Wonderful article written by Karen Chapman on Great Garden Combo: A Fall Landscape Scene That Lasts. Karen beautifully covers the steps and details necessary for anyone to create beautiful garden vignettes. She also has a new book titled Fine Foliage with Christina Salwitz. The layout of the book is beautiful. Though the book offers a designer’s perspective on using foliage color, shape and texture to create beautiful planting combinations, the ideas are presented in a very user-friendly way.
On one side of a page spread, you have a bit of inspiration that is beautifully photographed.
On the other side you have everything you need to know about the planting combination clearly spelled out for you: sun or shade, season, soil, and zone.
Karen and Christina also tell you why the combination works and introduce you to each of the plants involved.
In an article Karen writes…
Fall is one of the most exciting seasons in the garden, when we can take advantage of the many fall foliage superstars to create a framework for late-blooming perennials. Rather than thinking in terms of selecting a favorite flower or two, create a colorful vignette of trees and shrubs that will span the seasons and give your garden a picture-perfect look in autumn.
When decorating a room, we typically start by choosing a wall color. With that in place, the fun begins to find the perfect flooring or accent rug before we finally consider the placement and style of furniture. The overall color palette is often kept restrained, with accessories providing the finishing touch and extra color punch.
Creating a garden vignette is a little like that. Begin by choosing the key vertical elements — the trees, selecting those that will look good over several seasons but that also have wonderful fall tints. For the ground plane, seek out shrubs and grasses that bring color, different leaf shapes and exciting textures to the scene. Finally add a swath of your favorite late-blooming perennials and accessorize with a fun container or two for a bright splash of color… (click image below to continue reading Karen’s article for some great ideas for your own garden).
Most people do not realize that there were no honey bees in America before the European settlers brought hives from Europe. Native pollinators, especially bees other than honey bees, have been pollinating the continent’s flowering plants since long before the arrival of honey bees. Even in today’s vastly altered landscapes, they continue to do the yeomen’s share of pollination, especially when it comes to native plants.
Here are excerpts from one of the best resources I’ve found online regarding native bees from the USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership (I highly recommend printing out or saving this beautifully illustrated and valuable PDF to your desktop)
Bee Basics an Introduction to Our Native Bees
What is helpful for new gardeners to know is that the honey bee, as remarkable as it is, does not know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. The honey bee also does very poorly compared to native bees when pollinating many native plants, such as pumpkins, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. Native bees come in a wide array of sizes, shapes, and colors. They are also varied in their life styles, the places they frequent, the nests they build, the flowers they visit, and their season of activity. They remain ignored or unknown by most of us. Yet, they provide an invaluable ecosystem service, pollination, to 80 percent of flowering plants.
Bees are efficient foragers. One example is the southeastern blueberry bee, Habropoda laboriosa, a hard-working little creature capable of visiting as many as 50,000 blueberry flowers in her short life and pollinating enough of them to produce more than 6,000 ripe blueberries. At market those 6,000 blueberries are worth approximately $20 or more. Not every bee that you see flitting about may be worth $20, but all of them combined keep the world of flowering plants going. The world as we know it would not exist if there were no bees to pollinate the earth’s 250,000 flowering plants.
Bees are descended from wasps. Most wasps are carnivores; they either prey upon or parasitize other insects or spiders, and use this rich protein source to feed their young. About 125 million years ago, when the first flowering plants evolved, some wasps made a switch from hunting prey to gathering pollen for their brood. Perhaps they were hunting for insects that visited flowers and ate some of the pollen or drank the nectar along with their prey.
It didn’t take much to find the advantages of consuming pollen over hunting. Pollen is rich in proteins and doesn’t fight back, so it is easy to imagine why the bees became vegetarians. Gathering pollen and nectar requires certain adaptations different from those of hunters, so they started to change, to evolve to meet these requirements and consequently became bees.
Some bees are generalists and will use pollen from a wide variety of flowering plants. Bumble bees are generalists as they depend upon a succession of plants flowering from early spring when the queen emerges to late summer – early fall when the colony dies. Other bees have some degree of specialization in foraging; they resort to using pollen from only one or two families of flowering plants. Fortunately plant reproduction has redundancy in floral visitation already built-in. Each flowering plant species usually has a small guild of bees and other pollinators which coevolved with them to ensure their pollination. Typically, bees collect nectar from a wider range of blossoms than they visit for pollen.
One example of floral specialization is squash bees which are efficient visitors and pollinators of cucurbit plants (squash, pumpkin, and zucchini).
Blueberry bees, globe mallow bees, and cactus bees are also floral specialists.
Some bee species are active only for a few weeks during the growing season and depend on just a few families of flowering plants for their foraging needs. Bees in the genus Macropis depend only on loosestrife flowers (Lysimachia) from which they collect oil and pollen for their larvae’s food. Loosestrife flowers however, have no nectar available so bees in the genus Macropis must visit other flowers for their nectar needs. One highly specialized bee is Anthemurgus passiflorae. This bee is only known to forage on yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea).
