Happy Winter! We have already had the snowiest December on record with 33.4 inches in the Twin Cities and winter has just started. A benefit to us gardeners and our plants is that we have a thick blanket of insulation that warms the ground and helps defend against sun scald. With this wintry wonderland, it is a great time to catch up on our garden reading, designing and planning for the New Year. For Ecological Gardens, 2010 was the "year of Urban Agriculture" that included a variety of local food landscaping projects, including Cornerstone Rooftop Farm, Kensington Edible gardens, Lily Springs Farm and our residential customers. We are thankful for our full plate and look forward to even more local ag projects in 2011. I invite you to attend some upcoming events and conferences, found at the bottom of this newsletter, to push your garden minds even further. If you start to feel the winter blues, I suggest finding a local conservatory or greenhouse and taking in some warm fresh oxygen, opening a jar of preserved food from your summer garden or cracking some seed catalogs also seems to bring hope during a frozen month.
Happy New Year,
- Lindsay Rebhan, gardener and designer
Winter Tree Care
This year's snowy season should help minimize winter injury. When snow covers trees and plants, they are less likely to incur any winter damage. When the snow ends, it exposes branches to freezing ice, wind and sun. If you notice some reddish-brown on your conifers, typically on the west and south sides - there is winter damage. Often these signs do not show up until late spring. If the entire tree is turning reddish-brown, it more likely has suffered drought. The winter sun can warm needles and bark, activating cells and releasing water, which then results in tissue damage when temps drop and ice forms. For all conifers it is important to wait until budbreak to prune any damage areas. Although the needles might be falling out and tree looking poor, if you wait until budbreak you will be able to accurately see where the damage ends.
Hardwood trees show signs of winter injury typically by cracks along the trunk and branches. These cracks can expose the tree to pests and disease later in the season. The best management is prevention for hardwoods, which includes wrapping the trunks, deep mulching roots, and planting smaller plants around the tree on the south and west sides. For thin bark trees and newly planted trees, it is recommended they be wrapped for at least 2 winters.
Winter tree injury is a fact of life for trees in cold areas of the country, but it need not be fatal with adequate protection and maintenance. When spring comes, proper watering, compost and mulching will help bring the tree back to full life.
This Perennial Land
We are excited to announce the release of Paula Westmoreland's and Lansing Shepard's book: This Perennial Land. The books tells the story of Paula and Lansing's 3 year journey around Minnesota and Iowa's greater Blue Earth watershed, including the cultural and ecological history of the land. You will be stunned by the photography and map resources. This Perennial Land offers solutions for our stressed agricultural landscape, including perennial "third crops", increasing water storage in marginal lands, controlled drainage systems, cover crops and increased crop rotations. This book is for nature lovers, scientists, farmers, landowners, activists, nonprofits, legislators and policy makers.
Minnesota's Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie wrote a wonderful forward for the book. Ritchie writes, "For anyone who loves this land and the people, this book will seem like manna from Heaven. Here is a work not only about our current dilemma, but about a future that draws on the best parts of an all-but-forgotten past - a time in history lost to most of us. It introduces us to an extraordinary collection of people who are daring to try new ways of using the land while working hard to strengthen their ecological assets and protect the overall environment".
This Perennial Land has a website to learn more: www.thisperennialland.com including an interactive map of the Blue Earth watershed and will be posting news and events regarding the book.
Inspiring words from the book's Afterward, written by Dan Imhoff, author of Farming with the Wild and founder of Wild Farm Alliance: "It's actually not that difficult to imagine a different narrative for modern agriculture. Where the healing of watersheds and natural systems keeps pace or moves even faster than our priorities for agriculture. Where every farm is scaled and adapted...to the specific conditions of its location. Where millions of acres of annual food and feed crops are replaced by deep-rooted perennials, which sustain the soil along with location-appropriate numbers of grazing animals. Where farmers and landowners in a given region are actively engaged in maintaining the health of their watersheds, maximizing the amount of surrounding native habitat and native species, and building strong local food production capacities as a foundation of the regional economy".
Buy the Book here or find it in local bookstores and online.
Our animal friends are equipped to handle winter weather better than us, but it always helps to give them a little boost. Here are some ideas for lending a helping hand to the animal world during winter.
- Provide a source of water. Heated bird baths or water bowls help wildlife when drinking water is scarce.
- Provide additional shelter. Add a few bird houses to your property and see who moves in. Brush piles are also a welcome shelter for small animals.
- Provide additional food. Providing natural seeds and berries from your trees, shrubs and perennials is best. For additional calories, put a blend of bird seed out for feeding. Bird seed can also help you from slipping on the driveway/sidewalk ice.
- Use nontoxic antifreeze. Purchase nontoxic antifreeze with propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol, which kills animals even in small doses.
- Use a salt free ice melt. If you need to melt ice, look for an eco-friendly one, read the ingredient list and avoid sodium chloride which kills plants/soil, hurts animals and the water system and damages hardscapes over time. Other items that add traction to an icy area are sand, kitty litter, ashes, and saw dust.
Imagination Becomes Design
Are you taking time out this winter to dream about what your property potential could be? Do you have an urban spot that you would like to add local foods to? Do you need some advice on how to capture water or make your landscape more efficient and beautiful? Winter is a perfect time to imagine and design what you want to enjoy this coming season. At Ecological Gardens we take the time to assess your needs and your landscape in order to design beautiful plant communities that become self-sustaining.
Thank You for the Abundant Year in 2010
We had an abundant year at Ecological Gardens in 2010 and would like to thank those who made it possible! Thank you to all of our customers and crew who collaborated with us to make a more sustainable environment in the Twin Cities area. We look forward to what 2011 brings!