Expanding Horizons

By Carol Cavanaugh

Arggh. This column is being written in the desperate, possibly futile, hope that by the time you read it, this rain will have backed off. Enough already! Rain has brought my garden a jungle of vegetative growth and weeds, but my summer bloomers are mired in depression, setting no more than a few buds for lack of sun. In the hopes that there will, eventually, be summer, I set my figurative pen to figurative paper. I’ll share in this column two ways that gardening can connect us to the world outside our own neighborhood.

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Did you know that you can get logistical and financial help in making your garden more environmentally friendly? DC’s Department of Energy & Environment has established the RiverSmart program. This program, for homes, schools, and businesses, helps participants reduce storm water runoff from their properties in part through gardening. For example, trees help to absorb water through their roots, and rain gardens are groupings of smaller plants that just love to soak up large quantities of water in low-lying areas.

The city created this rain garden—a type of green infrastructure—at the intersection of Tunlaw & 37th Street.

The city created this rain garden—a type of green infrastructure—at the intersection of Tunlaw & 37th Street.

RiverSmart will give you a choice of appropriate trees for your site and offer a rebate for installing a tree or rain garden. Rain barrels, to hold water onsite for later use in watering your garden, are also available with a rebate. Similarly, RiverSmart offers rebates and advice on pervious pavement installation. Pervious pavers can replace concrete or slate, thus allowing rainfall to soak in rather than rushing out to foul the Potomac with whatever it picks up along the way. Several Burleith garden club members have already participated in the RiverSmart program and recommend it.

Garden club members met on a chilly May morning to enjoy hot chai and admire Carol Baume's charming garden filled with exotic plants.

Garden club members met on a chilly May morning to enjoy hot chai and admire Carol Baume's charming garden filled with exotic plants.

Speaking of the Burleith garden club, we’ve decided to move beyond our own neighborhood as well. Several members expressed an interest in helping school kids build and tend a garden. With a little research, we found out that such a program already exists. Friends of the National Arboretum has created the Washington Youth Garden. This program offers lessons to children in grades 3, 4, and 5 at several schools in the area. Those who become interested in gardening come to work on a small plot at the National Arboretum, where they learn the miracles of sowing seed, tending crops, and harvesting food. Like Michelle Obama’s work at the White House, this introduction to the natural world can be life-changing for kids. A few members of our garden club plan to volunteer at the Youth Garden. We’re also hoping to make a financial contribution to the project through selling some of our seeds and plants. So come see us at the Burleith picnic … you might get a great plant and help a kid discover the earth all at once! What’s not to love?