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Chesapeake Bay Trust Awards: Recognizing Outstanding Students and Teachers- Looking for Nominees

October 23, 2013 Green Blog No Comments


October 23, 2013

Annapolis, Md

By: Kristin Foringer, communications and development manager for the Chesapeake Bay Trust. 

T. 410-974-2941, ext. 113 or at kforinger@cbtrust.org.

Do you know a student or teacher who is going above and beyond inside and outside the classroom? Do you want to recognize someone who is working to better his or her community and local environment? The Chesapeake Bay Trust is seeking nominations for its 2014 Awards and Scholarship Program, which honors students, teachers and volunteers who are making a difference in their local communities and for the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is a nonprofit grant-making organization committed to improving the Chesapeake Bay and local communities. Our grant initiatives focus on community outreach, environmental education and Bay restoration. The Trust awards more than $5 million a year to nonprofits and schools throughout Maryland to plant trees, clean up communities, restore shorelines and get out kids outside.

Currently the Trust is soliciting applications and/or nominations for five awards: Teacher of the Year, Student of the Year, Honorable Arthur Dorman Scholarship, Ellen Fraites Wagner Award and Melanie Teems Award. The winners of the Honorable Arthur Dorman and Student of the Year awards will receive $5,000 scholarships and the Teacher of the Year will be awarded a $2,500 grant to support their environmental education work.


Recipients for each will be announced during the Trust’s Legislative Reception in January 2014, where they will have an opportunity to present their exceptional work to their legislators, local leaders and supporters.  We want to celebrate the good work being done here in Maryland and around the Chesapeake Bay watershed and hope that you will help identify candidates who should be recognized for their contributions.  All applicants can complete the online application or be nominated by someone other than a family member. The deadline to apply is December 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm and more information can be found on our website, cbtrust.org.

Help us showcase all the good work being done to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

2013 Award Winners

2013 Award Winners

Chesapeake Bay Trust Award Descriptions:

Teacher of the Year Award
Awarded to a Maryland or Chesapeake Bay watershed educator who has shown an outstanding commitment to environmental education, who motivates and inspires students, and serves as a respected resource to colleagues and community leaders. The winner will receive a $2,500 grant to support their environmental education work.

Student of the Year Award
Awarded to a high school or college student attending school within Maryland or the Chesapeake Bay watershed who motivates and inspires others and participates in efforts to improve the local environment and/or community. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship award.

Honorable Arthur Dorman Scholarship
Recognizes a Maryland or Chesapeake Bay watershed high school or college student of color who motivates and inspires other students through their actions in their school and/or community and participates in efforts to improve their local environment and/or their community. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship award.

Melanie Teems Award
Honors efforts that engages citizens in efforts to improve the environment and/or Chesapeake Bay through demonstration-based projects or programs, serves as a model for other organizations to exemplify, and utilizes the resources of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. 

Ellen Fraites Wagner Award
Recognizes an individual who works to improve the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, motivates and inspires others by promoting environmental awareness throughout the community, exhibits a long-term commitment to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, and leads successful restoration efforts.



Montgomery County Food Recovery Plan

October 9, 2013 Green Blog No Comments



Naomi Bloch

Naomi Bloch


By: Naomi Bloch

October 9, 2013

Potomac, Md

I recently attend the press conference announcing the results of the Food Recovery Work Group, on the Rockville campus of Montgomery College.

The Food Recovery Work Group was sponsored by Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin and unanimously approved by the County Council in October 16, 2012 via Resolution 17-564. The primary goal behind Council member Ervin’s sponsorship was the establishment of the Food Recovery Work Group organized to find ways to help end hunger here in Montgomery County.

It is believed that Montgomery County is the first county in the nation to implement such a forward-looking program to address the growing problems of hunger, food waste and the interconnected issues of food distribution challenges facing communities all across this nation.

During its eight month study, The Food Recovery Work Group evaluated best practices, mapped existing resources, looked at ways to enhance communication among non-profits, organizations, service providers, and food suppliers and finally would, in addition recommend any needed legislative changes to assist in the success of these efforts

Councilmember Ervin was motivated to start a food recovery effort in Montgomery County after she saw the work that student volunteers were doing at the University of Maryland. Students Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij created a model of food redistribution, now the Food Recovery Network at the UMD-College Park campus. Since 2011, Food Recovery Network has grown to 23 chapters and redistributed 135,000 meals, and is actively working with over 70 students to start new chapters in fall 2013.

