Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Kiss the Ground

 If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend you make it a top priority. 



Every person on this planet should be aware how serious our predicament is - that we only have only 60 years of topsoil left unless we change our farming practices.

The good news? We know what to do, we just have to do it.

Regenerative agriculture is fascinating and will undoubtedly influence gardening practices. In fact, I have signed on to the waitlist for a class from the film's producers on bringing regenerative practices to the home garden. Should be interesting when it is available.

My local Master Gardener chapter is going to show the film to our members and host a discussion afterwards. If you are interested in doing something similar, check out the film's website for more information. 






Monday, March 22, 2021

The Living Landscape - a book review

The Living Landscape

Designing for beauty & biodiversity in the home garden.

Authors: Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
Publisher: Timber Press, 2014


In my humble opinion Douglas Tallamy is a bona-fide rock star of the gardening world. And, this amazing fellow is not even a horticulturalist by trade!

In 2007 Tallamy published “Bringing Nature Home” his seminal work on gardening with nature in mind that, according to the National Wildlife Federation, “…changed the conversation about gardening in (North) America.” Tallamy awakened readers to the connection between their personal plant choices and massive declines in North American wildlife populations. Rather than dish out blame, Tallamy presents his readers with an opportunity and a solution: plant more native plants.

In 2020 he published the accessible and powerful New York Times bestseller “Nature’s Best Hope”. In this compelling follow up he expands his thinking beyond the individual garden bed. Tallamy invites readers to become a part of a networked community and a movement to save the world.

As highly as I recommend both of these books (but if you have to choose one, choose his most recent: “Nature’s Best Hope”), there is a level of detail missing for avid gardeners. In 2014’s The Living Landscape Tallamy teams up with accomplished landscape designer and photographer Ricke Darke for a detailed exploration of how to successfully implement a gardening strategy respectful and supportive of nature, while maintaining a functional and beautiful landscape.

I applaud their practical approach.

While some advocates for rewilding our urban environments like the UK’s Mary Reynolds call for handing the land back over to nature, Darke & Tallamy provide a much more workable solution: space that accommodates both humans and nature. This is an approach to saving the world embraced by the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. These organizations and many more recognize that you and I are a ‘part of’ and not ‘apart from’ nature. They know a personal connection can be the spark igniting a lifelong passion for protecting nature and how one’s own yard can contain nature enough to provide that spark.
Luckily for all of us, the feedback loop for gardeners is fast; there is still a chance for millions of North Americans to personally reconnect with nature at home. Incorporate the thinking outlined by Tallamy & Darke and nature will respond. And quickly.

Tallamy & Darke use the framework of layers, going beyond the physical layers Master Gardeners will be familiar with (canopy, understory, etc.) to include ‘temporal’ layers which ensure people’s needs are accounted for as well.

The first third of the book focuses on gardening-ecology. The pair then shifts gears to provide practical examples from Darke’s time spent designing Living Landscapes. With ample photos they show us examples from Longwood Gardens (near Philadelphia) where Darke worked for nearly 20 years and from his own personal gardens. Practising what they preach, the pair uses their framework of layers to explore what Darke has been able to achieve in creating functional, beautiful landscapes that celebrate and nurture wildlife.

The final section of the book takes a deep dive into plants for the “mid-Atlantic” region. While some plants can also be found in our ecozone, there are better resources to delve into if you are interested in the ecological role of plants native to our ecoregion.

I have read this book twice (the second time skipping past the deep dive into Mid-Atlantic plants), and “two-thumbs up” recommend it for anyone looking to help heal the world through their gardening. You have more power to help than you may know!

Unlike Tallamy’s other books this is a bona-fide coffee table book, but unlike many coffee table books, this one is not only beautiful, it will also make you smarter.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Updated Front Habitat Map - feedback welcome

 

The latest iteration; there have been many since I last posted.... 


Ultimately I have removed everything full sun and will reconsider for phase 2. 
And whereas initially I was very much interested in trying many new plants, I am not okay including plants I already have in my yard, know will work and will create repetition, tying different parts of the property together. 

For example, I doubled down on Culver's Root, which I love and which was listed as threatened in 2001 under Manitoba's Endangered Species Act. I also added our native Bee Balm which will look smashing beside the purple cultivars of Culver's Root I have selected and be an absolute smorgasbord together for pollinators.

Please don't hesitate to provide feedback, I enjoy hearing from the gardening community.



Here is a key of the plants I have planned. 
Culver's Root, Creeping Dogwood & Joe Pye have been ordered.
I'll need to order others soon to ensure I am not left empty handed!

Monday, February 22, 2021

North American Native Plant Society

 Today I joined the North American Native Plant Society.


In my search to find like-minded people out to save the planet, and to learn more about native plant gardening, I have joined with a 5 year membership. 

I am very much aligned with their mission:

"Our key purpose is to provide information and inspire an appreciation of native plants with an aim to restoring healthy ecosystems across the continent. It is our belief that nature belongs in urban, suburban, and rural areas as much as in remote areas."

I look forward to continued learning along with my new friends from across North America. 





Wednesday, February 10, 2021

My native vs non-native ratios per garden

I have gone ahead and added ratios to each garden bed on my property. Rather than review each list of plant materials exhaustively which seemed a momentous task, I gave myself 5 minutes to come up with my gut perception of each bed.

