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Friday, May 28, 2010

Energy, You, and Landscaping

It is possible to improve the looks of your landscaping, get exercise and save on energy costs - all with a single decision to just do it. Start now with plans, selections, and then act while the weather is good. For years to come you will reap the benefits!

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a household's energy consumption for heating and cooling.  The US Dept of Energy created computer models which suggest that 3 trees, placed properly will save $100 to $250 in annual energy costs. That pays for the trees and you're adding beauty and value to your homescape and surrounding area.

According to one newsletter, evergreen trees, with low growing branches, shield against cold winter winds. Plant them on the north or northwest. Deciduous (leaf-shedders) trees belong on the south and/or west as they offer shade in the summer and let the winter sunlight in to warm a home.

Don't take our word for it alone. Your best proof will be found at a park or wooded area on a hot day. The temperature under the trees can be as much as 25 degrees F/ 14 degrees C LOWER than being on blacktop. The shading and evapotranspiration (kids: that is the process by which a plant actively moves and releases water vapor) keeps park areas as much as 9 degrees F cooler. Neighborhoods with tree-shading may reach as much as 6 degrees F relief, while pre-treed (yes, we made that up) areas are scorchers.

So much for the heat of the day. Check out the winter impact.

There's this thing we all hear about called wind chill. For an outside temp of 10 F, with a wind speed of 20 mph, we will be subjected to a wind chill of -24 degrees F. Note the MINUS sign! Burrrrr. Hello! We have wind chill here in Central Illinois. Oh, it's not like South Dakota where as much as 40% of the heating bill can be reduced by windbreaks on three sides. But we are in a windy climate. A well-planned landscape can make a noticeable difference inside, outside, and what's in your wallet!

The federal government considers Illinois to have a Temperate climate. Here's more of their input.

The United States can be divided into four approximate climatic regions: temperate,
hot-arid, hot-humid, and cool. The energy-conserving landscape strategies you use should depend on which region you live in. 

• Maximize warming effects of the sun in the winter.
• Maximize shade during the summer,
• Deflect winter winds away from buildings.
• Funnel summer breezes toward the home.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Well, that might be their job. If you want to read more, click the article title above. Or better yet, this one - our catalog! Ready to start? We're ready for you to call. Our job is to really make it easy for you - we'll meet with you, talk with you, walk with you, work FOR you and get your property as efficient as you desire. You will have a "microclimate" that continues to improve over time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


If you're on the list to receive the email Constant Contact news then you know we included a blurb about weeds, even mentioning that some are edible. In fact, dandelions got significant recognition. It seems fitting to post a recipe to acknowledge, or substantiate, what we wrote. You should be adventurous and try new things. Grown locally, your dandelions (or spinach, if you must) will gain your appreciation.

You may substitute wild spinach for the dandelion greens; if you do, there is no need to trim and blanch the spinach. You may begin with step 3. However, we encourage you to at least try the dandelion greens.

1 bunch, about a pound, dandelion greens
1 big T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 little t. chopped fresh ginger
1 big T tamari or dark soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  1. Wash dandelion greens and cut off tough stems.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Immerse greens for one minute; remove to a colander and run under cold water. Set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook 4 minutes more.
  5. Stir in reserved greens, ginger, and tamari. Cook 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  6. Add lemon juice; serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

NOTE: Look for baby greens. They tend to be more tender, less bitter.
Other weeds of worth: Wild Spinach is also known as Lamb's Quarters. (R top) Chickweed's tiny delicately flavored leaves can be used as sprout substitutes. (R lower)
Purslane (L top), it has a purple flower, has a crunchy texture and hint of lemon flavor. It makes a delicous garnish for salads. Wild mustard is very pungent (L lower)

You can soften intense flavors by cooking carrots or beets with the greens. Try adding soy sauce or even ham.

Wild greens are a superfood.
They are nutritious! Purslane is rich in omega-3 fatty acides. Dandelion greens are loaded with iron and vitamin E, just to mention a couple.

Where do you go to get the edible wild greens? The back yard? Well, could be. Make certain you recognize what you have identified. If you aren't clear on what it is, buy fresh greens at your local Farmers' Market.