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2013: Year of the Wildflower Article By National Garden Bureau

Wildflowers are one of Mother Nature’s loveliest gifts. Their changing panorama of colors, shapes, sizes and heights provides delight throughout the seasons. Wildflowers can be used anywhere. In the home landscape they are ideal for creating colorful beds and borders, as well as offering a lower-maintenance alternative for large areas or replacing turf grass. Wildflowers can be planted to cover large, open areas or assist in the recovery of a landscape that has been damaged or destroyed by the actions of people, a natural disaster, or the spread of invasive plants.

WHAT IS A WILDFLOWER?

Wildflower is not an exact term that is well defined. Some people say a wildflower is a plant that was not intentionally seeded or planted and grows without cultivation. Others classify a wildflower as any plant growing without the help of man regardless of the plant’s country of origin. Still others define a wildflower as a plant found in a specific geographic area that was grown from seed or plants also from that area.

Wildflowers and other plants that were growing before European settlement in what we now call the United States, Canada and Mexico are called native plants or indigenous species. Other plants, often referred to as exotics or aliens, were originally brought here from another part of the world. Many exotic species including flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs are among our favorite garden plants. A few, including some wildflowers, have escaped and become established as part of a local environment or naturalized. Some exotic species have even become invasive and are considered noxious weeds that need to be eradicated.

HISTORY OF WILDFLOWERS

Many of our favorite wildflowers have been growing in European gardens for centuries. Even some of our native wildflowers enjoyed more popularity in Europe than in the U.S. where they went unnoticed by gardeners. When early explorers came to North America, they discovered the bounty of plants growing in the New World. They eagerly brought many of these plants back to Europe where they were sought after by gardeners wanting something new and different for their gardens.

During colonial times, ornamental flowers were often grown in the Pleasure Garden or Pleasure-Ground, the designation for the flower garden. President George Washington had flower gardens at his home but most of his written notes were about the trees and shrubs he planted at Mt. Vernon, One native wildflower that Washington did plant and record was Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). He probably grew many foreign or exotic flowers since Washington avidly collected and traded plants with correspondents in Europe.

Cardinal Flower

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President Thomas Jefferson, an avid horticulturist, plant collector and seed saver, grew wildflowers in his garden. He also noted planting Cardinal Flower after it was recommended by his nurseryman friend, Bernard McMahon, who included it in his 1806 book “The American Gardener’s Calendar”, the first horticultural reference for American gardeners. While Cardinal Flower may have been one of the first trendy plants in the New World, it’s interesting that this North American native wildflower was introduced in Britain in 1626, more than 150 years before being mentioned in American references. McMahon noted “Here we cultivate many foreign trifles and neglect the profusion of beauties so bountifully bestowed upon us by the hand of nature.”

Other plants in Jefferson’s garden may have been from the 290 native plants described and collected by Meriwether Lewis during the Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery in the early 1800’s. More than half of the plants were new discoveries to white people including Lewis Flax (Linum lewisii) (one of many plant species named after either Lewis or Clark) and Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea). They also described Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Informal and wildflower gardens became fashionable with the publication of The Wild Garden in 1870 by England’s William Robinson who described them as “a delightful feature of a place”. This style of garden contrasted with the highly manicured and formal designs that had been popular in American and Europe. Wild gardens featured hardy, herbaceous plants, including both native and exotic species. They were designed and placed where they would thrive with little additional care.

The cottage and old-fashioned gardens of the 1800’s also included a few native perennial wildflowers but mostly focused on designs that included peonies, hollyhocks, phlox, roses, violets and other European favorites. By the end of the 1800’s many landscape designers began to emphasize hardy herbaceous plants in recognition of their lower maintenance. Noted horticulturist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey wrote, “The interest in native plants has never been so great as now.”

Wildflowers and native plants have continued to attract attention throughout U.S. gardening history. They are currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity by both gardeners and public officials for their beauty and their valuable contributions to the environment.

