11/25/16: In the garden this week

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To a human, this wintry border looks rather messy. To a bird, it’s a cornucopia of delights.

#GoOutside today! Garden, walk, hike, play a sport. Make it Green Friday, not Black. Avoid the malls. But don’t avoid good deals altogether: Prairie Nursery is offering 10 percent off on gift certificates from now through December 24.

If you feel like gardening, here’s are some suggestions:

Leave the Leaves this year: Don’t blow your leaves out to the curb; recycle them on your property. Fallen leaves and grass clippings represent the fertility of your soil, so why give them away? Use your leaves as lawn fertilizer, as mulch, and as the basis for a compost pile. Read more here.

water new plantings: in any week in which we receive less than an inch of rain (like this past week), water all plants installed this spring or fall. Perennials planted last season should be well-established, but those planted this year need supplemental watering during dry spells. How do you know when we’ve received an inch of rain? I use a highly sophisticated rain gauge–an old yogurt container placed on the ground among the plants. A tunafish or catfood can works equally well. I total the weekly rainfall and decide whether to water my new trees or my clients’ new plantings this week.

clean up the vegetable garden carefully: remove the spent plants; compost healthy ones, but throw out infested or diseased plants to prevent the spread of disease.

— fall is the best time to extend a garden bed or start a new one (it’s always a great idea to eliminate some lawn): spread a 3-4” layer of cedar or hemlock bark mulch over the area to kill the grass. Or use a thick layer of leaves (12″ or more). You’ll be able to plant right through the mulch and thatch next spring. You can scatter seeds in the mulch as you collect them.

collect seeds. Seed of purple lovegrass and of little bluestem is disappearing fast, because the birds love them both. Seeds of asters, joe pye weed, penstemon, prairie onion, and monarda are ripe. Right now it’s hard to keep up with the seed collecting. And plenty of seed will remain for the birds to eat this winter. I can’t go out the backdoor without disturbing flocks of goldfinches, and the bluejays become quite annoyed. Mixed-species foraging flocks have formed to take advantage of the bounty.

don’t clean up the perennial garden: leave the plants until spring. The birds will enjoy the seeds all winter, and the dead stalks will be easy to remove in spring (see the photo above).

— follow a sustainable lawn care regimen: it’s too late to fertilize or reseed. If you did reseed this fall, keep the seeded area moist until the grass is germinated. But if you have a place where grass won’t grow, plan to plant something that will, like shade-loving native perennials. As the leaves fall, mow over them, don’t rake or blow them. Your mower will chop them into small pieces that will quickly disintegrate, returning valuable nutrients to the lawn. Established lawns do not need water now (or ever), but if you do water, do it infrequently and deeply to encourage deep root growth. One inch of water once a week is much better than a few minutes each day. But remember: the more you water, the more you’ll have to mow!

— plan for next season: Do it now, while the garden is still growing. Notice things that did great and things that didn’t, make lists of areas you want to improve, areas of lawn you could get rid of, places that are getting sunnier or shadier and need new plantings to suit. Do you have enough fall color in your garden? If not, plant some colorful native shrubs in the spring.

Enjoy this holiday weekend, and enjoy the garden, and nature, now and always.

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Autumn bounty of shade-aster seeds among the leaf mulch and still-green ferns.

 

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11/18/16: In the garden this week

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A sustainable garden should be a bountiful buffet for birds and other wildlife throughout the winter and early spring. Don’t clean up your perennial beds until you see new growth in spring.

Finally a good soaking rain came to our area this past week: my rain gauge registered over an inch and a half, and all over northern New Jersey, sluggish streams came to life. It made for good weeding conditions.

The prolonged warm weather we now experience, in fall and also in spring, puts great stress on trees. Trees leaf out earlier and hold their leaves longer; they carry out photosynthesis for a longer season, and as a result, their water needs increase. Remember that our rainfall has been below normal for the past two growing seasons. Many trees, particularly the old and the young, are stressed.

