Q I want to plant drought-resistant flowers and shrubs. Any suggestions?
A Spring showers sometimes cloud our memories of the long, hazy summer in store for all those flowers we picked out for our balconies and yards. Let's be honest, most of us pick plants for the promise of pretty petals (sorry, the alliteration was completely unintentional) and never think about how often we'll be pulling out the watering can to keep them happy.
If you want to free yourself from your hose addiction, for one, get a rain barrel, and two, choose your leafy friends well.
Native plants are a great starting point. Evolution's made them perfectly suited to our climate and conditions. In the wild, they've got to make due with rain that Mother Nature provides. Basically they're your local winners of Survivor: Plant Edition.
If you want to figure out which local native plants do well in drought conditions, visit Evergreen's website (www.evergreen. ca/nativeplants). On this cool native plant database, if you click on "advanced search," you can track down trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses and vines that are drought-tolerant. You can even punch in your specific growing conditions (i.e., sandy, loamy, shady, etc), and it'll spit out the perfect plants for you.
Other than that, stay away from plants with tags that say "keep moist."
Just keep in mind that xerophyte plants (basically plants that grow in desert- or semi-desert-like conditions) might survive without rain but only flower and look their best with a good dose of H2O. According to Linda Chalker-Scott, a horticulture myth-busting prof at Washington State U, some people plant these hoping never to water them but end up drenching them more than other plants because they look like crap.
Q What do I do with my old gas lawnmower if Home Depot won't take it, and what should I replace it with?
A Good on ya for retiring your old gas beater. Each and every year in this country, 80,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas and smoggy emissions are spewed out by gas mowers and trimmers. Blame their shockingly inefficient two-stroke engines.
But you raise a good point: what do you do with your old mower during the 50 weeks of the year that Home Depot isn't running its lawnmower recycling program? Your window closed April 29. I've heard unofficial grumblings from store employees that machines are dropped off and just get trashed. Not good.
Instead, just call the city and it'll pick it up. Electric mowers can also be dropped off at your local Environment Day (www.toronto.ca/environment_days). Either way, all that scrap metal will get recycled, as will any electronic components.
When you're in the market for a new grass cutter, you'll notice a wide array of clean electric mowers out there. They rock because they only use about 5 bucks' worth of energy every year, are emission-free and pretty quiet. The battery-operated ones seem pretty nifty if you don't want to get wrapped up in cords, but one day that battery won't charge so well and you'll have to get a new one (about every five to seven years). If people don't recycle them, the oversized lead-acid lawnmower batteries will end up leaching into landfills.
For that simple reason, I'd stick with the corded type, but anything other than gas gets the green thumbs-up. Beyond that, I suggest buying a good one so your broken-down mower doesn't head to the landfill in three years. Black & Decker corded and cordless models scored the most points on ConsumerReports.org.
Mother Jones also reviewed three cordless types and found B&D's the most powerful, but the batteries can't be replaced. What's up with that? Maybe the company wants to make work for its service team. Also, make sure to ask for models that let you mow high (not just a weed-welcoming 1.5 inches).
There's even a solar-powered model on the market. Sun Whisper is basically a Black & Decker mower with solar panels (roof-mounted panels are optional). It's a little pricey at $700, but if you've got the cash, go for it (www.freepowersys.com). If you're handy, you can try making your own by converting your old gas mower to run on the sun's rays with a little instructions from www.arttec.net/Solar_Mower. Google "Mow With Less program" for a Michigan government link (too lengthy to give here) with instructions on converting cordless electric types to solar.
I don't have to tell you that a push mower is the ideal option. Peoplepoweredmachines. com breaks down which models are best.