A note on Loosestrife: under no circumstances plant the Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), it is an invasive alien species to North America and its sale is illegal as it invades our wetlands, displacing native flora and fauna. More on Purple Loosestrife and its erradication. Insects keep purple loosestrife under control in its native Eurasia, but in America it has no animal to control it. Experiments are under way to see if non-native insects that seem to feed uniquely on purple loosestrife can control it without threatening native species. Purple loosestrife is the only plant that is banned from sale in Virginia. Additionally, responsible gardeners would never share Purple Loostrife with their gardening friends. At theLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centeryou will find a list of the native loosestrife plants.
There are 4,000 species of native bees in the United States. A number of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private individuals are creating pollinator gardens throughout the country that will benefit native bees and other pollinators. The USDA Forest Service, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, the Pollinator Partnership, Urban Bee Gardens at U.C. Berkeley, and the Xerces Society each supply information to those who want to start gardening for pollinators or improving bee habitat in general.
8 Ways to Help Native Bees in Your Garden
Plant a pollinator garden.
Avoid pesticides or choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems.
Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud. A dripping faucet, mud puddle, or birdbath attracts butterflies and beneficial insects. Mud is an important nesting material for some bee species.
Plant native plants from your eco region.
Provide a variety of native flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that bloom successively throughout the seasons.
Reduce the size of the lawn by creating pollinator gardens will benefit native pollinators and other species of wildlife. It is possible to have a lawn that is good for native bees while being esthetically pleasing.
Provide nesting habitats for bees.
Build or buy your own bee houses.
Helping native bees is essential to our continued survival, health, and well-being. These animals benefit us all because of the invaluable ecosystem services they provide to the environment and to our farms, forests, and gardens. Not only do they pollinate most of our flowering plants, their bodies feed other wildlife and their ground-nesting behaviors aerate and enrich soils. They enrich and sustain our lives. The observation of native bees can become a lifelong pastime and pleasure. Become involved.
Observe bees with close focusing binoculars; plant a small pollinator garden; or help a neighbor, student, or family member drill small holes in scrap lumber to create a bee house. Join a pollinator and plant-friendly organization to learn more about pollinators and their flowers, like the Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org).
Become a pollinator observer as a citizen scientist and report your observations. Some of our bees are declining, and your findings are invaluable to understanding the big picture. Most importantly, get outdoors with your children and experience the amazing natural and urban habitats that we share with pollinators and flowering plants. Do your share to make sure that this precious legacy continues.
Buchmann, Stephen L., Nabhan, Gary Paul. 1997. The Forgotten Pollinators. Island Press, Washington, DC, Covelo, CA, ISBN 1-55963-353-0. 292 pp.
Mader, Eric, Spivak, Marla and Evans, Elaine. 2010. Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists. SARE Handbook No. 11, NRAES-186. Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Services (NRAES), Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 162 pp.
Packer, Laurence. 2010. Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are At Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them. Harper Collins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada. 273 pp.
Bee Families, Description & Classification:
O’Toole, Christopher, Raw, Anthony. 1999. Bees of the world. Cassell Illustrated. ISBN 0-8160-5712-5.
Last Friday my first set of deWit forged garden tools arrived: a trowel, a 3-tine cultivator, and a handfork. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to things and I am delighted to say that not only have these tools done just that but I will not give any think to purchasing anything lesser quality.
Even though deWit was established in 1898 in Holland, I only learned about this 5th generation company recently. No part of these tools comes from China and they all have a lifetime guarantee!
After eagerly opening the package I couldn’t wait to lift one out of the box and run my hands over it, the steel feels like no other garden tool. Upon running my hand across the trowel I was instantly beamed back to my childhood, my father had a backhoe and I loved running my palms against the silky smooth blade that only seemed to get better the more it was used.
I was also wondering if these tools would be too heavy for hours of work but that idea was completely erased from my mind the second I lifted the trowel from the box. They don’t have too heavy a weight to them even thought they’re thick, fantastic!
How I wish I had known about deWit garden tools when I had my landscape business, it drives me insane to have to buy new rakes and shovels once or twice a year because they just don’t hold up well, not to mention they are not even comfortable to use. The good news is, I found deWit tools and I am sold for life!
Can you hear me doing the happy dance and singing “I can buy my garden tools once and never need to replace them again”? Such music to my soul.
The wood for the handles is European Ash that comes from FSC controlled forestry. The steel is Swedish boron steel, you can compare this with the same steel that Caterpillar is using for their digging machines.
Sietse deWit told me, “people come to our factory with a 60 yr old spade to get a replacement handle or to show us it is still going strong.”
You can’t say that about any tool sold at box stores in the USA.
The other thing that impressed me was the price, fine quality forged tools that are so tough they’re guaranteed for life, only cost a bit more than the so-so quality. The handles and blades don’t bend when you put pressure on them. These are an investment for the rest of your life.
