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Posted by on May 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Battle of the Small-Space Garden

Battle of the Small-Space Garden

What happens when you cram too many plants in a small-space garden? It’s called gardener’s greed, and without a doubt, I’m guilty of this eco-crime. What does gardener’s greed look like? You may see it in this massive mélange of tomatoes and basil that smells great, but is secretly suffering inside. At its worst, gardener’s greed turns your plants against each other and against you. And one of the worst examples of past indiscretions is from 2006, when Mark hatched a bold plan to grow watermelon. You don’t grow watermelon in a 3×6 foot plot. When you do, you get a scene like this à la Little Shoppe of Horrors. Poor 8-month-old Jack had no idea what those wild vines would do next. I won’t even mention what happened with the habanero and okra… So, this year, we’re keeping it simple. We live in a rowhouse and the outdoor space is small. At the back of the house we have a 16×12 foot deck and then about 3 feet of garden space before...

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Posted by on Apr 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Care and Maintenance of a Backyard Certified Wildlife Habitat

Care and Maintenance of a Backyard Certified Wildlife Habitat

A year ago, I applied with the National Wildlife Federation to make my back patio a Certified Wildlife Habitat. The three basic elements we needed to provide were: water, food, and a place for wildlife to raise their young. I learned that the Certified Wildlife Habitat is not a singular accomplishment. It requires continual care and upkeep, even in our small rowhouse patio. Currently we have bird feeders, a bird bath which is very popular with the Robins, Grackles, and Mourning Doves, a mason bee house, and a pile of sticks and wood that many and varied insects call home. The girls and I took part in the annual Christmas Audubon bird count. We stared at the feeder for 10 minutes at a time those weeks and kept a list of the birds we saw: Grey Catbirds, Cardinals, Cowbirds, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Doves, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, and Dark-Eyed Juncos. I did some sprucing up already this Spring by building the mason bee house. And, wouldn’t...

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Posted by on Aug 17, 2011 | 3 comments

Turning a Small-Space Garden into a Wildlife Habitat

Turning a Small-Space Garden into a Wildlife Habitat

For the past year or so, I’ve been getting my patio ready to certify as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Maybe you’ve seen these signs in the neighborhood. I had for years and was very intrigued. It doesn’t matter that I have no “yard” to speak of. I’m not in a detached house, but in a row house with a roughly 18 X 25 foot patio. But you can even certify a deck! To get certified, you need to provide food, water, cover, and a place for wildlife to raise their young. Here’s what I’ve done to qualify: We have several busy bird feeders. We have a couple of bird houses – a wren house and a rather weather-beaten gourd. We keep a a bird bath full of fresh water. We have plants that provide cover (a thicket) and I’m creating an area with sticks and decomposing logs to provide even more cover and give birds some bugs to munch on. Just this morning, I...

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Posted by on Aug 15, 2011 | 1 comment

Outdoor Oasis in the Heart of Old Town

Outdoor Oasis in the Heart of Old Town

You can’t tell from the street, but this classic Alexandria brick duplex has a unique feature: a charming Caribbean-inspired outdoor living area perfect for entertaining friends and family. With just a few simple changes, Amy and John transformed their dark and sparse porch into a cool and relaxing space reminiscent of tropical vacations together. As you walk up to the house, you are greeted by lush morning glory vines. John planted the morning glories for two years in a row but this past year they came back by themselves. John and Amy selected the vibrant purple flowering vine because you get new flowers every morning and because they bloom in late summer when a lot of flowers are past their prime. Morning glory is also known to be fast growing and drought tolerant, another plus during those hot dry summer months. Amy noted they barely watered them this year and they grew better than ever. One of the first changes they made to the porch was to paint the...

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