Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten tips for living more sustainably in 2010

(ARA) - The beginning of a new year - and a new decade - is the time many people pledge to live differently. For many, that change means living a more sustainable lifestyle. Sustainability, once only a buzz word, is now fast becoming the way to live consciously.

From reducing your water usage to buying organic, here are 10 simple ways to make 2010 the year of sustainable living:

1. Use water more efficiently: Water is a limited resource and limiting it within your household is a cornerstone of sustainability. Rain barrels, largely unheard of even a decade ago, are becoming a popular way to collect and reuse rainwater for purposes like gardening. Meanwhile, conserving water in the home by taking shorter showers or even fixing a leaky faucet also can make a difference at a time when many communities are experiencing water shortages or are expressing concerns about water overuse.

2. Compost: Turning over leaves by way of a new compost garden is one way to live a more sustainable lifestyle. A compost heap is a simple, effective way to collect yard waste, like leaves and grass clippings, and kitchen scraps such as raw vegetable peelings and coffee grounds, and return them to the ground as organic matter.

3. Seek earth-friendly packaging: To better fill that compost heap, alter shopping habits to look for products with compostable packaging. Snyder's of Hanover, for instance, recently introduced a new Pretzel Variety Sack of 100-Calorie Pretzels and Pretzel Sandwiches in the market's first 100 percent compostable outer package made from 100 percent renewable cornstarch-based plastic. The new Variety Sack includes a special logo indicating that the bag can be composted and is made with sustainable materials. In addition to that example, more manufacturers are switching to cardboard packaging materials, which are made from renewable materials and can be recycled or composted.

4. Buy local, embrace organic: Many farmers, ranchers and, increasingly, food manufacturers, are offering foods and beverages made using sustainable practices. It could be a farmers market tomato, a local dairy's milk, an organic snack food, like new Organic Honey Whole Wheat Sticks and Organic Whole Wheat and Oat Sticks from Snyder's of Hanover, or any number of natural or organic items. The bottom line is that natural, organic and locally produced foods provide both sustenance and sustainability. To learn more about Snyder's of Hanover's sustainability initiatives visit www.snydersofhanover.com/Sustainability/.

5. Go to seed: Take the locally grown movement a step further - like in your own backyard or patio. An afternoon spent planting seeds or small plants can yield plenty of rewards a few weeks or months later, in the form of fresh, inexpensive and convenient vegetables and fruits. You don't need a large tract of land, in fact, to start a small garden.

6. Ride out the trend: Sustain your own energy level by opting to ride a bike or walk to a destination that isn't all that far away. Add a basket to a bike or take along a backpack to bring something back home.

7. Re-recycle: Recycling is nothing new and most people have been recycling in some form for years. But recycling can be taken to another level, going beyond obvious and traditionally recycled items like soda cans or newspaper to the smallest of waste materials, from plastic straws to the paper straw wrapper. Why not recycle apparel as well, by donating clothes and buying gently used clothes?

8. Plug in: Learn how to operate appliances more efficiently. For example, use cold water in the washing machine: clothes will still be cleaned, without the use of heated water. Turn off appliances when not in use, whether it's the television, video game player or radio. Better yet, completely unplug. Many electronics and battery chargers continue to draw a small amount of power even when they are switched off. Instead, use a power strip to cut power completely when not in use.

9. Lighten up: Use energy efficient lighting and bulbs when possible and turn off lights when not in a room. That will cut energy use - and the family budget.

10. Get involved: As the sustainability movement gains traction among the public, there are more opportunities to join in. Local communities, schools and organizations often have green committees, and there is a plethora of national and grassroots organizations geared around earth-friendly living that appreciate new volunteers or members.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bring early spring to your home with indoor gardening

(ARA) - Do images of flowering trellises laden with yellow, pink, green and purple blooms dance through your dreams? You may be ready for some warm spring-like temperatures, but the weather outside is still a little frightful. Ignore the weather and bring spring inside with some indoor gardening.

Not only does bringing spring inside help brighten your home, but houseplants can also improve the quality of the air you're breathing. A NASA study found that houseplants remove up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air inside a sealed chamber within 24 hours.

By planting now, while winter is still in the air, you will have vegetables, herbs and flowers primed for transplanting when warmer weather finally arrives. And since they're inside, you can watch the plants as they shoot their little green stems out of the fresh dirt, monitoring them as they grow.

* Use loose potting soil to promote root growth. Outside, worms and insects tunnel through the dirt, naturally breaking it up to help plants spread their roots. To mimic their effect indoors, use potting soil mixed with peat moss, vermiculite and perlite to create a light texture that won't compact after a couple of waterings.

* Make sure the natural light is adequate. Some plants like direct sunlight and must be located near a south-facing window, while others prefer a few hours of indirect light. But to really keep your herbs and flowers looking strong all season long, consider using artificial light like the Grow Light Pro White from Wards.com, which can also help you get your spring garden started early with seedlings. The Grow Light has four lights that can be turned on as a unit or individually, and it has an adjustable bottom shelf so you can alter the light level as your plants grow.

When plants don't get the light they need, they start to appear thin and frail. As your plants begin to grow, make sure to rotate the pots so the stems grow straight, rather than bending unnaturally toward the source of light.

* Keep the humidity level above 50 percent with a humidifier. Not only will your plants appreciate the extra moisture, but so will you. When the humidity drops below 50 percent, most plants suffer from water loss through their leaves, and it's difficult to regain that water balance, even with frequent watering.

* Really bring spring inside your home with beautiful pots and decorating accents. Visit Wards.com to find beautiful and creative birdhouses that not only are functional, but stylish enough to hang inside. Consider hanging a wire birdhouse in the shape of an acorn in the kitchen window, or using a set of two birdhouses as a unique decoration for your entryway.

* Mix art and fun together with some ivy. Ivy topiaries are very easy to grow, and there are many creative planters and forms you can use to support the ivy as it winds its way toward the sun. Are you a music fan? A guitar and music stand with little pots incorporated into the design can help brighten up your living room. Or maybe you prefer a vintage look created by placing a Madeline Dress Form over your vines, allowing them to grow and construct the skirt. Both styles are available at Wards.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Consumer Electronics Association Offers Tips for Properly Recycling Electronics This Holiday Season

(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, 80 percent of consumers will purchase new electronics this holiday season. As some old electronics are removed from homes to make room for the new, CEA offers tips to help consumers and businesses safely and effectively dispose of unwanted electronics.

* Turn in the Old: Most major CE manufacturers and many retailers have reliable, nationwide recycling programs. For instance, Best Buy’s Take Back program, available in all of its U.S. stores, accepts all electronics, regardless of point-of-purchase. Also, many cities and towns have instituted community electronics recycling programs and events. Check out www.myGreenElectronics.org or the EPA’s Website Plug-In to eCycling for a complete list of programs near your home.
* Verify your Recycler: There are several recognized certification programs for e-waste recyclers who are willing to use safe, market-driven recycling methods that respond to the needs of consumers, manufacturers and retailers, including the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and the Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling (ICER). It is also important for consumers to ask recyclers the process they use to minimize impacts to the environment and community, and to check for certifications on recyclers’ Websites before engaging with them.
* Pay It Forward: In the holiday spirit of giving, donate your unwanted electronics to charity. CollectiveGood collects used cell phones and donates refurbished phones to underprivileged communities around the globe, while Close the Gap provides reused and refurbished computers to various developing countries.
* Protect Your Identity: Recycling devices that store personal information, including computers and smart phones, can put you at risk for identity theft. However, there are many services that can help you erase your personal information from these devices, such as Symantec's Wipe Info in Norton Utilities, System Works for PCs and Macs, and a free cell phone data eraser tool from ReCellular.
* Buy Green: Many electronics are made from recycled, eco-friendly, and biodegradable materials. Before making a purchase, research the product to find eco-friendly models. Many manufacturers post product descriptions online. When it comes to powering your new gadget, you can also minimize unnecessary waste (and get longer-lasting power) by opting for rechargeable batteries over disposable, whenever possible.

For more recycling tips, visit www.MyGreenElectronics.org.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Perennial Daylily Wins A Dream Designation

(NAPSI)-Daylilies are a perennial treasured by America's gardeners. These sunny flowers supply bright drifts of color throughout the warmer months, and every year brings beautiful new varieties.

One of the newest additions to the growing family of winning All-American Daylilies is the Dream Souffle, which placed first in the Exhibition category.

It is the 17th winner and the first double-bloom daylily to win this award. Lilies don't win the award just for being pretty. They also have to demonstrate superior performance in dozens of criteria across at least five USDA hardiness zones.

Winning for both looks and hardiness, Dream Souffle features fluffy, double-petaled blooms that are a pastel rosy-pink blended with cream and flushed with yellow in the center.

