When I was a little kid, Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent at my grandparent’s house. The one memory that is crystal clear (other than opening presents part) was celery stuffed with cream cheese. My grandmother would make a platter or two, and it was my job to run around carrying said platter and offer it to the adults who were hanging around waiting for dinner to be done.
The reason I mention this is not to talk about holiday meals in the middle of May, or the delights of stuffed celery, but rather because on top of that celery were tiny tasteless dried green specks. These were chives. Freeze-dried and shaken out of a spice bottle, utterly devoid of flavor, they weren’t anything to write home about. Chives, by the time I was toddling around in the 1970’s were firmly entrenched in popular culture, along with paprika and curly parsley, as food stuffs that were “strictly for looks”. » Continue Reading.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced that it is dedicating the month of April to sharing information about the threat that invasive plant pests, diseases and harmful weeds pose to America’s fruits, vegetables, trees, and other plants—and how the public can help prevent their spread. What are some actions that we can all take to help protect our Adirondack forests and waterways?
Be Plant Wise. Buy native plants and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs. Many invasive plants still commonly sold in New York have been banned in surrounding states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and others for years. Nurseries may not be selling purple loosestrife or japanese knotweed anymore, but Burning Bush, Japanese Barberry, Norway Maple, and Yellow Iris are all still commonly sold – and are very invasive. » Continue Reading.
Well, spring has been officially here for more than a week now – and the unusually warm temperatures sure have me ready to get out in the garden and get planting. And I don’t think I’m alone. Nurseries and garden centers in the area are scrambling to get their plants in earlier than usual to meet customer demands. But this recent cold front has helped snap me back to my senses, at least for a few days. We might be having an early spring, but we still have a good while until the threat of spring frosts are over. Not that a little frost bothers our hardy North Country native plants.
Labrador violet (Viola labradorica), a great native groundcover with beautiful purple flowers and foliage, was flowering through the snow at the nursery last fall on October 29 and it is already flowering this spring! Now that is what I call one tough little plant.
So instead of rushing out and buying a bunch of plants, now is a great time to do some planning if you haven’t already. Just like you should have a grocery list when you go to the store to keep yourself from buying too many unhealthy (but all too tempting) snacks, you should have a plan before you arrive at the nursery (And of course part of that plan should be to buy native plants – but more on that in future posts). Otherwise, those displays of pretty flowers will suck you right in!
Remember, when selecting plants for the garden, whether native or not, always keep in mind site conditions such as sun, soil, and water. You also want to be sure to think about your zone. If you keep these things in mind, they can help stop you from those impulse plant purchases for plants that may look pretty in the catalog or on the shelf, but just aren’t meant to grow in our area. If the right plant isn’t in the right place, you can have the greenest thumb in the world, but still not be able to make it grow.
Plant Hardiness Zone Maps help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive in a location. Even when gardening with native plants, you have to keep zones in mind. For example New York State covers zones 3-7. So there might be plants native to southern New York zones 6 or 7, but they aren’t for us – since the park is mostly zone 4.
If you are an experienced gardener, you are probably very familiar with what zone you are gardening in – or at least you might think you are! In late January the USDA released a new version of hardiness zone maps for 2012.
Hardiness zones are based on the average low winter temperature. Zones are divided by 10 degree increments, with a and b subsections for 5 degree increments. In the new 2012 maps many locations across the country shifted and became a subsection warmer. So if you were a 4a you might now be a 4b, and if you were a 4b you might now be a 5a. This new map is based on 30 years of temperature data, from 1976-2005, and was created with new and improved algorithms that took elevation and other terrain features into account. The old maps were based on a shorter and older temperature record, and simpler modeling, so they had become outdated. The new maps are much more accurate for our current conditions.
Another great thing about the new map is that it is also now interactive – so it is much easier to see exactly what zone you are in. You can just enter your zip code and ta-da – the site will tell you what your new zone is! Click here to go to the USDA website and enter your zip code to try it out.
Take a look at the map and see if your zone shifted. If it did, there might be some new plants that you might want to go ahead and try out this year that you hadn’t tried before. I wouldn’t go out and plant a dozen of something new, but maybe get a few and see how they do. I know I might add some Sweetspire, Itea virginica, a great native alternative to the popular non-native butterfly bush, to some of my own gardens and see how it does. According to the new maps – it should do just fine! But I think I will do some testing on my own first for my own specific site conditions. After all, algorithms and equations are great, but they aren’t Mother Nature!
