Category: Debra R. Messick

Cambridge rain gardens rein in runoff

On summer Sunday evenings it may seem to take forever, traveling Route 50 West from Cambridge to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but eventually you get there. The slow, steady drip of cars creeping towards the Bay may be a source of frustration to weekend beach commuters. But to those concerned with tainted stormwater runoff from Cambridge roofs, streets, and other impermeable surfaces ultimately to the beleaguered Bay, slow and steady is just the way they like it. Among them are the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Nanticoke Watershed Alliance and a variety of other vital conservation groups, plus municipal governments seeking solutions as well as ways to meet mandatory regulation compliance. There’s good news — the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup plan, set forth in the landmark 2014 signing of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, is recording more success. Notably, two crucial contributing sectors, agriculture and septic, currently are sending decreasing amounts of contaminants to the Bay, according to Hilary Gibson, Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist for CBF. But there’s also bad news, and it’s getting worse; the percentage of polluted stormwater runoff is still increasing. Making sure that existing structures begin to address the issue and ensuring that new developments start off by doing so is critical, Gibson said. Though state, county, and city governments have been working to comply with regulations aimed at reducing runoff, nonmunicipal property remains outside their jurisdiction,...

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Walbridge gardens through all of life’s seasons

On an unseasonably chilly May morning 100-year-old Ellen Walbridge had just returned to The Dixon House, a historic assisted living residence in Easton from her daily walk with her son. She recently suffered a broken hip and therefore wasn’t quite up to as long a walk as usual, she confided, adding that “I sometimes don’t feel up to a lot of walking, but I do like to go when I can.” Walking is just one of several activities this centenarian continues to enjoy and be involved in as much as possible. She participates in daily exercise classes, lends a hand at baking in the Dixon House kitchen (she has always enjoyed baking more than cooking, she related, with lemon meringue pie a favorite). And just the day before, she, along with two other Dixon House residents, had been one of the guests of honor at a community luncheon honoring those 100 years old and over. Last summer — at the tender age of 99 — Walbridge took it upon herself to plant, water, and tend the flowers in the stand up raised bed garden gracing the Dixon House porch, as well as the hanging baskets greeting visitors. Asked about her love of gardening, Walbridge fondly attributed it in part to her mother, who grew roses, which remain among her favorite flowers. While raising her own family Walbridge recalled having...

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The zen of cordwood fencing

A durable, decorative fence adds the final touch to a yard or garden. But finding a way to do so without adding substantial cost, labor, or upkeep can be a challenges. A practical solution which won’t break the bank, or your back might be as close as the nearest stack of firewood or fallen timber. Known by a variety of terms including “stacked wood,” “log end” and “cordwood,” the idea is to create a viable fence from cut natural wood or logs. Richard Flatau, an elementary school teacher with no formal construction background, decided to build a home from cordwood 37 years ago in Northern Wisconsin. Using the simplest of materials, debarked logwood and mortar, Flatau’s mortgage free dream was realized after several years of planning, building, and refining. What he learned along the way eventually became a business, Cordwood Construction Resources LLC,; Flatau has since written books, conducted workshops, and organized conferences to further grow the niche building concept. His home community of Merrill, Wis., boasts several examples: Cordwood Education Center Classroom at Merrill School Forrest, White Earth Cordwood Home, and Kinstone Cordwood Chapel. With special appeal to those on tighter budgets, young couples starting out and downsizing retirees, what Flatau affectionately refers to as “the poor man’s architecture” also draws the interest of folks seeking greener lifestyles, starting with their own habitat footprint. In 2015 he noted...

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Buried treasures: Summer blooming bulbs

We’re used to the idea that flower bulbs get planted in the fall, and all winter we get to anticipate the awesome spring color they’ll bring to the garden. Once the hyacinth, daffodil, and tulip make their long-awaited debut, it seems all too soon that they depart. But this doesn’t mean that flowering bulb season is over for the year. Fortunately, the warmed soil signals that the time is right for planting more bulbs; this time, without months of waiting to enjoy the results. Gladiolas, dahlias, begonias and several types of lily are a few of the more familiar summer blooming tubers, rhizomes and corms. While many garden reference advisors recommend planting lilies in the fall or early spring, Ginny Rosenkranz, University of Maryland Extension’s gardening guru for Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties, was preparing to plant hers in mid-April. “The Asiatic are the early ones, no fragrance, but lovely colors and more compact,” Rosenkranz says. “The Oriental lilies are very tall, very fragrant! Both can be planted anytime in the spring and will thrive without needing to be dug up for winter. “Summer bulbs that do need to be dug for winter protection include gladiolus — so many lovely colors and bicolors! Caladiums for the colorful shade plants, also Elephant ear and Taro plants.” Gladioli were favorites in gardens past. In fact, the word Gladiolus helped the...

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Embrace moondust for your plantings

Spring planting season, with longer, warmer, brighter days, is when gardeners traditionally celebrate the resurgence of the sun. But some growers are also inclined to embrace the night sky and the moon, whose cyclical phases, they believe, can help them produce bigger, better crops. Google the term “moon phase gardening” and results will run the gamut from venerable publications like the Old Farmer’s Almanac to an array of spiritual new age enthusiasts and off the grid homesteaders. Despite a diversity of backgrounds, they share an almost fervent belief that the moon’s alchemy makes a huge difference in the quality of crop production. Many who work the soil learned early on the lore of planting by the moon from family elders handing down their knowledge through generations. But each season, it seems, new disciples  are discovering the wisdom of the ‘old ways’ when they choose to practice more natural methods of organic and biodiversity gardening. For others, who remain totally in the dark, the venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac’s 2019 edition dispels the notion that moon phase gardening has anything to do with sowing seeds at midnight. Neither is it astrology, the Almanac states, though some ‘true believers’ have connected the dots to include the implications of star signs and beyond. Dorchester County Master Gardener Laetitia Sands does not claim to be an expert, though she’s explored lunar gardening premises (and promises!),...

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