Garden Notes: Life depends on plants (and animals)

The woods are starting to look bare now. At night, the moon shines through the cathedral of trees in a wintry way.

Is this a mastodon year? Tassels are plentiful and urge caution on smooth surfaces! If cleavers, teasel and burdock were the inspiration for velcro, then surely tassels were the inspiration for ball bearings. Speaking of caution, contrary to popular belief, adult deer ticks are prevalent in the fall and winter. Check check every night.

Indigenous and invasive

New England is famous for its fall colors; the bright red coloring is undeniably eye-catching. Confirming the invasion of island vegetation, the red Euonymus alatus (burning bush) signals the extent of its invasion and is now signaling itself. Many who love it may ask, “So what is the problem? “

No gardener needs to remember that life depends on plants: no plants, no life. It is very fitting that we focus on everything related to plants.

Along with the problem of Phragmites in wetlands and streams repelling bulrushes and altering these ecosystems, the problem with this euonymus is that it is an introduced species, able to compete and survive. take over native ecosystems. Loss of native habitat harms complex ecosystems as their components struggle to survive in the altered habitat.

E. alatus is the scourge of the suburbs of 21 states, where it has invaded recreation areas, parks, urban forests and nature reserves, creating exotic thickets that are costly to clear and restore to their former conditions. Do we want it here?

Many invasive non-native plants such as the burning bush leaves earlier, go dormant later and produce tons of seeds, which are spread by runoff, weather and wildlife. These are not inherently bad qualities, but promote invasion.

If you’re looking for red in the fall scenery, use your judgment and check garden centers. There are lots of choices without creating an invasive problem for your neighborhood. Sunny locations intensify the fall colors of many of the following plants.

Most of the listings below can be seen at Polly Hill Arboretum. Brilliant native trees and shrubs of all shapes and sizes: Chokeberry, beetlebung (Nyssa sylvatica), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), oxidendrum (Oxydendrum arboreum), native stewartias (Stewartia malacodendron), ova Fothergilla major and F. gardenii, shadbush (Amelanchier spp), nine bark (Physocarpus opulifolius), wilted (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides) and the excellent oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).

Expansion to non-natives: crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia cultivars), witch hazel (Hamamelis cultivars) and many viburnums. Use with caution: self-seeding Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and spp) and kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa).

From the Brandywine Conservancy website: “Euonymus alatus is known as the burning bush because of its almost neon red fall color. While this quality – combined with its low maintenance – has made the shrub a staple ornamental element in suburban landscaping, it has also become far too common in the forests of the eastern United States, where it is recognized as an invasive species in 21 states. Read more on

Poultry care

It’s time to put on my mask (again), this time to clean the barns. I usually clean them in the fall, when I can add the old litter to the compost, but some go to the vegetable patch, to soften the winter (without fear of burning anything with them). Another use for poultry manure, recommended by Polly Hill herself, is the best holly dressing.

Winter is also the time when herds are affected by blood-sucking mites and lice, which are external parasites. Their spread is facilitated in winter when birds are more often locked up due to inclement weather. Treat perches and perches by wiping them down with vinegar and change nesting material by adding diatomaceous earth.

Birds’ messy ventilation areas are often telltale signs of trouble. If the herd is confined, provide a box of sand and ash for them to take a dust bath. If not confined, birds will find their own dust baths, which is usually enough to keep their bodies and plumage healthy.

Internal parasites also afflict poultry. Make a deworming mixture with a food processor: 7 tablespoons of cayenne pepper, a head full of garlic, a pound of pumpkin seeds and a pound of oatmeal to feed in the herd hopper. You can abuse cayenne pepper: birds, but not parasites and rodents, do not have the path of sensitivity, hence the “bird peppers”, those fiery pieces of Scoville units.

On a separate but related topic, bird feeders and birdbaths also need to be cleaned. None of us want to stop feeding birds – watching them is often all the point – although it’s good to recognize that feeding stations also support bacterial, viral and rodent populations. Proper placement can alleviate rodent populations near the house.

Planting gardens and island landscapes with native berries and seeds where birds can feed, and which produce stunning fall colors, is a win-win solution.

Too sophisticated?

Fall lawn repairs are timely – rainfall and cooler temperatures make it easier for you. Refer to the Vineyard Conservation Society guidelines for the Vineyard Lawn here

Everything is going somewhere. How to encourage Island residents to think ecologically? How do you counter the overly sophisticated gardening and landscaping going on here?

Part of being grateful and grateful for what we value here is wanting to support and preserve it.

Oysters can’t do it all. In addition to other sources, such as the airport, toxic runoff entering the island’s ponds and aquifers from the applications of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in over-engineered landscapes is a major source. of ecosystem damage, without excluding us.

“We need to challenge the idea that contamination is just the price of life in the modern world. Our bodies don’t have systems to deal with plastics, flame retardants, or pesticides. If contamination is the price of modern society, modern society has failed us. “(Russell Libby)

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