The lily blooms in mid-season at 24 to 30 inches in height, above 16 to 20 inches of arching green deciduous foliage. It then repeat blooms, giving a total bloom period that ranges from 30 to 80 days. Unlike some doubles, this flower has consistent, fluffy double blooms that can create an eye-catching focal point in any garden setting. Stunning eye appeal is combined in this variety with hardy growth habit and good rust resistance.

The lilies were tested by the All-American Daylily Selection Council (AADSC), an organization that performs rigorous evaluations of daylily cultivars, taking into account over 50 criteria, including rust resistance.

The designation can help today's gardeners select the right lily from more than 40,000 different registered cultivars.

So far, nearly 6,000 hemerocallis (daylilies) available in commerce have been tested using methods that involve careful scientific methodology.

Thanks to such rigorous evaluations, gardeners can purchase All-Americans with confidence, knowing that these low-maintenance, high-impact, sun-loving beauties will thrive in backyard beds, front-walk borders or sundeck containers.

Past winners include:

• Black-Eyed Stella, best known for its performance as a nearly continuous bloomer.

• Lullaby Baby and Starstruck, honored for exquisite beauty and balance in the Exhibition category.

• Bitsy, which features a petite personality with a very powerful performance.

• Leebea Orange Crush, a rare daylily that exhibited such balanced performance it won in both the Landscape and Exhibition categories.

• Frankly Scarlet, a vibrant red that not only sustains but builds color intensity in the heat.

• Buttered Popcorn, a large buttery-gold bloom on sturdy 28- to 33-inch scapes. The golden beauty boasts nearly continuous blooming from mid-season into fall and up until frost.

• Persian Market, a large, showy salmon-pink with a rose halo on blooms 6 to 7 inches across. It produces loads of buds and has an exceptionally long bloom season in several zones.

• Lavender Vista, which pairs profuse lavender blooms with lush evergreen foliage.

• Summer Valentines, with striking pink blooms, a magenta eye and picotee edges.

For more information, visit www.allamericandaylilies.com.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Long-term study finds that nutrient enrichment of headwater stream disrupts food web in unexpected ways

Human activity is increasing the supply of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, to stream systems all over the world.The conventional wisdom—bolstered by earlier research—has held that these additional nutrients cause an increase in production all along the food chain, from the tiniest organisms up to the largest predators.A long-term, ecosystem-scale study by a team of University of Georgia researchers, however, has thrown this assumption into question.

The researchers—a team from the UGA Odum School of Ecology and department of entomology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—found , unexpectedly, that while nutrient enrichment did indeed cause a steady increase in the production of organisms lower on the food chain, organisms at the top of the food chain did not benefit.

Their study, “Long-term nutrient enrichment decouples predator and prey production,” published this week in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the National Science Foundation.It documents the effects of long-term nutrient enrichment of a headwater stream in a forested area at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in North Carolina.For the first two years of the study, the results were as expected: the production of both prey (the organisms low on the food chain) and predators (in this case salamanders and macroinvertebrates) increased.But with continued addition of nutrients, things began to change.While the prey continued to increase at the same rate, the production of predators leveled off, signifying a ‘decoupling’ of the typical relationship between predators and prey.

Maintaining patterns of energy flow between predators and prey is a critical aspect of healthy ecosystems. “What we found was a dead end in the food chain,” said Amy Rosemond, assistant professor at the Odum School, and one of the lead researchers.“This is the first time we’ve seen this kind of trophic decoupling, or break in the food chain, between the levels of prey and predator on this scale.This kind of disruption of the food web wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen before now.”

In this instance, Rosemond explained, the break was driven by the traits of the various prey species that inhabit the stream system.Some of these species were better able to take advantage of the extra nutrition than were others.After the first two years, the nutrient enrichment began to favor the growth of large-bodied prey, such as the caddisfly, Pycnopsyche spp., over smaller organisms.These large-bodied prey were simply too big for the stream’s predators to consume; hence, they were unable to capitalize on the increase in available food.

John Davis, who conducted the research as part of his Ph.D. dissertation, said that the work has global implications.“Nutrient enrichment is a global threat to the health of freshwater ecosystems,” he explained.“However, our understanding of its effects is limited.Our experimental results varied substantially from the few other large-scale experiments, which suggests that ecosystem-level responses to nutrient enrichment are largely context-dependent.This is important because humans are increasing nutrient loading rates to a diversity of ecosystems, but our understanding of their effects is based on only a small number of ecosystem types.”

Rosemond said that their results point to the need for more research, especially large-scale, long-term studies in a variety of ecosystems.Davis agrees.“It took over four years for nutrient enrichment to decouple predator and prey production within these headwater streams,” he said.“But most ecological experiments are limited to time scales of weeks to months.”

And the need to understand the effects of nutrient enrichment continues to grow more important. According the Environmental Protection Agency, the health of 47 percent of lakes and 45 percent of streams in the U.S. is impaired, with excessive nutrients a significant source of that impairment.Nutrient inputs to lakes and streams are likely to continue to increase globally from fertilized agricultural and suburban lands and from human and animal wastes that enter aquatic systems from treated sewage, septic tanks, or run-off from land.Furthermore, headwater streams, like the study stream in Coweeta, may account for as much as 73% of all stream miles.These headwater streams are the ‘feeders’ of larger rivers, so their response to nutrient enrichment likely affects downstream systems as well. But long-term effects of nutrients have not been previously tested in these systems.

“Without more accurately assessing the long-term effects of nutrients on a diversity of ecosystem types,” Davis concluded, “we won’t be able to adequately predict how global ecosystems are going to respond to chronic nutrient enrichment.”

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Southern Company, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Award New Conservation Grants

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation today announced that six new and three continuing grants have been awarded to conservation and natural resource agencies through the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy partnership programs.

"Southern Company is proud of its longstanding partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the much needed assistance we have been able to give these respected organizations," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company's chief environmental officer. "Together we are pleased to continue to help the conservation efforts throughout the Southeast."

Since 2002, Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have contributed nearly $10 million through 88 grants through the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy programs. In addition, grant recipients have contributed more than $44 million in matching funds, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of almost $54 million since the program's inception.

"As Southern Company continues to extend its track record of generously supporting wildlife conservation, it shows what it means to be a determined community leader," said Jeff Trandahl, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's executive director. "Our irreplaceable longleaf pine forests and scores of species of birds benefit greatly from this commitment, as does every person who appreciates the great outdoors."

Through these two programs, more than 177,000 acres of longleaf pine and other critical habitat on public and private lands will be restored or enhanced to the benefit of bird populations across the Southeast.

Four new grants were awarded under the Power of Flight program:
-- National Wild Turkey Federation - to accelerate the recovery of
red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) populations by creating additional
corridors between occupied and unoccupied clusters across boundaries
of the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge and Oconee National Forest.
This project will help to meet the RCW recovery objective by enhancing
approximately 1,000 acres of habitat through a variety of mechanical
and chemical mid-story control treatments and approximately 10,000
acres by prescribed fire over a three year-period.
-- Florida Park Service - to implement priority management actions for
the conservation of shorebirds and seabirds by expanding existing
monitoring, predator control and educational programs. The overall
goal of the project is to provide long-term protection of shorebirds,
seabirds and their habitat.
-- St. Catherines Island Foundation - to determine if artificial
incubation of American Oystercatcher eggs is a practical and effective
management tool for increasing hatching and fledging success. This
head-starting project is designed to evaluate hatching and fledging
success of manipulated vs. natural nests; determine the return on
investment of this management technique and its applicability in other
locations; and to increase annual fecundity of local populations of
American Oystercatcher over the short-term while long-term habitat
solutions are being resolved.
-- University of Tennessee - to establish much-needed capacity to bring
additional resources, partners, strategic guidance and greater focus
to geographic areas of high importance for the conservation of
Northern Bobwhite and other declining grassland bird species. Northern
Bobwhite and other grassland-dependent species have decreased by up to
75 percent in numbers since the 1960s. This project will help realize
region-wide habitat and population gains through staffing of key
positions and restoration of identified bobwhite focal areas in
cooperation with landowners within the Black Belt Prairie region of
Alabama and Mississippi.


Continuing support was provided to three grants under the Power of Flight program:

-- Operation Migration USA - to increase the number of whooping cranes
led South each year by ultralight aircraft from Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife
Refuge in Florida. This three-year grant is helping increase the
number of birds released annually, with the goal of helping the flock
reach a self-sustaining population level in four to five years.
-- Milliken Forestry Company - to accelerate translocation efforts for
the red-cockaded woodpecker over a five-year period. Funds are
supporting a biologist on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida
who monitors potential donor families, with the goal of increasing
from 20 to 40 the number of woodpeckers available for translocation
each year. This is a continuation of a grant formerly made to the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service over several years.
-- Project Orianne - to restore or improve 10,000 acres of longleaf pine
habitat within the Apalachicola and Conecuh national forests,
providing habitat for declining bird populations, such as red-cockaded
woodpeckers and Bachmann's sparrow, and other species of concern, such
as the gopher tortoise and indigo snake. This project builds on the
existing infrastructure and expertise of the U.S. Forest Service by
providing additional funding to implement proven land management
practices within large tracts of contiguous forests on federal lands.

