Tagged with "Weeds"
Edwina von Gal’s Radicle Thinking
As we head toward the shortest, darkest days of the year, we humans always start pondering big topics, like life, death, love, thankfulness, peace, and then set out to be better in the New Year to come. I, of course, am also thinking about plants and what they have to say about the world right now. Plants are the basic stuff of our lives: We need them for food and oxygen, and wouldn’t survive without them. They also provide great beauty. They are the “lilies of the field.” They serve us all and make no judgments—but how harshly we judge some of them!
Let’s consider "invasive plants" and the warlike language we have come to use when speaking about them. I’m well aware there are places where plants are taking over in a way that is very unfair for other species, and we might need to take a bigger role in a better outcome. But let’s bear in mind that some of these plants were intentionally introduced by humans. Others hitched a ride, as we spread around the globe. Of these introduced species, some, considered naturalized like Queen Anne’s Lace, have fit right in. Others, like clover and dandelions, have been targeted by the lawn industry as weeds, when they actually improve soil quality. And then there are those plants, such as Phragmites, Japanese knotweed, and mugwort to name just a few, that are considered so sufficiently aggressive and difficult to remove that they inspire attack strategies that involve mechanical and chemical warfare (flames, electric currents, toxic chemicals, and more).
What does the language we use about invasive plants say about us? For instance, ”the war on invasives.” Does their behavior warrant the intensity of our responses? How much do the words we use affect our feelings and our management policies? It is well accepted that aggressive language can have significant negative effects on relationships, collaboration, and overall well-being, while peaceful communication leads to more positive outcomes and healthier interactions. I believe the way we talk about plants can affect the way we interact with them.
Stop and think about these words associated with plant management strategies: fight, invasive, battle, eradicate, suppress, control, exterminate, zero tolerance . . . war. Is this how we should be making plans to “help” nature? Is this why smart and devoted environmentalists feel justified to use glyphosate (Roundup’s main ingredient) and other synthetic chemical herbicides? To arm themselves for battle?
A primary goal of removing invasive species is to restore diversity; we learned this from nature itself. A diverse system is generally more stable. Ecosystems tend to evolve toward higher levels of diversity and complexity—on their own. So, why aren’t we trusting nature to do that now? Maybe we want results to happen faster because some plant is causing us some inconvenience? Maybe there is money to be made in large-scale management schemes? Surely, we do have a role to play, but maybe it is time to be less aggressive, less harmful. Maybe we are not listening closely enough. As we approach the winter solstice, let’s stop for a moment, hear the plants, recognize their lives as good, and think in peaceful terms.
[Top Photo] Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), feared and targeted for its exuberant growth potential, contains high amounts of resveratrol and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which people have used to treat mobility, immunity, and circulatory system issues. Photo by OttoBlotto from Getty Images.
About one billion pounds of conventional pesticides are used each year in the U.S. Photo by Worledit from Getty Images.
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.
If you encounter some problem that makes you want to give up, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggestion: Watch as your nature-based landscape supports more and more birds and pollinators. Start recognizing and recording them on iNaturalist and eBird, and become part of a global network of citizen scientists.
Next month: Help me prepare for Biomass Part 2. Send me your composting concerns. If you aren’t composting, why not? If you are, what worries you? Write me: email@example.com
Bonus: All you ever wanted to know about climate change.
Photo by Allan Pollok-Morris
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
Why not take advantage of this at-home opportunity to get to know your property better -- to work on your relationship? Have you spent quality time with your place, looking and listening? Learning from it. Do you understand and embrace its needs? How do you decide what is best for it? All on your terms?
Go outside and take a good look at every square foot of your place, without judgement. What is going on? What is doing just fine, and what needs you? Appreciate all that is beautiful that happened all on its own.
You and your land have been living together; is it time you took a vow to be true to it? No cheating. A relationship based on mutual input, not domination.
What does that mean? This year’s PRFCT Tips will be your guide.
Step One: Review all the maintenance and fertilizer/pesticide treatments you or your professionals have been applying to your property. What are they? Why are they needed?
Check out their health and environmental effects here: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-gateway
Or email us with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go back outside. Is your property bursting, buzzing and chirping with life? Treasure it. Make that vow: I will do this place no harm. Practice.
Is Goldenrod aggravating your allergies? Nope, not likely. How do I know? Because it has bees! Goldenrod has sticky pollen that attracts and sticks to insects who then carry it around to do the pollination thing. Alternately, wind pollinated plants have light and airy pollen that spreads by air. The only way that Goldenrod pollen is going up your nose is if you stick your face in it. The real culprit is Ragweed, whose innocuous green blooms produce billions of delicate pollen particles that can travel invisibly through the air for miles, and make millions (of people) miserable. They open at the same time as Goldenrod's bright yellow, hightly visible flowers. So guess who gets the blame?
There are close to 100 native species of Goldenrod (Solidago), some of them rather aggressive, but many are well worth considering for your garden. We love the one called “Fireworks”. And, of course, they are all great for bees, and hundreds of other beneficiall insects as well. Go Goldenrod!
And, just to be fair, Ragweed (Ambrosia) is a native plant too. It provides food for over 400 different insects.
A Sad note: I took these photos recently on a field trip in Ohio. There were farm fields all around. There was not a bee to be found.