Nature

By Kevin Rodney

THE URBAN FARMING TREND CAUGHT ON DECADES AGO THROUGHOUT OUR COUNTRY…

…an unrelenting, unfettered drive to cost-effectively product fruit-and-vegetables organically, flavorfully enhanced, nutritive, immediately accessed, economical.

Additionally, urban residents, particularly those on tight budgets, gain knowledge and a sense of self sufficiency when they dive into farming and growing edible food.

Here in the Midwest, we have four distinct seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. Outdoor food-growing is done mid-May through Mid-September at best, an inevitable drawback if one relies on farming as a food need.

Tomatoes: Early Girls, Beefsteaks, Romas, Heirlooms…tomatoes are the most common, popular, prolific garden food that amateur growers produce all over The United States. Homegrown, thoughtfully grown tomatoes generally abound in flavor, and they are fresh and delightful. They differ radically from store-bought (even high-income gourmet retailers) in that way. Said retail businesses feature tomatoes, none of which have any taste or flavor at all.

One can become very fond – hooked, so to speak – on the amazing high-quality of homegrown produce. In some, depression may surge at seasons end when a farmer realizes that he or she can count on ten fingers those that remain. When they realize that they won’t taste another Roma again until the following spring/summer and the next crop comes in. Some will dearly long for that day when a tomato is once again, great with the eggs and hash browns. Some will never buy another tomato until they seasonally plant their own.

AN EARLY AMERICAN (1917) WRITER NAMED O’HENRY WROTE A POIGNANT SHORT STORY entitled The Last Leaf. The setting is Greenwich Village in New York City. Plagued by a serious pneumonia epidemic, and many fight for life.

In particular, a young girl lies very sick in her small apartment. She clings to life, down with crippling pneumonia. Her main focus is an alley wall outside the bedroom window.

The wall is laden with leaves growing on a vine. It is frigid in New York that night. There is an incessant, sub-zero howling wind through the alley.

As the sick child watches leaves randomly blowing away, she hears a knock on her door. Her visitor is an old man who lives in the building. He is a struggling artist, a painter who barely makes rent. He and the girl are friends. He checks in with her.

His goal has always been to paint his masterpiece while still alive..

He fears for the sick girl. She watches leaves blow copiously off the alley vine. Sadly, she develops the idea that if the last leaf blows away overnight, her will to live will fade. That she will die. The old artist tries, but cannot cheer her up and bids her goodnight.

In the morning, the girl joyously sees that her last leaf has hung on over the brutal night. She is reinvigorated, and inspired, her will to live is much stronger.

Unbeknownst to her, the old artist is found frozen to death in the alley. While the last leaf blew away hours before, he painted its likeness on the alley wall. While it cost him his life, he has truly created his masterpiece.
The spirit of the sick girl is manifested in this writer.

The morose melancholy that plagues a committed urban farmer when the last tomatoes are gone lingers over the dark, foreboding winter.

By Rebecca Hammond

DETROIT IS A FRIENDLY CITY AND FERNDALE MIGHT BE ITS FRIENDLIEST SUBURB. IT’S RARE TO GO FOR A STROLL AND HAVE ANOTHER WALKER NOT RETURN A HELLO.

We see lots of walkers-by from our front porch, sometimes folks we’ve never seen before, but usually the same people day after day, reliable enough that it can be worrisome to not see someone for a few days. Everyone who passes says hi, and even people across the street wave and call out. The typical small talk is what seems to make the world go round. The weather, their dog, which flowers are in bloom at the moment, and isn’t that garden a lot of work compared to a lawn (no, it’s much less). The encounters never get old.

We’re a known walkable city thanks to ongoing efforts by multiple officials and maybe some lucky geography, with even those of us living at the outer edges of our four quadrants being a comfortable stroll to and from our thriving downtown. We can walk to do anything here and, although I don’t know many who live completely car-free, it’s possible. Phil just left the house for his almost-daily walk to the Library (and Western Market on the way home). We’ve walked to Hambo for years once a week to meet neighbors for breakfast, usually hitting Credit Union One, the Library, and either Natural Food Patch or New York Bagel before heading home.

Ace Hardware in Oak Park is walkable for lots of us. So are two bookstores, Library Books on 9 Mile, and King Books on Woodward, and countless places to eat and drink. Howe’s Bayou is a favorite on-foot destination. So is Anita’s Kitchen. Last week I walked to Mezcal for lunch with two beloved friends. If you want service as friendly as encounters on Ferndale’s sidewalks are, with terrific food as a bonus, head to Mezcal. On the way, birdwatch. And garden gaze. I’ll bet in a month or so it’ll be impossible to find a block in Ferndale without one front yard boasting milkweed.

