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Green Living

Propagate a jungle of African violets using my foolproof method

Beyond their good looks and winter bloom, African violets have another charm. They’re so easy to propagate in the home that they raise your self-esteem. Here’s my foolproof method:

Get out and dig to be ready for spring

If you did a good job of building your compost pile last fall, now is a good time to stimulate more microbial activity.     Just before Christmas, temperatures in my compost pile dropped below 100 degrees from a high of 130 degrees measured just three weeks earlier. This falling temperature is due partially to a drop in surrounding ambient air and partially to a lower rate of microbial activity.

Here’s your recipe for making them into rich compost

Don’t bag those leaves for the county to collect. Use them in making your own compost. It takes about a bushel of leaves to make a gallon of quality compost, which contains more nutrients and fiber than peat moss and is less acetic.

The Bay — and your garden — will thank you

Never leave your garden barren. As soon as you have finished harvesting the vegetables or flowers, plant another crop to prevent the soil from eroding or losing nutrients through leaching.     Soil devoid of vegetation is easily washed away and may find its way into the Bay. Plant roots save the soil by binding particles so they will not be washed away. The tops of plants minimize the impact of water droplets that can destroy soil structure and encourage erosion.

Now’s the time to get to work, says the Bay Gardener

Feeling less than pride and joy in your lawn?     September is a great month for establishing and repairing lawns. Here’s how to get started now on growing rich, green, weed-free grass in 2014. 1. Test Your Soil     How’s your lawn doing?     There’s no way to know without soil testing. Fertilize without testing, and you’re not only throwing your money away but also polluting the Bay.

Five signs you need to insulate

A cool grand. Nearly half a home’s total energy bill — $1,000 annually — is what the average family spends each year on home heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. government’s Energy Star program.     Improving your insulation could save you hundreds of dollars.     Insulation traps warm air inside a home’s walls — similar to how a fleece sweater does for the body — to regulate a home’s temperature.     How do you know if your home is properly insulated?

Here’s how to get started

Dear EarthTalk: I’m planning a major home renovation and want to include as many green-friendly features as possible. Where do I begin to look?     –Matthew Glaser, Queens, NY

Plus you can share your hostas and lilies with friends

Late summer and early fall is a great time to divide and share your hosta and day lily plants with friends and neighbors while reducing over-crowding in the garden.     One of the big advantages of growing hosta and day lilies is that once they are established, they require little attention. Hostas perform at their best in light shade, but they will tolerate full sun, resulting in more flowers, while day lilies are at their best in full sun.

At 10 million oysters, SMOCS calls it quits

"Oysters are a lost cause. You’re going to fail."

Local community colleges boast new buildings so smart they’ve earned top honors

New buildings at both Anne Arundel Community College and the College of Southern Maryland are working just like good students do to achieve perfection.     Anne Arundel’s renovated Andrew G. Truxal Library has already graduated LEED (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with top honors. It’s only the eighth building in Anne Arundel County to achieve those honors.