What is Diggers Hotline?

Diggers Hotline is a free service that locates and marks buried utility lines on your property.

To avoid expensive and dangerous accidents that can result from striking underground pipes or wires, it’s important to know where these lines are before doing any kind of digging, including digging related to gardening.

Diggers Hotline can be contacted at their website or by calling 811. Within a few days, they will send someone to your property to mark the lines with flags or paint. After that, simply avoid the marked area when digging in your garden.

When making a garden plan, it’s also important to look up! Avoid establishing tall plants, especially trees, under overhead lines.

While utility lines aren’t usually considered a type of site condition, being mindful of what plants you put near them can save a lot of trouble in the future.

What is Diggers Hotline?

What’s new in natural yards? – April 2016

Adding to the Sustainability Plan and the Pollinator Protection Plan, Madison is now working on an initiative to more effectively connect children with nature.

While Madison already has lots of urban nature – including more parks per capita than any other US city – these resources aren’t equally accessible to all kids. The new initiative seeks to start from what’s working and find ways to overcome obstacles.

The initiative is currently in a planning phase, with a written plan expected to be released in August. Those who are interested can get involved here.

While not all kids have a yard, those who do benefit greatly from having nature right outside their houses. Nature in the neighborhood is related to less childhood obesity, better functioning in kids with ADHD, and other benefits.

What’s new in natural yards? – April 2016

What’s new in natural yards? – March 2016

California has recently adopted new state-wide ordinances limiting the size of lawns. As of December 1, 2015, lawn cannot occupy more than 25% of the landscaped area of a property.

This rule takes effect immediately for all newly-developed properties. Existing homes and businesses will be required to come into compliance if they undertake major renovations of their current landscaping.

The primary purpose of the law is to reduce water usage. The new limits on lawns are expected to save 20% of the water usage of a new home, or 35% of a commercial property’s water use.

The new ordinances also limit turf grass on street medians and terraces, and require lawns on commercial properties to be intended to serve some functional purpose, such as recreation or public assembly.

Many California property owners got rid of their lawns even while having one was still legal. Last summer, the state stopped offering cash incentives for lawn removal, after emptying its $340 million fund earmarked for that purpose.

What’s new in natural yards? – March 2016

Are there public examples of natural gardening in Madison?


On the east side, Olbrich Botanical Gardens provides examples of low-mow turf, gravel gardens, and other alternatives to traditional lawns. The gardens incorporate sustainable practices such as on-site composting and minimal use of pesticides.

On the west side, the Arboretum showcases communities of native plants. These can serve as inspiration for a yard-sized landscape that emulates nature. The Arboretum also hosts an annual native plant sale and native gardening conference. This year’s plant sale is May 7; advance orders must be placed by March 25.

Downtown, the Allen Centennial Gardens at the University hosts groupings of plants that could fit in a typical backyard. These demonstrations are accompanied by informative signs. There is also a lawn area that is maintained without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or gas-powered equipment.

All three of these gardens are free and open to the public. Take advantage of the spring weather to visit one!

Are there public examples of natural gardening in Madison?

Where can one buy native plants?

Nurseries and garden stores are often stocked with ornamental exotics – many of them pre-treated with pesticides. Healthy native plants can be harder to find. These sources are local, well-established, and happy to send free catalogs:

If you’d rather grow edibles, Seed Savers Exchange specializes in heirloom varieties of herbs and vegetables.

Native plant sales are another great source, and tend to occur in the spring. The Plant Dane! program offers plants by pre-order only; order forms may be submitted until March 23. Another upcoming plant sale will be mentioned in next week’s post.

That Blog does not endorse any particular source of native plants.

Where can one buy native plants?

Do natural yards encourage crime?


A study conducted in Chicago found that apartment buildings with more trees had lower crime. The buildings all belonged to the same housing project, all had the same architecture, and all had residents with similar characteristics. The researchers proposed two possible reasons for the reduction in crime.

Trees deter crime. That is, trees encourage potential criminals to commit a crime somewhere else. In buildings with trees, residents spent more time looking out their windows and sitting outdoors. People are less likely to commit a crime where there are observers.

Trees reduce crime. That is, trees lead potential criminals to not commit a crime at all. Studies show that nature helps us feel better, reducing our aggression and making us less likely to engage in antisocial behavior. People are less likely to commit a crime when they are in a positive mood.

Natural yards, with or without trees, draw our gaze and make us feel good. If the researchers’ theories for why trees reduce crime are correct, then natural yards also reduce crime.

Do natural yards encourage crime?

What is having a natural yard like?

Having a natural yard is a different lifestyle from having a lawn. While it may not be the right choice for everyone, it can be the source of a lot of enjoyment.

When you have a natural yard…

  • A hawk swoops into your tree while you are eating dinner.
  • A mother rabbit plays with her baby right outside your window.
  • It is not unusual to look outside and see a dozen animals moving around.
  • Because the scene is always changing, you find yourself looking out your window as though you have never seen that view before.
  • You find yourself using the yard as an extra living room.
  • While you are doing so, birds and chipmunks come within feet of you.
  • Your dinner table features foods that were harvested minutes ago.
  • You can go on vacation without worrying about who will take care of the yard, because it takes care of itself.
  • Rain and snow become gifts.
  • So do fallen leaves. Money does grow on trees.
What is having a natural yard like?