Get Ready for Creek Week!

By Ellie Dilworth, AmeriCorps Environmental Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator, Keep Durham Beautiful

With Spring fast approaching, it’s hard not to stare out the window and dream of being outside. Luckily, the third week in March offers a great chance to get out there: Durham Creek Week.

This year, Creek Week runs from March 18th through March 25th. Creek Week is one of Durham’s largest litter cleanup initiatives of the year; a collaboration of over 15 community groups, organizations, local government divisions, and businesses; and a week-long celebration of Durham’s creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes.

Volunteers from Durham Tech at a litter removal event at Long Meadow Park along Goose Creek, Creek Week 2019 (Credit: Tania Dautlick)

Tackling Pollution

One of Creek Week’s main initiatives is removing litter from waterways and raising awareness about water pollution. Litter flows into our waterways with runoff and pollutes water as materials degrade, leaching chemicals into the surrounding water and soil. Did you know, the chemicals from just one cigarette butt can contaminate around two gallons of water—removing litter is a big deal!

Durham’s main source of drinking water is Lake Michie, located in North Durham. However, most of the creeks and streams in Durham flow into Jordan or Falls Lake, which serve as drinking water sources for surrounding cities. March is a great time to remove litter from our waterways as much of the overgrowth is dormant, making it easier to get close to waterways, spot the litter, and go in there to get it out.

Durham has celebrated Creek Week since 2009. In Creek Week’s 13-year history, approximately 4,117 volunteers have removed 190,637 pounds of litter from Durham’s waterways. This year, Creek Week will host a variety of cleanups across Durham to remove litter both on foot and by boat. Below we’ll tell you how to get involved.

Educational Opportunities

            While litter removal is a big part of Creek Week, it’s also a great time to learn more about our waterways, aquatic life, and water infrastructure in Durham. Participants can gain knowledge and experience through hands-on learning opportunities.

Kids searching for frogs at last year’s Frog Watch at Sandy Creek Park, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Some of this year’s events include:

  • Experiencing the explosion of spring song and mating activity among frogs at Sandy Creek Park
  • A bioretention tour at the City of Durham’s General Services Building
  • A Green Stormwater workshop at the Museum of Life and Science

An Educational Resource Guide with youth book recommendations and classroom activities and lessons can be found on the Creek Week website for a great way to learn and participate from home!

Recreational Activities

After lots of litter removals and educational events, it can be nice to spend some time exploring and enjoying our local waterways. Creek Week has ample opportunities for both fun and challenging—but still fun—recreational activities. Join Creek Week partners for one of many canoe and kayak adventures and classes which offer a new perspective on our lakes and rivers, enjoy free admission to explore the Museum of Life and Science on Durham Community Day, or team up for a hike along one of Durham’s many trails that run alongside our waterways.

Participate from Home

Whether you can attend an in-person event or not, you can still participate in Creek Week! Visit the Creek Week website to fill out this year’s bingo card. Participants who complete five spaces will receive a Creek Week patch. Those who fill out ten spaces will be entered for a chance to win a $120 gift card from Frog Hollow Outdoors. Durham County Stormwater is hosting a virtual scavenger hunt via social media with prizes for participants who get all the questions correct.

In addition to events in Durham, the Clean Water Education Partnership of the Triangle J Council of Governments hosts a Regional Creek Week event. For this year’s Regional Creek Week theme of “GSI Oh My!,” CWEP will be hosting a virtual scavenger hunt highlighting local examples of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). GSI provides an alternative to sending runoff unfiltered directly into waterways via methods of filtering and absorbing stormwater in the place where it falls. Implement green stormwater infrastructure at your home through things like a rain barrel or rain garden, or take on a larger project like bioretention cells or redeveloping the riparian buffer along a waterway. For more information on the scavenger hunt and Regional Creek Week events, visit CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage.

Volunteers at a litter removal event at Beaver Marsh Preserve, Creek Week 2022 (Credit: Laura Webb Smith)

Register and Learn More

If you’re interested in joining a cleanup, participating in a workshop, or attending a recreational event, visit and navigate to the events page for registration links. Space is limited for many events, so sign up soon to secure your spot. If you’d like to organize or lead a litter removal event, please fill out this form. Keep Durham Beautiful will provide tools for those leading litter cleanups. If you’re not in Durham but would still like to get involved, keep an eye out for similar events in your area by visiting CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage or the NC Creek Week Network Hub from the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

However you choose to participate, we hope you take the chance this March to explore, appreciate, learn, and care for our local waterways. See you out there!

Resources/Links: (Includes Event Registration, Educational Resource Guide, Bingo Card)

NC Creek Week Network Hub

CWEP’s Regional Creek Week webpage

Registration Form to Lead or Organize a Cleanup

Article Short Link:

Ask Extension

The current format for Ask an Expert has been retired. It will be replaced by a new, but similar system called Ask Extension. This is a statewide initiative to upgrade the Ask an Expert system and details are still forthcoming.

In the meantime, and beyond, you may contact the Durham County Extension Master Gardener program directly to ask your gardening questions – We are experts, too! Reach us via email: or telephone: 919-560-0528.

Gardening Shorts

Here are some gardening activities for the dog days of summer. These are the kind that may keep us out of the garden (and out of our gardening shorts), yet still keep gardening on our minds.


Extension’s Food and Consumer Sciences program offers free, 30-minute webinars on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. titled Gardening & Grub: A Weekly Chat About All Things Food. Extension Agent Cheralyn Berry discusses a new fruit or vegetable each week and talks about its cultivation, nutrition and cultural uses. Each topic is a delightful surprise – one week it was the banana tree, another week the lychee nut. Cheralyn also shares recipes and answers viewer questions. Connect: . If you miss it live, you can tune in at your convenience by visiting the Durham Cooperative Extension Facebook page; and clicking on “Videos.” 

