The concept of an edible landscape is not new as it has been
an American tradition since Colonial times.
As time passed on from the Colonial era, more emphasis
was placed on the ornamental value of plants in the landscape other than
their value as a potential food source.
Today, the concept of an edible landscape is making a
comeback as food prices rise and public concerns about food quality and
safety continue to grow.
In suburban areas of homes with large lots, there is
ample land for gardening and the planting of edible landscapes. However, in
urban areas with small lots, edible landscapes are still possible with the
more limited space of a city lot.
One advantage of an edible landscape is that members of
the tree, shrub and herbaceous perennial groups, which are food sources, are
permanent members of the landscape so that they do not have to be planted
year after year such as the case with the popular heat-loving vegetables
such as tomatoes and peppers.
Another advantage of many of the edibles is that they
have excellent ornamental qualities as well.
One example is Cornus mas, or the Cornelian Cherry
Dogwood, with its glorious golden yellow flowers of early spring followed by
bright red fruits later in summer that can be used to make jams and jellies.
Another tree of merit is Amelanchier laevis, or
Allegheny Serviceberry, that blooms prolifically with white blossoms in late
April here in northern Ohio followed by blue-black berries in June that are
a favorite of birds. The berries of this North American native can be used
in pies, as the inhabitants of the Appalachian Mountains have done for
Vaccinium species, or blueberries, are fascinating
North American plants that grow over a wide geographic range.
The two northern species are the highbush type,
Vaccinium corybosum, and the low bush type, Vaccinium angustifolia.
In fact, crosses between the two above species have
resulted in the creation of the half high types that grow between 1½ and 3
feet and are ideal for use in the landscape.
The bright white flowers of spring, handsome summer
foliage and gorgeous colors of fall make a feast for the eyes.
The most important reason to plant blueberries though
are for the delicious, healthful berries that are high in antioxidants and
anthocyanins. The uses for the berries are quite numerous which include
jams, jellies, pies, cobblers, fresh eating, baking and juice.
Other edible landscape plants include rhubarb,
elderberries, currants, quince and flowering crabapples.
An edible landscape provides food for wildlife,
beautifies the environment and provides wholesome, nutritious berries and
fruits for its owner.
What a supplement for the family’s diet in addition to
the traditional vegetable garden!
On October 20, 2010, the 5th annual Why Trees Matter Forum
was held at the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development
Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio.
The key note address was given by Dr. Dave Nowak of the USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station and Syracuse University. The forum was held
despite the devastation caused at OARDC and the adjoining Secrest Arboretum
by a tornado strike on September 16, 2010. Dr. Nowak in his address as
reported in the January issue of the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association
publication Buckeye magazine, gave a rundown on 10 important facts about How
Trees Matter. Of the top ten list, two of the benefits were water quality
improvements and cooler temperatures especially in urban areas.
The two above benefits he listed as number four and number one
respectively. The water quality improvement resulting from trees while
important to the entire county is of particular importance to the City of
Akron, Ohio. The city is under orders from the U.S. EPA to significantly
reduce its sewage overflows to the Cuyahoga River in periods of heavy rains
due to storm and sewage sewer combinations.
In order to meet EPA demands for water quality, the remedies will cost city
taxpayers hundreds of million of dollars in order to construct separate
storm water sewers and massive retention basins to hold sewage water so that
it can be treated.
While tree plantings and measures to control water runoff from business and
residential properties will not solve the problem alone, they are two
important weapons in the arsenal to improve the quality of storm water
runoff before it enters waterways.
At the October 20th forum at OARDC, Donna Murphy of the USDA Forest Service
stated that the U.S. EPA indicates it would require $2.2 trillion to
retrofit the country’s water infrastructure employing concrete and pipe
In northeast Ohio, improvements along the banks of the grossly polluted
Little Cuyahoga River include the establishment of riparian borders and the
planting of trees.
Rain gardens and storm water storage are gaining popularity among homeowners
which will definitely help if these techniques could be greatly expanded.
The cooling effect of trees is well known as street trees tend to reduce
temperatures of Urban heat islands caused by the “blacktop jungle”.
In Akron, the loss of the great American Elms and their cooling effect in
the 1950's and 60's along city streets is still fresh in the minds of many
older residents. Properly placed shade trees on the south and southwest
sides of a house will decrease cooling costs resulting in less electricity
use and the burning of fossil fuels.
Jim Chatfield of the Ohio State Extension Service has been extensively
involved in the Why Trees Matter program. According to Mr. Chatfield, when
he and others attended a tree conference in Philadelphia, it was obvious
that the city for years has had a love affair with trees.
In the book John Adams by David McCullough, the author writes about John
Adam’s amazement upon arriving in Philadelphia as a representative from
Massachusetts to the convention of the First Continental Congress in 1774.
Adam’s noted that Philadelphia was the finest city he ever saw remarking on
the city’s tree lined streets.
A renaissance of “tree fever” in the United States like that of Philadelphia
wouldn’t be a bad thing.
According to an article written by Mark White of the January
10th publication in the Wall Street Journal, some political leaders such as
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy
would like to account for measures of the well-being factor of people as
part of a measurement of a nations’ gross domestic product.
While it’s true that “Man does not live by bread alone”, the well-being
factor as part of a nations’ GDP is difficult to calculate.
On the environmental front for example, one could argue that a wholesale
elimination of environmental regulations would probably boost our GDP when
monetary measures are used alone as they are now but would the country be
better off overall?
Increased trade and certain production practices can have a positive effect
on GDP but what effect can it have on the environment? Sometimes
environmental standards of well-being do not fare so well. For example, the
practice of coal mining known as mountaintop removal is cost efficient and
supplies relatively inexpensive coal to coal burning utilities and other
industries. However, after the mountain tops are removed and the valley’s
filled in which can bury miles of creek and streams, what kind of landscape
and water quality will remain after the coal runs out?
On the trade aspect, another concern is the constant threat that invasive
species pose to our nation as more and more insects, disease and animals are
hitching rides on ships and freight airliners. These non-native pests are
creating seen and unseen consequences for our domestic and wild animal and
Here in Ohio, the public is familiar with the devastation of tree species
such as the American Chestnut , American Elm and now the Ash. Other
“Pandora’s Boxes” include the Ambrosia bark beetle, Wooly Hemlock Adelgid,
Asian stink bugs, slugs and snails among others.
In the horticulture industry, many young plants known as liners are produced
in Africa and Latin America because of low labor costs and warm climates.
Yet a disease called Ralstonia made it’s way to the united States a few
years ago through shipments of these plant liners.
The Government acted swiftly to destroy the infected products as there was a
real danger that the disease could migrate from greenhouses to agricultural
Off shore productions of ornamental plants has no doubt made these products
more affordable but what cost would a general outbreak of Ralstonia do to
our food supply? Most of us would agree that while Mr. Cameron and Sarkozy
are on the right track of including a well-being factor as part of a
measurement of GDP.
The question remains: How can the well-being factor be accurately measured?
As the cliché goes “All that glitters is not gold”, so too goes the “green”
According to an article
written by Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council that appeared in a
recent publication of Ecowatch Journal, Akron’s First Energy Corporation
proposed to clean up one of its dirtiest generating plants, the R.E. Burger
plant by burning biomass that would also enable the company to meet its
requirement under Ohio law to produce at least 12.5% of its energy with
clean renewables which does include a sustainably sourced biomass in
addition to solar and wind energy.
On the surface, the
proposal is quite laudable until the details are revealed.
Mr. Shaner reports that
in June 2009, the Ohio legislature gave First Energy a sweetheart deal that
not only approved the plan but allowed First Energy to count its Renewable
Energy Credits (REC’s) at up to four and a half times that of solar or wind
The “extra” credits
would enable First Energy to meet its mandate under Ohio law for renewable
energy and possibly sell some credits to other investor-owned utilities.
Objections raised by the
Ohio Environmental Council, Sierra Club and the Buckeye Forest Council at
the hearings at the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) included that
the biomass source for the Burger plant proposal was not sustainable because
it would require 3 million tons of wood annually or the equivalent of 66,000
acres of trees.
Another objection was
with the Burger amendment as passed by the legislature would squash
development of solar and wind energy projects because of the extra credit
provision for REC’s having to do with the Burger plant.
The PUCO approved the
plan even though it was obligated under Ohio law to certify that energy
sources must be reusable and sustainable.
On November 15th,
the OEC appealed the Ohio Supreme Court on the grounds that the PUCO
decision to approve First Energy’s Burger plant was flawed as the commission
did not consider the sustainability issue of the biomass source and the fact
that the exaggerated REC’s would disrupt the market for REC’s and thus
interfere with interstate commerce.
Two days after the
appeal, First Energy dropped the Burger proposal citing it was not
economically feasible with falling energy prices.
Mr. Shaner of the Ohio
Environmental Council will go ahead with its appeal in order to force the
PUCO to explain why it did not consider the sustainability issue of the
Another concern is if
there is enough “public” in the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio or is
the agency merely a rubber stamp for investor owned utilities.
In a recent Akron Beacon Journal article, Bob Downing
reported of a proliferation of toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie and in
various Ohio inland lakes and ponds.
In Ohio are seven native species of algae that produce
One such toxin is called microcystin which is a known
nerve toxin. At high enough levels the toxin can sicken or even kill humans
and animals as such was the case this year in Ohio with 29 people sickened
and three dogs killed.
There is a moderate risk to those who use waterways for
recreational purposes when levels of microcystin are at levels of between 10
and 20 parts per billon.
The biggest problem is with bodies of water used for
swimming and those used for municipal water supplies.
Only once, very low levels of the toxin were found in
Akron’s city water supply as the water department’s carbon filters remove
any of the algae toxins.