If you’re like me and prefer to buy things ‘once’ in your lifetime, and Will them to your kids, I highly recommend deWit tools.
I can’t wait to order their shovels, rakes, a sickle, their tree planting hoe (what a back-saver that one must be!), a couple of different sized axes… OK I’ll stop here, I know I sound like a kid in a candy store who says, “I’ll take one of these, and one of those, oooo and I can’t live without one of these, and oooo look I HAVE to have…
Try one and you’ll see what I mean, then come on back here and tell me what you think in the comments! I would love to hear your impressions.
Each Blackberry plant can produce 10 to 20 pounds of fruit, so four to six plants can easily produce ample berries for a family of four.You might choose to plant more if you like to can or freeze crops from your garden.
Another option for some is to plant a large enough Blackberry patch to share or trade their harvest with friends, family and neighbors. Having a neighborhood where community members trade various garden harvests is a popular and excellent way to eat locally, eat fresher and ‘in-season’ foods, and help form closer bonds with those who are nearby.
Blackberries are vigorous growers that establish themselves quickly with heavy yields, excellent for home gardens. They thrive in most soil types. Cane berries are versatile and hardy in the coldest climates where other fruits fail.
Selecting A Blackberry Variety to Grow
Blackberries are divided by their growth habit (trailing, semi-trailing, and erect), and by the presence or absence of thorns (thorny or thornless). All blackberries benefit from some sort of support such as a trellis or poles to support their canes. If you have room for several plants, select early-, mid-, and late-season varieties to extend your harvest. And, some varieties, such as “Triple Crown” thornless have a very long harvest season, over 5 weeks. So spend some time considering which variety best meets your needs.
Horticulturalists have been hybridizing blackberries for nearly a century so there are many to choose from. Take note when shopping for Blackberry bushes that different varieties grow best in different sections of the country, and it’s important to select a variety that is well suited for your climate and region.
Here is an online nursery guide of berry growers from Cornell University with listings across the US and Canada with scores of cultivars and nurseries that sell them. Includes nurseries that sell blackberry and raspberry plants among others.
Selecting a Site for Your Blackberry Patch
You will want to prepare an easy-to-access location for your blackberries a year before planting as this would provide you time to clear the area and prepare the soil with greenmanure / covercrop.
Blackberries need full sun and plenty of room to grow. The soil should be a well-drained sandy loam soil.
A soil high in organic matter is beneficial under non-irrigated conditions.
If the soil is not well-drained, establish the plants in a raised bed.
All blackberries grow best in full sun, and almost all varieties are self-fruiting, meaning that you need to plant only one cultivar. As a rule of thumb, five or six plants will produce enough berries for a family of four. Each blossom will produce a sweet, juicy blackberry, and when the flowers get nipped with spring frosts it is said that the remaining good flowers will produce berries that can be more vibrant.
Very important, when selecting your site be sure to consider the variety of Blackberry you are going to plant…
Erect and semi-trailing blackberry plants should be planted about 3 to 4 feet apart.
Trailing blackberries need 6 to 8 feet between plants.
How to Build a Trellis for Blackberries
No matter which variety of Blackberry you choose, upright/erect, semi-trailing or trailing, all will benefit from being trellised.
Chuck Marsh uses the tall metal fence posts (seen in the video below) and spaces them about 20 feet apart. I agree that this is the most cost-effective form of trellising and I do not recommend pressure treated posts for gardening or landscape purposes for a number of obvious reasons.
For a ‘trailing’ variety of Blackberry plants you will want to place between your metal posts a sturdy wire from one post to the next starting at about 3 feet off the ground. Then, run another line of wire about 4 1/2 – 5 feet off the ground from post to post.
The image to the right is a line-drawing of the trellis system for ‘trailing’ varieties of Blackberries. This is the system used in the following video.
For ‘upright’ and semi-trailing Blackberry varieties a two-wire system is also best as it provides more stability for the plants when they are heavy with fruit. Keeping plants and berries off the ground is good practice as this creates a much healthier environment for plants to grow and helps prevent disease problems.
The image to the left shows how the weaving of Blackberry canes through the two wires provides support.
For semi-trailing blackberries, use two wires at heights of 3 ft and 5 ft from the ground.
The erect blackberry varieties do not require support if the tops of new canes are pruned during the summer to keep growth below 3 to 4 ft. Erect blackberries that are not topped may be trained to a one-wire trellis. For erect blackberries, use one wire attached to the post about 30 inches from the ground.
In this video, our friend and Permaculture Designer Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants Nursery in Black Mountain, NC demonstrates how he trellises prima (‘vining’) canes and prunes out flora canes, providing useful tips throughout the process of growing a Blackberry Orchard.
How to Prepare Soil for Planting Blackberries
Blackberries are perennial plants that come back year after year, it’s worth your time to get the soil prepared correctly.
