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Developing Healthy Landscapes

An unhealthy environment should not be the price of a beautiful landscape. Inappropriate plant choices and inadequate soil preparation can lead to a reliance on excessive use of water and on toxic chemicals to resolve problems. Ecological landscaping encourages practices that promote a healthy environment through conservation of resources, respect for biodiversity, and ecologically-sound techniques.

Forest Savers LLC from Woodstock, Vermont uses a custom-built tractor to uproot and shred invasive shrubs at the Oyster River Forest in Durham, NH as part of a 60-acre restoration project to restore a healthy native plant community to benefit pollinators, songbirds, and the state-endangered New England cottontail. 

Reducing Invasive Plants and Recovering a Healthy Plant Community

By Ellen Snyder

In southeastern New Hampshire, where I work with landowners and communities on land stewardship, managing invasive plants is a constant struggle. As the Land Stewardship Coordinator for the Town of Durham, I’m guiding three restoration projects on town conservation land. It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the pervasiveness of invasive plants on all three properties. To avoid invasive paralysis, I keep my focus on the goal: restoration of a place to a mostly self-sustaining, healthy plant community.  The reward is a restored landscape brimming with native plants and native beneficial insects. 

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Patio with salvaged sandstone 

Revitalizing A Tired Palette

by Don Pell

Four years ago, a project inquiry brought me to a site that dreams are made of—an 18th-century colonial farmhouse beautifully restored over the past 30 years by its owners. The details of the home were meticulously curated; however, the gardens were entirely unconsidered. The home’s surroundings looked degraded and sadly suburban. Join me as I transform this landscape into an ecological oasis for the homeowners to enjoy for years to come.  

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 From left: A garden of anise hyssop, little bluestem, sneezeweed, boneset in front of smooth hydrangea. 

Lessons Learned on A Native Plant Journey

By Cathy Weston

A visit to  Cape Cod brings us to a  2-acre fallow farmland property where the homeowner/gardener has spent years cutting back invasive plants to return the land from an Old Field habitat to a Coastal Woodland.  The amount of effort to remove and keep invasives at bay could seem a daunting task, but this homeowner persevered and with trial and error created a beautiful ecological habit for both herself and the wildlife her property now calls home. 

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A blue heron in the wetlands as they appear today. Photo by Pam Morris Olshefski. 

Restoring the Wetlands of Morris Arboretum

by Eloise Gayer

Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania is well known for its abundance of mature trees and horticultural displays. In 2001 the Arboretum began the restoration of a drained wetland that would not only serve as a blueprint for other wetland restoration projects but also create more educational opportunities for the entire community. Learn about the history of this wetland, that was farmland at the turn of the century then one hundred years later was reverted back into a natural wetland.

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Summer Wildflowers Cover.cropped 

Book Review: Summer Wildflowers of New England

Written by Carol Garcie, Princeton University Press, 2020
Reviewed by Maureen Sundberg

Carol Gracie’s admiration and affection for the flowers she researches and photographs is evident on every page of her new book Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast. Those familiar with the thoughtfully detailed life histories of plants in Gracie’s Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast will recognize in this companion volume her wide-ranging mix of the natural history of species and spectacular photography.

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Planting Edible Native Species – A Case Study from Massachusetts

by Russ Cohen

A newly daylighted stream at Willard’s Woods in Lexington, MA presented a serendipitous opportunity for introduction of edible native plants to the conservation area. At a double session focused on propagating and planting edible native plant species, Russ Cohen and co-presenter Georgia Hann included this 2017 project at ELA’s 2020 Conference & Eco-Marketplace in March. Here, Russ follows up the conference session with a deeper dive into the Willard’s Woods project.

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Cover Nature's Best Hope 

Book Review: Nature’s Best Hope

A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard

Written by Doug Tallamy; Published by Timber Press February 2020
Reviewed by Angela Tanner

As the world hunkers down in the midst of  a pandemic, Doug Tallamy’s latest book Nature’s Best Hope offers, as the title suggest, hope, and we all need a little of that. Drawing topics from his earlier book Bringing Nature Home, Tallamy explains, with examples and statistics, what is happening to the ecological systems around us, and why we should care.

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Spring Tool Maintenance

by Steve Cushman

One of the most important chores for tool maintenance is keeping cutting edges sharp; however, sharpening can cover a huge realm of techniques and tools. Find out about techniques requiring only a small investment in tools, and you’ll have your garden tools in perfect shape as the season starts – and perhaps be inspired to keep them that way.

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Carbon Gardening

by Adrian Ayres Fisher

Gardeners new to the concept of carbon gardening often ask these two questions: What good soil management strategies will help maximize carbon sequestration? And, what would be a good plant palette to help accomplish this? Good questions. Read the article.

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Green Manure

by Robert Kourik

You say you want to garden all-naturally, but the closest source of animal manure is many miles away? Then green manuring might be for you. Green manuring is the process of tilling fresh green plants into the soil to help make it drain better and allow it to hold onto more moisture, with an added bonus – the plants, as they decay, act as a readily available fertilizer. Green manuring is also pretty darn close to free fertilizer – discounting the cost of a few seeds and plenty of elbow grease. Learning how the natural cycle of decomposition works means you’ll know exactly what part of the cycle to influence, how to speed up the natural processes, and how to improve the soil in either the short or the long term.

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Mention of products is not intended to constitute endorsement. Opinions expressed in this newsletter article do not necessarily represent those of ELA’s directors, staff, or members. 

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What Is Soil Health?

by Robert Schindelbeck, Aaron Ristow, Kirsten Kurtz, Lindsay Fennell, and Harold van Es

In general, soil health and soil quality are considered synonymous and can be used interchangeably, with one key distinction conceptualized by scientists and practi­tioners over the last decades: soil quality includes both inherent and dynamic quality.

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