Chimney Swifts

by Elsa Johnson

Back in the day before people caged off their chimneys there were probably fewer mosquitos.

What??? You say… what possible connection????

The answer? Chimney swifts/chimney ‘swallows’.

Chaetura pelagica, voracious eaters of all flying insects, like mosquitos. These birds, native to the Americas, spend the winter (as I would like to do) in South America (northwestern countries), but breed in North America during our summers. Their range is from the Rockies eastward to the Atlantic and northward into lower parts of Canada. Like all swifts, they are incapable of perching, but instead cling vertically to surfaces. And this is where chimneys come in.

A swift spirals down to its roost opening from above. Originally these birds roosted and nested in trees. While they are diurnal foragers, able to stay afloat in the sky for hours, the time I am most aware of them is in the liminal hours of dawn and dusk. They are easily recognized, with their strange short, neck-less bodies, long slender wings, swift erratic flight and chittering call, but they are also easily mistaken for swallows (hence the name confusion). Able to drink and bath on the wing, they are one of the swiftest of birds.

They have extremely acute vision and interestingly, can focus with one eye or both eyes, and, like our native whippoorwill, which they somewhat resemble, they have a huge mouth gape — the better to eat you, little flying insect – but they are sociable rather than solitary, and many birds – sometimes hundreds – will share a roost.  In that roost there is only one breeding pair, mated for life.

Although originally cavity-in-tree dwellers, since the arrival of European colonists – and chimneys – these birds now almost exclusively use chimneys (and air shafts, isolated corners in lightly used buildings, and the walls of cisterns and wells). Here’s the catch, however: today many of us cage our chimneys, thus preventing chimney swifts/swallows from using them.

In 2010 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature changed this bird’s status from Least Concern to Near Threatened. Its population has declined precipitously across the majority of its range. The causes of its population decline are unclear. There may be contributing factors besides loss of roosts.  In the U.S, the chimney swift is protected and neither birds nor nests can be removed from chimneys.

How can you help? You can build a chimney ‘swallow’ tower.

This tall slender structure offers an alternative to chimneys. It is usually placed to allow easy maneuverability to descending birds, in an open field, or in a yard, in an open area…. but could also be placed, it seems to me, on a flat roof or deck. They can be big or small. As with chimneys, some maintenance is required. You can find plans on line; look for chimney swift houses. 

Book Review: Mycorrhizal Planet

by Tom Gibson

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mycorrhizal Planet, a new book by Michael Phillips, is a true breakthrough book, one that will provide new, valuable information for every serious organic gardener.  The book describes how mycorrhizal fungi work with plant partners and gives detailed, practical information on how to maximize the power of fungi in all sorts of gardens—from backyard tomato patches to full-fledged agroforests.

The book combines a distillation of extensive scientific literature with decades of the author’s hands-on experience growing fruit and other crops. [As chance would have it, I just completed an Ohio State mycology course  last fall and wrote my class paper on Maxmizing Positive Fungal Power in the Food Forest. So I know a little of the difficult scientific terrain Phillips had to traverse.]  You would expect such a book to be densely packed, and it is. But it is also logical, good-humored, and down-to-earth, which should be more than enough to lead the committed gardener down a productive path toward a new set of best practices.

We need them.

The 20th Century produced some of the most brutal wars in history, but none so little noticed or comprehended as its War on Soil.  Some background and at least a partial explanation of why the War on Soil was so unwitting:

Soil, understood as something orders of magnitude different than mere dirt, consists of minerals, dead organic matter, and multiple living organisms that are often measured, breathtakingly, in billions per teaspoon.  Of these organisms, mycorrhizal fungi form the connective tissue on binds most plants.     Their hyphae—microscopic filaments—exude chemicals that dissolve potential food—from minerals to wood to dead insects—and then capture it by forming the equivalent of a new stomach wall around it.  See the graphic below where the red represents all the fungus’s external chemical activity. As its “stomach wall” expands, the fungus burrows its way tens of meters from its point of origin, all in the search for more food. 

Much of the food it seeks, however, is not for itself, but for its plant partners.  In return for the phosphorus, nitrogen and other elements our fungus gathers, it trades them in for plant sugars.  These provide the fungus energy to expand and capture still more plant nutrients. Put simply, mycorrhizal fungi extend the reach of plant roots by factors of 10 or more—costing the plant far less energy than if they had to expand their root system to cover the same territory.