WALKING IS WAY OF LIFE in rural Michigan, too. Last fall Phil and I spent two days biking from Rogers City to Cheboygan and back, and met two old guys (“older” meaning about our age) who each walked five miles a day. Neither said why, but both gave the impression that a health crisis had precipitated a big turnaround, a change in lifestyle by someone determined to not only stay alive, but thrive.

Many long-distance hiking books include a personal transformation, so much so that those of us who read them would be disappointed if Cheryl Strayed had not found release from her grief and a self-destructive life in Wild, or Heather Anderson hadn’t found a way to cope with self-doubt in Mud, Rocks, Blazes, her Appalachian Trail story. My copy of Granny D, bought for a dollar at the Ferndale library, is signed by author Doris Haddock, to Ferndale’s own Nancy Goedert. Like Strayed, Haddock walked a long distance, finally finding release from the grief of two great losses. She made it from coast-to-coast, to bring attention to the need for campaign finance reform. At age 89 she found herself in much better health after her years on the road than before it.

Raynor Winn’s marvelous The Salt Path, though, tells of another health transformation. After losing their farm to a long-time friend’s treachery, she and husband Moth set out on the Coastal Path in SW Britain, mainly because they had no money to do anything else, including buy or rent another home. Did I mention that Moth had also just been given a terminal diagnosis, in the same week they lost their farm? His doctor warned him to take it easy, not exert himself, and to expect the rest of his life to last two years. What they found to their surprise was that as the weeks passed, Moth got better and stronger. Winn’s second book, The Deep Silence, is partly about her research into why this was probably so. Like the two Michigan guys we met along US23 on the shores of Lake Huron, walking was curative, more than expected or hoped for.

A FAVORITE TOPIC ON SOCIAL-MEDIA HIKING PAGES IS FOOTWEAR. People often insist that only hiking boots will do, but walkers here wear everything. I hate boots even on the trail. It feels like a bucket on each foot. After years of my own trial and error (and discovering the YouTube channel Homemade Wanderlust and its charm- ing host Dixie) I’ve settled on on Altra trail runners. But, like lots of the people going past our porch constantly, I’ve tried sports sandals, flip- flops, even going barefoot.

Michigan, in fact, used to have a barefoot hiking club which was featured on the front page of the Free Press’ Sunday Life section long ago; a few states still have them. Humans used to walk lon- ger distances with more basic footwear. Maybe we’ve gotten overly worried about ankle and arch support. Everyone has to figure out what works for them. The best shoe doesn’t remind you it’s on your foot. Emma Gatewood of Ohio hiked the Appalachian Trail three times, the first at age 67, wearing Converse tennies or Keds. Books on hiking, like former US Representative David Bonior’s Walking to Mackinac, are books with blisters being a prominent sub-topic, if like Bonior and his wife Judy, the writer/hiker wore boots. Wild is also a book with a boots-and-blisters subplot.

Many of us are using our devices to track a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Being a person who’s not so much allergic to technology as finding it allergic to me, I’m still surprised that after years of having no cell phone, then a lowly flip phone, I’m enjoying my iPhone mainly because of that health app and its step-counting. It’s a good feeling to go on an errand and glance at the phone when you get home and discover you’re two-thirds of the way to 10,000. Get out and walk! Ferndale is the perfect place for it.

 

By Ryan R. Ennis

ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, ALARMS SHOULD BE SOUNDING ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS for the creatures who fertilize our flowers and crops. Environmentalists at Pennsylvania State’s Center for Pollinator Research report that beekeepers have been losing significant amounts of their colonies each year. Conservationists at the Center for Biological Diversity stress that Monarch butterflies are
now hovering near extinction. And scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology declare that many bird species are also endangered. All of this seems to imply impending doom for our natural world.

In response to the crisis, the researchers are also looking at the reasons why wildlife populations are decreasing. Some of their investigations show that a major contributor is the expanse of traditional lawns in our cities. When lawns consist of just sod or grass, they create what is called a “monoculture,” or the growing of a single plant. Acting as a “dead zone,” the lack of diverse vegetation disrupts the natural food webs. As birds swoop down over the grass, they frequently find no caterpillars to snatch and feed to their babies. Despite roaming for hours and miles, butterflies and
bees often fail to come across any clover or milkweed to feast on. With so little nutrients available, it’s no wonder that birds and insects are dying off.

Regular lawns can be detrimental to the environment in other ways. Possessing short root structures,
both turf and sod lack the ability to soak up the water from heavy downpours. The surplus water runs off our lawns, fills up the storm drains, and puts unnecessary stresses on our infrastructures. This same rainwater flooding our drains and sewers oftentimes contains the fertilizes we use to treat our lawns.

