Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

Soil Health

Successful ecological gardening depends on healthy, living soil. Good practice also helps turn your garden into a carbon sink. I have posted about this before and will again, but here is a cheat sheet of tried and true suggestions that give good results.

Good Gardening Practices that Will Build Soil Health and Store Carbon
• Don’t use synthetic fertilizer (or herbicides or pesticides).
• Use organic fertilizer very carefully.
• Make compost and use it.
• Let fallen leaves decompose naturally under bushes and trees.
• Let pruned branches decompose naturally under trees and bushes.
• Allow duff to build naturally around bushes and trees.
• Put raked leaves in compost or start a separate leaf-mold pile.
• Don’t cultivate or till established beds if at all possible.
• Put down an inch of compost on beds in spring.
• Use organic mulches such as wood chips judiciously (I usually put down a thinnish layer over compost).
 • Grow native plants and wait until spring to cut down (or burn, if feasible): many have seeds birds love, and many will reseed themselves in fall and winter).
• Put cut-down stalks in compost or chop and leave in beds around plants.
• Reduce lawn to necessary areas (such as the croquet green, soccer pitch or picnic area).
• Top dress your small-as-possible, polyculture lawn with finely sifted compost in fall.
• Make new beds in summer or fall by mowing grass, putting down six layers of newspaper, wetting it, and topping with two to four inches of wood chips. Ready to plant in spring.
• Add compost to planting holes when putting in new plants.
• Reduce your power tool use.
•Make well-defined paths and use stepping stones to reduce soil compaction.