Archive for October 2014

Cool Weather Gardening

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We greatly expanded our growing area this spring and summer at the Armstrong Education Center and have been reaping the fruits of our labor, both in the organic vegetable garden and in our native plant gardens.  These gardens are used to demonstrate sustainable land use concepts such as local food production for humans, honeybees, and other wildlife.  


The plants have enjoyed our lovely fall weather and produced a late abundance of fruit and blossoms.  This summer was persistently cool and cloudy, which allowed for an extended planting season but also delayed or stunted blooming.  It also encouraged plant predation by insects.  Our vegetable gardens sustained heavy damage early on from Colorado potato beetles and the Squash vine borer (see my earlier blog post about how to keep squash producing into fall).  Later, we had difficultly controlling the Mexican bean beetle and caterpillars on the cole crops.  Not even our resident bull frog, pictured here, could keep them in check.  Because we strive to strike a balance with insect populations as part of the web of life, we use only organic methods in our gardens and attempt to deter them mainly through crop rotation and mulching.

IMG_20140901_192513898_HDRWhen things get out of hand, my tried-and-true method for organic pest control in the garden is to make "bug juice," also known as "sick juice."  I collect as many of the offenders as I can in a small jar with a lid.  I puree these in a little water in an old blender that I have reserved for this use.  Then I strain this liquid through a fine sieve and pour it into a spray bottle.  I use the rinse water from the blender jar (after it has been sieved) to dilute the liquid further.  Then I spray this on plants that are affected by that particular insect.  This is basically biological warfare: the premise being that one of the bugs in the mixture will carry a disease that then quickly spreads through the entire population.  This works on insects that have become overabundant on any kind of plant, including this native milkweed that has been infested with aphids.

milkweed with aphids

See our website calendar for a list of events you can attend for hands-on education on how to manage your own property with a Living Lighter on the Land mindset.  Learn how your activities can support the Pound Ridge's efforts to become a certified Community Wildlife Habitat, and please join our mailing list or like our facebook page for news and updates related to local conservation initiatives.

Chores still to be done at this time:

  • Plant winter rye as a cover crop, or mulch beds with shredded leaves covered by straw.
  • Plant trees and shrubs, and consider adding support until roots are set next year.
  • Create a leaf pile for a steady source of Fall mulch and Spring seed-sowing medium.
  • Harvest fall crops such as spinach, lettuce, and kale, and keep those beds covered at night.


Bog Bridges at Carolins Grove and Installation of Deer Exclosures Are Highlights of Summer/Early Fall Volunteer Projects

DSC_1610 DSC_1588The morning of Saturday, September 20th , with new re-generation and small, robust-looking seedlings planted by PRLC in 2013 gaining ground after Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on Carolins Grove Preserve, volunteers and PRLC staff installed deer fencing in three important locations in the Grove. With financial assistance from Volunteer New York! and an Americorps volunteer, community residents helped to diversify new growth and protect the Grove’s wooded landscape with native perennials. Some hung fencing wire and attached plastic 8 foot fencing materials, others dug holes, planted and watered. PRLC  will continue to monitor woodland regeneration, control invasives where most important to this landscape, and bring additional diversity in the way of a variety of propagated seedlings  to strengthen the Grove’s resiliency for future years and weather impacts.

DSC_1413Earlier in the summer, volunteers helped our community’s younger hikers stay dry when visiting the Young Explorers Loop at Carolins Grove from  Pound Ridge Elementary School grounds, by constructing over 60 feet of bog bridge over seasonally muddy areas of the trail used for outdoor learning.  Volunteers carried in materials, laid cross locust boards in place- all set on pre-harvested and cut cedar logs. Several high school students earned community service credits for their work.

This Summer- Ongoing Invasive Control and Management at the Isaacson Fen, Clark and Carolins Grove Preserves

PRLC land steward and field biologist, Krista Munger, says “we manage each preserve differently according to its important habitat”. With this in mind, PRLC staff and volunteers joined conservation groups across New York State to control invasive species and restore native habitats during Invasive Species Awareness Week. July 12th as part of PRLC’s first-Saturday-of-the-month morning volunteer work sessions, staff, student volunteers, college summer interns and PR neighbors worked to preserve a rare fen habitat at PRLC’s Isaacson Preserve. Just about 50 volunteer hours were spent hand cutting and bagging the invasive phragmites reed which inundates this sensitive and rarely seen environment, home to wonderful dragonflies and grasshoppers. Participants got to understand how difficult the actual removal of this invasive plant is and reviewed PRLC’s impact on the fen’s native vegetation through investigation of study plots from years past.

DSC_1374 Invasive management was addressed by volunteer work sessions throughout the summer in PRLC’s 70-acre Clark Preserve  where swaths of invasive barberry was removed pursuant to a forest management plan and a grant from the NYS Watershed Council. In addition, a vernal pool habitat was made more conducive to wildlife with the girdling of several invasive Norway Maples and the removal of barberry and climbing vines. A private grant has been made to establish protected areas where newly planted native shrubs will be established this fall to assist with overall woodland health and resiliency.