Tag Archives: environment

Plant Native Plugs Now By Following These Simple Steps From Ion Exchange, Inc.

Follow these simple steps to get your native garden going with live plant plugs:

  • Select the proper species just right for your region and environment.  Select color, bloom time, soil moisture required and sunlight conditions.
  • Eliminate all competition from existing vegetation by tillage or using a burn down herbicide such as Roundup.
  • Group your plants by species and plant in clusters to make sure you get a real burst of color during flowering time.
  • Space your plants approximately one foot on center but you may leave a greater distance between clusters.
  • Of course, plant taller species in the background so as to not to hide shorter species.
  • Use a dibble bar to plant your plugs.  A dibble bar can be hand made.  If you are in loose soil that has been tilled, you may use your hand or hand trowel but in harder untilled soil, you will need a planting device called a dibble bar that you can create or purchase.
  • Make sure your live plants, when planted have good soil contact with minimal air space around roots.  Insure this by heeling in the plants without injuring them and water them right away.
  • Mulch the entire area with approximately 4 inches of mulch.
  • You will need to maintain your garden by eliminating any unwanted weeds or species that tend to spread.
  • You may want to move some of your species in the future because you do not like the aesthetics.  You can paint your own picture after you get a feel for what looks good to you.


To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Us At http://ionxchange.com/


Lesson Learned from the Land Article

As I mapped soils throughout eastern Iowa back in the early 70’s, it was interesting for me to put together a picture of what the original landscape looked like.  In eastern Cedar County, I came upon some soils that did not fit the general description of prairie or savanna soils in that they were somewhere in between the two. I pondered this as I walked day after day over the land and began to see the picture in my mind.  Savannas are transitions from prairie to a micro climate that favors some tree growth.  There must be all grades of transition but what are they called?  When does a prairie become a prairie as we walk westward out of the timber into the savanna into the “prairie”?  When does a prairie become a savanna?  What is your definition of a savanna?  I don’t think there is a definition or name that can be placed on this “la la land of the past”.  One way to look at these ecosystems is to imagine an interaction not individual influences, although they may be critical.  If we back away in time and peer down from above, we can see a constant winning and waning of movement much like the tides that come and go.

What footprint is left in the soil to give us clues to the past? Certainly visual imprints are evident even though the land is now covered with corn and beans.

John Madson, who wrote Where the Sky Began, so beautifully described his vision of coming out of the timber and seeing, looming in front of him, an open sky and a sea of grass as far as the eye could see.  He made mention of the front line soldiers sent out by the savanna or timber which allowed the advancement of the savanna and timber upon the prairie.  Wild plumb trees were sent out as a front line defense or offense depending upon which the environment favored.  Sometimes the battle would be won by the prairie and other times by the savanna and eventually a total overthrow of one over the other but the soldiers of the front line are always forgotten for they are in this “la la land of transition”.   I was reminded of them that day in Cedar County, Iowa as I observed the grainy grey coats of the now vanished front line soldiers of the savanna who left their mark upon the prairie soil profile.  Were they lost in battle as they succumbed to the forces of the prairie or were they stopped dead in their tracks by the ever- advancing moldboard plow?

I am reminded of my life and how it is much like this ever- changing world that we know as Prairie and Savanna but not a struggle or battle but the ebb and flow with the tides of life.  Just as every component of the prairie and savanna are a part of the total wonderment of creation so are we.  Are we on the frontline of change?  Do we have the courage to move forward regardless of the elements that we face?  The lessons of the land are there for all of us if we just open our eyes and hearts and breathe in the intuitive powers of this great planet.

Howard Bright, President
Ion Exchange, Inc.
“Helping you create your own natural beauty”

Fire & Water Article

I have thought about natural events such as fire and water.  I believe that these two elements are written into the genetic code of humans.  Just think about the mesmerizing effect that these two natural elements have on us.  There is something deep inside of us that attracts us to fire and water.  Think about sitting around a campfire or staring into the fire burning in your fireplace.  Isn’t it hypnotic?  The same is true about water.  Whether it is the violent action of waves pounding the beach or a calm smooth lake in the morning fog, our minds seem to go into a meditative state.  Why is this?  I think that it has to do with survival of our species.  We were driven to set fires to perpetuate the native environment therefore we are a part of nature.  Water certainly is number one for human survival.

