Mike Garvey Presentation on Historic and Unique Trees that can be Found in in Our Community

Mike Garvey has an intense interest in trees and has identified, photographed and studied over 15,000 trees in our area. Mike Garvey stressed the need for large long-living trees. Besides giving great shade, the trees make for a healthy environment – taking in CO2 and giving off oxygen. Their large root systems capture a large amount of run-off and prevent erosion. Large trees also increase property values. When you consider all the benefits of a large tree and put a price tag on its value, the tree can be worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

The majority of trees originally planted in our community represent a first generation of species that are nearing the end of their safe and useful life expectancy. Mike Garvey has documented and taken pictures of heritage trees in our downtown area that have been here since on or before 1900. For instance, the vase-shaped American elms currently growing on the Yellowstone courthouse lawn were planted in 1902. Also, Mike has done the documentation to get a catalpa, a ginkgo and a bristle cone pine tree that are growing in the Billings area listed in Montana’s Biggest Trees Registry.

Over the past 125 years countless heritage trees of Billings have died or are dying from old age, harsh climate conditions, disease and human-caused neglect. Garvey suggested that we should be getting clones from these long-lived and majestic trees. His thinking is that these trees have been able to survive because they have the genetics that match the environment.

Mike Garvey has noticed that landscapers and homeowners in the Billings area commonly replace the older dying trees with a limited variety of quick-growing, short-living, disease and insect prone trees with quaking aspen and green ash being some of the most overused. However, in his study and search to identify trees in our area, he has come across rarely seen species growing quite successfully. He showed beautiful photos he had taken around Billings of black locust, catalpa, white spruce, American Larch, Northern red oak, bur oak, redbud, Ginkgo, tulip tree, Kentucky coffee tree, American yellowwood, golden chain, Pierson ironwood, shellbark hickory, bristle cone pine, common pear, Ohio buckeye, purple robe locust, yellowhorn, hackberry, and autumn blaze maple.

Mike Garvey believes we should be optimistic and not let the weird storms that have hit our area in the last couple of years prevent us from planting trees. Also, he thinks we should be a bit adventurous and plant a larger variety of trees some of which are slow-growing but have fewer diseases and longer lifespan.

Mike Garvey’s study of trees has led him to pay close attention to the soil and how important organic matter, microbial activity and drainage are for the tree’s health. When planting a tree, he suggested leaving some of the clumps of dirt intact to help keep the microbial make-up of the soil. Overwatering interferes with the trees ability to respire and according to Garvey is the major cause of death for newly planted trees. Also he feels the need to have plenty of room for the roots to grow. He showed pictures that were taken in downtown Billings of newly planted trees on tiny boulevards giving the roots nowhere to go. (He called these tree coffins.) Mike’s talk was very informative and we came away with a wealth of information.

Submitted by Elaine Allard

NOTHING IS WASTED

People who spend a lot of time in touch with and learning about the natural world (like gardeners) soon become aware that nothing in a natural ecosystem is ever unused waste. What looks like waste—for example, animal droppings or dead leaves—becomes food for other organisms. Nutrients cycle round and round forever. Only in a man-made system do things become linear. There is waste—materials that do not feed other beings but go straight into a landfill or on the side of a road or into the rivers and oceans. And man is also the creator of plastic that, so far, no organisms can digest, so it seems that it will last forever, undigested and intact.

The following is an eloquent essay on this phenomenon printed in “Resurgence and Ecologist” magazine in the September/October 2016 issue. We would do well to choose to live under the laws of Earth and revise our economic laws to coincide with Earth’s laws. No better place to begin than in our gardens.

JUST SO MUCH, AND NO MORE
By Donella Meadows

The first commandment of economics is Grow. Grow forever. Companies must get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percentage each year. People should want more, make more, earn more, spend more—ever more.

The first commandment of the Earth is Enough. Just so much, and no more. Just so much soil. Just so much water. Just so much sunshine. Everything born of the Earth grows to its appropriate size and then stops. The planet does not get bigger; it gets better. Its creatures learn, mature, diversify, evolve, create amazing beauty and novelty and complexity, but live within absolute limits.

Economics says: Compete. Only by pitting yourself against a worthy opponent will you perform efficiently. The reward for successful competition will be growth.

The Earth says: Compete, yes, but keep your competition in bounds. Don’t annihilate. Take only what you need. Leave your competitor enough to live. Wherever possible, don’t compete: cooperate. Pollinate each other, create shelter for each other, build firm structures that lift smaller species up to the light. Pass around the nutrients, share the territory. Some kinds of excellence rise out of competition; other kinds rise out of cooperation. You’re not in a war: you’re in a community.

Economics says: Use it up fast. Don’t bother with repair; the faster you use it up, the sooner you’ll buy another. That makes the gross national product go round. Throw things out when you get tired of them. Shave the forests every 30 years. Get the oil out of the ground and burn it now. Make jobs so people can earn money, so they can buy more stuff and throw it out.

The Earth says: What’s the hurry? Take your time building soils, forests, coral reefs, mountains. Take centuries or millennia. When any part wears out, don’t discard it: turn it into food for something else.

Economics says: Worry, struggle, be dissatisfied. The permanent condition of humankind is scarcity. The only way out of scarcity is to accumulate and hoard, though that means, regrettably, that others will have less.