The algae problem could not exist without phosphorus
from animal manures, farm runoff and lawn fertilizers according to Dr. David
Boher of Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research.
Recently, many lawn fertilizer manufacturers have
greatly reduced or totally removed phosphorus from their new product
I suspect that as more and more problems become
associated with water runoff loaded with fertilizer that the industry
believes that EPA regulation is very near.
Another possible scenario too is the escalating cost of
phosphorus that has seen prices triple or more since last spring!
At least from lawn fertilizers, the resultant
phosphorus runoff problems will largely be cleaned up from a much more
limited use of the element just as when phosphates were removed from
detergents years ago.
Riparian buffers along creeks and streams will help to
reduce polluted runoff from lawns and farms as these buffers act like a
As of now, I know of no EPA regulation (state or
federal) that limits phosphorus use; however, the lawn fertilizer industry
appears to be regulating itself very rapidly.
Water polluted with toxic algae caused by phosphorus
runoff is a problem we cannot afford and one which can and will be corrected
either from market forces due to the now high cost of phosphorus or
government mandates to reduce phosphorus runoff.
The debate about energy consumption, cost, carbon taxes,
“clean” coal, wind and solar energy is sure to rage on for years to come.
One note of good fortune for most of us that heat our
homes and businesses with natural gas is that the supply seems to be great
and the cost relatively low as compared to just two years ago.
At the nursery, lower natural gas costs are a blessing
as we typically use about 1400 MCF of this fuel to mostly heat our
greenhouses for the production of annual flowers to be ready for sale in
Before the last surge in natural gas prices, heating
the greenhouses was typically about 20% of the total production costs.
Even though gas costs seem to be declining, our goal is
to increase production of annual flowers with less gas or at least using no
more than our current consumption.
Three ways that we will achieve our goal of less
natural gas use is from the 93% greenhouse heaters we installed last spring,
heat curtains that close over the greenhouse crop at night blocking heat
transmission through the roof, and by growing “cold crops” in a separate
greenhouse where the minimum temperature for a quality plant is as much as
20 degrees than many other plants.
Some experts believe that at the current rate of
consumption, the United States has a 62 year supply of natural gas with
never drilling techniques.
You would think no one would question the lower natural
gas cost but think again.
Debate is raging over the practice called fracking in
which water and chemicals are injected at high pressure deep into shade rock
foundations in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia & Ohio.
The concern is that such techniques to extract the
gigantic locked up reserves could damage ground water supplies.
If wide spread contamination of ground water does occur
due to drilling, the jubilation of new found suppliers of gas at a lower
cost will be short-lived.
How our water supplies will fare during this drilling
boom only time will tell.
Today, with all the travel and trade in today’s modern world
population of living organisms that were once isolated in specific ranges or
more narrow geographic areas are traveling around the world with the aid of
Some harmful examples are the proliferation of
diseases, animals and insects that have decimated the native populations of
our own county.
Some of these invaders are well known such as the Gypsy
Moth, Dutch Elm Disease, Viburnum Leaf Beetle, the Asian fungus that
destroyed the native birds and bird eggs in Hawaii.
The more recent, quite noticeable problem of today is
the Emerald Ash Borer, a native to China, that is wreaking havoc on our
native Ash population.
A drive through NW Ohio and Michigan is all that is
needed to see the evidence of the deadly bug.
We ourselves are responsible for some of the invasive
species problems we have today.
For example, the Kudzu Vine from Asia was a good idea
for a ground cover for erosion control until it got to of hand choking just
about everything in its path in the South.
A less obvious invasive plant is the winged euonymus,
or Burning Bush, which has been planted and sold for residence and
commercial properties for the last few decades.
Many eastern states have been placing the Burning Bush
on an invasive species list as it seems where it is grown in the nursery
fields, it is difficult if not impossible to eradicate after it has been
I have noticed in the nursery growing belt east of
Cleveland, Ohio that Burning Bush seems to be disappearing from the fields
as some states have restrictions on this plant from out-of-state sources.
My belief is that the winged euonymus is destined for
invasive species status sooner or later (probably sooner) in the State of
Ohio and that growers of this plant see the writing on the wall.
There are many choices for fall color that are native
plants such as Aronia (Chokeberry), Viburnum plicatum (Doublefile Viburnum)
and Vaccinium (blueberries)
Many of the above natives (and more) have been
overlooked and underused due to the imprint of the Burning Bush name and
image on the general public’s mind.
Unfortunately, Burning Bush is still imprinted our
customers minds as frequently they are not interested in native plant
alternatives for fall color.
In my opinion, the above situation will change as most
nursery growers are already growing less of the winged Euonymus which is
lessening the supply and driving up the price of the plant.
The final death knell for the winged Euonymus in this
state will be when it is branded as an invasive species and out of state
shipments to Ohio are no more.
The native plants for fall color are looking better all
of the time.
In August I wrote no blog as I was on vacation out west
visiting the National parks.
These vast expanses of
land were only preserved by the wisdom of men such as Grover Cleveland,
George Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt among others to save these wondrous
"cathedrals" of the United States for use and enjoyment for "generations yet
unborn" as Teddy put it so well.
It disturbed me greatly on
my tours of the Rocky Mountain areas of the millions of acres of trees that
are dying or dead leaving the mountain sites brown or barren where once
there had been a verdant green forest of pine, spruce and fir.
On a tour of Glacier
National Park, I asked the park ranger about the dying trees as I observed
larvae of an insect getting ready to pupate on a spruce tree in which the
tree's new growth was mostly chewed off.
She replied that the
insect was called the spruce bud worm and attacked the native spruce and
The other problem insect
she said were pine bark beetles that bore into pines and destroy them.
Both insects, while
native, have been around for a millennium on the trees but have only
recently gotten out of control decimating the forest.
The ranger went on to say
that the winters are warmer than normal and former droughts weakened the
trees making them more susceptible to insect attack.
Fire will for sure
decimate the insect population along with the trees.
The new school of thought
is that the insect explosion might be caused by humans because of fire
fighting efforts of the last 100 years that suppressed the natural fire
cycle in the forest which, while destructive, seems to be a cleansing,
effect with the end result of a rejuvenated forest.
I think the forest ranger
is correct as Yellowstone Park seemed to be the least affected by the
ravaging insects because of the massive fires through the park that burned
Now the new trees are 8-15
feet tall and standing like soldiers in millions.
The insects do not attack
young vigorous trees and I'm sure that millions, if not billions, of these
nasty critters burned in the fires along with the trees.
For sure fire will sweep
through the dead, dying and healthy trees of the parks that will result in
the land having a barren, sterile appearance.
However, in time, new life
will come again to blanket the valleys and mountains with lush green
The only downside is our
generation will be gone before that rejuvenation results in massive tall
Sometimes interfering with
Mother Nature such as fire suppression is not a good idea.
No blog - Tom was on vacation!
On July 17th, Dayton Nurseries in Norton will be
opening the Owl Barn Market which will offer fresh produce, Amish jams, Ohio
foods, baked goods and related items.
The markets emphasis will be on locally grown produce
from surrounding farms in order to ensure the freshness and quality of the
products and in order to buy from local farmers instead of relying on
suppliers from hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles away as the grocery
In addition to having a farmer’s market, the Owl Barn’s
association with the nursery will result in an expanded offering of Dayton
Nursery’s potted small fruits including blueberries, raspberries, currants,
rhubarb and asparagus, as well as potted herbs, most of which are grown
right at the nursery.
Coupled with the Owl Barn Market is the
botanical-display garden Wolf Creek Gardens which is located just north and
down the hill on which the Owl Barn sits. The garden includes a dwarf
conifer bed and shade gardens including a shade perennial and
Rhododendron-Azalea garden and hopefully next year a pick-your-own blueberry
patch that will be located along the garden’s north border.
Although the market will not specialize in organically
grown foods, the relative safety and freshness of the local farm’s products
will be the staple fare.
The Owl Barn Market is another way to accomplish and to
advance the vision of Dayton Nurseries as an enterprise of environmentally
sustainable practices among which are low energy and pesticide use, water
recycling and runoff water containment on the nursery property and now
locally grown healthy produce.
With the news filled every day about the ruptured well spilling into the
Gulf of Mexico, the thoughts that run through many of our minds is what is
the true cost of oil.
In a laissez-faire economy, resources are allocated and
used according to the economic principles of supply and demand which seems
to be a very efficient system that Adam Smith described as an “invisible
hand” in his book The Wealth of Nations.
It seems to me that the resulting cost of the oil to
run our economy is skewed because of the subsidies provided by the US
taxpayer and costs that cannot even be calculated.
For example, the US Six Fleet in the Persian Gulf is
mainly there to secure the oil interests of the United States.
The cost of this naval flotilla is not cheap and there
is the more important matter of the servicemen and women lost in the first
Persian Gulf War under the first President Bush and other lives lost due to
our presence in the region to protect oil interests
Another cost not calculated is the long term damage to
wildlife and wildlife habitats such as in the Exon-Valdez spill some years
ago in Prince William Sound in Alaska and now the even bigger disaster in
the Gulf of Mexico.
Then, the economic damage from the livelihoods lost of
those of us in the tourism and fishing industry is not calculated.
Finally, how much of the clean up costs for these
disasters will be on the backs of the U.S. taxpayer?
In a recent broadcast on National Public Radio, the
company that actually drilled the well in the Gulf will attempt to legally
limit its liability to twenty seven million dollars.
What kind of people are the board and top executives
that they are not willing to take responsibility for the disaster and step
up to the plate to do the right thing?
