Arlington MA Farmer’s Market Update – July 2010

Picture of Farm Fresh Produce in Arlington, MA

Can you say "healthy"? Picture courtesy Arlington Farmer's Market web site

The Arlington MA Farmer’s Market opened its 2010 season on June 9th and it’s been a heck of a great month! I’ve had the opportunity to visit every week, picking up something fresh, succulent, and locally-grown each time. My best purchase to date, I have to say, was the tomato plant I purchased on the first day for $1.50. And yes I’ll admit it, I planted it in one of those “Topsy Turvy” upside-down planters. But I’m not ashamed to brag about how it’s tripled in size in just three weeks and it’s already starting to produce some big tomato blossoms. I can’t wait to taste that first home-grown tomato of the season!

If you haven’t yet visited the Arlington Farmer’s Market web site, I highly suggest you do and while you’re there, sign up for the weekly email update newsletter. Karen Blair, the newsletter editor, sends out a great weekly update on what to expect that week. But not only does she let you know about some of the new produce coming in, she includes some great recipes you’ll be tempted to make.

Here’s a preview of what she has to say in this week’s letter:

The market is filled with summer fruits and veggies so stop in to say hello to our farmers and Buy Local!

Bounty of the Season: Cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, squash, radishes, kolrabi, garlic, onions, greens, kale, chard, herbs, summer squashes & beets…and be on the lookout for corn & peaches coming very soon…The market also features meat, cheese, fish, eggs, pasta, maple products, baked goods and local prepared foods….

The Farmer’s Market runs from now through mid-October every Wednesday, 2:00 pm – 6:30 pm, rain or shine.  Conveniently located in Arlington Center, just of Route 60, the market is located in the Russell Common (public) parking lot.  If you have any questions about the market or are looking to share ideas with the organizers, send them in an email to Patsy at manager@farmersmarketarlington.org.

If you don’t happen to live in the Arlington MA or surrounding areas, but you live in Massachusetts, check out the Massachusetts Grown…and Fresher web site for a listing of all Farmer’s Markets in MA.

Before heading out to the market, though, be sure to check the weather forecast on my About Arlington page of my CyberGreenRealty web site.  You never know when a surprise thunderstorm might pass by and the one thing I haven’t seen at the market (yet!) is an umbrella vendor. So be prepared!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

10 Timely Tips for Saving Water in Your Garden

Daylilies and other flowers blooiming in summer sun

With only a little water, your garden will grow!

Even if you live in a climate such as we do here in Arlington, MA, fresh water may be an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity. One way to conserve water is to design a landscape plan that cuts down on the need for irrigation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, converting to a water-efficient landscape can reduce your outdoor water use by 20% to 50%, or as much as 10,000 gallons a year. That saves money, too, shaving between $30 and $70 off the average annual household water bill.

Often called xeriscaping or drought-tolerant landscaping, low-water landscaping also makes yard maintenance easier. Here are 10 strategies that will save water and still let you enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden.

  1. Choose native plants – Plants that originated in a particular part of the country have had eons to get used to that area’s normal rainfall, soil, and climate. That means they require less maintenance and little or no watering once established. Sites like eNature.com or H2ouse can help you find the best species for your area. Note: Just because you see a plant in your neighbor’s yard doesn’t meant it’s a native!
  2. Skip the super-sizing – “Pick plants that grow only to the size you want them,” advises Margaret Grace, principal of Grace Design Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif. “If you need five-foot-high screening between you and a neighbor, don’t put in something that grows nine feet high. You’ll have to chop it back all the time.” That’s a huge waste of water, not to mention extra work.
  3. Mulch to reduce evaporation – Putting two or three inches of mulch on top of the soil around your plants is a great way to reduce water loss. Mulch also cuts down on water-stealing weeds. The best mulch options are natural ones like compost, bark chips, and pine needles. These organic mulches gradually break down and add nutrients to the soil. Inorganic materials like rocks and pebbles are a more permanent option, although in some climates they can hold too much heat. A quick tip: Don’t pile mulch up in huge cones against a plant’s stem or it will trap too much moisture, which leads to fungus and rot.
  4. Make paths porous – Paths made of pebbles, gravel, or non-mortared concrete pavers or brick allow water to percolate down to your plants’ roots instead of running off into a storm drain. No mortar does mean more room for weeds to grow, though.
  5. Lose the lawn – The average American family uses more than 20,000 gallons a year watering the lawn. If you need grass for a play area or just like to feel the blades between your toes, you can still cut water use by replacing some of that conventional grass with varieties that need less water. Bermuda or buffalo grass can use 20% less water than fescue or bluegrass, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. Keep it long, too. Raising your mower blade to three inches helps shade grass roots so they lose less water through evaporation.
  6. Put thirsty plants together – Grouping plants with the same water needs means you don’t waste water where it’s not necessary. Create a “mini-oasis” near the house, where thirsty plants can benefit from roof runoff. Farther out, make a “transition zone” for plants that need supplemental drip irrigation. Farther still is a “natural zone” for native plants that can survive on rainfall alone.

