Friday, April 28, 2006

Another Glitch In Global Warming Discovered

BBC announces climate model mistake highlighting uncertainty surrounding climate science; human affect on global warming far from a sure thing.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Survival Of The Species: Coral Reefs

Courtesy of (entertaining environmental newsletter)

Last year, unusually warm Caribbean waters killed some 40 percent of the coral around the U.S. Virgin Islands and weakened much of the rest. This year, wouldn't you know it, the waters are warming again. "It's impossible to overstate how important this is," says biologist Caroline Rogers. High water temperatures lead coral to kick off the partner algae that give them color and sustenance, leaving them white and frail -- a problem that's hitting reefs around the globe. But one species of coral found in the waters of Hawaii seems to have gotten Darwin's memo about adapting: when bleached, instead of relying on energy reserves, Montipora capitata extends short stinging tentacles and gobbles tiny marine animals called zooplankton. "This suggests there are some corals out there that can survive," said lead researcher Andréa Grottoli, whose study appears in Nature this week. Those other corals were weenies anyway, right?

Florida City To Weed Out UnLicensed Landscape Contractors

Marco Island, Florida is going to implement regulations that will have all landscape contractors registering with the city just like other professional contractors who have to pull a permit if they want to work on Marco Island.

“We’ll have a way of identifying all of the contractors,” said Bob Devlin, Marco Island zoning technician.

“That also helps us combat unlicensed contractors if they are here working,” Eric Wardle, city’s chief of code compliance, added.

Some contractors suggested that the city give them stickers to put on the windshields of their work vehicles that would identify them as registered contractors for the city.

Green Roofs Growing In North America

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities released their reports for 2004 and 2005 that indicate a 80% growth in green roof square footage in the United States. Green roofs also known as eco-roofs, vegetated roofs covered 1.3 million sq. ft. in 2004 and grew to 2.5 million sq. ft. in 2005. Cities with the most green roofs include Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, Austin, Texas and Des Moines, Iowa.

Green Roofs For Healthy Cities' mission is to increase the awareness of the economic, social, and environmental benefits of green roof infrastructure across North America and rapidly advance the development of the market for green roof products and services.

State Rain Sensor Ordinances Growing

Landscape Online is reporting that Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, and Massachusetts, are preparing to enact moisture sensor regulations on automatic irrigation systems. Pressure from diminishing water supplies, infrastructure increases, and growing population are cited as reasons for more water conservation legislation and enforcement.

Gardening Trends Up and Down

More Americans gardened and maintained their yard last year, according to National Gardening Association's survey 2005. The survey found that 83%, or 91 million U.S. households, participated in 1 or more types of do-it-yourself indoor or outdoor lawn and garden activities in 2005. According to American Nursery & Landscape Association, Americans spent $31.3 billion on professional landscape services in 2003 -- growing 13% in the last six years.

Meanwhile, according to Bruce Butterfield, Nat'l. Gardening Assoc.'s research director. Sales in trees and shrubs," declined from 2004 to 2005. Households purchasing flowering trees and shrubs fell from 12.3 million in 2004 to 9.1 million in 2005. Evergreen or leafy shrubs were sold to 6.4 million households in 2005, down from 9.8 million in 2004.

Is this an indication of smaller landscapes, frustrated homeowners, or natural disasters affecting the homeowner's desire to landscape forced to turn their focus to clean up and rebuilding?

March '06 home sales were up with building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers making the biggest strides last month with a 17.4% unadjusted year-over-year increase.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How far can you drive on a bushel of corn?

Interesting article in Popular Mechanics on crunching the numbers on alternative fuels. Check out the Fuel of the Future Alt-Fuel Rally which could be used as a great brochure/print out for classroom studies.

Thanks and a hat tip to John for sending.

Is Water Conservation Message Getting Out There?

Water conservation needs a serious multi-level effort to be effective for all, less painful on the budgets of the majority of Florida water consumers. With 1,000 people moving into the state each day and predictions of Florida's population larger than California's by 2050, water conservation has to be part of Floridians' lifestyles. The Orlando Sentinel's early indications of their unscientific poll showed that 60% of the persons responding to the poll watered their lawn every one to two days. This highlights the need of more water conservation education, tiered water rates, and strigent enforcement of local restrictions.
State officials haven't taken a hard line against water wasters despite water shortages in some parts of the state, including Central Florida.

In 2002, on the tail end of a fierce four-year drought, a statewide task force created a shopping list of water-saving measures -- everything from asking farmers to catch rainwater in cisterns to hiring a new army of inspectors to nab people violating lawn-watering rules.Although many of the ideas are implemented in piecemeal fashion around the state, none of the 51 recommendations spelled out in the Florida Water Conservation Initiative has become a state law with tough enforcement.

