Monthly Archives: March 2017

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.          

New Approaches to Creating Natural Fertility

 

Jonathan Hull, Scroll and Spade, on foliar spraying

“Performed correctly, foliar spraying can become the tipping point for improved soil health and plant productivity.”

John Wright, Red Beet Row, on feeding the soil

“Natural fertilizers are as accessible as the weeds in your yard. Combined with early cover-cropping your garden yields will improve significantly.”

Event:

8th Annual Permaculture Potluck (bring food and meet your fellow N.E. Ohio permies.)

When:

Sunday April 2, 5 to 8 P.M.

Where:

First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Heights, Oh.

Childcare provided, free-will offering to cover childcare, speaker and custodial costs.

Co-sponsors: First Unitarian Ministry for Earth and Green Triangle.First Call for the Permaculture Potluck

Addendum: by Elsa Johnson

  •  Whether you already know all about permaculture, or you are curious about permaculture (so much of permaculture is applicable in all or parts to almost any kind of gardening/agriculture), or maybe you just like smorgasbords of mostly vegetarian food? — this is the place to be that particular Sunday afternoon. You can schmooze, sample interesting foods, and then hang back to listen to the two speakers.

    Jonathan Hull, a former student of renowned soil biologist Elaine Ingham (your clue to know — yes…he definitely knows what he is talking about), will be familiar to Gardenopolis Cleveland readers from a series of articles posted in GC in March, a year ago, about foliar spraying: The Winds of Change. Foliar spraying (or more accurately, misting) is a technique Jonathan uses to apply nutrients directly to the above-ground structures of plants, preferably in the morning when their stomata are most open. This, he says, allows for the efficient uptake of nutrients with minimal expenditure of the plant’s energy, and stimulates the plant’s below the soil relationships, especially those with the mycorrhizal fungi that exist in symbiosis with the plant’s roots. This symbiosis is an important part of the plant’s natural pattern for health, and the less one disturbs it the better. The result? Healthier plants. More resilient soil. Fewer pests and diseases. Bigger yields. 

    The other speaker is John Wright, who is innovating directly with the soil via a fresh approach to the old technique of cover crops. John is both a permaculturist and an OSU trained horticulturist. He and his wife Stephanie Blessing run the educational farm Red Beet Row in Ashtabula. John has been experimenting with timing and unusual cover crop combinations to build a full soil nutritional palette. John offers fresh insights on matching companion plants with traditional annual vegetables, like tomatoes.   

    The Potluck will be held April 2nd from 5 to 8 PM at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, 21600 Shaker Boulevard, which is just east of Warrensville Center Road. The church is a large New England style steepled church, and is very hard to miss. Parking is in the rear by the Permaculture Garden.

    What to bring: Food – always a good idea to label ingredients in food brought to share. Children are welcome. There will be a free will offering to cover the cost of speakers, childcare, and custodial support.   

        

Reprise of Phenology for Our Snowy Weather

by Lois Rose
 
 
The growing degree days on the phenology calendar (oardc.ohio-state.edu/gdd/) have accumulated somewhat but slowed down recently due to the cold weather. There is damage to buds that had started to develop by the first of March.  For example, look for crocuses  which have had their petals destroyed or badly damaged.  Snow is a blessing when cold air comes—it insulates the plants on the ground.  It is possible that buds of fruit trees and small fruit like currants which were warmed during February might suffer severe damage from the cold we have been experiencing this week. Time will tell. If you are interested in finding out sooner rather than later, you could cut open a bud and see if it is still green on the inside.  A brown interior is not good. Remember that we almost always have frosts and freezes in this part of Ohio until mid-May.

 

How the Orgy Begins

by Elsa Johnson

Honeyberry leafed out    last night                                           Her pale

tiny flower buds are straining                         ( wait!   wait!       There

are no pollinators yet! )                                                    The first grey-

green buddlea leaves    uncurl —                                      Poking amid

half-digested leaf mold                                                    fragile carcass

of insect           :          possibly bumblebee            :           and    there

a scant handful of                                                    ultra violet     irises

while here               the rhubarb                  in its red                 unfurl-

ing                      so      almost     obscene                     like a bright

vulva        aroused from dirt                                      Last year’s debris

shouts           take me!   ( away! )              while this year’s new life

claws   out of the ground                And the sparrows call    :   what? 

who?/ where?/ there!    Is it time? —  now! /now! / quick? / quick!            

Inklings of Spring

by Lois Rose
 
Phenology has become a trending topic—on the national news with the cherry blossoms breaking in Washington a month early.  Here in Cleveland, we can track our own very early blossoms using a link to the phenology calendar by typing in our own zip code to find out what is coming next in the garden. Phenology is the study of events in the garden—biological events in the outdoors—that recur each year and understanding their relationship to weather. People have tracked these events for hundreds of years—perhaps thousands, as in the Bible.  Examples are bird migration, blooming of wildflowers and trees, and appearance of insects, seasonal animal activities for hunting.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Last year at this time—the beginning of March—we had a different phenological profile—we had not had as much warm weather and plants were not as far along.  These photos were taken on March 1 in Cleveland Heights.  Some of the plants pictured do very well in cold weather—and in fact have been blooming even under snow for months. An example would be hellebores, winter aconite  (yellow blossoms close to the ground ) and snowdrops.  Other plants may be adversely affected by the below freezing temperatures we are sure to experience until the average frost free date in mid-May.  That is two and a half months away. As their buds swell, they are more susceptible to freezes which will damage the cells filled with water.  Insects are also being invited to come out early. The calendar tells you what to expect, for example, tent caterpillars at the ready.
 
 
Magnolias have swollen buds—their time to bloom was approaching fast when this recent freeze began.  Forsythia around the city are already starting to bloom as well and this often occurs at the end of March along with the blooming of daffodils. Daffodils are already opening. So, we are definitely experiencing an unusual phenological event here in northeast Ohio.