Falling Fruit

Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. They hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained side-walks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.

This is an online interactive map, identifying locations around the world where fruits and vegetables are free for the taking. The map is open for public editing, too. http://fallingfruit.org/

Advertisements

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy

Bringing Nature Home is a book for anyone who has a yard. For years home-owners have been encouraged to buy alien imported plants for many reasons: beautiful flowers, deer-resistance, hardiness, attraction for birds or bees, and even the allure of growing new and different plants. Native plants are not easy to find and we are not often urged to choose them for our landscaping. Unfortunately the result of choosing from the 5000 species of alien plants that have been introduced into the U.S. is to endanger the biodiversity of all our plants and animals.

Why is biodiversity important in suburbia? Don’t we have a lot of wild areas? The author explains that over 95% of land in the contiguous 48 states is modified or disturbed in some way by humans, leaving only 3 to 4% of wild land, not enough to sustain our wildlife. In addition, the remaining wild areas are not contiguous, existing in unconnected fragments. And about 54% of the non-wild areas is in cities and suburbs—so providing native plants in our yards becomes highly significant. Your one yard, no matter its size, DOES make a difference. If you plant natives and your neighbors do as well, then a corridor begins to be formed for wild animals.

The author very clearly explains why non-native plants are a threat to the diversity of living species. Research shows that native insects generally cannot eat alien plants and they must go elsewhere or even disappear without the plants they need, because many are specialists and can only eat one or two plants. These same insects are the link between plants and predators such as other insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians who cannot gain their energy directly from plants. So the planting of aliens has reduced the biomass and diversity of insects and thus reduced the diversity of all of our wildlife.

Non-natives create other major problems. They can become runaway invaders such as kudzu and spotted knapweed and they can bring in alien insects and diseases that can wipe out native species of plants. There is an excellent description in the book of American chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, and a more recent threat called sudden oak death disease.

If after reading this clearly written and accessible book urging the planting of native species in our yards you become convinced that this is an important thing to do, how would you go about it? While it is not a detailed how-to book, Mr. Tallamy does give important guidelines in a chapter called Making It Happen and he further breaks down resistance to change in the chapter called Answers to Tough Questions (such as “do I have to sacrifice beauty if I choose to plant natives”, “why is an alien plant full of birds or bees a problem”, and “won‘t aliens become natives over time?”).

My one wish for this book is that there would have been more information about native plants for landscaping in the western U.S., but the book is important to read to understand the problem of growing alien plants and there are other resources to help if you choose to make your Billings yard fundamentally native (such as Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

From the Afterword: To me the choice is clear. The costs of increasing the percentage and biomass of natives in our suburban landscapes are small, and the benefits are immense. Increasing the percentage of natives in suburbia is a grassroots solution to the extinction crisis. To succeed, we do not need to invoke governmental action; we do not need to purchase large tracts of pristine habitat that no longer exist; we do not need to limit ourselves to sending money to national and international conservation organizations and hoping it will be used productively. Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological stakes have never been so high.

Book Review by: Ann Guthals

Night on the Town – Grand Escape Room

Photo from the Grand Escape Room, Sept.. 27th. We did the diner, where you have just one hour to figure out how to get out. And after 3 clues and much work we did make it….with just 8 seconds to spare. People who attended from left: Amy Grandpre, Rick Shotwell, Joann Glasser, Karen Honkomp, Linda Brewer, Lindsey James (front), Joan Griffith (back), Mary Davis, Merita Murdock and Shelley Thurmond.

Re-Thinking Lawns

With 40 million acres devoted to grass lawns in the U.S., we may want to consider other alternatives for our yards. Manicured lawns are basically biological deserts — mono-cultures of one or two species rather than diverse system of plants and animals like a native forest or grassland.  Taking care of these lawns is hard on the environment: synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can pollute our ground and water; gas-powered mowers use up fuel and pollute the air; copious amounts of good drinkable water keep the grass green; and houses and lawns cover over former agricultural land.

The editors of this newsletter wish to present some other choices than Kentucky bluegrass lawns in this and upcoming issues.  In this issue please see the book review on Bringing Nature Home about re-planting our yards with native plants.  In future issues we will look at xeriscaping, drip irrigation, more on choosing and planting native plants, and replacing at least part of our lawns with vegetable gardens.

Here are a couple of resources on xeriscaping: Xeriscape – Greater Yellowstone Area, A guide for Landscaping with Less Water; download at
http://www.fedgycc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/XeriscapeGuide7mb.pdf

If you are seriously looking into xeriscaping, do request Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains from our office, or you can also download a copy at http://www.nrcs.us FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mtpmcpunatland.pdf

It’s Fall, Y’All! The season for everyone’s favorite … pumpkins!

Native to North America, pumpkins are a type of winter squash, genus Cucurbita, that are a category all their own, species pepo or maxima (this species is for the really big pumpkins). At this time of year, the market is filled with many different types of pumpkins besides the basic orange globe. If you see an unusual one at your market, try it for a different look in your fall decorations or as a completely different culinary taste treat.

By the way, did you know pumpkins are technically a fruit, not a vegetable?

Click here – Enjoy your exploration!

Submitted by Donna Canino