To get a look at this program in action, check out this wonderful video overview:


“When I saw the amazing job the students at University of Maryland were doing, I thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this in Montgomery County?’” said Councilmember Ervin. “Since we have numerous public institutions and private sector partners who dispose of unwanted food, it seemed like a no brainer for the county to follow the lead of the students who began the food recovery movement.”

Here is an article that will also give you more background information: http://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/blog/2013/09/10/frn-inspires-first-county-wide-food-recovery-program-in-nation/ as well as another recent article in the Gazette: http://www.gazette.net/article/20130903/NEWS/130909834/0/montgomery-county-to-unveil-steps-for-food-recovery-program&template=gazette 

Back in June, 2012,  a food insecurity panel discussion was organized by Gordon Clark, the founder of Montgomery Victory Gardens, http://www.montgomeryvictorygardens.org/ Councilmember Ervin was one of the panelists.

It was at this event that Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij, the co-founders of the University of Maryland Food Recovery Network, were in the audience and afterwards introduced themselves to Councilmember Ervin, thus beginning this fortuitous chain of events.

It isn’t very often when one can pinpoint the exact day when the right people and energy come together in the same place at the same time, and then goes on to create a genuine solution to a serious problem! I am so thankful to have witnessed this serendipitous coming together of the fates.

I will be keeping track of the evolution of this important program and share updates with all of you.



Meatless Monday Proclaimed by Montgomery County Council

July 22, 2013 Green Blog, Recipes No Comments

July 22, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

I was so pleased to find out that Montgomery County Council has officially endorsed Meatless Mondays, a nationwide effort to choose more plant-based foods. For more information about this news read Compassion Over Killing’s website.  Also, Naomi Bloch sent in a Meatless Monday Recipe to help you with with eating no meat on Monday.

Please send in your recipes as well so that we can post one every Monday!

Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash with Yogurt Cumin Sauce Recipe

Adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves about 6

The contrast between the warm squash and cool yogurt sauce, the subtle nuttiness of the lightly spiced sauce works beautifully with zucchini and summer squash.

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon tahini
  • 2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove finely minced
  • About 6 (each) zucchini and summer squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Mix together the first 5 ingredients along with a pinch of salt and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside while making the vegetables.

Heat broiler. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, cut side up on two baking sheets. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.


Arrange coated vegetables on grill rack (over medium-high heat); grill vegetables 8 minutes or until just tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste

Place vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with sauce.


Unacceptable Levels Documentary- A Must See

July 19, 2013 Green Blog No Comments

By: Alyce Ortuzar

Please see Ortuzar’s biography below

Friday July 19, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

Unacceptable Levelsa new award winning documentary, is a must see. It conveys a clear message from a typical middle class young couple that chemicals are pervasive in our lives and in our bodies. We need to be aware of and understand the health and environmental harms from these rarely tested and barely regulated chemicals.  They are serious and even life threatening. The film is a thoughtful and engaging journey of how this family comes to grips with the disturbing realization that every level of government in the United States has failed to proactively protect the public from the health and environmental harms posed by so many synthetic chemicals that surround us.

The movie impresses upon us how we are exposed to chemicals in all aspects of our lives—in our drinking water, food, personal care products such as sunscreens, and home cleaning products. The film’s message becomes compelling when seen through the prism of the environmental and health impacts on children. This focus should make the movie credible to those who believe that if the government permits a product to be purchased and used, it must be safe.

After having their first child, Ed Brown and his wife examine the quality of their food and other consumer products in and around their house. Their journey begins with and takes place through this daunting and profound awareness of their parental responsibilities. They start by reading labels, only to find out that laws are so weak that a label does not have to display every ingredient or component in a product.

Interviews with esteemed scientists reveal that we all have more than 200 mostly untested chemicals in our bodies, which government agencies consider to be an acceptable level of risk. These scientists also argue that the cumulative effects of chemical exposures, even in small amounts, do hurt us. The few chemicals and additives that are tested are not included in the real-world combinations that we are exposed to, so no one has any idea what they do when combined.

