Thursday, April 25, 2013

Photographing your garden

Michele K. Koskinen

Landscape of Public gardens.      
This photo pulls you into the garden scene and has depth.
I was recently at a public garden and was taking photos when a women ask why I took photos of trees and landscape in the winter. I was not sure how to answer her so my reply was " I always take photos regardless of the season. It gives me information about the garden I am visiting, When in bloom it is a teaching tool for me to learn more about cultivars I am not familiar with and may want to try, In the fall it shows the colors you may get from trees and plants and the winter it is all about shape and texture. As an added benefit, I can frame my favorites and use them as rotating galleries, gifts to friends and family or use them to practice my newfound hobby watercolor.

So why take photos of your garden, public gardens, or flowers in general.

1. It allows you to see design patterns you favor for you landscape.
2. As you garden matures it helps you make decisions about changes.
3. It allows you to examine what attracts you to a plant, tree or shrub and why you buy the plant.
4. It gives you a perspective of how your garden works through the seasons.
5. It gives a visual history of what was successful and what was not.
6. It teaches you to observe more closely a flowers distinct characteristics.
7. You can learn what the names of plants are that you would like to try.
8. It is an archive of the things that work inside and out in your growing environment.

Tip: Photographs in the summer garden change with light as the day goes from the soft morning to the harsh daylight of summer and then the colors of the sunsets. In the winter it is different as the colors are mostly browns, faded green and therefore texture becomes your focal point. Spring is coming and gardeners are preparing for the new seasons of flowers, vegetables, containers or a combination. Take photos, keep a journal, or as I do, keep a book on your computer of ideas in the garden. Not only is it a learning tool, it gets you ready to go out and garden.

A few of my favorite and mistake photos. Inside and out, gardens or walks take that camera with you and Go out and shoot.

What is in bloom at the time of year.

June-- Iris in full bloom.
July----- Iris are finished, Lilies are beginning, Coreopsis and Heuchera in bloom.

I found this at a garden and wanted to look it up later.

Take the plant marker to remember.

A nice shot. The light through the wings and the muted background.
Patience this day about 10 minutes and I don't know how many tries.

overexposed/ poor background
framing is awful

Overexposed but a nice framing.
The chair in the background another point of interest
to draw the eye in. Tilting the camera makes
it a little different.
Corrected by iphoto enhance.
What is this plant?
Previous blog

A macro shot with a dark background made by shutter and apeture manipulation

Photo color enhanced and cropped

Don't forget to take photo's of your favorite bulbs in bloom during the winter months....Paperwhites, Amaryllis, African Violets.......
Closeup of the parts are often intriguing photos.

There are many tips and tricks for the beginner to the advanced. Books, classes, youtube, and the worldwide web.....Two links below to get you started exploring how to photograph flowers and gardens. Like gardening, photography is a learning experience. With digital, you can shoot and shoot and learn through doing. Enjoy........

Fine Gardening tips
5 quick tips

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raised Beds for the Home Gardener

Michele K. Koskinen

As I was working on refurbishing my raised beds that got destroyed recently by Sandy I though of the reasons I will build again. In todays world of home gardening, raised beds, instead of in ground gardens, are the preferred way to grow your vegetables and herbs and even some flower gardens. No longer your grandma's garden of digging, tilling and weeding expansive gardens in the ground, the 4 foot by 8 plus plots with at least a 2' path are easier to maintain and have many advantages.

Advantages of Raised Garden Beds
  • Raised beds warm quicker in the spring allowing earlier planting and stay warmer in the fall
  • The soil in the beds does not get compacted becuse of easy accessibility on paths. Soil compaction is a major factor in reduced yields. 
  • The soil can be easily made specific PH for different types of plants.
  • roots are more easily established 
  • Water conservation using a soakeer hose or drip system is more economical and helps deter disease
  • they produce 60 to 80% higher yield
  • successive planting in different beds is made easier
  • they have better drainage 
  • are great for intensive gardening
  • don't require back breaking preparation every year 
  • if you are older you can make them high enough you don't have to bend so far or can sit
  • are great for the handicapped or elderly gardener

Once established raised beds do have to be watered a more. Setting up a drip or soaker hose system with a timer allows the busy home gardener to have more time to actually enjoy the garden "work" during the growing season and is a way to conserve water.

