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Re "Cities Move to Eliminate Vacant Lots,"

Linda Beattie, a PR specialist with Schiller-Pfeiffer in Southampton, Pa. writes:

In Philadelphia, Pa. we have a program called Philly Green run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Schiller-Pfeiffer has been a supporter of the urban revitalization program for the past four years.

As populations continue to shift from cities to outlying areas, many aging industrial cities are burdened with acres of abandoned, trash-strewn land. Philadelphia Green works hand-in-hand with community-based organizations and the city to transform vacant land into an asset for the community. By making the land more attractive, communities are better able to retain existing residents and businesses, while attracting new ones.

There are two basic ways the city contracts with Philadelphia Green to revitalize vacant spaces. The first is known as the Vacant Land Stabilization program. Philadelphia Green begins by cleaning and mowing the grounds, laying topsoil, planting seeds and adorning the area with new trees and fencing.

In the past six years, nearly four million square feet of land have undergone this treatment and continue to receive care.

The second approach is a project called Community LandCare, in which vacant land receives routine cleaning and mowing, but isn't refurbished with topsoil, trees, or fencing. Nine community groups oversee the maintenance of vacant land in 16 Philadelphia neighborhoods. Currently four million square feet are regularly cleaned through this program.

The Philadelphia Green Program could be a catalyst program for other big cities around the U.S. For more information about the Philadelphia Green Program, visit or contact PHS at (215) 988-8840."

Re "Texas Tech Fails to be Green,", in which the College of William and Mary, George Washington University, Howard University, Valdosta State University and Texas Tech University were identified by the Sierra Club for "not being eco-friendly."

Martin Sikorski of Branchville, New Jersey writes:

Texas Tech University

Let's stop for one minute. What is this article exactly saying? Shall we condemn these schools because they don't live up to the standards dictated by the Sierra Club? Is there room for improvement on the campuses of these institutions?

No doubt. However, when looked at with an unbiased eye, do these institutions do more good than harm for their student bodies and with unlimited funding would they do more? It appears so as they manage to keep drawing students to their doors. Why was the Valdosta State protest issue even raised in this article? (Editor's note: Valdosta State made the Sierra Club list.). I don’t see any connection, unless it was a “green” protest. I suppose that would involve no signs (waste of wood and paper), no loud speakers (don’t want to waste electricity and increase our carbon footprint) and we’re all walking to the protest (conserve fossil fuels and the carbon footprint thing). The (Sierra Club) manages to provide negative criticism. Where is the constructive criticism? I hope the Sierra Club doesn’t have any skeletons hiding in their closets. How about an in-depth review of all of the Sierra Club’s facilities and business procedures. How “green” would they actually be. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. The Sierra Club does some excellent work, keep it up and forget these negative types of tactics.

Editor's note: The Sierra Club listed not only the "five (campuses) that fail," but also the "10 that Get It." The Sierra Club reports more than 550 campuses have signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and have committed to auditing their schools' greenhouse-gas emissions, developing concrete plans for going carbon neutral, and reporting their progress.

Re: "Best Trees for the Street" in which scientist John Hammond of the Agricultural Research Service (the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency) announced the findings of a four-year project to determine the "best trees" to use in urban spaces.

Kristin Ramstad, an urban forester with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry in Salem, writes:

There are many things to consider when choosing street trees. The red maples in this article will probably grow taller than stated, given their parentage (e.g. ‘October Glory’ and ‘Autumn Flame’ maples are taller than 40-ft. at maturity). So these three red maple cultivars would not be appropriate to plant under or near power lines.

Additionally, red maples, in general, are notorious for lifting sidewalks with their surface roots. In nature, red maples are highly tolerant of water-saturated soils, which also makes them highly tolerant of the intensely compacted soils in cities. One of their survival strategies in nature is to produce surface roots. In cities, this surface-rooting tendency results in cracked curbs and sidewalks with tripping hazards. Finally, care needs to be taken when planting most maples, which tend to be thin-barked trees, not to expose them to low-angle sun from the southwest. Doing so will increase the likelihood of sunscald, which can kill the cambium layer on the south side of the tree. Eventually, sunscald injury will not only reduce the vigor and life-span of the tree, but make it unsightly in urban areas. So, as you can see, I do not agree with the assertion that these maples are great as urban trees.

What would I suggest?

In areas without powerlines: hornbeams, ginkgos, possibly Zelkovas, some oaks, possibly some of the new hybrid elms.

In areas with powerlines, Japanese snowbell, some pears, golden raintree, if space allows for spread.

Re "Suit Filed Against Turf Companies" in which 150 samples from two dozen artificial-turf companies tested by an independent lab showed that 30 percent had high lead levels.

Jon Petersen, president of Alfresco Living, LLC in Anna, Texas writes:

Well this brings to light something we as a potential installer were not aware of. Thanks LandscapeOnline for being on top of critical issues that could cause issues for us small business out here in Texas!!!

Denise De Hart, of DLF International Seeds (turfgrass producers) in Halsey, Oregon, writes:

"In our industry we have witnessed so many sports field managers switch to artificial turf and regret it that it will be a huge public service to continue to get the word out about the detriments to using it. Nothing is as good as natural grass on sports fields."

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June 27, 2019, 2:08 am PDT

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