WHY PLANT WILDFLOWERS

A garden of wildflowers offers benefits to both the gardener and the environment. Once established, properly chosen wildflowers require less maintenance than traditional landscape plantings which can mean less watering, fertilizing, pest control and mowing. Some plants have deep root systems that prevent water run off and soil erosion, and enable them to withstand drought. Their growth also brings earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms to enhance soil health. And colorful blossoms can be arranged into lovely, casual bouquets that brighten the home.

Flowers provide nectar and pollen sources for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, while ripened seeds are a food source for birds and wildlife. Current research suggests that native plants and flowers might be more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers. Even a small area in a garden or landscape planted with wildflowers that bloom at varying times throughout the growing season helps attract and support pollinators.

SOME POPULAR PERENNIAL WILDFLOWERS

Many of these beautiful yet hard-working plants are equally at home in garden beds and borders as they are in larger wildflower plantings and restoration projects. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and black-eyed or brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba and R. hirta) are among the popular wildflowers planted by American gardeners, all of which happen to be native to the U.S.

One of the most admired wildflowers is Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). It is native to the Midwestern prairies and dry, open woods of the Southeast but can be found in gardens from Maine to California because it is fairly adaptable to most types of soil and does well even in dry conditions. Plants flower from late spring to early fall attracting butterflies and bees to the large, purple, daisy-like flowers. After the long-lasting blooms drop their petals, the distinctive seed heads develop and provide food for goldfinches and other birds. (Zones 3-8)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is native to a large part of the country including the Northeast, Midwest and Rocky Mountain region. Also called Beebalm, the whorls of pink to lilac colored flowers open in summer to attract bees, hummingbirds and a variety of other pollinating insects. It gets the name Wild Bergamot from the aromatic leaves that have a scent reminiscent of the bergamot orange tree of Europe. Monarda had many medicinal uses to the Native Americans. Today the leaves are often used to make tea. Plants do best in dry open areas and woodlands but can grow in moist soils as long as they are well drained. (Zones 3-9)

Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) despite its species name is native to the East and Midwest U.S. as well as eastern Canada. It is one of about 30 species of Columbine found in North America. Columbine is often found in a shady woodland setting though they have a deep taproot that enables them to grow in dry sites. The colorful red and yellow flowers that open in spring and summer are a favorite of hummingbirds. Blue Columbine or Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) has beautiful blue and white flowers and is one of the many columbines found in the western U.S. It is the state flower of Colorado. (Zones 3-9)

New England Aster (Symphyotricum novae-angliae, previously Aster novae-angliae) is a favorite of many gardeners for the beautiful violet-purple flowers that cover the plant in fall. Its native range is from New England all the way west to the Rocky Mountains and as far south as Tennessee and North Carolina. Plants grow best in areas with full sun and moist but well-drained soils. Valuable in the garden and any wildflower planting for its late season color, New England aster is also a nectar source for Monarch butterflies as well as attracting native bees and pollinators. (Zones 3-7)

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is perennial in its native California but grown as an annual in colder climates. Spanish explorers who saw the California hillsides covered with the golden orange poppies called the area the Land of Fire. It was introduced into European gardens in the 1830’s. California Poppy has golden-orange, silky, saucer-shaped flowers that open during the day and close at night or on cloudy days. Plants bloom best in the cool weather of spring and fall. In mild climates it will bloom several times during the year. In colder climates, it may self-seed in the spring and flower again in the fall. California Poppy is the state flower of California. (Zones 8-10)

While some perennial wildflowers adapt to a range of growing conditions and will grow throughout the U.S., other wildflowers prefer a specific region of the country or very specific environmental conditions. Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata) is a delightful treasure with cute, yellow, daisy-like flowers that exude the smell of chocolate in the morning. However, it is native to the dry parts of Kansas, Colorado and south to Arizona into Mexico so it loves hot sun and poor dry soils. Grow it in soil that’s even halfway decent and it gets leggy and flops over. (Zones 5-9)