It’s delightful to be outdoors on these warm, sunny fall days. Here are some gardening chores you might attend to while you’re enjoying the golden fall weather:

Leave the Leaves this year: Don’t blow your leaves out to the curb; recycle them on your property. Fallen leaves and grass clippings represent the fertility of your soil, so why give them away? Use your leaves as lawn fertilizer, as mulch, and as the basis for a compost pile. Read more here.

water new plantings: this week we received ample rainfall, but in any week in which we receive less than an inch of rain, water all plants installed this spring or fall. Perennials planted last season should be well-established, but those planted this year need supplemental watering during dry spells. How do you know when we’ve received an inch of rain? I use a highly sophisticated rain gauge–an old yogurt container placed on the ground among the plants. A tunafish or catfood can works equally well. I total the weekly rainfall and decide whether to water my new trees or my clients’ new plantings this week.

clean up the vegetable garden carefully: remove the spent plants; compost healthy ones, but throw out infested or diseased plants to prevent the spread of disease.

— fall is the best time to extend a garden bed or start a new one (it’s always a great idea to eliminate some lawn): spread a 3-4” layer of cedar or hemlock bark mulch over the area to kill the grass. Or use a thick layer of leaves (12″ or more). You’ll be able to plant right through the mulch and thatch next spring. You can scatter seeds in the mulch as you collect them.

collect seeds. Seed of purple lovegrass and of little bluestem is disappearing fast, because the birds love it. I can’t go out the backdoor without disturbing flocks of goldfinches, and the bluejays become quite annoyed. Seeds of asters, joe pye weed, penstemon, prairie onion, and monarda are ripe. Right now it’s hard to keep up with the seed collecting. And plenty of seed will remain for the birds to eat this winter.

don’t clean up the perennial garden: leave the plants until spring. The birds will enjoy the seeds all winter, and the dead stalks will be easy to remove in spring.

— follow a sustainable lawn care regimen: it’s too late to fertilize or reseed. If you did reseed this year, keep the seeded area moist until the grass is germinated. But if you have a place where grass won’t grow, plan to plant something that will, like shade-loving native perennials. As the leaves fall, mow over them, don’t rake or blow them. Your mower will chop them into small pieces that will quickly disintegrate, returning valuable nutrients to the lawn. Established lawns do not need water now (or ever), but if you do water, do it infrequently and deeply to encourage deep root growth. One inch of water once a week is much better than a few minutes each day. But remember: the more you water, the more you’ll have to mow!

— plan for next season: Do it now, while the garden is still growing. Notice things that did great and things that didn’t, make lists of areas you want to improve, areas of lawn you could get rid of, places that are getting sunnier or shadier and need new plantings to suit. Do you have enough fall color in your garden? If not, plant some colorful native shrubs in the spring.

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Native perennials, like native trees and shrubs, and great for fall color. This is what sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa, looks like in early fall.

 

Trees and climate change

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How will climate change affect this maple/beech grove in Saddle River County Park, trees in other parks, and our street trees?

Join the Bergen-Passaic Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey (NPSNJ) tonight for a discussion of “Climate Change and Urban/Suburban Trees” by Rutgers Professor Jason Grabosky. Dr. Grablowsky will discuss the implications of climate change on plant selection and management, with Q & A to follow.

Time: tonight, Wednesday, November 9 at 7pm

Location: Ridgewood Public Library on Maple Avenue in Ridgewood

Upcoming Talks

Many thanks to the garden clubs of Teaneck, Bergenfield, and Glen Rock, which have invited me to speak at their November meetings:

Thursday, November 10, 7:00, Teaneck Garden Club, “Sustainable Gardening,” Rodda Center, Multipurpose Room B, 50 colonial Court, Teaneck (enter from Palisades Avenue); for more information, http://www.gardenclubofteaneck.org/ElaineSilversteinxi2016.html

Monday, November 14, 7:30, Bergenfield Garden Club, “The Birds and the Bees: Attracting Wildlife with Native Plants,” Coopers Pond Building located at the park entrance on W. Church Street

Tuesday, November 15, 7:45, Glen Rock Garden Club, “Naturescaping: Restoring Sustainability to the Suburban Landscape,” Municipal Annex, 678 Maple Avenue

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Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a wonderful all-around native shrub for fall color, summer fruit, and spring flowers.

11/4/16: In the garden this week

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Sugar maples can’t be beat for fall color. I wish this was my garden!