Eventually, the chemicals end up in our rivers and lakes, resulting in an overabundance of algae growing in them. By blocking out the sun and absorbing all the oxygen near the surface, the massive algae blooms diminish the lifecycles of the creatures and plants whose homes are our waterways. Humans are affected by the invasive plant as well. If we happen to canoe or kayak across a stream full of bacteria-ridden algae, we risk exposure to the harmful toxins being released in the air.

LANDSCAPING OPTIONS THAT HELP WILDLIFE

AS A WAY OF HELPING NATURE TO REBOUND, Ferndale Garden Club President Dominic Scappaticci proposes that we “rethink what a traditional lawn should look like.” For decades, owning a house or condo with a lush lawn has been the benchmark in suburbia. A well- maintained yard often communicates to others that we care about ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities. It also provides appropriate places where dogs can walk and sniff, children can play, and outdoor parties can be hosted. To design these spaces, Scappaticci says that we don’t have to lay down sod or plant only grass seed. Instead, we help the environment by choosing to create a bee lawn in our yards.

“Bee lawns,” explains Scappaticci, “are a mix of lawn grass and low-growing plants that attract pollinators.” Some of the plants that entice bees include clover, creeping thyme, and the herb called self-heal. Although these plants all flower, the blooms remain small enough to survive the lawnmower blade. Since bee lawns can be trimmed, we can still use them for recreation. Another advantage of bee lawns is that they are able to endure significant fluctuations in the weather. Perhaps best of all, they require limited watering and no chemicals to stay green.

“A lot of research concerning bee lawns,” reveals Scappaticci, “has been conducted by
scientists at the University of Minnesota. They actually studied what kinds of seed mixes work best for withstanding the mower and people walking on them.” These mixes have been made available for the public purchase through commercial landscaping companies and online vendors, such as Twin Seed and Outsidepride Seed Source.

Installing a natural meadow is another environmentally-conscious option for us. “Natural meadows are a mix of native grasses and native meadow plants,” explains Scappaticci, “that are grown to full height. Thus, they are much taller than bee lawns.” This type of landscape has an even greater impact on our ecosystems. The taller plants provide habitats for insects to lay eggs and com-plete their lifecycles; as well as places for birds to feed, take shelter, and locate nesting materials.

One drawback to natural meadows is that the high vegetation makes it poorly suited for recreational activities. Another is the slight risk of ticks ending up in the tall grasses, so we shouldn’t let our children or dogs wander through them without taking precautions.

SELECTING & NURTURING NATIVE PLANTS

“BEFORE TRYING TO ESTABLISH A NATURAL MEADOW, know the soil,” Scappaticci advises. “It will
determine the types of grass and perennials that should be planted.” For drier or sandy Michigan ground, the following non-invasive grasses will grow well: prairie dropseed, Canada wild rye, and switchgrass. For damper Michigan soil, the following will work better: sedges, swamp milkweed, and Joe
Pye weed. Some flowering perennials that attract pollinators and can be mixed with the grasses are milkweed, purple coneflowers, blazing star, and native asters. “Plants appropriate for meadows,” he adds, “need full-sun exposure.”

If we plan to grow a bee lawn, “it can be done simply by overseeding,” says Scappaticci. In the spring, this involves thoroughly raking our yards, then sprinkling a bee lawn mixture over the grass, with heavy seed concentrations on any bare patches. After a few rainfalls, the low-growing grass and flowering plants that bees love will begin to expand across the lawn. To maintain a bee lawn on our property, we will only need to mow the yard every few weeks and possibly reseed in some areas the following year.

Unlike a bee lawn, a natural meadow requires more thought, labor, and time to cultivate. According to Scappaticci, the best technique is to “start with a clean slate.” That means removing all the existing vegetation in the location where the meadow will go in early spring. To smother any regrowth, the soil
should be covered with either weighted-down sheets of card- board or black plastic tarps. In some instances, the tarps are preferred because they absorb sunlight and transfer intense heat into the soil, which kills off the seeds from the old vegetation.

After a month or so, we can take off the covers and then aerate the soil. To prevent any weeds from
invading, Scappaticci recommends immediately putting in an annual crop of clover or rye grass. In between the clover or rye grass is where meadow-flourishing perennials and native grasses will be planted. By the next year, the size of the native plants will increase in all directions to fully occupy the area.

If we don’t have weeks to devote to the project, there’s another method that takes less time. The steps to this other method are letting our grass grow long in a particular area, digging out any invasive weeds by hand, and then planting taller-growing perennials throughout the section. Since the original vegetation was never choked out, the second approach gives weeds the opportunity to come back more frequently.

