Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Going Organic in Riverside, CT: Worry-Free Status of Yard Pleases Organic-Savvy Homeowner

Going Organic in Riverside, CT
Worry-Free Status of Yard Pleases Organic-Savvy Homeowner
By Kathy Litchfield

            Twenty years ago, Clara Park was in graduate school in California, eating organic eggs and vegetables. She and her husband were studying English and wanted to live what she called “environmentally responsible” lives.
            “We wanted to be environmentally conscious and didn’t even want a house for a long time. We lived in the city without a car and we thought that was a good thing to do,” said Park, an east coast native who lived in Texas, Washington D.C. and New York City before moving to Connecticut. “When we moved here, we thought if we were going to have a house, we wanted to choose responsible methods of caring for it.”

            While her husband began law school at Yale, the first thing she did was to seek out an organic community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm share.
She then read lots of articles and researched organic lawn care methods. She and her husband wanted to leave grass clippings on the lawn, leave autumn leaves where they fell and take care of stormwater runoff.
            “I talked to the lawn care man who worked here for the previous owner and asked if he could leave the grass clippings but he said their machines weren’t built to do that,” said Park. “I wanted the grass to grow longer and be cut less often as it was better for the soil. So I started looking online.”
            Park found Mike Papa of Artscape Organic-Care, LLC on a google search. She was impressed with his seven-year NOFA accreditation status and appreciated his can-do attitude and commitment to organics from their very first meeting.
            “Mr. Papa is really amazing. He’ll talk to you about anything and has lots of logical things to say,” said Park.
The 20-year previous owner of Park’s property was an avid gardener and perennials flourished and looked perfect , she said. In addition the lawn was green and well-groomed by a conventional lawn care company. 
“It looked really great but there wasn’t enough organic matter in the lawn. Some of the plants were too crowded together and diseases could spread. Mr. Papa had a lot of observations that were really helpful,” she said.  “He told us it was all about the health of the soil and how we could improve that.”
Papa said that a state of the art soil testing program as well as testing of the plant tissue was key, as was selecting appropriate grass seeds for Park’s lawn.
“Clara’s property has many plants  and we did lot of trimming to allow appropriate habitats for turf and ornamentals, following her budget,” said Papa. “I always tell my clients we use some calcium nitrate (in our natural blends) strategically, to provide extra slow release nitrogen in spring to promote growth. Stewardship skills are key to avoiding the use of pesticides.”  
Six years later, Park said the lawn grows lushly in spring and holds its own while the summer sun beats down upon it.
While hot temperatures in August and September challenged the sprinkler system this year, she said Mike and his crew returned as often as necessary to help them work with the sprinkler company to adjust the watering.
“Also they’ve been taking out crabgrass and re-seeding the subsequent bare patches. We have a lot of clover in the back that we don’t mind, but are trying to keep the front clear for the neighbors – though we haven’t weeded much this year!,” she said. “The back was a disaster after Hurricane Sandy, blew over a huge oak that knocked down two others, but my husband dug a pond and Mr. Papa landscaped it for us.” 
The Park’s backyard features a beautiful 30-foot-long pond where goldfish – some five years old and reproducing – swim in the midst of grasses and flowers. Clara’s husband enjoys walking out to the pond at night and feeding the goldfish, and her 10-year-old daughter loves to walk their pet cat, Delphine, on a leash around the backyard.
A cat on a leash? One reason this is important to Clara is that she loves watching and listening to the numerous birds inhabiting their one-third of an acre.
Robins, jays, cardinals, doves, blackbirds and hummingbirds frequent her yard more regularly since she started organic land care and installed the pond, and that makes for a beautiful landscape to gaze at from the windows of  her home.
“I just like Mr. Papa so much. I like how he thinks about the yard. I don’t worry about how it looks. I have total faith in him and he just takes care of everything,” she said.
Papa said he enjoys the peace of mind he is able to bring to clients like Park.      
“The customer likes me so much from the simple fact that we care, are honest, and there is peace of mind (in knowing) that we work in a pesticide free zone,” he said. “My goal is to always work toward a balance in all we do, in addition to our observations and intuitions.”
Park said her yard “doesn’t have to look perfect, because it is healthy.”
“When we moved here I expected more people would be into organic lawn care, but a lot of people just want the service and don’t think about the methods. I know our yard looks great most of the time, and that it stays healthier longer. I’m confident that everything is ok and I don’t have to worry about it. Mr. Papa looks out for the health of everything!”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stormwater Management Track for Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course

Glen Abrams of PHS
For the second year, NOFA OLC offers a 2 track option on the final day of the Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care (http://www.organiclandcare.net/professionals/accreditation) so students can pursue an in-depth study of a topic relevant to their work. Glen Abrams designed this curriculum to offer land care professionals both the GSI big picture and focused sessions applicable to work which can be done for landscaping clients. The other concurrent track offered is Organic Turf Management with Chip Osborne.

