — Davey Tree Expert Co., Whit Tree Service, Jim's Pride Landscaping, Cyn Mar, Fertek, Van Diest Supply, Bestyard.com, Green Mountain Lawn and Tree Care, and Lawn Doctor are among the companies, aided by local boy scouts, that are fixing up rundown Riverside Cemetery here on Earth Day, April, reports the Denver Post.

Riverside, established in 1876, is the oldest cemetery in Colorado. Its 77 acres are the final resting place for more than 67,000 people. The cemetery's last burial was in July 2995, because the company that manages the cemetery said it could no longer afford to maintain it, claiming that the cemetery's $2.1 million endowment did not generate enough money (about $62,000 annually) to water and take care of the grounds.

Green Industry companies across the country will be participating in community service projects on Earth Day. The Professional Lawncare Network (PLANET) is heading the effort for the landscape/lawn service contractor segment of the industry. State associations are getting into the act, too, as evidenced by the work being done at Riverside by members of the Colorado Lawn Care Association and other volunteers.

The group will plant and test various types of native grasses in various plots to determine what kinds of plant life will thrive in the cemetery's soil.

Scouts plan to pull weeds and clean up the fence line of the cemetery on Brighton Boulevard. Riverside's $2.1 million endowment generates about $62,000 a year — not enough to water the property and properly care for the graves.

Donors of materials and seed include Pawnee Buttes Seed, Sharp Brothers Seed, High Country Gardeners, Western Native Seed, Beauty Beyond Belief, John Deere Landscapes, Chem Way, Alpha Once Inc., Helena Chemical Co. and Arkansas Valley Seed Co, says the Denver Post.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Public picks winner of $35,000 park landscape

SAVANNAH, GA — Three companies have been chosen as finalists in the waterSmart Landscape Challenge here. The winner, which will be determined by public vote, will be awarded a $35,000 contract with the City of Savannah to install their garden design in Bryan Square. You see each of the plans and vote by going to www.watersmartgardenvote.com or clicking on the headline.

Three innovative landscape designer firms have created sustainable, water-efficient gardens for Bryan Square on Hutchinson Island as part of an overall effort by the city and state of Georgia to show residents how to create and maintain landscapes that use less water.

The three finalists are:

• Kern-Coleman & Co.: Multi-disciplined landscape architecture firm based in Savannah
• Thomas & Hutton Engineering Company: Savannah-based firm with more than 26 years experience in landscape design
• Witmer-Jones-Keefer, Ltd.: Bluffton, S.C.-based landscape architecture and land planning firm

"These three firms have delivered beautiful, creative and sustainable gardens designs that will welcome visitors to Hutchison Island and showcase our city's commitment to sustainability," said Laura Walker, administrator of Savannah's Environmental Affairs Department. "Each showcases new ideas for water-efficient landscapes that can easily be translated to residential gardening and I hope everyone takes the time to see them at www.watersmartgardenvote.com."

Bryan Square is located on Hutchinson Island and sits between the ferry landing and the entrance to the new Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, where thousands of visitors arrive each year. The property is also part of the Savannah Harbor at Hutchinson Island development, which will rely significantly on reclaimed water for landscaping needs.

The waterSmart Landscape Challenge's main objectives are to promote water conservation and education, while highlighting the creative potential of waterSmart landscape principles, specifically selecting plants that suit the location and minimizing the use of fertilizers and pesticides. The selection of the right plants used in the right places will yield landscapes that, once established, can be maintained with little or no supplemental watering.

"Maintaining beautiful lawns and gardens requires much less water than most people realize. Overwatering harms plants and wastes a valuable community resource," said Deron Davis, director of the waterSmart program for the state Environmental Protection Division. "By creating waterSmart landscapes, homeowners can significantly reduce their water consumption - and their water bills."

In order to maximize public awareness of water-efficient landscaping and irrigation techniques, proposals were evaluated in a two-stage process. In the first round, a panel comprised of landscaping professionals and knowledgeable representatives selected by the city of Savannah selected the three finalists. In the second round of judging, residents of Savannah and across the state will select the final design through a period of online voting. Installation will occur according to the city of Savannah's needs, and will be paid for through a contract with the city.

The city of Savannah is working in partnership with the waterSmart program of the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. A Request for Proposal, which includes rules and site information, can be obtained online at www.ci.savannah.ga.us.

