Newsy Items

Electricity-generating Wetlands? Think of the possibilities!

Every once in a while a story tweaks the old imagination juices. The latest is the November 23, 2012 article seen in ScienceDaily, Electricity from the Marshes, about a fuel cell that extracts electricity from wetland soils.

Researchers have developed a way to harness the electrons released when bacteria break down the organic residue plants produce during photosynthesis. An electrode absorbs these electrons to generate electricity. Currently, the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell can generate 0.4Watts per square meter (about 10.76 square feet) of wetland plants.

Just think about this for a moment.

Once developed, the researchers suggest a rooftop planting measuring 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) could generate enough electricity to supply a household consuming 2,800 kWh/year.

Read the article yourself and the information about this patented idea at the Plant-e website … it might be enough to tweak your imagination , as it did mine.

pond edgeWill we be creating backyard ponds – perhaps a pond for every house – to charge our electronic devices?

Will marshlands become the electricity generating regions for shoreline communities?

Will flat urban rooftops contain gardens not just to save energy through reduced heat absorption, but to create energy?

Granted, the technology is still in development. More will be learned from the first roof installation of an electricity-generating marsh at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

This research will be interesting to follow.

Plants as electricity producers … just think of the possibilities.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Rethinking The Connecticut Lawn

Many Americans view a stand of millions of uniformly trimmed grass blades, unencumbered by errant dandelions, crabgrass and other weedy greenery, as the ultimate status symbol … right up there with driving the cool car, wearing the fashionable dress, or using the latest electronic gadget.

To obtain the great lawn most Americans head to the grass seed and chemical sections of the local hardware or big-box store. Why? That’s what advertising tells us to do. Too many of us buy into the mantra that ‘four steps’ is the only way to the great American lawn, and we expend too many hard-earned resources feeding and watering then mowing and mowing and mowing.

An estimated 85% of American homeowners fertilize their lawns, most with chemical fertilizers in water soluble form. With more than 63,000 square miles of the continental U.S. covered in lawn, a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus – the N and P in NPK ratings on fertilizer packaging – ends up in storm drain systems, streams, and other waterways such as Long Island Sound. Lawn fertilizer run-off has become such a large contributor to declining water quality that many states have, or are considering, banning or limiting nitrogen and phosphorus lawn applications.

But there are alternative ways to build healthy lawn and this is the topic at the next Connecticut Horticultural Society educational meeting this Thursday, February 16, 2012. Horticulturist Tom Christopher will explain how to turn a lawn what he calls “an eco-villain,” to a landscape feature that is “sustainable, low-maintenance and environmentally friendly.”

Think about it … a lawn is nothing more than a large expanse of garden planted with a single type, or few types, of greenery.

A lawn is a garden and, like any other garden, is most vibrant when the right plant, or seed, is planted in healthy, living soil.

Tom Christopher, who is also a member of the CHS Board of Directors, promises to share how to select turf suitable to Connecticut’s climate and soils, and how to start thinking “more imaginatively” about lawns.

Whether you’re like me, in the great American lawn minority …


happy with a lawn that’s anything green cut to one level.

Or like my husband and sons …


pining for a Fenway Park-like lawn … I’ll bet you come away with some new thoughts about the great Connecticut lawn.

Sound intriguing? Head to Emmanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Dr., West Hartford on February 16. The meeting begins at 7:30 pm. It’s free for CHS members, non-members will be asked for a $10 donation. Full-time students with a valid ID may attend for free.

Garden thoughtfully … even when  your garden is a lawn.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Misjudged collaboration causes an NWF GOOPs

I’ve made a lot of gardening oops – GOOPs for short – over the decades. I’ve placed plants into unpleasing combinations, forgotten where I planted bulbs, and neglected to deadhead prolific self-seeding perennials. I fess up to these GOOPs here on the first of each month hoping that, by sharing my mis-steps, other gardeners may avoid doing the same. My GOOPs may wreak havoc on my discerning eye, my gardening budget, or my gardening time but my faux pas don’t hold a candle to the the pile of sewage the National Wildlife Federation stepped into when it announced collaboration between it and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

That the NWF, a much-followed wildlife habitat and wildlife protecting organization, was joining forces with Scotts Miracle-Gro, a dealer of lawn and garden chemicals, caused much of the garden writing world to scream a collective “What the … huh!”  The NWF was dancing with the devil.   This did not sit well to those who followed wildlife-friendly recommendations made by NWF or developed NWF-certified Wildlife Habitats using organic, environmentally sound garden and land care practices.

Go to the NWF website. It oozes nature. It boasts “working for wildlife” in programs to bring bison back and protect otters. It claims “victory for wildlife” in helping stop the Keystone Tar Sands pipeline. It claims donation money is “Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.”

So why consort with Scotts Miracle-Gro, a company reporting $3 billion in worldwide sales from their products branded under the names Scotts, Miracle-Gro, and Ortho, and as sole North American and European marketer of Monsanto’s Round-Up? The NWF claimed money from Scotts would support a shared vision … to encourage children and families to spend more time outdoors. NWF suggested their cozy relationship with Scotts might influence Scotts to change some of its chemical-pushing ways.

I may be skeptical here but I suspect, as many do, that Scotts has a $3 billion reason to not change it’s chemical-pushing ways.

A ‘Scotts’ lawn would never look like this …


filled with violets and other non-grass greenery.

With no intention of ignoring the hypocrisy of the NWF taking money dangled in front of them by Scotts, garden writers responded with blog posts, tweets, Facebook comments, emails, petitions and phone calls castigating the NWF for this misguided collaboration. They questioned how the NWF could expect to maintain any credibility as a protector and promoter of environmentally sound wildlife habitats while taking money from a company that makes its money on the very chemicals believed to harm wildlife and soil-life.

Read some of these posts yourself at:

In the midst of all this Scotts was fined $4.5 million for distributing wild birdseed coated with chemicals toxic to birds. Does this sound like a company bent on protecting wildlife, or just its own bottom line.

Well, in yet another example of people joining voices to express outrage over the actions of an organization, a company, or a government, collective fury and indignation worked.   On January 29, 2012, the NWF  announced its turn-around.

The NWF had a “Good job, Brownie” moment. They committed a monster GOOPs, then thankfully saw their blunder.

I don’t see a GOOPs of this monster proportion in my future or yours so next month I plan to resume my relatively minor GOOPs tales. In the meantime, tell me about a GOOPs you’ve made. Either share it in a comment below or post it on your blog and leave a teaser-link below.

Let’s help each other  … let’s garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry