The first step in making a plan for my land is thinking about what goals I have both short and long term. I don’t need the land for timber production, or for agriculture, and the land can’t be subdivided.
The long term goal is to preserve and improve habitat for wildlife diversity and to support pollinators. In addition, I have the following goals:
- Produce vegetables in sufficient abundance that I can preserve for the winter
- Plant flowers to support pollinators
- Convert most of the lawn to meadow
- Plant to provide organic pest control
- Plant fruit trees
- Control invasive plants (autumn olive, buckthorn, multiflora rose) so they don’t overwhelm the native plants
Then there are a few practical considerations:
- Keep the invasive brush back from the driveway so keep access clear, particularly for plowing
- Make sure the septic system leach field stays clear of brush
- Install a solar powered electric fence to keep deer and woodchucks out of the vegetable garden
- Develop a drip watering system for the garden that will conserve water
- Develop a better composting system that can dispose of kitchen waste and also provide compost for the garden
All this seems really daunting – where to start? I have to remember that I am here for the long term and not everything has to happen at once. But there are a few things that seemed like obvious first steps: letting the lawn develop into a meadow, and starting a patch for a vegetable garden.
UNH Extension Visit
Today (August 11, 2016) three experts from UNH Extension paid me a visit to talk about my goals, walk the land, and give me advice: Matt Tarr, Emma Tutein, and Haley Andreozzie (contact listings) came out and the first thing they asked me is what do I hope to learn by the end of the visit. I said the key things I was interested in were:
- How to manage the invasive autumn olive, buckthorn and multi-flora rose that were surrounding my meadow and threatening to overwhelm it, and the same issue up and down both sides of the driveway?
- In the dense forest on the back of my property, would it help wildlife to open up parts of the denser forest to increase the diversity of the forest?
- Their ideas of how to manage the meadow that is coming in to optimize pollinator support?
Of course, we picked a day that was blazing hot, and worse, I forgot to take pictures! We saw a blue heron,
heard what Matt thought might be an osprey calling, saw a flock of bluebirds, and even a Northern Flicker that had flown into my window and was stunned, on my deck (she flew away later). We saw feathers from wild turkey and scat from the deer, the woodchuck hole by the pond, newts in the pond, and mysterious claw marks on a tree that looked like something had been chewing or clawing on it regularly.
But what did I learn? LOTS! Here are a few tidbits:
- The low brushy prickly bush in the woods is barberry. It provides good cover and food in the winter, and since we found it in the woods that were pretty barren of understory due to so many deer eating everything else, its good to leave it.
- Some of the smaller trees in the woods on the west side of the meadow are grey dogwood – a native species.
- The area behind the house toward the river, where the shagbark hickory trees are growing, is full of small white pines that have grown up over the last 5 years – although they may impede my river view, its good to leave them, because in this area there are significantly fewer invasive shrubs, and removing the pines would invite invasives in.
- Their are two creeping vines on the trees lining my driveway – Virginia Creeper is good as its native, and Bittersweet is bad as its invasive. I have a lot of both!
How to manage the invasives by the meadow and on the sides of the driveway?
- They suggested hiring contractors that have a piece of machinery called a brontosaurus and gave me names and phone numbers of several. Here’s a picture I got from Google that I think is what they are talking about.
- Should I open up the forest (cut some trees) to increase understory and diversity?
A resounding NO from all three! If I did that, it would only encourage the invasive species that are already there, just waiting for some sunlight to take over. Right now, the woods on the east side of the property are “walkable” in that the understory is scarce due to the deer eating everything in sight. On the west side of the property, there is much more of a tangle, and that is probably not what I want.
- As for managing the meadow, continue to let it do what it is doing – grow in, but some interesting ideas about how to encourage flowers, which I will describe in a separate post with more details on the meadow, but some really great ideas of how to get some more pollinator friendly plants in there.
(See resources page for some thoughts about how you can work with the UNH folks and what they can do to help you with YOUR plan.)