About waterSmart

waterSmart is an education program designed to give Georgians the information they need to successfully conserve water. Developed by the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority in 2000 for residents in its service area, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division began using the waterSmart brand in communications and education activities in 2006 to help residents statewide understand how to maintain their landscapes while using less water. The State waterSmart program was piloted in six communities in 2007 and went statewide through a partnership with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in 2008. For more information, please visit www.conservewatergeorgia.net.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A fresh look at unauthorized immigrants

The Pew Hispanic Center today released "A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States," which includes population and labor force estimates for each state, as well as national-level findings about families, education, income and other key indicators.

The report finds that unauthorized immigrants are more geographically dispersed than in the past. A group of 28 high-growth states in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain and Southeast regions are now home to 32% of the unauthorized population, more than double their 14% share in 1990. California's share declined to 22% from 42% during this same period.

Unauthorized immigrants are more likely than either U.S.-born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with a spouse and children, according to the report. A growing share of the children of unauthorized immigrants (73%) are U.S. citizens by birth. The U.S.-born and foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrants make up an estimated 6.8% of the nation's students enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12.

Looking at undocumented workers, the report finds that the rapid growth of the unauthorized immigrant labor force from 1990 to 2006 has halted. The new report estimates there were 8.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. labor force in March 2008, accounting for 5.4% of the work force. The 2008 labor force estimate appears slightly lower than the 2007 estimate, but the change is within the margin of error.

The unauthorized immigrant share of the labor force varies widely by state. Undocumented immigrant workers constitute roughly 10% or more of the labor force in Arizona, California and Nevada, but less than 2.5% in most Midwest and Plains states.

About three-quarters (76%) of the nation's unauthorized immigrants are Hispanic. As the Pew Hispanic Center has previously reported, 59% are from Mexico.

The new report builds on a Pew Hispanic Center analysis released last year, which estimated there were 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2008. That report said the size of the unauthorized population appears to have declined since 2007, but the difference is not statistically significant. Both reports are based on an analysis of data from the March Current Population Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, and on the 1990 and 2000 Censuses.

Other major findings:

— Adult unauthorized immigrants are disproportionately likely to be poorly educated. Among unauthorized immigrants ages 25-64, 47% have less than a high school education. By contrast, only 8% of U.S.-born residents ages 25-64 have not graduated from high school.

— An analysis of college attendance finds that among unauthorized immigrants ages 18 to 24 who have graduated from high school, half (49%)are in college or have attended college. The comparable figure for U.S.-born residents is 71%.

— The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born residents. In contrast to other immigrants, undocumented immigrants do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

— A third of the children of unauthorized immigrants and a fifth of adult unauthorized immigrants live in poverty. This is nearly double the poverty rate for children of U.S.-born parents (18%) or for U.S.-born adults (10%).

— More than half of adult unauthorized immigrants (59%) had no health insurance during all of 2007. Among their children, nearly half of those who are unauthorized immigrants (45%) were uninsured and 25% of those who were born in the U.S. were uninsured.

Click on the headline for a link to the full report.

Friday, April 10, 2009

City of Guelph plans world's first large "pollination park"

The world's first large-scale "pollination park" is a step closer to reality and will be on the agenda during a Pollination Symposium to be held April 18 at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

The event will feature experts from Canada and the United States speaking on a variety of topics, including the importance of pollination, challenges facing the honey bee industry, and how to keep “good bugs” happy using native plants.

The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will raise funds to establish pollinator habitat at the new Eastview Pollination Park, to be built on a former Guelph landfill site. The City of Guelph is scheduled to begin construction of trails and sports fields and a demonstration plot will be planted on the site this summer.

Pollination Guelph, a not-for-profit group formed this year, is working with the city to design habitat for pollinators including birds and insects, said Karen Landman, a member of the group’s board of directors and a professor in the department of environmental design and rural development at the University of Guelph.

Scientists estimate that pollinators provide one out of every three bites of food on our plates and that three out of four flowering plants require animal pollinators to set seeds and fruit. But pollinator populations have declined in recent years, she said.

Landman added the goal of the project isn't just to provide a habitat for pollinators; it's also to foster research and education programs that encourage people to help – by demonstrating the use and maintenance of pollinator-friendly plants, for example.
Speakers and topics scheduled for the symposium include:

• Ontario Beekeepers' Association, "Problems Facing the Honeybee Industry in Ontario"
• Cory Sheffield, York University, "The Bees of Canada"
• Rufus McIsaacs, Michigan State University, "Keeping Good Bugs Happy: Using Native Plants to Support Bees and Other Beneficial Insects"
• Bob Wildfong, Pollination Canada, "Be a Pollinator Observer: How to Identify and Record Information About Pollinators in Your Own Backyard"

For information or to register, contact pollinationguelph@gmail.com or visit www.pollinationguelph.ca

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Will Canadians become U.S. pesticide customers?

