How Beneficial Insects Work and Why They Matter

Posted by Ecogardens


Beneficial insects are relatively new on the cultural radar, but they’ve been doing their job faithfully for thousands of years. It’s time we take them seriously and give them some help in return.

The insect has a troubled image. From the locust of Biblical proportions to aphids, the gardener’s bane, our buggy friends … well, bug us.

In an agricultural setting, insect pests shoot right past annoying and become downright dangerous, jeopardizing entire crops. Because of this – oh, and because they look weird and have a tendency to swarm and can kill you and stuff – we’ve lumped the good in with the bad.

Unfortunately, we need a lot of those insects we would dismiss outright. From pollination to soil improvement to pest control, beneficial insects matter. So it’s important to figure out how they work.

To be fair, asking “how beneficial insects work” is kind of like asking “how Mars keeps afloat.” The answer involves so many different factors that it’s kind of difficult to sum them up in one blog post. (And yes, we know Mars does not actually float, so save your physics snobbery for someone else.)

Nevertheless, we thought we’d step in and offer some clarity on how beneficial insects work today.

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Topics: Pollinators

Are You Missing Out on the Benefits of Green Stormwater Infrastructure?

Posted by Ecogardens


Green stormwater infrastructure is a growing need in our world, as cities bloom and rural areas feel their effects. Are you missing out on its benefits?

Stormwater is a huge problem.

When we say huge, we don’t just mean “large” or “sizeable” or any other half-measure word that politicians use.

We mean huge.

It’s a problem to which we must start paying attention, but we have to do it in the right ways … and that means going green.

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Topics: Stormwater Management

What Is Peat and Why Should We Protect It?

Posted by Ecogardens


Peat is a nonrenewable resource that we’re using at alarming rates, wreaking havoc on the environment as we do.

Peat is one of our main gardening staples. It’s used in applications ranging from potting plants to amending soil to starting seeds.

Inarguably, it’s an awesome tool in the landscaping and gardening fields. Its comparative cheapness compared to composts and other amendments makes it appealing right there. Add in excellent water and nutrient retention, soil lightening capabilities and pH adjustment, and you have a shoo-in of a gardening material.

The problem? Peat is not a renewable resource, no matter what some stakeholders might claim. And that’s really bad for the world.

If we want to be better environmental stewards, we need to understand the consequence of peat’s use, as well as what we can do to fix the issue.

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Topics: Stewardship

Crafting the Right Urban Ecology Approach

Posted by Ecogardens



The main issue with the prevailing conception of urban ecology is that it takes people out of the equation. Problem is, we can’t do that.

When you think of “ecology,” what do you see?

For most folks, it’s a winding river. A pristine prairie. A tall and silent forest, with old growth trees standing sentinel. Perhaps a regal stag or two.

The problem with this picture? Almost no one sees people as a part of it.

And believe us, that’s a problem.

Why? At more than 7.5 billion strong, humans are the most populous mammals on Earth (followed by cows, sheep, pigs and dogs, if you were curious). Our urban areas cover 3 percent of the world’s landmass, and that’s not even including rural settlements. Our livestock and agricultural production are among the leading causes of global climate change.

Any definition of or approach to ecology that fails to include humans is doomed to fail. We can’t operate on the assumption that we’re somehow “outside” the environment. Our worldwide hegemony, simply put, means we cannot be. Likely ever again, unless our species perishes at our own hand. Or, like asteroid strike maybe.

Too depressing for the morning? Okay, okay. Sorry.

Point being, we’re here. And we need to take account of … us.

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Topics: Urban Ecology

Why We Need a Better Stewardship Meaning Now

Posted by Ecogardens


We need a better approach to ecology if we’re going to pull our world back from the brink on which it’s currently teetering, and that means a better stewardship meaning.

We humans have a tendency to simplify. While we think of ourselves as deep thinkers – and we often are, happily – we are also very good at Glossing Over Important Things and Reducing Complex Meanings to Shallow Understandings.

Take a look at any ecological buzzword and you’ll see what we mean:

  • Green
  • Sustainable
  • Stewardship

These are words that have deep, multilayered connotations, but we toss them around as though they’re quite simplistic. The last one, especially, gets a surface treatment – and that’s a problem. Because until we understand the true important of the word stewardship we have very little chance of applying it properly.