These scientists also promote the Precautionary Principle, which some European countries rely on before a chemical or a product is approved. This principle puts the burden on the manufacturer to first prove that the substance or product is safe, rather than approving it and then waiting to see who or what is harmed. The message that this family in the documentary incorporates is to stay healthy by avoiding potentially toxic chemicals, and how to do that with the choices they make while promoting stronger Federal regulations.  U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who recently died, began in 2005 to lead the effort to reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). His Safe Chemicals Act gives the EPA the authority to screen all chemicals for safety and to ban unsafe uses of chemicals. The bill currently has 27 sponsors in the U.S. Senate.

The movie also draws attention to chemicals paraded as food and the possible health consequences, especially to children. The film highlights efforts by researchers such as Sally Fallon, co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation (realmilk.com) and co-author of Nourishing Traditions, to educate consumers about the harms from these nutrient-deficient products; the benefits of healthy and unadulterated real foods; and where to find them or how to prepare them.

Unacceptable Levels shatters the rhetoric to the public from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that our food “is the safest food in the world,” even as USDA extension agents promote the pesticides atrazine and roundup to conventional farmers as “textbook farming practices.” Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor scientifically linked to disfigured frogs and fish, and roundup is linked to widespread human health disorders and environmental hazards (see beyondpesticides.org). Studies find that both chemicals are pervasive throughout our ecosystems, including our water sources.

Then there is the sewage sludge applied to conventional farms and in our state forests as fertilizer disingenuously disguised as “biosolids.” But the sludge runs off into our water sources in storm water. Equally deceptive and as potentially harmful is the bandwagon to put fluoride in our drinking water. In the film, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists document the harms from this petroleum waste product that include a decrease in bone mass that can lead to fractures may be a possible carcinogen.

Public messages from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists also claim that the chemicals in our food are safe. “Ammonia is a declared safe food additive,” and pink slime is a “safe and nutritious” school lunch. It is important to point out that Monsanto lawyer Michael Taylor now runs the FDA. He was instrumental in writing the rules when the FDA approved Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone (BgH) under the leadership of David Kessler, M.D., for injection into dairy cows.

Dairy farmers have since documented how the hormone unnaturally increases the amount of milk a cow produces and causes the overfilled udders to drag on the ground, thus necessitating the increased use of antibiotics to treat the resulting mastitis infections. The rules that Taylor wrote and Kessler approved prohibited any BgH labeling on consumer products. Ecological/organic farmers and stores such as Whole Foods were threatened with lawsuits when they tried to label their diary products “BgH free.” Finally, a Supreme Court case that Ben & Jerry’s initiated and won reaffirmed the First Amendment rights of those farmers and retailers.

To interfere with natural milk production, BgH is a synthetic female  hormone that disrupts the endocrine system of the injected cow. And contrary to FDA claims, Dr. Samuel Epstein, M.D., (author of The Politics of Cancer) maintains that the hormone remains in the milk and in other dairy products. He points out that diabetes is an endocrine disorder.

The Brown family takes us on their informative and determined quest for a safe and healthy lifestyle and world. It is an easy-to-watch and easy-to-understand movie, and they calmly communicate what they learn without the drama of too much doom and gloom. This well-researched and worthwhile film is a call to action to take control and help them, ourselves, and others do more to repair our broken system. It is time to call a halt to the U.S. government-sponsored 1950s experiment with “Better Living through Chemistry” and the alarming consequences reflected in the epidemics that confront so many Americans today at younger and younger ages. It is a system that puts profits before people, including and especially at the expense of the health of our children. For more information visit: www.unacceptablelevels.com.

Alyce Ortuzar


Alyce Ortuzar is a medical and social science researcher, writer, and editor. She manages the Well Mind Association of Greater Washington, an all-volunteer holistic medicine information clearinghouse that focuses on environmental and nutritional influences on mental and physical well-being. The clearinghouse disseminates research and outcome data on safe and effective holistic modalities, maintains a national and somewhat international holistic practitioner database, and provides free practitioner referrals (301.774.6617).