Blackberries grow best in fertile, well-drained soil. Unless your soil is already perfect, you will want to add a 2″ layer of composted cow manure (preferably homemade not store-bought), compost, Rock Phosphate and Green Sand (follow package instructions for application) on top of the soil and work these in to a depth of 8″-10″.
Blackberries do best if the soil pH is slightly acidic, somewhere between 5.5 and 7.0. Take a soil pH test and, if necessary, add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower the pH.
Planting Blackberry Canes
It’s best to plant blackberry shrubs in the early spring or, in warmer climates, in late fall. Blackberries can be purchased either bare-rooted or containerized. If your new plants are bare-rooted, shake the packing material off the roots and set the plants in a bucket of water for several hours. This keeps the roots from drying out, which you want to avoid at all costs.
In most cases, the canes of a blackberry shrub will have been cut back at the nursery before you purchase them. If your new blackberry shrubs have not been cut back already, cut the canes to 6″-8″ inches. By pruning back the canes in the first season, you will not have a crop the first year, but you will allow the plants to put their energy into developing a strong root system. The plants will be healthier and more productive in the long run.
Dig a hole that is large enough to allow the roots to spread out evenly.
Set bare-rooted plants into the soil at the depth they were grown in the nursery.
Fill in the hole and tamp down the soil.
Water the newly set plants well, but don’t fertilize until 3 or 4 weeks later.
Fertilize after growth starts.
In established plantings, fertilize in March well before the plant starts to produce flowers and fruit and again in July.
In this video, Chuck returns to the blackberry patch in early summer to check on the earlier pruning and shows a little more love to the plants…
Blackberry Patch Maintenance
As the canes emerge in the spring, evenly distribute them on the wires to form a fan pattern.
Once the canes have reached the top wire, remove the tips to encourage branching.
Trailing types set further apart require a different system; for trailing canes start with a similar trellis with wires at 3 and 5 feet, except do not tip the canes. Instead, allow them to grow to the top wire and then weave them back down to the bottom wire and back up to the top wire to fill in the space between plants.
Erect blackberries, such as Cherokee and Cheyenne, require pruning out of the root suckers that arise from the crown. During the growing season, it is desirable to allow root suckers to develop to about a 12-inch-wide row. Any growth beyond this should be eliminated.
When the new shoots of erect blackberries reach 30 to 36 inches in height, cut off the tips. This will force branching lower on the canes and will cause the canes to thicken, making them better able to support a heavy fruit crop. During the winter, prune the laterals to 12 to 14 inches for convenient harvesting and larger berries. In late winter, remove any remaining dead or weak wood. Leave healthy, vigorous canes spaced at 6 canes per linear ft.
Watering Your Blackberry Patch
Blackberries require about 1 inch of water each week during the growing season.
During fruit development, the plants will need about 2 gallons per plant each day.The best way to accomplish this is by putting out a drip irrigation system that runs for 30 minutes twice a week, this is of course a watering method for a Blackberry orchard that is well mulched to prevent soil moisture loss.
Mulch placed around the base of the plant reduces the need for water and helps keep weeds under control. Pine straw, wood chips, and seedless native low-growing grasses are good mulches.
Harvesting Ripe Blackberries
The fruit is ripe and at its peak sweetness when berries are a dull black color. Ripe berries will pull off of the plant ‘easily’, if they don’t come off with a gentle pull they are probably not quite ripe yet.
Pick fruits that are shiny black if you need to store them in your refrigerator. They won’t be as sweet, but they will last longer.
Harvest will continue for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the variety.
Blackberry Care ‘After’ the Harvest
As soon as the last fruit has been picked in summer, cut all the old canes and burn them. This is also a good time to tip prune and thin new shoots.
Prune out all the old fruiting canes and remove them from the garden, as they no longer produce fruit. Continue to tie, tip, or train the new canes that have not produced fruit to the trellis until growth stops in the fall.
During winter, prune laterals on erect types to 12 to 16 inches, and leave only 4 to 8 canes per square yard for fruit production in the following year.
Good horticultural practices can prevent insect and disease problems. Timely pruning, removing fruited canes, and maintaining a regular harvest schedule will help minimize common pests. If necessary, apply pesticides labeled for use on edible plants to manage insect and disease problems.
Generally, only a small crop of fruit is produced in the first season. If growth is poor during this first season, cut the canes back to several inches in late winter to force development of sturdier, more fruitful canes. In the second and succeeding years, shoot growth is more vigorous and upright. Tie these new shoots to the trellis when they reach a length of 4 to 6 ft.
Some growers prefer to wait until harvest is over and old canes have been removed before tying new shoots to the wires. Pruning the old canes is critical to the prevention of disease. After harvest, prune damaged or weak canes, leaving 4 to 8 new shoots. Tie these canes to the trellis in a fan shape (do not bunch them). In the spring before growth starts, prune any laterals back to 12 inches to encourage larger fruit.
There is a tremendous amount of repurposing, re-use, and up-cycling these days, some of the ideas are brilliant and some not so good. When I first learned about using empty wine bottles or edging a garden I have to say I thought it ‘might’ be a cool idea, they certainly can look pretty enough.