So these ratios will change not only as I update my beds but they may also change as I make the time to review their make up more closely. 

Nonetheless it feels great being one step closer to having my starting point defined on this journey to sustainable gardening.

 

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Defining My Starting Point

 


I have a goal of 70% productive plants in my yard. 

To have the impact I'd like this to have, my definition of 'plants' needs to include my non-native lawn

On the advice of ecology's rock star Doug Tallamy, I am focusing my energy on reducing my lawn above all else. Only after I establish the new beds in my front yard will I return my attention to the rest of my gardens and begin 'weeding out' the non-native plants and replacing them with natives*.

To understand where I am starting from, and how far I have to go, I am taking some simple steps many gardeners might enjoy, some of which I've been meaning to do for years.

Step 1Complete: map all of my gardens. Thanks Google Street View.

Step 2: assign square footage to each bed - this one I've been avoiding even though I am quite curious.  It's not like I dislike math, but this task has lingered... and lingered.

Step 3: put a percentage against the amount of native plants in each bed. 

Step 4: calculate the total square footage and %-per-bed to get an overall % for my property.

Steps 3 & 4 I will repeat on an annual basis, giving myself a 'report card' of sorts on progress towards my goal. 

To help measure the success of my plans I will also continue using iNaturalist to document the fauna in my yard since ultimately my goal is about defending biodiversity. I've already seen an increase in life as I have moved towards natives and want to have concrete documentation to back up my anecdotal experience.

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*I sometimes use "productive" and sometimes "native". What gives? While I will generally look to use native plants, if there is documented proof a plant can play an ecological role in my garden, such as Globe Thistle which is beloved by pollinators, I am open to including it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Here's to continuous education! I've Registered for Ryerson's Landscape Design Certificate Program

I am taking this program for a few reasons:
  • the most obvious? I am crazy about gardening 
  • I love to certify; it's in my nature to set and achieve goals and programs like this give me direction
  • in my overall effort to think about how we as a society will successfully shift our traditional approach to urban/suburban landscaping, it is vital for me to truly understand what is being taught to today's landscape professionals
I am particularly interested in these elective options:
  • Ecology and Sustainable Landscapes
  • Landscape Restoration


 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Front Habitat Draft 2 - thanks for the community feedback

With lots of feedback from an engaged Facebook group on native Manitoba plants I have made some revisions to my garden map. Before I share the updated version though I'd like to share this overview of my front yard. 

It conveys more information about how the light falls and which views might be important, such as out our front windows and for guests arriving up the driveway and sidewalk. 


Feedback from gardeners with experience with these native plants has led me to reconsider 3 areas so far: my grass choices, the degree to which I can support plants needing moist conditions and to not forget to check. Every. Single. Plant. for how deer and rabbit feel about it. 



Water

In 'phase 2' I may create the physical environment for plants needing wet conditions, for now though Ridell's Goldenrod has been replaced by Showy and Stiff Goldenrod and Turtlehead's departure will allow me to expand my patch of Culver's Root. 

Grasses
Canada Wild Rye has been replaced by Big Bluestem and Panic Grass. Big Bluestem being better behaved in the garden and Panic Grass not needing as much light as I'd previously thought.

Critters
Try as I might to vet all my plants for rabbit and deer preference, sometimes my enthusiasm gets the better of me and I simply forget to check. While I may still add a few violets, I will not use them as a ground cover en masse and will need to find a replacement. Sweet Scented Bedstraw is a consideration, but even though it is listed as deer resistant I don't believe it is rabbit resistant.

If you have any recommendations on ground covers native to Manitoba or any other thoughts, please don't hold back. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Feedback Welcome - draft habitat revealed!

Ta da!

I have a draft of what my new 550 sq ft front habitat garden bed will look like. 

While the shape is settled, consider it effectively a blank slate.  I encourage you to share your own thoughts about the design with me in the comments. 

Primary goals?

Save the planet. Do my part to combat our biodiversity crisis.

Increase the amount of habitat on my property using native plants.

Reducing the least productive and least sustainable portion of my greenspace, the lawn.

Secondary goal?

Maintain the look of a curated perennial garden. 

To broadly shift consumer behaviour it will become increasingly important for people to be inspired by beautiful home gardens with primarily native plants. To that end:

  • I've already arranged for my home to be on a garden tour this year, so gardeners can imagine making similar changes to increase biodiversity in their own yards. Yes, even with a newly planted bed.
  • I will be doing a presentation for the Prairie Naturals Gardening Group in April on integrating native plants into your home garden.

In October I took the first big step by putting in the new (lasagna) garden bed. Racing against the changing seasons, I finished just as the snow fell. There is no better incentive to plan a garden than to have the empty bed prepped and ready for next season.


This is where you come in. 
If you have experience working with native plants from Manitoba, or thoughts on overall design, feel free top speak up. I value feedback from the broader gardening community. Now is the time to make changes to the design - before I start buying any plants!
 
Don't worry about the number of plants this design is not to scale...yet.



All feedback is welcomed, in particular:

  • Which plants can easily and effectively begin with direct sowing this spring?
    • Violets? Bloodroot?
  • Will the Turtlehead be moist enough?
  • Will the Obedient plant get enough sun?
  • Where can I buy local native orchids?
  • Are there endangered plants and animals I can create specific habitat for?

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


Derek