In summary, the “invisible hand” described by Adam
Smith does not allocate these calculable and incalculable cost to the price
of oil and its extraction.
If the costs could be truly allocated by the “invisible
hand” as described by Adam Smith, it might be that the costs of alternative
energy sources might well compete with “cheap” oil.
This recent disaster has made it all even more
imperative that the United States must get rid of oil as the main source of
energy to power our economy and the sooner the better!
The drive and vigor of the Manifest Destiny doctrine during
the westward expansion of the United States had mostly to do with the search
and settlement of new land and the exploiting of the resources on that land
such as minerals and timber.
The topsoil here in Ohio was rich and deep as in much
of the rest of the Midwest, far surpassing the soil quality of the middle
Atlantic states. Over the years as the topsoil has been cultivated, much of
the "black gold", especially in the Plains states has ended up in the Gulf
of Mexico due to water and wind erosion. This depletion of our natural
resources continued from the mid nineteenth century and culminated with the
dust bowl of the 1930's in which millions of tons of topsoil was swept away
by the drying winds on the open land.
As we all know from our history lessons in grade
school, the vast area of the country west of the Mississippi River and east
of the Rocky Mountains was mostly prairie with deep rooted grasses and other
native plants on which wild herds of Bison numbering in the tens of millions
grazed. The natural cycle of grazing by the Bison herds and the regrowth and
renewal of the grasses created deep rich topsoil.
Even though much earlier many recognized the value of
trees as effective windbreaks, work started in earnest as far as tree
planting, contour plowing and other methods of soil conservation under the
administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the establishment of the
Civilian Conservation Corps. Today there are some farmers mimmicking the
ecosystem of the prairie-Bison relationship in that they are grazing massive
herds of animals that are constantly roaming. The benefits are many of this
"tried & true" grazing culture is that it quickly creates new layers of
topsoil. Other benefits of this farming system is that it gets animals back
to the land and out of farm factories resulting in less concentrated animal
waste and its resulting pollution of surface and ground water and the fact
that naturally grazed animals are far a better food source for human
consumption without pumping the animals full of antibiotic hormones and
Another benefit of these restored and sustainable
grazing grasslands is that vast amounts of carbon in the atmosphere are
stored in the soils helping to combat global warming. The beauty of this
topsoil producing system is that for those that are skeptical about global
warming, the carbon storage in the soil may be irrelevant but no one can
deny that all the other advantages of this grazing system add up and pay
substantial dividends to the farmers and to the country as a whole. You can
help by avoiding feed lot meat products. Support your local food products.
According to the Cleveland published newspaper, The Eco
Watch Journal, Vermont farmer, Abe Collins was quoted "By purchasing the
food we grow for you, you will help create new topsoil in the next few years
that will feed a thousand generations."
What’s GREEN for 2010 at the nursery??
A lot of “green” is going on at the nursery this year
due to the high volume of construction last year.
Construction of our new building which we call the “Owl
Barn” just finished up about January 1, 2010.
The barn, while it has the appearance of an
old-fashioned style of 150 years ago, has been constructed with modern
materials including energy star rated windows, insulation of an R-60 value
in the roof and nearly R-30 in the walls. A green roof on the south porch
in which sedums grow, will keep the porch very cool in summer and absorb
much of the rainfall so that there is no quick run off of water not to
mention that it is colorful and aesthetically pleasing.
In the larger area of the roof that does not have a
green roof because of its steepness, the entire runoff from rainfall will be
captured to help supply our lake for irrigation of our plants. In addition,
all the excess irrigation water is recycled and returned to the lake for
The purpose for our new gambrel roof barn is to house
our produce market in order to market our upcoming blueberry crop and local
produce from surrounding farms and orchards.
This past December, Norma, who is Chuck Seiberling’s
niece said to me “You are going to market some of our produce aren’t you?”
I replied “You don’t understand – I want to market
The Seiberling name not only is attached to the
Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company because of its founder F.A. Seiberling but
also is well known in Norton because of the Seiberling Farms west of town
where Chuck and his parents before him have been growing sweet corn and
other produce for at least 60 years.
Other “green” projects that have been developing for a
period of years is that of our botanical display gardens called Wolf Creek
Gardens in which 2009 was a turning point due to the various plantings and
improvements to the roadways for its easier viewing.
The extensive grassy area of the garden has been sowed
with a tall fescue type of lawn seed mix. This mix is excellent for erosion
control because of its deep root system that can grow to two feet or more.
The depth of this root system makes it ideal for home lawns too as tall
fescue is a very light feeder. Tall fescue only requires one-third to
one-half of the fertilizer of bluegrass lawns and stays green much longer
than traditional bluegrass lawns in dry summers.
From water recycling, water runoff capture, the use of
mostly insect growth regulators in our greenhouse, blueberry culture, to
selling of local fruits and vegetables, and the display of natural beauty in
our garden, we’re trying to pull all the different pieces together to make
Dayton’s the “green capital” of Norton.
There has been an upheaval change at the US EPA since
President Obama appointed Lisa Jackson as the head of this agency of 18,000
federal employees. She seems to be reversing many of the policies of the
former Bush administration that the EPA should go softer on businesses and
industry. Ms. Jackson’s stance is just the opposite as the "P" in EPA
(protection) seemed to be on the back burner.
Ms. Jackson it seems is a ball of energy and has set the tone of the
agency to regulate pollutants as they relate to climate change, the nation’s
rivers and streams and the air we breathe.
In addition, Ms. Jackson’s focus is on chemical safety especially as it
relates to children and on the subject of environmental justice. More
specifically, the poor and minorities are sometimes harmed more by lax
enforcement of the law than affluent citizens which one could surmise that
the poor and minorities are low on concerns of many politicians because of
their lack of comparative wealth to the more well connected layers of
Ms. Jackson seems to be keeping an eye on state environmental regulatory
agencies as well as she payed a surprise visit to the Texas EPA which she
considered to lagging in the federal standards as they apply to the oil
It will be interesting to watch Ms. Jackson as she has only been on the
job a year but one thing has changed: EPA has teeth again.
Recently in October, the Ohio Research & Development Center
featured a program titled “Why Trees Matter”.
The sundry benefits of community trees as presented in
the program include:
- Key to environmental health
- Energy savings for homeowners
- A healthy community
- Healthier lives
- Wildlife habitat
- Trees provide food
- Protect watersheds
- Increased property values
- Promote a more successful local and regional economy
Without going into lengthy detail, no one can argue that trees are important
to our local communities and to our planet as a whole.
In many towns and cities, we have become complacent
about the Urban Forest as to the care if needs and the planting of trees
Many years ago, Denver, Colorado had planted a
magnificent urban forest only to have it drastically decline from years of
Now the city has made great strides in the past few
years to replace its emerald cloak.
Even here in Ohio when the great American Elms were
devastated by the Dutch Elm Disease, the scramble was on to find “the”
American Elm that would not succumb to the disease.
Without a doubt trees especially are a must for urban
environments and should not be perceived as a luxury commodity.
The program presented at the OARDC rightly tries to
quantify the benefits of trees in a monetary way as this aspect can be
The other properties such as beauty, feelings of well
being, and simply living in a healthier environment are all more difficult
to quantify and measure but these are just as important, if not more, as the
benefits than can be more accurately measured.
I like the quote from L. Merrier as it seems to sum
everything up well on a statement about trees:
To plant a tree is
An act of faith in the earth
An act of hope for the future
An act of humanity towards
Coming generations who will
Enjoy its fruits after we
Shall be gone
My own opinion is that the OARDC (Secrest Arboretum)
programs about trees and other aspects of our natural world will educate the
public so that we and the next generation have enough sense to protect and
preserve out natural heritage.
One aspect of gardening that I have been talking about on
our radio show “Ready, Set, Grow” on WAKR 1590 AM is the importance of at
least supplementing a family’s diet with home-grown fruits and vegetables or
at least “locally grown” produce.
The importance of such a maneuver away from entirely
“store-bought” food is the fact that much of the food chain is becoming
contaminated from foreign sources that do not have the same standards of
production and handling of foodstuffs as compared to the U.S. as related to
safety and health issues.
No one can argue that fresh produce or fruit out of
season must come from some foreign sources; however, non-domestic frozen
food and canned foodstuffs are plentiful on grocery store shelves.
As an example, I sometimes purchase “steam-in-the-bag”
vegetables for quick preparation and convenience but I accidentally
discovered that on the bag was China, Mexico, USA as sources of the
contents. When I called the company to inquire if some or all of the
contents were from the above sources, the company spokesperson said that in
fact the contents contained components from all of these countries and that
the company has “full” control of the production process.
I no longer buy this brand of vegetables as I have
1. There is no need import vegetables that are frozen.
2. Imported foods, at least as I perceive it, are more
risky to consume because of foreign substandard production and handling
methods compared to those in the United States.
A specific example of my concern in item #2 is that the
dangerous pesticide Parathion is legal to use on food crops in Mexico but
not in the United States. Another of my concerns is the Chinese factor of
tainted milk, candies and problems with non-food products such as lead-based
paint on children’s toys.
In my seminar two years ago, “American Intensive
Gardening”, I presented an efficient way of producing an array of home-grown
produce that could be easily frozen or canned to supplement a family’s diet
to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the consumption of foreign foods.
I very much resent the food processing companies that
procure foreign sources of product when they don’t have to do it. In my
view they are more concerned about their short term profits than providing
quality domestic sources of canned or frozen foods.
It is wise to read the label on what you’re consuming
to discover the listed nutritional content or the country from which it is
sourced. Its even wiser to grow and/or purchase locally as many fruits and
vegetables as possible although I’m sure there are many in our country that
are content to blindly trust that the big food processors would place your
family’s health and safety as their first priority.