Two new grants were awarded under the Longleaf Legacy Program:

-- National Wild Turkey Federation - to conduct a three-year initiative
that will restore 10,000 acres of longleaf pine in its natural range
on private and public lands in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and
Florida. This project is part of NWTF's continued effort to help
facilitate the restoration of longleaf pine across its native range in
the Southeast to benefit game and non-game.
-- Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge - to restore longleaf pine forest
habitat on approximately 834 acres of the refuge through site
preparation, prescribed burning and reforestation with containerized
longleaf pine seedlings. This project will benefit migratory and
resident avian species, including Northern Bobwhite, brown-headed
nuthatch, Eastern wild turkey, and Bachman's sparrow.


Visit www.southerncompany.com/corporateresponsibility to learn more about these programs and other conservation and stewardship efforts.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Go Green This Holiday Season

/PRNewswire/ -- According to experts, most of us will generate 25 percent more waste during the holidays compared with the rest of the year -- resulting in an extra 5 million tons of garbage. To encourage consumers to "trim their trash" while trimming their trees, Plastics Make it Possible(SM), an initiative sponsored by the plastics industries of the American Chemistry Council, offers this holiday "how to" guide for reusing and recycling everyday plastics.

According to a recent national survey conducted by Plastics Make it Possible(SM), 67 percent of Americans recycle to do their part to help the environment. During the holidays, it's especially important that we keep it up.

"From beverage bottles and food containers to shopping bags and dry cleaning wrap, so much of the waste we generate during the holidays is recyclable," said Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division. "These valuable plastic materials can be easily recycled in many communities and given a second life as carpeting, clothing, furniture, durable backyard decks and home building products, new bottles and bags, and other products we use every day."

By turning the following reuse and recycling tips into household habits, you can help reduce waste, keep valuable plastics out of landfills, and protect our planet during the holidays and year-round.

1. Get smart. Find out which plastics are accepted for recycling
in your community. Today, more than 80 percent of U.S. households
have access to a recycling program, and the vast majority of them
collect plastic bottles. A bottle is any container with a neck or
opening that's smaller than its base. Include the following
wherever plastic bottles are recycled:
-- Milk jugs
-- Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
-- Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other
household cleaners
-- Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
-- Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise
2. Remove and rinse. Before tossing bottles in the recycle bin,
remove the caps. Be sure to rinse bottles that previously
contained food. (Empty beverage bottles can go straight into the
bin.) Unless your community specifically asks for them, bottle
caps should be placed in the garbage, not the recycle bin.
Similarly, bags should be clean and empty. Do not include plastic
food wrap or bags that have food residue.
3. Reuse, reuse, reuse! From wrapping to ribbons, boxes to packing
peanuts, gather and save gift wrap and packing materials for next
year! And don't forget bags -- there are many helpful ways to
reuse plastic bags, including:
-- Wet umbrella cover - keep other items in your bag dry when your
umbrella is wet
-- Suitcase savers - wrap shoes before packing them with clean
clothes
-- Hand protectors - place them over your hands to handle messes
indoors and out
-- Kitchen clean-up - place them under the cutting board for
quick scrap removal
-- Trash can liners - use them in bathrooms and other household
waste baskets
-- Doggie duty - bring them on dog walks to collect and dispose of
pet waste
4. Bring bags back. Most large grocery stores and some
retailers (e.g., Wal-Mart) offer plastic bag drop-off programs
that allow consumers to return their used bags and product wraps
to be recycled. These bins are usually located at the front
entrance or near checkout areas. Almost all kinds of clean
plastic bags are accepted for recycling in these programs, including:
-- Grocery bags
-- Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
-- Plastic newspaper bags
-- Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
-- Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
-- You can also include plastic wraps from products such as paper
towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, diapers and cases of soda
wherever plastic bags are collected for recycling.
5. Pitch in beyond the kitchen. While many recyclable bottles
come from the kitchen, don't forget to check the bathrooms and
laundry room for shampoo and detergent bottles.
6. Practice patience. On the road this holiday season and can't
find a recycle bin? Don't throw your empty bottles in the trash --
temporarily store them in a purse or briefcase, or simply leave
them in the car until arriving home to place in a recycle bin.
And don't forget to temporarily put the cap back on your bottle
to prevent leakage until you can properly recycle it.
7. Don't throw out the leftovers. Saving your lidded plastic
food containers and plastic to-go containers from take-out
could provide a free and easy way for holiday party guests to
carry home leftovers. Plus, they can keep these items and reuse
them again.
8. Check for containers. In addition to bottles, roughly one-third of
communities are collecting and recycling plastic containers, such as
yogurt cups, tubs, trays and lids. If you're only recycling bottles,
check to see if your community is one of the many areas that has
recently added food containers to its list of collectibles.
9. When in doubt, leave it out. Keep in mind that mixing the wrong types
of materials (even other plastics) can lower the quality of the
recycled material. So unless your community specifically asks for
plastics other than bottles, please put only bottles into the
recycling bin. Keep these items out of the recycle bin unless your
community specifically accepts them:
-- No plastic bags or wraps (take them to your grocery store, if
accepted)
-- No automotive, pesticide or solvent bottles
-- No lids or spray pumps
-- No toys
-- No trays, tubs or containers (unless your community accepts them;
more and more communities are recycling these types of containers
in addition to bottles, so it's worth checking.)
10. Adopt a second life mindset. Do you ever wonder where your
recyclables go? Keep in mind that today's water bottle could be
tomorrow's little black dress or carpeting or backyard deck.


For more tips and ideas on plastics reuse and recycling, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

High winds leave downed trees, limbs

Heavy winds whipped across central Georgia Dec. 8, waking homeowners and leaving downed trees and limbs behind. Strong weather is common in Georgia, and so is cleaning up after it. But there’s a way to do it safely and wisely, say University of Georgia Cooperative Extension expert.
“Prioritize your chores by starting to work on trees that endanger buildings and fences first,” said Henry Hibbs, the UGA Extension coordinator in Oconee County.

Don’t attempt to handle trees that overhang or touch power lines, he said. Call local utility company professionals for assistance in removing these trees.

“Large trees that have been uprooted have little chance of surviving because the broken roots that used to structurally support the top weight and nourishment of the tree are damaged,” Hibbs said. “A chain saw and a camp fire may be the appropriate future for these trees.”
Tackle unsightly, damaged trees next.

For example, Bradford pear trees are prone to split. “This type of injury is difficult to reshape,” he said. “And the lopsided weight can cause the tree to blow over with soft wet ground and a gusty wind.”

Hibbs recommends removing severely misshapen trees and replanting a tree with better structure.

Broken limbs that are still attached to tree crowns should be properly trimmed. Leave a pruning cut that is flush to the next larger limb or main trunk. There is no need to apply wound tar to the prune cut.

“It has been shown through research that wound treatments like this can actually slow down the healing process of the tree,” he said.

Small trees that are bent over and have not straightened back up can be propped and then braced or cabled.

“A spindly pine tree that is bent over to the ground most likely will not stand straight again,” Hibbs said. “If the damage is severe, and over one third of the bark is lost, this is damage few trees can survive.”

Hibbs suggests using Mother Nature’s windy visit as a time to review your home’s landscape.
“You may have to crank up the chainsaw for the removal of an old favorite tree, but take this opportunity to consider carefully the next tree and select one that has a stronger design,” he said. “Red and sugar maples, as well as most varieties of oak trees, are sturdier tree variety selections.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Friday, December 11, 2009

EPA Study of Synthetic Turf and Crumb Rubber Finds 'Low Level of Concern'

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today the results of a scoping study of the health risks from inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact with synthetic turf and crumb rubber. It concluded that "concentrations of components monitored in this study were below levels of concern." The study further validates the statements of safety by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other governmental agencies, including the New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation and Dept of Health, the New York City Dept of Health, and the California EPA in recent studies.

Here are highlights from the EPA's news release:

-- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released results of a
limited field monitoring study of artificial-turf playing fields and
playgrounds constructed with recycled tire material or tire crumb.

-- "The limited data EPA collected during this study, which do not point
to a concern, represent an important addition to the information
gathered by various government agencies," said Peter Grevatt, director
of EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection. "The study will help
set the stage for a meeting this spring, where EPA will bring together
officials from states and federal agencies to evaluate the existing
body of science on this topic and determine what additional steps
should be taken to ensure the safety of kids who play on these
surfaces."

