Native Plants in Malta, NY

20140407-160339.jpg Native Plants in Malta, NY
Since the dawn of 2014 two months ago, there’s been an astonishing and welcome push for sustainability in the landscaping industry I work in. Not unlike a tsunami. The year started out with an article on Forbes website about the biodiversity crisis in our country and sincere education about using native plant species in our landscaping for wildlife population and habitat restoration. I think that’s as mainstream as it gets. And just last week an excellent article was published on the Huffington Post expressing in blunt terms the selfishness of continuing to design gardens and landscaping according to any other aesthetic than beauty through habitat restoration. With my background in Ecology, my years of experience developing habitat restoration landscape designs with native plants for homes and businesses and my passion for wildlife conservation I couldn’t be happier for the explosive push in the landscaping industry and online environment toward native plant use and sustainable methods. Saratoga County has been environmentally conscious for a long time, and all the whirlwind construction and development happening in Malta, NY around exit 12 makes me hopeful that more native plants will be used in the landscaping.

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Native plants are the missing link in landscaping and garden designs that can make inroads into habitat restoration. Butterfly species that are marginalized can see a seamless localized population bump when we knowingly or unknowingly plant their (usually native) species host plants. Malta, NY has used so much thoughtfulness and care regarding the development of the town. Small businesses are encouraged and a small urban corridor that’s almost European in style has unfolded, and is unfolding. Sustainable landscape design, eco-friendly landscape design that includes tons of native plants in Malta, NY, and all the other wonderful parts of Saratoga County is just sensible at this point. All the decision makers in Malta have done a nice job of creating a community that’s aesthetically pleasing, supportive of small businesses, safe for families and decently respectful of the treasure that is Saratoga County’s pristine wetland and forest habitats when developing. It will set Malta apart on a national level if all the landscaping that is about to happen in the coming storm of urban development is done using sustainable methods and includes lots of native plants.

20140409-100449.jpg Perfect location for good things to happen. Town of Malta Ecological Park is located on Malta Ave.

Native Plant Medicine

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Over the past month, I’ve started writing about something dear to me on the other website I contribute to. The articles focused on native plants, and how they have been used over time medicinally. The articles can be viewed in full here:
Wildlife Gardening Medicine. and:
Wildlife Gardening Medicine, episode II

The basic premise is that the same gorgeous, beloved native plants, or wildflowers, or plants indigenous to our region, have healing properties that were once used regularly by the First Nations people who lived here. And further, as we plant more and more of them with the motive of making inroads to neighborhood ecosystem revitalization and habitat restoration, maybe we can learn something about how to heal ourselves and each other too.

Winter Seed Sowing Projects

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In the northeast, winter’s dreary cold can almost make us forget the glorious spectacle and fun of summer. A close connection to the land and growing things starts to feel like a distant memory, but many gardeners and nature lovers overcome this by engaging in winter seed sowing projects. There are several styles of winter seed sowing, including the uncomplicated free throwing version demonstrated by my farmer friend in the photo above, with Eupatorium dubium seeds. There’s really no wrong way to do this method of wildflower seed sowing, as long as seeds are spread early enough in the season to allow the process of scarification- the freezing and thawing to crack the tough perennial seed hull- to complete. When spreading seeds freely outside in the winter, we are always careful to limit our species choices to wildflowers native to New York state, because native plants begin the process of habitat restoration by supplying food to our native wildlife.

20140130-190130.jpg Another, more controlled method of winter seed sowing is a simple project utilizing the clear plastic containers that spinach, kale or salad greens come in. Some people also use milk gallons and clear soda bottles. This works by creating a modified greenhouse effect: the environment inside the plastic container warms up and accentuates the sunlight each day, even though it is many times smaller than the greenhouses used in commercial nurseries. Holes must be cut into the tops and bottoms of each container for ventilation and drainage purposes. A fine layer of soil or other light organic potting material is layered with seeds and hope.

20140130-191030.jpg It’s exciting to know the quiet process of seed germination is happening on our back porch through the snowy, icy dark months of the year. Our favorite plant species native to Saratoga are represented including Vernonia noveboracensis (NY Ironweed), Asclepias incarnata (classic Monarch butterfly larval host plant, Swamp Milkweed), Eupatorium perfoliatum (Boneset), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinalflower) and Eupatorium maculata (Joe Pye Weed). A project like this has no guarantee on success, in fact it feels a lot like a crap shoot. Regardless of the outcome though, winter seed sowing projects are fun, they enlarge our imagination’s space for daydreams of nature and they make spring feel that much closer.