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Greening Neighborhoods promotes, educates, and supports
neighborhood efforts to conserve our natural resources, save
money, and reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources


Most of the neighborhood folks are either planting or thinking about planting our spring gardens.  We have been asked a lot of questions about how to best prepare our gardens and rather than give second hand information we are reprinting an excerpt from K. Rashid Nuri’s article Preparing Your Spring Garden that he wrote last week for the Truly Living Well web site.  Rashid is the expert the gardeners in our neighborhood call upon for the right answers for gardening without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Rashid group photoRashid says:

The single most important factor in creating a successful garden is soil preparation. I call it “dirt making”. Get the soil right. If you create good healthy soil, the plants, which grow in that soil, will also be healthy. Healthy plants are disease resistant.

Begin soil preparation by gently turning the soil. If this is the first time the land is being used to grow food, a tiller may prove helpful. Too much tillage destroys soil structure. Subsequent soil preparation can be done with a spade or garden fork.

After opening the soil add copious amounts of organic material such as compost, leaf mold, well-rotted sawdust or decomposed animal manure. You can make your own compost or purchase it from Truly Living Well or most garden supply stores. Compost is the key to successful gardening. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.

Utilize the garden space wisely. Select crops you will eat and enjoy. You must like what you plant or the garden space and the food will both be wasted.  Southern exposure has the most light. Tall crops should be planted on the north and west side of the garden to prevent shading of smaller plants.

This is a transitional period for garden crops. Cool season crops that have overwintered and very early spring crops, such as asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustards, onions, English peas, spinach and turnips are being harvested. Some, like Irish potatoes, and those with fast growth and production rates such as arugula, carrots, lettuce and radish, can still be planted and will do well if the weather stays cool for the next four to six weeks. Carefully choosing the site for cool season crops planted in late spring can extend your harvest of these (largely green leafy) crops. Select a cooler and slightly shadier spot in your garden to shade them from the hot spring sun.

The last anticipated frost date for our area is April 11. After the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed, it is time to plant warm season crops such as corn, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant, summer squash, and tomatoes. A few weeks later it will be time to plant okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, watermelon and winter squash. Because warm season crops require longer days and warmer soil to thrive, successful planting involves a combination of close attention to the weather, along with intimate knowledge of your garden soil and the microclimates for each planting area.

Use known or recommended cultivars for your main planting. Always buy good quality open-pollinated or heirloom seed from a reputable company. In my opinion, you will be better off not buying hybrid or genetically modified seed. Many nurseries have transplant seedlings available that save time.


Many of us North Americans head south to avoid cold winters, waiting to return home when things warm up.  The Monarch butterfly does the same.  She winters in Mexico and flies north after she senses that spring is coming.  monarchf

Georgia is one of the southern states along her multiple flight paths, where she alights to lay her eggs on milkweed before old age and death entrap her.  Her eggs are nourished by the poisonous milkweed.  They develop into larvae that carry the milkweed toxins as protection from predators.  The young caterpillars hang from twigs and cast webs around themselves, where metamorphosis takes place, changing the pupae into the beautiful butterfly we all recognize.

The freshly hatched Monarchs head north for their remaining few weeks of life and repeat this cycle three more times.  The fourth, and last generation, makes its way to summer in Canada.  This generation, however, lives ten times longer than its parents’, grandparents’ and great grandparents’ generations.

As fall approaches, the Canadian generation flies 2,500 miles back to Mexico, winters there and, in the spring, returns to southern states where it expects to find milkweed to lay its eggs.  But here lies the problem.  There is less and less milkweed due to more and more urbanization, resulting in fewer and fewer Monarchs.  Nancy Jones of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve reports that three years ago 60 million Monarchs were counted flying to Mexico.  Last year the count was three million.

And herein lies the way we can help perpetuate the Monarchs’  life-cycle miracle.  Plant milkweed.


Hybrid milkweed plants are now available from local nurseries and will mature in time for this year’s return of the Monarch butterflies.  Native milkweed will be available in a couple of weeks from Rock Springs Farm in Buford.  If we help the Monarchs, the Monarchs will help us by pollinating the flowers, fruits and vegetables we all depend on.  It’s another win-win enterprise.

e-stuff 2

By now, most of the neighbors are using curbside recycling bins for paper, glass and most plastics.  But what about the other stuff – electronics, batteries, old paint, plastic grocery bags, old medicine?  None of these items should end up in landfills or down the toilet, which is a horrible solution for old medicines.  Here’s where to find recycling centers for the weird stuff:

Electronics  Keep Atlanta Beautiful  This Saturday at East Wesley and Boiling Springs Rd. just off Peachtree Rd., NE behind Christ the King Church from 10 am to 3 pm.  On the 3rd Saturday of each month at 320 Irwin St., NE.  Bring old electronics, #6 styrofoam, paper for shredding or recycling, latex paint, single-stream, and metals to recycle at both sites.  Note: There are fees for some items.