Fungally-derived nutrients are so important to plants that they may devote one-third of all the sugars they produce to feeding fungi. It is no exaggeration to say that this trading system forms the core of life on earth.  It has been in place since both plants and fungi crawled their way out of prehistoric seas.   The relationship is so tight that mycorrhizae and plants have evolved to cooperate at the cellular level with the most prevalent mycorrhizal type—arbuscular mycorrhizae—actually penetrating the cell walls of a given plant root.   

But that’s only the beginning.  Individual fungi merge with other members of their own species to further increase their reach.  The resulting network forms microscopic highways for beneficial bacteria to travel the landscape. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnsYh6511Ic And fungi emit a soil protein called glomalin which binds soil minerals and organic matter loosely together in a way that allows the overall soil complex to both breathe and retain water.  We call the resulting aggregation soil “tilth” —-the exact opposite of that gardening curse: soil compaction. 

LW
The modified dry litter waste management system uses dry available carbon materials such as chipped coconut husks and woods as bedding materials that reduces exposure of pollutants and pathogens from animal manure to ground and surface water resources.. It requires no water. Pigs are comfortable in their bedding. Pig activity turns and aerates the litter promoting decomposition of waste materials. The system allows farmers to safely manage animals while promoting a healthy and clean environment.

Surprisingly, much of this knowledge has only emerged recently.  Glomalin, for example, was identified by a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture scientist in 1996!

It is this tightly-woven mineral/fungal/plant interrelationship that 20th Century agriculture and horticulture ripped apart.  Tillage and plowing chopped up all those fungal hyphae.   Artificial fertilizers fooled plants into happily dropping their partnership with living food providers (sort of like satisfying children with a perpetual diet of macaroni and cheese!).  Disconnection from fungal partners, however, limited the availability of trace elements that fungi help scavenge.  These trace elements—molybdenum, boron, etc.–are essential to full plant health. Fungally-trapped soil carbon also disappeared.  All together, the negative cascade of disappearing nutrients left a void that growers filled with ever more fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.  The ultimate result: ever less nutrition for both plants and their human consumers.

Phillips explains our downward agricultural slide in nuanced detail. But his greater emphasis is not on what went wrong, but how to make one’s own garden right. The three chapters (“Provisioning the Mycorrhizosphere,” “Fungal Accrual,” and “Practical Nondisturbance Techniques”) that make up the bulk of the book tell how to energize and expand fungal networks.

The committed gardener will find numerous possibilities for fungal enhancement of soil, ones that will require rereading and also rethinking of one’s approach to gardening.  Out of dozens and dozens ideas the book offers, here are a few that I’m either implementing now or plan to in the near future.

  1. Ramial wood chips.  These are wood chips made from fresh twigs and branches, the ones where a tree’s most recent growth has occurred. As one might expect, such high growth portions of the tree carry the highest concentration of nutrients—calcium, phosphorus, nitrogen, etc.  Fortunately, these young branches are often the ones professional arborists insert into their chipping machines and which they often have to pay to dispose of as landfill.  So it’s easy to persuade neighborhood tree cutters to dump a truck load.  I’ve done that and the chips have made my soil darker and richer and my plants happier. 

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Direct feeding of mycorrhizae by air-knifing holes in the soil under a tree’s drip line, then injecting (often proprietary) fungal food.  I had this done last fall to reinvigorate what my arborist diagnosed as oxygen-deprived oak trees.   The result: more vigorous-appearing oaks, but also a tripling (!) of fruit production of my pawpaw and peach trees planted under the oak’s drip line.
  3. Planting of what Phillips calls “bridge trees.”  These are trees planted specifically to connect more of the separate fungal pathways of a given orchard or food forest and thus, as fungal networks tend to do, share nutrients to those plants which need them most.  Fruit trees typically work with arbuscular mycorrhizal partners, while oaks, maple and hickory work with ectomycorrhizal partners. Typically those two groups of fungi don’t “talk.” But a few tree species—willows, poplars, alders—partner happily bridge with both fungal communication gap. Within a broader landscape, they and their fungal partners open the possibility of tapping a much wider nutrient pool.  So I’ve begun to encourage alders—already self-seeding to some extent in my food forest—by planting more in strategic locations.