I think our basic instincts regarding fire and water have been masked and suppressed by our modern culture and it fades out our awareness.

Howard Bright http://ionxchange.com/

Clean Water: Backyard Basics

Picture of water runoff
Image via Wikipedia

Clean water is everybody’s responsibility. We found this article below that shows what you can do in your own backyard to do your part.

By Jim Waltman Special to The Packet

Fourth column in an ongoing series.

When Sarah Roberts, of Montgomery, and Van Zandt Williams, of Princeton, look out at their backyards they see more than lawn and beautiful gardens — they see an oasis for local wildlife.

Using native plants and a variety of “River-Friendly Certified” strategies and techniques, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Willams have both created gardens and habitat for local wildlife — beautifying their homes while helping protect our water and environment.

“We decided to become River-Friendly (through the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s River- Friendly Resident Certification Program) to set an example right in Princeton Borough that you can protect rivers and water no matter where you live,” said Mr. Williams, a member of the Watershed Association’s Advisory Board.

The Watershed Association’s River-Friendly Certification Program promotes clean water and a healthy environment. The program works one-on-one with residents, businesses, golf courses and schools to improve land stewardship, reduce pollution, conserve water, restore habitat for wildlife and educate the public about becoming better environmental stewards.
Earlier this year, the Watershed Association’s State of the Watershed Report showed that as land use has shifted in our region from a more agricultural area to one with increased development, the amount of natural lands remaining are shrinking and our water quality is suffering.

As we pave and cover more of our land, increasing amounts runoff from our yards, parks, streets, sidewalks, roads and parking lots are bringing “people pollution” — things like excess fertilizers, trash, and waste from pets and leaking septic and sewer systems — to our streams and water sources. By helping preserve the natural ecology and create more wildlife habitat, we can make a difference for our water and environment.

“A lot of our neighbors’ stormwater runs through our property to get to the stream,” said Ms. Roberts, a River- Friendly Resident, member of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey and Sustainable Montgomery, and advisor to the Montgomery Township Open Space Committee. “Keeping part of our property natural and wild helps protect the waterway.”

In addition, using native plants and attracting wildlife can reduce the need for pesticides. Many species of birds, bats and insects keep harmful pest under control by preying on them. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds also help maintain healthy and diverse plant growth through pollination.

“We haven’t seen any bears, but by using native plants and providing food, shelter and different habitats we do have a great variety of wildlife,” said Ms. Roberts. “With our pond we have all kinds of frogs on the property with different calls we can identify. Sometime great blue herons will stop by in the spring or fall. Last summer we had two green herons who were regular visitors and we have a great variety of butterflies.”

At Mr. William’s home butterflies, bats and birds are regular visitors. “We’ve taken what was a vegetable garden and made it a butterfly garden,” he said. “We have a bat house on the side of our house with a family of bats that swirl around the yard doing the clean-up work before heading to the canal, and we keep our birdfeeders up year-round. With trees for shelter, the birds swoop back and forth in pretty much a continuous display.”

To promote wildlife habitat in your yard, try the following “River-Friendly” strategies:

• Plant a diversity of plant species in your yard. Vary the height of vegetation to provide good habitat conditions. Include groundcovers, flowers, low shrubs, medium-story plants and taller trees.

• Use native plants to provide food for wildlife. Contact Watershed Association Stewardship Program Coordinator Amy Weaver at aweaver@thewatershed.org for native plant resources and suggestions.

• Because most species of wildlife are very sensitive to chemicals, minimize fertilizer and pesticide use. Use a soil test before fertilizing and if needed use phosphate-free fertilizers. Use non-toxic or less-toxic forms of pest control, such as spot treating.

• Put up birdhouses and feeders. Make it difficult for rodents and predators to reach them.

• If they are not diseased or pose safety hazards, leave dead trees and trunks in your yard instead of removing them to provide locations for nesting.

• If you want to attract bats in order to control mosquitoes and other pests, put up a bat house.

• Have sources of fresh water available in your yard for wildlife. Backyard ponds, birdbaths, saucers or even stones and logs with shallow depressions to catch rainwater are excellent provisions.

• Limit activity in areas designated for wildlife habitat to minimize disturbance.
Want to see some of these strategies in action? Visit the Watershed Reserve in Hopewell. The Kate Gorrie Butterfly House offers a close-up view of how to garden to provide for native butterflies. Guided tours are offered every Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. through Aug. 16. Plus — don’t miss the 10th Annual Butterfly Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. See today’s TIMEOFF, Page 14.

Ms. Roberts has also planted a native plant garden in front of the Montgomery Township Municipal Building to highlight the importance and viability of using native plants.

“We decided to become River-Friendly because we care about the environment and wanted to take care of our stream corridor,” said Ms. Roberts. “Whether you have a big backyard or not, we can each do a little something to help.”

Jim Waltman is executive director of the Stony Brook- Millstone Watershed Association, central New Jersey’s first environmental group. Download a copy of the State of the Watershed Report at thewatershed.org. To become River-Friendly, visit thewatershed.org/ conservation/river-friendly. Our next article in the series will take a look at the issue of bacteria in our water.

If you have a pond or other waterway here is a beautiful solution that works great on waterways. Ion Exchange

Helping You create your own natural beauty

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Pollinator Habitat Incentives with CRP

Logo for the 20th Anniversary of the United St...
Image via Wikipedia

For Immediate Release
August 2, 2010


New rules passed by the USDA now offer financial incentives for the establishment of pollinator habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The limited time program sign-up, which opens today to new enrollment, provides one of the largest pollinator conservation opportunities ever in the United States.

The CRP program, first established in 1985, is the largest private landowner conservation effort in the United States with up to 32 million acres eligible for enrollment through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Program participants take highly erodible land out of crop production, and establish permanent vegetation to protect topsoil and provide wildlife cover. Contracts which run 10 to 15 years provide annual rental payments on enrolled land, and cost-share assistance for establishing vegetative cover.

New rules which go into effect today offer priority ranking for land enrollment that include pollinator-friendly wildflowers and shrubs. Under the current CRP enrollment system, landowners who want to participate are ranked against one another to prioritize enrollment that offer the most conservation benefits. To receive a higher score on the pollinator ranking criteria, participating farmers must plant at least 10% of the CRP acres in wildflower parcels (or at least one acre for CRP enrollment less than 10 acres in size).

The addition of a pollinator habitat incentive for CRP has been promoted by numerous wildlife and pollinator conservation groups in recent years, and the new ranking system now offers one of the largest potential habitat creation opportunities of its kind ever for native bees, butterflies, and managed honey bees, all of which have experienced significant decline in recent years due to habitat loss and other factors.

In developing the new CRP technical requirements, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked closely with Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading honey bee researcher based at the University of Minnesota, and the California-based advocacy group, Partners for Sustainable Pollination. Now, as the enrollment period for new CRP contracts begins, the NRCS is working with the non-profit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to develop wildflower seeding recommendations for states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Oregon. Those recommendations will focus on selecting native wildflower species that are abundant pollen and nectar sources, and that are most likely to thrive in their respective regions.

Rural landowners interested in more information about CRP, including the current sign-up period which ends August 27th, should contact their local Farm Service Agency office. For location information, visit their web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov <http://www.fsa.usda.gov/>  .

Iowa Insects Mailing List
http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm <http://atmos.cgrer.uiowa.edu/herbarium/MailingList.htm>

The Iowa Insects Mailing List provides a forum for those interested in Iowa’s insects and,
more generally, invertebrates, their identification and ecology. Its purpose is to encourage
novices who are trying to expand their knowledge about the incredible world of insects.
Another objective is to support the Iowa Native Plant Society.

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The Natural Gait: Northeast Iowa’s Rustic Retreat

The Natural Gait is our sister site check it out here

Taken from Radish Magazine
by Rich Patterson

The view from Grandview Cabin is startling at The Natural Gait in Allamakee County, Iowa.

The notebook in a rustic cabin overlooking Northeast Iowa’s Yellow River captured the essence of The Natural Gait.

“We enjoyed being away from television and telephones for a few days to just let the natural beauty of the area sink in,” reads one longhand entry. Others mention the cozy joy of curling up with a book by the wood stove as snow enveloped the cabin. Another entry relates a long day riding horses through the woods and prairies of this unusual Iowa location.

