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2014 ELA Conference Sessions

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February 26, 2014 Wednesday Intensive Workshops

Maintaining Tree Health

From supplying food to providing air and water benefits, trees perform functions vital to human existence. How do we, in turn, sustain our tree populations and ensure enduring ecosystem functions? Travis Beck, Michael Phillips, and Christopher Roddick will share their experience and expertise on how to maintain tree health through soil management, how to design plant communities for long-term succession, and how to care for veteran trees.

Soil: the Base Layer of Ecological Health

We’ve heard it said a hundred times, “It’s all about the soil.” But what is it we need to know about soil? Today’s speakers will address the importance of understanding soil structure and biology, describe how to build and preserve healthy soils, and discuss what techniques can be used to remediate degraded soils. They will also take you beyond the basics, enabling better stewardship of this critical resource.

9:00-10:30 am

Maintaining Tree Health

Caring for Veteran Trees
Christopher Roddick, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Veteran trees have very high conservation value as habitat, providing food, shelter and water for an array of wildlife, as well as offering a home for lichen and epiphytic plants. Veteran trees also play a vital role in providing air and water quality benefits as it can take 25 to 30 years before a newly planted tree develops the features that perform these services. Mr. Roddick will discuss how treatment of veteran trees differs from that of juvenile trees and how to modify care depending on age and condition of the tree. This session will cover specialty soil treatments, retrenchment pruning, returning dead wood and trees back into the landscape, and other practices designed to maintain the structural and biological health of veteran trees.

Soil: the Base Layer of Ecological Health

Soil Structure and Function:
Understanding the Biological, Physical, and Chemical Properties of Soil
Dr. John Swallow, Pine & Swallow Environmental

Dr. Swallow will discuss the complexity of soil ecosystems with an emphasis on the biological, physical and chemical properties of soil. Topics addressed will include: the soil food web, soil composition and structure, cation exchange capacity, soil water, pH, and air fluxes, the role of microbes in soil development, and the interaction between soil’s biological communities. The presentation will be enhanced by an array of images ranging from microbial soil organisms to results of grass growth testing.


Maintaining Tree Health

Using Fungal Dynamics to Improve Plant Health
Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchards

Fungal diseases of plants, such as late blight or powdery mildew, occur when an opportunistic organism overtakes the defense system of that plant. Mr. Phillips will discuss how the organic grower can use and encourage beneficial fungi and bacteria to help plants compete against such diseases. He will show how, though the use of pure Neem oil, fish fertilizers, added microbes, and fermented herbal brews, we can reduce the use of the “Old School Organic” mineral fungicides and bring natural healing back to plants.

Soil: the Base Layer of Ecological Health

Remediating Compromised Soil
Dr. Nina Bassuk, Urban Horticulture Institute, Cornell University

Many of us in the green industries understand that soils are fundamental to built environments. However, for most landscape projects, soils have been significantly altered, affecting structure, pH, drainage, and the overall ability of soils to successfully support plant growth. Dr. Bassuk will summarize over a decade of site-specific research associated with engineered soil for use under pavements and with mechanical remediation of soil with compost and mulch.


Maintaining Tree Health

Designing Plant Communities with Succession in Mind
Travis Beck, Mt. Cuba Center

In nature, plants grow in communities and these communities change over time. By understanding the nature of succession and designing plant communities deliberately, we can create successful, evolving landscapes that endure over time. Mr. Beck will discuss contemporary ecological views on plant communities and succession, their application to the designed landscape, and recent projects at Mt. Cuba Center, Hockessin, DE, that put these ideas into practice.

Soil: the Base Layer of Ecological Health

Optimizing Soil Health
Mark Highland, Organic Mechanic Soil Company

Managing soil health is an essential part of gardening. How does soil management affect soil biology and plant growth? How can proper soil management provide greater environmental benefits? Is there such a thing as organic soil? Mr. Highland will discuss how careful soil management can increase the mineral content and biological power of both landscape soil and potting soil, and how these soil improvements reduce plant susceptibility to pests and diseases and reduce the need for irrigation


End-of-Day Panel Discussion: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Trees not only provide us with food, lumber, and fuel, they also perform vital ecosystem functions that are not visible or tangible and therefore not easily recognized. How do we as land care practitioners preserve this necessary “green infrastructure” and protect our trees, forests, and plant communities from increasing stressors such as climate change, forest fragmentation, invasive plants, and new pests and diseases? How do we get others to realize the urgent need for action and change?

Join the discussion as our panelists offer local perspectives on the global issue of sustaining trees and forests into the future.

Dr. Nina Lauren Bassuk, Urban Horticulture Institute, Cornell University; Travis Beck, Mt. Cuba Center; Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchards; and Christopher Roddick, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Keynote Dinner
Healing the Waters: A Tale of Ecology and Living Technologies
John Todd, Ph.D., John Todd Ecological  Design

Purifying and protecting the waters is a critical challenge for humanity. Dr. John Todd will discuss how “living technology,” based on understanding and utilizing ecosystem processes, can be used to treat wastes, purify waters, and restore polluted habitats while at the same time generating fuel and producing foods. Using his Eco-Machines™ as an example, Dr. Todd will describe how this technology, designed and engineered to replicate the functions of natural ecosystems, uses diverse species from all kingdoms of life to treat wastes and restore waters. As self-sustaining systems that rely primarily on sunlight, these living systems have the ability to function for long periods of time and be carbon neutral. Their widespread adoption and application throughout the world will be explored as well.