As readers can now gather, Phillips goes into considerable detail.  Yet what makes the appearance of this book especially exciting is how readable  the author is able to make it.

A typical passage will begin close to the “duh” level of simplicity; e.g. “Mycorrhizal fungi are the principal means plants have for obtaining phosphorus…the middle letter in NPK as represented by those three omnipresent numbers on a bag of fertilizer.”  But then Phillips escalates quickly into a discussion of slow- vs. fast-release phosphorus and the relative “cost” to the plant of exuding organic acids to feed phosphorous-gathering fungi.  Similarly, when Phillips must dip into scientific language—like “anastomosis,” the merging of separate fungi—he always defines it in understandable terms.

So, readable, yes, but also dense and complex.

Did I mention that this book is for gardening nerds?

13th Annual Shaker Heights Gracious Garden Tour

13th Annual Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights Weekend!

Presented by The Shaker Historical Society

The Shaker Historical Society is hosting its 13th Annual Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights weekend June 16-18, 2017. This highly popular Father’s Day weekend event attracts more than 1,000 people from across the region. 

The Friday evening Cocktails in the Garden Party is held at a private home with superb historic architecture and gardens. This garden has twice been a highlight of the Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights tour and was featured in Fine Garden Gardening magazine for its “Curve Appeal.”

On Sunday, visit eight beautiful gardens that are sure to inspire you to create your own outdoor oasis like the designs you’ll see within the city of Shaker Heights. 

As part of the Gracious Gardens Sunday tour, there will be an admission-free open house with lawn games on the grounds of the museum at 16740 South Park Boulevard, where people wishing to go on the Garden Tour can purchase their tickets, visit the museum and art gallery, and enjoy light refreshments.

The Gracious Gardens of Shaker Heights weekend is a major fundraiser that supports the Shaker Historical Society’s commitment to historic preservation, education, and community engagement. This event is also produced in partnership with Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and the Ohio History Connection. 

Ticket and event information:

Cocktails in the Garden Party

Friday, June 16, 2017

6pm – 9pm

Tickets: $75.00 each

Private historic home in Shaker Heights

Sponsorships are available.

Includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres,

and live music

Gracious Garden Tour and Museum

Open House

Sunday, June 18, 2017

12pm – 5pm. 

Rain or Shine!

Advance tickets for Garden Tour: $20.00 each
Week before tour tickets: $25.00 each

Sunday admission to the Museum will be FREE. Tour the museum and art gallery, purchase your Garden Tour tickets and enjoy light refreshments!

Go to shakerhistoricalsociety.org or call 216-921-1201 for ticket information.

Ticket Sale locations: Bremec on the Heights, Gali’s Florist & Garden Center, J. Pistone Market, Juma Gallery, Shaker Hardware, and the Shaker Historical Society

 

 

 

To Be Called   :   Testimony

by Elsa Johnson

I will speak now in other voices       :        whippoorwill        legend        saver of lost souls

haunting the wood’s edge in springtime                                calling the dusk moths home            

I will speak now in the voice of chipmunk              quicksilver             placer of sunflowers

seed-side-down                    offerings made                           for one more day’s safe grace

I will speak in the hawk’s voice         :        sharp-shinned huntress                          shrieker 

gifter of quick death         she of the ice-cold heart           the silent swift-moving shadow                         

and in the vulture’s voice          :          gleaner                  wing-rider                  wind-soarer                                                               whose presence is                                   the priesthood                                              of death

I will speak now in other voices       :       hummingbird chitter               high in the tops of

linear locust trees          :          small       writhen       ring-necked snakes                alarmed                               

loosened from sheltering stone          :         Yellow-jackets          that sting         and chase        

to sting again            and night-time horses                     bolting                       lightening

flares                         thunder-claps                            and   I will speak for the un-wild deer                 

quiet-eyed                at the yard’s edge                             browsing the bushes without fear                                                             

I would speak for what does not speak     :     the  cruel devouring mantis      the delicate

damselfly she sometimes hunts                     for bumblebees         butterflies          drunk 

in the milkweed         the goldenrod                      all that multitude of            tiny insects        

buzzing flowers         :           in red crocosmia         sprawling                        purple pungent

oregano                           yellow-eyed blue buddleia                          crystal-crusted daylilies             

star-burst filaments of    cimicifuga                                                            and bee-glad phlox                                                   

