Monday, December 10, 2007

After the Final Project

I just sent off all the project work to our instructor. I had a devil of a time in the last week, what with the network being down at home, and being dicey at work. Every time I tried to upload work, the Internet connections would hang.

I learned a tremendous amount about my local environment. I now know where the watershed is, where the local nuclear plant is (not that far!), and what environmental issues face my community. I also made friends with local gardeners, and received help with plant identification and assistance in planning changes to the landscape.

One of the biggest lessons I learned came at a distance. In my former home in the Low Country region, I faced the prospect of a favorite tree entering its last years. The willow in the backyard is failing fast - it may not last another storm season.

So, I'm preparing to plant a successor to the willow. I have someone with more energy than I who will prepare the site, and I have given her permission to choose a tree.

I realized that I waited too long to replace the tree. I needed to plan for succession before it became an immediate need. As a result, the backyard will lose most of its shade for a few years, until the new tree takes hold. I've heard the folk wisdom - "don't wait until you're thirsty to dig your well". That also applies to gardens.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Planning for Next Year

I was walking around the yard today. I noticed the number of trees with broken, unhealthy, or damaged limbs. I'm going to print out a hard copy of my landscape map this week, and use it as a guide to marking trees for trimming, pruning damaged limbs, and cutting down species I don't want.

Management is a major part of the job. I've noticed the invasive species creeping into environments that don't ruthlessly keep them out. On my way home from church today, I noticed the damage caused by kudzu along major highways. I'm only a short distance from 21 Bypass (South Anderson Road), where kudzu has killed or caused significant damage to many trees.

Any new plants will have to be drought-tolerant, in addition to being shade-tolerant. We'll be making plant purchases with the recent water shortage in mind.

The Last Day of My Landscape Activity

I had an amazing discovery today - I found a fungus at the root of an oak tree in the back. I was walking the grounds again, and noticed some blackened protrusions near the base. I nudged it with my foot, and it broke off.

I feel fairly confident identifying it as conk, in scientific terms, DRYADEUS ROOT ROT (Inonotus dryadeus). It's common in oak trees (which this was), particularly where the tree has been damaged. It's often found following a wound caused by a lawnmower or other garden machine. It can injure the health of the tree, so I'll be keeping an eye on it in the future.

I took the photo below, using my MacBook's built-in camera. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to get a good photo using my QX3 Intel digital microscope. If I can capture a good shot, I'll add it to this post.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Preparing for Next Spring

This is the time of year land owners have to prepare for the next year:

  • Clearing the pathways. With so many trees, the accumulation of leaves has been heavy. It's partly a matter of clearing up enough of the landscape to comply with local ordinances, keep the neighbors happy, clear walking areas sufficiently to allow safe passage, and yet keep habitats available for all those living here.
  • Checking out the seed catalogs. I'm focusing on increasing the number of native plants.
  • Building the composting bin. We're planning to use the leaf litter as a base.
  • Cleaning and re-stocking the birdhouses. There are 3 on the grounds, and I want to offer different feed in each. I'll be monitoring them to see which is the preferred mix.
  • Marking trees and bushes for pruning. Some of the bushes are overcrowded in their location, and need thinning. Others are not in good health, and need to go. Many of the trees have dead limbs that need removing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Won't You NOT Come Into My Parlor?

I took down the curtains (left by the previous owner), and found MAJOR spider webs. On one hand, I wanted to clean them out. But, I know that spiders keep OTHER bugs from taking over. So, I'm torn. As long as I don't see any Black Widows or other problem spiders, I'm going to move slowly on clearing them out.