Archive for March 2014

Is Your Property a National Community Wildlife Habitat?

PRLC relies upon the support of our neighbors in the community to extend the benefits of protection of preserved lands to their own backyards.

Many of our neighbors are interested in doing more to protect nature. PRLC can show you how with our hands-on workshops, lectures and guided hikes designed to educate and foster the land steward in us all. See our Events Calendar. In addition, we support the efforts of other local organizations whose missions are tied to our own. We urge you to become an integral part of Pound Ridge’s effort to create a community-wide National Wildlife Community Habitat. Already, half the number of properties needed have been certified through this very easy process.

Cetify your property as National Wildlife Habitat, click here.

To take the Healthy Yard Pledge, click here.

Once you’ve signed-on, please send us an email at so we can count you in!


Jumpstart on Spring


IMG_20140310_113712_585 (2)With lengthening days, we are living lighter on the land this month by harnessing the power of the sun.  In our cold frame, thickly insulated with hay and oriented to receive maximum light, the plants are growing so quickly that I have begun to harvest extra greens for our chickens.  The girls have rewarded us in turn with up to four eggs a day (from 4 laying hens), and are churning through our compost in search of what bugs are active in March. Next month, I will introduce to you our new and improved solar array, powering the Armstrong Education Center at 100%!

In the Armstrong kitchen, we ate salad from the cold frame all winter long with the exception of a few weeks in January (see Early 2014 North American Cold Wave).  I went out often to brush off snow but didn't dare open the door, as I could see though the frozen condensation that the plants were wilting at their tips.  The greens pictured here were planted as seed in October: Cavolo kale, Spring broccoli raab, Mizuna, Rossimo lettuce, Red giant mustard, Speckled lettuce, and Renegade spinach.  A few Red chard transplanted in have not fared well.  The Mizuna and lettuces recently began flowering and so were cleared out to make room for kale and spinach that had somewhat languished beneath.  We should have greens for months yet.

Cold frame March

Cold frame March2

The cold frame is serving double duty as our germinator and seedling incubator too. So far, I have started Utah tall celery, Curley parsley, Common chives, Clear dawn onions, Broccoli, and Long Island Improved brussels sprouts, in addition to native species Bladdernut and Groundnut.  For most plants (especially New York natives), temperature is not the limiting factor so much as light, and only the sunniest of window sills are adequate.  I find it easier, and a lot cleaner, to set up my grow space outside or in a basement/workshop area under lights.  LED lights are most efficient, but must be in the correct spectrum for plants to use the light.

See how we grow vegetables, flowers, and native trees and shrubs in the Armstrong Working Backyard our May 3 Plant Swap and Volunteer Work Session.   To get started sooner, click here for instructions on making a cold frame and starting seeds.  See also our lineup of events in our partnership series Birds & Bees: Wildlife Needs, aimed at educating our community about the role of native plants to native wildlife, including what you can do to foster their habitats on your own property!



Garden Planning

If you haven't started planning for this year's garden, now is the time to begin!  Nurseries and serious gardeners have already started sowing under lights, and by the end of this month, we can often plant spinach, radish, and sugar snap peas here in New York.  Taking some time now to plan what, where, and when you will plant can save you work in the long run and increase the useful yield of your garden.  By timing crops to mature in batches, for example, you can produce abundant harvests from May to November, and even beyond with help from a cold-frame or other frost protection.  

DSCN7135We recently hosted a Garden Planning Workshop at the Armstrong Education Center, the center of our public programming for education on Living Lighter on the Land.  In case you missed it, I will present here some of the material we covered and will also direct you to a webpage I created which serves as something like a resource library for topics covered at PRLC workshops: Land Stewardship in Action Wiki.  Feel free to copy the Wiki and add to it for your own purposes.  

We covered the basics outlined below and then expanded our conversation based on the specific cases presented, such as fertilization for raised beds that are filled with coir and perlite rather than soil and compost (probably best to take a soil test first).  Events like this are a great place to have your specific questions addressed by a group of knowledgeable people.  Please see the events calendar on our website for information about our May 3 Plant Swap and Volunteer Work Session, and stay tuned for a planned series in April and May that will teach you how to provide quality habitat for local wildlife using native plants, trees, and shrubs on your property (and get Certified for your efforts by the National Wildlife Federation).bd103863_0708_seeds_l

Garden Planning Basics:

  • Prepare the soil.  It is important to meet the needs of whatever plants you wish to grow, but drastically amending soil can be costly and time-consuming. (link for soil testing services)
  • Decide what you want to grow.  My advice is to dream big and then whittle your list down according to how much space and time you have.  Put everything else on a vision board for later inspiration.  
  • Map your planting areas.  Note the soil and light conditions, and choose plants with similar requirements.  Consider planting "companion plants" that grow well together. Some gardeners plan for height variation or for "seasonal interest." I make multiple maps for early season, mid-season, and late season.
  • Schedule planting and other tasks such as feeding, mulching, and harvesting.  Remember that as some plants reach their harvest point, others can be sown beneath for repeat harvests all season long.


Garden map drawn

A List of Gardening Tasks for Early Spring:

Cedar and Grapevine Teepee Trellis

  • Gather materials: Seeds, trays, leaf mold or other sowing medium
  • Turn the compost pile so that it is ready when you need it
  • Turn the leaf pile to speed up its composting
  • Build a trellis for peas

The week starting Feb. 28, under protection, plant onions, leeks, scallions, chives, celery, celeriac, artichoke.

The week starting March 7, under protection, plant all of the above plus arugula, spring raab, and parsley

The week starting March 14, under protection, plant all of the above plus lettuce, early cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli.  Direct sow spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions.

The week starting March 21, under protection, plant the above plus peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, chard, bok choy. Continue to sow plants listed through April.

The week starting March 28, direct sow spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions

The week starting April 14, direct sow lettuce, carrots, parsnips, spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, and spring/summer onions.  Transplant lettuce, parsley, scallions, and chives.

The week starting April 28, direct sow chard, beets, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, spring raab, radishes, spinach, peas, arugula, onions. Transplant early cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, tatsoi, bok choy, arugula, lettuce, spring raab, parsley, chives

To be continued…