We need a better stewardship meaning.

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Topics: Stewardship

What You Need to Know About Sustainable Design

Posted by Ecogardens


Sustainable design is more than a buzzword; it’s a way of thinking about every action we take with the goal of reducing harm to Earth, its environment and its peoples.

Take a quick gander at the web and you’ll find dozens of firms in your area promising sustainable design. Of buildings. Of cities. Of landscapes. Of forests and wetlands.

Some of these firms really do follow sustainable design principles, prioritizing long-term resilience and the benefits to nature and people at their core.

Others, however, give the term a superficial treatment. They may source environmentally friendly products, but not ensure those products are the best for a site. They might address stormwater needs, but fail to choose the right infrastructure to manage it.

We’re certainly not claiming that green products and stormwater management are bad things; far from it. But until we look at the complete picture, we’re failing in our goals of creating sustainable green infrastructure for the future.

Want to avoid that? Of course you do.

Here’s a better way to think about it.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

What Is Green Roof Technology and How Does It Work?

Posted by Ecogardens


Green roof technology encompasses an increasingly sought-after range of products, but what exactly are those products and how do they apply to you?

Imagine you’re in downtown Chicago, Detroit or St. Louis. You’re standing 20 or 40 or 60 stories up, gazing out at the sea of rooftops flowing before you. What do you see?

If you’re like most denizens of the Midwest, you see a lot of bare rooftops. Some A/C units, maybe a few solar panels. And … wait, is that … yes! It is! A patch of green, defying rain and snow and wind and frost and burning sun to survive at elevation, in an unnatural environment, against all odds.

It is a green roof, and it is kicking ass.

But how? How is it we’re able to engineer such hardy environments in such demanding environments?

Green roof technology, friend. Today, we’re here to talk about exactly what that is, so you can stop wondering what it is – and start making the most of green roofs in your own life, business, city and environment.

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Topics: Green Roofs

Bird Safety in Cities: How to Make Our Buildings Safe for Birds

Posted by Ecogardens


One of the biggest environmental hazards for birds is not pollution, disease or loss of habitat: It’s the buildings in which we live and work every day.


Since the earliest recordings of human history, we have used birds as symbols, metaphors, mythological figures, poetic devices and characters in our ever-mounting collection of stories.

We love our avian friends.

Which makes it all the more tragic that humans are responsible for the deaths of billions of birds every year. Yes, billions – both around the world and right here in the United States.

If we want to preserve our urban ecologies and the balance of the natural world, we must focus on bird safety in cities immediately – and that means taking a different approach to our buildings ASAP.

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Topics: Urban Ecology

How Can Green Roof Stewardship Benefit You and the World?

Posted by Ecogardens


Working to keep a green roof healthy has a number of benefits beyond aesthetic appeal, but do you know what they are? Here’s why green roof stewardship matters.

If the phrase “green roof stewardship” sounds far less interesting than “three-day weekend” or “mocha latte stat,” then you’re not alone.

You’re busy, and you’re not looking for yet another chore. Can’t a person catch a break once in a while??

Well, we have good news: investing in ongoing and intelligent green roof stewardship may actually provide more of a break than you think, especially if you already have a green roof. Plus, it offers tons of other benefits as well.

Shall we take a look at some of them? Of course we shall.

Feel free to grab that mocha first, though.

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Topics: Green Roofs

Beyond the Honeybee: Fighting of Behalf of Pollinators

Posted by Ecogardens


While honeybees are in trouble, so are the rest of the pollinator set. That means bugs, beetles, flies, moths and even bats … and they need our help too.

Next time you walk past the bat house at the zoo, take a close look at those furry little snouts and wicked little claws.

Guess what? Those are intimately involved in the pollination of several species of plant, including cacao and agave.

So if you like your chocolate and tequila, thank the bats. Oh, and the other pollinators, of course … which includes thousands of species beyond the honeybee.

While these yellow-and-black-striped favorites are certainly critical to our planet and food system, the laser focus on this singular species often obscures the fact that there are plenty of others that need our help as well.

Today let’s take a quick look at the issue with honeybees, who else represents the pollinator crowd, and what we can do to help both.

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Topics: Pollinators