Complementary Gardening – A Manifesto

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Osteospermum on Heliopsis” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – A selection from my garden… Summer 2013…

The common goal of gardening is harmony… Harmony with the earth… Harmony with the plants… Harmony with the animals… Harmony with ourselves… And harmony with each other… This harmony is achieved through successful (and environmentally sound) gardening practices… A gardener that is in harmony with nature, will grow a healthy garden. This garden will flourish, and as a result it will grow the gardener… The purpose of complementary gardening is to bring all aspects of the gardening movement back where they belong… Together…

The methods used are not nearly as important as the frame of mind in which they are used… Even conventional agricultural practices can be picked from when practicing complementary gardening… It is essentially a blending of the aspects of gardening and life that are important to you… Regardless of your devotion or investment to the cause… Even a few pots on a windowsill are beneficial… Practicing any type of gardening… As long as it provides you with some semblance of joy… Should be considered beneficial… When you are happy… The environment around you is also happy… And that is what gardening is about…

A garden should complement its surroundings in a way that is beneficial to all the elements of the earth… Not just the gardener… Although a garden may have physical borders, the positive effects associated with plant life span well beyond them. A garden is a sentient collection of plants, capable of not only healing itself, but healing the environment (including us) that is around it. In order for a garden to truly be considered successful, it should heal in one form or another… Not just physically… Emotionally and spiritually…

Complementary gardening is not a specific style of gardening, it is a “way of thinking” achieved through the consciences completion of a garden. By consciences, I mean simply being aware that there are connections in nature for you to find. These connections will exist regardless of the size of your garden, and regardless of your devotion to the cause. One thing that turned me off about permaculture is the general feeling that if you don’t shit in a bucket to make compost for your front yard farm, you are not worthy of the cause… It’s like they expect everyone to replace their lawns with food forests… Believe everyone has time to operate a micro-farm… And believe no-one should eat anything that casts a shadow… My beliefs are very different from this… And my writing will now reflect it…

"Buddies" - © chriscondello 2013 - Frick Park - Pittsburgh, PA - Complimentary colors... Growing in the same patch... Yet... None of them were close enough together to photograph... So I put them together...

“Buddies” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Complimentary colors… Growing in the same patch… Yet… None of them were close enough together to photograph… So I put them together…

The goal of gardening is to benefit nature. Although we are a part of this equation, we are not the only variable to consider. In my own personal experiences, the gardeners who only talk about how much “produce” was harvested, typically are the ones who don’t have a clue what is going on around them… Unless of course it is written in their little book… In order for gardening to be a complementary activity, it needs to complement all things. Although it is perfectly acceptable to include ourselves in this equation by growing food, it is important to remember we are not the only element worthy of consideration.

Food production, should be secondary to positive energy production. What I mean by this is food production (though perfectly fine), should not overshadow the fact that gardening is intended to be fun, good for you, and good for the environment. When all a gardener is interested in is squeezing as many tomatoes as humanly possible out of a 4’x12′ raised bed, the joy is very often lost. Success is fundamental to sustainability. Constant failure, which is often the result of taking on too much work, often leads to a loss of interest… and the eventual end of the garden all together. I aim to eliminate this sentiment by promoting the gradual and responsible implementation of environmentally sound practices, in all forms of gardening, through practical implementation and easy to understand writing.

A complementary garden, is one that balances the benefits of all the elements of nature with mankind. In the past, the focus of gardening has been on production in one form or another. Vegetables were planted, and the necessary steps were taken to achieve the largest yield possible. The downside of this was that often the environment came secondary to the vegetable yield, and as a result of this, past generations commonly used chemicals as a way to boost yield… Hell… We still do this… Ornamental gardeners are no different, often going to great lengths to pack the most blooms onto their plants while spending as little as possible… And doing as little work as possible…

Speaking from personal experience… Most of the fertilizers, pesticides, herbicide, and fungicides that are available today are very unnecessary… Adding to the equation is the ridiculous amounts of “miracle products and trends” that pop up in stores and on the internet… 99% of these products are worthless… Even more worthless are the application directions that come with them… Many of these chemical products will achieve the desired results when applied in relatively tiny amounts… It is the manufacturer that pushes heavy applications as the more we apply… The more we must purchase…

