Several common denominators define sustainable gardens everywhere. Comprehensive soil management, native plantings, water conservation, and reduced lawn size are some of the paths toward sustainable landscapes, regardless of climate or clientele.
With the basics covered in other ELA programs, join us for the ELA Summer Workshop as we explore new strategies to add to the toolbox to save time, reduce your carbon footprint, and bring a tasty snack to your table as we continue our quest for more sustainable landscapes with some novel approaches.
Incredible Edibles – More Fruit for Your Labor
The lone patio tomato is now being supplanted by a sophisticated palette of edible options in landscape design. Rather than separate edible plants into a home orchard or vegetable garden, the aesthetics of many of these plant invite incorporation into borders and hedges. Imagine springtime cherry blossoms from fruiting cherries rather than the ornamental varieties; build multi-season interest with bountiful blueberries in summer followed by spectacular autumn foliage; and create unexpected winter interest from the purple-red vines of the thornless blackberry.
Farmers have known the advantages of cover-cropping for generations: erosion control; improved soil tilth; increased atmospheric nitrogen fixation; reduced nutrient leaching; support for beneficial soil organisms; improved water infiltration; and weed control. Recent experiments have been adopting the benefits of cover cropping in place of mulch in a horticulture setting to fill in between newly planted perennials or immature shrubs. Anna Fialkoff will discuss this cover cropping technique and explain the process and benefits of seeding nitrogen-fixing partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) in garden beds.
Many techniques recommended for “weed control” often concentrate on complete removal or elimination — pulling or digging out, treating with herbicide, etc. Sometimes these measures are necessary, but in densely planted communities of native plants, sometimes these more time- and labor-intensive procedures aren’t really needed. Simply reducing the vigor of some plants by selective cutting or mowing might be enough to tip the balance to allow desirable plants to claim the space. This discussion will give an overview of some novel techniques for managing plant growth including timed mowing and cutting, removing seed heads, etc.
Whereas more traditional landscapes are often managed to look essentially the same from year to year, plantings based on dense communities will often change over time. Along with specific field tactics, we’ll also touch on the mindset that is more accepting of a dynamic landscape and allows for flexible decision making about how to guide plant growth that responds to evolving conditions.
For decades, the American landscape aesthetic has included a manicured lawn; meticulously “cleaned” garden beds; and an annual application of bark mulch (often artificially colored, sometimes not bark at all but ground construction debris, and usually hauled in from great distances).
At the Garden in the Woods, horticultural staff have always taken a more environmental approach, collecting and chopping leaves to reapply to gardens in lieu of bark mulch. But in the past three years, the staff have modified the process further to be even more sustainable. The new strategies take into account both budgets and ecosystems and have had a positive impact on both. The fundamental shift includes a more natural approach to leaf management. Now the staff leave the majority of the leaves in place, further minimizing their carbon footprint. Mark Richardson will share tips and lessons learned as they have committed to leave the leaves, an ecological method which is both intriguing and achievable.
We wrap up the program with a panel discussion. The afternoon speakers will answer questions about these new strategies and will address audience questions as well.
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) have been granted by NOFA (4.0 credits), LA CES (4.0 credits), and MCLP (1.0 credits).
Ben Barkan is the owner & founder of HomeHarvest, a Boston area landscape design company that creates edible landscapes of abundant, nutrient-dense produce in gardens that are aesthetically pleasing and function as resilient and regenerative ecosystems. Ben holds a degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, is permaculture-design certified, and has worked on more than 35 organic farms in New England, California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, and Costa Rica. With a rich set of experiences, Ben applies lessons learned to HomeHarvest’s unique custom garden installations.
Anna Fialkoff is an Ecological Horticulturist & Designer at Garden in the Woods, New England Wild Flower Society. She is a graduate of the Conway School of Landscape Design.
Nick Novick owns and operates Small Planet Landscaping, which provides environmentally responsible land-care services including design, installation, and maintenance of meadows, woodland gardens and other habitat types based on native-plant communities. Other services include home orchard care, and lawn fertility and weed management. In addition to his degree in Environmental Conservation, Nick is a graduate of the UMass Extension Green School; and is a Rhode Island/CRMS Coastal Invasive Plant Manager; and is the ELA representative on the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group. Nick is a former ELA board member and newsletter editor.
Mark Richardson oversees the New England Wildflower Society’s botanic garden, Garden in the Woods, and its native plant nursery operation, Nasami Farm, in Whately, Massachusetts. He studied ornamental horticulture at University of Rhode Island and helped run a mid-sized ornamental plant nursery before finding his true passion in public horticulture. He led undergraduate programs at Longwood Gardens, overhauled the curriculum of the Professional Gardener Program, and oversaw adult education at Brookside Gardens. In 2013, Mark assisted with the development of the first comprehensive master plan for Garden in the Woods. He holds an MS from the University of Delaware’s Longwood Graduate Program. Mark also serves as a Trustee on the ELA Board of Directors.