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Here in North Texas, growing things can be difficult, whether it’s vegetables, grass or shrubs. Some of us struggle with black clay soil, while others have sandy soil. This can present challenges to having healthy soil that can grow healthy plants. For good plant nutrition, a diverse and rich soil life is vital. Probiotics has become a widely used term associated with good health by having biodiversity in our human gut. The soil is very similar, and there are several systems working together unseen to our eye that keeps plants nourished and protected.

Healthy soil is a living material, filled with beneficial microorganisms, including bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa. These microorganisms keep soil healthy, decompose organic matter, replenish soil nutrients, form humus, promote root growth, increase nutrient uptake and also break down herbicides and pesticides. Organisms such as earthworms love organic matter too, doing a great job of aerating the soil and providing castings (rich waste).

We keep those essential microbes in our soil by adding rich organic matter. For gardens, compost can by spread on top or worked into the soil. On lawns, it can be done by mulching leaves and grass clippings when possible. Top dressing with organic compost is another option. We can spread compost ourselves or hire a professional. It’s a natural process: organic matter provides food for the microorganisms in the soil that release nutrients like nitrogen into a usable form into the soil.

Adding organic matter is one of the best things to keep soil healthy in the garden and landscape. It loosens up compacted soil, adds nutrients to the soil and retains water, so we can water less. Compost has the unique ability to improve soil physically, nutritionally and biologically. Lawns can benefit greatly from a top dressing with organic compost, especially after a core aeration. Feeding the soil will create a better root environment for healthy plants.


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The Frisco Fresh Market has opened the first phase of a 19,000-square-foot outdoor farmers’ market. With more than 100 vendors, it offers a curated selection from the best farmers, ranchers, bakers, artisans and chefs in North Texas. Participating vendors include International House of Grilling, Taste of Mardi Gras, Nomadic Noodle, Texas Pit Stops, and Funnel Cake Paradise.

The Frisco Fresh Market vendors will be open for business on Independence Day. At 9 a.m., July 4.  Jambox Fitness, of Frisco and Addison, will start off the day with obstacle courses, dance battles, boot camp stations, and live DJ until 11 a.m. At 1 p.m., musical guests will take to the stage and a range of activities will run throughout the day until the firework celebration.

Raffle prizes ranging from Frisco Fresh Market apparel to gift cards will be awarded every hour. With shaded tent seating, large fans and cooling mist machines visitors will be comfortable as they soak in the sights, sounds, and lively atmosphere of the market.

 “Our team has looked far and wide to find the best vendors for our market. We have met and visited every farm and ranch to bring the freshest fruits, vegetables and meats in Texas, to Frisco” said Preston Cheng, of USAI Investments, the development company. “The grand opening of our outdoor market is just the first step in a series of exciting plans for Frisco Fresh Market.”

Frisco Fresh Market regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thu. and Fri. and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Location: 9215 John W. Elliott, Frisco. there are two convenient parking lots adjacent to the area. For more information, call 844-776-2753 or visit or call 844-776-275 


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Rivers and lakes are vital features of our natural landscape, providing us with drinking water, recreation and natural beauty. Yet byproducts from our age of convenience such as excessive trash generated by single-use plastics that end up in our rivers have been an ongoing threat to the health of our waterways. Dallas entrepreneur and environmental activist Garrett Boone is co-founder of The Container Store and an investor in the TreeHouse home upgrade company. He serves on the boards of eco-minded nonprofits that include Trinity Park Conservancy and Groundwork Dallas.

About what residents can do to protect Dallas’ local waterway, the Trinity River’s Elm Fork. Boone says, “I wasn’t too active in environmental issues until Dallas hosted a sustainability conference in 2002 featuring environmental scientist Amory Lovins. I heard him speak about building efficiencies, and at that time, we were building a new facility for The Container Store. Lovins had some great ideas, and I realized then that it makes economic sense for businesses to be energy-efficient; you’re spending less money on utility bills and using fewer resources, and you are also reducing your carbon footprint. I began to understand then that being a profitable business and a sustainable business are synergistic.”

