Gardening in cvp

leave the leaves

Want to have an environmentally friendly yard while saving time and money? Leave the leaves!

Experts say to skip the blowers and bagging. Rather than treating leaves as trash, use them to enrich your garden. 

In a recent New York Times article, “Why You Don’t Need to Rake Leaves,” Susan Barton, a professor and landscape horticulture expert at the University of Delaware says, “A forest has the richest soil there is, and that happens because leaves are falling off the trees and decomposing right there and organic materials are going back into the soil…We should be doing that in all of our landscapes, but we’re not.”

Consumer Reports notes, “A leaf layer is what naturally occurs wherever trees grow in the wild. It provides an ecosystem to a host of living things, including chipmunks, earthworms, caterpillars, and thousands of species of insects. Without a layer of leaves, there’s little habitat for pollinators, and you’ll see fewer birds, which forage in the leaves for food.”

Meanwhile PBS NewsHour warns that “the hallmark of autumnal lawn care — attempting to do away with each leaf that falls on a person’s property — comes with an ecological price,” including increasing pollution and impoverishing our landscapes. Instead, we can “work with nature rather than against it” and use nutrient-rich leaves to improve our soil. 

Experts recommend to leave the leaves (free mulch!) with some exceptions:

Also remember:

Read more, including why it’s also good to leave hollow plant stems alone for the winter, from the Xerces Society. 

Native Plants Make Good Neighbors

What’s a good way to beautify your property, benefit the environment, and make gardening easier?  Choose native plants!


Native plants – those that are indigenous to an area – are suited to local soil and climate conditions so thrive naturally and require less water. Natives also control erosion, clean the air, and support wildlife. Butterflies, for example, need certain host plants native to our region in order to reproduce.


The National Wildlife Federation provides an online Native Plant Finder where you can see which flowers, grasses, trees, and shrubs are most beneficial for your yard. The Audubon Society features a native plant locater that displays which plants are best for birds in our area.


As we learn more about the value of native plants, we may need to choose more carefully when shopping at garden centers.


The Audubon Society explains, “Unfortunately, most of the landscaping plants available in nurseries are alien species from other countries. These exotic plants not only sever the food web, but many have become invasive pests, outcompeting native species and degrading habitat in remaining natural areas.”


In fact, recent state regulations now either prohibit the sale of many common landscaping plants seen in our neighborhood or – as is the case with others, including nandina (“heavenly bamboo’) and Japanese barberry – require the sale of these plants to be accompanied by a cautionary sign.


Some invasive plants prevalent in our region are not only destructive for the environment but can also present headaches for homeowners – such as English ivy and Chinese and Japanese wisteria, which strangle trees and make them susceptible to toppling during storms. Experts urge removal of these vines, and there are increasing volunteer initiatives in our region to combat them.


On the plus side, as public awareness grows about the value of native plants, so does the sharing of native plants among neighbors in Capitol View Park. Some residents have also cleared invasive plants from neighbors’ yards. Now that’s community spirit! 

Resident Sherry Zuckerman tends her own native garden, that on the adjoining "Cohen property," and one at the Kensington library. "When you remove non-native invasive plants, it allows our native plants to flourish," Sherry says. "That in turn supports the entire ecosystem, including birds and other pollinators -- and a healthy environment overall."


"If you want to see a native garden at work, visit the Kensington library," she adds. 


Nearby Native Plants Sources


Swamp Rose Co-op 

Direct Native Plants 

Lauren’s Garden Service


Also check the Maryland Native Plant Society for more information. 

removing english ivy

What? Trimming English Ivy

Why? English Ivy is invasive; it will choke and kill our beautiful neighborhood trees. (more information can be found at


Here are instructions provided by the Rock Creek Conservancy: (see

To remove the ivy:

1.  Use garden clippers (or loppers or saws for large vines)  to cut ivy at the bottom 2 feet above the ground in a ring around the entire trunk. 

2.  Pry the cut vines down to the ground with a screw driver or weeding fork.  Pull all ivy vines out of the ground around the base of the tree, making a 2-foot "life saver ring" around the tree. 

3.  Leave the rest of the  ivy above the cut on the tree.  Do not pull it off because that could harm the tree.  Ivy leaves and vines will gradually die and fall off.