More info on local weather and gardening from Cornell Cooperative Extension can be found online.
Photos: Labrador violet flowering in the snow last October, and already again this spring.
Please join us in welcoming the Almanack‘s newest contributor, Emily DeBolt. Emily is committed to promoting native plants and landscapes. She and her husband Chris own Fiddlehead Creek Farm and Native Plant Nursery in Hartford, NY (just outside the blue line in Washington County) where they grow a wide variety of plants native to New York and the Adirondacks for sustainable landscapes.
Emily graduated from Cornell University and received a Masters Degree at SUNY-ESF, falling in love with the Adirondacks during her time in Newcomb at the Huntington Wildlife Forest. Readers may recognize Emily’s name from her work as Director of Education at the Lake George Association. Emily is a member of the New York Nursery and Landscape Association, the New York Flora Association and a member of the newly formed Adirondack Botanical Society.
The Lake George Association (LGA) is supporting a bill on invasive species recently introduced in the New York State Legislature by Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst). The bill would authorize the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish a list of invasive species that will be prohibited from being sold, transported, and introduced in New York State. Similar laws have already been passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“Invasive species can present devastating threats to the ecology of New York, and to its recreational and economic health,” local Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, the co-prime sponsor of the bill, said. “We need to do all we can to control existing invasives from spreading, and new invasives from being introduced,” she added. » Continue Reading.
Go native with your spring plantings and choose Adirondack plants for your property instead of invasive ornamentals. Invasive plants like swallow-worts, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, and giant hogweed may look beautiful, but are bad news for our economy and environment. The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District can help you choose native Adirondack alternatives for your landscaping needs. Invasive plants are a top contender for economic and environmental degradation in New York State. Damage and loss caused by invasive species affect you, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year. By planting native vegetation in your yard, garden, or forest, you are reducing erosion, improving wildlife habitat and food, providing windbreaks, promoting valuable wood production, and protecting Adirondack biodiversity. » Continue Reading.
The King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga is presenting its first Garden & Landscape Symposium, “Planting the Seeds of Knowledge for Home Gardeners,” on Saturday, April 14. This new annually planned day-long symposium, geared for both beginning and experienced gardeners, provides helpful insights from garden experts who live and garden in upstate New York and Vermont. This springtime event takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center and is open by pre-registration only. This one-day program focuses on practical, easy-to-implement strategies for expanding and improving your garden or landscape. The programs are offered in an informal setting that encourages interaction between speakers and attendees. Speakers include: » Continue Reading.
For most of us, the growing season is fairly defined by months benefiting from late spring to early autumn sun, unless we have a green house set up for year-round growing. So for vegetables and fruits, we might can, freeze or dry them to use during the winter, or store varieties like winter squash in an appropriate cool and dry place, keeping them fresh for many months. After reading Peter Brinckley’s recent piece on the Adirondack brand, I started to think more about how we cook here, and what the flavors taste like sourced near home. During the winter, our meals are often marked by stews and soups, using various cuts of meat and vegetables that benefit from slow cooking. I could probably make a soup a day during the winter, content to enjoy the slow-simmering aromatics on the stove. Sourcing from my pantry instead of my garden, I typically prepare soups with dry beans, grains and also root vegetables and squashes. » Continue Reading.
Applications for the January 2012 Master Gardener Training Program are now being accepted in Warren County. Space is limited, so contact the office soon for more information and an application. Whatever your level of experience, the program can provide either new or additional information.
After enrolling in the course, participants are given a binder of information that supplements weekly presentations by Cornell University faculty, Cooperative Extension staff, and local experts on a wide range of garden topics. The topics include basic botany; entomology; soil health; home lawn care; vegetable, fruit and flower gardening; composting; organic gardening, and other practical and interesting subject matter. If you would like to learn more about what’s going on in your own garden, share your gardening knowledge with people in your community, and you enjoy the camaraderie of fellow gardeners, please call Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County for more information at: 518-623-3291 or by e-mail at: [email protected]
WPTZ meteorologist Tom Messner reported a record high (65°F) in Montpelier Monday. The low (46°) in Saranac Lake yesterday was higher than the average high for November 14 (43°), according to Weather Underground. Last week, on November 9, Saranac Lake broke a record when the temperature reached 67°.
