September 2010: Green Scene

Bring walls to life

Lacking the space to invest in a full-sized garden? If you’re looking for a way to bring some green plant life into the house, consider wall planters as a refreshing alternative to potted plants or cut flowers. Woolly Pocket Garden Company designs gardening containers made of a shapeable felt that is composed of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

The pockets range in size from “Wee Woollys” to “Woolly Wallys,” which are 15”x24” and hold .40 cubic feet of soil. Put up one pocket or several on an indoor wall to make a dazzling living wall display. Pocket Wallys are lined with waterproof barriers (made from 60 percent recycled plastic bottles) to keep plants hydrated and walls dry.

Wallys are $49 for an indoor pocket, with discounts for the purchase of multiple pockets. In an effort to practice sustainability, the company primarily ships through The website also provides extensive advice on how to use pockets, so you can be assured of a lush display.—Lucy Kim

North Downtown

Take a peek


How do preservationism and sustainability go together? We say, folks who know the history of a neighborhood have a respect for the setting that goes hand-in-hand with green choices in building and living. Get a feel for two Charlottesville neighborhoods at Preservation Piedmont’s house tours, October 9 and 10.

On the 9th, the focus is North Downtown. Between 1 and 5pm you can tour around 10 houses in this quintessentially Charlottesville neighborhood—one of the city’s most walkable. (We hear a chicken coop will be a highlight!) On the 10th, there’s a walking tour of Fry’s Spring from 2 to 4pm, hosted by a guide who’ll enlighten you as to neighborhood history and architectural styles. 

Each tour is $15 if you buy tickets ahead of time at, New Dominion Bookshop or Greenberry’s; $25 gets you onto both tours. Add $5 for day-of ticket purchases.—Erika Howsare

Added amendments


It is the time for turning—from the autumn equinox in the sky, to the leaves on the trees, down to the soil beneath the gardener’s spade. Throw off the lethargy of summer and take advantage of lower temperatures to dig in the dirt and improve it. 

Compost, homemade or purchased, and leaf mold (crumbly rotted leaves) are natural remedies for red clay, breaking up spaces between soil particles, holding moisture, and releasing organic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Local manures are available, as are bagged products. Either is a time honored way of amending soil. 

Horse manure is light in texture (and nutrients), and, mixed with straw stable bedding, helps loosen heavy soils. Cow manure is denser and takes longer to rot (six weeks out of the horse; six months out of the cow) and is preferred for rich soils in rose or vegetable beds. Don’t use it fresh, as it will be stinky and burn any foliage it touches.

Once you’ve lined up your amendments, you’re ready to proceed. For a new garden bed, scalp existing weeds or grass. Skim the top sod off with a sharp spade and chop it up for the compost pile. Spread a couple of inches or more of the organics over the area.

Then dig it all in with a sturdy garden fork. No need to till unless you’re making a seedbed for fall greens. Even then, I prefer to break up clods with a steel rake, soil knife or fingers. If you do till, do it roughly. Over-tilling breaks down soil structure, grinding it to dust or glomming it all together. Working in extremely dry or wet soil is likewise verboten.

To re-establish an old patchy lawn, first pay heed to the holy trinity established in last month’s column: full sun; pH of 6.2-6.5; decent, well-drained soil. Your soil test will tell you any lime to apply to adjust the pH. Aerate compacted areas with a hollow core aerator that pulls up plugs, then spread out several inches of finely decayed amendment and rake it smooth.

Sow with a tall fescue mix, make soil contact with the back side of a rake (or by walking over the area), dust with straw and keep moist until it germinates. Water frequently to set it up before winter, and then make sure the first spring mowing is high so you don’t cut off all that good food.

One of the biggest steps a recovering chemical lawn addict can take is to feed the roots of the beloved grass in the fall instead of shooting it up in the spring. For established lawns, try bone meal, fish meal or dried blood from mid-August through mid-September and again October 1 to November 1 at 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Spring run-off from lawns is one of the chief pollutants of the Chesapeake Bay. If you’ve had second thoughts about dumping all that crap on the grass, maybe now’s the time to turn over a new leaf.—Cathy Clary

Sleep smarter


Given that we spend approximately one-third of our lifetimes sleeping, it’s important to consider exactly what you’re sleeping on. This month Betty helps you green your sleeping quarters, knowing you will rest a lot better after taking care of the planetary as well as the personal needs.

Historically, mattresses have been a major offense to the eco-world, with added toxins like formaldehyde, various flame-retardant chemicals, and petroleum-based polyurethane foam contained in most conventional mattresses. A mattress is an important purchase in the big scheme of things (even eco-varieties contain various natural products from all over), so it’s important to make a choice that helps you sleep at night!  

Locally owned Artful Lodger sells various green lines of mattresses as well as an all-organic mattresses. Natura brand’s “Tranquil,” made in North Carolina from latex rubber trees, bamboo, cotton, and bio-soy foam (prices start at $1,300), is popular. A local company, The Savvy Sleeper, sells its own line of Savvy Rest natural mattresses using natural latex and organic wool. No off-gassing chemicals, no pesticide residues, and no flame retardants, thank you. If the cost is holding you back, inquire about green lines from the big names. 

As for pillows, organic cotton, wool or latex varieties work well. Sheets are now widely available in organic cotton or bamboo—but keep in mind most bamboo products will be coming from China, which increases the embedded energy of the product.

Last, but not least, grace your nightstand with a copy of Conscious Style Home by Danny Seo. Voila: a brighter, green bedroom!


Check out Better World Betty’s local green living resource list at and blog at







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