BigIris

“Yellow Iris in the Morning Sun” – Spring 2013 – The Garden Table – Wilkinsburg, PA

I really don’t agree with the use of chemicals in the garden… But I understand why people do… Instead of alienating anyone from reading my blog based on their choice of fertilizer… I have decided to instead simply suggest that one research any product before using them… Although my focus will remain on organic gardening… I’m not afraid to discuss the chemical world… And I am not afraid to admit that I use miracle grow in my garden… Though I will admit that my solution is about 1/16 of their recommended application…

I also think it is important to stress that is it ok to get pissed off from time to time… And it is ok to unload in a healthy manner… The purpose of this change is to address the fact that I don’t believe we will ever accomplish the perfect world some people believe is possible… I believe we each have the ability to make small changes… And when we all make small changes, they will eventually add up to much larger ones… Where many of these sub-cultures are constantly pushing you to do more and be more involved… I’m saying do what you can… Every little bit helps… And when you feel comfortable… If you feel comfortable… Add to your toolbox and try something new…

Complementary gardening should benefit you in a way that is not intrusive on your life… Your garden should be a positive complement to the negative aspects of your life, not one of the aspects contributing to the negativity in your life. A gardener, is a gardener, is a gardener… We are all worthy… There are no bad gardeners… Regardless of method… There are differing levels of experience… But in the eyes of a plant… We are all created equal…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

I also accept Bitcoin donations… My digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Advertisements

Practical Permaculture – Planting Under Walnut Trees

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“White Astilbe” – Highland Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I’m starting this post off with this photograph of White Astilbe… Tolerant of juglone…. Astilbe will brighten the area beneath any shade tree…

If you live east of the Mississippi River, then you have probably seen a Black Walnut tree at some point in your life. Juglans nigra is the tallest of all the Walnuts, it is not uncommon for a tree to reach 100′ into the sky. Walnut trees have compound leaves that are spaced alternately along the branch. Each leaf is divided into an odd number, from 7 to 23 small yellow-green leaflets. Walnuts are monoecious, male flowers are long, unbranched, drooping catkins and the female flowers are single or short spikes. The fruit is a nut, single or in pairs, and enclosed in a non-splitting shell.

Walnut has an unforgettable scent that is rather difficult to describe, I would describe it as “spicy-citrus”.

Walnut trees have a toxic effect on neighboring plants. Known as allelopathy, the phenomenon involves a plants secretion of biochemical material into the environment to inhibit germination or growth of the surrounding vegetation. Allelopathy enhances tree survival and reproduction. Allelochemicals are metabolic by-products of certain plants that, when introduced into the environment, cause growth inhibition by affecting physiological processes such as respiration, cell division, and water and nutrient uptake. Symptoms include leaf wilting and yellowing, or the death of part or all of the plant.

Black Walnuts are often found growing on landscape sites where they serve primarily as shade trees. When certain other landscape plants are planted close to the tree they will wilt and die. This decline in health occurs because the walnut tree produces a non-toxic, colorless, chemical called hydrojuglone. Hydrojuglone is found in the leaves, stems, fruit, inner bark and roots. When exposed to air or soil, hydrojuglone is oxidized into the allelochemical juglone, which is highly toxic.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Bee Balm” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I swear to God this stuff will grow anywhere you put it… Tolerant of juglone… I will say this though… The times I have seen Bee Balm growing near a Black Walnut it has been obviously stunted…

The toxic Zone from a mature tree occurs on average in a 50 to 60′ radius from the trunk, but can commonly be up to 80. The area affected extends outward each year as the tree enlarges. Young trees 2 to 8′ high can have a root diameter twice the height of the top of the tree, with susceptible plants dead within the root zone and dying at the margins.

Juglone is exuded from all parts of the walnut tree. Although it has a high water solubility and does not move far in the soil, small amounts may be injurious to sensitive plants. Plant roots can encounter juglone when they grow within a half-inch from a walnut root. Walnut trees have extremely extensive root systems often reaching far beyond the drip line of the tree, affecting susceptible plants far from the tree.