-- Study findings:
-- Particulate matter, metals and volatile organic compound
concentrations were measured in the air samples and compared with
areas away from the turf fields (background levels). The levels
found in air samples from the artificial turf were similar to
background levels.
-- No tire-related fibers were observed in the air samples.
-- All air concentrations of particulate matter and lead were well
below levels of concern.
-- More than 90 percent of the lead in the tire crumb material was
tightly bound and unavailable for absorption by users of the turf
fields.
-- Zinc, which is a known additive in tires, was found in tire crumb
samples. However, air and surface wipe monitoring levels of zinc
were found to be below levels of concern.


"The Synthetic Turf Council congratulates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for this important new information," said Rick Doyle, STC president. "The general public will benefit from the detailed and clear presentation of the study's results."

The EPA's news release can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/ykbw4ka, and the full study is accessible at www.epa.gov. Visit www.syntheticturfcouncil.org for the CPSC's statement and a full list of studies, reports and official position statements.

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American Association of Poison Control Centers: Treat Poinsettias and Mistletoe with Respect Rather Than Fear This Holiday Season

/PRNewswire/ -- Poinsettias and mistletoe, while lovely symbols of the holiday season, have long been thought to be gravely poisonous.

But while ingesting these holiday plants can cause discomfort, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers indicates they are not quite the deadly hazards they've long been believed to be.

"Treating a poinsettia exposure is a glass of milk for the child and a tincture of reassurance for the parent," said Dr. Ed Krenzelok, managing director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. "That's it."

Krenzelok has authored studies on both mistletoe and poinsettias that found that both are less deadly than the lore about them would indicate. His 1996 study on poinsettias found that most patients exposed to poinsettias can be treated at home without going to a health care facility. That study examined 22,793 poinsettia exposures and found no fatalities among them.

In 2008, U.S. poison centers received 1,174 calls about human exposures to poinsettias. Of those calls, only one resulted in one moderate medical effect and 27 resulted in a minor effect. No deaths or major effects were reported. In 2007, meanwhile, poison centers received 1,373 calls about poinsettia exposures and only three resulted in a moderate medical effect and 36 resulted in a minor effect.

In 2008, poison centers took 277 calls regarding animal exposures to poinsettias and in 2007 took 326 calls regarding animal exposure to poinsettias. Again, no deaths or major medical outcomes were reported.

"Other than a little bit of vomiting, we don't expect any problems from poinsettias," said Tina Wismer, a veterinary toxicologist for the Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill. She said poison centers field plenty of calls about animals eating poinsettias, but has never seen a serious effect. She advises callers not to panic about an animal nibbling at a poinsettia.

That said, Krenzelok cautions that taking anything in excess can be hazardous. Even drinking too much water, he said, can be dangerous.

Mistletoe, too, has suffered from a bad reputation, he said. In 2008, U.S. poison centers took 132 calls about human exposures to mistletoe and in 2007 131 calls about the plant. During both years, only one person saw a moderate medical outcome because of mistletoe exposure.

Those with questions about holiday plants or any other holiday-related product should call their poison center at 1 (800) 222-1222 for answers.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation's poison control centers in their efforts to prevent poisoning. Poison centers offer free and confidential services 365 days a year and around the clock.

If you have questions or someone has eaten part of a mistletoe or poinsettia, please call 1 (800) 222-1222.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

UGA to host statewide agricultural forecast

Pending changes in food safety policy will make 2010 complex for agriculture. Anyone interested in the latest information about Georgia’s current agricultural and agribusiness price and profit prospects, pending U.S. farm and energy policies or food safety updates and policy changes should attend one of the five informative meetings planned across the state January 25-29.
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will host its fourth annual Ag Forecast Breakfast Series 7:30 a.m. -10 a.m. Jan. 25 in Rome, Jan. 26 in Gainesville, Jan. 27 in Statesboro, Jan. 28 in Tifton and Jan. 29 in Macon. Participants will hear from farm and food safety experts and be able to ask them questions.

Registration is $40 per person and includes breakfast and a copy of the 2010 Ag Forecast publication. Reserve a table for eight for $300. Registration is required and closes Jan. 22. For more information and to register, visit the Web site www.GeorgiaAgForecast.com.

The series is sponsored by Georgia Farm Bureau.

University of Georgia

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UGA acquires zoysiagrass collection

University of Georgia has received the zoysiagrass collection developed by Jack Murray, a turf breeder with the United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md. An agreement between Bladerunner Turf, Inc., which acquired the collection in 2000, and the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., was signed to allow the UGA turf breeding program in Tifton to develop new turfgrass cultivars from the valuable zoysiagrass collection.

David Douget, owner of Bladerunner Farms, said the collection has already produced several commercially available varieties of zoysiagrass, and he has high hopes that UGA breeders will use the collection to further improve and refine cultivars for release.

Brian Schwartz, the University of Georgia researcher who heads the turf breeding program at UGA’s Tifton campus, said his team will use the plant collection to develop superior zoysiagrass cultivars adapted to the southeastern U.S. and similar environments around the world. “This collection will fill a need in Georgia and the southeast for new, improved zoysiagrass varieties,” said Schwartz.

The new collection adds to a turfgrass program that now includes four of the world’s top five warm-season turfgrass types — Bermuda, centipede, seashore paspalum and zoysia. Schwartz said zoysiagrass is a high-quality, slow-growing turf that requires less fertilizer than faster-growing Bermudagrass.

“This zoysiagrass collection gives us an opportunity to mix excellent plant material with a turfgrass breeding program that’s been active and hugely successful for more than 50 years,” said Schwartz, “and we intend to make the most of it.”


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Walk Georgia celebrates one-year anniversary

More than 3,800 Georgians spent eight weeks this fall “walking” across the state, losing weight, toning up and getting healthier along the way. They all participated in University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s Walk Georgia fitness program.

The program debuted in spring 2008. It is designed to increase physical activity and get Georgians moving.

Participants can form teams and challenge each other to get fit, or sign up as individuals. They track their progress online and virtually chart a course across the state from the Georgia mountains to the Marshes of Glynn.

“I loved inputting my activity, especially when I would get enough miles so that I could pick new counties,” said Lisa Plank, a participant from Winterville. “I really liked going from county to county, not only for the fun facts, but also because I could see, albeit in a smaller scale, just how much I did exercise.”

Plank lost weight and gained muscle and discovered what she eats is as important to her fitness and wellness as how much she exercises.

“I became more confident in my body and in my ability and stamina,” said Plank, who recently completed her first 5K race and placed third in her age category. “It’s been a long time since I've been proud of myself for a physical accomplishment.”

In addition to walking, activities like aerobics, biking, jogging and weightlifting can be logged. Time spent exercising is converted into miles, which participants use to move across an online map. Overall, participants this fall logged 353,810 miles in the program.

The most popular exercises logged this session were walking, stretching, weight lifting, cycling, aerobics, using an exercise machine, step aerobics and elliptical training.

Through Walk Georgia, Ben Free of Fayetteville advanced his own exercise regiment and began teaching aerobics. The retired school teacher did all of this from his wheel chair.

“After I joined Walk Georgia I went to the exercise room two to three times a week. I started Tai Chi, began enjoying exercising and saw my goals reached,” he said.

He now teaches a chair aerobics class at the Fayette County Senior Center. Free said he and his students “do everything that a person can do standing, but we do it in a chair.”

Of the adult participants, 91 percent were still recording physical activity the last week of the program. And 98.5 percent said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the program. Ninety-three percent agreed that the program encouraged them to exercise.

Registration for the next session will begin Feb. 14 and run through March 5. The spring session will begin March 1 and end April 25. For more information, contact your UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1, or go to the Web site www.walkgeorgia.org.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Water-saving technology focus of new grant

Many ornamental nursery growers test to see if their plants need water by sticking a finger in the soil to see if it’s dry. Or, they just water them whether they need it or not. University of Georgia horticulturists have found a better way, one that requires less water, less fertilizer, less money and fewer dirty fingers.

Now they have the funds and collaborations to study more water-saving technologies. UGA is part of a national team that received a five-year $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant. The goal is to save water, increase efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of ornamental plant production.

To do that, they’re developing “the next generation of tools to precisely monitor plant water use, allow for better control of irrigation water applications, increase the efficiency of water and nutrient use by ornamental growers,” said UGA horticulturist Marc van Iersel.

Water moisture sensors

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty will use $520,000 of the grant to study affordable soil moisture sensors that can be used easily in greenhouses and nurseries.

Van Iersel has been working with sensors for six years. He’s shown that they work in his greenhouse and at test nurseries. And now he can make them feasible for growers.