A year and a half ago, during a snowy December, Curt and I moved to an eco-village. I love the whole concept of living more consciously, in balance with nature, and in an intentional community, but that’s a topic for another blog post. We moved into this community where people had begun living for 19 years and so there were many things that had already been done. The wine bottle garden beds were one of those things. The winter of December 2010 was a fairly snowy one and Curt and I were focused on moving in and getting set-up but every once in a while I would walk past the bottle garden beds and wonder what type of growing occurred in those raised beds that were at the time bare ground. Quite often during the winters a garden can look kind of ugly, particularly if things are not kept, that was the case here and I found myself thinking that I couldn’t wait until spring to get that garden area into shape and looking beautiful. The image to the left top is when the bottle bed was new and fairly straight, it looks nothing at all like that today.
As the snow melted more and more was revealed and the more I was wondering how receptive folks would be to a serious clean-up and ideas about those thousands of wine bottles. I was thinking of other creative ways to use them without making the suggestion that they be hauled away, since they were already brought to the land.
I believe the garden area itself wouldn’t have looked so unkept if the wine bottle placement stood the test of time. The weeds could be easily pulled or cut back, but the wine bottles, which were once perfectly placed, just looked like you would imagine anything put in the ground above the frost level to look… yup they heaved in every which direction (mostly outward with some more out than others) and the soil in the raised beds was slowly creeping out of its glass confinement too.
One day, I went around and gave several bottles a little wiggle to see just how much work it would require to straighten them out again. The wine bottle beds had only been in place for 3-4 years. Each bottle I wiggled made that glass and grit scratching sound that you might hear when you’re digging and hit a piece of glass that has been sleeping beneath the soil surface for 50 to 75 years. The glass looked brittle, felt very brittle, and sounded brittle.
I stopped my wiggle test, stood back and wrung my brow. As a landscape designer, all I could think about is all the time that had originally gone into this project and how much time was spent driving to bars to collect the wine bottles. And, how much time it would take to solve the ugliness of what stood before us.
The more I looked and thought, the more un-eco this concept of using wine bottles, glass, as edging wasn’t such a very good idea. Just the maintenance alone made it an unwise choice. Sigh.
Gardening Experiences in a Raised Bed Bottle Garden
As the air warmed and it was time to plant the cooler weather plants and seeds into the raised beds I offered to help loosen the raised bed soil prior to planting. These beds were your typical 4-5 foot wide and 15-20 feet long beds, surely easy enough to work in, right!? Wrong!
It was challenging using the broadfork effectively because of all the glass, I found myself standing too close to the inside of the bed which put pressure on the soil and pushed the wine bottles out even further, that glass and grit scraping sound I described above. I’ve used a broadfork plenty but I will honestly say that because of the enclosure of glass it you would have thought that I didn’t know the first thing about the task. I was very disappointed in what the restrictions did to my performance.
Weeding the wine bottle beds presented its own set of issues. Because I can be in the garden for 4 to 14 hours a day without batting an eye, I sometimes like to sit, squat, side squat, kneel with one foot out in front of me, and even keep my balance with one hand on the ground. The wine bottles made it impossible for me to perform any of those comfortable postures.
Then, the inevitable happened, I pulled a weed, with large deep roots, and a bottle broke – popped and went to pieces in the path and in the raised bed. Sunlight degrades the strength integrity of glass over time. I picked up the pieces, all that I could find.
All ready to get back to the weeding task I kneeled down on the path and reached for a weed in the raised bed. Even though I never felt the bottle touch my leg it too popped and shattered. because I was in the ‘reaching’ position I had to do the push and pull yourself back maneuver. While doing that my hand didn’t quite clear the broken bottle and the damn thing sliced into my finger real good, bleeding like crazy. I went inside and put several drops of Lavender and Helichrysum essential oils on the wound and asked Curt to help get it bandaged up.
At this point I was so disgusted with the idea that anyone could be so foolish to do something like put glass in raised vegetable garden beds, I snapped at Curt to, “go get that stinking glass out of the bed before I got out there and rip them all out and bring them down to the recycling center!”
Much Safer and Better Ideas for Repurposing Wine Bottles
Build a cob garden fence or wall!
Using wine bottles in a cob wall eliminates the worry of getting sliced when gardening
The wall looks pretty when the sun shines through the colored glass
The wall, if properly placed, can create a microclimate in your garden which extends your growing season
When you build the cob wall properly there will be little maintenance (cob walls need a small roof to help keep rain and snow off)
The wall can also double as a privacy fence
Including the wine bottles in a cob wall makes the job go faster and uses less cob because the bottles take up space
10 Other Ideas for Up-cycling Wine Bottles
There are dozens of other terrific ways to repurpose wine bottles, these are just a few.