Stormwater Managment Track Description - Mid Atlantic Course 2014 Dec 8-11, 2014

Facing difficult decisions regarding compliance with Clean Water Act rules concerning stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows, many communities have opted to pursue green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) strategies over conventional approaches to managing runoff.  GSI is an engineered landscape system that intercepts rainfall, infiltrates a portion of it into the ground, evaporates a portion of it into the air, and in some cases releases a portion of it slowly back into the city's sewer system.  The intention is to design an urban landscape to restore natural hydrologic processes to reduce the volume and water quality impacts of the built environment while achieving additional social and economic benefits.  The Green Stormwater Infrastructure track will explore GSI practices in different contexts, focusing on case studies of institutional, commercial, and residential practices.  Furthermore, we will discuss issues that arise during construction of GSI practices and explore how these systems are maintained.

 Learning Objectives:

  •   Learn the definition of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) and become familiar with different land-water-plant based systems through case studies of GSI practices in several land use contexts
  •  Learn about the regulatory context driving the need for stormwater management and the EPA's growing support for GSI
  • Learn how site characteristics, regulations, and client desires shape GSI design 
  •  Learn about vegetation choices for GSI practices
  • Learn about common challenges when constructing and maintaining GSI practices
  • Learn about how GSI design choices can impact maintenance of these systems

Altje Hoekstra, Meliora Environmental Design
Alden Zove, Cedar Run Landscapes

 Tom Johnston, ThinkGreen
 Jonathan Nuss, David Brothers Landscaping (not-confirmed)

Schedule: Dec 11, 2014
8-8:30              The Regulatory Environment for Stormwater            Glen Abrams
8:30-9:10         Institutional/Commercial GSI Applications                Altje Hoekstra
9:10-10:00       Residential GSI Applications                                       Alden Zove
10:00-10:15     BREAK
10:15-11:05     Construction of GSI                                                     Tom Johnston
11:05-11:55     Maintenance of GSI                                                    Jonathan Nuss (invited

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Going Organic in Barnstead, N.H.

Going Organic in Barnstead, N.H.
Grazing Horses and Encouraging Natives is a Dream Come True
By Kathy Litchfield