"I know people joke about how slow government is, but it's been four years," said Doug Shaw, a University of Florida hydrologist and Florida's director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy."It seems the government has taken a torturously long path on this," he said. "Where did all the recommendations go?"

What other strategies are being developed to insure an alternative water source? Read more here...

Wal-Mart, Red, White, & Blue, & Green?

The Grist Magazine interviews H. Lee Scott, the CEO behind Wal-mart.

For many enviros, the name "Wal-Mart" has always triggered a shudder. The world's biggest retailer has been charged with exacerbating suburban sprawl, burning massive quantities of oil via its 10,000-mile supply chain, producing mountains of packaging waste, polluting waterways with runoff from its
construction sites, and encouraging gratuitous consumption. (And those are just the environmental complaints.)But it's precisely Wal-Mart's size and reach that could make it a powerful force for good for the planet, say market observers and a growing number of activists. The company controls so much of the retail market, and has such sway over manufacturers, that any green initiatives on its part have huge ripple effects. And it's certainly CEO H. Lee Scott's intention to make waves.

In October, Scott announced a preposterously ambitious goal to
transform Wal-Mart into a company that runs on 100 percent renewable energy and produces zero waste. Since then, he has impressed greens with specific commitments to cut the corporation's greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent over
the next seven years, double the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet within 10 years, reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25 percent in the next three years, and double offerings of organic foods this spring, selling them at prices more affordable to the masses.

Is Wal-Mart engaging in a huge environmental wave of good marketing or are they serious? What could the impact be? Read Amanda Griscom Little's interview with the corporate giant.

Water Warriors

George Will writes about the Water Warriors, the Central Arizona Project, and the need to speak out about the future water crisis that may already be affecting your state.

Your Own Personal Message Plant

With memories of Jack and the Beanstalk or Alice in Wonderland's magical messages, I love the idea of sending special greetings to a friend or loved one? This idea of giving a present of a plant that has a message on slowly appearing legume will work even for those who don't have a green thumb. I can see the face of a child beaming while reading the magical words of "Happy Birthday", or your husband or wife seeing "I love you" or "Congratulations" sprout of the ground. They will want to know how you did it! Want to be really evil? How about sending a "Go Gators!" cheer to your favorite Seminole Fan?

National Dark-Sky Week

April brings us National Dark-Sky Week which encourages everyone in the United States to temporarily reduce light pollution by turning off any unnessecary lights. Developers of new communities are being encouraged to use non-polluting light sources in their design to help reduce light pollution, but also to allow people to connect with the night sky. Does your city or town help encourage looking at the night sky and connecting with the universe?

Speaking Of Orchids

The largest orchid show in North America with over 50,000 orchids, the 26th Annual International Orchid Show was held recently in Rockefeller Center. Exhibited in 25 major categories , some of the orchid growers have patiently waited and trained for 6 years to display their prize specimens.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Orchids: Winners and Losers in Global Warming

The benefits of global warming have increased the numbers and frequency of occurrence of British wild orchids in the last twenty years. A study by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) has found that the bee orchid and the pyramidal orchid have virtually doubled in frequency since 1987. The study also found that one rare orchid, the lesser butterfly orchid has declined over 50 percent, although there is no proof that the cause is global warming.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Indonesia's Pristine Forests In Danger

The last of Indonesia's pristine forests, in the remote province of Papua, are under threat and all commercial logging there should be halted, environment watchdog groups said.

"A handful of logging companies have wiped out much of Indonesia's forests. They must be stopped from finishing off our last intact forests in Papua," Emmy Hafild, from international environment group Greenpeace, told a press conference here.

She said that the government must put in place "a moratorium on large-scale commercial logging activists" in the intact forest landscapes of Indonesia, starting with Papua.

A large swathe of Papua's forests - where researchers recently discovered dozens of new plant and animal species - have already been allocated to logging companies that export timber to Japan, China, the European Union and the United States, said environmentalists.

"More than a quarter of forests in Papua have been sold off to logging companies," Christian Poerba, from Forest Watch Indonesia told the same press conference, pointing out that the logging concessions were for periods of between 20-30 years.

Scientists from Conservation International last December found a virtual "lost world" home to dozens of new species, including frogs, butterflies, and an orange-faced honeyeater bird in Papua's remote Foja mountains.

Greenpeace feared that "large-scale commercial logging is about to cut through the rainforest 'Eden' in Papua," the group said in a statement issued at the press conference. Indonesia has already lost 72 percent of its intact forests, and deforestation rates in the archipelago are among the highest in the world, Greenpeace says.

Greenpeace said the world's forests were in "critical condition" with less than ten percent of the earth's land area covered in intact forests.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

This Earth Day We Need To Protect Our Trees More

It's been 36 years since the first Earth Day. Are we doing better? We've lost over a billion trees in that time. Can we do more? Don Melnick, professor of conservation biology at Columbia University, New York and Mary Pearl, president of the Wildlife Trust think so and provide reasons why we should.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ant Navigation Tactics Help Technology

Imagine while walking to the grocery, every few streets you have to go back home to reset your navigation system in order to avoid getting lost.