The accumulation and depletion of toxins in the soil is affected by factors such as soil type, drainage, aeration, temperature and microbial action. Soil microorganisms ingest allelochemicals as energy sources, and metabolic decomposition can render the chemicals non-toxic to plants.

Wet, poorly aerated soil, very common in many urban areas, discourages microbial growth. Plants sensitive to walnuts may be at a higher risk when planted in heavy urban soils that lack organic matter. Toxins adhere to organic matter rather than being absorbed by plants, and organic matter also encourages a healthy soil microbial population.

Mycorrhizal fungi are commonly associated with forest tree roots and are considered necessary for normal uptake functions. Allelochemicals can disrupt the uptake process by damaging the root hairs or by inhibiting mycorrhizial populations in the soil. These different soil factors all have an effect on the accumulation or depletion of juglone produced by the black walnut tree.

So, if you’ve read this far… You are probably wondering if anything can grow under a Walnut… There are actually a large number of plants that will grow near allelopathic trees, as well as steps you can take to reduce the allelopathic effects. Regular cleanup and removal of fallen leaves and fruit is the simplest thing you can do, meticulous maintenance is key.

Albino

“White Variation of Red Trillium” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – I had to include at least one photo of a plant growing under a Black Walnut… Growing on a slope about 40′ downhill from a few Black Walnuts… I would say this is a tolerant plant…

As a side note… I have noticed the real danger even tolerant plants face… Especially anything that is still growing in October… Is the rainfall of 8 ounce nuts falling from 100′ in the air… These falling bastards crush whatever greenery happens to be in their path…

Now to the plants… I have never personally planted a garden under a walnut tree… This article is the result of observation and research… I have always lived near these trees… And ever since I used them as “car grenades” as a child I have been relatively interested in them… When I first learned of allelopathy I became obsessed with the plants that could survive under these trees…

Tolerant Trees – Black Cherry, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elderberry, Hawthorn (my favorite tree), pawpaw, redbud, sassafrass, serviceberry.

Tolerant Shrubs – Black Raspberry

Tolerant Plants – Aster, Astilbe, Bee Balm, Coral Bells, Daffodil, Shasta Daisy, Daylily, Fern, Dutchmans Breeches, Goldenrod, Grape, Great Solomon’s Seal, Hosta, Jack-In-The-Pulpit, Jacobs Ladder, Lambs Ear, Marigold, May Apple, Morning Glory, Sedum, Snowdrop, Sweet Woodruff, Sunflower, Trillium, Tulip, Violet, Yarrow, Zinnia

Tolerant Vegetables – Beet, Squashes, Melons, Beans, Carrots, Corn, Jerusalem Artichoke, Melon, onion, parsnip

Intolerant Vegetables – Asparagus, Cabbage, Peppers, Rhubarb, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Potato

Tolerant Fruit Trees – Peach, Nectarine, Cherry, Plum, Pear

Intolerant Fruit Trees/Shrubs – Apples, Crabapples, Blackberry, Blueberry

Personally, if I had a piece of property with a Walnut Tree on it… I would probably cut that bad boy down and turn it into kitchen cabinets… I’m not a big fan of the flavor of a Walnut, a little bitter for me, plus I find cleaning up the walnuts annoying.

Most walnut varieties are grafted to Black Walnut rootstock, therefore they all contain roughly the same amount of toxins and should be maintained in the same meticulous manner.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I am not affiliated with anyone other than myself, all the information presented in this blog is provided by me… If you find this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print or two from my online shop…

http://www.society6/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Practical Permaculture – Native Gardening in Urban Settings

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Common Tansy” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Not exactly a native… But has existed in America for well over 200 years…

Permaculture, is far from being the work free style of gardening it is often mistaken to be. All too often, people plug “weed free” or “no weed” gardening into google, and up pops permaculture. So now, when the neighbor confronts said gardener about the newly created “wild area” next door to his house, the gardener claims permaculture, and in turn we all get a bad reputation.

Native, pollinator, butterfly and wildlife gardening can border on the obscene as well. Though many of these styles of gardening work with many of the native plants that we consider weeds, years of experience are often required to know the difference between a beneficial weed, and an exotic invasive when these plants are still seedlings.