My very conservative close friend Tom who lives in
Toledo, Ohio sarcastically played down my concerns about the safety of
I replied that he thought the imported foods were
completely safe and healthy then he was free to eat them and prepare them
for this family to eat!
I do know that food processors would not intentionally
market unhealthy or dangerous products as it would not be in their own best
interest. However, with the wider the sources of product, there is more
loss of control of production and handling processes.
Frankly, I don’t trust the global food processors to
put health and safety of its customers over their own profits, do you?
In a recent radio broadcast, I heard mentioned the City of
Norton as the First Energy Company, formerly known as Ohio Edison, purchased
the abandoned limestone mine in order to generate electricity using
The theory is that the electric company will use its
excess generating capacity at night during the period of lower demand to
compress air into the mine and use this same air to rotate turbines of
electric generators when it is released in the day time when higher electric
What is so novel about this idea of the system is that
the power at night that would normally be “wasted” now in fact will be
literally “pumped” into the ground for later use thus making the project
“green” and environmentally friendly as no more coal, natural gas or nuclear
fuel has to be used to produce the power which will be generated from the
pumped storage system.
The limestone mine is deep (2200 feet) and cavernous as
Columbia Chemical and later PPG Industries used the limestone for the
production of soda ash at the Barberton plant and cement at the cement plant
next to the mine in Norton.
I remember clearly in May of 1972 when the newly formed
Environmental Protection Agency ordered PPG to clean up their soda ash
operation as it was severely polluting the Tuscarawas River.
Shortly after, PPG announced that it would close the
soda ash operation and the cement plant also as making cement was only
profitable if the soda ash operation was intact.
Then, in the early 1980’s, PPG proposed the mine as a
toxic waste disposal site for their own wastes and toxic wastes within a 500
In return for the State of Ohio’s permission to use the
mine as a disposal site, I remember some assurances that the remainder of
the Barberton plant would remain open for a time, as over 1,000 persons
still worked there.
The plan went nowhere, however, as the citizens of
Norton were in an uproar that the State of Ohio could take away the home
rule provision of the law and decide that Norton would have to accept the
chemical giant’s plan whether or not the citizens wanted it.
PPG did withdraw its plans due to the vehement local
opposition and unfortunately, did close the Barberton plant putting over
1,000 persons out of work.
From what I understand, the old Barberton plant was no
match for PPG’s more modern facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Later, a consortium of companies was planning to use
the water from the lake, adjacent to the mine, Lake Dorothy, to use in the
pump storage system for electric power generation but that plan withered
It seems that First Energy’s plan makes the most sense
and that it may add to the percentage of power that the State of Ohio is
requiring to be of a sustainable nature.
According to the radio report that I heard, the initial
project would be able to power about 250,000 homes in times of peak demand
with the potential of many more in a future planned expansion of the initial
Hopefully all goes well with the project creating no or
minimal environmental hazards as it sure beats the construction of another
I know I’m excited about the project as its right in my
hometown of Norton, Ohio and will help to make Norton one of the “greenest”
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some
aspects of the green energy industry are not so green. Most notably, it is
that windmills are killing our birds!
The most notorious wind farm for bird killing according
to the article is located at Altamont Pass, California in which estimates
are as high as 10,000 birds being killed every year.
Michael Fry, of the American Bird Conservancy,
estimates that wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year.
Environmental groups are pushing for a twelve fold
increase of generating capacity from wind by 2030 so that we might possibly
expect a twelve fold increase in the slaughter of birds from wind turbines.
Oil companies that have been found guilty of killing
birds that come into contact with crude oil or other residues from oil
operations have received stiff fines under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty
Even electric utilities such as Pacificorp have paid
fines for electrocuting 232 eagles in Wyoming over a two year period because
of poorly designed power lines.
What is interesting about the wind turbine industry is
that there have been no prosecutions for killing birds as required by the
1918 law. According to Mr. Fry, “Somebody has given the wind industry a
According to the wind industry’s website, the number of
birds killed is small when compared to the number (about 1 billion) that are
killed by cats every year.
Robert Bryce, the author of this article, notes that
the lawn does not require cats to appear in court and be prosecuted as it
would the wind industry.
Rob Lee, of the Fish and Wildlife Service was a lead
investigator of bird kills in western oil fields. According to Mr. Lee,
solving bird problems in the oil fields was easy and cheap whereas the fix
for the wind turbine industry is not easy or cheap.
A larger question according to Robert Bryce who is also
the managing editor of Energy Tribune, is why a federal law is being applied
with a double standard as federal officials turn a blind eye to the harm
done by “green” energy while slapping heavy fines on other industries for
A while back I had mentioned a nursery in Madison, Ohio
called Roemer Nursery that has water trouble related to an extraordinary
rise in salt levels in one of their main irrigation ponds.
Anyone that knows anything about the nursery business
realizes that not just water but good quality water is the most important
component of growing nursery stock especially container-grown stock like
The Cleveland Plain Dealer has made it public that
Roemer Nursery is suing Wal-Mart for five million dollars as Gied Stroombeek,
the owner, believes that the salt troubles with his pond are due to
Wal-Mart’s salt applications to its parking lot collecting in a drainage
basin with the resultant salty water filtering its way to Roemer’s pond
causing the high salt level.
Mr. Stroombeek founded his nursery on Green Road which
is about ¾ of a mile north of US Route 20 in 1959.
In conversation a few years ago, Mr. Stroombeek told me
that the water table filling his wells and ponds does not come from Lake
Erie but from inland aquifers coming from the North Ridge or Route 20.
Lisa Ungers, who has an option to buy the nursery, has
said that they have tried to work with Wal-Mart for two years to correct the
problem but Wal-Mart has refused based on the fact that Roemer Nursery must
prove that the store (Wal-Mart) is the cause.
At Dayton Nursery we have a similar situation as the
always-flowing Van Hyning Run that cuts through the nursery property is
unfit for irrigation due to high salts and very high colifom bacteria
Van Hyning Run has a short course of only a few miles
as its source is Loyal Oak Lake Park and its end at Wolf Creek which in turn
empties into the Tuscarawas River in Barberton.
Even with this short run failing septic tanks and road
sides laden with salt diminish the water quality in a kind of no-point,
multi-point source of pollution.
Salt contamination of our precious water sources has
not yet been addressed and it remains to be seen how the case Roemer Nursery
vs. Wal-Mart as salt used as a de-icer is not currently regulated by the
Mr. Stroombeek is somewhat “up in years” and may not
live to see the outcome of this case; however, he did tell me in
conversation that he has retained an attorney that will take the process as
far as it will go. This case could have very wide implications that go well
beyond Roemer Nursery and Wal-Mart as EPA may very well regulate salt use
because of the damage caused to aquifers and streams.
In many of my presentations over the years I have repeatedly
stressed the importance of a healthy, vibrant soil as it is the foundation
necessary to grown any plant well.
On a broad scale, proper management of soils rests on
the shoulders of farmers who are in essence the stewards of one of our most
Since the beginning of farming, turning or plowing the
soil has been an accepted practice.
The working of the soil makes the sowing of seeds of a
particular crop easier or cultivating the soil helps to eliminate weeds that
would ordinarily out compete the crop.
While working the soil does yield good crops, the
downside is that the loosened, exposed soil is subject to erosion from wind
Another problem with loosened soil is that the existing
organic matter that is necessary for a healthy soil is more quickly depleted
because of the increased air present.
The decomposing organic matter is also releasing carbon
dioxide which scientists give credit for a warming of the climate.
Many farmers know and have experienced the formation of
a plow pan in which a layer of soil becomes compressed by a plow pressing
against it at a depth of six to seven inches below the surface.
This plow pan becomes so hard the roots of the crop
cannot penetrate it and water cannot permeate through to the deeper subsoil
creating poorly drained fields.
Today, the solution to many of the above problems is a
system of farming called no-till.
No till farming is accomplished by killing off weed
growth through an application of a herbicide such as Round-up followed by
drilling the crop seed directly into the ground without otherwise disturbing
No-till farming results in less carbon dioxide
production, less soil erosion, no creation of a hard plow pan and less work.
No-till farming saves time and money which are valuable
commodities to frequently overworked and cash strapped farmers.
No-till farming has been practiced for a number of
years and seems to be another farming practice that fosters more
sustainability of the production of a wide variety of crops and it is a win
for the farmer’s budget and environment while elevating the farmer’s status
as a steward of the land.
With all the talk about many imported plant species becoming
invasive and crowding out native plant species, we’ve decided that we will
concentrate heavily in the planting of native species or named cultivars of
these native species in our garden to open soon called Wolf Creek Gardens.
On the shrub side, we have already planted Viburnums
such as trilobum and dentatum that are important food sources for various
Aronias, or Chokeberries, tend to be rugged plants that
bloom with profuse white flowers in early spring while donning black or
bright red berries (depending on the species) later in the season.
Our native trees are some that are already on the
property such as Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple), Prunus serotina (Wild Black
Cherry) and Fraxinus Americana (White Ash) that is sadly going to be wiped
out by the emerald ash borer.
To replace the Ash trees, a good mix of Ulmus Americana
‘Princeton’ (American Elm), Pinus strobus (Eastern White Pine) and Fagus
grandiflora (American Beech) will be welcome additions.
I am equally excited by our planned planting of native
shade perennials such as the foamflower, trilobum (jack-in-the-pulpit),
mayflowers and Virginia bluebells.
While not all our plantings will be native to our area,
we want to be certain that these are not under represented as native plants
have much value for benefits to wildlife, erosion control, and just the
added beauty to our landscape.