He, along with UGA professors John Ruter, Matthew Chappell and Paul Thomas, will work in their greenhouses, nurseries and at test sites at Evergreen Nursery in Statham, Ga., and McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing, Ga.

McCorkle saw the impact of using soil moisture sensors in a study UGA did last year.

“They were watering the plants using normal practices, and we were using soil moisture sensors to irrigate the plants,” van Iersel said. “We reduced water use by 83 percent.

“There’s definitely the potential for drastic water savings. How much probably depends on a particular greenhouse or nursery, but throughout the U.S., it has the potential to save huge amounts of water,” he said.

Plant models

UGA faculty will also study the water needs of different plants, such as petunia, poinsettia, hibiscus and hydrangea. Cooperators from other institutions will then develop software that will predict how much water these plants use.

Growers will be able to enter information like plant type and age, greenhouse light levels and temperatures to tailor the software. They will be able to estimate how much water they will need for their plants.

“Hydrangeas will definitely be one of the plants,” van Iersel said, “because that is such an important crop, and it’s a plant that seems to need a lot of water. Growers have trouble keeping hydrangeas well-watered, and they’re often over-watered.”

Group effort

John Lea-Cox from the University of Maryland is leading the overall project, which includes engineers, plant scientists, economists and Extension specialists.

In addition to determining water needs, they will construct watering systems that greenhouse managers can use, understand and install themselves. By combining their expertise, this group aims to develop a commercially-available, affordable product within the next five years.

Other universities and research centers on the grant are Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, Colorado State University, Cornell University and the UM Center for Environmental Science. Commercial partners are Decagon Devices in Pullman, Wash., and Antir Software in Jarrettsville, Md. The grant will be combined with an additional $5.2 million in matching funding from various sources.

Economists will look at whether the system is effective and economical for growers, van Iersel said. The questions they hope to answer are how much water, fertilizer and labor are saved, is there less runoff, less water to treat? And how about labor savings?

Environmental impact

Van Iersel sees the project as more than just a way for the plant industry to save money by reducing water and fertilizer.

“It can be a way to decrease their environmental impact,” he said. “And that would benefit society at large.

“If we reduce water use in these greenhouses and nurseries by X number of gallons per year, what is that value to society? If we can reduce runoff from greenhouses and nurseries, how much money is society saving by not having to clean up that water?”

For more details of the project goals, the university teams and the commercial partners, visit www.smart-farms.net.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

UGA research shows some plants can remove indoor pollutants

Some plants have the ability to drastically reduce levels of indoor pollutants, according to new research at the University of Georgia. Researchers showed that certain species can effectively remove air-borne contaminants, including harmful volatile organic compounds, suggesting a critical new role for plants in home and office environments.

Of the 28 plants tested, researchers identified five “super ornamentals”—those that had the highest rates of contaminant removal, a process called phytoremediation. These include the purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternataa), English ivy (Hedera Helix), variegated wax plant (Hoya cornosa), Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus) and the Purple heart plant (Tradescantia pallida). Placed in glass, gas-tight containers, the plants were exposed to a number of common household VOCs, including benzene, toluene, octane, alpha-pinene and TCE. The work, funded by UGA’s Agricultural Experiment Stations, was published in the August 2009 issue of HortScience.

“The idea that plants take up volatile compounds isn’t as much of a surprise as the poor air quality we measured inside some of the homes we tested,” said Stanley Kays, UGA horticulture researcher and one of the study’s authors. “We found unexpectedly high levels of benzenes and many other contaminants that can seriously compromise the health of those exposed.”

In fact, harmful indoor air pollutants can cause a host of serious illnesses, including asthma, cancer, reproductive and neurological disorders—and more than 1.6 million deaths a year, according to a 2002 World Health Organization report. The VOCs emanate from furnishings, carpets, plastics, cleaning products, building materials like drywall, paint, solvents and adhesives. Even tap water can be a source of VOCs. The air inside homes and offices is often a concentrated source of these pollutants, in some cases up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, according to research.


Why some plants are very effective at remediation—while others show little promise—is a mystery. “That’s one of the things we want to learn,” said Kays. “We also want to determine the species and number of plants needed in a house or office to neutralize the problem contaminants.”

Kays, D.S. Yang and S.V. Pennisi at UGA collaborate with researchers at Konkuk University in Seoul and at the National Horticultural Research Institute in Suwon, Korea, “where scientists are substantially ahead of us in phytoremediation research,” said Kays. “My colleague, Kwang Jin Kim, has evaluated the ability of 86 species to remove formaldehyde in indoor environments.”

Not all VOCs are toxic, and plants themselves emit some VOCs, though most appear not to be toxic, at least at normal exposure levels. But Kays said a lack of information about chemical toxicity—and an affordable method for measuring interior air quality—makes assessing their presence and safety more difficult. Fifty million organic and inorganic chemicals are now registered in the CAS system, a registry that includes chemical substances identified since 1957.

Kays said simply introducing common ornamentals into indoor spaces has the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air, but further research could help scientists refine the concept.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Don't trash that banana peel - composting is an easy, eco-friendly alternative

(ARA) - Recycling is certainly not a new concept. In fact, gardeners have been using one form of recycling - composting - for about as long as people have tilled the soil. Composting is a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to give your garden a boost.

Start your compost pile now, before winter settles in, and come spring you'll have a jump on nutrient-rich compost to help your garden produce its best harvest. Composting happens by itself through natural decay and the breakdown of organic matter. Depending on your local climate, the composting process may not be fully completed with useable humus or compost until temperatures warm up.

"Composting is easy and can be done for as little as $10 - or even free if you build your own bin," says Bruce Augustin, senior director in research and development with Scotts. "It's a great way to provide essential nutrients to your soil, while recycling kitchen and yard waste, which helps keep refuse out of landfills."

It's easy to get started composting: find a bin, gather materials, build your pile and compost. Augustin offers the following easy-to-follow steps for getting started:

Begin with a bin

Containing your compost pile in a bin saves space, hastens decomposition and helps keep the pile neat. You can find many pre-made compost bins at home centers and garden stores. Or, you can build your own from plans found on the Internet with materials around your home.

Gather materials

There are two main sources of materials for your compost pile - your yard and your kitchen. From the yard, you can gather leaves, grass and plant clippings, and shrub or tree trimmings. From the kitchen, add fruit and vegetable peelings, coffee grounds (including the filters), tea bags and eggshells. It's okay to toss in shredded newspaper (not colored or shiny newsprint since these don't decompose readily), but avoid meat scraps, bones, dairy products, grease or pet or human waste since these can all harbor harmful bacteria.

Build your pile

You should build your pile in layers, starting with a 4- to 6-inch layer of coarse material such as twigs or shrub clippings. Then, add on 3 to 4 inches of grass clippings. Next, add another 4- to 6-inch layer of leaves or garden debris and soak with water; moisture will help the microbes decompose the material faster. You can modify this order as needed, depending on the types of materials you have. After a few layers, be sure to add a 1-inch layer of garden soil, such as Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables.

Maintain compost

"A high-nitrogen fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, spread over each layer of your compost pile, will help the composting process by creating a favorable nitrogen to carbon ratio," says Augustin. Remember to turn or aerate the pile periodically to help move material from the outside closer to the center of the pile, where it will heat up and decompose faster. During the winter - depending on the region where you live - the center of the pile is where decomposition will take place, and adding water to keep the pile moist will aid the process.

Your compost will be ready to use once it has turned dark and crumbly, and gives off an earthy odor. Add the compost to your garden soil to help nourish your plants.

"Composting is not only beneficial for your garden, but it's also an easy, satisfying way to do something good for the environment," Augustin says.

For more tips on composting and other aspects of gardening and lawn care, visit www.Scotts.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Potted Christmas trees keep giving for generations

Families have fun choosing and decorating their Christmas trees. The twinkling lights, the bright colored ornaments, the handcrafted decorations the kids make and the yummy candy canes along with that fresh pine smell add a special glow to the holidays. But after the holidays, cleaning up those messy shed needles or dragging that tree out of the house isn’t as glorious.
There’s the age-old question: What do I do with the tree now?

Many retailers that sell fresh-cut Christmas trees also offer shredding service after the holidays. While shredded trees make excellent mulch for the landscape, one University of Georgia expert suggests consumers think about what to do after the holidays before they buy the tree.

“If you don’t need a huge tree, and a 6- to 7-foot tree will work, you can go to any garden center and look at the live conifers available,” said Matthew Chappell, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist. “There are so many choices. Cupressus, Chamaecyparis, Thuja, Leyland Cypress, Cedrus and Juniperus all will work as Christmas trees.”

Using a live potted tree doesn’t require more work than a cut tree, just a little different care. There are two big points to remember, he said.