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) is another much admired wildflower that seems to grow without care in its native environment that ranges throughout North America depending on the species. It derives its name from the striking orange-crimson spikes that appear in spring and resemble a brush dipped in paint. However, Indian Paintbrush can be difficult to grow from seed and establish in the garden. They are considered hemi-parasitic which means they need to grow in close proximity to other wildflowers and grasses. Indian Paintbrush produces roots that attach themselves to a range of plants that grow nearby to obtain some nourishment. Without these host plants, Indian Paintbrush declines and eventually dies. It is a challenge for even experienced gardeners but could surprise you if planted in the right conditions. (Zones 3-9)

HOW TO GROW WILDFLOWERS

Liberty Hyde Bailey once said “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”

Growing wildflowers requires the same type of care as traditional ornamental plants. Start with high quality seed and healthy plants. Be sure to select varieties that are suited to your conditions. Wildflowers will grow and bloom best when the environmental conditions meet their requirements. Sun exposure, availability (or lack) of moisture, and soil type all affect plant growth.

HOW TO CHOOSE WILDFLOWERS

Before purchasing seed or plants, think about what you are trying to achieve with your planting. If you want only native wildflowers in your garden find out what is native to your region and what type of growing conditions are needed. Do you want to attract bees and other pollinators or encourage butterflies to visit your garden? Look for plants that produce the type of flowers preferred by these insects. Are you interested in a garden that is filled with color from spring to fall? Choose a mix that has a variety of flowers and bloom times.

Some wildflowers have very specific soil, water, light, temperature and fertility requirements and won’t grow outside of a specific geographic range or set of conditions. Others are easier to grow because they have adapted to a wide range of environments. Does the plant like full sun, partial sun or a shaded location? Does it require constant moisture or will the plant survive periods of drought during the year? Does the plant like rich, fertile soil or does it grow better in a poor soil with lower fertility. Choose plant varieties that are matched to the conditions of your site.

Many types of wildflower mixes are available from seed suppliers. Some mixes contain only native wildflowers and may be formulated to grow in a defined geographic region or climate. Other mixes contain varieties that are both native and exotic. Some mixes have a balance of annual and perennial species to provide fast color and long-term beauty. Other mixes contain mostly annual flowers for a quick-growing wildflower garden. Not all of the wildflowers contained in mixes will grow in every garden but there are usually enough different types in each mix to provide a nice variety. Remember that successful wildflower gardens are created over many years as plants that are best adapted to your garden conditions become established and thrive.

There are many sources available to help you find the best native wildflowers for your garden. The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) has several fact sheets and publications that suggest good native plants for geographic regions in the U.S. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has an extensive database of commercially available native plants that can be searched to provide recommendations by state (www.wildflower.org). Local native plant societies and government organizations are also good sources of regional information.

PREPARING THE SOIL

The next step in creating an eye-catching field of flowers is to prepare the soil by removing weeds and other unwanted vegetation. If the soil is compacted, till lightly so the soil is loose and germinating seeds can put down roots. A bow rake is great for loosening the top layer of soil. Digging or roto-tilling too deep will bring up weed seeds and other plants that will need to be removed later to avoid competing with the wildflower seeds. While it may not be practical or necessary to amend the soil before planting wildflowers, you can add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting depending on the site.

PLANTING FROM SEED

Wildflower seed and seed mixes can be planted in either spring or fall. Spring rains help seeds germinate and plants get established before many weeds have a chance to grow. In warm climates, fall is a good time to plant wildflowers when cooler temperatures and winter moisture provide better conditions for seed germination and growth. In cold climates, a dormant seeding of wildflowers can be done in the fall when temperatures are low enough that seed will not germinate until weather warms up the following spring, similar to what happens in nature. Some seeds, especially many of our native perennial wildflower species, need a chilling period to break their dormancy. This is provided naturally by the change in temperatures from winter into spring.

Scatter seeds by hand or with a small spreader. Seeds can be raked into the soil or lightly covered with soil. Water thoroughly right after planting and keep seeds and seedlings moist for about 4-6 weeks. Gradually reduce watering as seedlings develop. Identify and remove weed seedlings as soon as possible since they will compete with wildflowers for water, nutrients and space. For dormant seeding, watering after planting seeds is not necessary.