That's what ants have to do. Now and then they must visit their nest to avoid losing their way on foraging trips. Now scientists are using this understanding to make better robots. Find out what they do in this study from the Study of Experimental Biology.

Sierra Club Founder, John Muir has his day

Since 1988, the United States has been honoring the founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir on April 21st. John Muir, famed naturalist, was born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1838. Find out all about John Muir , his environmental legacy for the world, including the Yellowstone National Park, and about other United States and world naturalists. There are study guides, links for government agencies and information on the Sierra Club.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Plains Likely To See Drought This Summer

The weather forecasters at Accuweather are predicting a drought for the Midwest plains this summer, although the state's climatologist, Mary Knapp says its a little early to compare the last four years of dry summers to the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930's. Are the farmers worried about the lack of rainfall? Seems they are more concerned about high fertilizer prices.
Bill Wood, Douglas County’s agriculture agent for K-State Research and Extension, said the lack of moisture in the soil was causing local farmers to brace themselves for the possibility of poor crop yields.

“Right now, it’s looking kind of scary,” he said.

The forecast comes as a research group headquartered at Kansas University is preparing to launch a $9.25 million project aimed at predicting large-scale environmental changes such as the Dust Bowl. The grant, announced Monday, will link researchers at KU, Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University in a study of environmental changes along the Kansas River basin.

“If we would have had this grant with the equipment and the computational power … before the Dust Bowl, we would have been able to predict that the Dust Bowl was coming,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, the lead researcher on the project.

The three-year grant was awarded to the Kansas NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. It comprises $6.75 millionfrom the National Science Foundation and $2.5 million from the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. Owner Steve Wilson has recently heard a few customers make reference to the Dust Bowl days. But overall, it’s not the greatest topic of concern.

“They’re probably still more concerned with high fertilizer prices,” he said.

Rain, Rain, Come again

Our yard received a half inch of rain last night with more to come tonight and tomorrow. Keeping fingers crossed since Orlando is down 6.5 inches of rain for the year. Hopefully your irrigation rain sensor will shut the irrigation system off if you received your fair share of Mother Nature's help.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

China to use artificial rain to settle dust storm

Beijing's worst dust storm in five years will be quelled with the government spraying artificial rain. China's government has been replanting "green belts" of trees throughout the north in an effort to trap the dust after decades when the storms worsened amid heavy tree-cutting. Find out how artificial rain is made.

Jobs That Save the Earth

Everyone who teaches environmental education, water conservation, gardening, right plant, right place principles, and BMP's is saving the world one person at a time, and some teachers have a classroom full of eager youngsters at a time. Learn about other jobs that save the Earth.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dead Sea Is Dying

Environmentalists are warning that the world's saltiest sea and lowest point on the earth - the Dead Sea - threatened by a lack of fresh water, is dying. The Jordan river, technically diverted for use in agricultural and hydrolectric projects, is fed by the Dead Sea which is bordered by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. Read about this ecological disaster that could pose the end of the Dead Sea within the next 50 years.

US To Reposition Satellite Over Amazon

As part with of NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) contributions to improving the Global Earth Observation of Systems, will be moving a 9 year old satellite formerly used to track weather conditions, such as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, snowstorms, and other conditions that affect agriculture and transportation will be moved over South America's Amazon region. GEOSS is a coalition of more than 60 countries working to unify Earth observation by 2015 and improve environmental policies around the planet. Find out why South America is grateful for the big move.

A Rose From Heaven

Jackson and Perkins has released the John Paul II Commemorative Rose Collection with a beautiful white, hybrid tea rose with a citrus fragrance.

The collection includes a Pope John Paul II bareroot rose and solid, cast aluminum marker to place alongside the planted rose in your garden. You'll also receive an embossed keepsake portfolio, which holds a signed and numbered certificate of authenticity, a full-color photograph of the rose and one of the
late Pontiff’s homilies. A special collector's item, this limited edition package also makes a wonderful gift.

Ten percent of this rose's net sales benefit the poor of sub-Saharan Africa, one of the late Pontiff's closest concerns.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rain barrels can save a rainy day

April's This Old House's magazine has some great environmental articles. Check out "Harvesting The Water With Rain Barrels" so that you don't have to "Install an In-ground Irrigation System". One inch of rainfall on a 1,000 sq. ft will provide 632 gallons. If you have a 2,000 sq. ft. roof, you can collect 55,000 gallons over a year. Check out Composting on the Central Florida Yards & Neighborhoods website for more information on recycling.