“The tree should only be inside for a week to 10 days,” he said. “Placing the tree inside will shock the tree because when you move a tree inside, you are significantly altering the growing environment to lower light, drier and warmer conditions, especially if you put the tree near a woodstove or fireplace. This means the tree should be removed the day after Christmas.”

Also, remember to water. “The tree will need to be watered every 1-2 days until water drains through the bottom of the pot,” he said.

Live trees can be economical, too. In the Atlanta area, a 6- to 7-foot live tree in a 15-gallon container at a local retail outlet sells for between $100 and $140. A 15-gallon 6-foot Leyland Cypress goes for between $90 and $100 at local nurseries and tree growers. Both are comparably priced to fresh-cut trees. Call around to check prices in your area.

Considering the benefits of trees in the landscape to provide shade, screening or improved air quality, a live tree is one holiday decoration that can last a lifetime. “This could be a great new ‘plant a tree for the environment this Christmas’ movement,” Chappell said.

For information on planting, pruning and caring for a landscape tree, read the UGA Extension publication “Trees for the Landscape: Selection and Culture” online at http://pubs.caes.uga.edu/caespubs/pubs/PDF/B875.pdf or call the UGA Extension office in your county at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Chinese develop taste for U.S. pecans

As the holiday season approaches, many American home bakers will be looking for Georgia pecans to add to pies, casseroles or cookies. They won’t be the only ones. Chinese consumers will be buying, too.

“It varies, but last year Georgia growers sold close to 50 percent of their pecan crop to China,” said Greg Fonsah, an economist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “The Chinese high demand for pecans has not significantly impacted prices nationally. But it is likely that individual growers and perhaps some states may take advantage of the Chinese demand and improve their profit margins.”

Wholesale prices for pecans vary from market to market and from cultivar to cultivar. In Los Angeles, for example, pecans from Alabama, Georgia and Texas are going for between $1.15 and $1.20 per pound, Fonsah said. In New York, Georgia pecans are being sold wholesale for a $2.10 per pound.

Setting prices

Most of Georgia’s crop comes from improved varieties, which bring higher prices than native and seedling nuts. Fonsah says several factors tie into the price of pecans.

“For instance, a cultivar like Desirable might command better prices than Sumner in one area and vice versa,” he said. “Also, some states might get better prices than others depending on quality, overall cosmetic appearance, negotiation skills of the grower and targeted markets.”

In 2008, Florida growers got $1.84 per pound for their nuts, compared to the $1.47 per pound Georgia growers received, he said. But in 2007, Georgia growers got $1.06 per pound and Florida nuts sold for 96 cents per pound on average.

Georgia battles with Texas over the No. 1 spot in pecan production. “Georgia may still be No. 1, but when we get hit with low production due to disease and drought or in ‘off’ years, Texas is No. 1,” he said. “This is an ‘on’ year for pecans, though.”

Economics of nuts

Georgia growers will harvest an estimated 90 million pounds of pecans this year, or 29 percent more than last. Nationally, production is up 59 percent, Fonsah said.
“This will definitely affect overall prices,” he said. “The price of nuts is lower during a good production year and higher during a bad production year. Volume has a direct impact on prices, and since pecans have an alternate-bearing pattern, this helps fluctuate the prices.”

That’s simple supply and demand economics.

Buyers who sell to the gift-box market get the highest prices for pecans and other nuts, said CAES agricultural economist Wojciech Florkowski.

“These are always the best quality nuts in terms of kernel size and color,” he said.

He says the current economic situation in the U.S. will also affect pecan sales this holiday season.

“The demand for pecans and nuts in general will be affected by household incomes,” Florkowski said. “Incomes have declined as compared to previous years, but older consumers are continuing to buy nuts with their health benefits in mind.”

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Plants liven up the holidays

Flowers are University of Georgia horticulturist Paul Thomas’s specialty. And, for holiday plant suggestions, they’re his top pick. But when asked, “What was the best plant you’ve ever gotten for Christmas?” his answer is: “A ming aralia that I got from my mother-in-law. It’s strictly a foliage plant, and it looks like a bonsai. It’s really awesome.”

Ming aralias, specifically polyscias fruticosa ‘elegans’, have carrot-like foliage and woody stems as they get older. A ming aralia was “the plant for kings and queens to have,” he said. “It grows slowly and beautifully.”

While they are beautiful and do make good gifts, they’re also a challenge, he said. The biggest danger is overwatering and over-fertilizing. They only need a tiny bit of diluted fertilizer every few months.

When it comes to buying gift plants, the best place to purchase them is at a local florist’s shop. “They have the best quality, and they’re grown by specialists for the highest quality,” he said.

Thomas likes to give flowering plants as gifts. A deep basket filled with a few pots of colored calla lilies or a basket with a cluster of cyclamen topped with white or silver grass “makes a stunning gift,” he said.

For gift giving, Thomas suggests:

• Calceolaria. The flowers look like a pocketbook, which gives it its common name of ‘pocketbook plant.’ “It’s just cool and unusual,” he said. Flower colors range from yellow to bright red with polka dots. The flowers are delicate, so handle it carefully.

The plants must be kept moist but not flooded with water. They like sunny windowsills that are cool but not freezing. There, they’ll last about a month. They can’t be saved and planted outside in Georgia, because they will die of plant diseases.

• Cinerarias. These plants look like daisies, but their colors are more intense, or, as Thomas puts it, they have “five times the impact” of daisy flowers. The blossom colors range from purple to yellow.

Like calceolaria, they need sunlight and water. “Don’t let either of these plants dry out ever,” he said. “I put them on my coffee table during the day and on the windowsill at night.” They will live about six weeks.

• Cyclamen. These plants bloom white, pink or bright red. They can be found in grocery stores, aren’t expensive and are a great substitute for poinsettias if someone is allergic to latex, which is found in poinsettia plants. Kept cool and moist, cyclamen blooms will last three to four months. “Buy five or six plants and put them in a big basket with white or silver grass, like the kind they sell at Easter,” Thomas said. “It makes a really nice Christmas gift.”

They’re also a good gift plant if the holiday you celebrate isn’t Christmas. Because they are native in Israel, they are a good choice as a Hanukkah plant, he said.

• Miniature roses. These tiny blooming beauties can do double duty as both a holiday plant and a garden attraction come spring. They prefer cool spots inside until all chance of frost has passed. Then plant them near the foundation or in another protected area of the yard.

• Calla lilies. “Normally, people would buy bouquets of calla lilies, but sometimes florists will sell calla lily bulbs in pots,” Thomas said. When growing calla lilies, their bulbs should be kept moist and their flowers dry. The stems also need to be staked so they won’t fall over and break.

“Three to four pots in a deep basket are a really nice gift,” he said. “They’ll last a long time.”

Before visiting a local florist, give them a call, Thomas said, especially if you have one type of plant you might want to give to several different people. “Get your orders in now to get the best quality for the Christmas season,” he said.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bring potted plants indoors

When wintry weather rolls in, landscape plants must fend off cold temperatures and frost on their own. But some potted plants are lucky enough to get a free pass indoors.

Without proper care, though, these new houseplants can have difficulty living through the winter indoors. There are some things you can do to make sure they survive just fine.

Temperature level essential

First, consider the temperature. Many container plants live on outdoor porches during the summer and early fall months. As temperatures dip to 50 degrees or less, plant owners begin to move plants indoors.

The best way to protect outdoor potted plants is to first bring them into a garage or basement that is a little warmer than the outdoors, but not as toasty as inside the house. If the plants are moved immediately from 50 degrees to 75 degrees, some may become stressed and suffer.
Plants should be acclimated slowly by a gradual increase in temperature. After a week or two, bring the plants into the warm house.

Most house plants grow best in daytime temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees and nighttime temperatures between 60 degrees and 65 degrees. To further protect them, keep houseplants away from cold, drafty windows or hot radiators, stoves or air vents. Also keep houseplant foliage from touching cold windows. This can burn the leaves.

High humidity best

Humidity is important. Most houseplants prefer a humidity level of 40 percent to 50 percent. The relative humidity in most homes is closer to 15 percent – a level much too low for most houseplants.

Raise humidity levels by using a humidifier or grouping plants together. Placing houseplants on saucers filled with gravel or small pebbles and water will also increase humidity. The bottoms of the pots should always be above the water level.

Don’t mist houseplants in an effort to raise the relative humidity. Misting would have to be done several times throughout the day to have any real affect.

Water, but not too often

In general, houseplants don’t require as much water during the winter months. That doesn’t mean they can be completely ignored. The type of houseplant and soil will determine the water needs.

Ferns prefer evenly moist soil and fairly frequent watering. Cacti and succulents should only be watered when the potting soil becomes completely dry. Most houseplants fall somewhere between these extremes and should be watered when the soil is barely moist or almost dry to the touch.