How to Plant Food Scraps

June 15, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Julie Lillibridge, Contributor

Judy Lillibridge,








June 15, 2013

Bethesda, Md

Ah, spring, when a young gardener’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of vegetables. Or at least mine has, because I’ve found a way to grow my own nearly for free: planting food scraps.

This <a href=http://wakeup-world.com/2012/10/15/16-foods-thatll-re-grow-from-kitchen-scraps/>article</a> on Wake Up World lists sixteen kinds of vegetables that can easily be grown anew from the parts that most people chop off and throw in the garbage. Since you already paid for the vegetable anyway–not to mention you still get to eat it!–all it costs to try your hand at this is some water, some sunlight, some soil, and some time.

I chose onions for my own foray into food-scrap gardening, because the article claims that onions are the “easiest vegetables to propagate.” Who could screw that up?

Well, me. For my first attempt, I chopped off the onion’s root end about a quarter inch from the bottom, which I suspect was too close (the article recommends at least ½ an inch). I let the onion dry out a bit, lest it rot, and then proceeded to gently float it in a bowl of water on my kitchen counter.

After five days, I could see no evidence of life from the slowly-withering husk. I did learn, however, that onion skin, when soaked in water continuously for five days, will turn that water a surprisingly dark shade of caramel brown. (Did you know that even now, people <a href=http://waysofthewhorl.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/natural-dyeing-take-2-onion-skins/”>use onion skins to dye their wool and yarn</a>?) Aside from my runway-ready onion dye, though, after a week I was left with nothing.

My second attempt came about by accident. Cooking dinner, I noticed that the onion on the cutting board had begun to sprout… moments after said sprout had been lopped off. ”I could have grown that!” I wailed dramatically. In fact, the onion proved to be so brown and mushy inside that I went for it anyway. Certain that everything had been ruined, I nonetheless plunked the mutilated bulb into another bowl of water and waited.

Below is what that bulb became.


Note the flat tips of the leaves where they tangled with my father’s knife.






After two weeks of steady growth, I transferred the onion to a pot of soil. It has since slowed its growth slightly, but it’s still going strong.

Hilariously, not a day after the picture above was taken, I discovered yet another onion in the pantry, one that had more than sprouted: it wriggled.


Vegetable or eldritch horror?


Gladly, the leaves turned a less ghastly shade of green once they were exposed to real sunlight. So now I have two onions, both grown from full bulbs, lounging on my kitchen counter like they own the place. I’m not sure what the protocol is for harvesting them—use only the greens? Yank up the whole plant and start again? (Of course, if I were really hardcore, I’d go straight for the wild onion grass in my front yard—which, yes, is totally edible, and will serve wherever scallions are called for.) Still, the experiment has inspired me; I’m thinking next I’ll try a leafy green. Spinach, perhaps.

Have any of you tried growing vegetables from scraps? And do you think “onion couture” is the next big thing?

On the Quest for Healthty Makeup Products

May 3, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Ruthzaly Weich, Contributor

Ruthzaly Weich, Contributor







May 3, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

By: Ruthzaly Weich

As women we are always on the quest to make ourselves look good.  Makeup is one of those things that can be very useful, sometimes indispensible. I have always loved makeup. Not just for the way it seems to improve the way I look but also for the fun of it.

A friend of mine mentioned once that she was avoiding makeup for the duration of her pregnancy and resorting to natural alternatives that did not include harmful ingredients for her baby.  Honestly, it was the first time I ever considered this.  My friend mentioned that several ingredients in makeup products had been linked to birth defects. So, when it was my turn, I brought up the conversation again. She told me what ingredients and products to be aware of. I went home to look through my makeup drawer and found that I didn’t keep the boxes that list the ingredients.  I had no idea what my makeup had or didn’t have.  So, I avoided most makeup while pregnant with my first child.

I’m once again pregnant and I don’t feel as radiant as I used to. I miss makeup but, I’m not willing to jeopardize my baby’s health over it. So, I went on a quest to find the perfect makeup and I was not prepared for what I learned. I could write volumes on this topic yet, rather than restating what is already out there I thought I will connect you to the experts who have done the research.