Nutria found in Seattle, Washington

A water-loving rodent native to South America that has destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands in the southeast has been spotted near Lake Washington. Nutria are semi-aquatic, chocolate-colored rodents that can weigh more than 20 pounds and eat one-quarter of their weight a day in crops and plants of all varieties. Also called coypu, or swamp rats, they burrow through marshes and levies, and females can produce more than a dozen offspring a year. Read about the Invasive Species Council created to track and develop methods to remove these rodents and other exotic invasives. How did nutrias come to US?

Inaccurate blame for missing head leads to inaccurate identification

A missing head was blamed as the reason for the delay in misidentifying the migratory whooping swan in Fife, Scotland last week.

But vets at the Scottish Agricultural College say the body was intact when it was recovered from the harbour at Cellardyke. Barti Synge, the SAC's veterinary services group manager, said yesterday that he did not understand why some officials had sought to blame the delays on the absence of a head.

"My information is that it did have a head but it was difficult to identify in terms of species because it had been predated," he said. "I don't know where the suggestion came from that it did not have a head. It didn't come from us. We were just unable to identify it with any certainty. The fact that it's a whooper is a minor detail and there certainly hasn't been any cover-up."

Earlier this week Ross Finnie, the Scottish environment minister, said DNA tests on the bird had shown it was a whooper, which had probably flown to the UK from Iceland, Russia or Scandinavia.

Officials said the failure to correctly identify the bird until a week after it was first confirmed to have the H5N1 strain of bird flu had made no difference to risk assessments or to measures monitoring birds for the virus.

A spokesman said the bird had been hard to identify, and had to be tested twice.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Disappearing Saguaros and Xeriscaping in Arizona has its downside

Protecting the disappearing saguaro cacti from development in Arizona is the prickly mission of the Cactus Rescue Crew. But the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association has bought into the program, understanding that cooperation is critical on both sides.
Two years ago, concern about disappearing desert in Pima County led to the passage of a $174 million bond issue to buy open land for conservation and to a plan to cluster development in less environmentally sensitive areas.

Some cities are beginning to offer homeowners and businesses financial incentives for pulling up lawn and putting in approved low-water-use plants. The city of Scottsdale, for example, recently began a successful "turf removal rebate" of 25 cents a square foot, up to a maximum of $1,500.

But xeriscaping has had unintended consequences. Nonnative African grasses introduced for drought-tolerant landscaping have begun to invade desert areas. Last year was the state's biggest fire season, fueled in part by invasive grasses, said Travis Bean, a research specialist at the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tony Avent, Nurseryman Extraordinaire

One of my biggest heroes is Tony Avent, owner of Plant Delights Nursery at the Juniper Level Botanic Garden in Raleigh, NC. His motto "I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it least three times" justifies my own garden philosophy that you should "grow what brings a smile to your face" and "makes your heart soar". His garden paths are definitely not your standard formal garden. The winding trails display visual beauty filled with textural interests that defy description. When you walk on the grassy paths, you constantly have to catch your breath at the unique ornamental varieties planted side by side.

Visiting his nursery during a tour last summer at the National Garden Writers Association conference, I was delighted to find Florida native plants there along with flowers that I would disappointly never find in any Florida nursery. I couldn't stop taking pictures of all the lovely flowers and ornamentals. Tony's love of naturalism takes him around the world in search of more horticultural rarities.

Last week, the NY Times article featured Tony's talents and own philosophies and thoughts of the nursery industry. A video garden tour is also available. You may have to subscribe, but it's free.

If you haven't ordered Plant Delights Nursery's catalog famous for its' front covers, check them out.

Wildfire season will be hot this year

According to national fire weather manager Rick Ochoa, of the Bureau of Land Management:
"The entire Gulf Coast, from bone-dry South Texas to all of Florida, is at higher risk (of wildfires) in part because a La Niña weather pattern has deprived the southern one-third of the continent of its normal parade of winter and spring storms. Relief in the form of thunderstorms may not take hold until June. Vast tracts of trees blown down by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and vegetation killed by saltwater storm surges means more fuel for fires."

Look up - today we have the Pink Moon

The Full Pink Moon (April 13) -- This full Moon is also known as theSprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. Pink refers tothe wild ground phlox, usually in bloom around this time.Historically, Native Americans living in what is now the northern andeastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving adistinctive name to each full Moon. With some variations, the sameMoon names were used throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Justifiable Homicide in Florida

From comes this great picture of what could happen if you go crazy with your lawn ornaments.

Prediction: Earth will lose 25% of species by 2050

A scientific report released today predicted that 25% of the world's plant and vertebrate animal species will be extinct by 2050.

