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A Garden by Firelight

A Garden by Firelight


Posted on Oct 27, 2016 | 0 comments

Autumn means the nights are longer and chillier, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be filled with light. Don’t shoo your garden parties inside when you can enjoy the crisp fall evening by the warm brightness of firelight.

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If your problem is not too much rain, but too little, again we can look to nature for solutions. In nature you don’t see lush tropical plants trying to grow in the desert. Rather, the flora follows the climate, with plants growing only as full and lush as the local water sources allow. We can learn from nature’s wisdom by adapting our gardens to suit our climate and by making good use of every raindrop the sky gives us! We can mimic the water cycle by carefully conserving and re-using our water supplies. Mimicking deserts and prairies by landscaping with drought-tolerant native species rather than “thirsty” turfgrass and ornamentals. And for those of us that are really ambitious, we can mimic the way that forest landscapes hold onto rain by utilizing techniques like Hugelkultur and swales.

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One of the numerous negative ecological effects of urban development is a higher rate of soil erosion. Forests naturally hold on to soil with their roots. Trees slow the fall of raindrops to keep them from disrupting the soil. The natural bumps and hillocks in the landscape break up the flow of water, giving it more opportunity to be absorbed by plant roots and filtered through the soil before it winds its way into creeks, streams, and rivers.

These natural soil-defense mechanisms do not exist in developed land, where rain falls on rooftops, asphalt, and flat lawns covered in relatively sparse, shallow-rooted plants.

All this means that on developed land, wind and rain carries off much more top soil, dumping it into storm drains and into the water table. This not only degrades the soil quality, but also dumps soil into the local water supply, along with oils and often-toxic pollutants.

For the sustained health of your garden and your community, you should try and minimize erosion and runoff as much as possible with careful garden design. Where downspouts empty onto your yard or where storm waters flow through it, you should take every effort to absorb and filter this water. A well-designed garden will capture water effectively, keeping plant roots moist much longer while also holding on to the soil’s nutrients and keeping pollution out of the local water table.

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Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with winter. The cold is one of the biggest killers of plants, but at the same time many plants have a chilling requirement—having adapted to a cold climate, they now require a certain length of wintry conditions to allow them to undergo the mysterious process of vernalization. 

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