            For Patricia Sanborn, there is nothing like letting her sleek, black Arabian and Morab horses graze freely on the 90 acres she owns in Barnstead, N.H.
Graced with rolling pastures and hayfields, flowering native gardens and organic vegetables, Trish is careful when choosing what plants to encourage in the house gardens and along the pathways her horses enjoy on their way to the field.
“It’s very important not to have plants that they like to eat,” she laughed.
Trish partnered with five-year Accredited Organic Land Care Professional Paula Kovecses of TWIG (The Way It Grows) Horticultural Consulting to find the perfect plants. Together they chose a border called blue star amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana) which features stunning blue flowers in summer and a showy feathery foliage that Sanborn loves and her horses shun.
It has always been important to her to incorporate native plants and organic land care methods into the property that she and her husband were thrilled to discover just 12 years go in Barnstead, N.H. She believes in the interconnectedness of all life and aims to respect her partnership with nature as much as possible.
            “We are so blessed to be here. It’s as close to heaven we can get,” said Trish, who offers a subtle energetic medicine called biofeedback through her business, Quantum Life Healing.
“I understand that there is a web, that we’re all interconnected and that we can’t just wipe out one species because we think it’s a problem. We have to make sure that we maintain the balance of life,” she said. “If you’ve got an unhealthy ground you won’t have birds taking care of the bugs. Since the planting I’ve done - I’ve increased all my natives around my vegetable gardens for instance – I have more and more birds every year. It’s vital to have a healthy environment in order to have the bugs that the birds will eat and to do that, you need native plants.”
            While she was always interested in organic methods and never sprayed chemicals, herbicides or pesticides on her property, she shared that she had an epiphany after reading Douglas Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home.”
            “It was around the time I was introduced to Paula (Kovecses). I had always liked pretty little native plants but after reading that book I realized it was necessary,” she said.
Trish’s sister introduced her to Kovecses at a lecture on invasive plants Kovecses was giving at a local college.
“That subject was near and dear to my heart and after I heard her speak I made an appointment for her to come out and talk to me about my land,” she said.
“Paula has been a true gem. She is so knowledgeable, and is aware of many plants I never would have known about, that are natives and that are doing well here. I don’t like traditional suburban landscaping that usually consists of a lot of lawn and a few alien species of ornamental shrubberies. They don’t provide food or shelter for animals. My thing is to co-exist with what’s already living here and whatever I do to the land, I want to be a benefit to everyone who lives here. My gardens are kind of different looking – they are wild looking and very natural and always improving. It’s like a tapestry that gets better every year.”
            Among Trish’s favorite native plants are wild indigo, joe pye weed and Turtleheads. She also grows comfrey, marshmallow, motherwort, blue vervain and skullcap in her medicinal herb garden.
Trish is also planting swamp azalea, aronia and rhodis along the miles of riding trails through her woods. “It adds an element to the walk or trail ride, to see my garden in the woods slowly becoming even more beautiful,” she said.
Sometimes the battle with invasives becomes overwhelming. “They’re plentiful everywhere,” she sighed, “but that’s what we’re working on!”
            Trish and her husband Peter enjoy eating organic food and make their own pet food to feed their two terrier dogs and three cats, formerly strays “who found us,” she said.
            Last year the couple, married for 40 years with two grown sons, added chickens to their Black Horse Farm.
“Chickens are great. When I let them out they make a beeline for the asparagus patch and do all their scratching in there. Beetles were the bane of our existence until we got the chickens; I was picking 100 off daily for the first few weeks in spring. But this year we’ve had much less of a problem.”
What Kovecses said she enjoys about working with Trish is that “she ‘gets it.’”
“She is open to increasing biodiversity by using native plants as much as possible and of course feeding her family. There is never any pressure when I visit Tricia, we have tea; we chat and brainstorm the best ideas for her landscape,” said Kovecses. “A full design was done for her property, and we have changed things a bit but we definitely keep the communication open and we seem to work well together. If we decide on a plant, if I can get it locally, that is how we try to do it. I believe she is not a ‘wanna be’ organic, she stands true to working with nature.”
            Kovecses worked with Trish on a landscape design for the gardens surrounding their home, located in the center of the 90 acres. One perennial garden that is now coming into its own showcases flourishing goldenrod, joy pye weed, sneezeweed with red, orange and yellow flowers and black-eyed susans.
“It’s this crazy area of tall plants that looks nutty, but we love it,” she said, and frequently recommends Kovecses to friends and neighbors.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Julie Snell - Presenter of Site Analysis, Design and Management at the Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course in Philadelphia Dec 8-11

We love to highlight the work and accomplishments of our AOLCPs and our course presenters.
Julie Snell, ASLA and AOLCP, will be teaching at the NOFA course for the first time!

Julie writes: 
Since learning about NOFA's Organic Land Care Program, I have had the amazing opportunity to apply the principles of health, ecology, care and fairness in many aspects of my work. Whether it is managing public landscapes in Philadelphia, teaching a university urban ecology class,​ or in establishing my own practice, the ecological standards that NOFA upholds have been a valuable guide.

​During my first day of the Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care in New Haven, I ​quickly ​realized we needed to bring this training to Philadelphia. Fast forward to this year 2014 - I'm thrilled to be teaching the Site Analysis, Design and Management section at  ​the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Accreditation Course in Philadelphia!

Here is an example of a project which we recently completed at TEND.  In preparation for the ​installation of the new ​Market Street Dog Run, ​TEND specified the pruning of existing trees, aeration of soil, and incorporation of leaf mold into the trees' root zone month​s prior to construction.
Photos from TEND landscape inc.
We planted Ornamental grass, Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass) at the Market Street Dog Run.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Going Organic in Westport, CT: A Joyful Restoration of Home and Landscape

Going Organic in Westport, CT
A Joyful Restoration of Home and Landscape
By Kathy Litchfield

