12 tips for a vibrant spring garden

February 13, 2020 by  
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When the frost begins to thaw and the first signs of spring appear, it’s time to start thinking about your garden. While it’s true that many of your plants won’t fully come to life for another six months, the more you can knock off your list before spring, the better off your plants , lawn, and schedule will be. So even if you’re still enjoying cozy time in front of the fire, consider tackling, or even preparing for, some outdoor chores during breaks in the weather. Weeding If you live in a snow-covered area, this task will have to wait, but if the thaw is on it’s the perfect time to tackle the first round of seasonal weeds. Since the soil is soft before the heat of summer cements it in, pull weeds and invasive grass for a jump start to the  spring weeding. The earlier and more frequently you pull them, the easier they are to control throughout the season. Related: 11 unique edible plants for your garden Building  If the weather outside is still too severe to work the ground, there are still ways to prep your garden from within the cover of your workshop. Plan and build trellises, arbors and raised beds in preparation for the planting season. Fencing If the heavy frost is past, dig into that fence-building project. Your post hole digger will glide through the soil much easier early in the year than it will if you wait until August. Plus, your garden space will be protected from wildlife and domestic animals before you even get the seeds in the ground. Transplanting It’s important to get your plants established before the growing season begins so they are ready to accept nutrients and thrive. Deciduous trees and shrubs still in their dormant season can be moved as long as the ground isn’t too frozen or too wet. Evergreen flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, myrtles, azaleas and camellias can be moved once the threat of frost has passed. Organizing Even if you can’t check weeding or planting off your list, late winter is the ideal time to care for your lawn and garden supplies. Choose a reasonably agreeable weather day and empty the garden shed or supplies from the garage. Wash planting pots and allow them to dry. Clean and add protectants to tools. Also, sharpen blades and take an inventory of trimmer string and similar supplies that need replacing. Reorganize tools and supplies and donate unneeded or duplicate items to your local Habitat for Humanity reStore. Also, create a planting calendar so you have an idea of the workload in the upcoming months. Organize your seeds in a box in order of when they need planting — whether you’re using indoor starts, a greenhouse, or direct planting. This is also the perfect time to order seeds or plants. Make sure to check out your local extension office for garden plant sales nearby. While you’re in planning mode, make a list of desired projects for the year and create a workable timeline for each, complete with a budget. Edging Lawn edging is another task that is much easier in soft soil so tidy up the edges around all lawns and add a border if it’s in your plans. It will make mowing and other maintenance much easier throughout the season. Deadheading As your plants begin to rise from their winter slumber, deadhead last year’s growth as appropriate for each plant. Trim off spent blooms you may have missed in the fall, including the foliage from  ornamental grasses . Also, remove the faded flowers from winter pansies and other current bloomers to extend their blooming season. Caring for fruit February and March (if this is winter in your area) are the time to get root plants in the ground. This includes blueberries and raspberries. For fruit trees, protect them from the birds by adding netting before the fruit begins to develop. It’s much easier to cover plants and trees before they fill out with a full bloom. If you already have established berries, go ahead and cut them back now as the growing season begins. Pruning trees While we’re discussing trees, late winter is still a dormant time where trees respond well to pruning. It’s also easier to see the growth pattern of the branches so you can select which of them needs to be trimmed back. Avoid pruning spring-blooming trees  until after they have completed their bloom season. Pruning shrubs and climbers Now is also the time to trim back ivy, wisteria and other climbers as well as hearty shrubs like boxwood. Creating a shape now drops care down to a maintenance level for the season , meaning you will just need to monitor its growth, feeding, and watering. Feed the birds Even though the temperatures may be starting to level out or rise, the birds are still foraging for food so give them a handout. Clean and fill bird feeders with quality food to keep them coming back for more. Dig a pond If you have set a goal of putting in a pond or other feature, dust off the design and get digging now. Again, you’ll find it much easier to create a hole in soft soil than rock hard tundra . If it will be a while before you finish the task, make sure the hole is properly covered to avoid accidents. Via Thompson and Morgan Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Save the Duck introduces new winter line of outerwear

