May’s Transition

May is a busy month for gardeners. It begins looking much like winter with most trees getting ready to bud out and ends looking a lot like summer with all trees and shrubs in full leaf. The landscape changes by the day in May and it is interesting and fun to document this transformation.

Flowers are everywhere and you may have noticed drifts of violets within your lawn. This broadleaf perennial that blooms this time of year can be found in every shade of lavender, white and yellow. The violets are a very important nectar source for our native bees.

It’s been a rainy, cold spring so many of the brooks and ponds were at their high water mark this past April. Water levels start to lower in ponds and streams during the month of May, and that’s when the trout start biting for local fishermen. There are still some secret fishing holes where brook trout can be found hiding under a stump at the curve in the river where the current slows. Brook trout are not really trout but are in the Char family. Brook trout are more closely related to salmon rather than trout. Brook trout is New York’s State Fish. It is a native fish that can be found in clean, oxygen-rich waters. In my youth, I could be found this time of year back in the deep woods with a pocket fisherman, a small fry pan, bread and butter. I would catch a couple of fry-size brook trout and cook and eat them in the woods. This made for a great sandwich.

This spring as we are working around our property we have the time to focus on planting a sustainable, edible landscape. If we have the room, we can establish an orchard with numerous varieties of fruit trees. In our area I have had success with growing apple trees, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries. Additionally, I have planted many native trees and shrubs.

The native Paw Paw tree is one of my favorite North American fruits. The Paw Paw’s fruit has a tasty tropical flavor and custard-like texture. This tree does not self-pollinate so in order to get fruit we need to plant 2-3 trees for cross pollination.

Blueberry shrubs are a must for most residential landscapes. This native shrub has four season interest and rewards us with a late season fruit that makes for an extremely healthy snack. Blueberry shrubs require an acidic soil so a PH of 5.5 can be reached by adding oak leaf compost, peat moss or a sulfur soil additive. Blueberry shrubs come in two sizes. The standard size blueberry shrubs will grow up to six feet tall. The low bush blueberry will grow a foot high and makes a great ground cover.

The Elderberry is a large shrub that should be planted in everyone’s yard. Elderberry is another native shrub that is easy to grow and produces bushels of small, dark, red berries loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants. I would also recommend growing Lingonberry, Huckleberry, Cranberry, and Blackcap Native Raspberry to round out the hedgerow along the property line. Adding these canes and shrubs to the hedgerow will give us more privacy and additional fruiting capabilities in our landscape.

As an early riser, I often venture out into the yard to work around the garden. During these early morning hours, songbirds are singing their hearts out. Mocking birds, Jays, Robins, Cardinals, Red-wing Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers and Turkey are all calling out to their mates to build a home and start a family.

By Memorial Day we should have our vegetable garden all planted and ready for the June, July and August sun. This year let’s go all out and plant every vegetable we can fit into the garden. It has been a tough couple of years for tomatoes because we have had a few wet summers in a row. This year let’s hope for a dry, warm summer where we can control the moisture. These warm, dry summer conditions, usually bring the best yields.

Let’s experiment this year with cold-hardy figs. The fig fruit is really an inside-out flower that can be grown in containers. Most figs are not cold-hardy in our region, therefore putting figs in containers and bringing them into the garage during winter, makes the most sense.

The native strawberry Fragaria virginiana, should always have a place in the edible landscape. As a ground cover, strawberries are my first choice. Growing many different varieties of strawberries will ensure heavy fruit production. Strawberries prefer full sun, but will also fruit in a partially shady environment. Let’s grow some good eats this season.

UPDATE 4/20: Native Landscapes & Garden Center Covid-19 Response

Native Landscapes & Garden Center: Covid-19 Response

Native Landscapes Garden Center is OPEN. Please respect our staff and follow protocol set forth by NYS and wear face covering/gloves when looking through our inventory. Customers may call or e-mail to inquire about plant availability and pay for orders over the phone via credit/debit card. After payment is received, the plants will be gathered for pick-up or delivery. Appalachian Trail hiker packages will not be accepted at this time, we ask that hikers intending to use us as a Mail Drop location send their packages to the Pawling Post Office at 10 Broad Street, Pawling, N.Y. 12564. Our bathrooms will not be open to the public until further notice.