A lot has been made in our region of the Great Lakes in northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan of seniors slipping into Canada to buy cheaper prescription drugs.

It looks like some Canadians might be returning the favor after April 22 when a ban on 250 lawn chemicals goes into effect throughout the Province of Ontario, Canada’s most populous region. A recent article in the Sarnia (Ontario) Observer points out how easy it will be for Canadians to still get their favorite pest controls, assuming they want to make the short drive into Michigan or other U.S. border states where the products are still sold.

We're waiting to hear if the Ontario pesticide police (with apologies to Dirty Harry) try out the following line on a would-be, lawn-loving, border-crossing, pesticide-buying homeowner: "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"

Click on the headline to read the short article in the Sarnia Observer. — The Staff

Monday, April 06, 2009

Barthuly Irrigation team steps up to the plate

A news article in a recent issue of the Indianpolis Star, a newspaper I used to read every day as a college student in Indiana a long time ago, reminded me of something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but always put off because I was too busy — or maybe I just I made myself too busy. I've been meaning to contact the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and volunteer my skills as a volunteer home builder, as meager as they may be. Now that I've committed it to paper, I know my chances of following through are much greater.

The article in question? It referred to a recent "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" project near Indianapolis, and the generousity of volunteers, including Ken and Larry Barthuly and some of the other folks of Barthuly Irrigation, Carmel, IN, who donated time and product to the project:

Here's what the Star reported:

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" -- a reality TV show that builds a house in a week for a deserving family -- has built a 2,750-square-foot home on Indianapolis' Near Eastside. It is for Bernard McFarland, a computer specialist at Indianapolis Public Schools' Marshall High School. He and his three sons will return today, after the show sent them on a Paris vacation while the work was being done.

The McFarland makeover includes a 975-square-foot community resource center on the adjacent property.

The center is a surprise for McFarland, a mentor for children in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, where volunteers also improved dozens of homes in the area of 25th Street and Keystone Avenue.

Zionsville's Barthuly Irrigation, which specializes in residential and commercial irrigation and landscape lighting, is among more than 180 area companies and organizations -- and thousands of volunteers -- that have donated time and goods to the "Extreme Makeover" project.

Ken Barthuly, 39, and his brother Larry, 45, both Carmel, started the business 18 years ago. Barthuly Irrigation works closely with Carmel-based home builder Estridge, the TV show's local building partner.

"I heard about it on the radio and was about a minute away from making a call for us to be a part of it, and then found out they (Estridge) already called us," Ken Barthuly said.

Ken and Larry Barthuly; their father Roland, Carmel; and the company's production manager Brett Berry, Westfield, installed landscape lighting around the house, through the courtyard and around trees.

Ken Barthuly describes himself and his wife as reality show freaks who love being involved with a television program, but he said his involvement came about mostly because he wanted to give back to the community.

"It's a sense of paying it forward, and what better place for it to happen than in Indiana -- the heartland of red, white and blue," he said.

His company also contributes to about 20 other charities throughout the state and country.

Barthuly said it's great to see how many volunteers, businesses and organizations have come together. He called the house and outpouring of community support the McFarlands have received pretty impressive.

"The community is in need of some cleanup and it's nice to see the kids and adults watching the process because it's Hollywood in their front yards," he said. "This is something they'll (the community will) cherish for the rest of their lives." — Ron Hall

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A peek at the Obama White House garden plan

Just after First Lady, Michelle Obama, broke ground for the White House vegetable garden, Plangarden released an online interactive version of the Obama's organic garden layout. The interactive vegetable garden layout was built using the new 2.0 version of Plangarden's garden design software

Plangarden plans to maintain the garden views with up-to-date information as the garden plantings change from season to season.

Plangarden also just released a, "Grow Your Own Vegetables – Value Calculator" tool that estimates the value of produce from your vegetable garden in supermarket, farmer's market, and organic produce dollars. This can help calculate how much can be saved on groceries as more families are being squeezed in this economic downturn. Variables, such as vegetable costs, can be modified by the user to best reflect local costs.

Here’s a plug for Plangarden (www.plangarden.com), which supplied the image and is hooking onto the growing urban gardening trend. We think that designing some edibles into landscapes has nice possibilities for landscape professionals.

To see a bigger picture of the White House vegetable garden plan, click on the headline. –The Staff