Materials for raised beds can be as economical or as expensive as the gardener wants. No longer for the person that knows how to build. Raised bed kits are sold for those that do not have the carpentry skills or the time. They can be wood, brick, stone, concrete block, metal, man made wood and a variety of heights. Instructions are easy and can be found on a variety of website as well as kits to be purchased and put together. Below a few sites for information and to inspire.

Edible Garden Ready to be planted 2013

The Edible Demonstration Garden has been prepared and ready for spring planting. Lois Fischer the chairperson along with Mary Ellen Post, Eldridge Ragsdale and others prepared the beds and began planting.

Many of the perennial herbs in the garden are already coming to life after the warm winter and more are to be planted.
Differnt type of sage and oregano as well as  rosemary can
be seen in the photo below.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Household Hazardous Waste: What to Know & Where to Go

Jessica S. Herwick
With April just around the corner and Daylight Savings giving us our extra hours of sunshine back, it’s time to start thinking about spring… and spring cleaning!  Many of the products you will use to scrub, sanitize, wax, dust and paint your walls will certainly clean your home, but in the long run, they may be polluting the environment, our water sources, and even our gardens!  

We buy certain cleaning products, and use them, because they work. But, they work because there is a formula of chemicals and other materials that are designed to kill germs… and sometimes those formulas are toxic to more than just dust bunnies.  Products of this nature are considered Household Hazardous Waste, and should be stored and disposed of properly. Because federal law does not take responsibility for the disposal of HHW, many communities have collection programs for HHW to reduce the potential harm posed by these chemicals. EPA encourages participation in these HHW collection programs.  Read on to learn more about how identify HHW in your home, and where to go in and around Philadelphia to properly dispose of your HHW.

What to Know…
 According to the EPA, Household Hazardous Wastes includes any materials in your home that are or may be hazardous when not disposed of properly, but are not regulated as hazardous waste under federal and state laws. So basically, plain-old household waste is upgraded and considered Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) when it is bought over-the-counter and contains one or more of the following four characteristics:

(may destroy and damage other substances with which it comes into contact, usually through the gradual destruction of material, usually metals, by chemical reaction with its environment)

(harmful when ingested.  may become reactive when exposed to other chemicals)

(may catch fire, explode, burn or ignite when exposed to certain temperatures or other chemicals)

(inherently unstable chemicals that are susceptible to rapid decomposition as well as chemicals which, under specific conditions, can react alone, or with other substances in a violent uncontrolled manner, liberating heat, toxic gases, or leading to an explosion) 

This means paints, cleaners, motor oils, batteries, light bulbs, pesticides, and even old televisions, computers and electronics, fall into one or more of those categories.  All of these products contain chemicals or other elements that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment.  Usually these products come with warnings on their labels, which is your first clue as you learn to identify what is HHW and what can safely go in the trash can.  See the website links below to read more about what the EPA and the Cooperative Extension consider HHW and suggestions on how to store and dispose of products: 

Breaks down the steps to identify Household Hazardous Waste and dispose of it properly.            

Penn State Cooperative Extension  
Free Penn State publication online entitled Household Hazardous Products and Hazardous Waste: A Summary for Consumers. 
This is a well-organized wealth of information that I found easy to read and extremely helpful in answering many of my own questions about HHW.  It also had a superb section about the choices we make in cleaning products, with a list of safe household solutions that not only work, but are safer for our families and our environment (and much cheaper solutions than the chemical based cleaning products on the market!)

Some medications are considered HHW! 
For an updated list of prescription drugs which can be safely flushed please visit the USFDA web site  or contact the USFDA at 1-888-463-6332.

What to Do…
So what should you do with this stuff?  There can be a lot of confusion about how to properly dispose of these household items.  Many people think it’s okay to rinse empty containers out in the sink or dump outdated liquids down the commode.  Some people set old cans of motor oil in the back yard, or toss batteries and old televisions out with the garbage.  Although federal law permits us to throw many of these items in the trash, and no one can stop you from pouring your bucket of cleaner onto the street and into the city drain system, the EPA (and millions of citizens, scientists and tree-lovers agree) these are not the safest way to dispose of your household trash.