October 10, 2019 by  
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When you’re wearing clothing made from fur or leather, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it comes from an animal, but even vegetarians and vegans have an easier time closing their eyes to what’s hidden inside winter’s ubiquitous puffy jackets. Fortunately, brands like Save the Duck are making it possible for humans to stay warm and stylish without causing ducks pain and suffering. This month, the Italian clothing brand is revealing new designs. They’re kicking it off with a special brand dinner hosted by stylist Rachael Wang at the eco-luxury 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge . The collection features cruelty-free outerwear, including faux fur coats and feather-free down puffer jackets. Some of the new jackets are also waterproof. Save the Duck rounds out the collection with tees and sweats. The company promises, “In addition to providing animal free, ecological fabric, Save the Duck‘s penchant for bold color combines seamlessly with clean silhouettes and genderless, unisex pieces this fall.” You can choose basic black, but why not light up the winter in a bright yellow hooded puffer vest or a deep red fake fur coat? Related: The 2019 Redress Design Awards showcased the very best of emerging eco-designers Down is the soft feathery layer that grows closest to a duck’s skin, mostly on the chest. Manufacturers love the ease of working with these feathers, since they lack quills. Usually feathers are removed during slaughter, but ducks and geese being raised for foie gras or meat are sometimes plucked repeatedly while they’re alive. Save the Duck developed a synthetic down from recycled polyester they call Plumtech. The company designs all its jackets to be lightweight and easy to pack, as well as to spare the suffering of birds . The company Forest SRL owns the Save the Duck brand. Its roots go back more than a hundred years, to when tailor-turned soldier Foresto Bargi started experimenting with a water-repellent material he learned about during his time in the First World War. Now his grandson Nicolas Bargi runs the company. He launched the Save the Duck brand in 2011 to address people that are sensitive to environmental issues and sustainable living. One of his great victories was partnering with Kuntai A. Joisher, the first vegan Indian climber to reach the top of Mount Everest. Save the Duck managed to design a jacket that would withstand sub-zero temperatures and wicked winds. Even better, at press time the company estimated they helped save 17,975,456 ducks so far. + Save the Duck Images via Save the Duck

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Hurricane Dorian threatens endangered bird species

September 5, 2019 by  
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Those living on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands recently met Dorian as the hurricane’s 185 mph winds wrecked havoc on the islands, destroying and damaging about 13,000 homes. While the hurricane has raised much concern over the rising death tolls and destruction to the island, it also raised concern for endangered species who call the island home, such as the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch. The Bahama nuthatch has been in trouble for some time as a 2004 survey reported its population was around 1,800. Three years later, a 2007 survey noted more hurricanes decreased its numbers to a mere 23. By the time Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 the bird’s population dropped and in 2018 only two were found. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change It appears Dorian left very few stones upturned as most of the areas are reportedly still under water and coniferous forests are being killed by saltwater flooding. “It is obviously a humanitarian disaster for people living in these northern islands, and the extent is as yet unknown, but we hope that international medical and infrastructure aid will arrive rapidly and generously,” Diana Bell, professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told Earther. “It is also highly likely to have also been an ecological disaster affecting the already fragmented areas of Caribbean pine forest which support endemic avifauna.” Aside from trees and the Bahama nutshell, some scientists are worried about the Bahama warbler and the more well-known Kirtland’s warbler, a bird that lives among the pineyards during the winter season. In addition to the nuthatch and the warblers, as recent as July, avifauna in the Bahamas was reported at 374 species, according to Avibase – Bird Checklists of the World. According to a National Climate Assessment, researchers say warmer ocean climes and higher sea levels from climate change will further intensify hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, though some research suggests hurricanes are slowing down but causing longer impacts. Nonetheless, hurricanes of all categories could cause irreparable disaster for all island inhabitants. Via Gizmodo, Audubon, Avibase Image via Dick Daniels