In 2006, Texas was involved in a headlong rush to permit 19 dirty coal-powered plants. “I joined my friends David Littman and Trammell Crow, Jr. to create Texas Business for Clean Air,” says Boone. “We recruited 350 business leaders from across the state, many of which had never been involved in environmental issues before, but they realized from a business standpoint that air pollution was a bad for business. We generated awareness and took our case to the Texas Legislature and helped halt the plants. That was my first major step, and since then, I’ve become involved in groups committed to water issues and creating national park-quality outdoor spaces in this wonderful area we have.”

He notes, “Every time it rains, there is a tsunami of floatable trash coming down the [Trinity] river—litter that people throw on the ground or out of car windows, as well as trash that flies out of the back of pickup trucks. Then there’s trash falling from overflowing public or store trash cans, unmaintained retail parking lots, overflowing or improperly enclosed dumpsters—it’s from a myriad of different sources. The list goes on and on.” He advises that although there are littering laws, they are difficult to enforce, and people are rarely fined for littering. “It takes a never-ending volunteer effort to keep the river clean, and it only stays clean until the next rain.” According to Boone.

“The volunteers that clean the watersheds see the volume of trash, so they’re aware of what a problem it is, but it has not yet penetrated the general public. Many people still don’t make the connection that if you choose to throw trash on the ground or put trash in an overflowing trash can and it falls on the ground, you have chosen to pollute the Trinity River,” laments Boone. “I’ve become aware of a practice called ‘plogging,’ which is picking up litter while jogging. You can also pick up litter while walking. I’ve adopted the mindset that while I’m out walking my dog, if I come across a piece of trash, I now own it. Even though someone else threw it on the ground and I’m angry that they chose to litter, now that I’m in front of it, I own it and it needs to be picked up.”

Groundwork Dallas is working on a public information campaign to get people to understand the problem, and call out those that are littering. “Say something when you see someone littering,” entreats Boone. “Also, small pieces of trash like cigarette butts and bottle caps are just as damaging as larger cups and cans. Wildlife can choke on those little pieces of trash.”

More businesses and organizations are calling Groundwork and asking to be a part of their efforts. “Our staff is very good at organizing cleanups, and we’ve created soft trails through forests that are graded properly to address storm water runoff, explains Boone. “The forests already have its inhabitants—the birds and animals—so we created a nonintrusive connection between people and the environment. We’ve recently restored 11 acres of a swampy lake area with native plants and vegetation to help filter storm water. Countless Styrofoam pellets and bottles were removed from the water, and we created a hiking trail. There’s now a healthy meadow population. It was a trash dump, and now it’s a nature preserve between two major roads.”

Boone advises, “In Dallas, like in any city, we need to take spaces that are already there and turn them into public spaces. Volunteer help is critical, and people need to take responsibility for the environment and be aware that the ways they dispose of things have implications. When you take a plastic bag, there’s a good chance it will eventually become litter. Everybody has to realize they do make a difference.”

Groundwork Dallas schedules weekly waterway clean ups on most Saturdays. For more information, to find out about scheduled cleanups and to sign up for future notifications, visit



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For over a decade, the City of Plano has lived up to its “City of Excellence” motto by being consistently ranked among the most livable cities, not just in Texas, but also throughout the entire country. Recent accolades include Plano named as one of North Texas’ Top-Ranking Healthiest U.S. Cities, by the Dallas Business Journal; and SmartAsset ranked Plano as one of Best Places for Green jobs.

A commitment to green initiatives has played a role in Plano becoming one of America’s most livable communities. Heather Merchant, Sustainability and Environmental Education Manger for the City of Plano, has been with the city’s sustainability program since its inception in 2006. She says that through Live Green in Plano, the city’s education and outreach program that supports Plano’s sustainability efforts, they have been successful in getting citizens to take active roles in all aspects of sustainability.

“We have five full-time environmental educators that focus on different topics within the sustainability realm,” Merchant says. “Those include recycling, composting, water quality and conversation, energy conservation and air quality initiatives. We also focus on litter reduction efforts and volunteer coordination.”

The Live Green in Plano programs provide education and information for people so they can make realistic, daily behavior changes to help them live greener, environmentally friendly lifestyles in the community, thus helping the city meet its goals in the area of sustainability.