Things are hot at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden! Hot as in growing chili peppers from around the world. “Everything from the original progenitor chili to the common sweet pepper to the spiciest pepper in the world is growing at Briggs right now,” says Cheralyn Berry. Stop by between 8 and 11 a.m. any Friday or Saturday for the next few weeks and receive a mini educational tour. The garden’s address is 1314 S. Briggs Avenue in Durham. For more information call 919-406-4606.

To help produce fun and food this summer, Extension’s 4H program offered Victory Garden Kits – priced at $20, but free to families in need of financial assistance, no questions asked. The summer kits were so popular that a fall kit is in the works. Learn more at:


Do you take photos of your garden – LOL — Who doesn’t, right?! Well, two local organizations are interested in your photos: 

1) WPTF Weekend Gardener magazine is looking for a photo to grace the cover of their Fall issue (circulation 10,000). Act soon, deadline for submission is August 31. To participate and/or learn more: .  The photographer will receive credit in the magazine.

2) NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill is collecting submissions for a Community Photo Exhibit. You can submit up to five photos of native wildflowers. The photos could have been taken anywhere in the state of North Carolina. Deadline for submissions is October 1. They’ll share the photos in a digital gallery, and at the end of the year, they’ll display selected images in an exhibit in the DeBerry Gallery. To participate and/or learn more:

DURHAM GARDEN FORUM – Monthly Lectures
Durham Garden Forum (DGF), a valuable resource for Durham residents and others in the Triangle area. Now entering its 11th year, the DGF holds lectures from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. At present the lectures are presented online via Zoom. To receive a meeting invitation, send your request to

Here’s a peek at topics of upcoming lectures: 
– August 25, Beyond Daffodils and Tulips — a review of all geophytes, including bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, and tuberous roots.
– September 15,  TreesDurham – a review of historical policies that have created today’s inequitable tree distribution in Durham.
– October 20, Hosta! Gardening with hosta, with a look at some of the newest varieties.

— A. Laine

Garden Tours to Enjoy at Home

In the weeks since stay-at-home orders went into place, museums, opera companies and institutions around the world have made their art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Well, that’s all well and good but, I’d rather visit a garden, wouldn’t you? That is  possible, thanks to the sites and resources listed below.  

In North Carolina

Audobon North Carolina is hosting a virtual Field Trip this Saturday, April 18 from 9 –to 10:30 a.m. via Facebook live. Nesting pelicans, singing songbirds and backyard owls are the stars. Tag along at

Via their Facebook page, Durham’s Sarah P. Duke Gardens posts videos of their staff demonstrating best practices for home gardening. To date, topics have included planting, tree pruning and  dividing perennials.  The videos are several minutes in length.

Mark Weathington is the director of J. C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. He is presenting an hour-long video lecture via Zoom each Wednesday at 3 p.m., Midweek with Mark. The lectures are being recorded so you can watch later if you’d like.  Learn more.  

Native plant landscapes are the highlight of the live video feed on the website homepage of the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. (Scroll down the page a bit.)  The Plant Power Podcast is also worth a listen.

Take a virtual trip to the mountains and visit Arborcrest Gardens, a 25-acre ornamental plant evaluation garden in Boone. There is a short aerial video plus photo galleries for every season. Learn more

a little farther from home

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a fabulous place to visit, even if only virtually.  There are dozens of virtual tours, aerial drone videos and videos of featured flowers to enjoy. Their YouTube channel is robust. Learn more

The Brandywine Valley near Philadelphia is home to some wonderful public gardens and, there, spring has just sprung. (So we get to enjoy it all over again.)

The virtual tour of Mt Cuba Center is a most realistic walking tour of this exquisite native plant conservation garden. Learn more

Our Gardens Your Home is an online, curated selection of ways to experience the best of Longwood Gardens from home. It is updated weekly. Learn more

Chanticleer Garden is a colorful, contemporary garden within a historic setting. Never been to Chanticleer? Then you’ll want to go on the virtual tour first, then poke around the more educational offerings such as pruning a boxwood hedge or planting an asparagus bed. Learn more

Go abroad

If you like tulips, head to the Netherlands. Or to the YouTube channel of Keukenhof Holland for a bold glimpse of 7 million bulbs, 800 varieties! Learn more.

London is home to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and they have a YouTube channel, too. Fifteen of the videos are less than one month old.  Learn more.

Get educated

Plants, Pests and Pathogens is an educational offering from NC State Extension. It’s a series of 90-minute  webinars that are recorded and available to the public. Follow the link to view an index of recordings by date that lists speaker and topic for presentations going back to 2009. Learn More.

Curious about land conservation? Triangle Land Conservancy has hosted webinar conversations with their conservation staff. All are recorded and posted on their website. Learn more

Plant Knowledge

As you are introduced to plants that you might like to add to your own garden, visit NC Extension Plant Toolbox. This online database of thousands of plants will show you which plants will grow best in your landscape. You can search for a plant by its common name or its scientific name. Then read about each plant’s growing requirements, potential disease and insect problems, and scores of other pieces of information useful to deciding if the plant will thrive wherever you live in North Carolina. Learn more.

This list was compiled by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers who serve Durham County. We wish you happy travels from the comfort and safety of your home.

Happy Holidays

Blog posts will resume on January 8, 2020. Til then, we hope you enjoy this video from NC State Extension and our previous posts about winter plants traditionally used in holiday decor.

North Carolina grows 40,000 acres of Christmas trees. Learn more about this industry in a new 4-minute video from NC State Extension:

A refresher for reflowering poinsettias

Forcing and “pickling” paperwhites

Mistletoe and running cedar in the winter landscape

Holiday Cacti and Holiday Cactus Care

Evergreen plants for holiday decorating