    Mixture of summer flowers in bloom with purples and yellows prominent

    Smart gardening saves water

  7. Plant and water when it’s cool – New plants and transplants need far less water if you put them in the ground in early fall or early spring, when it’s cooler. Similarly, water in the morning so you’ll lose less to evaporation in the heat of the day.
  8. Do donuts – Trees and shrubs need extra water the first couple of years to help their roots take hold. An efficient way to keep them moist is to mound several inches of soil into a donut-shaped berm out about as far as the branches reach. Use a hose or bucket to fill the donut dam to the top. Water will absorb slowly instead of running off. Another option: Attach a $25 – $30 drip irrigator bag to the tree.
  9. Follow the sun – Use dry-soil plants in sunny areas, and plants that require more water in shady areas where evaporation is slower.
  10. Create the illusion of water – Yes, you can have a water feature in a low-water garden. In fact, a small pond or fountain with a recirculating pump uses very little water. Pumps start as low as $10. Bonus: Water features attract birds and butterflies.

If you live in or around Arlington, MA, check out the listing of green, sustainable landscapers on the Eco-Friendly Partners page of my CyberGreenRealty web site.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Nearly 200 in Attendance at Arlington MA Mass Ave Project Update Meeting

Picture of traffic on Mass Ave in Arlington MAAn estimated at 200 people crowded the Arlington, MA Town Hall Auditorium on Tuesday, June 22, 2010, as the engineer representing the town explained the next steps to be taken as Arlington moves toward a 25-percent plan to revamp Mass. Ave. from Pond Lane in Arlington to the border of Cambridge MA at the intersection of Mass Ave and Alewife Brook Parkway.

Rick Azzalina of Fay, Spofford & Thorndike offered a PowerPoint explanation followed by comments taken from as many as 50 in the audience. YourArlington.com invited two groups with interests in the project — East Arlington Concerned Citizens and the East Arlington Livable Streets Initiative– to comment.Sign welcoming visitors to Arlington MA

East Arlington Concerned Citizens said it would offer comment following the Town Hall session. Livable Streets provided a copy of its comments presented June 22.

Earlier, Laura Wiener, the town Planning Department’s point person for the project, wrote in an e-mail: “We have responded to many of their comments, resulting in some changes to the plan.”

The session was the first since East Arlington Concerned Citizens met with town officials in early May to discuss their concerns about the state’s reaction to the town’s earlier submission.

You can get the Massachusetts Department of Transportation status of the project online, and read more about it at the Town of Arlington’s web site.

What’s your opinion of the Mass Ave update project? Do you think it will help improve property values in East Arlington? Why not share your thoughts, both for or against the project?

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Soulful Song, Heartbreaking Video Inspires Clean Energy Action

Please watch this video, then go to the Environmental Defense Fund web site to send a letter to your Senator, demanding action NOW on energy reform.  If AIG is too big to fail, our environment and ecology should be “way too big to fail,” don’t you agree?

Send a letter to your Senator today, and thanks!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Arlington MA Farmer’s Market Opens June 9, 2010

Picture of produce truck delivering fresh produce to Arlington

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!

Summer is finally here! And all the fresh produce (seasonal, of course), will be in abundance at the opening of Arlington’s Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, June 9th. The new hours for this year will be 2:00pm – 6:30pm, at the usual location in Arlington Center in the Russell Common Parking Lot behind Park Terrace and just off Route 60.

The market has one of the areas largest selections of farm fresh produce and locally raised, meat, local cheese, eggs, fish, honey, maple syrup, and flowers. They also have wonderful baked goods from local area bakeries and restaurants, so you’re bound to find something to whet your appetite.

For more information and to sign up for their mailing list, visit the Arlington Farmer’s Market web site for more details.  And for other eco-friendly vendors and businesses in the Arlington area, visit my Eco-Friendly Vendors web page at CyberGreenRealty.com.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Do YOU plan on attending the Farmer’s Market? 

Wanna Go Potty?

