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Bridge Weeks of August! Growing Well Newsletter

Welcome to the bridge weeks of August! Everyone who can get away is off somewhere else grabbing the last days of summer vacation – and everyone who can’t is wishing that they could! School starts in about three weeks depending on the system and all of the store’s college employees are on their way back to their campuses – we will miss them. Happily, we have some totally delightful high school students for the afternoon and weekend hours…but the summer is slowly drawing down to fall… At least the weather has continued in its moderated fashion since the last newsletter – although we all have to water more now.

Last time, we were talking about the native plants and re-wilding workshop. It was an excellent afternoon all the way around! Just HAVE to recap a couple of key points

because it might really be worth your time to think about what makes a yard friendly to

pollinators and other beneficial insects. The more you can encourage them, the better

your gardens will do so here are a few thoughts you might want to use to guide your

plant decisions for the rest of this year…

Step One: Eliminate – Or At Least Really Restrict - The Use of All

Pesticides in Your Yard. This Includes the Lawn! A manicured and well-

maintained yard is NOT the best place for insects, birds or, perhaps, even humans!! It

does keep property values up though – at least for now… Imagine what might happen if

a functional ecosystem was part of the requirements for a bank being willing to write an

agreement for a house loan – what a concept!!!!!

Step Two: Provide shelter, food and water for the species you hope to invite. Take the time to learn about a species and discover its secrets. Can I suggest one of my

personal favorites??? The bumblebee! Have you ever stopped and watched these

ladies work? Try it this summer… We spent quite a bit of time last Saturday just

watching all the different kinds of insects that have come to the plant yard at the store. It

really is an amazing variety considering how short a time the plants have been there.

Stop in and check out the insects AND the plants!

If you can’t wrap your mind around a “stinging” insect then how about a praying mantis – they’re big enough to be seen easily – and will eat ANY insect (“good” or “bad”) that they can catch – still worth watching though! And then there’s the Monarch butterfly – the poster child for butterflies in need of help (but ALL KINDS of the butterfly species

need the same help…)

As with all animals though – food and water are your best means of enticing

beneficial insects to visit your yard. So, let’s start with food – for the adults for

now. Most of the good guys need pollen and nectar to support the adult stages

(obviously not true of all!!) and this is the most fun for us because this is the flowers that

we love as well. There are lots of lists of course but think color (red, orange, yellow,

blues) and think about flat forms (daisies and zinnias), tubular forms (columbine,

salvias, anything in the mint family), and “umbelliferae” forms like fennels, Queen

Anne’s Lace and dills.

Think of your yard as a series of layers. Design the layers so that you can see

the birds and the butterflies and so that they can see their predators.

Include a few larger plantings of desirable flowering plants (such as salvia, torch plant or

butterfly bush etc.). It's easier for the insects to find a mass planting. Create an area

where there is moving water with a shallow edge where they can creep down for

moisture without drowning.

If you really get going on this habitat development gig – then look up what feeds the

youngsters. Bees are easy because the nectar and pollen that feed the adults feed the

young. Monarchs, on the other hand, can feed on a wide range of flowers as an adult,

but can only survive and thrive as caterpillars on milkweeds (Asclepias) – and the plants

have to be true milkweeds – not the “look alikes” (and close relatives) like swallowwort

(hateful plant…).

To make this a little easier, we’ve brought in a line of starter native perennials. These

are grown in fiber pots and are not glamorously full like the rest of the perennials. On

the other hand, they are MUCH less expensive and are the true species or very

carefully selected nativars (change in height only – NOT change in flower color or

structure). You’ll find that all of the ones in this collection at the store right now are the

fall perennials – critical for late season feeding as the season winds down. I will say

that you’ll need to have some zinnias or wax begonias around for truly late feeding as

none of our natives can bloom that late into the season – but the season warmth runs

deep into October now.

Here are highlights of two of them that I think are critical to work with.

First – look into Aster cordifolius - This plant blooms in September, in part shade, tolerates drought and flood and feeds ALL kinds of bees. It’s loaded with flowers so it puts on quite a show for the human gardeners as well. Totally worth tucking in to an edge somewhere – or everywhere!

And then – Phlox Jeana - This is a phlox with attitude! We have 6 of them on the farm and they are the backbone of the mid-August – October feeding cycle. They are TALL, stately, disease resistant, so need no pesticide management, and can be pushed/managed for even more pollen and nectar if needed (and it’s fun to make that happen! – bees will show you within 12 hours that they notice what you’ve done!).

And since we’re on the subject of feeding animals, let’s move on to feeding farm

animals… As you know, we’re a direct Poulin dealer and that means we get the heads

up on changes to their product lines. We just got word that they’re upgrading some of

their formulas (especially E-Tec Balancer) to accommodate the region wide drop in hay

quality. That’s a big deal because this means that Poulin is using the information from

its hay testing program to monitor the region’s forage quality.

Many people feeding goats, horses, cows and sheep have noticed the drop in hay

quality as well as availability of said hay. They see the drop in quality in the health and

vitality of their animals. This means that the improvement in the grain these animals are

being fed is even more important. E-Tec Balancer can be used for all species of farm

animals (we use it as part of our customized goat food mix) and has increased the

crude protein from 24%-28% because the crude protein in our hays is so low. Literally –

food for thought…

Speaking of food for thought – our next workshop is scheduled for August 26 th , 1-

2:30pm and is on the hot topic of Cover crops!!! Cover crops are a wide range of quick

germinating, quick growing plants that cover the ground to protect and structure the soil.

Cover crops can also be used as short feed for cows, goats, chickens and pigs. Lots to

learn and lots to experiment with! Register at 978-632-0991, $30.00 includes a bag of

cover crop seed for you to experiment with.

There is so much going on at the store! We look forward to seeing you there!

The Good Earth Farm & Garden Center

633 W. Broadway Street

Gardner, MA


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