Biodiversity hotspots are some of the richest and most threatened biological pools on Earth. They contain 44 percent of plant and 35 percent of the Earth's vertebrate species on only 1.4 percent of the Earth's land. Each hotspot contains its own set of unique species. "Climate change is rapidly becoming the most serious threats to the planet's biodiversity," said Jay Malcolm, an assistant forestry professor at the University of Toronto.

In the most dramatic of the scenarios, for which carbon dioxide levels grow to double that of today's levels, the models forecasted a potential loss of 56,000 plant species and 3,700 vertebrate species in the hotspots.

Environmental educators have the world on the shoulders to get the message out to help preserve our resources by having the best management practices.

Growing a better spring

I love the latest Sears tv commercial for Craftsman lawn mowers. "Growing a better spring" shows a plant breaking through the ground in fast motion, while a snail goes by. The next scene is a spectacular display of unfocused orange crocosmias with bright green leaves in the background of a black-leafed ornamental, one of the latest gardening color trends. Red poppies slowly unfurling with tractors and then more on their lawn mowers. Keep an eye open for it - it's an inspiring garden.

Be a safe gardener

So many ways to hurt yourself while gardening. Check out Health Day news' health safety tips from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Turf Warrior

Wired magazine has a great article on ScottsMiracle-gro CEO Jim Hagedorn, the Turf Warrior. Check out the future of biotechnology and grass lawns. Some great stats on lawns, watering, chemical use, and population growth.

A hat tip to Amy.

Speaking of edible plants

Food Network has a great question of the week.
What are fiddleleaf ferns?

The answer: Fiddlehead ferns are tightly coiled fern frond that resembles the spiral end of a violin (fiddle). They have a rich, deep green color and are about 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. They have a flavor akin to an asparagus-green bean-okra cross and a texture that's appealingly chewy. Fiddlehead ferns are a good source of vitamins A and C. Enjoy Emeril's New Orleans-inspired dish of Fresh Fiddleleaf Ferns, Crawfish and White Bean Ragout.

The picture of fiddleleaf ferns taken by Rich Frenkel.

Feel like munching?

Ever take a bite of a leaf of a flower while gardening? Edible gardening is one way to enjoy your landscape. Check out all the edible flowers you can plant in your yard. Just be careful - from experience - do not plant edible plants next to your poisonous plants.

Once in my early days while doing a landscape consult, I was admiring a wonderful herb garden and bent down to pluck some wonderfully green chive-looking leaf and popped it in my mouth. Immediate I knew that this was a poisonous plant and that I made a big mistake. Not wanting to panic or show my complete idiocy at eating something I shouldn't have, I kept on talking and walking with the homeowner through her yard for about ten minutes, all the time thinking... "I'm going to die right here in this person's yard." I could see the headlines, "GARDEN EXPERT DIES WHILE ON THE JOB DOING SOMETHING STUPID".

While my tongue stung and my throat was closing up, I asked the homeowner what was that plant coming out of her ground next to the herbs. She answered innocently, "oh those are my daffodils, aren't they wonderful?" Daffodils are poisonous.

Quietly choking, I thanked her and nonchalantly cut the consult short and got in my car. I called Anna, the Master Gardener secretary and told her if I died before I got to the hospital what the problem was. I swore her to secrecy. Well, within ten minutes while driving back into town, my mouth settled down. I had something carbonated to drink and felt better. I didn't go to the hospital and I didn't die... but I could have been very sick or had severe consequences.

Don't plant edible plants next to poisonous ones. You never know what kind of expert 'idiot' will walk through your yard.

Mistaken swan identity in Scotland poses risk

Mistakenly identified as the Scottish native mute swan, the migratory whooping swan poses even a greater risk in spreading the avian flu to the UK by flying in from Germany.

Nature produces the world's strongest glue

Coming to a hospital near you, Caulobacter crescentus , a bacterium that sticks to everything, including humans. It sticks to river rocks in streams, rivers with the assistance of sugar molecules, even under the stress equal to three to four times the stress used today by retail glues. Because it doesn't come off of humans, scientists are looking at ways to use the bacterium as a biodegradable surgical adhesive. This natural glue could be used also see practical engineering applications with water pipes, dams, etc.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Protein factories from plants, insects, and bacteria

Pharmaceutical companies are reporting that protein factories that would manufacture antigens that use cells from plants, insects, and even E. coli bacteria to fight infections, such as the bird flu are in the works.

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't

When the necessity and benefits of supplying water to millions of Chinese outweighs the risks, who gets to make those decisions and the responsibility?

With the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina's effects on the New Orleans' levees still fresh on our minds, comes this New Zealand Herald reporters' first hand view.

"Environmentalists view the Three Gorges dam in China, the world's biggest, as a monstrous natural catastrophe waiting to unleash itself on the hundreds of millions of people who live near the Yangtze River. The Chinese Government is fiercely proud of the dam, which is due to open next month, saying it will stop the river flooding, provide much-needed clean hydro-electric power and give ships from booming coastal cities better access to central China."