With the recent announcement of the partnership of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and ScottsMiracle-Gro came a lot of disappointment among supporters, many became so upset they have returned their NWF backyard wildlife habitat signs which certify their backyards as wildlife habitats and meeting the requirements of the NWF.
In response to that disappointment I’ve created a list of alternative options to the NWF certified backyard wildlife habitats that I know of that provide similar involvement from supporters who care deeply about the preservation of their communities and backyard wildlife sanctuary’s. Folks still want to remain a part of an organization of others who are fulfilling their purpose of making sure there is adequate food, water, shelter and space for their local wildlife.
Organizations to Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
North American Butterfly Association: Butterfly and Habitat Certification Program
The NABA has an exhaustive resource area for butterfly gardeners, including garden ideas, host plant lists, suggested plants, and regional gardening guides. Their certification application can be done online or by their printable application to mail in (PDF).
To join NABA Butterfly Garden Certification Program you need to create or modify your existing garden to meet the following requirements:
At least three different native caterpillar food plants must be grown, preferably more than one plant of each selected species
At least three different native butterfly nectar sources must be grown, preferably more than one plant of each selected species
The use of pesticides is discouraged. Pesticides can kill butterflies as well as other important pollinators.
The NABA encourages participants to submit photo’s of their gardens for display on their website. They are also updating their website and creating a weekly web page called “What’s Happening in Butterfly Gardens Right Now” that features your (digital) habitat photo’s!
Canadian Wildlife Federation: Wild About Gardening Certification
This certification is similar to that of the National Wildlife Federation. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a charitable organization that works with Canadians to make a difference to the kind of legacy we leave behind; not just for wildlife, but also for our children. At this moment (Feb. 3, 2012) they are working on their website, I’m sure this is in response to the disappointed masses, so be sure to visit their site at a later date if the links aren’t working properly.
Monarch (butterfly) Waystation Certification Program
This is a terrific way to create stopover spots for Monarch butterflies during their amazing migration and for breeding new generations. Learn more about creating a Monarch Waystation (PDF).
You can complete your application for certification of your monarch habitat as an official Monarch Waystation either online or via mail (printable application).
You can certify your new or existing monarch habitat to show that you are contributing to monarch conservation. Upon certification your site will be included in the International Monarch Waystation Registry, an online listing of Monarch Waystations, and you will be awarded a certificate bearing your name and your site’s unique Monarch Waystation ID number.
4 Steps the Monarch Waystation registration and certification process:
Create a Monarch Habitat:To create a habitat for monarchs, you need to provide milkweeds for the larvae, nectar plants for the adults, and sufficient vegetation to provide shelter for the larvae, pupae and adults.The Monarch Waystation Seed Kit is designed to enable you to create a habitat suitable for monarchs, within the context of a traditional garden.Applying for certification can be done from scratch by purchasing a Monarch Waystation Seed Kit or obtaining seeds suitable for Monarchs at your chosen source. Existing habitats that meet the criteria for a Monarch Waystation (or that can be easily modified to meet them) may also be registered and certified as Official Monarch Waystations.
Confirm that Monarch Waystation criteria are met and complete the Certification Application: Requirements are included with the certification application materials.
Receive Your Certificate: You will receive a certificate with your (or your organization’s) name and unique Monarch Waystation ID for your site.
After Being Certified: You will be able to order ($17) a 9″ x 12″ weatherproof sign for display and other support materials. You will also be able to submit photos of your Monarch Waystation to be included in the online Registry.
Remember to encourage others to create their own butterfly and wildlife habitats!
A Step Beyond: Home-study Wildlife Course
If you love to feed, photograph, or just observe wildlife, this computer-based e-learning course may interest you!
After introducing WindStar’s highly acclaimed Wildlife Habitat Naturalist pilot program in Maryland in the Spring of 1997, the Institute began receiving numerous inquiries from people all across the country who wanted to know when the program was coming to their state.
To satisfy the need, the staff came up with the idea of an Internet home-study course called the WindStar Certified Wildlife Habitat Naturalist, which is a prerequisite to the recent, advanced WindStar Certified National Master Naturalist Program to become certified at a professional level.
WindStar’s Wildlife Habitat Naturalist Internet e-Learning Course will help you learn how to better manage wildlife on your property, plus develop a sense of stewardship toward wildlife and a land conservation ethic.
This course can benefit: nature center staff, home schoolers, builders, developers, property owners, landscapers, scout leaders, wild bird store owners, and anyone who wants to further their appreciation of the natural world and provide more benefit to their local communities.
This past week I became aware of some shocking news: both the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Scotts Miracle-Gro was proud to announce they were partnering. In their press release on January 18, 2012 stating,
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and ScottsMiracle-Gro are announcing a new partnership to advance NWF’s nationwide Be Out There initiative to connect children with nature. As the national presenting sponsor, ScottsMiracle-Gro will enhance NWF’s programs to create green spaces and attract wildlife to backyards and communities across the country.