Landscaping & maintenance services will continue as usual and our employees will be practicing CDC-recommended approaches to avoid infection.

We wish all of our customers and neighbors a healthy, productive Spring!

Our Contact Info:

Address: 991 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. 12564

Phone: 8458557050

Fax: 8458557016

E-mail: nlpawling@gmail.com –or- emma@nativelandscaping.netMertensiavirginica

A Native Plant Challenge

On Friday, March 27, I was a guest on The Leonard Lopate at Large show on 99.5FM WBAI in NYC along with Dr. Douglas Tallamy, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.

The conversation was centered on Dr. Tallamy’s newly released book Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard published by Timber Press. This book is a sequel to his previous book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants.

On this show, Dr. Tallamy went into the science behind why ecologically friendly land management practices are so important in today’s outdoor environment. He begins his new book with some very interesting natural history. In 1903, then President Theodore Roosevelt was standing on the rim of The Grand Canyon as mining was on the verge of gouging the canyon into pieces. He said the five words that would bring The National Parks System another pristine location, “Leave it as it is!”

Dr. Tallamy talked about how ecosystems around the planet are on the verge of shutting down. We have this notion that as we grow our population, the planet must be growing with us. This is not the case and as Dr. Tallamy would say, “The world is no longer flat.” We still have the ability to keep our water clean and drinkable, our climate cooler and our landscapes native.

Dr. Tallamy talked in depth on why locally grown native plants are so important to local ecosystems. Native plants sustain local wildlife, where non-native plants, including invasive species from Asia and Europe do not. These non-native plants have little or no ecological significance and can play a large role in ecosystem collapse.

What I suggest, since we are all home looking for the next great thing to do, is get out in the yard and become part of the solution. Survey your land and landscape and figure out how we can cut down the size of the lawn, create more meadow, and plant more native trees, shrubs, perennials, ground covers and vines. It’s time to bring back the native landscape that was in place just decades ago.

In Dr. Tallamy’s book, he writes about creating a Homegrown National Park with native plants by connecting each yard, in every neighborhood, in every town, in every county, in each state across the country with a living landscape. This concept can be implemented and accomplished but it needs everyone’s support and help. In the end, we will have created as Dr. Tallamy states, our Homegrown National Park in which we can all take credit for a job well done.

This can be fun and easier than you think.

Let’s give it a try. We can do this!

Spring Cultural Practices

As winter rolls into spring getting out into the yard to begin our spring chores is always something gardeners look forward to doing.  Surveying the landscape to check for and remove broken limbs and branches, as well as pruning where necessary, will shape our plants to desired design forms. It is not necessary or beneficial to the environment to be super clean when maintaining our landscape. Leaving our landscape more natural looking rather than tightly manicured is beneficial to us, the wildlife residing in our yards, and is a lot less work.

Getting down on my hands and knees and inspecting the soil is something I always do this time of year. Mole and vole tunnels just below the soil surface can dry out plant roots in our established landscapes.  It is important to compress these tunnels as soon as the soil thaws.

In the fall, I mulched all my beds with leaf mulch because beneficial insects live in the leaf litter. As leaf mulch breaks down it acts as a natural fertilizer and adds additional soil microbes.

Once the frost is out of the ground in mid to late March, would be the best time to transplant trees, shrubs and perennials. With plenty of moisture in the ground, plants should not go into shock when moved before bud-break.  Most shrubs and perennials can be split up now and moved into other desired areas of the landscape.

Spring is the best time of year to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials in our area. The healthiest and best looking plants are on display and ready to purchase at our local garden center in April and May.  The new plants set in the landscape this spring have this year’s growing season to acclimate to their new environment. Make sure the soil is not super saturated when planting and transplanting this spring season. Microscopic air pockets, that are not present in saturated soil, are very important for healthy plant growth. Soil compaction, due to wet soils, can kill a plant if the plant is not adapted to these particular conditions. Let the soil dry out a bit before working and cultivating this spring.