Other than monitoring the meadows for weeds and other invasive plants, we most likely will find the upkeep of them to be relatively simple. A common city ordinance requires that property owners register their planned natural landscapes to avoid receiving a ticket for out-of-control vegetation. Another typical regulation is that the property owners must also retain a border of mowed lawn surrounding it. The width of the border should span several feet or more to ensure that our neighbor’s views are unobstructed as they pull in or back out of their driveways.

At the end of the growing season, Scappaticci says that we should “cut down some of the grass and perennials sections, which allows seeds to set in the soil for birds to collect and eat.” One portion of the meadow should remain standing to serve as a refuge for wildlife during the winter. Each year, he advises “alternating which section is left untouched” over the winter so that the varying plants and their seeds can provide food and shelter for different pollinators.

As a closing thought, he tells us not to be too hard on ourselves for any blunders in designing or caring for natural landscapes: “Simply try again. Even planting one native plant at a time will go a long way” to enhance nature in our communities.

OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION

IF WE NEED ADDITIONAL RESOURCES to help us under- stand how natural landscapes work, we can read the ecologist Doug Tallamy’s books on eco-friendly approaches to gardening. His books can be checked out at most public libraries.

Another option available is visiting the natural meadows that have been developed at both Palmer Park and Callahan Park in Detroit. Volunteers at the Detroit Bird City project look after these landscapes and encourage the public to stop by and take a stroll so that they can see the different native plants and how they draw a diversity of bird life.

To gain more knowledge on conservation, we can also join our local garden clubs, or become members of our city’s park & recreation and sustainability commissions.

Lastly, there is uniting with the Homegrown National Park movement. Its philosophy states that if everyone took a portion of their yard and converted it into a meadow, the combined sections would be larger than our national parks and therefore have a significant impact on the environment. Containing extensive information on native plants, the organization’s website is www.homegrownnationalpark.org.

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By Lisa Howard

STATELY OAKS, SHOWY MAGNOLIAS, PLUCKY MAPLES…EVERYONE HAS A FAVORITE TREE.

Kerry Lark, a certified arborist with a horticultural degree who has taught at MSU and various community colleges, chose gingko trees and a dawn redwood tree for his property. Really, though, he loves all trees. “I’ve been digging in the dirt my whole life,” he says. “I hate cutting down trees — I always try to save them. I want to help all trees thrive.”

His mantra is “Right tree, right spot.” That isn’t always easy to adhere to, though, particularly if someone else put the tree there or if conditions around the tree have changed in unfavorable ways: A canopy tree that needs more sun gets shaded out, an understory tree that wasn’t meant to be in full sun suddenly is, soil conditions have become fundamentally different, and so on. Or maybe the tree has fallen victim to “weed whackeritis,” which is when people bang into the trunk of a tree with a weed whacker or lawn- mower and injure it. That kills a lot of trees, Kerry says, especially young ones. To prevent such injuries, he recommends cutting out the surrounding sod three feet out from the tree in a circle and putting down mulch — then the tree will be protected from physical damage. Although do not heap up mulch (or soil, or anything else) against the tree! That will rot the trunk.

ANOTHER CONSIDERATION WHEN PLANTING A TREE IS HOW BIG WILL IT GET? And what kind of shape will it have? Trees grow. It takes a while, but eventually, an ill-placed, ill-sized tree could become a hazard and might need to be tragically cut down before its time. Having all of the same type of tree could also be problematic, particularly if said trees are prone to disease — Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, and emerald ash borer have all wreaked havoc in Michigan. That’s why Kerry is a proponent of incorporating both native and nonnative trees in urban landscapes.

“Nonnatives are resistant to the diseases they brought with them because they co-evolved with those diseases, whereas our native species have no resistance and they’ll get wiped out,” Kerry says. On top of that, just because a tree is native doesn’t mean it will thrive in an urban / city area — those surroundings are nothing like a forest. “Cities have a lot of pollution in comparison,” Kerry points out, “plus they tend to have heavy clay soil in a lot of areas.” One example of a tough nonnative are gingko trees: They can handle city pollution very well and don’t require any chemicals or inputs to remain robust.

The inherent strength of a tree matters, too. Silver maples are notorious for not having a good structure (they tend to split themselves apart), mulberries are weak-wooded and fall apart in storms (but their admittedly messy fruits are delicious!), and trees like redbuds and American dogwoods are barely hardy in Michigan (you won’t see them north of here). On the plus side, judiciously pruning trees during the dormant months of November through March can help them have a stronger, better-shaped structure. What nonprofessionals call “suckers” and arborists call “epicormic shoots” take energy away from the rest of the tree, including the leaves and flowers, so it’s usually best to trim those.