Recommended Readings:

The Green Beauty Guide Book by Julie Gabriel

No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O’Connoer & Alexandra Spunt

Tools for Identifying Harmful Ingredients in Makeup Products:


 http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ A 79,000 product database of everything out there that rates the ingredient concerns.

Chemical Maze – App for Android and iphone – is a great tool for identifying harmful ingredients in almost everything and most importantly it explains what it does to your body…

Make Up Expires 

Another great piece of information I gathered specifically from reading the Green Beauty Guide book by Julie Gabriel was about the importance of checking the expiration date of the makeup products I use.  I was aware of the need to discard mascara after 6 month. Still, I learned that most moisturizes, foundations and even lipsticks have a don’t-use-past-this-date note. Products can ferment, oxidate or simply become harmful. The fact is that makeup typically includes active ingredients whose reactive life span is limited and there is very little known or research available on the topic to risk it.

Commercial vs. Homemade

My most exciting discovery through this learning process was that I can make the best facial care and makeup at home! It seemed like an impossible undertaking yet, I learned that keeping it simple is best. While discussing my readings with a friend, she told me that she has been using raw honey as a face wash and moisturizer. I have begun to use it and it is as simple as it sounds. I apply the raw honey evenly on my skin and wash it off. It has drastically improved the texture and moisture of my skin. I love that kind of solutions. Nevertheless, in this process I also learned that the foundation that I use is actually free of all unwanted ingredients. So, I have decided to do my facial skin care homemade and use safe commercial products for makeup. I may one day embark on the 100% homemade. I am not there yet, time and ability to test around what works best for me will tell. The fact is that there are great companies out there that keep the line.

Useful Links:

Commercial Products Recommendations:


Homemade Guides:




http://www.brambleberry.com – highly recommended site for ordering all unheard-of ingredients.


Today is Earth Day

April 22, 2013 Green Blog No Comments



April 22, 2013

Gaithersburg, Md

Editorial by: Alex Stavitsky Zeineddin

Happy Earth Day!

It is always interesting to go back and learn how and why annual events started.

Earth Day was the idea of Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson who joined forces with a Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey. Senator Nelson was moved by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Ca. This bi-partisan team helped build a movement that got 20 million Americans on April 22, 1970, to protest about the environmental issues of the day.

According to Earth Day Network, these students and people demonstrated against oil spills, polluting factories, power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife.

Today, Earth Day 2013, we still have many of the same issues that concern us here and in other countries.

Thank you to all who work to improve our future generation’s eco systems. From water quality, to buildings that use less energy, to the development and use of electric cars, recycling, these changes we have made since 1970 are important.

There is still so much that needs to be done, from minimizing the use of pesticides, to taking care that we do not pollute our waterways, to reducing our national, state and personal carbon footprint.

Courtesy of Prism Energy Services prismenergyservices.com

Courtesy of Prism Energy Services prismenergyservices.com

We can make changes in our daily lives that will, and do, improve our environment, not just for us but for future generations.

Have a good day,
Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin
Founder, Green Gaithersburg.com

A.I.R. Lawn Care- A Local, Sustainable Lawn Care Company

April 9, 2013 Green Blog No Comments



A.I.R. Lawn Care Solar  Charging Unit

A.I.R. Lawn Care Solar
Charging Unit

Gaithersburg, Md

April 9, 2013

Intro by: Alex Stavitsky Zeineddin

A.I.R. Lawn Care is one of the first local, environmentally conscious businesses that is advertising on Green Gaithersburg.com. I thought it is interesting and informative for readers to know who the people are behind new and environmentally conscious businesses.

Zack Kline, a recent college graduate recently started A.I.R. (Atmosphere Improvement and Renewal)Lawn Care company in Montgomery County, Md.  This lawn care company uses electric powered blowers and is based in Montgomery County, Md. Check out A.I.R. Lawn Care’s website.  Also, Zack is getting certified as an organic practice lawn care specialist. Contact Zack at: zkline@airlawncare.com

Read below:

How did you decide to start your lawn care business?
I have always enjoyed cutting the grass since I starting doing it for my family while I was in 5th grade. As I grew older I worked for a mid-sized landscaping company while I was in high school and in college. While there I noticed the opportunity to be able to run the business better in regards to operations and sustainability. After graduating college I decided to start A.I.R. Lawn Care with those goals in mind.