“During our support of the NWF’s wildlife relief work in the Gulf of Mexico, we realized how many similarities our organizations shared – and started exploring ways to work together,” said Jim Lyski, executive vice president, ScottsMiracle-Gro. “NWF offers a unique perspective that we believe can help shape our sustainability initiatives, and proactively engage thought leaders on constructively developing solutions to environmental and societal challenges. This partnership for us is about building a business that leaves our world better off than we found it.”
Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and graceful of all pollinators. Through providing safe habitats we can also support the roles that butterflies play in pollination. Butterflies need flowers in full sun that are protected from wind, preferably away from roadways.
About 75% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths. And, worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.
In the garden, keep in mind that some of the plants we plant will be eaten by butterfly caterpillars. I’ve always found that a plant eaten by them was a delight, taking the attitude of “if you build it, they will come” scenario rather than one of destruction. Because of this I plant extra, so ‘I’ can have a lush garden and so the ‘butterflies’ have more than enough to eat. Read Fast Facts for Gardeners: why pollinators are important.
It’s at the caterpillar stage of a butterflies lifecycle that it’s important to have a good field guide handy to identify them properly. Many a day in the garden I witnessed plump caterpillars eating my plants, many a future-butterfly were spared because of my field guide. One such lucky fella was the subject of the photo’s in this article. What a treat it was to go outside and watch the changes occur, which happen rather quickly (I think) considering all that’s going on.
“Adding native plantings in Riparian Areas to improve pollinator habitat makes sense in advancing our family farm’s conservation and economical objectives, enhancing beneficial wildlife and improving pollination in our orchard and garden.” ~ Lee McDaniel, Farmer and President, National Association of Conservation Districts
In their 1996 book, the Forgotten Pollinators, Buchmann and Nabhan estimated that animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops. Each of us depends on these industrious pollinators in a practical way to provide us with the wide range of foods we eat. In addition, pollinators are part of the intricate web that supports the biological diversity in natural ecosystems that helps sustain our quality of life.
Gardeners have been attracting butterflies to their gardens for some time. These insects tend to be eye- catching, as are the flowers that attract them. Position flowering plants where they have full sun and are protected from the wind. Also, you will need to provide open areas (e.g. bare earth, large stones) where butterflies may bask, and moist soil from which they may get needed minerals. By providing a safe place to eat and nest, gardeners can also support the pollination role that butterflies play in the landscape. It might mean accepting slight damage to the plants, known as host plants, that provide food for the larval stage of the butterfly.
A diverse group of butterflies are present in garden areas and woodland edges that provide bright flowers, water sources, and specific host plants. Numerous trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants support butterfly populations.
A terrific resource for learning more about which plants to consider in the garden is found at Pollinator Partnership, they have compiled free guides (PDF’s) that are quite useful, Pollinator Friendly Planting Guides (24 pages).
Moths and Butterflies as Pollinators
Butterflies, possibly the best loved of all insects, are appreciated as benign creatures that add color, beauty, and grace to our gardens. Moths, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as appreciated for their pollinating contributions. Butterflies and moths belong to the same insect order, Lepidoptera.
Formed entirely by volcanic action about 4,000 km (2,400 miles) from the nearest continental land mass, Hawai`i is the most isolated group of islands in the Pacific. Except for the Hawaiian bat, no terrestrial mammal naturally colonized the islands. Isolated from the enemies of their ancestors, Hawai`i’s native plants and animals gradually lost their natural defenses against mammalian predators.
With human settlement in Hawai`i many predator mammal species were introduced; mice and rats (carried on early sailing ships), cats (soon after Captain Cook), and the mongoose (intentionally introduced in 1883 to control rats).
Predation by rats, cats, and mongooses is considered a leading cause in the decline and extirpation of endemic Hawaiian birds. Habitat destruction and avian diseases are other important causes. Many extinct Hawaiian birds, known only from fossil remains, nested on the ground and were susceptible to predation.
Only two methods for controlling small mammals are available to land managers – trapping and 0.005% diphacinone bait placed in bait stations. Both methods, effective in small areas, are labor- and time-intensive and are impractical for large conservation areas. Scientists from Federal, State, and private organizations in Hawai`i are currently studying the ecology and biology of small mammal predators, and evaluating new control techniques, to develop management tools to lessen the impacts of these predators on native wildlife and plants.
One new tactic to protect ground nesting birds has been ‘predator-proof fencing’. Success of the first predator proof fence in the United States is producing dramatic results that may eventually lead to a resurgence in decimated seabird populations in Hawaii. The Wedge-tailed Shearwater, which nests in the remote coastal dunes on the now-fenced Kaʻena Point at the northwestern tip of O’ahu, has produced the highest number of chicks since the annual survey began in 1994.
