Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Iconoclastic Gardener – Breaking May’s Stranglehold  by  Scott Beuerlein

Way back in 1914, an awful calamity happened that would ruin gardening in America forever. With the seemingly benevolent stroke of his pen, Woodrow Wilson foisted the Tyranny of Mother’s Day upon us all. Soon after came the backhanded slap from the long arm of the law of unintended consequences.

To be clear, I’m actually fairly okay with honoring moms.  I’ve got one, and my wife even became one too. Willingly. What I don’t like, however, is that this holiday has established the second Sunday in May as the one and only epicenter of the entire Horticultural Universe. As if graven on stone tablets, it was apparently ordained that every homeowner in America must cram a year’s worth of yard work, and do all their garden shopping, within two or three days of that holiest of holy days.

As you can imagine, because people inherently buy from garden centers things that are in flower, this has ensured that every last homeowner’s yard explodes into bloom right on Mother’s Day and sheepishly goes out of bloom a week later. Therefore, the rest of the growing season–from June to frost–the vast expanse of American suburbs is a sad, flowerless wasteland, bereft of color, wondering what life is about and why it always feels so empty inside.

Here is what this has cost us. The fun perennials, the really good stuff, all bloom later and, in fact, look absolutely fabulous on garden center shelves right this very minute when absolutely no one is there to see them. Hence, they’re not bought, not in gardens, and not bringing boundless joy to people in their everyday lives.

Late summer and fall blooming perennials tend to be bigger, bolder, and way more impactful. They also usually bloom longer, and they do so with all the star spangled colors of a big refinery fire. They invariably maintain a great form all season–not going to seed and not going limp too early, and they also attract loads of pollinators, which bring their own spastic fun to the party.

So do this. Be a lunatic. A rebel. Be contrary. Log off your computer right now and go to your favorite garden center and buy a bunch of stuff. Your garden and your life will be improved. Your late season garden will look so amazing you’ll want to show it to your mother. You might even invite her over. In September. Maybe October.

The Iconoclastic Gardener – Breaking May’s Stranglehold originally appeared on Garden Rant on September 18, 2018.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Farm Bill Politics 3: Down to the Wire

As the September 30th farm bill expiration date looms, Lindsey checks back in for a status update with NYFC’s National Policy Director, Andrew Bahrenburg. What do the “Fab Four” have to do with farm bill conference negotiations? Will Congress pass a final farm bill in time? And what will happen to the programs young farmers rely on if they don’t? Take action, and tell your...

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“Invasive” Ground Covers and the Case for Allowing Periwinkle  by  Susan Harris

 

I have a beef with the inclusion of Periwinkle (Vinca minor) on my coop’s list of banned plants – banned because they’re considered invasive (despite NOT being listed on the Maryland Invasive Plant list).

I’ve grown it in two suburbs of DC and in neither location (or the gardens of my neighbors) has it grown vigorously. If anything, my complaint, echoed by other area gardeners, is that it’s not vigorous enough.

So let’s find out where it’s invasive and under what conditions, shall we?

The Invasive Plant Atlas says it’s “invading natural areas throughout the Eastern U.S. It inhabits open to shady sites including forests and often escapes from old homesites.”

The State of Indiana says: “Once established, Vinca minor forms a dense carpet to the exclusion of other plants. This creates a problem where it is competing with native flora.”

Moving west, a California source says it “tends to become invasive in hot Mediterranean climates.”

Indeed I finally found a spot where Periwinkle IS clearly a problem. In this photo it’s seen covering much of the ground layer in the Treman State Park in Upstate New York.

Plant them in the Right Place

Ground covers have a job to do – covering the ground, and not taking too long to do it, either. When they do their job they prevent erosion and weeds. No surprise that successful ground covers can, in the wrong place, do their job too TOO well. So what’s the right place for Periwinkle?

Commenters on Daves Garden suggest answers: “Yes, vinca can be aggressive, but I am grateful for that, given the difficulty of getting anything to grow under my Norway maples or in the dirty fill around my 1885 house…I would not grow this plant if I lived where it could escape into a woodland.”

One newspaper suggests, “Place this lovely in a nice hanging basket or medium to large planter.”

I like what one commenter on Houzz has to say:

As with any so-called invasive plant, its invasive properties are determined by location and planting situation…It doesn’t play all that well with smaller, herbaceous perennials, as it can easily overwhelm and smother them. And I would avoid planting it in any area that would allow it to spread into any natural plantings, like open woodlands.

David Beaulieu (formerly of About.com, now writing for The Spruce) suggests it as a lawn replacement under trees and lists its many advantages:

Because of their ability to root and spread, they can help hold the soil in place. This can be important on the side of a hill, where soil erosion might be a problem.

The vines need little care. They are deer-resistant and rabbit-proof flowers, and few insects eat them, so there is not much pest control to worry about. A

Tough, low-maintenance, and pest-free, Vinca minor has pretty foliage and flowers; it is also a useful plant. In spite of all of these benefits, it does have one drawback.

The “one drawback” of course is its potential invasiveness:

Vinca minor vines are considered somewhat invasive plants, so, if this is a concern for you, make it a point each year to keep their runners in check. But remember, the flip side of the coin for so-called “invasive plants” is that they are vigorous growers, meaning that they tend to be successful at filling in an area. This is often exactly what you want out of a ground cover.

Back home, here’s a patch of Periwinkle between my front yard and a parking lot. Surrounded by concrete and asphalt in all directions, this “invasive” isn’t going anywhere – because it only spreads by runner, not by birds or wind. It’s nothing like English ivy, which harms trees by climbing up into them, where it makes berries that are then spread by birds.

I wish “invasives” weren’t lumped together as they so often are – with little or no details as to how, where, and under what conditions they can damage other plants or natural areas. Plants that are invasive only along streams or in regions with mild winters can get banned from places where they’re no threat at all.

In my neighborhood the mistaken (I contend) banning Periwinkle creates a special problem. All coop members are required to cover the ground in their (mostly shady) yards, and banning the shade-loving, pest-free, evergreen Periwinkle leaves us with very few choices – mainly Pachysandra and Liriope. They too are listed as invasives – somewhere – and may end up banned, too. Then what?

Flowering Vinca minor photo by Margrit.

“Invasive” Ground Covers and the Case for Allowing Periwinkle originally appeared on Garden Rant on September 14, 2018.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Drought, wildfire, hail: is there a USDA Disaster Assistance Program to help your farm or ranch?

U.S. Drought Monitor Map, September 10, 2018 Every year, natural events, from drought and wildfires to hurricanes and hail, impact the businesses of farmers and ranchers across the country. Currently, the Four Corners region of the U.S. is experiencing exceptional drought (the worst category!) and most of the Southwest is experiencing some level of drought or dry conditions. In addition to a very...

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