How did you actually start your business, with a partner, family? Do you currently work with other people?

I started the business  by myself. Currently, I do not work with other people, but I am in the process of building a team.
Why does the environment matter to you?
The environment matters to me because it provides the air I breathe, the water I drink, and the food I eat, not to mention being outdoors and surrounded by nature is very refreshing.
You mentioned that you are working on a certification to be a non synthetic pesticide/herbicide applicant? Who is certifying you and what exactly are you learning?

I am working to get certified by the Northeast Organic Farming Association. As part of that certification I will be learning  NOFA’s Standards for Land Care: Practices for Design and Maintenance of Ecological Landscapes, written by NOFA’s Organic Land Care Committee. These Standards, published in 2001 and revised semi-annually, extend the vision and practices of organic agriculture to the care of landscapes where we live our daily lives and lands which we choose to steward. By the end of the course, I will be able to incorporate land care methods and materials that respect natural ecology and the long-term health of the environment into my businesses and education programs.

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school (college) and what did you study?
I grew up in Rockville, MD and went to school at Salisbury University. While there I studied Marketing and Information Systems. A big part of my education I have to attribute to the extra-curricular activities I participated in including being an RA, starting a fraternity, starting the first entrepreneurship class at Salisbury, and winning a business plan competition.
Who or what most influenced your environmental awareness?

People: My mother and best friend
Event: While I was working for the mid-sized landscaping company there was a day I will never forget. It was a scorching “Code Red” day in Darnestown, Md., and I was working on trimming the edge of a 2.5 acre property. I became irritated at the excessive amount of smog and noise pollution the string trimmer exerted. That, coupled with knowing the amount of gasoline the company was putting into their machines on a daily basis, had me thinking, “There’s got to be a better way!”
These people and this event led me to become more aware of our environmental impact and raised my awareness.

How to Prepare Soil for Planting and How to Compost

April 5, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Dayle McCarthy

Dayle McCarthy








Rockville, Md

April 5, 2013

By: Dayle McCarthy

Intro by: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Dayle McCarthy is a new contributor to Green Gaithersburg.com. Dayle is our March/April Environmentalist of the Month. She is a leader in her community, having established a community garden in King Farm in Rockville.  Dayle works with school age children throughout the year to teach them about planting and harvesting in an organic garden. Her story will be up in the next few days, Meanwhile, learn from the master how to prepare soil for planting and all about composting!


Well, we’re at the beginning of  April and spring is still a bit elusive. Some gardeners have gotten English peas or lettuce in by now; others may have just begun to prepare the soil. Some of you may never have considered enhancing your soil. Well, I’m here to dish the dirt.

I’ll be explaining how easy it is to create your own soil amendment, or what we gardeners refer to as “black gold” with very little time and hardly any money. One important thing to note is that while creating healthy soil, you’ll also be eliminating the need to ship your kitchen waste off to a landfill. Besides growing beautiful healthy plants to enjoy or eat, another primary goal is to grow healthy plants without adding chemical fertilizers to lawns and gardens that may be harmful to our wonderful Chesapeake Bay.

Whether you are growing vegetables, fruits or flowers, the best way to improve the soil quality is to determine what kind of soil you’re dealing with. There are some inexpensive soil kits that you can find in local garden shops; however, the best way to determine your soil content is by sending a sample away to a soil lab.

To take a soil sample, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. 1. Take separate samples from different areas – front or back yard, or specific garden area.
  2. 2. Use a spade or trowel to take 10 or 12 small samples from the given area
  3. 3. Samples should be taken from a depth that will contain plant roots – 3” for turf; 6-8” for garden or landscape beds.
  4. 4. Mix together all samples in a clean bucket (no rocks or other debris)
  5. 5. Send a minimum of 1cup or maximum of 2 cups of the soil in a zip lock baggie to your chosen lab.