“This is extraordinary news. It has been only eight months since the predator-proof fence was installed and already, we are seeing results. This year’s chick count of 1775 is a 14% percent increase over the previous high count in 2007 and the highest number ever recorded at the point. So far, the fence has done a great job of preventing bird predation by rats, cats, mongoose, dogs, and even mice,” said Dr. George Wallace, Vice President for Oceans and Islands at American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the leading bird conservation group in the United States. Continue reading “Great News: Predator-Proof Fencing Helps Ground Nesting Birds in Hawaii” »
“Building Green” is a two word phrase that has two parts to its\’ definition.
It means to design and build a structure in such a way that the actual construction has minimal impact on the environment including the processing of the construction materials, the movement of the materials and the physical impact it has on its’ environment.
It also means to design and build a structure in such a way that it minimally impacts the environment during use, whether it is used for housing or as a commercial structure, including light, heat and water as well as the immediate and downstream environs.
A few years ago I was reading the September issue of “New Life Journal“ (the print edition) and inside they have a section called “Green Home Resource Guide.” It highlights various so-called green technology and has an interview with someone working in the green building industry.
In this issue they talked with Maggie Leslie of the WNCGBC (Western North Carolina Green Building Council about their “Healthy Built Home” (HBH) Certification and what it means to be green. The WNCGBC says the HBH is a guideline as well as a certification.
I wholeheartedly agree that a rating system is a good idea but I differ with the way the WNCGBC has done it. A lot of the stuff they promote – such as insulation wrapping the entire unit – isn’t really all that green. It may be energy efficient but not that green.
This got me to thinking: what exactly would it take for a building to be truly green? Just from the article my gears started turning and some ideas started to crop up. This article is to start a dialog trying to pin down what it is to be building green and ways to determine how green your home is.
I’ll get the ball rolling.
Ideally, a 100% green home would…
use only materials found on site, or nearby, that requires no man-hours or fuel to be useable in the structure (does not need cut or shaped, etc.).
use only materials provided by nature (no plastic, styrofoam, fiberglass, etc).
maintain a comfortable living temperature all year round without the use of any heating or cooling source.
have enough sunlight penetration during daylight hours to do 90% of whatever you want to do without the additional use of energy to produce light. I say 90% because there are times (dependent upon what you are doing) when you will need a little extra light.
provide its’ own water without tapping into municipal mains or wells drilled into the water table.
minimize the impact its’ design has on the environment by providing at least as much new ground surface as it uses for its’ footprint.
use no power tools during construction.
requires no maintenance
Whereas, a 100% (with 0 being halfway) non-green home would…
use only materials brought great distances and/or require many man hours and a lot of fuel to prepare them to be useable in the structure.
use nothing but man made materials or extensive use of manmade chemicals in the manufacturing process.
require extensive heating and cooling systems.
be sealed so that no light can penetrate to the interior requiring extensive use of artificial light.
tap into the water table or municipal water supply.
not take into consideration the environmental impact its’ footprint has on the environment.
make use of heavy and specialized tools and equipment during construction.
require constant work to keep it in useable condition.
A 0% green home would use one half green building techniques and materials and one half non-green building techniques and materials. The two essentially balance each other so the net effect is zero.
Granted these are two extremes with the first being perfectly green and the latter, well, the absolutely worst case scenario. What would you add or subtract to the above lists? How would you calculate how green some aspect (such as a heat source or water catchment) of building green is? Would you add it to the non-green method or subtract it from the green method?
For example: for every 5 miles something has to go from source to the building site you subtract .1%, so, something that has to move 100 miles would subtract 2% for a total of 98% green. (100 / 5 * 0.1) NOTE: 5 miles is about a half hour of unobstructed, unburdened walking. It also gives an area of almost 25 square miles to search for stuff.
• It takes roughly a millennium to build an inch or two of soil.
• It takes less than 40 years, on average, to strip an inch of soil by farming in ways that are more focused on current yield than on sustaining fertility.
• A third of America’s topsoil has eroded since 1776.
In the 1970s, the United States lost 4 billion tons of soil per year.
• Roughly a third of all farmland in the world has been degraded since World War II, with annual soil erosion worldwide equivalent to the loss of 12 million hectares of arable land, or 1 percent of total arable land.
• About a third of China’s 130 million hectares of farmland is seriously eroded, and Chinese crop yields fell by more than 10 percent from 1999 to 2003, despite increasing application of synthetic fertilizers.
The Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a spectacular but declining bird of the western sagebrush. It is restricted to seven isolated locations in Colorado and one tiny population in Utah. In early 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed it under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The males have an extravagant spring display in which they puff out their bodies, fan their tails into a starburst, and make low, gurgling sounds with bizarre frog-like air sacs in their chests.
WHERE THE TREES ARE
Amount of biomass (organic carbon) stored in trees across the U.S., dark green areas the most robust forest growth.
“Soil is not usually lost in slabs or heaps of magnificent tonnage. It is lost a little at a time over millions of acres by careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be solved by heroic feats of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints.” ~ Wendell Berry
“Has it ever occurred to you that beauty depends on something being identified as ugly? Therefore, the idea of beauty produces the idea of ugliness, and vice versa.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” ~ Helen Keller