It’s also sometimes possible to enrich the soil with amendments to help a struggling tree thrive. But really, the best way to help trees is to remember Kerry’s cardinal rule: “Right tree, right spot.” Thinking of planting a tree? To research your options, search for “MSU smart tree tips.”

Kerry Lark can be reached at 810-499-0953.

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By Ryan R. Ennis

IN THE SPRING, WHETHER YOU’RE ON A WALK OR A BIKE RIDE, IT’S NATURAL TO PAUSE AND LET YOUR GAZE LINGER over the yards in the neighborhood with the most appeal. Enchanted by the vibrant gardens, you’re stirred with the desire to improve the scenery around your own property. With so many varieties of flowering plants available, it’s understandable to feel some intimidation about where to start.

According to some landscaping experts, a good way to begin is by figuring out what kinds of flowers you want to plant. The three primary types are called annuals, biennials, and perennials.

Robbin Yelverton, local florist and owner of Blumz by JR Designs, states that the differences between the flower types are “all based on (their) life cycles.” Annuals grow from a seed to a flowering plant in one season, then die. Examples of annuals include zinnias, petunias, marigolds, and most sunflowers.

Biennials, on the other hand, take two years to fully develop. During the first year, biennials sprout leaves; during the second, they bloom and make seeds. Some examples of biennials are parsley, sweet William, black-eyed Susan, as well as certain varieties of foxgloves and hollyhocks.

Non-woody, flowering plants that live longer than two years are perennials; some of which are
coneflowers, daylilies, yarrow, and blazing star.

“In the garden,” says Yelverton, “these three types of plants are used for differing purposes.” Some basic reasons are to achieve beauty, to help the environment, or to accomplish a combination of both.

Some gardeners prefer to add annuals to their beds since these flowers come in many colors. The different varieties are often mixed and matched for visual impact. Another benefit of annuals is that they will grow quicker and bloom longer than perennials and biennials. Toward the middle and end of the season, as perennials and biennials fade and wither, homeowners can fill in the gaps in their gardens with new annuals.

And because annuals don’t come back, there’s no need to worry about them crowding out the plants that will return the following year. A drawback of annuals is that they are highly susceptible to chilly weather and, thus, should only be planted in late spring, usually after the second week of May, when frost exposure is no longer an issue.

CONSEQUENTLY, OTHER GARDENERS CHOOSE TO GROW BIENNIALS because of their hardiness. “They are more tolerant of cold weather and often re-seed more effectively,” explains Yelverton. “Once they are planted, they typically will continue to return for subsequent seasons.” Nevertheless, a disadvantage of planting biennials can be their unpredictability: while it commonly takes two years for them to reach maturity and bloom, some may complete their life cycle in one year, others in three. Therefore, waiting for biennials to fully grow may require patience.

When gardeners want robust vegetation that burst with blooms during the first growing season, they often install perennials to enliven their landscaping. “Once established and well-maintained,” Yelverton says, “a perennial will continue to flower each year for several years. They form the actual structure of the garden since they stay in place for years and continue to grow and expand.” In the process, they supply ground cover and preserve moisture for the soil.

Another advantage is that they are easily increased by splitting them and replanting the sections
of the original plants to produce new ones. Furthermore, several varieties make the nectar and pollen that bees love to devour. A couple of problems with perennials are that they can be vulnerable to disease and take up more space than annuals in the gardening beds.

AFTER WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS of the different types of flowers, you may feel ready to head out to the nearest nursery or gardening center and make some purchases. Nonetheless, Dominic Scappaticci, President of the Ferndale Gardening Club, has five other points to keep in mind before buying
any plants.

The first is to promote caterpillars. Asters, hollyhocks, ironweed, and mallows are just some of the plant species that host caterpillars, which birds feed to their babies to ensure the survival of their next generation. The second is to read the instructions that come with the flowers. Based on their spatial, lighting, and watering needs, will they thrive in the locations you’ve picked? The third is to visit a public library: it serves as a good resource with its many books and magazines about gardening, along with its access to database articles covering the topic.

The fourth is to talk to other gardeners during your neighborhood strolls. “You’ll get tips and ideas from them,” offers Scappaticci, “and maybe make a friend.” The fifth is to understand that sometimes plants die, even when you do everything right: “It happens to the most advanced and to the newest gardeners. Don’t let it deter you,” he emphasizes.

BEFORE BRINGING ANY PLANTS HOME, make sure you have the necessary materials and tools for planting. According to Yelverton, the average home gardener should have at least the following to complete the task: a hand trowel for planting annuals, weeding, and cultivating around the plants; and a quality pair of hand pruners for trimming and pruning. Keeping these items sharp and well-oiled will ensure that they last for many years.