Dr. John Todd is an internationally recognized biologist, inventor, and author of over 200 articles on biology and planetary stewardship as well as a number of books, including The Village as Solar Ecology, Tomorrow Is Our Permanent Address, Reinhabiting Cities and Towns: Designing for Sustainability, and From Eco-Cities to Living Machines.

February 27, 2014 Conference Sessions & Idea Exchange

8:30-10:00 am

Ecosystem Connections: Maintaining the Plant-Insect Balance
Michael Phillips, Lost Nation Orchards

Promoting healthy ecosystems is an important part of landscape stewardship. To achieve this goal, it is essential that our landscaping practices support the interdependent relationship between plants and insects. Mr. Phillips will discuss the importance of encouraging plant diversity when creating habitats that sustain beneficial insects and discourage insect pests. He will also discuss how approaching the system as a whole versus treating only the immediate threats helps to maintain a balanced plant-insect ecosystem.

Designing for Threatened and Endangered Wildlife Species
Dan Jaffe, New England Wild Flower Society and
Scott Smyers, Oxbow Associates, Inc.

From design techniques to plant species choices, this collaborative session will explore ways in which you can enhance the landscape to encourage the success of local threatened and endangered wildlife. Mr. Smyers will discuss the importance of including experienced biologist on the project team, how to create or select appropriate contours and soil surfaces, and the necessity of multiple seasons of monitoring to determine the successes and failures of each project. Mr. Jaffe will describe how specific native plant species provide essential food and habitat to support native wildlife and how to incorporate these plants into your designs.

Idea Exchange

Transitioning to Organic Lawns and Ecological Turf
Panel Discussion


Biological Control of Invasive Pests
Dr. Richard Casagrande, University of Rhode Island

Invasive insects and weeds threaten forests, landscapes, and agricultural enterprises and affect all of us, much as the chestnut blight and Dutch elm disease affected communities in decades past. In New England, the emerald ash borer is already established, the hemlock woolly adelgid and winter moth are expanding their ranges, and the brown marmorated stink bug and spotted wing drosophila have made an appearance. Invasive plants are changing natural and managed landscapes in our area. Dr. Casagrande will show us how to easily identify specific invasive species and what biological controls and other management options are available to control both existing and new insect pests and weeds.

Historic Garden & Landscape Restoration
John Forti, Strawbery Banke Museum

Mr. Forti will explore the native New England habitat and the cultural influences which have changed the landscape over the centuries.  By understanding how history and culture have shaped the landscape and “natural” systems, we can make more informed decisions about our land care practices.

Idea Exchange

Designing Residential Landscapes for Clients in Transition
Panel Discussion


Strategies for Long-term Invasive Plant Management
Theresa Sprague, BlueFlax Design

Land management professionals, designers, property owners, conservation commissions, and land trusts struggle with how to manage invasive plants. Ms. Sprague will discuss how setting realistic goals, developing a timeline based on plant phenology, and following up with plant restoration to prevent re-colonization by invasive plants are critical to successful long-term control. She will also discuss when and what to plant to help ensure a successful invasive species management project.

The Role of Plants in City Beautification
Lynden B. Miller, Conservatory Garden in Central Park

Based on her 30 years of designing public urban green spaces, Ms. Miller will share her experiences restoring and designing many previously neglected and avoided public spaces in New York City, including Manhattan’s Bryant Park. She will speak about design intent as well as how landscaping can soften and civilize city life by providing people with a connection to nature. She will show the “befores” and “afters” of various projects around the city, discuss how these projects were funded, and demonstrate the positive effects they have had on city life. She will also address the importance of maintenance and adequate funding for all public open spaces.

Idea Exchange

Changing Ecosystems: Dealing with Drought
Panel Discussion


Rainwater as a Resource – Don’t Drain the Rain!
Ann English, DEP, Montgomery County, MD

RainScapes is a term used for a site-specific approach that encourages people to view rainwater as a resource to be captured and used for their landscape watering needs. Ms. English will discuss the specifics of this unique approach now being used in Maryland, the larger landscape benefits of such a program, and how the program encourages participation through cash back incentives. She will also discuss administration of the program, information gathering and tracking for use in determining costs, amount of runoff controlled, and other factors to be reviewed in order to expand and improve the program.

Performance-based Landscapes: Shoemaker Green
Emily McCoy, Andropogon Associates

Shouldn’t our landscapes do more than simply look good? Ms. McCoy will discuss performance-based landscapes within an urban and institutional setting by focusing on the University of Pennsylvania’s Shoemaker Green project. As a SITES pilot project, the design goals were to improve water, soil, vegetation, materials, as well as human health and well-being. Achieving these goals required a thorough understanding of natural systems and how they function in the built environment.  Ms. McCoy will discuss lessons learned from the project, how to set up a monitoring program for landscape projects, and how landscape performance can be maximized in an urban setting.

Idea Exchange

Changing Ecosystems:  Insect and Disease Threats
Panel Discussion