The Natural Gait and its sister, Ion Exchange, aren’t just businesses. They are places to connect with natural Iowa. In a way, they are a state of mind as well as a beautiful and interesting place.

“These are creations from the heart and passion of two people in love with each other and the land and a desire for everyone to get connected to the natural world,” says Howard Bright, who with his wife, Donna, started The Natural Gait.

Back in 1980, the Brights were working in Burlington, Iowa. Howard was a district conservationist for the Soil Conservation Service and Donna served as an agent for the Extension Service.

“Our jobs were good, but we started to question spending 10 hours a day apart doing separate things. We wanted to live in the country and own a piece of land that had trees, water, hills and valleys that faced in all directions. So we started to actively look.” It took a while. Four years later, they found 160 acres of rugged hills, forests and river bottom in Allamakee County.

In what they describe as a magical moment along the Yellow River, they decided to buy the place. Their Realtor/banker tried to dissuade them by pointing out that the property had few visible financial assets. There was only about 35 acres of cropland and the forest had been logged.

“We had an idea to collect native plant seeds from remnant prairies and wetlands and sell them to people wishing to restore native ecosystems. Back then this was a novel concept, especially to rural bankers who wondered why anyone would want to grow what most folks considered weeds. But we bought the place and started collecting,” Bright says.

Their native plant business was named Ion Exchange in honor of a chemical exchange that takes place in the soil and for a nearby ghost town named Ion that had flooded and washed away in 1916.

In the early 1980s, anyone wishing to reestablish a prairie faced an immediate problem: finding a seed source. There simply weren’t many nurseries that sold native plant materials. The Brights’ timing was good. Interest in prairies was blossoming, and they soon found a ready market in the growing number of people interested in restoration. Ion Exchange gradually has grown and today offers dozens of different species of seeds and plugs. They’ve expanded beyond prairies and also sell wetland and woodland seeds and plants. The business includes fields where seed plants thrive and a cluster of buildings where plants are allowed to dry, seeds are cleaned, and plugs are produced.

In 1999 the Brights created another business associated with the land. “We called it the Natural Gait because it was our intention of helping others find their own ‘gait,’ or direction in life,” says Bright.

The Gait is a place where people wanting to enjoy natural Iowa can stay. Its bunk houses, cabins and apartments attract people wishing to spiritually connect with nature, hold family reunions and business retreats, and hike or horseback ride. Some of the buildings are near Ion Exchange’s seed business. Other cabins and a campground are on the steep river bluff. They’re within sight of Ion Exchange, but it’s a six mile drive to reach them.

Our weekend at the Natural Gait started on a cold, windy October night. We found Grandview Cabin and soon had a fire crackling in the woodstove. Most of Iowa is so settled that it’s hard to get away from lights and towns and we were pleased to see a mostly dark sky and horizon.

Just four of us stayed in the cabin, although it easily could hold ten. Phones and televisions were blissfully absent, but the cabin is set up for wireless Internet, an interesting combination of rustic and modern.

Shortly after dawn Saturday, we were amazed to look out the front porch and see the land drop to the river. No slope in Wyoming could match the dizzying steepness of the Yellow River bluff. In the distance below us, we could see the fuzzy growth of Ion Exchange’s recently harvested prairie plants. The field’s texture was surprisingly different from that of Iowa’s common corn and bean fields.

That Saturday we toured the seed processing buildings and hiked above them to a large cave in a limestone outcropping where Native Americans once lived. Today the Brights sponsor concerts in this massive rock cavity high above the river. That afternoon we headed for nearby Marquette and Prairie du Chien for shopping and a coffee-shop lunch. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we grilled steaks behind the cabin and enjoyed total silence, broken only by the haunting call of a barred owl.

Following a brisk walk Sunday morning we packed and headed back to the busy world, but the quiet weekend at the Natural Gait remains a pleasant memory.

For more information, visit thenaturalgait.com or call (877) 776-2208.

Rich and Marion Patterson of Cedar Rapids are freelance writers.