For too long native plants have been neglected as they
somehow are deemed too common or not “pretty” enough to deserve a place in
Things are changing in that more of us are interested
in less maintenance and more reliability of our landscape plants instead of
planting “on-the-edge” winter hardy or insect and disease prone non-native
When Wolf Creek Gardens does open, you’ll be able to
enjoy our native plantings as they will be marked and realize just what
you’ve been missing as far as the beauty of many of our native plant species
from right here in NE Ohio.
Sometime ago, I told you about a lawsuit near Portland,
Oregon that resulted in plant nurseries and other agricultural interests not
allowing runoff water from their land flowing into waterways, more
specifically the Tualatin River.
Even though there are now no regulations of runoff from
plant nurseries (more than I know of) the time is coming when the EPA will
regulate this runoff which pollutes streams and rivers with fertilizers,
pesticides and herbicides. We’re fortunate in that we recycle all our water
and collect rain water and snow melt water to store in our lake so that
almost no water leaves the property. I am especially interested in water
pollution issues as water is the essential “life blood” of our business as
well as to all of us.
While this case in its scope has significant
implications across the country, I think a more interesting scenario is
about to unfold right here in Ohio.
The case involves a well known retailer in which the
runoff water from the parking lot is laden with salt during winter and flows
into a retention basin so that the water may seep into the ground without
contributing to flood waters from the added runoff from the black top
A plant nursery which is located “downstream” from the
aquifer running under this retention pond is causing high salt levels in one
of their irrigation ponds to the extent that the pond is unsuitable for
Tests have revealed that the salts are originating from
the property of the retailer.
What makes the case so interesting is that road salt is not regulated as a
pollutant by EPA but can have profound negative effects on ground water.
Already in New England, there are areas of increasingly
saline ground water due to road salt as reported recently on National Public
From my own experience as I’ve told you before, we
cannot use the seemingly clear water from the Van Hyning Run that runs
through the nursery property to irrigate our plants because of the high
levels of salt, presumably from road salt.
The implications of regulating this or the elimination
of road salt as its use as a de-icer are vast as most of us want to drive on
winter roads as if it were summer and without worrying about the safety
hazards to ourselves and others when roads are treacherously icy. It will
be interesting to watch as the future unfolds on this salt issue.
The owner of the nursery told me that he has hired an
attorney to take this case as far as it will go even if it must be heard by
the U.S. Supreme Court!
I’ll keep you posted as this case unfolds.
Over 20 years ago one of the garden clubs of Wadsworth asked
me to speak at its monthly meeting at the Wadsworth Public Library. When
one of the members related to me that the subject was “acid rain”, I was
taken back as I knew very little about acid rain and realized I had a lot of
work to do. As there was no internet service at that time, my source of
information was the Barberton Public Library.
What I had learned shocked me as to the gravity and the
enormity of the problem of acid rain. In the late 1960’s, the Canadian
government had stocked some lakes with pink salmon and other game fish in
what is known as the Kilarney area of Ontario.
In the early 1960’s, and before, the lake was known as
a fisherman’s paradise that was full of numerous prize winning game fish.
When researchers checked the health of the fish in 1968, they found that
they had disappeared and only some suckers remained.
The mystery as to what happened to the fish was solved
when scientists began checking the pH of the water which was extremely acid.
Another oddity was a high concentration of aluminum in
An acid rainfall had fallen on the region and caused a
dissolving of aluminum in the parent rock to subsequently result in high
aluminum concentrations in the lakes along with higher acidity of the water
– a deadly combination for aquatic life.
The closing of a nickel smelter nearby in 1973 did not
alleviate the problem when further testing was done to determine the acidity
of the rainfall.
No doubt, the implications of this local study were
profound as acid rainfall is the result of human activities such as coal
burning power plants hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where the
resulting acid rain actually falls.
Forests are also affected in that scientists think that
a gradual slowing of the growth of trees since 1950 is the result of more
acidity in the soil from acid rain. In fact, almost all, if not all, of the
natural stands of Fraser Fir have been eliminated along the Appalachian
Mountain Chain from acid rain and invasive insect species. Even on the
highest peak in the Appalachians, Mt. Mitchell, the trees were found to be
weakened because of acid clouds and acid shocks from rainfall. It is
thought that the problems of the trees of Mt. Mitchell are related to
emissions from automobile exhausts as well as coal-burning power plants.
At least from the problems of stack emissions, the
Babcox and Wilcox company of Barberton, Ohio is a world leader in the
research, development and manufacture of equipment to remove acid sulfur
emissions from coal burning facilities. B&W is now involved in research to
do with the capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions in order to slow
the effects as far as high atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have
on global warming. B&W was invited to the city by Barberton’s founder, O.C.
Barber, to make boilers for his greenhouses that were just a part of his
massive industrial-agricultural complex in Barberton in the early 1900’s
It seems incredible that this company now still
manufacturer’s boilers, nuclear components and environmentally friendly
equipment for industry from the small humble beginnings in Barberton, Ohio.
Let us hope that with more research and the
implementation of new technologies from technologically advanced companies
such as B&W that acid rain, excess carbon dioxide and even mercury emissions
poisoning the atmosphere will soon become a thing of the past.
In a recent public television broadcast, pollution problems
of big cities and more specifically, those of Cleveland, Ohio were portrayed
as one of the contributors of the population’s flight to the surrounding
suburbs and thus the end result being the decline of Cleveland.
Cleveland became the butt of numerous jokes especially
because of its burning river, the Cuyahoga in 1969. In 1969, it was easy
for the public to blame this gross pollution of the river and that of Lake
Erie on “evil” polluters when Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.
In fact, much of this point-source pollution was the fault of
industry as the discharge of various industries could be seen coming out of
pipes full of the “toxic soup” flowing to the river.
Much has changed since that July 22nd day in
1969 when the river burned as the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie are noticeably
cleaner as industry has cleaned up its act.
The end of the Cuyahoga’s problems did not stop with
the end of the point-source pollution as the next source of contaminants of
the waterway was found to be non-point sources in which the real enemy is
us. Runoff from urban shopping centers, new roads, septic systems and lawn
fertilizers is profound but not easily pinpointed as a discharge pipe from a
This cumulative effect this pollution is in the river’s
watershed greatly diminished the water quality.
Progress is being made in that the City of Cleveland
and Cuyahoga County are digging massive storage tunnels to store untreated
runoff in periods of heavy rains when the stored runoff can be treated later
instead of discharging the storm water and sewage to the river.
Another method of reducing contaminants is the required
“catch basins” for storm water runoff from shopping center parking lots.
This method can be multiplied thousands of times by
homeowners on a smaller scale to catch runoff from homes in rain gardens
that will help filter the water into the ground where it originated.
Reducing the amount of phosphorus or eliminating it all
together in lawn fertilizers is helping to reduce explosive algae bloom in
Riparian corridors along the river and creeks and
streams that feed the river are helping to reduce sediment and contaminants
from water runoff before it reaches the creek or stream.
With sound common sense, decisions made by thousands of
property owners as it has to do with water runoff and the contamination from
non-point source pollination will greatly be reduced.
The significant aspect of cleaner water with less
toxins for humans means healthier water to drink as Cleveland’s drinking
water is drawn from Lake Erie and Akron’s directly from the Cuyahoga.
While some of us may not be concerned about dead and
dying fish, birds, amphibians and other animals that can result from
polluted water, all of us should care as we use the water too and the next
ones to get sick or die could be us.
Let us hope that the government will strengthen the
Clean Water Act of 1972 and that we as individuals will all do our part to
protect one of our most valuable resources which is surely more valuable
In one of my earlier blogs last year, I described our water system at the
nursery as one big rain garden since we capture as much runoff water from
rainfall and the overhead irrigation of the plants.
This system as well as the "self watering" greenhouse benches on which
plants sit and water is recycled over and over has served us well in that so
much water is used for irrigation, no waste can be tolerated.
Now we have embarked on a new front in the greenhouses, to start using
predatory insects and mites to control insects and naturally occurring
concentrated forms of fungi and bacteria that are enemies of insects and
diseases that attack plants.
The insect control is difficult as a population of the beneficial insects
and mites must build up to levels to control the harmful pests so that it is
tempting to spray with a deadly insecticide to kill the pests as their
population builds too. There are some insecticides that are not harmful to
beneficial predators but they must be applied carefully especially when
dealing with multiple beneficial organisms.
In the disease control department, sanitation goes a long way to prevent
problems and an organic compound with the trade name Allude combats stem and
root diseases that are well known to greenhouse growers and nurserymen.
The Allude product is a type of phosphorous acid and is available over the
counter under the trade name of Agrifos that is effective against a hard to
control lawn disease called Pythium and a root rot and stem rot of
Rhododendron called Phytophthora.
Even though for the past few years we have used insecticides and disease
control measures that are either organic or mildly "non-organic", the
beneficial organisms will add another component to our arsenal to defeat
harmful insects and diseases that threaten ornamental and vegetable plants
I think of it as an addition to our "Maginot Line" which is not strong
enough now but is getting stronger every year to repel the "enemy" without
destroying the environment around us.
With all the talk these days about high prices in the
grocery stores and the undesirability of imported foods even when in-state
supplies (or at least domestic supplies) of food are available, many
families have enough land to grow a vegetable garden.
By employing methods of gardening similar to the Marais system of
gardening common in France in the late 19th century, many small
plots of land can be literally turned into "food factories".
This type of gardening while very productive, is time consuming in that
it utilizes a system of cold frames, open beds, large amounts of compost and
manure as well as a lot of hand labor.
For the average family, it would be better to look upon a garden as a
good supplement to the family diet but not as a replacement of purchased
With proper planning, a continuous harvest from at least early May into
early winter is easily possible for a wide variety of vegetables.
