Gardening Education

Winter Review: are you invasive species savvy?

Winter is the ideal dream time for cold-climate gardeners, but it’s also a perfect time to review good gardening practices and increase your gardening knowledge. For this Winter Review we’ll examine invasive species.

February 23 to 28, 2014 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Since winter snow covers most of Connecticut and cold temperatures continue to keep most gardeners inside, now is a great time read 10 Ways To Observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

There are many ways to prevent spreading invasive plants and creatures that seriously impact native species:

  • cleaning hiking boots, waders, boats/trailers, off-road vehicles, and other equipment or gear on which an invasive seed, plant, or creature may hitch a ride;
  • not dumping aquariums or live bait into waterways – something I thought was a no-duh;
  • using hay, mulch, and soil designated weed-free;
  • and planting only non-invasive landscape plants.

But, there are other means by which invasive plants and creatures spread: seeds and plant pieces may hitch a ride on gardening and lawn mowing equipment; potentially invasive weeds and seeds may arrive in nursery plants; and gardeners can inadvertently transport potentially invasive species by sharing plants from yard to yard or region to region. Even firewood can hide invasive insects – are you aware of the Emerald Ash Borer-caused ban on moving wood from ash trees and firewood out of New Haven county?

To become invasive species savvy, gardeners, homeowners, landscape workers – in essence everyone – must know where to find solid, trustworthy information. In Connecticut, start with

For a plant to be listed as invasive in Connecticut, it must be non-native and harm the environment, human health or cause economic harm in minimally managed areas (woodlands, waterways, open spaces) through its ability to establish and rapidly grow in a wide variety of conditions, reproduce prolifically, disperse over wide areas by vegetative fragments and/or seeds, and lack the growth and reproductive controls evident in the plant’s native regions.

A few of Connecticut’s most prolific terrestrial invasive plants include

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Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), as young plants and roots above;

 

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Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) as young plants, above, and en-masse, below, in early spring;

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and Japanese Stilt Grass (Microstegium vimineum) as it emerges in early summer …

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and shortly before it goes to flower and seed.

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Connecticut is also plagued by Autumn Olive (Elaegnus umbellata), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum (Falopia) cuspidatum), Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora), Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus), and multiple other trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, grasses and aquatic plants.

The Invasive Plant Atlas of New England is another great resource for New Englanders. Those in other regions should research the invasive species information provided by their state.

Learning about invasive species is an ongoing process … after gardening for more than three decades, I’m still learning. Every region is different, but learning what is already determined to be invasive in your area is the FIRST STEP in becoming invasive species savvy.

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Learn About Gardening, Small-Scale Farming – CT NOFA Winter Conference

If you are interested in growing your own food, community gardening, small-scale farming, or any related topics consider attending the CT NOFA Winter Conference on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Held at Western Connecticut State University, this year’s conference will be the 32nd annual winter conference held by the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). CT NOFA consists of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals and consumers working together to promote healthy, organic, and sustainable gardening and farming practices. CT NOFA also works to educate consumers about such practices and encourages them to support local growers and farmers growing food using such methods.

Press Release Winter Conference 2014 (2)One does not have to be a large grower to glean useful and valuable information and training from the many, many topics presented at the Winter Conference. Anyone, even balcony gardeners, interested in learning more about organic and sustainable food growing and production methods can find something of interest at the conference.

Click topics to scroll through the long list of workshops. Click Registration to sign up.

Registration remains open until February 24, 2014.

Even if you cannot attend CT NOFA’s Winter Conference, take some time to learn more about CT NOFA. They offer resources for gardeners, seasoned farmers and those wanting to try their farming skills, creating school and community gardens, organic landscape practices, and they annually publish a guide to Connecticut’s Organic Farms and Orchards.

Getting to know CT NOFA is a wonderful way to increase your understanding of and connection to local growers, some of whom may be your neighbors.

AT a time when consumers are so bombarded by goods and services from lands afar, CT NOFA acts as a local resource for local growers, producers and consumers.

Check them out.

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