CARE OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN

A wildflower planting just like a colorful meadow created by Mother Nature will look different from month to month and year to year. Annual flowers are more abundant at first because they grow and flower quickly. In following years perennial plants become established and start flowering, in addition to annual flowers that may reseed themselves.

The first year is a time to help wildflowers get established. Not all seeds will germinate right away but may be waiting for the right environmental conditions before they begin to grow. This is especially true with perennial wildflowers so don’t get discouraged or be disappointed if you don’t have that instant flower meadow. For more immediate results you may want to combine seeding wildflowers with planting a few container-grown plants. Plants will quickly get established and compete with weeds that may appear. Be sure to identify and remove weeds when they are small to prevent them from spreading Depending on needs of your wildflowers provide additional water if rainfall is sparse, especially during periods of extended hot temperatures. Avoid cutting flowers after they bloom so they can go to seed. Seed will drop to the ground and spread to fill in your planting.

During the second year, you may see new plants grow from seeds that didn’t germinate the first year. Water if rainfall is not adequate, especially in the spring. Additional water may be needed in the summer during extreme or extended periods of hot weather. Continue to remove weeds as they appear. As wildflowers become established the need to weed should taper off. Fill in bare spots with additional seed or container-grown plants.

After the third year and beyond your wildflower planting should require minimal maintenance. Remove large weeds that may move in. You may want to move plants that have grown too close and are crowding each other. Use them to fill in bare spots or sow additional seed to cover those spots. Additional water may be needed in the summer during extreme or extended periods of hot weather. Fertilizing is generally not required. In a garden setting, you can mulch around established plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Cutting or mowing wildflowers in fall to a height of about 6 inches will keep the planting looking neat and help spread seeds. Periodically disturbing the soil by digging or raking can also help regenerate a wildflower garden by creating good soil contact with seeds that have fallen to the ground.

Some wildflowers, especially prairie plants and grasses, benefit from being burned every few years. Fire occurs in many ecosystems as a way to get rid of woody plant invaders that move into a site as part of natural plant succession. Fire also helps break the dormancy of some seeds and stimulates the growth of other species. However, burning should only be done by someone with the understanding and expertise to do it safely and effectively. In the home landscape mowing, hoeing, digging and other means of soil disturbance can achieve the same goal.

WHERE TO BUY WILDFLOWERS

Gardeners have many choices when creating a wildflower garden. Local nurseries and garden centers sell both seeds and live plants. Retail, Internet, and catalog seed companies sell wildflowers as individual species and mixes. Many seed companies also sell mixes for a variety of special uses—wildflowers for cutting, fragrance, partial shade, attracting butterflies or pollinating insects, and more.

Digging plants from the wild is not recommended and might be illegal. State and federal laws protect some native plant species that are threatened or endangered. Collecting seed must be done carefully. Removing too much seed could reduce or destroy a wild plant population.

The National Garden Bureau has several members that sell wildflowers including many North American native wildflowers. Choosing the right plants for your wildflower garden will create a beautiful landscape to be enjoyed for many years.

For More Information

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on direct links to their websites by selecting Member Info from the menu on the left side of our home page. Gardeners looking for seed sources can use the “Shop Our Members” feature at the top of our home page.

Photos can be obtained from the NGB website in the area labeled “Image Downloads”.

The National Garden Bureau recognizes Janis Kieft of Botanical Interests Inc., as the author of this fact sheet and Gene Milstein and Diane Wilson of Applewood Seed as expert contributors. Photography was contributed by Applewood Seed Company.

This Article “Year of the Wildflower” Fact Sheet is provided as a service from the National Garden Bureau.

For All Your Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Please Visit Our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

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Wildflowers…Following Nature’s Design

By: Howard Bright aka Earthyman http://ionxchange.com/

In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form a specific community called a “plant community”. Native plants always grow in association with other native plantsto create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given conditions.