Styrofoam, latex paint, metals See Keep Atlanta Beautiful and escrap.  If paints have died out or are filled with kitty litter until dry we can put them in our trash bins.  Still, the cans end up in landfills and the paint’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs) end up in the air we breathe.

Batteries  Batteries + Bulbs as well as light bulbs of all sorts.

Fluorescent Light Bulbs  Home Depot, Lowes, IKEA and Batteries + Bulbs all have lamp recycling programs.  Remember, fluorescent lights have traces of mercury in them – don’t break.

Plastic Grocery Bags and all plastic bags that can be stretched can be taken to the grocery stores where we shop.  Some stores, like Trader Joes, only use recyclable paper bags.

Medicines can be recycled on a “no questions asked” basis at CVS pharmacies whether we purchased the medicine there or not.  Go to this web site for more information on the CVS Program.

Reminder:  If you live in Dunwoody please participate in the Dunwoody Sustainability Committee’s Home energy Audit Contest.  Contact Rebecca.keefer@dunwoodyga.gov.

A new company in Athens, Georgia, has determined that it can reduce the consumer expense of owning a car, reduce fossil fuel use, and make money. JuiceCar rents Nissan Leafs and Chevy Volts by the hour or day, just the thing for zipping around town without having to spend a lot – a whole lot – of money for an automobile, for taxes, for insurance, for maintenance, and for $3.-plus gasoline. In fact, car-sharers also save natural resources while saving money on that 44% of their typical household energy budget that goes for transportation.JuiceCar1                                                                           JuiceCar HQ

JuiceCar says “Juice is cheaper than gas.” Read more or contact them at JuiceCar.

JuiceCar 2JuiceCars at an Athens landmark.

The JuiceCar concept actually includes two resource-conserving, money-saving ideas previously noted by Greening Neighborhoods: ride-sharing and reduction of fossil fuel use. In this case, the “ride” is shared for a few hours by sharing the vehicle. The fuel used is the much cheaper, locally-grown electricity, reducing fossil fuel dependency and higher costs. Other benefits: internal combustion street noise is eliminated, and you can breathe! At least after electric vehicles, trains, transit, biking, and walking become the primary modes of transportation.

JuiceCars, Mike Jerve, sees a need to fill where there are walkable neighborhoods, mixed use neighborhoods and transit oriented developments.  He is looking for such neighborhoods in the Atlanta area, which should see JuicCar services shortly.

Summer will actually be coming.  Before it’s too hot, this would be a good time to make sure our attics are insulated.  We’ve recommended installing at least 9 inches of fiberglass insulation in our attics, giving us an R30 rating.  Many contractors are recommending 16 inches for R50.

This insulation will keep the conditioned air within our home rather than letting it cool our attic as well as the living spaces.

Another technique for keeping us warm in winter and cool in summer — and reducing energy bills — is to staple reflective material to our roof rafters.  Use reflective material in conjunction with fiberglass insulation.

Madison Radiant Barrier

Madison Radiant Barrier

Reflective material will reduce solar heat gain and, according to U.S. Department of Energy, save between 5% and 10% on our cooling bills.  For instructions, here’s a good video on how to install a radiant barrier.

Now’s the time, before it gets hot!

from pringhillnursery.com

from springhillnursery.com

This week’s guest blog is by Katherine Mitchell

Recently many of us have become aware that honey bees, as well as Monarch butterflies, are faced with extinction. This would be a tragedy of unthinkable proportions as the loss of honey bees would reduce our food supply by at least 25%. It is believed that the two biggest problems for these insects are poisoning from pesticides and loss of habitat. We can make a big difference with a few simple measures.

We can reduce the amount of lawns which are often highly fertilized and treated with pesticides. One possibility is the planting of  flowering trees and bushes,  including the butterfly bush.

One of the easiest and most effective, as well as beautiful solutions to the problem, is the creation of a wildflower meadow. This can replace as much or as little of your lawn as you wish. The soil must be prepared. Of course the landscape companies can do this, or do-it-yourselfers can rent a rototiller to turn over the soil. Packages of mixed seeds are available, and can be broadcast easily,  and you can supplement these packages with your personal favorites. Milkweed is particularly important to the Monarch butterfly. Its seeds are the only food for the Monarch caterpillar. They cannot survive without it!

This meadow will attract a wonderful assortment of butterflies and bees. It could make an excellent learning project for young children. It is important to allow the meadow to go to seed, not cutting it down when the blooms have finished. In addition to the insects I’ve mentioned, birds will also enjoy the seeds come fall.

I hope you’ll consider installing a wild flower meadow. I think this lovely addition to the landscape can make a real difference to these important species and to our continuing enjoyment of life on this planet.

Katherine Mitchell

Also see Rain Gardens.