When watering, apply a thorough amount. Water the plant until water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

Be sure that plants have good drainage. Never allow plants to sit in excess water unless the pot is placed on gravel to raise humidity.

Clean but don't fertilize

Drastically reduce or eliminate fertilizer during the winter months since most plants grow very little. Fertilize again in late March or April as growing conditions improve and the plants begin to flush out.

It’s important to keep houseplants clean while they rest through the winter. Grease and dust can accumulate on leaves and slow down the normal transpiration. Cleaning houseplants also improves their appearance, stimulates growth and can help control insects and mites.

Large, firm-leafed plants can be cleaned with a soft sponge or cloth dipped in a mild solution of dishwashing soap and lukewarm water. Leaves can also be cleaned by placing the plants in the shower under lukewarm water.

By Bob Westerfield
University of Georgia

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Leaf mulching and fertilizer: A back-saving, soil-enriching way to deal with fallen leaves

(ARA) – As Mother Nature adorns the trees in your yard with riotous reds, vibrant yellows and exotic oranges, you can easily get swept up in the romance of the season – until those leaves turn brown, drop from the branches and litter your lawn. Then you start to think of the hours of backbreaking raking work ahead of you.

This autumn, why not try working with Mother Nature by mulching those leaves instead of raking, bagging and condemning them to a landfill?

Leaf mulching is a time-saving, environmentally friendly way to deal with fallen leaves. Plus, if you live in a community that has cut back on collection services due to the economy, mulching can solve your dilemma of what to do with the leaves littering your lawn.

“It doesn’t make sense to rake leaves and bag them, just to have them end up decomposing in a landfill,” says Dr. Phil Dwyer, senior scientist at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “Leaf mulching recycles a natural resource and enriches the soil of your lawn for free.”

In fact, turf benefits by receiving more nutrients when you mulch fall leaves back into the lawn instead of raking them, according to a study by Michigan State University turfgrass researcher Thom Nikolai and ScottsMiracle-Gro scientists. Recycling fallen leaves saves time and money, adds nutrients to the soil, speeds spring greening and reduces weeds.

Here’s how to recycle this fall’s crop of fallen leaves:

* Remove the grass catcher from your lawn mower. Mow over the leaves on your lawn. Repeat until they are reduced to dime-sized pieces.

* Mow until you see about half an inch of grass through the mulched leaf layer.

Any kind of rotary-action mower will do the job, and all kinds of leaves can be mulched. Throughout the season, you can chop up to 18 inches total of leaf clutter with several passes of the mower. Having a somewhat thick layer of mulched leaves is okay as long as you can still see the green grass blades poking through. As leaf bits settle into the ground, microbes and worms get to work recycling them.

Once you’ve enriched your soil with leaf mulching, don’t forget that fall is the best time to feed and seed your lawn. A few simple steps can help ensure that your lawn will be strong next season and beyond:

* After mulching, feed your lawn with Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard fall lawn fertilizer to help build strong, deep roots for a better foundation and a more robust lawn next year. The nitrogen in the fertilizer will also help the mulched leaves decompose faster. Be sure to sweep excess fertilizer off hard surfaces like driveways and sidewalks.

* After feeding, spread seed where needed. To reseed your bare spots, dig up bare areas, mix in compost, sow your seeds and cover with more compost. If the weather is dry, keep the seeded soil moist until new grass begins to grow. Seeding autumn bare spots will thicken the lawn and make it more resistant to future bare spots.

To learn more about leaf mulching and autumn lawn care, visit www.scotts.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Today's Landfills: Safe, Smart, Green

(NAPSI)-Considering Americans generate more than 250 million tons of trash every year-and most of it ends up in landfills-the good news is that landfills are safer, smarter and greener than ever, thanks to many advanced technological innovations.

Modern landfills are high-tech, carefully monitored containment systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, control water and air emissions, and minimize nuisances such as odor. Strict federal regulations do not allow landfills in floodplains, wetlands or along fault lines. Special liners and collection systems protect groundwater.

Generating Energy and Jobs

Even better news is that landfill gases, the source of most odors, are controlled through gas collection and conversion into energy. Methane captured from modern landfills often is used as a form of green, renewable energy. Landfill-gas-to-energy projects can help ease our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. In fact, many of today's landfills have become renewable energy plants. In the last year, landfill-gas-to-energy projects delivered enough gas and electricity to power some 1.6 million American homes. These facilities also generate "green collar" jobs.

"Today, solid-waste companies build new landfills and expand existing landfills in ways that protect human health and the environment more than ever before," said Bruce J. Parker, president and CEO of the National Solid Wastes Management Association.

For the Future

Looking ahead, today's landfills provide continued environmental benefits even after they are closed. Engineers and landscape designers transform these landfills into parks, golf courses, wildlife refuges and other spaces that can be enjoyed by the whole community.

Learn More

Learn more at www.environmentalistseveryday.org and (800) 424-2869.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

City of Atlanta Launches Pilot Incentive Based Recycling Program

Pilot Recycling Rewards Program Will Help Promote Sustainability by Increasing Recycling Participation in Atlanta

The City of Atlanta announced today that a select group of Atlanta residents will soon be rewarded for their curbside recycling efforts. In an effort to encourage proper recycling habits, boost recycling participation, reduce the amount of recyclables being sent to area landfills and save taxpayer money, City officials introduced the pilot rewards program as an opportune way to move towards a greener, cleaner Atlanta.

In order to complement Atlanta’s existing sustainability initiatives, the City of Atlanta has partnered with Rehrig Pacific, a container company and service provider, to bring a unique incentive based pilot recycling program to its residents. As part of this pilot program, Rehrig Pacific has collaborated with key sponsor Coca-Cola Recycling, LLC and rewards partner RecycleBank® to offer Atlanta residents a premiere rewards and loyalty program that incentivizes household recycling. City officials are confident they will see a rise in recycling volumes and a decrease in waste tonnages. In addition to the benefit to the environment, the rewards program will give residents and local businesses a needed economic boost.

The City of Atlanta selected 10,000 households for the incentive based pilot recycling program. The participating households represent a cross section of recyclers throughout the City. The RecycleBank® rewards program will encourage better participation in the curbside recycling program. It will also allow the City to evaluate changes in the amounts of recyclables collected from residents participating in the pilot program.

“Incentive based recycling will help us to meet our recycling and sustainability goals while giving something back to our residents. During today’s recession and economic climate, saving money on groceries, on clothing, or at the pharmacy translates to great value. We have found a way to provide real financial rewards and help the environment at the same time,” said Mayor Franklin.

Each home in the pilot area will receive a brand new 96-gallon blue cart, retrofitted with an ID tag with the resident’s household address and RecycleBank account number. City trucks have been retrofitted with technology to read the cart ID tag. Upon activating their account with RecycleBank, either online or by phone, the household will begin to earn RecycleBank Points with every pick-up.

Points can be redeemed for rewards, gift cards, groceries, and products at hundreds of local and national RecycleBank Reward Partners. Partners include giant national brands and retailers such as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Target.com, Publix, and CVS/pharmacy, as well as local partners like Zoo Atlanta, Radial Café, Rita’s Water Ice, MetroFresh, Edgewood Avenue Pizza, and Six Feet Under.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), housed in Atlanta, is a significant player in making the pilot program a reality for their local neighbors. Through sponsorship dollars, they have enabled the purchase of the ten-thousand Rehrig Pacific blue recycling carts needed for the pilot program.
ABOUT THE PARTNERS

CITY OF ATLANTA
The City of Atlanta Recycling Program is a division of the Department of Public Works /Office of Solid Waste Services
(
http://www.atlantaga.gov/government/publicworks/dpwrecyclingprogram_08192008.aspx). This division promotes and supports recycling initiatives and programs, and educates City employees and the general public about waste reduction and recycling programs and opportunities. This division also serves as a liaison with local, state, and federal agencies on recycling issues to ensure responsiveness to problems and concerns, prepares grant proposals, and maintain records on the City’s recycling programs. The ReCART incentive based curbside recycling pilot project is a prime example of the City’s efforts to increase the amount of recyclables going to productive end uses rather than to area landfills.

RECYCLEBANK
RecycleBank is a rewards program that motivates people to recycle. Using the RecycleBank proprietary three-step process Recycle, Record, Reward™. We quickly and easily measure the amount of material each home recycles and then convert that activity into RecycleBank points that can be used at hundreds of local and national rewards partners.

COCA-COLA ENTERPRISES
Through this partnership, the goal of the world’s largest bottler is to increase opportunities to recover and recycle in the marketplace through Coca-Cola Recycling. Through recovery of the Atlanta materials, Coca-Cola can expect 150 metric tons of packaging materials. Coca-Cola Enterprises is the world's largest marketer, producer, and distributor of bottle and can liquid nonalcoholic refreshment.