I   too    will stand to speak for the wood drake            and for the still water on which he             

rests in beauty       For the great heron            the night heron              the ‘fisher’ flashing    

low     over the water                for the geese        drifting      among the reeds       the lily

pads        and for the strong-jawed turtle         waiting                                       lurking below   

                  

I will learn and speak the language of lichen                                         of grey-green filigree

coating stone                hiding time                                      the language of the aging oaks

riddled by borer        riven with wilt                                     I will learn the codes of worms

of microscopic mycorrhizal fungi           leaf mulch             and leaf mold              decay       

the language of           the mysterious complexity of dirt             duff           ruffled rhubarb        

and all that driven             erotic              unfurling of spring                                     new risen                               

out of the driven        luminous         dying         of fall                            I will speak for them

and  this voice too    :    ocean   :     least knowable           greatest of all              her words

of hush and sibilance      of susurration      that mystic speech          that echoes        down

our own chambered seas       words        of the wet world         that tell us                we live     

not          as we think         on our own terms            but helplessly           :          Hear that            

internal roar             Feel the great wave’s pull                the irresistible draw of its wash                     

its tremble        tumble        its untranslatable speech made up of        songs            of all

the large and lesser creatures of Sea             I will speak for them        :          sharp tooth

and finned tail      tentacle and gill          I will speak for what cannot speak            even

for that vastest whale         wrecked        broken       on the broad beach            by plastic

I will speak in other voices                                                                                 to bear witness

  

                       

Elsa Visits Sidwell Friends School

by Elsa Johnson

While in DC for the march for climate action I also visited the Sidwell Friends School, where my husband’s cousin, David Mog (an ex-Cleveland-ite), taught math for many years. Though now retired, he is still welcomed back at Sidwell Friends, and so I got a tour of the school complex. David had told me about the waste water recycling project that Sidwell Friend’s installed several years ago and which I’d expressed an interest in seeing up close and personal (well – not too).

It is a complex system in which the water from toilets flows first into a sort of settling tank where the solids settle out. Then the liquids flow into a series of three hillside, heavily planted leach beds. As it passes through the plants of each leach bed it gets progressively cleaner. Supposedly after flowing through the third leach bed, it is safe and clean and can be recirculated.  At Sidwell Friends it is reused again and again. By being circulated back to the toilets it proceeds thus in a continuous cycle. Impressive! There is really nothing to see – and definitely nothing to smell – except plants.

 

As part of the educational aspect a cylinder was installed at the top of the terraced slope that charts the flow of the water. This shows how the system works. Of course there is a good bit of unseen infrastructure of pipes, etc., in a basement which I did not visit. 

In the same location, at the bottom of the slope is a rainwater catchment pond that captures rainwater off of the roofs of several of the more recently constructed buildings surrounding the site.  The runoff rain water flows through a variety of runnels and tunnels, mostly aesthetic, and then flows into a catchment pond, which has fish. The day we were there I believe there was a problem with the filter and so the system was getting tweaked a bit by the firm that manages it.  There was a young (by my standards) man working in the water and David had a good talk with him while I wandered around taking pictures. 

The Sidwell Friends complex was also interesting for using its sloped site efficiently — putting playing fields, in one case, on top of a garage, and in another on top of the gymnasium.  

After the visit to Sidwell Friends Elsa and David drove past the Kushener/Trump home which is in the same neighborhood as the new Obama digs (a few short blocks from each other), which we also tried to drive past, but the access road was (is) blocked as Obama is still heavily guarded by security, for his own safety. We did a little DC tour and talked about what may be Elsa’s next DC sojourn in September, the Interfaith March. We shall see.     

