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

Ecological Gardening

At one time all gardening was ecological, based on organic inputs and using mostly native plants. During the twentieth century, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and the standardized use of exotic plants, changed gardening practice to the extent that gardening could be very harmful to the ecosystem. Ecological gardening encompasses philosophy and practice that reverts to the old idea that a garden should be part of and work with nature to create beauty and grow food, using modern ecological knowledge and organic methods.

An ecological garden can be a 20,000-acre prairie restoration, a 100-acre organic farm, a 1/4-acre suburban yard, or a 25x125-foot city lot. Goals and methods may differ, but the central philosophy of managing the land while contributing to the health of the biotic community, or ecosystem, remains the same.

Some attributes of ecological gardens:
  • They are beautiful
  • They conserve, restore and repeat (echo) the local landscape
  • They are true to place and ecosystem
  • They use mostly or all native plants (except in agriculture)
  • They are sensitive to the needs of and provide habitat for other species
  • They build soil health
  • They use organic inputs and sequester carbon
  • They help manage water