While some may not consider gardening gloves as a tool, wearing a sturdy pair can prevent your hands from receiving abrasions, cuts, and irritations from plant saps and foreign debris in the soil. Yelverton has a trick for ridding yourself of any dirt that penetrates the gloves and settles beneath the fingernails: “Coat your nails heavily with a good hand lotion prior to putting on the gloves. It makes cleaning your nails after the job is done so much easier.” Other common tools needed by gardeners are shovels, forks, rakes, and hoes — all proving useful for breaking up, aerating, and weeding the soil.

AFTER THE TOOLS ARE GATHERED, the next step might involve planning where some new gardening beds will go. Before digging, observe and mentally note how much natural light the areas under consideration will receive. This survey will tell you whether you should put in plants requiring shade, partial shade, or full sun. From there, outline the beds using an old gardening hose or
thick string. The hose or string can be rearranged until you’re satisfied with the shape, “saving you many headaches in the long run,” Scappaticci says. A problem you might discover while digging is that the area has too much clay in it. To amend the earth, mix in some compost or soil conditioners. The products significantly improve the land’s ability to hold in water and nutrients.

Once the beds have been prepared, Scappaticci recommends another procedure to follow as your plants make their way into the ground. His first suggestion: To promote the plants’ healthiness, “check the flowers over for broken stems or yucky leaves and remove them.” His second: “Dig holes as deep as the length of the soil in the pot and twice as wide,” to ensure the openings will appropriately accommodate your plants’ roots and can be backfilled with the right amount of quality soil and organic matter to cover the root bulb.

His third tip: As you take the plants out of the pot, “use your fingers to massage and loosen roots so
that they don’t stick together.” This method encourages the plants’ roots to spread out in the soil, thereby providing a good foundation for supporting their stem or stalks.

By Kerry Lark

Trevor Johnson

TREVOR JOHNSON, THE FOUNDER OF NEW DAWN GARDENSCAPES LLC., is an energetic fellow with a genuine passion for plants and our planet, and a true educator at heart! His green industry education and experience is impressive and diverse, including:

• Student Teacher and Farmer at MSU’s Student Organic Farm 2003-2007

• Owner/Operator of New Dawn Gardenscapes LLC since 2006

• Awarded a Permaculture Design Certificate in 2006

• Earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Horticulture from Michigan State University in 2007

• Resident Farmer and Manager at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital since 2014

Oakland County Food Policy Council Member since 2014

• Earning a Masters of Public Health Degree from Oakland University in 2022

What is permaculture? The word comes from combining “permanent” and “agriculture.” It is credited to Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, two educators who observed how the unsustainable methods employed by modern industrialized humans were destroying our planet. They became inspired by studying how our indigenous ancestors lived in better harmony with the earth and climate around them, so they published their ground-breaking book, Permaculture One in 1978. According to Mr. Mollison; “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”

The philosophy describes an approach of creating better designs for us to manage our land and resources, designs based on mimicking the successful ecosystems currently existing in nature. It starts with observing and understanding what makes nature succeed and then uses this knowledge as a template to implement a better way for humans to co-exist with the earth.

Permaculture doesn’t focus only on how human actions affect local air, water soil, animals and plants. Rather, it includes the effects our actions will have on ecosystems far away. Practitioners of permaculture call this “whole system thinking.”

Like all great ideas, permaculture has evolved and expanded drastically in the last 44 years, far beyond its rural roots to now including urban areas. It is urban areas that Trevor is focused on, using permacuture as his guide to improve the overall public health in local communities. Trevor embraces the importance of re-attaching the lost connections between people and plants, and the positive effect this has on human health.

We know that modern mega-farms waste precious non-renewable resources such as soil, water, minerals and nutrients. The short-term pain of the current high food prices and food shortages highlights this fact, but this is small potatoes compared to the long-term damage these negative practices are doing to the planet.

We can all help to restore our ecosystems, producing sustainable, self-reliant communities. Doing this will give future generations a better world, one that values and preserves its resources. The great Chief Seattle summed it up best long ago, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR A “NEW DAWN” AND A FRESH START FOR OUR PLANET. Sure, our local governments can help, but what are you going to do?

While you ponder that, keep in mind what Albert Einstein once said; “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything!”

To learn more about how permaculture can make a difference in your community, check out www.newdawngardens.org.

THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB (FGC), founded in 1931, continues to be vibrant and active.

Fall activities included the annual mum sale, a scholarship fundraiser. FGC has offered a scholarship to a graduating Ferndale High School senior since 1998!