REHRIG PACIFIC
Rehrig Pacific is an international company with operations and licensees worldwide manufacturing an ever-expanding product line of sustainable packaging products that includes plastic crates, pails, carts, and pallets designed to handle, store, and transport goods in the agriculture, bakery, beverage, dairy, environmental and retail materials handling marketplaces.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

USDA wants to introduce families to their farmers

Kathleen Merrigan believes all families should know where their food comes from. To do that, they must first know where it all begins -- with farmers.

The deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the University of Georgia campus in Athens Oct. 26 to promote the department’s new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer).

“By better connecting consumers of food to their producers, people across the country will have a greater understanding of the challenges in agriculture today and the effort it takes to put food on their tables,” Merrigan said.

The initiative is especially important considering the average age of a U.S. farmer is 59 and climbing and many national and state agriculture experts are nearing retirement age, she said. Getting the next generation involved now is important.

“There seems to be more opportunities to talk about agriculture now than at any other time in my adult life,” she said.

As part of the initiative, she wants farmers to have the chance to talk to her and other USDA officials in person and through Web sites like YouTube. “We want to recognize a lot of expertise comes from the countryside,” she said. “We want to know what’s going on in Georgia, what’s working.”

While on campus, she spoke with UGA researchers, administrators, farmers and students and found out what the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is doing to support locally grown food.

CAES promotes local food through work by the Center for Urban Agriculture, Farm to School programs, service-learning courses and community and school gardens.

The college recently graduated its first students in the organic agriculture certificate program, put together an organic production team that works with producers statewide and developed a new sustainable agriculture Web site (www.sustainagga.org) and newsletter.

“We have a unique opportunity to develop and supply local food systems right now,” said CAES sustainable agriculture coordinator Julia Gaskin.

To promote locally grown food, CAES also partners with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Fort Valley State University, Georgia Organics, the Atlanta Local Food Initiative and Promoting Local Agriculture and Cultural Experiences, or PLACE.

Local food producers need places to process products like meat. CAES conducts feasibility studies to determine if meat-processing plants are feasible in certain parts of the state.

“There are no small processing facilities in the state,” said Georgia Organics director Alice Rolls. “For small poultry processing, they’re taking it to Mississippi.”

Merrigan mentioned there is interest in mobile poultry processing units, but said at best it’s a gray area when it comes to governing these facilities.

South Georgia farmer Bill Brim asked Merrigan how her department plans to tie food safety back to locally produced efforts.

“There is no size exemption on food safety,” she said. “We’re working on this.”

CAES dean Scott Angle reminded her that some critical research is not getting the funding it needs, for example, phosphorous use in watermelon and other environmental and sustainable issues.

“For farmers, it’s critically important, but government and industry doesn’t see it as important enough,” Angle said.

Farmers need financial help during disasters, like last year’s salmonella-related tomato scare that cost them $1.2 million in sales, said Terry Coleman, the Georgia deputy commission of agriculture.

“They’re vulnerable to natural disasters and also to misspeak,” Coleman said.

To get the next generation involved, young people need access to land and skills to grow food, said Craig Page with Athens-based PLACE.

“We need to be making it affordable so young people who want to farm closer to urban areas can,” he said, “so they can meet their social needs, too, and not be restricted to rural areas.”

Brian Barrett with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service told Merrigan that Georgia may soon move from being a state with few certified organic acres to one of the top 25. A $1.2 million NRCS grant will help it do that.

“Ag continues to grow in Georgia,” Angle said, “both at the state and local levels. It’s an interesting place to be right now.”

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia
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Monday, October 26, 2009

UGA pumpkin variety grows well for Georgia farmers

Heading to a local pumpkin patch to pick the season’s best is a time-honored fall family activity. Thanks to University of Georgia researchers, a better, Georgia-specific pumpkin is available for carving or baking.

"Most of the pumpkins traditionally grown commercially in Georgia are Cucurbita pepo types," said George Boyhan, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "They're in the same species as summer squash. And they're highly susceptible to viruses and other foliar diseases."

Even with an aggressive program to control tiny insect pests called aphids, aphid-transmitted viruses can quickly devastate the crop, he said, at times resulting in complete loss.

But Orange Bulldog is not so weak on the vine. The improved variety -- developed from germplasm collected in the jungles of South America – has greater levels of resistance to viruses than conventional pumpkins.

When Boyhan and retired CAES horticulturists Gerard Krewer and Darbie Granberry began working with the jungle seed, they discovered long, flat pumpkins, or ones not easily carved into jack-o’-lanterns.

The team worked to develop a more disease-resistant variety with a good jack-o’-lantern shape that’s adapted to Georgia’s climate. Orange Bulldog debuted in 2004.

It consistently yields 13,000 pounds to 20,000 pound per acre in northern and southern Georgia. Boyhan is now working to develop a variety with more uniformity in shape and color but with the same disease resistance as Orange Bulldog.

“The goal of the variety was to produce a pumpkin with higher levels of disease resistance,” he said. “So, it lends itself to organic farming where herbicides and fungicides are limited to a few organic compounds. We are looking at small growers and farmers markets and organic fruit seems to fit there.”

Organic seeds for Orange Bulldog will be available for next year’s crop.

The pumpkin variety has a considerable amount of variability, something shoppers at roadside stands and pick-your-own farms find appealing.

“People really like the variation of the pumpkin, they can use it for variety in decorating,” said Raymond Joyce, the UGA Cooperative Extension coordinator in Laurens County.

T&T Farms, a pick-your-own farm in Dudley, added an agritourism activity for school groups as well as an additional fall crop when they planted three-acres of Orange Bulldog this year. Joyce said he was surprised to see how well the pumpkin did in the field. It was grown without irrigation and had to be sprayed only once with a fungicide and then once with a herbicide.

“We had planted pumpkins in the past, but they always grew out too soon and never did too good,” said Nancy Tomlinson, owner of T&T Farms. “The neat thing about these pumpkins is they are all different. Some are long. Others are squatty. The color varies from light-yellow to bronze or deep orange. And some have green mingled in. It is neat to watch the variation in size, shape and color all come off the same vine.”

Having a successful pumpkin crop meant more business to the family farm this season. So did adding a corn maze and hayrides.

Apart from looking good, Orange Bulldog tastes good, too. In its immature state, it is bright yellow and can be prepared and eaten like summer squash. It’s particularly good sautéed with Vidalia onions, Boyhan said. The meat of a mature pumpkin can be cubed and cooked to make pumpkin pie filling.

“I’ve used it in cakes, pies and candy and cooked it like squash. You name it, we’ve tried it,” Tomlinson said.

To find pick-your-own pumpkin and other fruit or vegetable patches in your area, visit the Georgia Market Maker Web site at ga.marketmaker.uiuc.edu.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Master Gardeners celebrate 30 years in Georgia

This fall marks the 30th anniversary of the Master Gardener program in Georgia, and Master Gardeners gathered recently to celebrate the occasion by volunteering their skills at the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, located near Buford.

"Once we decided to go ahead and make the celebration a workday, we put out a call for locations,” said Krissy Slagle, a program assistant for the University of Georgia Master Gardener program.

Kathy Parent, Master Gardener and UGA Cooperative Extension program assistant in Gwinnett County, suggested the Gwinnett center because it's a green space and a teaching facility about water.

"We were looking for a location that would represent collaboration between Cooperative Extension and other educational organizations in the county, and the GEHC was just what we were looking for. Water has been a critical issue for the metro areas and the whole state, and it probably will be even more so in the future. They have done a great job creating an interactive educational exhibit for all of the generations,” said Marco Fonseca, the program’s state coordinator.

With tools in hand, 60 Master Gardens volunteered their services to build raised beds at the center. Kids who participate in gardening programs at the center also helped.

In addition to the raised beds, several other projects were completed.

Shannon Pable, a Gwinnett County Master Gardener, led an effort to extend a bed that she created soon after the center opened. The award-winning Georgia Gems garden showcases UGA plant introductions. Donated plants were added to the area to showcase low-maintenance ones suited for Georgia landscapes.

Throughout the year, Master Gardeners volunteer at the center, which is a model for sustainable horticultural practices.

"They willingly give their time and energy to support the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, sharing their knowledge with the public at our educational programs through Earth Day events and the Junior Master Gardener program and donating their time to improve our landscape,” said Catherine Long, exhibit program coordinator at the GEHC.

As Master Gardeners look back over the past three decades, Fonseca says that understanding, protection and enhancement of urban natural ecology are the future of program.

“We know that sustainable garden and landscape practices are in the best interest of all of our communities, and it’s our job to share that with others and to pass it along to the next generation,” he said.

University of Georgia

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