Thursday, June 27, 2013

Co-existing with Nature

There is a conflict between nature and designed human space.  We like to have our nature neatened up and easily readable with beautiful plants arranged just so.  Nature is just do what it needs to survive, with each of its members seeking out their basic needs: food, shelter and reproduction.  Conflict arises when our focal plantings become a meal or natures breeding habitat becomes a lawn.

In putting in our new garden and new plantings I have been trying to work with nature to achieve my design goals and keep our vegetables ‘safe’ without destroying too much habitat or employing chemical weaponry. 

The double fence has been keeping the deer at bay.  The outer border has been planted with seedlings of
pollinator-friendly perennials.  I may not get too many flowers this year as these plants get established.

To help control garden insects I have left some meadow areas intact that provide habitat for predatory insects.  I have also planted a border around the garden with pollinator friendly plants.  In selecting these plants I chose ones that are listed as deer-resistant.  To combat the beetle population I have a jug of soapy water.  This works well on some of the bugs whose escape strategy is to drop to the ground.  I just hold the jug under them and they drop in when nudged.

Here are some photos of predatory insects that are in the yard.  In addition to these I have seen the 6-spotted Tiger Beetle, very cool!
This nymph of a Wheel Bug looks like something from
the movie, Starship Troopers.
This 2-inch mantid was hopping from stem to stem in a patch of
moss phlox as I was looking for a Tiger Beetle.

Compared to the green sweat flies, Long-legged flies are aptly named.  
This 1/2 inch fly is a general insect predator.

Most of the landscape plantings I have selected are not deer favorites.  For those plants that are on the deer’s menu I have been using repellents that are either scent-based (putrescent eggs) or taste-based (capsaicin/hot pepper).  The hot pepper spray seems to be effective at getting the deer or rabbits to stop feeding on a plant even after they have gotten a first taste. 

You can tell deer damage by the ragged edges they leave where they tear off leaves and stems (deer don't have upper incisors).  Rabbits have sharp teeth and will leave a clean cut, or they will consume a plant right to the ground.  

The following are lists of plants that have I have put in that are 1, deer candy; 2, occasionally browsed; 3, not bothered by deer.  It is still early in the season and these comments are based on how they treat the foliage.  Flowers will be another subject (see some comments).  While it is risky to proclaim a plant to be deer proof, I have not seen any damage to the plants on this list (yet).

The buds on this Magnolia were being eaten off
until I put on the chicken wire cage 
1.  Heavily Browsed
Apios americana 
Helianthus tuberosus 
Magnolia virginiana 
Rudbekia triloba 
Campanulastrum americanum* 
Zizia aurea

*These were very small and eaten to the ground so rabbits or some other critters were responsible for this damage. 

The pinnate leaves of the ground nut have been
chewed off in more exposed locations

This Jerusalem Artichoke was being browsed to the ground until the fences went up.
Now (June 27) these are 6-7 feet tall.

This Filipendula was nearly ready to bloom when the deer
ate off most of the upper growth.  Note the rough edge
where the deer ripped off the tip of the plant.

2.  Occasionally Browsed
Achillea millefolium (flowers were removed, the foliage was left behind)
Aronia melanocarpa 
Hibiscus moscheutos (just once)
Filipendula rubra (just once leaves and flower buds, not after hot pepper spray) 
Lobelia siphilitica 
Physostegia virginiana 
This Hibiscus had the tips chewed off, but no more
damage since I applied some hot pepper spray.
Rudbeckia hirta 

(The Lobelia had been untouched until yesterday.)

3.  Resistant, so far
Aquilegia canadensis 
Asclepias tuberosa 
Asclepias incarnata 
Ceoanthus americanus 
Chamaecrista fasciculata  
Chelone glabra 
Dicentra eximia 
Hedeoma pulegiodes 
Iris versicolor 
Monarda didyma 
Monarda fistulosa 
Monarda punctata 
Spiraea alba 

As far as keeping the critters out of the garden, the double fence method is still working.  I’ve been able to harvest snap peas, lettuce, chard and collards, so far.

I did notice some evidence of moles digging around the property.  For these I put down a perimeter treatment of MoleMax, a castor oil based product that moles and other burrowing species do not like. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Discovering My Invasives

As we are coming into late spring and I have been marveling about all the native plants I have found a crop of invasive plants has manifested themselves.  I know some of these were lurking out there, others were plants that I had misidentified, but have now reveled themselves now that they are in bloom.  Here a run down on what I've got, but wish I hadn't, and I plan to do about it.

Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora, is scattered around the property, mostly in the woodland edges.  These roses can be identified by their frilly stipules (leafy appendages at the base of the petioles), but now are very obvious by the clusters of fragrant, small white flowers.  I had hoped that I had some native roses out in the field, but so far it looks like they are all Multifloras.

Left to its own Multiflora Rose will send stems high into a tree.  
For the plants out in the open I am continuing to mow over them.  For the more established plants I will cut and treat the stumps with concentrated Round-Up in August.  I will do an earlier cut on some plants to prevent this crop of seeds from maturing, but I want to leave enough for easy application of the herbicide later in the season.

It turns out that a couple of small trees that I thought were Pin Cherries are actually Autumn Olives, Elaeagnus umbellata.  My mistake was made clear at the beginning of May when these plants were coming into full bloom.  I was drawn to the wonderful sweet scent.  When I saw the flowers I realized that what I had was definitely not a cherry of any kind.

These two Autumn Olives are nicely situated on either side of a path.
I'll cut them down soon and replace with something native,
maybe Winterberry Holly and Tupelo

These fragrant tubular flowers
were very popular with the bees.

I decided to let these finish flowering before cutting them back to a stump and then treating the fresh cuts with Round-Up concentrate.  This seems to be a pretty general method for killing undesired shrubby vegetation.  I did this to a very large Euonymus alatus in mid-March and I have seen very little if any regrowth so far this season.

When we first moved in last fall I noticed a lot of honeysuckle vines growing everywhere.  I had hoped that they were the native Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.  There were no berries present (Japanese Honeysuckle has black berries, L. sempervirens has red berries) so I couldn't tell by that.  Also a cross section of the stem appeared to solid, not hollow, so I assumed it wasn't Japanese Honeysuckle.  Now that they are coming into bloom with their sweet-smelling white flowers, I see that I have a lot of the invasive honeysuckle.  A check of the stem shows that these are in fact hollow, so looking at the cross-section of the stem may not be a great late season indicator for this species.

Japanese Honeysuckle flowers start off white, then turn yellow after a couple of days.

I'm not sure what approach to take on all the trailing stems on the ground.  Pulling and late season herbicide applications can be effective (as long as the leaves are still photosynthesizing).  In the interim I have been cutting the stems of the vines up in the trees to minimize seed production.

Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is well establish in the wooded areas on and around our property.  I am trying to remove all of it from an area before moving on to a new area.  This is a more effective strategy for elimination than just pulling a few plants here and there from a much wider space.  The seed heads are just about to mature so it's time to take a break from pulling.  If you are pulling plants that are shedding seeds, it's kind of like planting more of them.

Year old rosettes of Garlic Mustard remain green here over the winter.  This gives me the option of either pulling or spraying when most of native plants are dormant.  Because of the diversity of native plants in the woods, I will continue pulling up any Garlic Mustard I see each spring and fall.  this will be a multi-year effort.
Same area after clearing.  The ground plane is now opened up.

Note the white center vein on the leaf.
Japanese Stilt Grass is wide spread in this area.  It fills in shady borders with a dense mass that can smoother out other plants.

As an annual it can be controlled if you can keep it from going to seed.  Cutting it back when it begins to flower in late summer can keep it from successfully setting seed.  Cutting it back earlier may stimulate earlier flowering.  For plants in the woods I will go after them with the weed wackier in August. This grass has a weak root system and is easily pulled up, but there is just so much!

This is a very leafy grass and is soft to the touch.  The shiny mid-rib is a feature that sets it apart from other grasses

This is a recently opened-up area where the stilt grass is going to town.
It is joined by some garlic mustard and  bittersweet.
The near-by poison ivy is slowing my progress here.

Note the triangular leaves of Mile-a-minute vine.
There are nasty thorns forming on all  parts of this vine.

Mile-a-Minute Vine is a very fast growing invasive.  Once I noticed it I took some time out from writing this post to pull it out right away.  It is really important to do this before its many thorns begin to harden.  In my enthusiasm I accidentally pulled up a new Redbud tree, because its heart-shaped leaves looked similar to the triangular leaves of Mile-a-minute.

To combat this invasive, a weevil has been introduced and has been found to be very effective, and selective, at consuming this plant.  I examined the plants I pulled but saw no signs of this insect.  

To keep from going crazy I've realized that these invasives did not appear overnight and that any reasonable action is a step in the right direction.