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Germany to ban controversial weed-killer glyphosate by 2023

September 5, 2019 by  
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Reaching for the weed-killer glyphosate in Germany won’t be an option much longer. A primary component of Roundup, manufactured by Bayer-owned Monsanto , glyphosate’s critics believe it wipes out insect populations essential to ecosystems and the pollination of food crops. But the controversial chemical won’t have the chance to do either, as ministers have reported that the German government is banning the use of glyphosate when the EU’s approval period expires in 2023. “What we need is more humming and buzzing,” said environment minister Svenja Schulze to The Guardian . Schulze also added that “a world without insects is not worth living in.” Related: EPA backs the use of toxic herbicide chemical glyphosate Besides killing insects , there are other experts who believe glyphosate may cause cancer in people and needs to be banned as soon as possible “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said. First, glyphosate will be banned in city parks and private gardens in 2020, according to a policy plan. Additionally, using herbicides and insecticides will be restricted or banned in habitats such as grasslands, orchard fields and along the shores of Germany’s many rivers and lakes. Champions of the ban have been loud and clear about disapproval of the weed-killer, and in February, 1.75 million people in the German state of Bavaria voted for a referendum to “ save the bees .” They called for less chemical use and more organic farming and green areas. These environmentalists did face opposition from a regional agriculture association, who pushed the activists to “stop bashing farmers.” Others opposed to the ban include farmers and the chemical industry; both sectors want to keep using glyphosate . The manufacturer fought against the government’s ban, voicing its product could be used safely and was “an important tool for ensuring both the sustainability and productivity of agriculture.” It is not just Germany that is saying goodbye to glyphosate; in July, Austria was the first EU member to ban the weed killer. France has also decided to ban glyphosate by 2023. The chemical is scheduled to be re-evaluated in 2022 by EU authorities. Via The Guardian Image via Erich Westendarp

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Endangered California condors are making a comeback with the birth of 1,000th chick

July 23, 2019 by  
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The largest bird in North America is making a comeback after reaching an alarming population size of about 20 birds . The California condor was highly endangered during the late 20th century but holds spiritual importance to indigenous tribes and nature-lovers. Last week, conservationists announced that the 1,000th chick hatched and successfully survived, giving new hope that the birds’ population will continue to grow. The condor population plummeted in the 20th century because of hunting , habitat loss and lead poisoning from eating the carcasses of animals that had been shot with lead bullets. When the population was nearing just 20 birds, conservationists began breeding them in captivity. Related: 10 species at risk of extinction under the Trump administration According to Tim Hauch, manager of the Peregrine Fund’s condor program, more than 300 wild California condors exist today. There is a total of more than 500 when those in captivity are included. The newest chick was born in Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah. Condors lay only one egg at a time , and female condors do not nest every year. Conservationists are incredibly hopeful every time one is born. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR. “And that’s just a step toward success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” Although the chick was born in May, it was not considered to be a survivor until July, given the typical mortality of young condors within the first two months. The chick will be able to leave the nest and begin flying around November. California condors are unique birds that can live up to 60 years in the right conditions. That makes condors not only the largest bird in North America, with a wingspan of 10 feet, but also one of the longest living birds in the world. Those who study California condors also believe that the birds are capable of having distinct personalities, which separates them from many other avian species. Via NPR Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Studio NAB wants to boost urban biodiversity with an insect hotel at a bus stop

