conservation landscape practitioners for a healthy Bay
conservation landscape practitioners for a healthy Bay
made-for-mobile quick peek at projects on houzz.com via gentlegardener.houzz.com
new project on houzz.com
On the doing of 'real stuff', Temple Grandin speaks truth to power, and to the powerlessness we mire ourselves in with endless 'abstractification": Policy makers with no experience on the ground with the things they aim to regulate, mathematical abstractification to create the "next credit default swap": these are the ills of our age.
I admire the plain spoken, the direct, the radically honest, and those whose craft leads them to create things of both beauty and usefulness. Temple Grandin is one of our heroes here on the farm, helping us see things as others see them: specifically, how cows see and process visual information and react to it: either calmly, or, not so calmly.
Today I spent 5 hours working with locally grown flowers, including some from my own garden, for a wedding; the ritual bathing of the stems in warm fresh clean water, the careful plucking of errant and unwanted leaves, the blocking of blooms by colour in buckets in shade, then in the cooler: violet campanula, fuschia gomphrena, magenta celosia, magenta phalenopsis orchids, plum and silver heuchera amethyst mist leaves, white orchids, white lysimachia, white achillea, white valerian, white and green false solomon's seal, the white spires of four foot tall pacific giant hybrid delphinium, the rounded cerebral shapes of 'annabelle' hydrangea in white and young fresh green, glossy green camellia leaves, the shock of the chartreuse heuchera 'citronelle'.
These hours grounded me back in the world of tangible, beautiful, and intricate things of Nature, the way with flowers requires a simplicity of Mind: to make a Bride's bouquet as she has dreamed of it, to make each vase hold flowers so that their complex beauty is a calm oasis for the eye in the swirl of a wedding party.
After getting to some sort of milestone with elected officials on a multi year design project, the respite was real. The design project was one so deceptively DIFFICULT, made so by endless abstractification by so many entities.
What could be simpler and cheaper? to clean up the runoff coming from urban and suburban roofs, driveways, yards, gardens in our #Chesapeake Bay watersheds (in our case, the Rappahannock), than to do it at the source, one yard at a time?
As it turns out: nothing. The obvious answer IS the correct one. The old ways, from Agricola to the CCC to permaculture, are still the best. Empirical and close observation of historical examples are more instructive than all the PDF's, tomes, trainings and mathematical models in the world.
But the ABSTRACTIFICATION of this obvious result by regulators, legislators, planners, city managers, stormwater engineers, soil scientists and model-makers is one of the most daunting educations I've ever undertaken: partly because of the acronyms, dependence on mathematical models rather than historical examples and what we already know works. It's positively Corporate in the endless torpor it generates.
The most difficult challenge of the process was not the constraint of using existing design methods, practices, and systems, applied to a tiny suburban lot with an oversized house on it and nothing but turf and a single tree on it.
The most difficult challenge was simply sticking to the simple task of avoiding re-inventing the wheel. If there are existing methods that have been shown to work, use them, and observe the results, rather than abstracting to something else.
We seem so addicted to making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good, and the Abstract the Enemy of the Practical and Useful. The result is a hovering helicopter like buzz: failure to launch - because we cannot ever get beyond the abstractification to create what Temple Grandin calls 'real stuff' coupled with failure to land - generating more and more options of where to fly and where to land, while burning fuel.
Thank you Temple Grandin for pointing out one of the useless vanities of our age. Given the applause from your young student graduating audience, it seems your admonition to 'create real stuff' hit home.
Young people want to do real work, real play, and make real contributions with their hands, hearts and heads. Despite being seemingly addicted to tiny devices that lead them into hours of abstractification, this younger generation seem to want to experience the real, the gritty, the useful, and do seem to want to have clean water and living streams, Bay and ocean. Give them a ploughshare, and they will use it. Give them an app, and they will use it too. Sustainable ag and farming in general is au courant among the young just now, perhaps for its geeky allure.
Give people a reason, and give them a job: cleaning up the streams of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in 6 states and DC by cleaning up their own little acre, one yard at a time.
Our green design team is acquiring acronym alphabet credentials behind our names at a clip. Gentle Gardener Green Design team collectively now comprises 4 Virginia Certified Horticulturalists (VCH), 2 Virginia Society of Landscape Designers certified designers (VSLD) 1 LEED* Green Associate, an MBA, a certified permaculture designer, the firm is licensed in Virginia as a Nursery Stock Dealer.
The latest credential is in: I am now certified by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a Nutrient Management Planner for Turf and Landscape, No. 714. We planners appear to have no clever acronym, but given how challenging the exam was and the prep class, I will probably answer to"Certifiable NutMan".
Taking our lead from agriculture, where conservation and Nutrient Management Plans have been in use for a good 20-30 years by farmers who are stewards of their land (and also poor
, unwilling to spend a penny more for fertilizer than they have to) , those of us certified by the Commonwealth to write plans for urban (that is, non-ag) turf and landscapes, have a tall order ahead of us. With sub/urban sales of fertilizer at some eight times the rate per acre of ag N and P and increasing right through the recession at about 6-8% per year, plus conversion of ag land to developed, it's no Miracle that our water quality problems Grow and GroW.
Virginia recently submitted its second draft Watershed Implementation Plan to reflect the myriad bottom up, stream by stream, watershed by watershed, plans by localities to clean up the entire #Chesapeake Bay drainage (VA is not alone; water 6 states and the District of Columbia drain to the Bay).
The Commonwealth of Virginia has just committed to managing over a half million acres of private and public sub/urban (that is, non-ag) lands via Nutrient Management Plans written by certified Nutrient Management Planners for Turf and Landscape. Right now, only about 15,000 acres of such lands have written three-year plans. In five years, by 2017, VA intends to have over 350,000 acres of private and public non-ag, sub/urban turf and landscape responsibly stewarded by three-year Nutrient Management Plans........twenty times the acreage we have now.
In January a small publication named The Wall Street Journal published the findings of the study indicating that the cleanup of the #Chesapeake Bay is, in fact, a jobs creator. We certainly intend for it to be so; we would like our clients and others to spend more on Gentle Gardener brainpower to write nutrient management plans for them based on sound science, and less money on over-fertilizing with nitrogen and phosphorus without a plan.
For a Nutrient Management Plan and sustainable site maintenance plan custom written for your landscape, please call 540 832 7031 or book at www.gentlegardener.com
Here's a copy of our media release for Historic Garden Week - let's make an historic leap forward in protecting soils and water in Virginia!
SUSTAINABILITY NEWS APRIL 2012 - for immediate release
April 17, 2012
BARBOURSVILLE, VA - Rockwell attains certification credential for stream-friendly landscape planning
Virginia R. Rockwell, owner and principal designer of Gentle Gardener Green Design, has been designated a certified Nutrient Management Planner for turf and landscape by The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Stormwater Management. The certification demonstrates a planner’s expertise to competently compose and execute nutrient plans in line with the Commonwealth’s efforts to reduce fertilizer runoff from residential gardens, lawns, athletic fields, golf courses, commercial landscapes and university, town, city, federal and Commonwealth-owned lands.
A written plan for maintaining turf and landscape sustainably over three years is a new service now available to clients of the established Barboursville firm’s certified landscape designers and horticulturists. Gentle Gardener has long advocated responsible land stewardship practices including the use of proper and organic amendments, accurate rate calculations and precise application timing.
“The idea is to apply brains first, then apply fertilizer as needed. These practices improve effects on waterways, soil, plants, animals and people,” said Rockwell. She explains that runoff nitrogen and phosphorous in streams can be curtailed; Virginians can spend less by applying only what is truly needed, and improve the health of ecosystems and economies downstream. “Nutrient management planning makes good economic sense. We all depend on clean water for life and livelihoods,” she adds.
The goal for Virginia counties and cities whose streams drain into the Chesapeake Bay, as described March 30, 2012 in the latest Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, is to rapidly increase the acreage of turf and landscape managed with Nutrient Management Plans written by Rockwell and her fellow certified nutrient management planners to more than a half million acres.
To learn more, please visit www.gentlegardener.com and www.dcr.virginia.gov/vabaytmdl/documents/baytmdlp2wip.pdf.
Media inquiries can be directed to Ann P. Reid at (804) 501-9888 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Soil testing is key to a successful, healthy garden and plant life!
Soil testing tells you about nutrient and organic matter content, and what the soil can provide in terms of nutrients prior to fertilization. You want to feed the soil, not the plant. It's important to get that 5 percent organic matter into your soil where roots are beginning to establish, and keep providing the living organisms with more organic matter so they can break it down for plants in a helpful way.
Soil tests are conducted by public and private laboratories. The Virginia Cooperative Extension lab at Virginia Tech is a public lab available for those of us living in Virginia.
To collect your own soil sample, first obtain a Soil Sample Information Sheet and Soil Sample Box from your area VCE office. You must indicate which plants or crops you plan to grow and immediately mail to the VCE lab at Virginia Tech via Priority Mail with the U.S. Postal Service. Click here for detailed instructions.
A soil analysis costs about $15 per sample, plus postage. Test results take about a week. VCE will mail a copy of the report to you, your designer, horticulturist or landscaper and county extension agent. A flat rate box is now just over $5 and holds up to four samples.
The lab will:
There are also reputable private laboratories available through certified nutrient management planners. The clients of private labs are primarily farmers who have long been required by their conservation plans to do nutrient planning to keep streams healthy. Planners take samples, send to the lab, analyze results for what you intend to grow, map the tested fields using Geographic Information Systems, compare with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Survey. They can tell you exactly what to do and use, how much, and when, precisely by field, area or crop to be grown. Golf courses in Virginia and public lands are now required to adhere to nutrient plans.
Understanding what lies beneath what we see in our gardens is the critical step to successful planting. Not only do we want to plant more plants to cover and protect the soil to keep it from eroding and washing into streams, we want to boost the soils to help plants flourish.
are the ideal companions to streams and the Bay, protecting waters better than anything else. Your mission in the garden, should you choose to accept it, is to help make your garden soil function as well as the forest floor.
Problem is, most of us don't live or garden in forests anymore. Since the Dust Bowl era, we've learned to quantify the wisdom of ancient farming practices used before World War I. It took the Dust Bowl for us to get it.
As per the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Survey, most soil science textbooks identify ideal, living soils as being made of the following:
- 45 percent minerals (rocks broken down over the millennia)
- 25 percent water
- 25 percent air
- 5 percent organic matter/biologically active/living matter (humus, compost, decomposing leaves)
Think of the soil structure in terms of layers. The minerals and organic matter are only half the story, but an important half. They provide and make nutrients plants need to produce their own food.
Organic matter and air are near the surface. Minerals, rocks and bedrock are further down. Plant roots need to be able to tap into minerals and water in the lower layers.
Nothing gets to the roots without water.
The final critical component of healthy soil is air. Yes, air. Soils could be squeezed together into a clay-like ball if bulldozers or heavy equipment have ever been present on your property. That could result in a lack of air needed for healthy root and plant growth.
Soils in our area that have been disturbed by construction only absorb 75-85 percent of rainfall, according to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Virginia Runoff Reduction Method worksheet. These soils have 15-25 percent stormwater runoff along with sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen that plants could have used on land.
Restored and reforested soils capture and absorb 95-98 percent of rainfall. Only 2-5 percent runs off into the Bay.