The gardening programs exemplify the program’s successes. Through the Plano Community Garden project, residents learn about gardening techniques and water-wise landscaping, using native plants that are heat and drought tolerant for the area, which increases biodiversity and conserves water. The water-wise landscape tour held every autumn features several local homes with exemplary native landscapes, serving as models that people can learn from and gain ideas to implement into their own landscapes.

Fifty percent of the community garden harvest is donated to local food pantries, and garden volunteers get to keep the other half. Along with gardening classes, lessons in composting are also offered. “The secret to gardening is having healthy soil, so we teach people how to divert their organic waste into a compost pile, and then use that finished compost,” Merchant says. “It’s a closed loop that involves soil, health of plants and conserving landfill space, all at the same time.”

Because water scarcity has quickly emerged as one of today’s most pressing environmental issues, the city’s water conservation classes through Live Green in Plano include a sprinkler spruce-up workshop, where people learn to make simple repairs to their irrigation systems, and even learn how to tackle basic plumbing leaks in the home. Participants also learn how to install environmentally sound drip irrigation. Merchant says those programs have been very successful in the city’s water conservation efforts. They’ve also developed a series of online learning modules that are frequently used by the public and the Plano Independent School District. The online learning modules are related to sprinkler control, home energy efficiency, green building and waste diversion.

Merchant emphasizes the sustainability program is propelled by the Live Green in Plano Champions, the volunteer program where community residents can take a five-week course to train in basic sustainability concepts and topics, become familiar with city programs in those areas, and provide 24 hours of community service through the sustainability outreach programs. “They help us extend our arm into the community—they are our ambassadors,” she says.

Other sustainability events held by the city include a compost fair, and the Texas Recycles Day, a one-day collection event that encourages people to bring in specific items to be reused, like textiles and clothing, athletic equipment, medical supplies or pet items, to be donated to organizations that redistribute those goods to people in need.

A document shredding service is also on hand to securely destroy personal documents to help prevent identity theft. There’s also the Great American Cleanup, in which residents help clean up litter throughout the community, which builds pride.

“Our residents have really gotten on board,” Merchant remarks, “we’re really fortunate to live where people are interested in green lifestyle practices and environmental stewardship, and they want to be engaged. They like the quality of life in Plano, and they continue to maintain that.”

Plano mayor Harry LaRosiliere adds, “The City of Plano's commitment to healthy, sustainable lifestyles are validated by our prestigious 4-STAR Community national rating. These sustainability efforts are another reason why individuals and businesses are proud to call Plano home.”

STAR Communities is a nonprofit organization that works to evaluate, improve, and certify sustainable communities. 

For more information about the City of Plano’s sustainability program or to volunteer for Live Green in Plano, visit




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Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) mixes the ingredients that make a transit-oriented lifestyle possible, that is destinations accessible by light rail along with businesses and amenities.

Over the past decade, much has changed in and near downtown, including a residential boom in uptown, redevelopment of several abandoned historic hotel properties, the ATT corporate campus and the East Quarter project that connects the Farmers’ Market District with City Center. This is all creating a livable/walkable space where people are not paying a premium to live, work and play. Thousands still commute daily, but the growing amenities and connectivity is creating a vibrant situation all over North Texas.

Light rail mass transit is one component that differentiates a livable community, and its real value is  what exists alongside it. As these fixed systems expand, the rail network is compressing the pedestrian distance between places. Almost all DART service area cities are creating master plans and implementing land development regulations to promote reuse of former building sites that create more walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods where people can live, work and play. Rowlett and Garland are already in the process of restoring their downtowns and Cityline, in Richardson, is beginning to boom because of their proximity to light rail.

DART is leading the way in helping to increase awareness and its ridership with a number of relevant resources including a mobile app that provides travel and ticketing information and DARTables—destinations best reached or a distance best traversed by riding a train or bus. The name is meant to encourage people to travel throughout North Texas by public transportation because DART makes it easy to get there. As a result, DART becomes a trusted guide about where to go and new places to explore as it empowers a transit-oriented lifestyle.

