Wild Edibles

Wild Edibles

Thanks to the Nashua River Watershed Association, (NRWA), I was able to partake in a “Wild Edibles Woodland Walk ” that they had organized with Environmentalist Russ Cohen last week.  Russ introduced us to about a dozen wild edible plants that we all pass each day and don’t realize that at different stages of the season they offer a tasty treat. Before we started our walk Russ shared with us a few items he had already collected.  His basket was full of Black Walnuts, Shagbark Hickory nuts (his favorite), Concord grapes, a large mushroom called Hen of the woods and a “fruit leather” he had made using the berries from the Autumn Olive tree. Before our walk began we received some basic rules about foraging: The risk of getting sick in New England is rare and most poisonous plants (with the notable exception of mushrooms) taste bad. “Don’t ignore that danger sign your taste buds are trying to send you,” Cohen says. ” Be responsible when foraging and leave some for the wildlife and for the seasons to come”. Russ’ passion was visible as you could see his excitement when he would tell us about invasive species that we could eat.  One example is the Japanese knotweed. It is that bamboo like stand that we see growing alongside the roads we travel.  The spring shoots on this invasive species can be harvested in early spring and used much like rhubarb and makes for a delicious pie, compote or his “go anywhere knotweed squares”.  A bonus: knotweed is the commercial source of the antioxidant resveratrol. Some other surprising things I learned were that the maple tree can be tapped for syrup anytime...

Managing Deer in the Landscape

Deer can wreak havoc on a landscape and no plant is deer proof.  Deer will eat almost anything in the spring as tender new growth emerges from plants.  Deer prefer soft lush vegetation, they especially like flower buds. The common characteristics plants have that are deer resistant include thorns, prickly leaves or stems, strong scents and pungent tastes, are poisonous, produce thick latex-like sap or have hairy leaves.  One of the easiest ways to deter deer from damaging your landscape is to plant an assortment of different plant material.  Under-planting with strong smelling perennials or herbs is one way of keeping the deer away from a more susceptible plant. Ornamental grasses are highly resistant to deer grazing and including them in your landscape not only provides a nice contrast to trees, shrubs and perennials but also offers great texture and low maintenance.  Deer rarely browse on fern foliage, making it an excellent addition to the landscape as well.  Also, when it comes to bulbs deer seldom damage daffodils, summer snowflakes, scillas or ornamental onions. Keep in mind when planting your landscape to plant the most susceptible materials closer to the house with the less susceptible further away and the deer resistant materials on the outer edges.  Other measures can be taken to deter deer damage be it using natural remedies, for example,  bars of heavily scented soap hung from branches or a purchase of coyote urine from your local retailer, all practices which when combined with wise planting schemes can help mitigate deer damage to the landscape. The following is a list of some plant materials that are the...

Indoor Plants for Air Quality

Improve the quality of the air you breathe with common house plants. NASA has been researching how to clean the air for future habitation in space stations  which has resulted in a list of common house plants that will do the same right here at home. We already know that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process. After two years of study and 19 house plants later, though, we know that some common houseplants can absorb benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, the three worst pollutants, as well as toluene, xylene, ethyl acetate, methylene, acetone and chloroform.   New construction currently uses mostly man-made products that are known to “off-gas” these pollutants into the air. By adding house plants to your environment, your home or office, you can significantly reduce the pollution in the air that you breathe. Some of my favorite house plants that are on this list are: Spathiphyllum – The Peace Lily.  This plant is known to absorb toxins that may cause cancer. Chlorophytum comosum – The Spider Plant.  This plant is great at removing gases from the air.  Keep near   the kitchen or fireplace as these are known areas of carbon monoxide accumulation. Nephrolepsis exaltata bostoniensis – Boston Fern.  This plant acts as a natural humidifier. Hedra helix – English Ivy.  This plant is good to use for people who have asthma or allergies.   Sansevieria trifasciata – Snake Plant.  This plant has the amazing ability to absorb many toxins in the air. For a complete list of plants and what best they filter check this link compiled by NASA. [fancy_link...

Artillery Fungus

Have you ever noticed small black spots on the siding or trim of your house?  Mold, you ask? Yes, a specific type of fungus that causes the mold called Sphaerobolus stellatus, also known as Cannon Fungus, Sphere Thrower, Artillery Fungus or Shotgun Fungus. “Artillery” is a white-rotting, wood-decay fungus that lives on moist landscape mulch.  It is in the genus Sphaerobolus (Greek for “sphere thrower”) and is prevalent across the USA. Artillery is quite small – the fruiting bodies are about 1/10 of an inch across and are very hard to see in the mulch.  The fungus is best known for the way in which it spreads.  It forms tiny pin-head size bulbs that collect water and other matter.  These bulbs are sensitive to light and once fully formed, they explode in the direction of the light, spreading the fungus in many different directions.  The term artillery refers to the fact that the fungus actively uses energy by shooting its spore masses, sort of like a cannon or howitzer (an artillery piece).  The spores are usually shot only a short distance but the wind can carry them for longer distances and even up to the second story of a house. The black spores that one sees on a house are dormant, or sleeping, and pose no threat to the siding other than staining it.  The fungus is not easy to get off house siding or trim; however, there are steps one can take to mitigate the conditions that allow this fungus to grow.  To replace or add a layer of mulch on the ground each year helps to cover...

Planting Tips

I am always looking to learn something new and to organize my thoughts to better convey my tips and my suggestions for you, the reader.  I was recently reviewing, for example, the proper planting techniques for container plants. If you are a gardener, or even a weekend naturalist, you may have purchased a plant that was root bound; i.e.; the roots of the plant, not having anywhere to go but around the container in which it was confined, were unable to grow outward and away from the plant as they would naturally. The proper way to install a root bound container plant is to score with a sharp blade and gently pull apart the roots so that they have a chance to grow out and away as would happen in nature.  Keep in mind that the roots can be so dense that water will run off the plant when watered.  To prevent this from happening soak the plant in a bucket of water for up to 3 minutes or until it stops emitting air bubbles.  If you want to give the plant extra TLC soak it in a compost tea.   A compost tea is compost-brewed water that has been aerated for at least 24 hours and mixed with a bit of molasses (or other sugar).  The beneficial bacteria and fungus present in compost increases exponentially by aeration and the concentration of sugars.  These bacteria and fungus are critical in root establishment.  The fact that the root ball will be saturated causes the dry soil around it, once placed in the hole, to cling thereby creating a better soil to...