Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Mighty Oak

My neighbor has eight oak trees (genus Quercus) growing in her yard, so it is no wonder that most of the leaves I rake and pick up are from these trees.  As I slave away each autumn, I can’t help but mutter to myself, resentfully, why does anyone would plant so many oaks in one so small property? and why do all the leaves blow over on my property and, would it not be great if some of the trees could be thinned out?  and then, I remind myself of the amazing value to wildlife that this magnificent trees are.

According to data from wildlife ecologists and entomologists, one oak tree supports 534 lepidopteran (moths and butterflies)  species alone! add hundreds of other insect herbivores -all of which are an indispensable food source for our backyard birds- and hundreds  of vertebrate wildlife who forage for acorns and are supported by them thru harsh winters and you can see what an invaluable tree the oak is.  All this data has been painstakingly collected in the Northeast region only, as documented in Douglas W. Tallamy, marvelous book  “Bringing Nature Home”.  Other important native trees to consider are willows, (genus Salix) Cherry, (genus Prunus) each supporting 456 species, and birch, (genus Betula) 413 species to name a few among the most important in our landscape. Let us celebrate our national tree the mighty oak!

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.
— Herman Hesse

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Building a Vegetable Garden

After years of resisting the urge to grow my own vegetables, I finally decided it was time to take the first step.  To me, with already 3/4 of an acre of gardens, the commitment seemed daunting.  I guess the recent reports of contaminated fruit and vegetables from around the country and the knowledge that produce that has been transported great distances and sit in warehouses and store shelves could not be as nutritious or taste as good as something you pick that day, were the convincing factors that prompted me to get started.  Have you ever taken a bite into a carrot just pulled from the soil?  It is heavenly:  flavorful, crisp and sweet… those are the thoughts that have motivated me.

And so the project has started.  The decision to build raised beds was made after careful consideration of the site:  It is a fairly laveled and sunny parcel but it is at the bottom of a moderate hill so it tends to be a wet spot.  With raised beds it is possible to control drainage and soil quality.  Eight boxes, made of 10″x2″ cedar or non-treated wood,  ranging in size from 8’x4′, 6’x4′, and 4’x4′, with three feet of space all around.  I lined them with 10 ply newspaper layers to kill the grass only inside the boxes for now.  Here is how they look after 2″ of compost went in.

Next, they are going to be filled with mushroom manure and will sit for the winter.  In my area deer are very active at this time of the year and all winter, so planting anything on the boxes before the fence goes in,

will be like inviting them to keep on coming.  The plan is to build a fence all around the beds very early in spring before the planting season starts.

So, October was spent putting one garden to bed and starting a big project for the next growing season.  I love working outside on the crisp days of autumn.  I feel like if I could hold on to the light of day and make it last as long as I can, winter will delay, we know that will not happen, but I used the time well:   Compost piles were harvested to start the vegetable boxes and make room for the mulched leaves and all the scraps from the perennial gardens that will turn into soil amendments for the beds next fall.  Perennials were divided and replanted and after getting great deals at some of the local nurseries, new shrubs purchased and planted.

“Open your eyes that you may see the wonder that around you lies; it will enrich your every day and make you glad and kind and wise”   -Emma Boge Whisenand-