Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2011
Regional Report

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My baby pine seedling is awaiting moving to a permanent place in my landscape.

Recipe for Stewardship

In this month of Arbor Day and Earth Day, our minds are naturally turned toward all those things we can do to help our environment. One of our responsibilities as lovers of all things natural is to put things in place for future generations.

I happen to live on a piece of property with a great many older oak and hickory trees. The people who owned the property before me had the place looking much like a park. They had removed all plants except the large old trees, and had mown grass throughout the property, going straight up to the trunks.

Add Mulch Beds
The park-like setting was beautiful but looked artificial. The first thing we did was to put the beds around the trees with plenty of organic mulch, much the same as would occur in nature. Leaves fall and stay on the forest or savannah floor, providing nutrients and moisture retention for the trees that shed them. A low understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants live in tandem with the larger trees, and nature has worked out a system in which these plants coexist instead of competing with each other.

Protect from Landscape Equipment
Grass is a competitor for water and nutrients. Research shows that trees grown in mulch are healthier and have stronger root systems than trees grown in grass. And that doesn't even bring up the question of how often trees are damaged by lawn mowers and string trimmers injuring the trunks. A large mulch bed keeps the equipment at bay.

Plant a Younger Generation
One of the other things we do in order to show our stewardship is to nurture the next generation of trees. Ten years ago when we moved in, there were 100 year-old trees, and nothing else. We plant small pines and spruces, and have carefully protected the oak, hickory, and maple seedlings planted by squirrels and other creatures. We also planted an understory of shrubs and groundcovers to make the entire system more balanced, as it would occur in nature.

Remove Invaders
One of our responsibilities as stewards is removing those plants that happily plant themselves but will choke out other plants. Our job is to get rid of buckthorn, honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and grapevine. It's a challenge, but definitely worthwhile. I love my old trees, and it certainly gives me a great feeling that I'm doing something for the next generation by protecting them and nurturing the trees that will eventually take their place, even though I won't be around to see them mature.


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