A warm autumn is supposed to mean dull fall color, but that’s not what’s happening this year, and scientists are uncertain why. There’s a lot we don’t understand about the natural world. Sometimes it’s enough to simply enjoy it.

This weekend’s weather promises to be glorious for getting outside and working in the garden—but not so great for relieving the drought. We received just a few drops of rain this week, and none is in sight for more than a week.

Here are some things you could do in your garden this week:

Leave the Leaves this year: Don’t blow your leaves out to the curb; recycle them on your property. Fallen leaves and grass clippings represent the fertility of your soil, so why give them away? Use your leaves as lawn fertilizer, as mulch, and as the basis for a compost pile. Read more here.

water new plantings: in any week in which we receive less than an inch of rain, water all plants installed this spring or fall. Perennials planted last season should be well-established, but those planted this year need supplemental watering during dry spells. How do you know when we’ve received an inch of rain? I use a highly sophisticated rain gauge–an old yogurt container placed on the ground among the plants. A tunafish or catfood can works equally well. I total the weekly rainfall and decide whether to water my new trees or my clients’ new plantings this week.

clean up the vegetable garden carefully now that warm-season crops are finally winding down: Remove the spent plants; compost healthy ones, but throw out infested or diseased plants to prevent the spread of disease.

— fall is the best time to extend a garden bed or start a new one (it’s always a great idea to eliminate some lawn): spread a 3-4” layer of cedar or hemlock bark mulch over the area to kill the grass. You’ll be able to plant right through the mulch and thatch next spring. You can scatter seeds in the mulch as you collect them.

collect seeds. Seed of purple lovegrass and of little bluestem is disappearing fast, because the birds love it. I can’t go out the backdoor without disturbing flocks of goldfinches, and the bluejays become quite annoyed. Seeds of asters, joe pye weed, penstemon, prairie onion, and monarda are ripe. Right now it’s hard to keep up with the seed collecting. And plenty of seed will remain for the birds to eat this winter.

don’t clean up the perennial garden: leave the plants until spring. The birds will enjoy the seeds all winter, and the dead stalks will be easy to remove in spring.

— follow a sustainable lawn care regimen: it’s too late to fertilize or reseed. If you did reseed this year, keep the seeded area moist until the grass is germinated. But if you have a place where grass won’t grow, plan to plant something that will, like shade-loving native perennials. As the leaves fall, mow over them, don’t rake or blow them. Your mower will chop them into small pieces that will quickly disintegrate, returning valuable nutrients to the lawn. Established lawns do not need water now (or ever), but if you do water, do it infrequently and deeply to encourage deep root growth. One inch of water once a week is much better than a few minutes each day. But remember: the more you water, the more you’ll have to mow!

— plan for next season: Do it now, while the garden is still growing. Notice things that did great and things that didn’t, make lists of areas you want to improve, areas of lawn you could get rid of, places that are getting sunnier or shadier and need new plantings to suit. Do you have enough fall color in your garden? If not, plant some colorful native shrubs in the spring.

Enjoy the garden this week. It will help take your mind off the election.

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Seedheads of little bluestem are glorious in the autumn light.

Environmental news roundup

Just one of the reasons why it's called red maple

Red maple (Acer rubrum) is one of our best native trees for autumn color. Each plant has a rhythm—when red maple begins to drop its leaves, many ferns are still green.

I couple of weeks ago I discovered Global Weirding, a series of climate-change videos on YouTube. Check out all of them, but this one about the long history of global warming is particularly interesting. The answer to the question “How come we’re just finding out about global warming?” is, “We’ve known for almost 200 years.”

Inhabitat.com is a blog that focuses on technological innovations that foster sustainability. Check it out to read about a 1000-year-old English cathedral that will soon be completed run by solar power, living bricks that can turn sunlight and wastewater into energy-generating plants, and much more.

To see great fall color, all you have to do is head to Manhattan (or look outside your window). The big news: the tupelo in Central Park is displaying full color.

“Not Doomed Yet,” The Atlantic‘s climate-change newsletter, contains the excellent news that the Paris Agreement has become international law; also, for the first six months of 2016, U.S. carbon emissions were the lowest since 1991. Check out the newsletter and its many information links for more news, not all of it so good.