Indirectly, these chemicals and materials can pollute the environment, slip into sewer systems and even into our drinking water when not disposed of properly.  Directly, certain types of HHW have the potential to contaminate wastewater treatment systems, contaminate septic tanks, and even cause physical injury to sanitation workers who come into contact with this sort of pollution. 

The EPA recommends:
The EPA provides a variety of information, research, instructions and specifics on how to safely store and properly dispose of HHW for the benefit of your family, your community and our environment.  They recommend finding a drop-off program, event, or center nearest to your community and participating in the national efforts to reduce the potential damage HHW can have on our environment.

Where to Go…
Along with many other cities, towns and communities, Philadelphia is raising awareness and doing its part by continuing their Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Events.  This is by far the easiest – and safest - way to properly dispose of your HHW.  All you have to do is show up!  The first of 7 scheduled events is April 20th at the Streets Department’s Training Center.  You can clear out the hazards in your house or garage between 9am and 3pm on this day.  Events are scheduled for May through November in varying locations around the city.  Bring your household hazardous items and the staff at each event will take care of the rest for you.
** Be sure to read product labels for disposal directions to reduce the risk of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility. Even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain! **
The Master Gardeners and the Philadelphia Cooperative Extension are doing their part to support many of these events by donating their time to attend the drop-offs and distribute information to participants.  Master Gardeners interested in donating their time can get more information on the MG volunteer webpage.

Scheduled HHW Drop Off Events for 2013:
9am to 3pm

April 20                       Streets Department’s Training Center (State Road)
May 18                        1st District Highway Yard (Parkside Ave)
June 15                        Northwest Transfer Station (Domino Ln. & Umbria S., Roxborough)
July 18                         Street’s Department’s Training Center (State Road)
September 21               3rd District Highway Yard (22nd & York St.)
October 26                   Streets Department Facility (S. 63rd St.)
November 2                 Streets Department Northeast Facility (Delaware Ave.)

8am – 6pm Monday through Saturday
Accepts Only Computer Equipment and Televisions

Citizen Drop-Off Center
Domino Lane and Umbria Street, Roxborough
Open Monday - Saturday 8am to 6pm 215-685-2501 ext. 02

Citizen Drop-Off Center
State Road & Asburner Street
Open Monday - Saturday 8am to 6pm 215-685-8072 ext. 73

Citizen Drop-Off Center
3033 South 63rd Street – Northwest of Passyunk Avenue
Open Monday - Saturday 8am to 6pm 215-685-4290 ext. 01

(In partnership with eCovanta)
Residents may drop off Computers and Televisions on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 10am to 2pm at the Ezekiel Baptist Church, 5701 Grays Avenue.

Don’t see your community on the lists above?  
Check the PADEP!
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Webpage listing HHW collection programs by county:

In Case You Didn't Already Know!

Here are some cool, interesting facts to share with your neighbors when you tell them about the local drop off events and help motivate your community to think differently about HHW.

• Recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power 3,657 American homes in a year.

• Recycling one million cell phones allows 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium to be recovered.

• The average American home has as much as 100 pounds of hazardous materials in it, and the EPA estimates that we generate as much as 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste each year.

Based on national data from collection programs, a typical breakdown of HHW is:
• 50% paints and paint products
• 20% used motor oil
• 20% solvents, pesticides and herbicides
• 10% batteries, unidentified materials and other miscellaneous items, such as old chemistry sets, photographic materials, and fiberglass epoxy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Become a citizen scientist.... natures notebook.

Michele K. Koskinen

Weather events recently in the United States have gardeners and others wondering how the current climate will or may effect the planet in the future. Changes in weather will affect our crops, our economies and our health. Do you plant earlier, see more weeds sooner, have a drought effecting crops or your lawn, have more pests, see migratory birds sooner? All questions that scientist are hoping to answer by recruiting "citizen scientist".

A new national program by USA-National Phenology Network and the U.S. Geological Survey along with other agencies is asking for citizen volunteers to observe and record findings on changes occuring in the world of nature. Starting in the spring, the garden begins to emerge, migrations are taking place and changes in the plant and animal world are occuring. This program is looking for volunteers to spend a few minutes recording what is occuring in their backyards which will give scientist a view of the entire country and the changes YOU the citizen scientist are experiencing.

From the classroom to the backyard, there is a program that will help collect information and help form a more comprehensive database. Want to volunteer? Check out their website below for more information.