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Great Outdoors Initiative

An initiative is being advanced to make June the ‘Great Outdoors Month’ in order to highlight the need to get people to spend more time outside.  It should come as no surprise that people are less connected to the natural environment.  The article “Head Out for a Daily Dose of Green Space” by Jane Brody in the NY Times (12-7-10) focuses on our need to reconnect with the nature.  So, this June will be the Great Outdoors Initiative.  We should work to make this happen everyday.  Do not wait until June – take the challenge today!


Along the lines of connecting to the natural environment, research validates that people prefer ‘natural’ environments over complex or artificial environments.  Further research is needed to understand what elements of the natural environment help to relieve stress and are more calming for people.  The term Topophilia that has been used to describe this connection with the environment.  Yi-Fu Tuan, a geographer at the University of Wisconsin, used the term to show how we mentally, emotionally and cognitively bond with a place or environment.  (Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2-05)

Planting Tips

When installing a new plant, the planting hole should be twice as wide as the root ball.  The hole should not be deeper than the bottom of the root ball.  The reason is that most plants have a lateral root which creates stability of the plant.  This growth pattern also allows the plant to find water and nutrients.  You do not need to back fill the hole with compost or potting mixture.  Good soil will be all the plant needs.

Gardening in 2011

Looking ahead to the garden next season, we would like to offer a few suggestions to improve your gardening results:

  • Add compost to improve the soil, either make your own or purchase mushroom compost from the garden center
  • Rotate vegetable plants every season to make sure that nutrients are not depleted from the soil
  • Include flowering plants to attract a diversity of insects in the garden at all times
  • Limit walking in the garden to avoid compacting the soil which reduces the ability of soil to drain properly
  • Plant vegetables close so that they shade the soil and help prevent excess moisture evaporation and weed growth
  • Mulch around the plants to reduce erosion, maintain moisture in the soil and limit weeds.

Winter Interest and Color

As we gaze upon the winter landscape, this is a good time to take stock of the plants that offer visual interest.  Plants such as Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera lutea) stand out with their bright yellow bark.   The colored exfoliating bark of the Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) presents an iridescent orange color. The twisted branches of the Cork Screw Hazlenut (Corylus avellana contorta) is a delight to look at.  And the movement of many of the taller ornamental grasses, such as Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) and Switch Grass (Panicum) will bend in the wind and are iridescent when covered with ice.

Winter Solstice

Winter begins on Tuesday the 21st of December, which is also the shortest day of the year.  The winter solstice occurs when the tilt of the earth’s axis is farthest away from the sun.  This occurs in a very short instant of time; however, we associate the event with midwinter and the first day of winter.  We know that the weather has turned cold our winter season really began weeks before.  We associate these shorter days and longer nights with more indoor activities, especially as the holidays approach.  Yet we know that we need to get outside to help balance our circadian rhythms and production of melatonin in the body.  This will help offset those feelings of tiredness, inactivity and malaise.  Be sure to take walks, even if they are shorter than normal.  Find a friend to walk with you.  And there are always chores to do around the garden – bird feeders to fill, branches to be pruned, plants mulched, perennials cut back, etc.  There may even be a few warm(er) days when you can sit outside and enjoy nature.

Horticultural Therapy in the News

Great article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Virginia Smith (11-26-10) on horticultural therapy and the HT program at Cathedral Village –

Vitamin D and the Flu

Vitamin D is being studied to see if it may be helpful in preventing the flu, as described in an article in the WSJ by Laura Johannes.  Scientists are looking at how we spend more time indoors in the winter which means that there is lower absorption of Vitamin D from the sun. The flu shot is still recommended in conjunction with an increase in Vitamin D.  This is another one of the many reasons for spending more time outside.  (Wall Street Journal, 12-7-10)

Just for Fun – Garden Trends?

The national Trust in Great Britain has been working to encourage more people to get outside.  So, to help all of the ‘couch potatoes’ find a similar place to “roost” in the outdoors, they have installed grass couches in many of the historic sites throughout the U.K.  To look at pictures of some of the 30 foot long grass couches – visit:

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