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Earthyman Demonstrates Dormant Seeding

The Joy of Letting Native Plants Take Over Your Yard.

 by: desmoinesdem Sun May 24, 2009 at 00:48:56 AM CDT Richard Doak wrote a great piece in last Sunday’s Des Moines Register urging readers to “plant the seeds of a more eco-thoughtful Iowa.” Seeding native plants along roadsides has helped the state Department of Transportation save money and labor while user fewer chemicals. Highway officials cite a long list of other benefits, such as controlling blowing snow, improving air quality, reducing erosion, filtering pollutants and providing wildlife habitat. They’re even said to improve safety by reducing the effects of highway hypnosis, delineating upcoming curves and screening headlight glare. Doak wants to see much more native landscaping in Iowa: To set the example, let’s have every school, every courthouse, every park, every hospital, every library set aside at least a patch of space for wild indigo, prairie sage, golden Alexanders, blackeyed Susan, pale-purple coneflower, butterfly milkweed, prairie larkspur, shooting star, compass plant, partridge pea, spiderwort, ironweed, blazing star, smooth blue aster or any of hundreds of other flowering plants that were native to the tallgrass prairie. […] It’s estimated that up to one-third of residential water use goes to lawn watering, and lawn mowing uses 800 million gallons of gasoline per year, including 17 million gallons spilled while refueling. Some 5 percent of air pollution is attributed to lawn mowers. Native plants require no fertilizer or herbicide, no watering and only enough mowing to mimic the effects of the occasional wildfires that kept the prairie clean of trees. Interest in reducing pollution and conserving water and energy should be reason enough to switch to native landscaping. About ten years ago, our family stopped trying to grow a grassy lawn in our shady yard. After the jump I’ve listed some of the benefits of going native. desmoinesdem :: The joy of letting native plants take over your yard We have a beautiful yard. While some people might not appreciate the collective of native Iowa plants (weeds) in our yard, we would never trade it for a monotonous expanse of grass. A decade into our experiment, we have more than 15 types of wildflowers on our property. The landscape changes throughout the spring, summer and fall. Our kids enjoy exploring the yard and get excited whenever a new type of plant starts blooming or getting tall. They love seeing butterflies or other pollinators on the plants too. We save time. As Doak writes, our yard requires almost no maintenance. It needs mowing about three times a year. We save water. We have never watered our lawn since deciding to go native. The plants in our yard tolerated a long dry spell a couple of summers ago very well compared to the grassy lawns in the neighborhood. We save money. We don’t buy grass seed, fertilizer or herbicides, and our water bills are lower than if we were trying to maintain a grassy lawn. We don’t use chemicals. The only time I can remember using herbicides in the last decade was when we had a small patch of poison ivy sprayed near our front sidewalk. We can let our dog and kids run around the yard without worrying about the chemicals they will track in the house afterwards. I’ve never understood why so many Americans spray their lawns and then encourage children to go outside to play there. Kids put their hands in their mouths frequently. Ditching our grassy yard was easy. We are fortunate to live near woods, so we didn’t incur any “start-up costs.” We just stopped trying to grow a grassy lawn and let nature take over from there. Gradually plants from the woods covered almost the whole yard. Most homeowners would have to spend some money for native landscaping, but reduced maintenance in subsequent years should compensate for the initial cost. For Iowans who want native plants on their property, Doak passes along this advice from Loren Lown, natural-resources specialist with the Polk County Conservation Board. -Talk with people who have prairie plantings. They can steer you to sources of seed and expertise. Attend workshops. – Choose plants adapted for your site. There are 1,500 native species of vascular plants in Iowa, but not all will thrive in all locations. You’ll need different species for a sunny hillside than for a soggy low spot. Species for a rain garden would differ from species for a butterfly garden. – Use native plants for accent or a centerpiece, but not for the entire yard. Keep mowing the turf around the prairie plantings to establish a border for them and to make it clear the native patch was deliberately planned, not just lawn gone wild. – Be patient. Most native plants are deep-rooted perennials. They will spend a couple of years establishing roots before they blossom. After that, said Lown, people will have a planting that requires no spraying, no watering and no maintenance except cutting once a year -“and it will live longer than you will.” My advice is to make that native patch as big as possible. Once you get used to the variety of shapes and colors outside your window, you won’t miss your Kentucky bluegrass at all.