When planting a new tree, shrub or perennial in our yard make sure the plant is adapted to the new site. For example, Rhododendron or ferns would prefer a shady, more protected growing site free from standing water. Planting a shrub in an area that does not mimic where it grows naturally can stress the plant and make it unattractive as it declines.

Consider planting native plants in the landscape that have adapted to our particular soils and environment. Established indigenous plants require less, if any, fertilizer, water or pesticides. Native landscapes sustain local ecosystems and feed beneficial insects and birds that find our yard home.

Let’s get outside and enjoy some of this warm, healthy sunshine this spring.

 

Pete and the natives

Nativelandscaping.net

Natural History

Early European explorers, some of the first white men to land on the shores of eastern North America back in the 1400s, told documented stories of a pristine wilderness like no other in the Northern Hemisphere. Back then the “New World” was wild and beautiful.

Manahatta is what the Native Americans call Manhattan. Manhattan Island, five hundred years ago, had over fifty-five different ecosystems. It was a wilderness that contained diversified landscapes featuring everything from tidal pools along the Hudson River to ancient upland hardwood forests.

Brooklyn, a Dutch word meaning marshland, was a maze of waterways and early trappers tell stories of trapping beaver the size of small bear. Long Island is where the last glacier terminated. The north shore of the island is a rocky coast line similar to what can be found on the adjacent Connecticut shore. The south shore of Long Island and the adjacent Barrier Islands, is an outwash plain with a unique pine barren ecosystem only found on Long Island, Cape Cod and southern New Jersey.  The New Jersey meadowlands are one of the largest wetlands on the east coast. It is a resting and feeding area for water fowl during their spring and fall migration.

The Hudson and Harlem Valley regions were a mountain wilderness that featured wild bear, wolf, eastern cougar, moose, passenger pigeon, heath hen, rattlesnake, tree frogs and bog turtles to name a few. There were also eastern buffalo in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York.

A feature of this region was “The Great American Eastern Forest,” an endless forest that greeted the first European explorers. This ancient forest stretched from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Great Plains. These woods contained some of the largest stands of trees in the world. These old growth forests had individual trees and some groves with specimens up to twelve foot in diameter and over two-hundred feet tall.  Noteworthy white pine groves could be found in eastern Maine, together with hemlock gorges in the Hudson Highlands, chestnut trees in the Berkshires and oak as far south as Georgia.

These trees along with native understory shrubs, perennials, vines and ground covers were the most bio-diverse, temperate region of the planet. Early settlers wrote of the wooded landscape smelling alive, fresh and clean when it was being explored by early Europeans.

Fast forward five-hundred years later, all but one percent of the Great American Eastern Old Growth Forests remains. A majority of these living specimens can be found today in isolated, hard-to-get-to areas of The Adirondacks, where poor access saved these trees from the ax.

From an early age, I was taught the important symbiotic relationship that exists between native plants, insects and birds. I learned how they depend on one another to survive in the natural world, and how their relationship can teach us to design and build a living landscape around our home and in our gardens.

The native landscapes we create on our land, can be the building blocks of local ecosystem regeneration to help create a healthier outdoor environment for us and the local wildlife. It starts by getting familiar with our localized natural history.

What’s growing in your yard these days?

Pete and the Natives

Native Landscaping.net

 

 

Darkness

For many of us, it’s hard to imagine what it was like outside at night before the introduction of artificial lights. Have you ever walked through the woods or in a meadow at night dependent solely on star and moonlight? It can be a challenge until your eyes adjust. The darkness is full of mystery and tends to amplify sound; the unknown can play tricks on us. On cloudy nights, the clouds provide insulation that makes noises seem closer than they are. Natural darkness can also instill a sense of peace and wonder. What is really out there?

Recently, the mid-December full moon was bright on the freshly fallen snow and I took some wonderful late night walks with moonlight as my only light source. The walks were brisk and invigorating. Each time I went out, I became less fearful of the night and more conscious of the health benefits: breathing that cold, clean air, getting my legs in shape for ski season, better sleep.