Now that spring is approaching, it’s time to start thinking about taking advantage of more pleasant weather by strategically controlling the sunlight.  In the winter we want to capture as much sunlight in our homes as possible for its warmth.  In the summer we want the opposite and to keep as much direct sunlight out of our homes as we can.  Houses can incorporate architectural design features to do this, but most of our homes were designed without those considerations, so we have to make up for that oversight.  If most of the windows in our home happen to face south, we can let the low angle winter sun in and keep the high angle summer sun out by some applied controls.  If most of the windows face west we get hard to control low angle summer sunlight at the hottest time of day and not enough low angle winter sun to help.  So here are things we can do.

For south facing windows we can add awnings.  This was a prevalent technique before central air conditioning became affordable.  And now that fuel costs are going up it may become a popular solution again.  For south and west facing windows we can apply film on the windows that reduces solar heat gain and cuts out UV rays that suck the color out of our furnishings and art works.

For all orientations we can plant carefully located deciduous trees that keep unwanted sun out in the summer and then cleverly loose their leaves in the winter when we need warmth.  As it happens this is a good time to plant new trees while they are still dormant.  Here are some species that will serve us well. Our neighbor, landscape architect Li Qi, suggests the following tree species and notes the advantages of each.

Oak Tree

Oak Tree

Willow, Oak, Elm, Maple, and Black Gum, are good large trees if there is enough room in the yard.  River Birch is a popular large tree that is fast growing but will kill the grass around its base because of its shallow root system.

Japanese Maple

Smaller trees include Japanese Maple, Crape Myrtle (don’t cut it back), Crab Apple, America Hornbeam, Cherry Tree (a lawn tree), and Dog Wood (likes shade) all of which are available and popular.

Magnolia Tree

For evergreen shade trees Li suggests Savannah Holly and Magnolia trees.

Some of our neighbors tell me that they have a bucket in their shower that collects the water until the shower gets hot.  Then the water is used for plants so it is not wasted down the drain.  I think that’s an admirable way to save water, but there’s a better way.

I’ve installed Instant-Off water saving devices on our faucets.  These are designed to turn the faucet off as soon as we’ve washed our hands or filled a glass with water.

Instant-Off Water Saver -- On Mode

Instant-Off Water Saver — On Mode

What the Instant-Off devices also do is act as a hot water recirculating device that provides hot water on demand.  In my shower it takes about ten seconds to get hot water, so very little is wasted.  This happens even though the Instant-Off is not hooked up to the shower, but is nearby on the bathroom lavatory.

There is also a shutoff valve on the shower head so I can wet down, shut the shower off, soap up and turn the shower back on to rinse off.

Shower Shut-Off  Valve

Shower Shut-Off Valve

Lots of water is saved, but not all members of my family (the Princess is one) are willing to undergo such a sacrifice to save our precious resource.

CFL 003Greening Neighborhoods encourages everyone to exchange traditional incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or light emitting diode lamps (LED) because of the savings in the amount of electricity they use.  CFLs use 1/4 the electricity of incandescent bulbs and LEDs use 1/10 the electricity.  The one drawback in using fluorescent lamps is that tubes have traces of mercury vapor that helps generate the ultraviolet light that excites the phosphorus lamp coating, which emits the visible light.  The amount of mercury is small, about 1/100 of that contained in the old mercury thermometers we used to have.  Still, indoor air quality is threatened if the lamps break, so proper cleanup procedures must be followed.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following:

Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb (Don’t vacuum):
  •     stiff paper or cardboard;
  •     sticky tape;
  •     damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
  •     a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During Cleanup

  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area, because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

Getting Rid of Burned out Bulbs

Burned out lamps that are not broken should be taken to a recycling center.  Home Depot and Lowes have disposal bins for the old lamps.

Learn more about CFL’s and indoor air quality: http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflhg.html  and the cost of CFLs and LEDs. 

A Power Vampire, also known as standby power or phantom load, is the electricity consumed by an electronic device while it is turned off or in standby mode. It is the power that maintains your TV settings and keeps the clock going on your VCR and microwave, but this power comes at a price. A joint study between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other environmental agencies around the globe put that price at a full 10% of your monthly energy bill!

energy vampiresWhich electronic devices waste the most energy when turned off but still plugged in?

Set-top cable boxes and digital video recorders are some of the biggest energy hogs. Unfortunately, there’s little consumers can do since television shows can’t be taped if boxes are unplugged. It also typically takes a long time to reboot boxes.

However, some of the other major consumers of standby power are more easily dealt with: computers, multifunction printers, flat-screen TVs, DVDs, VCRs, CD players, power tools, and hand-held vacuums. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) provides a standby power summary table for a long list of products.

Using energy-saving power strips stops needless energy drain from electronic devices not in use and therefore reduces household energy consumption. Less energy consumption is better for the environment and saves you money!


Among several energy-saving power strips available online or at local office supply retailers are: