Sunday, June 19, 2011

Plant a Kiss on Dad

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Comfrey, One of The Garden's Hardest Workers

 Many of the jobs that plants perform are hidden from view.  Three important jobs plants perform, mulch maker, nutrient accumulator, and nitrogen fixer, are described below. 

  1. Mulch Maker:  These plants provide debris (leaves, flowers, bark, etc) that falls to the ground, providing humus to the soil.  Soft-leafed plants, including Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb, comfrey, nasturtiums, make mulch the fastest.  ‘Green manure’ cover crops, including sweet clover, vetches, and grains such as oats, wheat and barley, provide chop-and-drop and living mulches.
  2. Nutrient Accumulator:  Nutrient accumulators draw specific nutrients from deep in the soil and concentrate them in their leaves.  Yarrow, chamomile, comfrey, fennel, lamb’s quarters, chicory, and dandelion are well-known nutrient accumulators.  These plants reduce the need to purchase fertilizers. 
  3. Nitrogen Fixer:  These plants harbour bacteria or fungi among their roots, which extract nitrogen from the air and convert it to plant-available form.   Many plants in the pea or bean family (the Fabaceae, commonly referred to as legumes) are nitrogen fixers.  Common nitrogen fixers are alfalfa, broom, chamomile, chives, clover, collards, comfrey and the fava bean. 
As you may have noticed, comfrey falls into all three categories.  Comfrey (symphytum officinale) offers a range of uses that is tough to match. 
  • Bees and other beneficial insects buzz deep into the purple/pink tubular flowers to extract nectar and pollen, assisting with pollination.
  • Comfrey is a stellar nutrient accumulator.  Its roots reach deep into the soil and pull potassium, calcium, and magnesium up into its leaves.  These can then be composted or used as mulch.
  • Comfrey can be chopped down 2 to 4 times during its growing season.  The chopped top growth can be either composted or placed where the fertility and cover is needed most.  In addition, this chopping back may cause some root dieback, leaving the roots’ organic matter deep in the soil to decompose and nourish the underground 'microherds'.
  • Ecological orchardists often plant a ring of comfrey around a fruit tree, creating a living mulch.
  • Comfrey’s vigorous taproots can break up hardpans and heavy clays. 
Bee working with comfrey
Put this multi-talented plant to work in your garden! 

*Information gleaned from Gaia's Garden:  A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway, available at our Powell River Library. 



Thursday, June 2, 2011

PRGC CALENDAR

EXCITEMENT RIPPLES FROM LANG CREEK

Lang Creek was the centre of much excitement on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011.  A special event was held to mark the official opening of the Lang Creek Native Plant Garden.

Despite a fierce spring storm and unseasonably cold temperatures, more than ninety guests armed with umbrellas, hats, and a few blankets, came out for the occasion. The event, which was hosted by the PRSS Native Plant Garden Steering Committee, provided an opportunity for the Friends of the Garden to thank the many sponsors, donors, supporters, and volunteers who have generously contributed towards the development of the gardens and evolving eco-education centre.

Highlights of the Day

The Salmon Garden art installation featuring metal sculptures and ornamental grasses
• Beautiful new student benches, gifts of Powell River Schools
• British Columbia Native Plant Garden in bloom
• New educational signage throughout
• Musical Tribute featuring the Henderson Elementary School Choir
• Dedication of the new Seniors' Bench, gift of the Powell River First Credit Union
Refreshments served in the Gazebo

Salmon Garden

Student Benches
Two four-foot by eight-foot signs were erected just in time for the celebration. They are protected in a handsome kiosk built by the Powell River Bomb Squad. The signs, which have been five months in the making, provide information about the Lang Creek Native Plant Garden, the history of the project, and information about local climate, geography, and plants representative of the South Coastal BC region.
 
The second sign provides ethnobotanical information about native plants, their many uses, and outlines how the Tla ah men people have used plants for food, shelter, medicine, construction, and in their spiritual life for millennia.  Information about the importance of Western Red-Cedar is also displayed.

Educational Signage
The Steering Committee shared information about the next phase of development, and plans
to:
  • add more specimens and develop new interest areas
  • place identification stakes with the plant names in the Sliammon language throughout the garden beds
  • erect more signs throughout the garden and grounds about Social Responsibility, The Relationship between Plants and Salmon, Gardening with Native Plants, Invasive Plants, Bird Life, Beneficial Insects, Black Bears, and Small Mammals
  • develop study units and learning kits for teachers to use with their students
To donate to the Powell River Salmon Society Native Plant Garden please contact:
Shane Dobler, Manager, Powell River Salmon Society, 5775 Ash Street, Powell River, BC V8A 4R3

For more information please contact members of the Lang Creek Native Plant Garden Steering Committee:
Liz Kennedy, lizkennedy@shaw.ca
Michael Stewart, michaelstewart@shaw.ca
Gail Scholefield, gailwarning7188@yahoo.ca
Shirley Cole, Master Gardener, svcole@shaw.ca
Laura Johnson, PRSS Secretary, laurabay@telus.net

Excerpts of article provided by Gail Scholefield, Lang Creek Native Plant Garden Steering Committee
Recent news:  
  • Mother Nature will be donating 20 stepping stones for the Salmon Garden and area around the new large signage.
  • This past Saturday, staff from the Royal Bank came out for a work party and BBQ in the parking lot.  It was great to have their help and see them enjoying the new benches.
 "It's wonderful to have such positive, community support."