You Bet Your Aster

Happy Earth Day Strathmeade Square! I trust that even on this rainy weekend you are able to enjoy time out and about. In celebration of Earth Day I participated in the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District (NVSWCD, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd) native seedling sale. They do this event each year selecting a group of small shrubs and trees that are important species to our native habitats. The plants they offered all came as bare roots (essentially small roods with a little bit of growth on them–which helps in transplant but requires planting very quickly) and I was able to plant some Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and Arrowood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) in a few common areas around Breckenridge Court. If you come by I’ll be sure to point them out. Each one adds seasonal interest and provides great ecological and habitat benefits for our native pollinators and birds. These will take a little while to really be established and get showy but once they do — they’ll be hard to miss. The NVSWCD is a great resource for native plants. They also offered trees for purchase at very reasonable prices. So if you have a need and would like to increase the habitat in your own back yard, this annual sale is a great place to start (they always have extras too). They also provided rain barrels for purchase.

As many of you have probably been busy cleaning and sprucing up your garden spaces (even if you haven’t that is not a big deal), some things to keep in mind in your garden this season is — what is visiting your flowers? Are there any birds using your plants for nesting material? Have you seen any caterpillars? While some plants will demonstrate a few holes here and there–that is actually a good thing. It means that key food sources have been found and those that eat your leaves will soon be eaten by this year’s brood of new birds. Some areas of your garden that are begging for some attention—maybe consider leaving some areas bare from mulch. Pollinators will use the mud after it rains for key micro nutrients and some native solitary bees (i.e. ones that do not sting and do not operate in hives) use the ground as nests. Its a great way to keep them coming around your flowers, pollinating your tomatoes, squash, or pepper plants.

Weeds & Invasives–this is the perfect time to get rid of these pesky buggers. Some have very cute blooms like violets or even the barren strawberry but each of these can take over very quickly. Some are ok but be sure to watch them. They are great for early season pollinators but can take over and crowd out any native species (which are better suited for our area anyway) very quickly. Most of these weeds are best handled early before they set to seed. If you see a flower pick them out and throw them away. That is the only way you can ensure they will not stay in your yard. Otherwise some species can regrow from just a bit of leaf matter. English ivy will start is growth now too and the juvenile leaves are the only ones that can be affected by any sort of herbicide–though manually pulling and cutting them down are preferred methods. Dandelions do provide some much needed food sources for early emerging pollinators but you may want to get rid of these as well soon before their fluffy seeds begin to open.

Do you have an area you’d like to plant more plants in? Do you have an area that just doesn’t seem to be growing anything? Reach out to the landscape committee and we’d be happy to offer suggestions on what plants to plant, ways to improve some drainage or even ways to add more life to your garden. DISCLOSURE–while we love to collaborate with you all as our neighbors we are NOT licensed horticulturalists or landscapers. We are just very avid gardeners with a passion to increase the enjoyment of all in the community to enjoy time out in their garden.

Til next time—let’s get dirty!!

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