GardenWalk South Euclid

As part of its summer long Centennial Celebration, the City of South Euclid will host GardenWalk South Euclid on Saturday, July 22nd, and Sunday, July 23rd, from 12 noon to 4:00 pm. It will serve as an annual legacy to the Centennial Celebration. The GardenWalk was co-founded by Northern Ohio Perennial Society members, Donna M. Zachary and Sue Gold, and the planning was started in the fall of 2015. Over 35 private gardens, three pocket parks (a Meditation Garden, a Tranquility garden and a Perennial Reflection Garden), a 21 acre nature preserve (hourly tours), 7 mile wetlands and over nine unique community gardens are on the GardenWalk. One community garden contains a bio-retention water basin and two are located in park settings. All can be explored during this “free, self-guided”, two day event. The city’s theme, “Come Together and Thrive,” can be seen in the many shops and restaurants along the garden route. After July 1st, the maps can be downloaded at www.cityofsoutheuclid.com or www.facebook/southeuclid.com. Maps will also be available at the South Euclid Community Center and the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Library after July 1st. During the GardenWalk, on July 22nd and 23rd, the maps, rest rooms, water and parking will be available at the Community Center at 1370 Victory Drive, South Euclid 44121 from 12 noon until 4:00 PM.

Gardenopolis Cleveland Goes to Washington D.C.

by Elsa Johnson and Catherine Feldman

Dear Gardenopolis readers,

We’ve missed a couple postings, and we apologize. We (the editorial board) confess to being political creatures for whom climate change is a very real and very present (as in right now!) issue, and the direction this president has chosen in response to this issue – i.e., to deny it, and wipe out the EPA – has had us (some of us more than others) spinning off in various activist directions ever since the inauguration. Most recently two of us (Catherine and Elsa) traveled to DC for the Climate Action March (where it was a hot! hot 91 degrees! – a record high for the month, and the month itself a record high for DC).

 

We joined the group, Elders for Climate Action for the march itself (200,000 people strong) and, briefly, for a conference at the Capitol the day before, at which Maryland representative to Congress, Jamie Raskin spoke. Someone who ‘gets it’. Several days later Catherine attend another conference ( Consultation on Conscience ) at which the young firebrand progressive Joe Kennedy III (grandson of Robert Kennedy) spoke — another person who gets it. These speakers gave us hope (alas, short lasting).

Yes, the march and those activist activities took priority, but while we were there at the Seat of Empire we also spent time doing the very Gardenopolisy thing of looking in on almost all the gardens attached to the various and many cultural institutions around the mall and taking lots of pictures…. and these pictures tell a story about how the focus of landscape in these important public spaces is now about gardening with native plants.

 

We can only applaud.  When Elsa was there in February for the Women’s March – 500,000 people strong – it seemed like every green space was being trampled, and it was hard to imagine anything withstood that trampling, but as you can see from our pictures, the landscapes look great.

One sometimes forgets the distances between the Capitol building at one end and the Lincoln Memorial at the other (yes, this 73 year old walked the entire distance – it felt like more than once). Just crossing the width of the Mall is a trek on a 91 degree day. The monumental scale is such that one could use a horse.

I (Catherine) bring two key points from my conference that are eminently applicable to Gardenopolis Cleveland. First, we were told over and over again by politicians and activists that the voices of citizens are heard by our elected officials in Washington. We were encouraged to speak out, especially in person. Attending town hall meetings and participating in marches does make a difference. Phoning, writing and signing petitions have an impact. We do not have to wait for our next opportunity to vote. Officials in D.C. are harried by the confusion caused by Trump and his administration. They need our support. When someone does something right, let them know. 

Secondly, we were encouraged to become active at the local and state level. We can fight for the environment here at home, relatively untouched by what is going on in D.C. and we need to do so. So, what can we do? Gardenopolis Cleveland would like to open that conversation. Please respond in the Comments section about what you are doing, what you would like to be doing, and any of your own organizations that need help.

 

 

My Wife No Longer Sneers at Fuki

By Tom Gibson 

My wife no longer sneers at fuki.  Fuki, also known as giant butterbur, is a vegetable, much prized by Japanese cooks in spring for its tender celery-like stalks.
The simplest way to cook them is to steam, lightly peel, and then stir fry them with sesame oil. For me a passable side dish; for my wife not at all!

That’s unfortunate since I like giving space to fuki in my permaculture garden: a) it grows in damp, dark shade—a rarity among edible perennials and b) its broad leaves are striking and attractive and add an equally rare aesthetic dimension to permaculture.

