04.06.12 Down in the valley

We will use this geranium population as parent stock for both seed and cuttings to develop locally sourced geranium plants that are nursery propagated.

Geranium maculatum in the valley near the beeches.


09.24.11 Salvia azurea

¾ inches of rain.

Took pictures of Salvia azurea This is in the east propagation field.  The plant is amazing, grown to 12 or 13 feet tall, a leafy spire covered in sky blue flowers an inch across.   These tall wands of blue flowers do a wonderful bow and dance in any passing breeze.  Skippers seem to be visiting the flower, didn’t notice a lot of other pollinator activity.  Will keep my eyes on it. Like many salvias, this member of the mint family is a “clumper” not a “thug” or a “runner.”

Just look at this flower, it’s got a wonderful bright sky blue color.


07.09.11 Using paper mulch to kill weeds and set up planting areas.

Paper mulch weed block.

1 ½ inches of rain.  Installed paper in front beds.  8 ½ feet wide by 167 feet long.

This post describes a passive method of killing weeds or invasive plants and setting up a planting area.  It works pretty well as long as you do not till the ground after setting up the paper and mulch.

This year we have moved to using heavy brown paper with 4-6 inches of mulch or compost layered on top.   As we are not tilling the beds, the weed-seed bank should stay mostly undisturbed.  Dead woody debris is being used to hold the paper in place until the mulch can be layered on top.  The wood will be left behind to serve as moisture and mycology “reservoir” as well as serving the gradual enrichment of the soil.

Topping off the paper mulch with compost.

Although you can plant immediately after situating the paper and finished compost with this method, I prefer to let the paper and compost smother the weeds first, about 8 weeks to make certain.  That way, when setting out the plants, weeds aren’t poking through the holes that are made by planting actvities.  This method works well on forbes, plants that do not have perennial wooden stems or trunks.  It has worked very well to control Lespedizia in the beds.

Please note:  you don’t need a tractor to do this.  You can use any uncoated paper to use as a weed block, newspaper is great, rolls of kraft paper work, as well as rolls of specialty paper made for this purpose sold by organic garden vendors.

The finished bed is about 170 feet long.

The previous year we used plastic to solarize the beds to rid them of weeds.  The plastic became a problem.  Not only is it expensive, but during the process of solarizing of course it has to stay exposed to massive amounts of UV during the hottest part of the year when the sun is it’s most intense.  At the end of the solarization period, not surprisingly, the plastic was so brittle that it was virtually impossible to pick all of it up – it kept breaking apart in our hands.   It was hours of additional work trying to get these tiny shreds picked  out of the beds.  The Lespedezia and sweet gum saplings were not completely eradicated by this method.  I think their roots may have been too deep to have been fully cooked.

It takes about 2 months for the beds to be ready to prep for planting with the solarization method.  

11.10.10 Why the logs?

2 ½ inches rain. 

Mike and I finished lining the down hill side of each of the propagation beds in the East Field with coarse woody debris (CWD).  Placing dead logs on the downhill side of each bed to helps keep compost and mulch from washing downhill, but also has many beneficial qualities to lend to your garden soil. 

Three important reasons to use coarse dead wood:
1.  The decayed wood serves as a reservoir for moisture.  Larger pieces of dead wood have a more significant moisture retaining capacity than smaller pieces, and release this moisture to the soil slowly throughout dry spells.  Large woody debris improves the overall moisture retention and structure of soil.  

2.  This moisture retaining capacity of dead wood also creates an important refuge for beneficial organisms like mycorhizzae, allowing them to retreat into the moist wood and survive dry spells; these organisms will more effectively recolonize soils when conditions improve.   

3.   As fungi and decomposer species of mushrooms break down the log, the decomposition activity can actually increase the amount of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus that the deadwood holds.  Insects and other wood-eating arthropods digest (with the help of micro-organisms) the complex organic molecules that make up wood, and return this more accessible, simplified nutrient matter back to the soil as droppings (or frass).

Eventually the logs will become soil themselves.

Work cited:  
“The Ecological Role of Coarse Woody Debris.” EcoForestry, the Art and Science of Sustainable Forest Use.  Ed.  Drengson, Alan Rike and MacDonald Taylor, Duncan.  Gabriola Island, New Society Publishers. 1997.  91, 92.

There is also a good article on Coarse Woody Debris and it’s importance on Wikipedia.


08.29.10 Invasive species tick list, solarizing update.

Invasive species on property:
·      Front pasture: 10 acres, lespedezia, johnson grass, privet, china berry, honeysuckle, kudzu is gone.
·      East propagation pasture: Honeysuckle, Lespedezia.
·      Creek drainage: Microstegium, honeysuckle, Lespedezia in sunny areas.
·      North area of ring road: Kudzu, Lespedezia.
·      West pasture: Johnson grass, Lespedezia.
·      South end of ring road: Lespedezia.
·      Lespedezia under clear solarizing plastic is not dying off very much.
Interestingly, the lespedezia that was treated first with black plastic for several weeks and subsequently with clear plastic had better die off.
Found two more Asclepias divaricata on property near western culvert.

07.18.10 Solarization in the East Field

I’ve read several articles on solarization that were released by county extension services in various parts of the country.  It seems that clear plastic is more effective than black plastic, according to a couple of studies done over the past decade. 

Note:  The black plastic on the left was installed June 25th; most everything under the black plastic was dead.  Rain had pulled the plastic back in some places, despite the use of landscape staples every two feet.

Plastic that was put down on 7.6 had partially killed the grass. 

July 18th, Mike and I pull up the black plastic and put down the correct clear material.  We also adjusted the angle of the beds to better accommodate the slope of the hill.  There are six beds, about 12 feet wide ranging from 20-30 feet wide. I have left 6 feet between beds for the tractor to navigate between the plots (it is a small tractor), it may not be enough room.

Collected Antennaria plantaginea and Pityopsis gramminifolia today.  Possibly found a lily near the Antennaria.  Marked both with flagging.  They are both along a deer trail at the top of the north facing bluff along the creek.