Soggy weather declared an emergency

While we are desperate for rain in Florida, California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Monday in seven northern and central California counties, saying the region's rainiest March on record and more rain on the horizon put people and property in "extreme peril." Seems like it's either feast or famine lately with the weather.

Give a big ol' whoop

The whooping cranes departed from Florida to Wisconsin March 28th. Approximately 350 are believed to live in the wild. Fourteen of the migratory birds were recently spotted in a Chicago wetland preserve. Last Thursday they finally reached their destination at Wisconsin's Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Logging company in Amazon shut down

Let's hear one for Ipaam, Brazil's environmental authority.

The Norte Wood logging company was shut down for operating without a license in the Amazonas state town of Novo Aripuana, some 1,600 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.

Scientists say the deforestation reduces the area's rich biodiversity and contributes to global warming. Burning in the Brazilian Amazon releases about 370 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, about 5.4 percent of the world total.

Brazil's rain forest is the size of Western Europe and covers 60 percent of the country's territory. Experts say as much as 20 percent of its 1.6 million square miles has already been destroyed by development, logging and farming.

The rain forest lost 7,300 square miles — an area more than half the size of Belgium — between July 2004 and August 2005, down from 10,500 square miles the year before, according to Environment Minister Marina Silva.

Ancient Sloth found in Everglades

4,000 thousand year old bones of sloths were found in the Everglades.

Yes, there is a global warming problem

With all the MSM's proclaiming disastrous results from global warming, The Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom is stating emphatically that global warming stopped in 1998. That should make some people hot under the collar.

I said "Boon" not "Boom"

The small town of Gaffney, S.C. is welcoming with open arms all the benefits of nuclear energy. My first experience with nuclear plants - besides seeing them in the headline news as disasters - was landing in Harrisburg, PA, October and asking the passenger seated next to me, a Pennsylvanian, "Do they keep those Christmas lights up year round?" After finding out it was the infamous Three Mile Island, I was a little uncomfortable.

Going straight to my motel in Carlisle, I opened up the telephone book to check out the restaurants in the area only to find in the blue section of the phone directory the emergency instructions on what to do in case of a 'nuclear melt-down'. Now I was starting to panic. At least in Florida when you open the directory, the hurricane emergency instructions tell you that you have a few days to get supplies and hunker down.

In working and talking to the businesses and residents in the area, they weren't concerned and were open about discussing the safety issues with strangers. It still was odd to drive the roads, looking at the beautiful, expensive homes directly across from the Susequehanna River wondering how those homeowners could sleep at night. But they did.

The residents of Gaffney, SC need to be commended and recognized for their honesty, their good sense, and initiative in helping the world protect our resources and use alternative energy sources. In this day and age of "NIMBY", the majority of citizens would rather talk the talk, than walk the walk that goes hand in hand with protecting the environment and that means that all Gaffney residents should be able to sleep well at night.

With Easter around the corner this is a little suspect

A monster rabbit eating vegetable patches has been terrorizing villages near London. The reported oversized lagomorph has been touted to look suspiciously like Wallace of the Wallace and Grommet fame. But then again, maybe it's Harvey. In this day and age of unabashedly shameful marketing ploys, maybe the name is just a case of splitting hares.

Water supply source divided between need and effect

Studies show that Indian River Lagoon will suffer ecosystem damage as an alternative water source. Awareness and water conservation will increase the longevity of the potable water supply we have now, allowing us to find better, more eco-friendly alternatives sources.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Seas that were vanishing are now reappearing

The major environmental news agencies have been decrying the loss of water from lakes, rivers, and seas, such as the Aral Sea, the fourth largest water body in the world, from an excessive need and use of water. The Aral Sea showing a loss of 75% of its water supply is in the news again this week with the Kok-Aral Dam waters flowing back into the sea years ahead of schedule. Working with the World Bank and Karzakhstan government, builders of the Kok-Aral dam and a system of dikes, restoring millions of cubic feet of water into the Central Asian sea replenishing hundreds of villages' shorelines and agricultural irrigation canals, fish populations and a depleted water supply for over a million people living near the water body.

Welcomed thunderstorms last night

Last night in our yard we received over an inch and a half of rain with lots of lightning and thunder. The garden looks refreshed and my woodlands seem more relaxed. We went almost six weeks with no rain. That's stressful here in Florida and many turf lawns were looking brown and dry. Remember if you overwater your landscapes, when we go through drought periods, your lawn will be the first ones to decline. Encourage deeper root systems by watering longer less often. Once or twice a week irrigation to put down 1" - 1.5" water when we receive no rain will get your landscape through April, our driest month.
Very important article on Africa's agriculture future.

"Africa Faces Barren Future: 'To Feed People We Must Feed the Soil'
- Karen Palmer , The Toronto Star, March 31, 2006 Kampala, Uganda.