Carol Quinn loves gazing out the windows of her 1850’s home, nestled on two acres in Westport, Conn. 
“It just looks so beautiful. It looks like we live in a park,” said Quinn, who is working with 12-year NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professional Michael Nadeau of Plantscapes Organics.
 “We were interested in organic gardening and we love our yard. We know that organic gardening is healthier for our child, healthier for our neighbors and healthier for the earth, and that’s why we do it!” said the enthusiastic homeowner, who has invested countless hours of time and energy with her husband David Mayo to restore their house and beautify their landscape over the last two years.  
She said Mike and his brother Dan Nadeau came highly recommended.
“Mike and his brother Danny are wonderful people. We met them through the builders who did work on our house, and another client who used them in Ridgefield. Their gardens are phenomenal. Ours are just starting off,” said Carol, who looks forward to watching her perennial beds, a rain garden and a new rock garden grow and develop alongside her organic lawn.
The couple purchased their circa 1859 house a few years ago, and represent just the third family to have owned it since its construction. It was one of the last houses built before the Civil War in Westport, she said. The previous owners, children of a couple who had passed away, didn’t apply chemicals or perform heavy maintenance on their lawn, which worked out well for the couple’s desire to plant organic grasses, she said, since remediation was unnecessary.
Originally the property was part of a farm, then an estate, and it maintains stately old swamp maples, a huge black birch, ancient dogwoods, a tulip tree, a Japanese maple, many lovely old evergreens and an azalea bush “that looks like a tree,” laughed Carol. The property also features a 60-foot-tall Dawn Redwood, huge silver maples and a healthy 75-foot-tall American elm.
The couple started with their house restoration, by hiring Mike and Chris Trolle of BPC Green Builders in Wilton, Conn., who specialize in non-toxic and green certified building materials “right down to the non-toxic pipe dope used to sweat the plumbing fittings together,” said Mike Nadeau. “The driveway is native gravel to absorb rainwater, except for a small basketball court that was paved with porous asphalt.”
The couple received a preservation award from the Town of Westport for their home restoration, and then embarked upon their organic land care mission.
“Mike and Dan have been very professional. They came up with a landscape plan based on what we wanted, implemented it, did it in a timely fashion according to what our budget was and found a fellow who did a beautiful job on our fountain too,” she said.  
Utilizing an old well stone on the property and rocks gathered from throughout its acreage, the fountain is a highlight of the Quinn’s organic landscape, which features sitting areas and beautiful views of the gardens from their wraparound porch.  
A rain garden, planted on a natural slope, showcases native plants, helps to disperse rainwater and solves a puddling problem they experienced during heavy rains.
David and Carol don’t use sprinklers in their yard. For the first two years of their new organic landscape, they are employing battery-powered irrigation timers and drip tubes to help new trees and bushes get established, at Nadeau’s suggestion.
“There are zones for each different hydrologic requirement, based on plant needs, which are monitored and adjusted during the season. This takes advantage of natural rainfall and provides just enough moisture to establish a strong root system; then it will be turned off,” said Mike Nadeau. “By using drip irrigation, water is applied only where needed and you do not water the weeds between plants. The irrigation can be activated during droughts if appropriate. The cost is a fraction of a permanently installed system and protects our plants through their guarantee period.” 
As for the organic lawn, “it takes care of itself,” said Quinn, who first learned about organic gardening from a friend who is on the board of directors of the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center in New York City.
“The center focuses on how children’s health is impacted by different things in the environment. I’m not a scientist, but I think that chemicals used as fertilizers or insecticides or herbicides cause some degree of sickness in people. So through (my friend) I started to get interested in what people put on their lawns. We decided, with Mike’s guidance, to choose plants that were native and indigenous to Connecticut. We’re getting rid of invasive species (including knotweed). We really want to have plants and grass that will grow within the boundaries of our climate,” she said.
The couple also chooses organics when it comes to fruits, vegetables and meats. Carol feels fortunate to have a great farmer’s market on Thursdays in Westport, the Saugatuck Craft Butchery which sources and carries local and organic meats within 100 miles of Westport, and the Double L Farm Market that carries a wide selection of organic foods, as well as a Whole Foods Market nearby.
She looks forward to watching their organic landscape develop over time, and hopes others in Westport will learn about organic land care and implement organic elements into their own yards and gardens.
She said she would love to help arrange for a speaker on organic land care to present at the Westport Public Library, where seminars are well attended.
Looking forward, the couple plans to explore the possibility of restoring the wetlands at the back of their yard, in collaboration with Nadeau and the Town of Westport, as well as continuing their ongoing battle with the ever-creeping poison ivy.
“Mike and Danny and their crew are just tremendous. They have integrity, they are hard working, they’re creative and they’re helpful,” said Quinn, who sees them as partners in her organic gardening choices. “They seem like they’re really invested in the result and dedicated to the process. I admire Mike so much. He is so knowledgeable. He’s just fantastic.”
Nadeau feels similarly about the couple.
“David and Carol’s attention to details and being totally committed to organic land care make them the ideal client for us. They challenged us all through the design, installation, and maintenance phases to research new materials and find the best organic/green products to use,” Nadeau said.