Following is a list of labs that perform soil tests*

A&L Eastern Agriculture Laboratories, Inc. in Richmond, VA


AgroLab, Inc. Milford, DE


University of Delaware Soil Testing Program in Newark, DE


If you send your contact information to the lab -with a relatively small fee- usually $10 to $15- they will send you a graph representing the amount of nutrients in your soil.

*Taken from University of MD Extension  “Regional Soil Test Labs For Home Gardeners”

If you are working with virgin soil, you’ll find most plots in the D.C. area have an abundance of clay.  In order to improve the drainage and aeration, what you’ll need to provide is organic material. This is especially important as we experience more drought-like conditions during the summer months. You’ll need to water much less frequently if your soil is rich in organic material.

I encourage all gardeners to keep a compost pail beside their kitchen sinks. You can make one yourself using a large covered tin with a few air holes, or buy one any number of places. These come with filters to eliminate any odors. I often keep a week’s worth of fruit and vegetable scraps in the pail before transferring to my compost bin.

You can compost even if you live in an apartment with a balcony. One way to accomplish this is to compost with worms, or vermiculture, an easy and fun project to do with children.

Basically, you need a worm bin, which can be a plastic container with a top. Make sure to put small air holes (you can cover these with gauze) so the worms get air. You’ll need to control how much kitchen waste to add to the bin at a time.

Before adding your worms, you’ll need to provide them with some bedding – shredded black and white newspaper strips work great and, again, you’ll be repurposing your trash. Just spray them until moist, mix in a little soil and you’re good to go. One pound of worms to start would be good. One place I’ve ordered worms is: “Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.” He’s not my uncle, so feel free to purchase from any source listed on various websites. I’d start off with about a pound of worms.

You can add all kinds of fruit and veggie scraps, coffee & tea grounds, egg shells, but avoid meat, dairy, and oils. Bury the scraps in the soil so they don’t smell. The worms will do the rest. If they’re leaving uneaten scraps, feed them a bit less at a time. In 3 to 6 months you should be ready to harvest your compost – primarily worm castings. To do this you’ll need to gently push the compost to one side of the bin, and add new bedding to the other side along with some veggie scraps. In a few weeks the worms will make their way to the other side and you can use the compost from their newly vacated area.

You can sprinkle this “black gold” on your houseplants or any other plants, such as tomatoes or peppers that you’re growing on your balcony. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, place these valuable castings (they’re fairly expensive to purchase at garden shops) around your crops.

Composting in a regular compost bin is not much different. You’ll need to either build or obtain a bin (some types can be obtained free from Montgomery County) or purchase one. There are six important things to remember when using a compost bin:



Chopped (ideally smaller than 6”)

Water (just enough so that the mix feels like a damp sponge)




Brown materials provide the carbon (fuel)

Green materials provide the nitrogen (fire)

I’m including this handy chart for you to see which kinds of ingredients to add


Common Compost Ingredients
(high-carbon materials)corncobs and stalks

paper (newspaper, not glossy)

pine needles

sawdust or wood shavings


vegetable stalks

dry leaves

(high-nitrogen materials)coffee grounds

tea bags without staples


fruit wastes

grass clippings

feathers or hair – save the clippings from your haircuts

seaweed – gather some at the beach

kitchen scraps (except citrus & onion)

rotted manure – local farms have this

alfalfa meal

It’s also important to keep your compost bin in the sun as much as possible so that it heats up and the components decay much faster. Turn your compost regularly with a handle to mix thoroughly and you’ll have another way of creating that “black gold.” If you follow these directions, you should have great organic compost to add to your flower or vegetable beds in approximately six weeks. You’ll want to stop adding to this particular bed a few weeks prior to using so that any new materials can decompose. In the meantime, you could freeze your kitchen waste until your new compost bed is ready to re-start the process.

You can use this compost when first planting or as a “side dressing” around your plants during the growing season. Your plants will hold water much better in organic soil than soil that hasn’t been fed a yummy dose of black gold.

I encourage you to keep your good “rotten” stuff out of the trash and begin feeding it to your happy, healthy plants.

Best of luck.

Dayle McCarthy







Help Name a Chesapeake Bay Icon

April 2, 2013 Green Blog No Comments

Press Release from the Chesapeake Bay Trust announces

“Name our Bird” contest to promote awareness for the Bay and the

Treasure the Chesapeake license plate.