Africa is in danger of losing its ability to feed an already hungry population because its farmland is rapidly becoming barren, a major new study warns. More than 80 per cent of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in three people is undernourished, is so depleted of nutrients it has been rendered infertile, the report notes."This is severely eroding Africa's ability to feed itself," Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said yesterday. "To feed people, we must also feed the soil."Researchers from the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development, who tracked soil conditions across Africa for more than two decades, say population growth is leading to an over-cultivation of farmland.Farmers who once rotated crop production, moving from plot to plot to allow soil to regain its fertility, are now forced to grow crop after crop on the same land, "depleting the soil of nutrients while giving nothing back," says the report.An estimated 70 per cent of Africans rely directly on farming for their food supply or livelihood. But the "soil health crisis" means crop productivity has remained stagnant, while cereal yields in Asia have tripled over the past four decades."The news is not good," said Amit Roy, president of the U.S.-based non-profit soil centre, during a telephone conference in Washington yesterday. "The soil health of the African continent is in decline and there is significant mining of nutrients." Roy said at least 170 million hectares - nearly 80 per cent of all African farmland - is so barren it cannot produce even one tonne of cereal per hectare a year - a third of what soil in Asia or South America produces.The findings have major implications for the continent's ability to feed itself. Already, some 43 million tonnes of cereals are imported to sub-Saharan Africa each year at a cost of $7.5 billion (all figures U.S.). But despite that, an estimated 200 million people go hungry each year. Without radical change in agricultural practices, the report predicts that by 2020, Africa will have to import 60 million tonnes of cereals, which would cost $14 billion."African aid is never, never going to end food insecurity," said Firmino Mucavele, chief executive of the New Partnership For Africa's Development secretariat. Nigeria's Obasanjo is chair of the implementing committee of the African Union-sponsored secretariat. He said too many nutrients are being removed from the African soil, and not being replenished with suitable fertilizers. "The environment is being damaged by the quality and quantity of fertilizers used," he said.Africa's rate of fertilizer use is one-tenth the world average, although commercial farmers grow peanut, cotton and sugar cane crops that are notoriously high consumers of soil nutrients. A cruel irony is that fertilizers cost up to six times as much in Africa as the rest of the world. A June summit will look at ways of lowering that cost, including the possibility of producing fertilizer in Africa, and promoting mineral and organic fertilizers. The ultimate objective is to reduce or eliminate hunger.There also needs to be more investment in irrigation, Roy said. Only 4 per cent of arable land in Africa is watered artificially, while nearly 40 per cent of land in Asia is irrigated. And the problem needs to be managed immediately, Roy said, since farmers are encroaching on even more fragile ecosystems, like forests and savannahs, in search of new land to till. Researchers found 50,000 hectares of forest and 60,000 hectares of grassland are cleared for farming each year in Africa."Without the green revolution, we'll never be able to create our own resources and decrease poverty," Mucavele said. "Without a green revolution, we'll never really control our own environment."

Interested in creating an African garden where you live?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hoot Mon

From comes this birthday tidbit. Famous Scotsman, John Claudius Loudon was born in Cambuslang on April 8th in 1783. A landscape gardener and horticulturalist, he published many books, including the "Encyclopedia of Gardening" (1822) and "Arboretum et Fruitcetum Britannicum" (1838). Happy Birthday John!

Can you say "P" for Peeved?

An oft quoted adage suggests fences make for good neighbors and natural fences are a landscapers delight. What happens when you mix a natural fence with an irate neighbor's home-made concoction? Undoubtedly you've seen tv garden gurus and read home-made garden recipe books that suggest that urinating on your lawn is a good old-fashion way to get uric acid into the soil. But this criminal incident shows that you can kill leylandii cypress with a little too much neighboring attention. Seems Mr. David Jollands, Lincolnshire UK was "peeved" with Mr. Russel Brooks' leylandii hedge being too tall. Caught one night on a hidden camcorder, Mr. Jollands' year-long midnight missions came to an end and after pleading guilty to the crime, he was sentenced to one day in jail. And you thought keeping up with the Jones was too much work.

Operation Berry Picker

The Florida Native Plant Society knows that the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has more purposes than just a landscape plant. Modern science has shown saw palmetto berries to be a treatment for prostate cancer and as a dietary supplement. Finding enough saw palmettos to satisfy the pharmaceutical world is now an issue. Check out Operation Berry Picker and you may realize a need to keep a watchful eye on the saw palmettos in your yard.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Gardening With Soul

You mean there's other ants besides fire ants?

Some Floridians think the only ants in our landscapes are carpenter and fire ants. In Florida we have 218 species of ants that we have to deal with. Do you know how many ant species there are in the world? Over 11,000. Where did they all come from? The answer may surprise you. We should count ourselves lucky that only 1% of the insect world in Florida are bad.

