If you use a landscaper for the maintenance of your property, the beginning of the year is contract renewal time. Of course you are probably starting this year anxious about your health and the environment and you aren’t sure whether signing up for a weekly dose of noise and poison in your yard is the best thing to do. It just doesn’t quite feel right, which adds to your eco-anxiety. But instead of worrying more, you could use this moment to do good. Guaranteed good for the environment, and super healthy for you and your family.
You just need to ask your landscaper to do things a bit differently by switching to nature-based practices. He/she may not know how, and chances are, you don’t know either. So who does know? Sadly, there are very few nature-based landscapers, and there probably isn’t anyone better for you to hire than the one you have got. So unless they flatly refuse to try, don’t fire them. Let’s engage and train the ones we’ve got, and send the message out that this is the future of land care. It is healthier for them too.
Everything you need to get started is in our PRFCT LeafLet Basics of Nature-Based in English and Spanish. For a typical annual maintenance schedule, which you can use as the basis of your new contract, go straight to page 21 – review it with your landscaper. It should not cost more, there are no products to purchase.
What is nature-based? Here’s the nutshell: Healing, not Harming. Let nature do the nurturing.
- No toxic fertilizers or insecticides. Fertilizers overstimulate plants and make them susceptible to disease. The right plant for your soil, doesn’t need them. Insecticides are not target specific, they kill beneficial insects and soil organisms. You don’t depend on your landscape to eat, so why not share it with a host of wonderful life forms that could find refuge there?
- Retain, recycle and reimagine all biomass. Keep what your property produces (grass clippings, leaves, twigs, weeds, etc.) and feed it back to the soil. It is the food your place made for itself. Better than anything you can buy, and without the carbon footprint. (See PRFCT Lawn Basics for more).
- Plant at least 2/3 native plants. Plants did fine without us humans for eons, so if you plant the ones that evolved in your conditions, they will still be fine with very little from you. Plus, they provide just the right food and shelter for local birds and pollinators. (See 2/3 for the Birds for more).
- Avoid and remove invasive plants. Get to know which plants are invasive. (See the Invasive Plant Atlas for more). Don’t buy them. Remove and replace any you have already got. (See Beyond Pesticides for more).
- Water properly. Very seldom. Very deep. Over-watering is one of the most common landscape malpractices. It leads to a wide range of plant and soil problems and promotes tick and mosquito populations.
- Minimize pruning. Every cut is a wound. Plant with plenty of space for trees and shrubs to grow to their natural shapes. Leave deadwood and standing dead trees, unless positioned dangerously, they provide unique food and nesting opportunities.
- Relax and enjoy. Your landscape is not your living room; forcing it to be tidy, clipped, and fixed in time is “dead room.” Let it be alive; always changing and creating new surprising delights for you.
Keep in mind, your landscaper doesn’t necessarily know any more about this than you do. So make sure he/she understands that this is an adventure in earth friendly relationships and as long as they are willing to truly commit to the practices, you will be happy. It is a whole new way to relate to your land.
Hooray, eco-anxiety reduction in action! You are doing something unquestionably good for the earth. (Not to mention yourself, your family, and your pets). Once you get started, you will find there was nothing to fear. It is all fascinating, joyous, and beautiful.
Photo by Allan Pollok-Morris
I am writing this on Dec 21, the winter solstice. The shortest day, the longest night, the cusp of reawakening, the time of reckoning. The traditional time to share gifts to reinforce relationships and make sure that our future is bright. But, the gift thing is not what it used to be. Neither is the future.
Rather than the ancient version; thanking, praising, and gifting the earth to ensure that the systems that sustain us will be reborn as the days grow longer, we have turned our back on nature and share gifts between ourselves. Gifts that celebrate our ability to give, our personal resources. For mother nature, not much to celebrate: it’s all at her expense. Ouch, naughty, not nice.
Let’s do some seasonal reckoning. How is this working out?
We have achieved something no other species has managed to do: In our attempts to take total control over nature, we have “put nature firmly back in charge”* The result? We are facing some serious challenges.
Does this sound scary for the future of us? Yes and no. What if we look at it as a fantastic gift? What if Nature is handing us some plain language about being nice to her, hoping we will get the message before things get too messy, and step into the future with her? What if this is the message we will finally get? It is a very big gift. Can we reach out for it? Can we embrace the natural world, without fear, and with a dedication to cooperation? We have all we need to do it: reconnecting with the wisdom of the past and blending it with up-to-the-moment science. We probably can ensure our species’ health and happiness without harming earth’s complex systems.
The gift of the future is right outside your door. There is so much there for you, it’s all in how you take, and how you give.
Your year ahead. Naughty or Nice?