For example, cool weather crops such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and
cabbage can and should be planted in mid April while other crops such as
beans, peas and corn can be sown usually in late April if the ground is
well-drained and workable.
Heat-loving vegetables can usually be planted in mid May and harvested
until early fall.
Finally, carrots, lettuce, kale and parsnips among others may be sowed in
late August for harvest in November and even in winter if the crowns of the
plants are protected with straw.
It’s obvious that by utilizing your own space to garden you’ll supplement
your family’s diet with healthy (possibly organically-grown) vegetables and
fruits, travel less in the car, enjoy more family time in the garden and
reduce your dependency on the grocery store by the supply of fresh
vegetables and your efforts to can, freeze, dry and store the "fruits of
The overall environment will benefit too from less fertilizer and
pesticide use as is practiced on large corporate farms and the fertilizer
run off to nearby creeks and streams due to the opening of vast expanses of
land to cultivation.
Organic gardening is really not that difficult with the help of the
organic insecticide and disease control measures available today. At
Dayton’s we can show you how to get started toward your goal of greater self
sufficiency and a healthier diet too.
With all the talk about being "green" and reducing each of
our carbon footprints, it conjures up images for some that it would take a
standard of living like that in a third world country to accomplish a
"green" enough feat.
President Obama has laid out ambitious plans for what his goals are for
the country in having the Government foster growth in the use and production
of renewable energy sources.
While we all applaud his efforts, I found his statement that "this will
be a new era of individual responsibility" more interesting.
Each of us by being more environmentally responsible at home is an
extremely important aspect of heeding the President’s call for more
individual responsibility. Take a look around your home. How many energy
expensive incandescent light bulbs do you have instead of energy "smart"
What about air leaks in your basement, around windows and doors that you
can easily seal yourself. Is your air conditioner unit on the south side of
your house where the hot summer sun robs it of much efficiency?
Think about your yard. There are tall fescue grass blends that are
superior to bluegrass blends in that the former requires a third as much
water, about half the fertilizer, and is more resistant to insects and
A shade tree, such as a grand Maple, Oak or one of the new disease
resistant American Elms will have a huge impact in lowering your electric
bill for summer cooling as the tree shades the house in summer but enables
the sun to shine through in winter due to the tree’s deciduous nature.
If you have a larger property, conifers such as pine or spruce or the
western red cedar varieties make an effective windbreak as well as a visual
screen. Just think what results you’ll see in your heating bill with less
In the garden, change your way of thinking that a vegetable garden is
something to "mess with" between Memorial Day and Labor Day. So many cool
weather crops can be planted earlier than Memorial Day and just before Labor
Day to carry you before Memorial Day and long after Labor Day
So many fruiting plants such as fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries,
rhubarb, currants, strawberries and blackberries are a permanent member of
your landscape and garden in which you can think of them as your "cash
crops" especially when you see them in the supermarket at a sky-high price
and sometimes from a foreign country.
A Wall Street journal article last fall reported that supermarkets were
quick to pass on increased commodity prices but are so far slow to give back
the increase to consumers. In the article, an unnamed grocery executive was
quoted as saying "that he expects overall grocery prices to rise 7% over
2008 as his thinking was that people still have to eat." In other words,
their cost goes down but prices will go up! Doesn’t it make you even angrier
to find a way to do more with less?
My economics professor at Ohio State ATI told our class a novel and at
first confusing concept that saving money was actually more beneficial than
earning more. He went on to explain that when comparing dollars earned to
dollars saved, the dollars earned are not as valuable because of the
necessary "evil" of taxes.
I think anyone can see what I’m getting at in that being environmentally
responsible is like money in the bank!
Since the President seems to have great powers of persuasion, hopefully
he can mobilize all of us just like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did
during World War II to do the right thing for ourselves and our country.
Being "green" is actually easier than you think.
Earlier this year I wrote about the nursery industry being a “green”
industry in that we grow products to beautify the environment and
products that naturally give people pleasure.
In addition, I
wrote how we are trying to mitigate some of the
effects of the production of these “green” goods.
One item that
I did not discuss is the nursery-greenhouse industry’s
wasteful use of
plastics in which hundreds or even thousands of pounds
containers, trays, greenhouses films and a whole host of
other items are
sent to the landfill even with a small business like ours/
wastefulness really hit home when I viewed a television program on
in November about an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in
plastic debris washed from the continents collects to make this
the Pacific a literal garbage dump! A scientist studying the
seems to think the area could be the size of the continental
Although more research will be required, it is thought
that many fish
species and the birds and mammals that feed on these fish
may in fact be
contaminated with plastics that either have been directly
ingested as a result of the operation of the food chain.
As a result, I have now shunned plastic bags at the grocery store and
carry my own bag.
Many towns and a few larger cities on the
west coast are now banning the
retail use of plastic bags and water
packaged in plastic bottles.
My decision not to use plastic
bags will do very little to alleviate
abbreviate the wasteful and litter
of plastic although I have decided
that once our stock of plastic bags
are gone at the nursery, we will
have no more except if I am able to
procure some biodegradable plastic bags.
A larger step would be
recycling of our used plastic greenhouse film and
containers so that I
have contacted recycling facilities in Akron about
recycling plastics so
that we may be set up for this year.
One step we have already
taken is to purchase many of our small
perennial plants for potting in
biodegradeable elle plugs that generate
less waste plastic than a
conventional plastic pot system in that they
only plastic is a small
tray in which the elle plugs are shipped since
the plastic pots are
Manufacturers are now offering colorful
biodegradable pots that degrade
in only one or two years but yet are
sturdy enough for use all summer to
fill with annual flowers.
I am certain that in just a few years, the traditional pack and flat
system now in use in greenhouses to display annual flowers will be out
the window in favor of elle plugs and other non-plastic trays and pots
that are biodegradable.
Yes, you can still bring your unused
nursery containers to the nursery
and drop them in our recycle bin but
the difference will soon be that
those you bring us that we cannot
reuse, we will recycle in a special
bin in order that they may be used
to manufacture new plastic products.
Things are changing fast
from water and energy conservation, less use of
restoration of riparian barriers along waterways and
controls on air pollution. It just goes to show that the
old cliché of
how much better then were the “good old days” compared to
The momentum has been slow in conservation and
recycling but has been
picking up steam so that soon the “good old days’
will just be a distant
memory of the ways things used to be as far as
going to the landfill.
winter as spring is just around the corner.
See you at our
seminars or in spring!
It wasn’t so long ago that most homes had a real tree of either
pine, spruce or fir as a Christmas tree. A large part of the fun was going
on the hunt for the perfect tree to fit a particular spot in a corner or in
front of a window.
Now the vast majority of homeowners elect to have an
artificial tree as it alleviates the hassle from having to look for the
tree, getting it home, securing it on the tree stand and finally the chore
of decorating it!
Real Christmas trees though are really good for the
environment in that during their short life before being cut down, they
purify the air, prevent soil erosion, and provide shelter for wildlife.
Then their end after the Christmas season can still result in use as a bird
sanctuary when a tree is staked up near a bird feeder in winter, mulch for
plants in the landscape or garden or cut off branches laid over dormant
valuable tender perennials to protect the plants from severe and frequent
While real Christmas trees do take inputs of energy to
produce from mowing the fields to harvesting and to transport, nevertheless
they don’t require large amounts of petroleum to use in their manufacture as
do artificial trees.
The other benefit of a real tree over artificial is
that it is produced in the United States, as the planting, trimming, mowing
and harvesting is all accomplished by American workers.
Without a doubt, artificial trees are much more
“convenient” than real trees and do save a lot of time getting to the end
result – a decorated tree.
However, an artificial tree is imported, will never
purify the air, provide shelter for wildlife or mulch for the garden and
they look the same, year after year. An artificial tree will never replace
the family togetherness of searching for the tree and the fun of cutting it
down at a local Christmas tree farm or searching for it at a Christmas tree
I always wondered that if convenience and time saving
is all so important as far as the Christmas tree is concerned, why bother
with one at all? After all isn’t sharing and giving, family togetherness
and a real tree part of an old-fashioned Christmas?
In the book Free to Choose by Milton Friedman, Mr.
Friedman convincingly supports his hypothesis on the benefits of trade
between countries without the hindrance of artificial trade barriers of
tariffs, quotas, or other restrictive measures.
As we all know there are many winners and losers in the
global market place as much of Mr. Friedman’s vision of at least “freer”
trade has been put into practice by many world governments.
The major flaw of less trade regulations and more trade
between countries has been the lack of consideration of the prevention of
the introduction of insects, diseases and animal species that are not native
to the host country or continent.
For example, most of us are aware of the Emerald Ash
borer that has been killing all of our native Ash trees in Michigan, Ohio
and Indiana. Scientists think that this destructive insect found its way to
the United States from China by living in pallets that were used to ship
sewer pipe to Detroit, Michigan, as this is where the insect was first
discovered in the United States.
In a radio report in July of 2003, I remember a
proposal by the USDA to require plastic pallets for products shipped from
China – nothing happened.
A more potential destructive insect has now been found
in Worchester, Massachusetts over an area of 62 square miles. The insect is
the Asian Longhorned Beetle that feeds on Maples, Birch, Willows and some
other tree species in which the trees are killed from the tunneling of the
As reported in the Akron Beacon Journal recently, this
invasive species, again from China, will cause grave economic damage to the
timber industry in Maine and the maple syrup industry in New England as it
chews its way through the hardwood forests.