In September, the FGC held their annual zinnia bloom contest (Ferndale’s city flower). Everyone votes on the best bloom and the winner takes home a blue ribbon. The contest is open to all and is a fun way for local gardeners to meet in person.

A big highlight of 2021 was the special field trip to the Piet Oudolf Garden on Belle Isle.

And free zinnia seeds were handed out at the annual Seed swap at the Ferndale Library in February.

The FGC maintains the Memorial Mall, a public garden on Oakridge at Livernois “as a place of respite and contemplation” for the community. Garden club volunteers also helped rejuvenate the plants around the Hilton Convalescent home.

MONTHLY MEETINGS INCLUDE PRESENTATIONS on a variety of gardening topics includeing intentional meadows, planting native plants and trees, supporting pollinators (including monarch and black swallowtail butterflies), restoring native bird habitats with healthy nesting materials, rooting houseplant cuttings, hydroponic seed starting, growing aquatic plants, and more. Meeting dates are May 12, June 9, July 14, Sept. 9; 7:00 P.M. at Harding Park Pavillion.

The club also hosts garden workdays at Oakridge and Livernois the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 A.M. Feel free to bring your own tools and help out! April 2 / May 7 / June 4 / July 2 / Aug. 6 / Sept. 3 / Oct. 1 / Nov. 5.

FGC membership includes residents of Ferndale, Oak Park, Detroit, Royal Oak and more. Garden lovers of all skills and abilities are invited from beginners to master gardeners to “folks that just enjoy looking at gardens.”

Facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub

• @theferndalegardenclub

theferndalegardenclub@gmail.com

ferndalegardenclub@gmail.com

By Lisa Howard

AS SOON AS YOU HEAR THE FIRST BIRD CHIRP IN SPRING, you might think – “Garden!” And, then you might wonder how to go about creating one. While the kamikaze approach of wandering through a plant store and buying whatever strikes your fancy might work, you’re more likely to be successful if you think about some basic considerations first.

• If you’d like to let your inner floral designer bloom and arrange DIY bouquets to your heart’s content, look for showy, hardy flowers and accent plants that are clearly marked as “excellent to use in bouquets/as cut flowers.”

• If you’re a first-time food grower, choose plants that are easy to maintain and that quickly produce, like bush beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs. Bear in mind that pole beans (and peas) need structures to climb on and that bigger tomatoes and peppers will take much longer to grow and ripen than will smaller versions.

Zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and other squash grow well as long as they don’t get waterlogged — if their broad, cupping leaves spend too much time being wet, they’ll likely wind up attracting opportunistic molds like powdery mildew. Ditto for melons. Corn typically needs to be planted somewhat in quantity in order to be cross-pollinated and produce sizeable ears. Planning is key!

MSU’s Gardening in Michigan website has oodles of information about how to best map out your veggies in an article titled Planning a Smart Vegetable Garden.

• If you’d like to support pollinators, check out MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative. You’ll find thoughtful articles like Pollinator Lawns, Pollinator Gardens and Pollinator-Supportive Trees. They even have a free online course called Pollinator Champions, if you’d like to become an MSU-Certified Pollinator Champion. On a national scale, the National Wildlife Federation offers resources that enable your garden to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®: www.nwf.org/certify. Planting the kind of native plants that support pollinators also enriches your soil and regenerates the land.

• Aside from thinking about the overall shape and size of your garden, you’ll also need to map out how to get into it if you want to be able to walk through it to harvest food or flowers. Will you need to plan for a pathway? Make sure you’ll be able to easily water and tend to your plants and think about whether you want them to be permanent (perennials) or only last for one season (annuals).

• Stagger your plants! If you want to be able to view everything in your garden, put tall plants in the center/at the back and radiate outwards with progressively shorter plants. Not only will that maximize the aesthetic value of your garden, the shorter plants won’t be shaded into oblivion by their taller neighbors.

Perhaps most importantly, find out what your plants want and give it to them, whether that’s sun or shade, dry or moist soil, vining support or room to spread out or being generally warmer or cooler. If you make it easy for your garden to grow, you’ll be beautifully rewarded.

By Kerry Lark

RE-TREE CONNECTS AND UNITES TREE-LOVERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, offering them three options for mature trees: relocation, buying, or selling. RE-TREE has already saved many mature trees from becoming a pile of woodchips!

DENNISE VIDOSH IS THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF RETREE, A WOMAN-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS DEDICATED TO SAVING AND RE-PURPOSING OUR MATURE TREES. Her love for trees is literally in her family bloodline, going back to the days she spent as a child working with her father, Donn Vidosh Sr., a legendary pioneer in Michigan’s landscape construction industry.