The Earth says: Rejoice! You have been born into a world of self-maintaining abundance and incredible beauty. Feel it, taste it, be amazed by it. If you stop your struggle and lift your eyes long enough to see Earth’s wonders, to play and dance with the glories around you, you will discover what you really need. It isn’t that much. There is enough.

We don’t get to choose which laws—those of the economy or those of the Earth—will ultimately prevail. We can choose which ones we will personally live under—and whether to make our economic laws consistent with planetary ones, or to find out what happens if we don’t.

 

Submitted by Ann Guthals

PVC TOMATO CAGE

Using ½ inch PVC pipe, an easy to use and store tomato cage can be assembled. Build it to match your method of tomato growing. I plant in pots so the cages are made into two foot spacings to fit around my pots. These cages can be built as high and wide as needed. Using the two foot spacing I usually go to about five feet high to hold indeterminate tomatoes. These PVC cages set up quickly and easily and just as easy to tear down. They need little space for storage. I think they may last forever.

Submitted by Corry Mordeaux

A Tip from Dr. Bob

The late Dr. Bob is the father of Montana’s Master Gardener program. When he taught theclasses nobody ever fell asleep. He was a writer of a great many articles on gardening. The following is just one of several hundred in my files.

A question to Dr. Bob: “How can I increase germination of my garden seeds?” (March 2002)

“Gardeners all over the country are right now wondering how to get better germination in the vegetable and flower seeds. Of course, start with good seeds and in most cases you’ll have good germination, but some seeds are notoriously tough with hard seed coats. Now, researchers in Georgia have found a common household substance that increases germination in watermelon seeds.

The seedless watermelon cultivars on the market are for the most part, triploids. That means that they form fruit that has no developed seeds. While they are no good for seedspitting contests, the melons do make great eating. The triploid cultivars are expensive to produce and, unfortunately, the seeds have thick coats that interfere with germination.

Researchers have found that soaking the seeds in 1 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide at room temperature and in the dark greatly improves their germination. After just a day or two in the solution, the seeds germinated readily in petri dishes and would no doubt do so in the garden soil.

The 1 percent solution does not damage the emerging radicle, but solutions two percent or higher do severe damage to the young seedling. The hydrogen peroxide is generally available in the drug store and is a three percent solution, so you must dilute it with water. You can do that by adding two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. So far, researchers have only tested the solution on watermelon seeds, but they suggest that it might also improve germination in a wide range of “hardcoated” seeds, such as those of cabbage and broccoli.”

Submitted by Corry Mordeaux

PREP FOR GARDEN VOLUNTEER GIGS

When I first volunteered to earn my hours for Level 1, I was clueless. I still am in many ways, but I was so green then, and I am not referring to my thumb. I bounded out of my car towards St. Andrew’s Community Garden and began digging an irrigation ditch, as I was instructed to do. I so much agree with that initiation. What is gardening, if not hard work? And I made it even harder by not being prepared. So before you gleefully drive to a henceforth obscure site, at least for you, get your items together so you can return again and again.

Start with a 5-gallon plastic bucket. I know some of you may have decorated baskets for your items with matching garden gloves, but cut the cutesy now. You need something sturdy which has a handle, and, if damaged, does not dull your spirits. First and foremost, take care of yourself by packing a large, full water bottle, strong sunblock, a wide brimmed hat with a chin strap so you do not have to chase your hat onto a major thoroughfare when it blows off, sunglasses, and leather gloves. Leather is hotter than canvas, but it lasts more than two hours before getting holes. Wear light colored clothing and bring a snack, preferably not chocolate which melts all over your seed packets on a warm day. Consider used clothing instead of pristine, expensive togs. A chance of sweat mixing with “soil”, designing large, permanent Jackson Pollock-worthy stains, runs high. Do not forget insect repellent, if you are prone to attracting our friends, and wear long sleeves and pants if you are even mildly allergic to sumacs or other plants. The shoes: a sturdy, closed toed pair which can and will get muddy. A plastic bag for your gardening shoes is only for the connoisseur. I even wear socks to avoid insects and blisters.

I have already made so many mistakes for everybody! Yet I am not done with advice, if you are still here with me.

Bring your own tools, unless you don’t mind raw, oozing blisters (from using dull tools, the ones early birds skipped over) as bragging rights. Label your tools, too, or they walk off, not necessarily due to the neighborhood klepto, but they just work their way back into the shed of wherever you are. If you really want to impress the crew, although this step is treacherous, since people might assume that you know more than you do and pummel you with all sorts of esoteric questions, get a tool belt. I swear the sexiest garment I saw during the summer when I earned my first dozen volunteer hours was a tool belt. She got more done in a shorter length of time than me because I spent half the day running back and forth for various tools. You might be entering a new zone, so get the gear. In order of importance: a trowel, pruning shears, a weeder, a watering can, a shovel, a rake, and loppers. A good, sharp knife has many uses. Might these items be on sale at local hardware stores during snow blower season?

Last but far from least, get your body in shape to bend, yank, and grunt by exercising before spring, but that’s another article. Consider a first-aid kit in your car, if you became glassy eyed during the previous suggestion. Load an ICE (in case of emergency) phone number into your cellphone, so your fellow gardeners can contact someone if you have a heat stroke. Some of us might be little old grandmas, like me, but wimps we are not!

Submitted by Bess Lovec