As much as the odd warm fall day seems to take us by surprise, temperature fluctuations are a normal part of the transition to winter. But it is strange to see fresh sprouts in the garden, which is ordinarily frozen by now.
Autumn is warming more rapidly than any other season locally, evidenced by records kept between 1975 and 2005. Paleoclimatologist Curt Stager, of Paul Smith’s College, last year analyzed data averaged from eight U.S. Historical Climatology Network stations throughout the Champlain Basin. He found that the most significant warming occurred in the fall, with an increase of 3.6°F in average temperature; year-round temperatures rose 2.1°F.
Adirondackers tend to fixate on ice-out, but Stager points out that ice-in is having a greater impact on lake cover duration. “For example, freeze-up at Mirror Lake [in Lake Placid] now comes 12 days later than it did in 1910, but spring ice-out arrives only two days earlier, and that smaller change is not statistically significant,” he concluded in Climate Change in the Champlain Basin: what natural resource managers can expect and do, a report sponsored by the Adirondack and Vermont chapters of the Nature Conservancy (and co-authored by me) in 2010. See page 10 of the report for more detail on temperature trends.
Graphs by Curt Stager, from Climate Change in the Champlain Basin. Caption: Temperatures averaged from eight USHCN weather stations in the Champlain Basin 1976–2005. The only statistically significant linear warming trends were in the annual, summer and autumn records.
Each winter, I start perusing the seed catalogs, dreaming about what will be planted when the snow recedes and the sunlight lingers longer. While I’ve planted kale over the past few seasons, this year I strayed from my favorite Tuscan or ‘dinosauer’ kale and put in some lovely Russian Red kale. I’ve been using the harvest throughout the summer and fall, adding to fresh vegetable soups, sauteed with garlic and other leafy greens as a nutritious side, and sometimes added raw to a vibrant garden salad. The warm weather gave me a bounty, but kales, in general, end up being the most flavorful and tender during the colder months. And then the snow. Luckily, most of the garden had been put to bed, but there were plenty of hardy greens remaining, curly leaves and light purple stems holding up clumps of white slushy stuff. I rescued more than a few bunches this past weekend prior to the next snowy onslaught and heavy frost, and decided to use a portion making ‘chips’ — brought along to a dinner party hosted by our friends Charlie Burd and Suvir Saran. » Continue Reading.
Each year for close to three decades, I’ve canned tomatoes. Even while living in a fifth floor walk-up in Manhattan (without air conditioning), I’d hop the subway down to the Union Square farmers’ market and load up with about 40 pounds of tomatoes and huge bunches of basil. My subway ride back to my apartment was pleasantly aromatic during those hot August days – more than can be said for my trip out to market.
I’d ‘put up’ many jars of cooked tomatoes, sauce, and puree, and this process always signaled the easing into summer’s end. The benefit of this heat-filled project has always been the bright red-orange glass jars sitting on the pantry shelves, especially during a bleak day in February, when it feels as if the summer sun ran away for good. » Continue Reading.
Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor to Adirondack Almanack, Annette Nielsen. Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life. A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen will be writing about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Her first post will run shortly. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.
After being postponed due to storm damage in the Keene region, the Fourth Annual Great Adirondack Rutabaga Festival, sponsored by Adirondack Harvest, The Adirondack Farmers Market Cooperative, The Fallen Arch and the Town of Keene, has been rescheduled. It will be held at Marcy Field in the town of Keene from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM on Sunday October 9th, 2011.
The festivities begin with a Rutabaga 5K Run across flat terrain at 9:00 AM. Runner registration begins at 8:00 AM. or register online at Active.com or the Adirondack Harvest website below. $15 fee includes t-shirt and refreshments. Awards given for top finishers in many age groups. » Continue Reading.
It is inevitable. Regardless of how nice the summer has been, a time comes in September when the first frost of the season coats every exposed surface with a layer of ice crystals and brings about the official end of the growing season.
While this event causes gardeners to panic about harvesting nearly ripened vegetables, and homeowners to cover up, or bring in their delicate flowering plants, it also brings about the demise of the many forms of life that are unable to tolerate freezing conditions. While there are numerous living entities in our region that can’t survive temperatures below 32 degrees, most are capable, after developing special adaptations that allow them to deal with the changes that are soon to come. » Continue Reading.
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