June 14, 2019 by  
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Waiting for the bus is usually a drag, but what if the experience could instead become an opportunity to be closer to nature? French design practice Studio NAB has reinterpreted the humble bus stop as a hub for biodiversity that offers a “hotel” for birds and insects of all varieties. Built from recycled materials and topped with a vegetated green roof, the proposed Hotel Bus Stop aims to promote the population of native pollinating insects and reconnect people to nature. Studio NAB designed the Hotel Bus Stop to serve five purposes: to promote the presence of pollinating insects; to bring adults and children closer to nature and promote environmental awareness and education; to showcase architecture constructed from recycled materials such as wood, cardboard and stainless steel; to introduce urban greenery and improve air quality with a vegetated roof and exposed plant wall; and to create “green jobs” for maintenance around the bus stops. Related: 6 fun, fantastic bus stops from around the world “A broad scientific consensus now recognizes the role of man in the decline of biomass and biodiversity in general and that of insects in particular,” Studio NAB explained in a project statement. “The use of pesticides in intensive agriculture, the destruction of natural habitats, excessive urbanization, global warming and various pollutions are at the origin of this hecatomb. Our hegemony allied to our conscience obliges us today to fulfill a role of ‘guardian’ and to allow the ‘living’ to take its place in order to fight against the erosion of our biodiversity.” Envisioned for city centers and “eco-neighborhoods,” The Hotel Bus Stop would provide more habitats for pollinating insects that are essential for our food system and gardens, from fruit trees and vegetables to ornamental flowers. Auxiliary insects would also benefit, such as lacewings and earwigs that feed on aphids, a common garden pest. The underside of the bus stop roof would include boxes to encourage nesting by various bird species found throughout the city. + Studio NAB Images via Studio NAB

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Bird deaths from skyscrapers reaches into the hundreds of millions

April 10, 2019 by  
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Scientists believe the number of bird deaths associated with skyscrapers has reached hundreds of millions. Researchers estimate that anywhere between 100 million and one billion birds die from smashing into glass buildings every year — and they now know which areas of the country are the worst for these incidents. More birds die from hitting buildings in Chicago than any other city in America. Scientists believe around five million birds migrate through Chicago in the fall and spring as they make their way from Central and South America to Canada. According to The Guardian , Manhattan is another deadly place for birds who are migrating north and south. Related: Analysis of Wikipedia searches reveals high wildlife conservation trends The majority of birds travel across the U.S. at night because the weather is cooler. These birds are often attracted to the bright lights of the cities. Large glass structures, like skyscrapers, are particularly dangerous, because they reflect the surrounding landscape, tricking the birds into thinking they are flying into trees or open air. The new bird conservation study was published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Other cities listed in the study, which was entirely based in the U.S., include Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Louis. “We’re trying to raise awareness — trying to provide data and insight that could help,” Kyle Horton, an author of the study, shared. One of the ongoing issues with studying bird deaths is obtaining reliable numbers. The New York City Audubon, for example, employs volunteers to collect birds that are killed in the fall and spring of each year. The organization recently reported that between 90,000 and 200,000 birds die from building collisions yearly. Other cities have initiated similar plans, but large scale implementation is difficult. Although the high number of bird deaths is concerning, bird conservationists believe that researchers and designers can come up with solutions to help curb those deaths in the near future — it all starts with recognizing the problem. Via The Guardian Image via Pexels

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3D-printed jewelry company uses plants, not fossil fuels, to make its beautiful designs

April 10, 2019 by  
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Traditionally, most jewelry has always been made out of some type of metal: silver, gold, bronze or copper. Mining for precious metals and gemstones often causes environmental damage, ranging from water pollution to greenhouse gas emissions to soil erosion. Today, however, those looking to decorate themselves with shiny baubles have a new option —  eco-friendly, 3D-printed jewelry. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Winter Hill Jewelry is an innovative, family-run company that makes beautiful and affordable 3D-printed earrings and necklaces out of plant-based plastic . Winter Hill Jewelry is the brainchild of Vanessa Templeman, a mother of two who started experimenting with her family’s 3D printer at home. The printer had been used to print toys for the kids, but soon Templeman decided to do something a bit more creative. After initially drawing and designing her pieces by hand, she then updated to Tinkercard to help streamline the process, which ends with beautiful 3D models of her designs. Related: Elle turns E-waste into unique and eye-catching jewelry According to Templeman, the 3D printing process not only allows her to create and manufacture her own designs, but has also opened up a niche in the jewelry market for eco-friendly designs. Focused on having minimal environment impact, the company uses a full-cycle system that is set up to reduce waste throughout the manufacturing process. Instead of using regular plastic that is made from fossil fuels, for example, they use PLA, a plant-based plastic that is compostable. While they try to reduce waste as much as possible, any remnants left over from the production process can be easily recycled. Additionally, the Flash Forge Creator Pro 3D printers used by Winter Hill Jewelry are fully powered by solar-generated energy . Once the jewelry is printed, they are displayed on cards made out of 100 percent recycled paper and shipped in biodegradable bubble wrap. As an additional way to use its product for good, the company has a special collection that includes a “Cuterus” line of pins and earrings. Portions from the sale of these items are donated to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center OB. + Winter Hill Jewelry Images via Winter Hill Jewelry

