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September-October 2016
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Fall Landscaping Cheat Sheet
It's easy to ignore outdoor upkeep when summer temps spike at well over 100 degrees. Now that the muggy days are giving way to more enjoyable fall weather, it's a great time to get back outside and discover what chores need to be done to get your curb appeal back in order.
Prune trees, summer blooming perennials and warm season annuals.
Before the first freeze, empty and store your rain barrel.
Apply or refresh mulch in flower beds to protect roots from winter weather. Use pine needles for a low cost alternative.
Assess your flowerbeds and landscape design to see if you have space for more plants. If so, consider planting native plants and trees, drought-tolerant bulbs or seasonal color with a fall-winter blooming plant.
Hand-pull weeds and invasive lawn grass from flowerbeds. Make the job easier by working a section at a time or pulling a few weeds on the way in and out of the house each day.
Complete an inexpensive 
soil test before using lawn fertilizer, which is often not needed. If a soil test reveals your soil does need a boost, remember that cool season grasses (like fescue) should be fertilized in the fall, while warm season grasses should be fertilized in the spring.
Attend an upcoming gardening festival or plant sale to purchase new plants or to get free expert advice on your hard-to-solve landscaping problems.
Finally, put your fall gardening know-how to the test with our Fall Lawn Cleanup quiz!
Could You Imagine Your Day Without Water?
On Sept. 15, communities across the U.S. will celebrate the ways that tap water contributes to our quality of life. Without access to tap water, we'd miss more than just coffee or flushable toilets; we'd also miss the businesses and manufacturers that would surely shut down without access to water. Firefighters would be defenseless and unable to protect our communities from fire, and doctors wouldn't have a way to prevent spreading illness from one patient to another.

While our local utility departments work hard to bring safe and reliable tap water to customers, the cost to maintain the seemingly invisible infrastructure is far from free. Processing it, treating it, bringing it to and from your house is a costly process. No matter how much or little water we use, the price tag for these processes stays the same or may go up to finance repairs to our aging systems. Yet the average residential water bill in Hampton Roads is still less than other household bills like cable TV services or cellphone plans. When you think of everything that water provides, public water systems are a great value.

We challenge our readers to share with us what you'd miss most in a day without water, or let us know how it provides you with an amazing quality of life. Post your stories at
Drug Take-Back Day Coming Up
Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) initiative to provide a safe way for the public to conveniently and responsibly dispose of old or unused prescription drugs. While one goal of the program is to educate the public about the potential for prescription drug abuse, another is to promote proper disposal to protect our waterways. When medications are poured or flushed down the drain they can become contaminants when the treated wastewater is released back into our local waterways. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove medications from the water they treat, so it is up to us to ensure we keep these pollutants out of our water by practicing proper disposal methods.

To participate in the national take-back day in October, and to find the collection site nearest you, visit the DEA website. You can also use their handy  Controlled Substance Public Disposal Locator anytime simply by entering your zip code. Visit to learn more about other responsible medication disposal options.

Buckets of Fun: Rethinking the Car Wash Fundraiser
Going back to school means that school fundraising activities will be gearing up this fall. If you're in charge of raising funds for those new team jerseys or the high school band trip, encourages you to think twice before planning a car wash fundraiser this school year. Why? Because the traditional manual car washing event puts a strain on our local waterways and here's how: When cars are washed on hard surfaces (like a parking lot or driveway), the wash water goes into the storm drain system and flows directly to our local streams/rivers/bay/ocean. That wash water contains soap, dirt, grease and other pollutants that are harmful to our waterways. There are plenty of ways to avoid this pollution and here are just a few:
Establish a partnership with a commercial car wash facility and hold your event there. It's less manual labor for you and easier on the environment!
Sell commercial car wash coupons as a fundraiser instead of holding a car wash.
If a charity car wash is inevitable, implement these tactics to prevent pollution on the day of the event:
Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only.
Always empty wash buckets into a sink, toilet or on a vegetated area.
Wring sponges and rags into a bucket instead of on the ground.
Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass. These surfaces can filter water before it enters local waterways. Avoid washing cars on concrete or asphalt pavement unless it drains into a vegetated area.
Use sandbags, rolled towels, hoses or other materials to divert the runoff to an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass.
Minimize water usage. Use a hose nozzle with flow restrictions to minimize water volume and runoff.
Many parking lots have storm drain grates or openings in the side of the curb called catch basins. Place plastic sheeting and then a heavy rubber mat over the grate or catch basin to prevent wash water from entering the storm drain system. Rolled up towels can be placed around the edge of the mat to increase its water tightness.
If you're living the green life in Hampton Roads, we want to recognize you as a Bay Star Home. Sign up for your free garden flag while supplies last!
Keep on being green
in 2016!