Tagged with "Winter"
Eco Anxiety Antidote
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
Giving and Taking
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:
Ways of Being Animals, Plants, Machines: The Search for a Planetary Intelligence by James Bridle
To ease your conscience about the gifts you feel obliged to give:
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.
The Ten Commitments
If the dire news of the climate crisis is making you feel overwhelmed, why not make some promises to a piece of earth. If everyone made their property, or one they frequent, into a natural refuge, there would be much less to worry about.Here are some of our promises…send us one of yours.
1. I will think of my place as my friend, my family. I will work with, not against it, and do it no harm. It will be a sanctuary.
2. I will let this place keep all that it produces: no biomass will leave the property.
3. I will make a compost pile, even if I probably won’t turn it.
4. I will carefully consider everything I bring here—can it be used for a long time, can it be composted or repurposed, does it really need to be plastic?
5. I will use no toxic synthetic chemicals.
6. I will take a moment to learn about an insect before I decide if I really need to kill it.
7. I will plant native plants to provide habitat for insects and birds.
8. I will get to know the names of all the plants, animals and insects that live in this place, or at least the big ones.
9. I will reduce the size of my lawn to just what gets used.
10. I will let go a bit, let nature be my collaborator, and help me keep my promises.
We found the PRFCT trees for your PRFCT landscape at Raemelton Tree Farm in Adamstown, MD. If you take the time and effort to manage your landscape chemical free, why would you want to start with plants already treated with them? And of course, organic plants grow better organically, so why not trees?
With over 300 tree species to choose from, there is bound to be a PRFCT tree to compliment your needs! Check out Raemelton’s 2018 Organic Tree Availability.
Raemelton's owner Steve Black started the farm in 2004 and from inception focused on sustainability and best management practices for pest control. By 2013, they created a field just for sustainability research and though it seemed outlandish this was their first step towards all-organic production. In January 2016 they became the first nursery in the country to offer USDA certified organic trees.
“Being first into the Organic landscape tree market meant that there was nobody to ask about the realities of organic production of ornamental trees. In the end we closed our eyes, gritted our teeth and jumped.”
Full Interview with Raemelton owner Steve Black
Q: How long have you been a grower and how did you come into the profession/industry?
A: I started Raemelton Farm in 2004 from scratch. I had decided to move on from my work in international affairs and going back to agriculture felt right. I grew up working on my dad’s horse farm in Ohio so it’s not as crazy a career move as it sounds. We bought the property in 2004 and put the first trees in the ground in the spring of 2005. The farm was a poorly maintained dairy operation so the soil was great but the infrastructure needed some TLC…and more than a few roll-off dumpsters!
Q: At what point in your career did you transition to organic and toxic-free?
A: From day one Raemelton has operated with more than a nod to sustainability and was a central element of the initial business plan. We instituted a real Integrated Pest Management program right off the bat. In addition to using every Best Management Practice currently available we have a robust program for researching and developing new tools, techniques, and strategies for pest management.
By 2013 things were moving along smoothly enough at the farm that we decided we might need to establish a special field just for sustainability research. We had in mind an area to test out REALLY outlandish innovative new production practices. As the thinking progressed it became clear that what we were moving toward was an actual organic field. Because of all our practices in the conventional fields…IPM, cover crops, and the use of compost, it was not that big a change to move to certified organic processes.
Q: What do you feel was the primary catalyst for that shift?
A: One of the nursery industry trade magazines ran an article about the future of organic ornamental plants just before we started thinking about it. Most of the article, and the quotes from experts and industry heavy hitters, all came down to two points. First, will any consumer really care if their new tree is certified Organic? Almost everybody reading this interview will laugh at that question! We assumed (hoped) that there would be a market for the trees. It seemed like the end consumers were ready for Organic ornamentals, even if the nursery industry wasn’t.
The second point in the article was more worrisome. Can you produce a tree in the same amount of time without sacrificing on any aesthetic standards? All the market research for organic fruits and vegetables says that people will pay a premium for organic if, and ONLY if it looks just like its conventional counterpart. An Organic ‘Charlie Brown’ tree will not work for our customers…certified or not.
The whole article implied that it was probably ‘impossible’ to do organic nursery production in a profitable way. One of the experts quoted in the article said that she didn’t think there was anybody ‘good enough’ to get certified. We had that quote blown up, printed big and hanging on the office wall for the whole three year transition period!
Being first into the Organic landscape tree market meant that there was nobody to ask about the realities of organic production of ornamental trees. In the end we closed our eyes, gritted our teeth and jumped.
Q: What do you think is the primary advantage of starting your organic landscape with clean plant material?
A: If you care enough to take the time and effort to manage your landscape using organic methods, why in the world would you start with plants already containing materials you would not allow to be used on your property?
We’re also selling what we don’t do to the environment to produce your trees. Today the production process is part of the product. People want to feel good about where, how, and by whom their purchases were produced. The certified Organic tree fills that need. People can have confidence that we didn’t create some dead zone nursery field just so they could have a pretty Black Gum tree in their front yard.
Q: Do you have a favorite tree you grow at Raemelton Farm?
A: We grow more than 300 tree species and cultivars so that’s a tough question. Really it changes from day to day and over the course of the year. Right now in winter I love the snake bark maples, like Acer pensylvanicum. Once we start to think about spring getting here I like the very early flowering plants like Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume, or Kintoki Cornel Dogwood, Cornus officinalis ‘Kintoki’. In the summer I enjoy the fruit trees. We have various things ripening over the summer so I can snack on Serviceberries early in the season, then Cherries and Peaches. Pawpaws and apples are tasty in the fall. We even have some female Date Plum, Diospiros lotus, which taste great after they’ve been through a frost or two. Fall is a really pretty time on the farm. The colors can be spectacular. From the awesome red of the Wildfire Black Gum to the rainbow leaves of the Persian Iron Wood, Parrotia persica.