We can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are:

  • Prairies
  • Savannas
  • Wetlands
  • Woodlands

In this article, we are only going to discuss the Prairie sub communities.

Within each of these categories we narrow down our site conditions and begin our design of what native species of wildflowers, grasses and sedges will work best for our site. For instance, if we have an open area that gets full sunlight, we have a perfect opportunity to create a “Prairie”.  Within the Prairie Community, we can further break down our site conditions to reflect:

  • Wet Prairie
  • Wet-Mesic Prairie
  • Mesic Prairie
  • Dry-Mesic Prairie
  • Dry Prairie

Now this may sound too complicated for the normal gardener but it really isn’t.  Here are a few tips to allow you to identify where your site fits in.  First of all let’s talk about your soil.  You may say that you don’t know anything about soils and that’s o.k.  You can still come close to what your soil is like by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. When you walk across your site with tennis shoes on, do your feet get wet throughout the growing season?  If so, you can bet this is a site for a Wet Prairie Plant Community.
  2. Is the ground soggy at times but eventually dries out and then becomes soggy again?  This could be a good place to establish your Wet-Mesic Plant Community.
  3. Would your site be a good place for a vegetable garden, not too wet, not too dry with fertile rich soil?  Here I would select a Mesic-Prairie Plant Community.
  4. If you think your site is a little bit on the dry side but not extremely dry, you would choose a Dry-Mesic Plant Community.
  5. If your site is really dry and maybe has no topsoil, maybe rocky or sandy I would choose a Dry Prairie Plant Community.

Now, after you have decided which plant community you want to create, here are some examples of wildflowers and grasses to consider for each community:

1.     Wet-Prairie Plant Community

  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Swamp Aster
  • Turtlehead
  • Boneset
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Marsh Blazingstar
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Monkey Flower
  • Mountain Mint
  • Buttonbush
  • Sneezeweed
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Ironweed
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Riddell’s Goldenrod
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mana Grasses
  • Wool Grass
  • Dark Green Bulrush
  • Bottlebrush Sedge.

2.  Wet-Mesic Plant Community

  • Canada Anemone
  • Sneezeweed
  • Boneset
  • Great St. John’s Wort
  • Wild Quinine
  • Nodding Onion
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Sawtooth Sunflower
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mountain Mint
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Prairie Cordgrass
  • Fox Sedge
  • Big Bluestem
  • New England Aster
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Marsh Blazingstar

3.  Mesic Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • New England Aster
  • Partridge Pea
  • Cream Gentian
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Wild Senna
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Compass Plant
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Ox-eye Sunflower
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Canada Milkvetch
  • Prairie Coreopsis
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Golden Alexanders
  • Rattlesnake Master
  • Big Bluestem
  • Indiangrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Prairie Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

4.  Dry-Mesic Prairie Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Stiff Goldenrod
  • Prairie Alum Root
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Leadplant
  • Partridge Pea
  • Little Bluestem
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Rough Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

5.  Dry Prairie Plant Community

  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Silky Aster
  • Cream Wild Indigo
  • Partridge Pea
  • Flowering Spurge
  • Showy Sunflower
  • Old Field Goldenrod
  • Alumroot
  • Rough Blazing Star
  • Wild Lupine
  • Spotted Bee Balm
  • Large-flowered Beardtongue
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Hoary Vervain
  • Lead Plant
  • Wild Senna
  • Little Bluestem
  • Side-oats Grama
  • Sand Love Grass
  • June Grass
  • Blue Grama

Remember, nature has these self-made recipes for your wildflower gardens and reconstuction areas.

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Celebrate the Rain with a Beautiful Native Wildflower Garden

Now is the time to start that wildflower garden. Native Wildflower plant plugs or seed. Beautiful Urban Garden Kits.

Buy your wildflower plants and seeds now

Create your wildflower garden now.

Extended Plant Sale. 35% Off Live Plants

The response has been so great we have extended our plant sale till the end of September. Ion Exchange to receive your discount use the code: 2010Fall35 when ordering online or mention this email when ordering by phone!