As recently as 2004 and 2005, the USDA vigorously
stamped out a possible infection to many agricultural crops by a disease
Ralstonia was transported to the United States
primarily by geranium cuttings produced offshore in Kenya and Guatemala.
Any evidence that any of these cuttings or propogules of these infected
cuttings were known to be in a commercial greenhouse, all plant material in
the greenhouse being destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading into
As one can see, free trade between countries has been
both a blessing and a curse as consumers enjoyed generally less expensive
products but the cost for clean-up of the resulting mess is placed squarely
on the back of the taxpayer.
Federal, state and local governments have spent
millions of dollars to control the Emerald Ash borer while the Akron Beacon
Journal reported that all levels of governments so far have spent $268
million fighting the Asian Longhorned Beetle.
What ever happened to the USDA’s proposal of plastic
pallets to close at least one major point of entry for these destructive
insects? In addition to the monetary losses resulting from the insects,
what value could be placed on the potential loss of the Maple trees in the
Eastern United States, the progressing loss of Ash trees in our forests and
the possible loss of some of our favorite food crops due to introduced
How strange to see New England without the color of the
Sugar Maples ablaze in the fall and the shade these trees provide for your
As a society, we must ask ourselves if cheaper
products, especially from China, are worth the devastation to our natural
My own opinion is not one of the damming of free trade
policies but one of an aggressive, ruthless regulation of imports to cut out
the introduction of destructive invasive species and the implementation of
such regulation to be borne by the importers, not the taxpayers.
For sure a lax or lassie-faire policy toward the
importers of foreign goods as it concerns the prevention of the introduction
of invasive species as well as safe consumer products, will not work for us
and can only lead to more destruction of the natural heritage of the United
October is a great planting month for most trees and shrubs but
also signals the onset of the winter to come in which case many of our
feathered friends and other animals will be short of food and shelter.
One way homeowners can mitigate the loss of habitat of
wildlife is to create a sanctuary of shelter and food in the backyard.
Choosing a screen of White Pine or Spruce for a
windbreak in parcels of larger acreage will create a magnet for birds and
other animals seeking protection from winter winds and predators.
Shrubs and trees with colorful fruits will adorn an
otherwise boring landscape in late fall and winter while providing much
needed food for many birds.
Newer flowering crabapples retain their fruit all
winter which makes them a favorite of wax wings and robins and the fruit
retention has the added benefit of any remaining fruits falling off in April
when they are dry and shriveled with the result of no mess to rake up.
Colorful fruit on Viburnums is another favorite and
will supplement the fruit of those in the wild that birds and other animals
depend on for a food source.
Certain perennials such as the Coneflower provide a
feeding station for finches when the flowers are allowed to go to seed
instead of being cut to the ground in fall by those that want a neat, clean
look to the garden.
Blueberries noted for their delicious fruits full of
antioxidants and spectacular fall color are excellent food sources for
A good way to accomplish a blueberry planting is to use
“half-highs” for the landscape as they are compact and produce between three
to five pounds of the delicious fruit per year.
Plant enough blueberries to cover some with netting to
provide enough for your home use and be sure to leave some uncovered for our
By proper selection and placement of
“wildlife-friendly” trees and shrubs, a boring yard can become a wildlife
sanctuary for the whole family to watch and enjoy while improving the lives
of the animal kingdom of which we ourselves are a member.
Think about something other than yourself instead of
selecting trees and shrubs that are fruitless and seedless as ones that have
seeds and fruits are valuable as well as necessary for the well being of our
I must apologize as I wrote no green blog for August.
I have been on vacation exploring the Upper Peninsula
of Michigan including Isle Royale National Park located 55 miles out in Lake
Superior from Copper Harbor Michigan. The boat trip to the island gives one
the feeling of traversing the open sea especially when navigating six foot
waves. Isle Royale has a unique ecosystem because of the fact that it is
isolated by Superior’s waters on all sides.
An unique relationship of predator and prey exists
between wolves and moose that scientists have been studying for 58 years!
It seems as though without a “balance” between the wolf and moose population
that either population of these creatures would suffer because of lack of
food because of overpopulation especially of the moose.
Until 1940, the island was a destination for
vacationers. Mr. Albert Stoll, the conservation editor for the Detroit Free
Press in the 1930’s noticed that the Isle Royale ecosystem was indeed unique
and worth preserving. Through Stoll’s efforts, the federal government
purchased all private lands on Isle Royale by 1940 and dedicated it as a
National Park in 1946.
Another area of Michigan set aside is the Porcupine
Mountains which are adjacent to Lake Superior not far from the Wisconsin
border. The 60,000 acre state park is unique in that it contains 35,000
acres of virgin timber of White Pine and Canadian Hemlock! Much of the
lower peninsula and upper peninsula of Michigan, contoured vast amounts of
virgin White Pine that were almost all cut down in a few short decades. In
fact, after timber barons had finished the forests of the upper peninsula,
they failed to pay their taxes due on the land and left much of the barren
landscape revert back to the state’s ownership.
As a nation, we are fortunate to have individuals in
and outside of government that are well ahead of their time that are able to
see the value of preserving unique ecosystems such as Isle Royale and the
Porcupine Mountains for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.
In January, I wrote that while the horticultural industry is
“green”, many of the practices of production in themselves are not “green”.
“Things” though are “a-changing” for the better. At
the nursery as I have mentioned before, we’re big into saving and recycling
water in that our whole system is like one big rain garden in which “used”
irrigation water is returned to its holding pond and lake from which it came
and rain water that runs of the sales area, paved parking lot and building
roofs is collected and stored.
“Reused” irrigation water though can be loaded with
fertilizer salts that can burn plant’s roots and foliage making them
One of the reasons we have not had problems with high
salts is that we have instituted a cyclic program of irrigation in which
sprinklers operate for a 45 minute period, then are off for at least an hour
and then come again for 45 minutes.
This cycling of irrigation times leaches less
fertilizer out of the plant container into the runoff recycled water.
I first heard about this cycling method from a speech
given by Dr. Hannah Mathers that she gave at the Portland, Oregon Convention
Center in September of 2001.
Another way to cut down on salty water is plants.
Marginal bog plants have naturally colonized our return water channels and
settling ponds and remove much of the excess nutrients from the water.
Plants “that do the job” range from Acorus, Red Osier
Dogwood, Arrowwod Viburnum and a whole host of other bog plants that I do
not know. As a supplement, we throw a few a few water hyacinths into our
settling ponds in which then explode and grow while they “suck up” even more
nutrients from the water.
Finally, we are gradually cutting down on our water
usage through the installation of more and more drip irrigation that uses
much less water than overhead sprinklers.
With less use of water, our own lake water quality is
elevated in that rain water is able to dilute more of the impure water that
re-enters it from irrigation.
With less water usage comes less energy inputs as we
must pump our water with electricity.
Being “green” not only makes sense from an
environmentally responsible aspect but saves energy and money too! I just
love it! Remember to do your part.
Ever since at least recorded history, human kind has fought over
land, especially fertile crop land. Some examples are the German army’s
advance on Russia in World War II to secure the fertile Russian steppes of
the Ukraine and the eradication of Native Americans from the great plains so
that advancing while settlers could farm the former prairie.
Fertile land is literally worth more than gold.
Even in ancient Egypt with the massive amounts of gold
extracted from Nubian mines, where would the civilization have been without
the fertile Nile River alluvial plain?
Good fertile land is a precious commodity indeed and
one that must be protected and nurtured.
Good conservation practices to prevent wind and water
erosion of topsoil will in effect protect our national treasure.
One only needs to look at the government’s program of
tree planting in the Plain states in the years of the dust bowl to prevent
wind erosion and contour plowing to prevent water erosion. Throughout
the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corp planted millions of trees to
restore forests, provide food for wildlife and clean water. In recent
years though land has been bought and soil like any commodity and sometimes
with no other intent then to raise cash.
Evidence of this practice is everywhere as you consider
the vast amounts of land that have been taken out of production forever only
to be turned into shopping centers, interstate highways and parking lots.
While many of us own land, we don’t really own it as the land goes on after
our short life times have expired. We are in reality stewards of the
land in which we hold it in our trust to cherish it and protect it to pass
on to the coming generations.
Wangari Maathai who became the environmental minister
of Kenya was at first jailed and threatened with death by authorities as she
enlisted the women of Kenya, Africa to plant millions of trees to restore
forests that were ravaged by government officials to enrich a few at the
expense of many. Her view is that when natural resources such as
forests for wood, fertile land for crops and clean drinking water became
scarce, people will fight and wage war so that there is no peace.
Protection of our land, forests, water and wildlife is
not a “tree-hugger” philosophy but one that makes good sense which in the
long run will foster wealth and prosperity for all.
As an inspiration for generations, President Teddy
Roosevelt by executive order with only a stroke of a pen, set aside more
than 16 million acres before a rebellious Congress put a stop to the
practice. Millions of Americans enjoy these parks today that for sure would
have been decimated by logging, mining and drilling interests.
Clearly, the rape and pillage of our national resources
for no thought of tomorrow makes no sense.
Only through sustainable agricultural practices, proper
management of forests and pollution control concerning our air and waterways
will make us good stewards in which all can continue to live in an
environment of peace and prosperity.
Everyone these days is concerned about the price of fuel and its
effects on our lives as these price increases spread throughout the general
We all know that the cheapest fuel is the fuel we don’t
use. Less use of non-renewable resources like natural gas and oil is not
only good for our pocket books and national security but our environment as
One aspect of our fossil fuel use that many of us do
not consider is at the grocery store in the great amount of miles that food
must be shipped such as salmon from farms in Chile or asparagus from Mexico.
Even now in Great Britain, there are signs posted in
some grocery stores about the number of “food miles” a particular product
What does all of this mean to you?