Spring Fever In The Garden

This weekend, Saturday May 8th, Tom MacCubbin and I will be speaking at "Spring Fever in the Garden" festival in Winter Garden. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people expected to take part in buying plants, "Ask the Expert", gardening vendors,kiddie games and learning how to enjoy a wonderful Saturday in the spring. Come by and say hello!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Top 100 Living Contributors to Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the wave of the future in scientific and agricultural research these days. Sustaining the human population with crops for food, medicine, clothing, and trade has increased exponentially over the last few decades. Helping farmers worldwide decrease their expenses yet provide more efficient best management practices in controlling insects, pests and weeds, while reducing the impact to the Earth is critical. Read about these scientists, Nobel Prize winners, visionaries, and heroes here: Top 100 Living Contributors to Biotechnology .

Organic Labels

Do you really understand the labels when it says "organic"? I thought 'Everyday Cheapskate' columnist, Mary Hunt explained the labels on "organic" labels well.

100 PERCENT ORGANIC: No synthetic ingredients are allowed by law. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been verified independently by accredited inspectors.

ORGANIC: At least 95 percent of ingredients are produced organically. This means 5 percent aren't and can consist of synthetics. (Exception: Organic labels on seafood are meaningless because the USDA has issued no standards when it comes to fish and shellfish. There are no USDA regulations in place, possibly because you cannot control what gets into fish, even when they are farm-raised.)

At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. The remaining 30 percent must come from the USDA's approved list. Apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, strawberries, spinach, peaches, milk, chicken and beef absorb significant amounts of pesticides and chemicals when produced conventionally. These are items that warrant your consideration when produced organically. Not so with other food items that do not absorb the bad stuff so readily. In fact, there is little difference between organically produced and conventionally produced cauliflower, sweet corn, broccoli, asparagus, mangoes and peas. To pay more for organic versions of these items is a waste of money.
Mary Hunt also goes on to say that 'organic labels on cosmetics and hair products are meaningless, so don't waste your money paying more for them.' There are no regulations in the cosmetology industries regarding organic ingredients. If the item has one organic element out of fifteen, it can be labeled 'organic'. Learning to read labels is smart - whether it's food, cosmetics, hair products, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, or organic vs. synthetic, cheap or expensive - marketing advertisers often hope the consumer isn't as educated in terminology or regulations as they could be. The more consumer-savvy you are, the more power you have and that could save you some decision-making dilemmas and your pocketbook. To read the rest of "When It Pays To Buy Organic" go to: Cheapskate Monthly.

A Daffodil, Narcissus, and Tulip walk into a bar...

Your spring bulbs losing their balance and falling over? Make them tipsy instead of tipping over by giving them liquor. William Miller, Director of Cornell University's Flower Bulb Research Program, has conducted tests to see if he could stop daffodils, narcissus, and tulips from growing too tall and drooping. Downside of the tests show that it stunts plant growth and could damage their root systems. Sounds expensive and time-consuming, but if you're going on the wagon, might be interesting way to recycle. Read more about his studies.

Why we live in Florida...

It's April and it's still snowing up North.

WaterFest Orange County

Tomorrow, I'll be at the Orlando Science Center for the Orange County's WaterFest for 600+ students from around Orange County middle schools. They will be learning about water conservation, nature, and becoming good stewards of our precious resources. They are the next generation to inherit the Earth. Don't be upset if your youngster tells you that you're taking too long in the shower, listen. They are only looking out for their future children.

How clean are our lakes, rivers, and oceans?

What are the facts?

Oh no, not another drought...

We have had no rain in Orlando for 38 days, according to the Orlando International Airport's rain gauge. We are down 5.89 inches for the first three months of 2006 already and we are starting to hear the murmurs swell as to whether we are in another drought. Using your irrigation to provide adequate water needs for a healthy lawn during our dry spring is necessary if we are not getting enough rain. Make sure you're not overwatering. One inch of irrigation a week will be enough for your St. Augustine, bahia, and zoysia lawns. Go to proper lawn irrigation for more information.

April 2006 is Water Conservation Month

April 2006 has been proclaimed Water Conservation month to encourage awareness of the necessity of protecting Florida's water quantity and water quality. Check out all the cities, counties, and agencies banding together who adopted resolutions. Thank you to all those who signed the proclamation.


Welcome to the Central Florida Yards & Neighborhoods' Earth Shattering Gardening blog. I hope that you enjoy this new feature as I bring you the latest environmental research, gardening dirt, and newsworthy trivia that I can dig up. For those of you who are not familiar with the Central Florida Yards & Neighborhoods' website, check out the pages on gardening, water conservation, environmental issues, and plant lore. I welcome your questions and comments and hope that you will email me. Looking forward to hearing from you!