Biodiversity is not an excuse for never maintaining your yard, all too many people move from sparsely populated rural areas into urban communities not understanding the difference in the landscape expectations of neighbors. As a general rule of thumb, your landscape should fit in with that of your neighbors to a certain degree… I am going to go out on a ledge and say it should compliment it… While still maintaining a certain level of originality…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Aster Sunshine” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Commonly found growing in fields across America… A plant that can be mowed to the ground 3 or even 4 times a year and still profusely bloom come fall…

When you go out into the country and look at rarely maintained fields, the plants grow 5-6′ tall. I think this is what some people aim to create in their front yards, sadly, this is not acceptable in most urban and suburban communities, but that does not mean it is impossible. Many natives can be planted and used just like the commercial annuals and perennials commonly found in every neighborhood in America.

The idea here is to use informal native plants, in a formal way. Mix native plants with commercially available ornamental perennials, if you have gaps, fill them with a few annuals. Give everything a place, and maintain as you would any garden.

Plants that are typically thought of as being very tall, aster, ironweed, milkweed, and goldenrod can all be maintained to a specific height. Asters should actually be cut down to 10″ on July 4th to keep them in check. Goldenrod can be cut several times in a season, Every cut will create more branches and ultimately more flowers. As a general rule, all tall flowering perennials can be pruned throughout the year in order to create a more compact plant during flowering. Awareness of the specific flowering times is key, allow a minimum of 3 weeks between last pruning and actual time of flowering. This is in order to allow the plant to recover from the stresses of pruning.

Although a front yard wildlife habitat may sound like a swell idea to you, the sad fact of the matter is to most other people that sounds like your saying you are planning a “rodent haven”. Very few people understand the importance of wildlife in our urban environments, though as time goes on I believe people will pay more attention to it… Though I still believe people will not want to exactly live next door to one if they purchased a city home anyway.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Black Eyed Explosion” – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – A voracious self seeder… Will populate an entire yard if left unchecked… Stunning when grown in combination with a dark blue Aster…

I contemplated creating a massive list of native plants and how to maintain them, but I have more readers in merry ol’ England than in my hometown of Pittsburgh, so I have decided against that. What I will say is this… The use of natives is not an excuse to not maintain, native plants have qualities unique to themselves that should be highlighted when appropriate.

Although many natives will self-seed, this is not always recommended in order to keep the plant from growing out of hand. Some natives, like milkweed, have seeds that are meant to blow away and grow somewhere else. Unless you are absolutely positive your neighbor wouldn’t mind it growing in their yard, it is probably in your best interest to dead-head the plant before it sets seed. Likewise, when the plant is done flowering and starting to die in place, it is also probably in your best interest to remove the dying plant… This war is going to be won by compromise, not shock-and-awe…

In the long run, I do not believe the “Food not Lawns” movement is going to work, the amount of work that goes into keeping a food-producing garden neat, tidy and presentable all the time is enormous. We have all driven through a meticulously maintained neighborhood and seen a single yard with 6′ tall weeds all the way out to the street. If you talk to the neighbors, it is a nuisance. That one yard has been the reasoning behind more than one neighborhood association start up, often ending the possibilities of front yard gardening for at least the immediate future.

This, by no means is the end of the movement… But I think it is a very unrealistic concept… Compared to mowing a lawn once every 2 weeks, maintaining a food garden/urban farm is a huge task. Likewise, not many people realize how many problems can arise from growing food on every square inch of your garden. Biodiversity, being the common goal, includes more than just food. Creating a diverse food garden involves a number of other types of plants including natives, annuals, and other ornamental trees and shrubs.

A diverse garden does not have to be a wall of weeds, study the plants you would like to plant, and use them properly. I also recommend identifying all of the weeds that grow in your yard, inventory, and act accordingly. Exotic invasive weeds should be pulled and discarded, natives should be moved into suitable locations. Certain plants, like milkweed, can grow 7′ tall and should be placed in the back of the garden. The same rules that apply to ornamental garden design and maintenance, also apply to the eco conscience gardener… If anything, we should be held to higher standards as we are at the forefront of a movement. How we handle our gardens now, will have an effect on how gardens in the future are accepted…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

I am not affiliated with anyone other than myself, all the information presented in this blog is provided by me… If you find this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print or two from my online shop…

http://www.society6/chriscondello… Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.