*with a nod to Marcia Bjornerud and Elizabeth Kolbert
If you need the naughty future spelled out for you:
A dense, delightful and endlessly surprising book, well worth the deep dive:
To ease your conscience about the gifts you feel obliged to give:
It’s Fall and here comes the Plant Biomass -- leaves, twigs, tumbling grasses, and the last of the fluffy seedheads. Biomass is all the organic stuff your property makes and, in the PRFCT world, gets to keep…all for itself. Plant biomass provides habitat for insects and adds decomposing matter, which makes healthy soil, which feeds healthy plants, which makes more biomass. That’s the way of the food web loop.
We are all hearing about Leave the Leaves, so while we are figuring out how to do that, why not just do it all, and close the loop: save ALL your biomass? Imagine: No biomass sent to the landfill; no fertilizers, mulch, or compost bought in. Nothing your property makes is treated as garbage. Total harmony, perfect balance, major good for the planet, and for you.
Leaves alone can be a challenge to manage, and they degrade quickly, what about the longer lasting stuff: Twigs, branches, even whole trees; how to find a place for them? ARTFULLY!
Leaves: Chop (when dry!) with a mower and leave as many as possible on the lawn. Next batch can go into planting beds, chopped or not. All the rest – compost. Chopping does damage to insects tucked in for the winter, like Fireflies and Luna Moths, so please do keep that in mind.
Twigs: Make habitat piles as ephemeral art. Wrens and Thrushes especially like having such places to hide from predators and nasty weather.
Every place’s pile has its own personality. The bigger a garden, the more biomass it makes. The more habitat it hosts.
Branches: Get them chipped and use them for garden paths and for smothering difficult weeds.
Get inventive! Every fall, every fallen branch, every invasive shrub cut down, a new opportunity.
Trees: Log piles make great dividers and screens, plus habitat for native bees, chipmunks, and snakes. Yes, you really do need snakes, they eat voles.
Stumps: The heart of a Hügel, (the hill in HügelKulture) PRFCT Earth style. Place stumps and funky logs in a shallow hole. Cover with twigs, sod/soil, leaves, compost, whatever needs a place to decompose. Wet it all down well. Plant a cover crop, or finish with an imaginative use of biomass, like more twigs, or leaves. The stump, deep in the center of it all, emanates moisture and feeds the biome. Artful decomposition.
Meadow and Flower Bed Cuttings (late spring): Haystacks! So many wonderful ways to make them– old sticks can get used up inside…also handy for smothering weeds.
Surely you have heard about leaving the leaves by now. So, of course, we want to take you to the next level—leaving pretty much everything. Every seed head of every tree, shrub, grass and flowering plant is a potential food source or shelter for wildlife. Standing (and resting) vegetation protects the soil and all that lives on or in it. There is a lot of life going on that you can help to make it through the winter.
So please don’t mow that meadow, don’t chop plants down and remove them from the garden. Every cut is a wound, and a loss. Why not see it all differently—less work and, in your newly winter watchful eye, a place full of beauty, and life, and wonder.
For reasons both good and bad, the environment is so in fashion.
Earth Day is BIG.
Lots of causes, lots of requests. I am asking too. But, not for a donation; not to sign a petition; but for something not to do.
Please don’t spray your yard for ticks and mosquitos.
Why? Because there is no proof that it reduces tick borne diseases. (https://www.caryinstitute.org/science/tick-project) And because tick sprays (even the organic ones) kill much more than ticks: they kill butterflies, and bees and fireflies. They aren’t good for you, either (https://www.nytimes.com/2019)
What to do?
Spray yourself: You are the target, so put the spray where it is of max effect and minimum harm: on you and your clothing.
Check yourself: The most effective preventive measure of all. Property spray programs give people a false sense of security and they stop being vigilant. There is no way that blasting your garden with a pesticide can guarantee that you are never going to encounter a tick, but it sure will mess with the lives of your pollinators and birds.
Please take a moment this Earth Day think about it. If it is safer for you, your family, pets and the earth, why wouldn’t you spray yourself, not your yard? Choose a spray with picaridin, it’s not “organic” but it is least toxic and very effective. (EWG.org)
And, if you haven’t already, check out Two Thirds for The Birds www.234birds.org, and learn more beautiful actions you can take, for free, to help the health of the planet, you and your pets.
Tues May 4, Free Webinar: basic toxic free landscaping Edwina von Gal/Rodale Institute
Weds May 19 Presentation: Holly Merker, author of “Ornitherapy” and Edwina von Gal, PRFCT Earth Founder, hosted by Southampton Arts Center https://southamptonartscenter.z2systems.com/np/clients/southamptonartscenter/event.jsp?event=223