The lack of household interest in fuki had me contemplating possible replacements. But the gift of a new cookbook (from my wife, who hasn’t given up yet on me and my experiments) has changed my mind.  It’s Food From Your Forest Garden: How to Harvest, Cook, and Preserve Produce From Your Forest Garden, by the English Food Forest guru Martin Crawford and Caroline Aitken, who describes herself as an “eco-cook.” (https://www.amazon.com/Food-Your-Forest-Garden-Preserve/dp/0857841122

We’ve tried three recipes from the book for several perennial vegetables so far; all are uncomplicated and tasty to make. They are also often exceptionally creative.  Who, for example, would have thought of combining fuki, carrots and the juice and zest of an orange?  Cooked together until the mixture carmelizes, the combination leads to a subtle result that my wife states “is good enough to serve to company.”

We also liked Crawford and Aitken’s approach to fiddlehead ostrich ferns.

They fry them in a simple batter and dip them in a yogurt sauce with parsley (we substituted lovage), capers and lemon juice. Very satisfying.  The sweetness of the young fiddleheads comes through even set against the tangy sauce.

Finally, we tried Crawford and Aitken’s approach to ground nuts (apios americana, not to be confused with peanuts). 

On their own, ground nuts have an engaging potato-legume-like taste. But the tubers’ high density diminishes their appeal. Cooked plain groundnut slices have a hard time absorbing even the most basic complementary flavors (even salt!). And chewing on the slices can seem a little cardboard-y.  Crawford  and Aitken solve the problem by grating their groundnuts and combining them with sweet Bermuda onion, egg, and flour. The result is a juicy, crunchy groundnut “burger.” Very, very good.

The book covers a wide range of perennial vegetables and fruit—nettles, skirret, quince, Turkish rocket, goji berries, etc. It thereby overcomes one of the key barriers to growing sustainable, earth-friendly edibles: their often total unfamiliarity. Why risk growing something when you may have to wait two to three years for harvestable crop without knowing if you’ll even like to eat what you grow?

The creative dishes presented by Crawford and Aitken still manage to fall within the taste-range of the normal Western diet.  Nothing strange! Food cowards need not be afraid!  The book is a worthy investment for any potential food forest gardener.

Mache, the fairytale lettuce 

by Ann McCulloh, contributing editor

Once, upon a time, there was a little plant that slept all summer, sprouted in the fall, and grew green and contented underneath the snow. Come the warm spring sun it flowered, scattered its seed freely and went to sleep until cool weather woke it up again. The lucky princess in whose garden it flourished, never had to plant it, or do much of anything but give it a bed of straw, and pick it for salads in the dark days of winter.

Mache (aka lamb’s lettuce, corn salad, Rapunzel, doucette, Nussler) is the most familiar name for Valeriana locusta, a delicate and delicious salad green that really does follow this topsy-turvy, through-the looking-glass schedule. I first planted the seed in springtime, in 2012, I think. It came up, promptly flowered

then went to seed, and I proceeded to forget all about it until the next September, when little green rosettes started poking through my straw mulch.

I kept an eye on it as it stayed green and grew a bit, while frosts became more prevalent. Then the first snow fell, and I assumed the worst. Sometime the next January I ventured out to the garden patch and noticed the green rosettes looked spritely. And larger. I pushed away some snow and clipped a few of them.

Mache (pronounced mahsh) has a delicate, nutty or even floral, flavor that invites dressing with walnut or hazelnut oil and sherry vinegar. It’s compatible with most anything. The French, who probably grow the most mache commercially, often dress it with hazelnut oil and vinegar, pair it with endive, frisee, thinly-sliced radishes or beets, and chop hardboiled egg or ham over it. The 4” spoon-shaped leaves have a spinach-like texture that holds onto just the right amount of vinaigrette.  I like it with orange segments, avocado slices, citrus dressing and a sprinkle of violets! Cooked briefly like spinach, it makes a decent omelet filling. Nice in a sandwich wrap, too!

Citrus Dressing for Winter/Spring Mache Salad:

1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons balsamic or other good vinegar

1 Tablespoon olive, hazelnut or avocado oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

It’s surprising that self-sowing mache hasn’t caught on more widely with gardeners and gourmets in this country. For me, it is the closest thing to an effortless garden crop. But best of all, I can harvest tasty garden-fresh greens from January through April, and I haven’t bought a packet of seeds since that first purchase in 2012.