The public is invited to submit new DARTable gems at any time. Riders can discover North Texas gems from Dallas Bishop Arts, the Zoo and Arts District, to those in Las Colinas, Fort Worth, Irving, Rowlett and Carrollton.

For more information, visit and



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Summer Nature Center Discover Camps For kids from 10 to 14 years old at Bob Jones Nature Center and Preserve. All camps are from 1 to 4 p.m., and there are camps available for younger kids. Four, half-day outdoor Discover Workshops each focus on a different theme.

Week one is June 6 and is Eco-Citizens, where campers learn about edible plants and make jam from mustang grapes growing on the preserve. Week two is the writers’ workshop, where campers do journaling and experience the world of nature writing out on 70 acres of trails.

Week three, June 20 and 21, is Great Nature Games, where campers are taken through scenario-based games that will help them see life though the eye of some of Texas’ most impressive species. Week four, June 27 and 28, No Impact, will help campers learn to harness nature’s resources in a non-impactful way, such as harnessing the sun to cook and using recycled/reused materials to make eco-art.

The park is surrounded by 758 acres natural habitat with 20 miles of hiking trails on the preserve and the Walnut Grove National Recreation Trail. There is also a great pool to enjoy.

Location: 355 E. Bob Jones Rd., Southlake. For more information, call 817-491-6333 or visit




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The 200 mph Texas Bullet Train has completed its environmental impact assessment, and the way has now been cleared for the train to move ahead, linking the state’s two largest urban and economic centers. It will connect the 240-miles between North Texas and Houston in less than 90 minutes, using the most efficient and environmentally friendly mass transportation system in the world.

The bullet train is expected to be both and economic and environmental boon for the state, and it moves Texans closer to a more environmentally beneficial travel choice. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) says the train would alleviate the strain on the state’s existing infrastructure and its need to accommodate growing demand.

The all-electric train  will mostly follow transmission lines in a utility corridor between North Texas and Houston. The final alignment has a small footprint, and with significantly lower emissions per passenger mile, minimizes impacts on the environment and existing development and allows the system to optimize operational efficiency. To further minimize impact, the Texas Bullet Train will run mostly on elevated tracks and berms, with no at-grade crossings, allowing for free movement of wildlife, pedestrians and vehicles under the tracks and at crossings.

The Texas bullet train is being developed by Texas Central, a new investor-owned, high-speed train that will connect North Texas, the Brazos Valley and Houston, using proven, world-class technology. Texas Central and its affiliated entities will be responsible for the system’s design, finance, construction, operation and maintenance.

Passenger terminal sites have been identified in downtown Dallas in the Cedars area south of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center near highly travelled freeways. FRA environmental analysis has determined that overall, construction and operation impacts will not have permanent disproportionally affects on air quality, water quality, noise, vibration, hazardous materials, visual aesthetics, transportation, land use, socioeconomic status, safety, security and recreation.

Other environmental findings include:

  • There will b zero closures of public roads
  • The railroad will lead to net reductions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Zero noise impacts would occur from station activities
  • Removal of 14,630 vehicles per day on I-45 between Houston and Dallas
  • Save 81.5million gallons of gas


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Urban agricultural start-up Turn has launched a food waste pickup service for restaurants, businesses, special events and residents of Dallas, in zip codes 75204, 75206, 75214, 75218, 75228 and 75238. They can choose from three different subscription options or elect a one-time pickup of seasonal organic items.

At least 30 percent of what goes into the landfill is compostable kitchen and yard waste. Turn picks it up puts it to good use with local farms and gardens to feed their animals and their compost piles. So far, partners includes Bonton Farms, Texas Worm Ranch, Urban Chicken Inc., the Green Restaurant Association and the Lakewood Elementary School Garden.

Co-founder Lauren Clarke says, “We’re passionate about connecting different pieces of the local food cycle and providing a comprehensive service that makes it easy for residents and businesses to do the right thing. DFW is one of the fastest growing metroplexes in the United States, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this, as other cities across the U.S. are.”