Planting a garden today is like the victory gardens
that were planted during World War II. Planting a vegetable garden in
- Reduce “food miles” and thus save energy as your
harvesting produce out of your own backyard.
- Reduce dangerous pesticide usage in the
environment as corporate farms use tons of dangerous chemicals. Less
demand for “their” products means less pesticide.
- The unseen benefits to planting a garden are the
increased family time planting, cultivating and preparing food from the
garden and the valuable lessons that children learn in that belonging to
the family unit means that helping out as a family member is required
and includes helping out in the garden and save you money.
- Increase supplies of fresh produce which will in
turn hold down prices.
- Give you more control over some of your food
supply in that you can be sure the produce on your table is fresh and
healthy to eat instead of relying on long distance domestic sources, or
even worse, foreign sources.
Our third president Thomas
Jefferson is well known as the author of the Declaration of Independence,
champion of public education and the persistent supporter of freedom of
religion was actually a passionate and avid gardener. So much so that he
wrote in a letter to his friend Vincent Peale in the year 1820 the
“I have often thought that
if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have
been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the
productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the
culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden! Such
a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection the failure of
one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest, a
continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our
family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am
but a young gardener.”
Jefferson to Charles Wilson Peale
August 20, 1811
Earth Day and Arbor Day are upon us. What kind of tree will you
plant this month so that you and the birds might enjoy the fruits that it
renders? Or, will you plant a tree that maybe you and/or succeeding
generations can rest under the shade of its branches.
“To plant a tree is an act of faith in the earth
an act of hope for the future
an act of humanity towards coming generations
who will enjoy its fruits
after we shall be gone”
Just think what our lives would be like without trees
to shade us, feed us, shelter us and their grandeur and majesty for us to
gaze upon and wonder about.
In the construction of his mansion overlooking his city
of Barberton, Ohio, Columbus Barber’s home site was devoid of large trees
and being a man of vision and of great wealth, he simply had large trees
moved from across the state route 619 to his home site in the early part of
the 20th century.
Don’t worry if you’re not going to live in the same
house forever, just plant trees to cool the house, ones that flower in
spring, ones that turn from green to brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow
and purple in fall and ones that produce fruit.
You’ll be surprised not only how much monetary value
they’ll add to the resale price but even more important is the value of you
and your family’s enjoyment over many years.
And on the subject of flower and vegetable gardening,
remember these following organic tips:
- Having a problem with damping off fungus on small
emerging seedlings from the soil? Sprinkle the soil surface with one
part white vinegar to four parts water and then re-sow the seed. This
concoction will kill the damp-off fungus.
- Use Bi-Carb (Potassium bicarbonate +
spreader sticker) to keep powdery mildew and black spot off roses. Its
great for garden use too to keep mildew off of curcurbits like melons,
squash, pumpkins and cucumbers and is most certainly mild and
- Neem Oil made from the seeds of the Neem
tree in India is a natural pesticide for ornamental plants and herbs and
vegetable plants. Fortunately for us, a coalition from India fought an
American company’s efforts to patent this “wonder” insecticide and won!
I’m sure the patent fee and the restricted manufacture of the product
would not have made the product less expensive.
- Refined horticultural oils are another tool in the
arsenal of organic weapons against infestations of insects or spider
mites in the garden. Just carefully follow the directions as an
incorrect use can burn your plants. The refined oils are better than
the “old” types of dormant oil as much as the sulfur that burns plants
have been removed.
- Planting crops together that are compatible with
each other such as sweet corn and squash will make more use of a limited
Watch for more organic gardening tips on our website!
It won’t be long until the first day of spring and its not too
early to be thinking about fertilizing your landscape and perennial garden
with organic fertilizers Plant-tone and the almost organic fertilizer
Holly-tone for acid-loving plants.
The way organic fertilizers work is that they are low
in salts which is not harmful to beneficial soil microbes which in turn
means that these microbes can work to release the nutrients of the organic
fertilizer over time.
These various and sundry microbes are essential for a
healthy soil and one with good tilth.
A soil in good tilth is like “chocolate cake” an
expression used by the horticulturist at Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio
as reported by Denise Ellsworth of the extension service of Summit County.
This type of soil is achieved over several years by
additions of large amounts of organic matter such as composted leaves,
twigs, grass and other plant debris which will “fluff up” an otherwise
This organic matter and the resulting invasion of
beneficial microbes therefore has a synergistic effect on the soil and the
growth of plants.
Organic fertilizers do not interfere with this synergy
when added to supply plants with additional nutrients essential for growth.
Lawn fertilizers have long been a source of non-point
source pollution of creeks and streams because of the runoff during heavy
rains especially phosphorus which is conducive to algae growth.
Now the Espoma Corporation, the manufacturers of
Plant-tone and other organic fertilizers, has come up with Espoma Organic
Lawn Food that has only 2% phosphorus that lawns usually don’t need because
there is enough in the soil already.
Like other organic fertilizers, this new product is low
in slats that will keep the beneficial microbes, earthworms and other soil
life happy and intact.
Another product I’m excited about is Espoma’s new lawn
weed control product called Espoma Organic Weed Preventer Plus Lawn Food in
which the active ingredient of corn gluten has been proven to reduce weed
numbers in most lawns by 60% the first year of use.
Its important to apply the product at the right time;
that is, before weed growth begins.
Just think about it, a lawn weeder product that is safe
for pets, people and the wider environment.
I cannot testify to the efficacy of this new product as
I have not used it as of yet but we’ll for sure be using it on the lawn
areas around the nursery as I get nervous on using the traditional products
as the runoff from the lawn areas goes back to our lake that we use for
In later blogs, I’ll let you know how it works.
One of the major headlines in the news today has been about regional
droughts such as the one in the southeast in 2007 and areas out west.
Water resources and the debate of how to distribute water whether it is for
agricultural use, urban use or used to protect species’ habitats is becoming
increasingly serious as water demand increases from an ever-growing
population and more frequently occurring water shortages or even floods
caused partly because of global climate changes. It seems everyone
these days worries about the price of oil and other fuels but until
recently, clean water was taken for granted which is for sure a more
valuable commodity. At the nursery, we have taken a proactive approach
to better water use since 1998 not only because of my desire to be
environmentally friendly but because the water quality in the creek that
runs through the nursery, Van Hyning Run, is too poor to water our nursery
stock as it is high in salts and other pollutants on its short 3-4 mile
course from Loyal Oak Lake through the nursery and then on to Wolf Creek.
In late summer, the foliage on our plants would have a burned edge because
of the high concentrations of salt revealed in our frequent water tests
since 1997. Completed about the same year was our one-acre lake
that was fed by runoff water that tested much better than the creek water.
It was obvious that this was our new water source as much of the lands and
drainage ways of the nursery drained to this lake. An electric pump
was installed in 1998 to pull water from the lake for irrigation and a
second smaller pump was used to pull water from the creek was now used to
pump rain water and run off water from irrigation that would run back to the
holding pond instead of directly to the lake because of the elevation
difference. This system now supplies all of our outside irrigation
water and captures the runoff from our irrigation in order to recycle it and
use it again so that very little water including rain water leaves the
property. In this way our needs are met for good quality water and
since almost no water leaves the property with its resulting leachates of
fertilizer, pressure is not placed on the stream as far as pollutants such
as phosphorus and additional runoff from rain storms that would contribute
to flooding downstream. Our other challenge though was the fact with
our irrigation water used over and over that over time salts would increase
to an intolerable level because of fertilizers used on the plants. The
above concern has never materialized as rain water is always collected and
added to the system and more importantly, the ditches and settling ponds
used to capture silt and other debris have all been naturally colonized with
Acorus (Iris), Marsh Marigold, Cattails, Rushes and other aquatic plants
that just love the boggy effect these waterways have created. In fact, the
natural colonization of water plants has acted like a giant water filter as
water flows through the system. You might say our whole system is like
one big rain garden. A rain garden that meets the nursery’s needs for high
I think I first starting thinking “green” when I was a teenager
and the environmental movement got started in the 1970’s. The book
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson had a message back then that was powerful
enough to change human behavior just as Uncle Tom’s cabin had done more than
150 years earlier on the subject of slavery. I always thought of the nursery
business as an honorable one in which the resulting production; that is,
trees, shrubs, flowers, would clean the air, provide food and shelter for
wildlife, prevent soil erosion and just plain beautify the earth.
While the above statement is obviously true, I realized more and more over
time that many of the practices used in the nursery to produce a beautiful
product were in themselves not “green”. For example, some crops required
large amounts of deadly pesticides such as chlorinated hydro-carbons and
organophosphates that were definitely bad news for the environment and
humans as well. Erosion has been a problem with long rows of nursery
stock in which a wide band of bare soil between the rows is constantly
cultivated and churned to kill weeds resulting in wind and water carrying
the “gold” away. In fact, Mr. Grulleman, who founded Wayside Gardens
in Mentor, Ohio in 1920, always shipped plants bare-root because not only
was it more practical for mail order but his comment to my late friend and
propagator John Ravestein, was that he (Grulleman) was selling plants, not
soil! In fact, there is a quote from an unknown author that the only
thing that makes it possible for humans to survive is a few inches of
topsoil and the fact that it rains once in a while. Herbicides are
another factor in nursery stock production and until recently, methylbromide,
a gas used to kill weed seeds in plant and seed beds, was one of the gases
responsible for depleting the ozone layer in the atmosphere. As the
year progresses, I’ll be giving you an insight as to the changes that are
occurring in the industry and what we have done, are currently doing and
plan to do to lessen the impact on the environment to make our products even
“greener’. Stay tuned.