Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
August, 2007
Regional Report

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Tall black-eyed Susans, fluffy goldenrod, red lobelia, and yellow-pink St.-John's-wort berries are ornamental beauties in the native plant community.

Green Gardening Products

Remember when the only compost you could find was in an organic gardener's backyard? Now bagged (odorless) compost is likely available and reasonably priced at most local garden centers. Being a "green" (environmentally aware) gardener gets easier every year. The garden industry is greening up from the inside out as customers demand and are willing to pay more for safer, sustainable products.

At the Penn Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, booths featuring native plant nurseries, wildlife-friendly seed mixes, biodegradable pots and tree guards, and organic potting soil were next to traditional turf, ornamental nursery, and chemical fertilizer promoters.

Starting with Soil
Organic Mechanics in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, makes peat-free potting soil delivered in trucks powered by biodiesel fuel made from waste oil. "We try to be a green company," said owner Mark Highland. "We use recycled packaging and electricity supplied by wind power." In addition, biodiesel powers the manufacturing equipment.

Peat, the main ingredient in most commercial potting soils, is a nonrenewable resource, Highland explained. Organic Mechanics potting soil is 100 percent organic with compost, worm castings, coir (coconut husk fiber), pine bark, and perlite.

Growing green usually means higher costs that result in higher priced products. A 3-cubic-foot bag of Organic Mechanics costs $6.99 compared to a 16-quart bag of commercial potting soil with fertilizer at about $10.

"It's a Natural" touts The Maryland Environmental Service about Leafgro, a soil conditioner it makes from composted leaves and grass clippings. This state government department manages Maryland's water supply and solid, liquid, and hazardous waste. How clever to recycle residents' yard waste into a revenue-generating product.

Native Plants
More wholesale nurseries are specializing in native plants as demand increases for drought-resistant, little-to-no maintenance perennials, shrubs, and grasses. "Most of our plants never see the end of a hose," boasted Jim MacKenzie, president of Octaro Native Plant Nursery in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania. "For us, it's all about roots and survival."

Though a long-time wholesaler to environment restoration projects, Octaro plants now reach more people via garden centers in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he added.

Sylva Native Nursery and Seed Company in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, is a wholesaler for native trees, shrubs, and wild flowers of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. They provide plants, seeds, and guidance for reforestation, wetland mitigation, streambank and riparian restoration, and conservation reserve enhancement projects. Their nonprofit component supports schools and churches landscaping with native plants.

Thinking of growing a meadow, enhancing a wetland, encouraging wildlife? Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, Pennsylvania, has quality seed mixes of native and naturalized wildflowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs. Started in the 1960s, Ernst sells mixes of herbaceous flowers, grasses, and cover crops, as well as combinations for wildlife, wetlands, uplands, woodlands and shade, conservation and lawns, and more.

Biodegradable Pots
Watch for stylish and functional enviro-friendly pots. There's buzz about attractive EcoForms made from grain husks; colorful Biodera pots from bamboo, straw, and sugar cane; Tzitziki pots from coconut fiber and latex; Biopots from bamboo fiber, straw, and rice husks; EcoDepot pots from coconut husk fiber, and BioBark tree guards from Acacia wood.

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