Residential subscriptions start at $28; commercial clients can fill out a request form. For more information, visit



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North Texans can come together to  do something extra to reduce ozone-causing pollution, as part of the ninth annual Clean Air Action Day on June 22. With more than 20 possible clean air choices, there are several actions they can take to do their part.  Here are a few of them:

  • Carpool or van pool
  • Use mass transit
  • Bike or walk
  • Telecommute
  • Avoid quick acceleration and braking
  • Reduce idling
  • Report polluting vehicles  to #SMOKE
  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Drive less
  • Encourage others to join in

Air North Texas, the regional clean air campaign, is sponsoring a social media contest in the days leading up to June 22 to encourage residents to share their clean air action. Residents simply post about their clean air actions on June 22 or earlier with the hashtag #CAAD2018 to be entered into a drawing for prizes.

For more information, visit



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A spot of hidden City land along a stretch of the Trinity River’s Elm Fork, in-between I-35E and Storey Lane, in northwest Dallas comprises acres of heavily wooded, boggy bottomlands located where Bachman Branch joins the river. A section of the Trinity’s original riparian meanders remains, framed by the undulating terrain of a floodplain.

White egrets explore the shallows as a red slider turtle breaks the water just offshore. An avian ruckus arises in nearby Fishing Hole Lake, most likely songbirds mobbing a bird of prey marauding their nests. The tapping of an unseen woodpecker resounds through the woods. A bobcat print is visible in the mud. The area is notable not only for its wild surroundings, but also because it is free of trash.

GroundWork Dallas makes sure of that. On the third Saturday of the month, their Green Team youth groups, along with volunteers from Meetup and Master Naturalist groups, descend upon this slice of urban wilderness for cleanups.

“It was amazingly filthy two years ago," says Executive Director Richard Buckley, standing along the original Trinity in what he hopes will become known as the Frasier Dam Recreation Area. “You could not look anywhere along the shoreline and not see trash.“

Buckley involves everyone he can in the trash-reduction effort: upstream landowners and businesses, the committed kayakers, canoeists and even fishermen that ply the Elm Fork. He advises, “If it weren’t for volunteers, we wouldn’t be here.” They have extricated everything from refrigerators to Styrofoam cups, all of it deposited by the Trinity and its tributaries. And every month, the river brings more. “The amount of trash that flows in is crazy,” says Buckley.

Once the Frasier Dam area is made safe, beautiful and ecologically healthy, GroundWork is committed to opening the public land up for fishers, boaters, mountain bikers, hikers, runners, bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. Green Team members and volunteers brave poison ivy and slithery creatures to reclaim the old trail system from rampant undergrowth and invasive privet. In the process, they learn design and construction techniques perfected in Buckley’s Lone Star Trail Building School.

Groundwork Dallas specializes in soft-surface trails. “Everything we do is as friendly to nature and the animals associated with it as possible, so we don't disturb them,” says Buckley. Once completed, the trails will last for years without dirt maintenance, even in floodplains. “I am huge on proper drainage,” insists Buckley. “When building natural surface trails, you must pay great attention to water flow, more so than with a road or concrete trail.”

Green Team members also assist with the construction and installation of trail and water-side benches, along with picnic tables, observation decks and blinds. Regular testing of Trinity and tributaries is a big part of their efforts. Occasionally, naturalists are brought in for ecological lessons.

Camaraderie abounds, but there's a practical side, too. Green Team members are coached in vocational recreation opportunities, preparing them for the jobs expected to open up in federal land bureaus like the National Park Service as the last of baby boomers retire.

With GroundWork Dallas’ big plans, the need for volunteers is unquenchable. On first Saturdays, the group tackles Hines Park, a small wetlands-focused area off Harry Hines at the Webb Chapel Extension. On second Saturdays, it’s the Buckeye Trail, in the Great Trinity Forest.

Garrett Boone, co-founder of  Texas Business for Clean Air, an avid birder, and Groundwork Board member is a tireless advocate for the Elm Fork corridor and wants to make the 4,000 acres stretching along the I-35E corridor from Frasier north to the L.B. Houston Nature Area off California Crossing into a national-park-quality attraction.. “His vision for the Elm Fork is to build connecting natural-surface trail systems through the forest, linking scenic points of interest, “ says Buckley. “  He wants to get the public out into the great nature Dallas has to offer, because they won’t care about what they can’t see,”

For more information, visit and



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