One of the easiest ways you can start going green is by tackling your toilet. (Not literally, but if you want to, go ahead. Whatever floats your boat!) Every time you flush your toilet, you could be using up to 5 gallons of water (or more if your toilet was built before 1994, when dual flush toilets came into voque). If you’re like most people, you tend to flush the toilet after every use, which can waste up to hundreds of gallons per week based on the size of your household. Depending on your budget and purpose, here are some helpful tips:

Picture of a Neorest toilet

Oh, So Sexy!

  • Fix toilet leaks – You may not even know you have a leaky toilet, but if you do you could be wasting 20 gallons of water per day.  To determine if you have a leak, add some food coloring to the tank and wait about 30 minutes.  If the food coloring appears in the bowl, you have a leak. Watch this quick 2 1/2 minute video on eHow.com to learn how to fix a leaky toilet.
  • Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket – I’m just sayin’.
  • Follow the old mantra – Come on, you know it…”If it’s brown, flush…” blah, blah, blah. I hate the saying myself, but it’s still true.  Just try it.
  • Replace your old toilet – If you’re thinking of putting your home up for sale soon, consider replacing the entire toilet, especially if it was built before 1994. At the very least, consider upgrading to a dual flush, if not one of the newer low-flow ones. You won’t believe the variety of new models and styles available today. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  now has a water-efficiency rating system for water-efficient products called the WaterSense labeling plan.  You can also search for just about any make and model toilet at the WaterSense Product Search page.
  • Replace the flapper – You may have a flapper in the tank that’s already adjustable.  Lengthen it just a bit so it closes earlier, using less water per flush.  You can also buy a new flapper for relatively little out-of-pocket expense.  Home Depot always has a variety in stock.
  • Make your own low-flow toilet – This is my favorite tip.  It’s so simple to do with things you already have around the house.  Check this out:

Now how hard is that?!?!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Thinking of Investing in a Cambridge, MA Condo?

External picture of 31 Concord Ave in Cambridge, MA

Cozy Condos in Cambridge

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a condo in Cambridge, MA as an investment property, now would be a good time to make your move! With the end of the first-time homebuyer tax credit, those who were renting and motivated to purchase have already done so and will be closing between now and July 1st. This will result in more rentals coming on the market over the next couple of months, which is prime rental season for the next influx of college students this fall. College students will most likely be your target tenant, given the preponderance of students and other academics throughout Cambridge. So not only will you want to act fast on purchasing that investment, you’ll want to differentiate yourself, somehow, from the “competition” and make your particular unit the most attractive option available.

Pie chart of Cambridge MA neighborhood rental rates for March thru  May 2010

Cambridge, MA Rent Rates by Neighborhood

Looking at the previous two months rental statistics in Cambridge, the news is encouraging. The average rent compared to the same time last year rose by 10.44% for all of Cambridge (from $2,116 in 2009 to $2,337 in 2010), with some neighborhoods reporting larger gains than others. The two Cambridge neighborhoods with the biggest increases were Cambridgeport with a 65.17% increase in monthly rental amount ($1,750/mo in 2009 to $2,900/mo this year) and East Cambridge with a 17.18% increase ($2,400/mo in 2009 to $2,812.50/mo this year).

Check the chart to the right to see an average neighborhood rental rate for a 1-2 bed condominium with 1 or 2 bathrooms.  As you can see, Kendall Square, East Cambridge, and Cambridgeport are the neighborhoods currently commanding the highest rents, while the most affordable areas remain mid-Cambridge and North Cambridge.  Harvard Square has actually decreased slightly to $1,925/month this year from $2,050/month last year.  Remember, however, these are average prices, and some condos in Harvard Square have recently rented as high as $2,500/month.

Of course, there are other areas in Cambridge that are highly popular, such as Central Square or Inman Square, but they are not always indicated as such in the Multiple Listing Service (my source for this data).  These areas, along with the remainder of Cambridge rentals, are included in the “other” category of the chart.

As you prepare your new condo purchase for rental, you’ll want to somehow differentiate yourself from the other rental units available on the market at that time.  Doing so will definitely help to reduce the average days on market (which most recently was 51.7 days) and get you a paying tenant as soon as possible.  So consider this – a potential tenant, such as a student, will not have a car and may rely heavily on public transit.  So one idea you might consider is to purchase a bicycle and make it part of the rental agreement.  If the tenant agrees and wants to use the bike, you can simply give them the lock combo and off they go.  If they’re not interested, you can always keep the bike parked in the condo basement (most have bicycle storage) and rent it out to other tenants in the building.  This is a great way to “go green” while also being a landlord!

First step, though – find a good condo in a nice neighborhood.  Start by visiting my CyberGreenRealty web site and searching for condos in Cambridge.  If you see anything you like, give me a call and we’ll take a look!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC