Friday, June 09, 2017
Join us this Sunday, June 11 at 10am, before the day heats up, to pull garlic mustard before its seedpods have a chance to burst. We'll have some refreshments on hand, the better to socialize while snipping off the seedpods. Veblen House is up the gravel driveway across the street from 443 Herrontown Rd, or walk up from the main Herrontown Woods parking lot off of Snowden (map here).
We should be able to get all the remaining garlic mustards--half having been pulled last week by volunteers. Garlic mustard is a biennial, meaning it bears seeds the second year and then dies. If we bag up all the seeds each year, the population will fade away, which is good news for native wildflowers we want to reestablish here next to Veblen House.
The first year, garlic mustard looks like this, gathering energy for the seedhead that it sends up the second year. The species was brought to America by European settlers wanting to have something green to eat in early spring, after the long winter. Unfortunately, the plant has very aggressively spread into nature preserves, crowding out native species. Even after several centuries, the wildlife still don't eat it enough to keep it in check.
Another invasive we'll cut back is wisteria. We have almost vanquished an acre-sized, kudzu-like clone of wisteria that just last year was smothering much of the garden and weakening trees. This year's mild followup is really important to starve the roots of any chance to rebound.
Bring hand-pruners and loppers, if you have them, gloves and work shoes. We'll also provide some tools.
Here's a weed we'll allow to grow: moth mullein, a few of which have popped up in the horse run next to the house.
Other projects of the Friends of Herrontown Woods (FOHW) to promote sustainable landscaping include caring for a detention basin at nearby Smoyer Park. The basin was converted from turfgrass to native grasses and wildflowers. FOHW is proactively removing highly aggressive weeds like Canada thistle and crown vetch before they can get established, and adding local native wildflowers like this Hibiscus moscheutos to increase diversity and color.
Friday, May 05, 2017
Back in the 1980s, while I was accumulating credits for a masters degree in water quality at the University of Michigan, I did some academic moonlighting and took an "expository writing" course taught by Alyce Depree. She had us adopt pseudonyms (mine was Snupulus Lupulus), fed us a steady diet of George Orwell, and had us write and rewrite 2-page essays. It was a wonderful, validating experience.
Last summer, heading back to Michigan to play a jazz festival, I reconnected with her. Out of the blue, she told me the inspiring story of her long but successful battle with garlic mustard--an introduced species that has displaced trilliums and other native wildflowers in the woodlands where she lives in Holland, Michigan. She later wrote up an account of her experience.
I'm posting this when just a few blooms remain, but you should still be able to find it growing along the fringes of your yard, or in a woodland nearby. Perhaps you'll be moved to action, in your yard and beyond, as Alyce was many years ago, with heartening results.
Here's her account:
Hi, Steve...You've caused quite a chuckle here this morning...so few people for so long cared about what was occurring in their woods on the west side of the state that my cousin and I spent almost as much time encouraging ourselves not to give up as we did actually picking! The tables have turned (mixed metaphor), however...now in the spring the local churches (of which there are many) organize their congregants and Sunday school kids to go over various ground areas and parks in the Holland area...that is making quite a difference.
We found that, while people can be casual about wildflowers, they aren't casual about their trees; however, they are "terribly busy." Anyway, my cousin and I decided we'd rid ourselves and the immediate area of garlic-mustard. We figured we could do a five or six property area...talked and talked with the owners but didn't really convince them, so then took on the job ourselves. After experimenting with RoundUP and discovering not even that would kill the plants, and learning from internet that the state of Wisconsin had been trying to get rid of them with no luck, we began with local college kids, paid them $12 per hour, lunch, and snacks, and then joined them ourselves, pulling and digging (you have to get the root!) for about ten days. We filled hundreds of 30-gallon black plastic bags with the ill-smelling plants, let the contents rot for a month, and then gradually put them out for garbage pickup.
We picked and pulled the five properties for the next ten or so years..."harvest" getting less and less (the seeds last 5 years in the ground)...one owner gets his own grandchildren to pick their woods now...we continue to work four properties and now only get about 15 bags, max. We figure we're down to just maintenance now plus some plants from seeds borne by the winds. The past three years we have not hired anyone to help...just do it ourselves and are glad for the exercise. The trillium is back and glorious. Also a wild yellow ground lily and jack-in-the-pulpits. Amazing how sixteen years flies by....and no chemicals, too.
(Thanks to Alyce for sharing this account!)
Photo below: Garlic mustard extending into the woodland below Quarry Park in Princeton.