Fall Plant Sale at Ion Exchange Inc

Fall Plant Sale

Compost Basics – Key Componets

A basic article on composting for those of you that have experience in composting please share your thoughts and ideas at Earthytalk

Municipal waste of food residuals and yard trimmings constitute approximately 25 percent of the total waste and that’s a lot that gets sent to America’s landfills. If we just stop to think for a moment, this waste could be turned into environmentally useful compost instead of lying in the muck heap rotting away.

In this article on compost basics we cover what to compost and what not to compost and cannot stress enough the importance of composting. The finished compost can be applied to gardens and lawns to recondition the soil, replenishing nutrients. It is important that you note that compost is not potting soil and should not be used for house plants because of the weed and grass seeds present in its composition.

Composting is extremely easy to do and there are a lot of items that can go on the compost heap. Make sure you start at the very bottom of the garden because it can stink! To maintain your compost heap takes very little effort. All you need to do is mix and turn the pile every so often and add a little water to it.

Get a large bin and put it at the bottom of the garden, preferably near a water source. All compost requires 3 basic elements:

1. greens: grass clippings, vegetable waste and fruit scraps;

2. browns: branches, twigs and dead leaves and

3. water.

You should keep a pitchfork handy for turning and mixing the compost. There is no ideal composting method so feel free to follow any process you are comfortable with.

Some of the materials that can be used to compost include:
•    Coffee grounds and the filter papers
•    Animal manure
•    Clean paper and shredded newspaper
•    Cardboard rolls like what comes out of your toilet roll and kitchen paper towel roll
•    Eggshells
•    Fireplace ashes
•    Cotton rags and wool rags
•    Fruit parings
•    Sawdust
•    Wood chips
•    Tea bags
•    Shredded newspaper
•    Hair and animal fur
•    Grass clippings and yard trimmings
•    Leaves, twigs and branches
•    Houseplants
•    Nut shells
•    Hay and straw
Some of the materials that should not be used to compost include:
•    Coal and charcoal ashes which possible contain substances harmful to plants
•    Black walnut tree leaves and twigs which release harmful substances
•    Diseased, insect ridden plants
•    Dairy products like yogurt and milk which create a stink and attract rodents and flies
•    Grease, fat, lard and oil which create a stink and attract rodents and flies
•    Pet waste products
•    Meat or fish bones which create a stink and attract rodents and flies
In bygone days burning leaves, twigs, branches and other clippings and trimmings was the standard norm. In our more enlightened world today we know that it can pollute the air, causing breathing problems for people with asthma, emphysema and allergies and also lead to wild fires. In fact many states ban leaf burning.

Turning waste into compost is an environmentally responsible way of dealing with waste products and reducing the burden on landfills.

Want to know more about compost basics <http://www.gardensetup.com/compost-basics&gt; ? Visit my website http://www.gardensetup.com for more information about organic gardening.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Justin_Blackheel  <http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Justin_Blackheel&gt;

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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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Benefits of Planting Live Wildflower & Grass Plant Plugs

The plugs in the 84 Nova trays measure 1 1/8 inch diameter by 2 7/8 inches deep and taper like a cone with a bottom drain opening. The interior ridged design of the plug directs root growth downward & avoids the wrap around growth allowed by smooth sided plugs. As the roots develop & escape through the drain opening of the plug the atmosphere will burn off the protruding root material, in effect pruning them to encourage constant development of fresh root growth. When the plugs are placed into the ground, the roots are ready to rapidly establish themselves down into the soil. It has been our experience with planting both 3” square pots & the 84 Nova plugs that the plugs will compete with & sometimes surpass the growth of the larger potted plants in the first growing season. Some species planted as plugs will flower & set seed in the first year-we had Sawtooth sunflowers that were planted in June reach nearly 8’ & flower in the same season. The size of these 84 Nova plugs makes them easy to handle in planting & transporting. Native Plant Plug

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