Contact: Kristin Foringer

410.974.2941, Ext. 113

(Annapolis, MD) April 1, 2012 – Want a chance to win Southwest airline tickets, a gift card to your favorite store, and other prizes while you name a Chesapeake Bay icon? Then enter the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s first ever “Name our Bird” competition. The Trust, a non-profit grant making organization dedicated to helping restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, is looking for creative names to give an identity to the iconic blue heron used on the organization’s official logo and Treasure the Chesapeake license plates.

“You see the blue heron throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed;  flying across the sky, fishing in a stream, and even on the back of cars in the form of Treasure the Chesapeake license plates,” said Molly Alton Mullins, director of communications at the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “The blue heron is an emblematic icon of the Bay and our beloved natural resources which is why we chosen to have it represented on our logo and on our license plate for more than 27 years.”

The contest launches April 1 and name submissions can be made through the Trust’s Bay Plate website. The naming submission period will end on April 15.  Three names will be chosen as finalists and voted upon by the public from April 19 until April 26. The official winner will be named on April 29 and there are multiple chances to win prizes. There will be two grand prize winners; one for whose name is chosen to represent the blue heron and the other a randomly selected voter who chose the winning name. These winners will receive prizes including Southwest airline tickets, a free Bay Plate, tickets to the Trust’s Treasure the Chesapeake Celebration gala and other events. There are also fantastic giveaways for the runner-ups and randomly chosen participants daily throughout the contest. Visit www.bayplate.org to see the official rules and prizes.

“The Chesapeake Bay Trust wants Marylanders to connect the Bay Plate with the great work being done to preserve our waterways and improve our local communities,” continued Mullins. “Many people are unaware that when they purchase a Treasure the Chesapeake license plate they are supporting environmental education and restoration programs right here in Maryland. We hope this contest helps bring the Bay plate into more Maryland homes that care about the blue heron, and our treasured Chesapeake Bay.”

For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Trust and how you can support Bay restoration, visit www.cbtrust.org. To enter the contest and for its official rules, visit www.bayplate.org.

About the Chesapeake Bay Trust: 

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is a nonprofit grant-making organization dedicated to improving the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers through environmental education, community outreach, and local watershed restoration. Since its inception in 1985, the Trust has awarded $50 million in grants and engaged hundreds of thousands of citizen stewards in projects that have a measurable impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Maryland Treasure the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal and state agencies. Almost 90 percent of the Trust’s expenditures are directed to its Chesapeake Bay restoration and education programs

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Meatless Monday Recipes

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons

19 Nov 2013

A good friend, Denise Clark, sent in this vegetarian seasonal recipe.   1 3 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes (5-6 cups) 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 teaspoons of  kosher salt Pinch of freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon butter 1 large onion, diced 1 tablespoon …

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Meatless Monday Butternut Squash Ravioli

4 Nov 2013

From Chef John at allrecipes.com Ingredients  Original recipe makes 6 servings 1 cup mashed, cooked butternut squash 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 pinch cayenne pepper 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 1 egg yolk 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 (16 ounce) package round wonton wrappers 2 …

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Meatless Monday Proclaimed by Montgomery County Council

22 Jul 2013

July 22, 2013 Gaithersburg, Md By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin I was so pleased to find out that Montgomery County Council has officially endorsed Meatless Mondays, a nationwide effort to choose more plant-based foods. For more information about this news read Compassion Over Killing’s website.  Also, Naomi Bloch sent in a Meatless …

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Meatless Monday Recipe- Roasted Cauliflower

17 Jun 2013

  This recipe sounds delicious and I am going to try it tonight because I have a cauliflower sitting in my fridge and I need to cook it! Will let you know what it tastes like!- Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Recipe is from BonApetit Ingredients Roasted Cauliflower 2 1/2 cups dry white …

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Meatless Mondays-Caramelized Onion Tart

20 May 2013

Here is a vegetarian recipe for an Onion tart. I just read up and now understand that a tart is made in ribbed dish, the bottom part of the pan can come out, and the tart can be all sorts of shapes vs. a quiche is in round pie dish… …

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