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Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

March 21, 2019 by  
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A new study reveals that hen harriers are being killed at an alarming rate on U.K. grouse moors. Scientists found that gamekeepers are eliminating these birds , which are on the verge of extinction in England because they hunt red grouse. Conservationists have been tagging hen harriers in the U.K. for several years and discovered that 72 percent of the birds involved in studies have come up missing. The researchers believe the majority of these birds were killed illegally. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species Sadly, 83 percent of juvenile hen harriers in this region do not make it through their first year. In comparison, 65 percent of juveniles do not survive in other areas of the country. In areas completely devoid of grouse moors, those numbers drop to less than 50 percent. According to The Guardian , hen harrier numbers have dropped dangerously low in the U.K., despite the fact that there are acceptable habitats for large numbers to survive with ease. Not only is there plenty of food for the birds of prey, but there are also few predators with which to compete. Even still, only seven of the 58 birds in the study were alive by the end of 2017. Five of the deceased birds uncovered in the study, which spanned a decade, died naturally. Four others sustained injuries consistent with hunting and were considered to be illegally killed. The great majority of the missing birds, however, vanished without a trace. Only a small percentage of these disappearances can be attributed to malfunctioning tags; the rest are believed to be victims of hunting . “Carcasses were rarely recovered, presumably due to suspected illegal killing and carcass disposal,” the study revealed. In order to boost population numbers, a new program was just passed to rear juvenile hen harriers in captivity. Researchers with Natural England plan to find juvenile birds in the wild, raise them in captivity and later release them far from grouse moors. The new hen harrier plan has been met with some resistance by conservationists , though a court just ruled in favor of its legality. Via The Guardian Image via Rob Zweers

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Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

Deforestation in South America causes extinction of 8 bird species

September 5, 2018 by  
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The Spix’s Macaw, a bird many would recognize as the star of the animated film Rio, is officially extinct. The macaw has been listed among eight bird species that have gone extinct in South America in the last decade in a new study conducted by BirdLife International . While the majority of bird extinctions are associated with island species sensitive to invasive organisms and hunting, these new extinctions are linked to a growing problem in South America: deforestation . Stuart Butchart, a scientist who lead the BirdLife International study, said that the extinctions in South America are proof that a crisis is currently unfolding in places that have historically been free of such events — and it’s all because of the destruction of natural habitats. In the past, about 90 percent of bird-related extinctions have been isolated to species on remote islands. But as Butchart points out, the new study indicates a rise in extinction events on large continents that are “driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.” As it currently stands, there are more than 26,000 species on the verge of extinction. With that number continuing to rise, scientists warn that humans could usher in another global extinction event. Half of the birds that recently went extinct were native to Brazil. The Spix’s Macaw was last sighted in the wild in 2000, though the bird is being raised in captivity. Scientists hope to reintroduce the bird at some point in the future. Related: Scientists say mass extinction warning signs exist — and they can be observed today But that is not the case for many of the birds who have disappeared. The Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, the Cryptic Treehunter and the Poo-uli, for example, will never be seen again. Apart from the eight bird species that have already gone extinct, there are 51 others that are “ critically endangered .” Butchart and his team hope that their findings will promote future conservation efforts to save these bird species from becoming extinct. + BirdLife International Via The Guardian Images via Daderot and  Rüdiger Stehn

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