Mache

corn salad, lamb’s lettuce, Rapunzel salad (Valeriana locusta) Doucette, raiponce, Nussler

Europe, Africa, Western Asia

Specialty of Nantes

Vitamin C, B6, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, copper manganese

More iron than spinach

Delicate flavor, nutty or even floral, to me. Dress with walnut oil and sherry vinegar or a mustard dressing

Orange and avocado with orange dressing

Roasted beets and endive or frisee

Mix with other salad greens

Rosette of tender, spoonshaped leaves

Tiny whole plants, add a delicate crunch

Can be cooked like spinach and used to stuff omelets or pastry

Tea sandwich filling, with thinly sliced radishes

Lazy gardener alert

Germinates when soils are 55 to 68 degrees, sun, moist soil, mulch

Young plants sprout in September, remain green and succulent all winter under light straw mulch, really burgeon in March and April, start to bloom in May and seed themselves prolifically in June. Seed lies dormant until cooler fall weather. Then the cycle restarts.

Look Before You LEAP

by Elsa Johnson

(That’s supposed to be a joke — and it’s not even April)

One of my favorite organizations, which works out of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, is LEAP, which stands for (take a deep breathe to get you through) Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity. What is LEAP? you ask:  It is a collaborative umbrella organization bringing together a collection of regional environmental organizations falling within the ecoregion of the Lake Erie Allegheny Plateau. The list of collaborating entities is long and includes, as you would expect, our many local park districts as well as some not-so-local park districts, local and national conservancies, our natural history museum, the EPA, and more.

There are monthly meetings (10 AM second Wednesday of the month) with speakers. One recent talk was on building Chimney swift houses to provide homes for breeding chimney swift pairs: swifts are great consumers of mosquitos (Gardenopolis Cleveland plans to do an article on this soon). Another recent talk was on what kind of coyotes we have around here – which was timely, as there has been so much public talk recently about sightings of what people take to be coy-wolves. A recent long email sequence in Nextdoor Coventry went on — and on —  and on – and on, all from one sighting of what the sighter was convinced was a wolf (be assured, it wasn’t). This LEAP talk clarified the issue through pie charts that showed the genetics of various coyote  populations in the Eastern United States, and was able to  clarify what combination of genes we actually have right here (that too will make its way into Gardenopolis, someday soon).   

What is the The Lake Erie Allegheny Plateau? It is an ecoregion that includes almost everything on the United States side of Lake Erie that is in Lake Erie’s watershed, and somewhat beyond it, encompassing the Lake Plain and glaciated lands south of Canada from Sandusky Bay all the way to western New York. This area has a common glacial history and a climate that is influenced by Lake Erie. As a natural history museum visitor what this means to you is that in a place like the museum’s Perkin’s Garden and Wildlife Center, you can expect to see the plants and animals that are representative of this ecoregion.

Also, the LEAP Native Plant Committee puts out a yearly postcard of native plants which lists one tree, one shrub, and one perennial, and offers designing-with-native-plants workshops. Look for this in another coming soon Gardenopolis posting.

LEAP puts out a very handsome little booklet that tells about LEAP’s mission to conserve and protect our ecoregion from threats such as habitat destruction, destructive alterations to various physical processes (such as groundwater hydrology, and lake and stream levels) and destructive alteration to species interactions, especially via competitive pressure from invasive, non-native species. Garlic mustard and its effect on the West Virginia White Butterfly leaps (sorry – couldn’t resist) immediately to mind. And more. Some copies of this booklet, and the native plants for the year postcard, will be available at the Permaculture Potluck (see last week’s blog) on April 2nd .

My favorite part of the booklet is the breakout with description of our ecoregion’s fourteen natural communities — which are diverse and beautiful — and where you can find them. Climate change threatens many of our community ecosystems. We are seeing outbreaks of oak wilt and insect pests in some of our old growth oak forests, such as at Forest Hill Park, where the red oaks are being decimated by oak wilt

and two-lined chestnut borer, the latter of which is also affecting other oaks such as Chestnut oaks.

For more information about LEAP and our native community ecosystems go to www.leapbio.org.   

Reminder: it is garlic mustard season. This is what it looks like.

garlic mustard. It is an invasive species. If you find it in your yard, pull it. It’s edible. One of us likes to put it in his breakfast scrambled eggs.