It was her passion for trees that ultimately led Vidosh to create RE-TREE. Based in Pontiac, RETREE’s imaginative digital marketplace and educational platform makes it easy for commercial and residential property owners to save mature trees from being needlessly destroyed and create value for themselves rather than waste.

Trees are the longest living organisms on earth, with some able to live over 5,000 years. Talk about longevity! However, unlike most living organisms, trees aren’t able to get up and move if the need arises. In many urban areas, some trees will eventually outgrow their allotted space. Unfortunately, most people are unaware that they don’t have to destroy a tree trapped in this predicament. RE-TREE now gives their previously-doomed tree a chance to move, survive and thrive.

Mature trees are irreplaceable, and provide plentiful ecological and sentimental value to people, communities and the earth.

  • A single mature tree can absorb about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and release enough oxygen back into the air to support two human beings.
  • Trees reduce air pollution, prevent contaminated stormwater runoff from reaching our rivers/lakes and save homeowners substantial heating/cooling costs.
  • Trees enhance our well-being by reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This lowers blood pressure and improves our moods and attitudes.
  • The Japanese understand the many health benefits given to them by spending time in their mature forests. They actually bathe their mind and bodies in a form of ecotherapy called “shinrin-yoku,” which literally translates to “forest bath”!
  • Mature trees provide a shady, comfortable home and food source for many life forms.

When you transplant a tree, in most cases it will suffer what is known as “transplant shock.” Unfortunately, the bigger (and older) the tree is, the greater the shock. Therefore, minimizing this stressful shock is of paramount importance. The key element is to preserve as many roots as possible.

RE-TREE has developed a pioneering method to preserve the root mass on a mature tree about to be relocated. Instead of using the traditional mechanical equipment to cut through the soil and remove a tree, RETREE uses an innovative tool called an AirSpade which uses compressed air to carefully expose the all-important root system. This method allows RETREE to preserve and then capture much more of the fragile roots.

Vidosh and RE-TREE care about saving mature trees and preserving their value. She sums it up with a quote from a Senegalese forester; “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

(517) 545-5067
RE-TREE.ORG

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By Lisa Howard

THREE-QUARTERS OF ALL FLOWERING PLANTS AND OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE WORLD’S FOOD CROPS have one thing in common: they depend on pollinators to reproduce: Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, flies, even birds and bats.

Monocropping, pesticide use, shrinking habitats and other modern-day agricultural/urban trends have imperiled pollinators, but the good news is that we can help them receive beautiful flowers and tasty crops in return.

“Don’t clean your garden too early in the spring,” Dominic Scappaticci advises. He’s the president of The Ferndale Garden Club (Facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub) and has long been a friend of bees and butterflies. “It’s best to wait until temperatures average in the 50s. A lot of pollinators like butterflies spend their entire lifecycles here in Michigan, and the next generation is asleep and hiding out in the leaf litter in your garden, in the old stems of plants and underneath the bark scattered around your yard. If you remove all of that debris too early, you’re throwing away the next generation of butterflies.”

And because many native bumblebees nest in the ground, it’s also important to have some patches of bare earth in the garden — then the bees can build their nests in those mulch-free spots and the queen can hibernate over the winter.

Of course, bees love flowers, particularly clover, goldenrod, blue lobelia and yellow giant hyssop, among others. Flowering herbs also attract plenty of buzz, although you might want to keep your basil flowers at a minimum since the leaves acquire a somewhat harsh flavor when you let the plant fully bloom.

Including mostly perennials in your garden and landscaping is another way to help pollinators and the entire food chain since perennials are multiseason plants that offer food and shelter throughout the year. Take the service-berry (a.k.a. shadbush, juneberry and saskatoon berry) that Dominic loves to recommend: Its white flowers bloom in early spring and feed earlywaking pollinators. Then it gets small, bluish berries in June that birds love, and then its leaves turn pretty colors in fall. You can prune it like a small tree or allow it grow like a shrub and – to top it off – you too can eat its berries!

To help butterflies, let wild violets flourish and plant dill, parsley and fennel, all of which Dominic calls “caterpillar magnets.” He points out that while it’s great to plant flowers that adult butterflies will feast upon, their babies — the caterpillars — also need food. “If you don’t have anything in your yard to feed caterpillars, then eventually you won’t see any butterflies,” he says. “You can balance that out by having host plants for caterpillars and also a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. Native oaks are especially wonderful food sources for many different types of butterfly larvae.”

To amp up your gardening savvy, pick up a copy of Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, a book Dominic heartily recommends. Or follow the Ferndale Garden Club and join in the fun! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their love of gardening.