Celestial bodies and meteor showers are much easier to identify once your eyes have adjusted to the night sky. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where light pollution is at a minimum, it opens up a whole new sky and landscape to explore. Sadly, a large majority of the U.S. population has already lost the ability to see the Milky Way with the naked eye due to light pollution, which is brightest on the east coast. When viewed from space, it looks like a fairly thick line of light along the coast and slightly inland from Florida to southern Maine.

Light pollution, which affects the circadian rhythm in humans, also impacts the sleep-wake cycle in nocturnal animals including bats, owls, foxes, and flying squirrels. Breeding cycles, foraging behaviors, and migratory routes of wildlife including insects, turtles, birds, fish, and reptiles have been similarly affected. Almost two thirds of migratory birds travel during the night, using moon and starlight to navigate. Light pollution interferes with their ability to stay on course and many never make it to their winter nesting grounds.

Plants are also affected by artificial light. Plants take cues from the amount of light and darkness they are exposed to each day, so prolonged exposure to light pollution prevents many shrubs and trees from adjusting to seasonal change at the right time, disrupting their flowering and fruiting cycles.

If we can live with less night light, the entire natural world (including humans) will benefit from a return to darkness after the sun goes down.

 

Pete Muroski

nativelandscaping.net

Nice Tomatoes

July put an end to the streak of wet, cool months. Patiently waiting for the right conditions, many perennials and shrubs that flower from mid June to early July bloomed a bit late. The sun and heat finally arrived on the Fourth of July weekend. I especially enjoyed the phlox, monarda and honeysuckle vine this summer. Rhododendron maximum or giant rosebay rhododendron generally starts blooming in late June into early July. This year’s rosebay began blooming the second week of July. We are in the far northern range of the rosebay hardiness limit and I have stumbled upon pockets of this plant growing along the swamp behind the garden center. To our south in Pennsylvania and Virginia, I’ve seen rosebay grow the size of small trees. It’s a striking plant when grown in small groves. This year’s flowers were short lived as July heated up and became a scorcher.

Some short grasses suffered when the heat and high humidity exposed lawns to red thread fungus. Blackspot, powdery mildew and apple cedar rust could be found in some locations. Japanese beetles, hemlock wooly adelgid and tent caterpillars are few and far between this year. Their numbers sufficiently dropped off because of the prolonged cool, wet spring weather.

As July progressed, we began watering more often. I found container plants quickly dried out as the temperature went well into the nineties. Before the crabgrass set in, I raised the height of cut on the lawn from four to five inches. This saved the lawn from burning out. Wasting water on my lawn is something I will not do; keeping containers, vegetables and fruit trees hydrated is more of a priority.

August is asters, goldenrod, corn, squash, tomato and a second cut of hay. August is early apples, peaches and pears. August begins the harvest.

August is low water. Some streams go right down to a trickle. Ponds and lakes warm up in the hot August sun. August is bullhead season. Catching mud cats in the late evening with a box of worms and a light fish pole are relaxing evenings I will always remember. Observing from the dock how the Martins turn into bats and the muskrats turn to beavers, transitions evening into night.

August daylight is getting noticeably shorter. We lose an hour and a half of sunlight by the end of the month.

Late evening summer thunderstorms are not only interesting to watch, but can drop the warm evening temperature twenty degrees. The August heat can be searing as the Atlantic turns into a sauna. Our first threat of a hurricane can be in the forecast. After a hot, dry summer the warm rain of a tropical storm can help with rain deficits as the summer winds down.

The August full moon is not quite the harvest moon. It’s a mellow, calming and a more hypnotic globe. Let’s call it the generous moon.

The August night can be the maestro of a bug symphony. Crickets, grasshoppers and katydids start wing-scratching right up until first frost. They must have a lot to say before they bed down to a long winter’s nap.

Late August misty mornings are the first sign of fall. As the fog burns off, it exposes the crisp blue morning sky. It’s a perfect time to go out and pick the ripest, juiciest beefsteak tomato. Slice it thin on whole wheat toast with olive oil, salt and pepper. While the bread is toasting, I’m going to make some watered down lemonade. Care to join me?

 

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