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Six Ideas That Allow Gardeners To Think Big



What do you do when your garden gets, well, enormous? You could do what my friend Robin Jeffries did, which was to buy his neighbour’s house, which he did just so he could till and garden in their backyard, as well as his own. He was kind of a gardening nut back then and he still is.

Of course, the most common complaint for folks whose gardens have grown beyond their means is the simple notion of wishing they had planned things better. With some graph paper, a stub of a pencil and a tiller, gardners know that nothing short of a shade tree is permanent in a garden. And even the shade tree can go if it must.

Step one, then, for gardeners is to plan very thoroughly if you know your garden is destined to grow to becoming a major concern.

I say “major concern,” because a large garden isn’t always dictated by size. Mr. Jeffries, mentioned above, lived in a downtown lot with small houses and fairly small yards – 1,000 square feet or so. He had dozens of small niches in his gardens, whereas I had eight perennial beds at the time and my mistake was that each of them was enormous – a row of irises, for example, that stretched for 40 yards or so.

Still, every garden defined as large shares similar problems, which is that there is too much to do for the time you have to do it in. With that in mind, here are some thoughts:


The first step is to design and plan your garden(s). This does not always mean plot every border bed on paper, but at least have a concept that you like. A very simple concept, for example, is a path. Layout the path and the garden spaces will naturally fall into place. Or you might want to fill a space from the height of a crabapple tree down to the ground with a colourful landscape. Simple designs are all most gardeners need.

Design with equipment in mind

Novices designing a garden tend to quickly sketch in the plants they love and the colours they are hoping to raise. But old veterans also design gardens around the equipment they own. This will save tons of time down the road.

If you are the type that will buy John Deere riding mowers, then plan your pathways to fit the width of the mower’s swath with extra space to account for the flying shards of grass the mower spits out. With that in mind, in tight spots, leave some room for a grass-catcher, so the sharp wind coming from the mower does not mangle some of your delicate plants and so the cut grass isn’t spewed into your garden bed.

The same consideration goes for tillers and cultivators. If you plant in straight rows, it makes it easier for a cultivator to run though the beds. Provide some space for weed-whackers, too. Otherwise, if you plant too close to the yard, you might accidentally whack away at your precious perennials.

Try Native Varieties

Remember, native varieties are considered exotic as soon as you move them somewhere else. But the pleasure in using native plants for your garden is they take that much less care than trying to nurture non-native plants.

Your local habitat should have just the right conditions much of the time for native species. That means less watering, less time covering plants for a harsh winter and less time working the soil until it matches that plant’s needs.


The truth is that weeding is often the No. 1 reason gardens fail. The weeding is so time consuming and the constant, repetitive work so tedious or tiring, that many people give up on their small gardens, let alone a large one.

For a large garden, you don’t just pull weeds, you manage them. For the most part, this means mulch, then more mulch, then even more mulch.

One of my favourite gardeners covers her annual beds in about six inches of sawdust every year. Of course, this wrecks havoc on the soil’s PH. So, every fall, she tills in the sawdust with a healthy heaping of manure and lime. This re-balances her soil. The next spring, she is left with thick beds of pure loam and how much weeding does she do? Almost none.

Perennial beds can also handle tons of mulch, which also traps water, so it cuts down on watering time. For perennials, however, use mulch that doesn’t break down as quickly as sawdust, such as wood chips or bark.

Disease resistance and organic solutions

Remember, your enemy when it comes to large gardens is not only rabbits and insects; it’s time.

Any time saver can help you maintain a large garden and give you a few moments to actually enjoy it once in a while. With that in mind, disease resistant strains can save you valuable time (and money) you might spend replacing them or applying poisons to rid yourself of some gnarly predators.

Organic solutions also save time. Planting marigolds, for example, not only gives you an enjoyable, insect-resistant flower, but it can form a protective wall that discourages insects from invading neighbouring species.


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Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations



green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions



auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.


The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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