Never easy

My mother always said nothing worthwhile is easy. I guess she was right. We went to Elm and Atlantic to plant this morning. The guys from Davey had these very intimidating power augers to make the holes for planting. Well, the lot was not intimidated. We were lucky to get the augers to drill more than a couple inches down. This lot was once a gas station. There is a lot of old concrete, asphalt and other inorganic material compacting the earth to a serious degree.

So, on to Plan B. County Treasurer and Land Bank Chairman Sam Lamancusa is working on getting a piece of heavy equipment onto the lot to break up the first foot or so of substrata so we can mix in some topsoil and plant soon.

Meanwhile, author and documentarian Catherine Zimmerman left at 4 this morning from her home near Washington DC to film in Warren. We couldn’t waste her visit so we took her around town and she got some good shots and plans to come back in September. Many thanks to Lou Lepro, Diane Sauer, and Greg Bartholomew for helping us preserve the gregg’s garden story for posterity.

I want everyone to know that we aren’t giving up or compromising in any way on the projects. We’ve hit a few speed bumps for sure but that’s life — we will keep plowing forward.

Planting Thursday

This Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. Davey will begin planting the big garden at the corner of Elm and Atlantic across the street from Harding High School. The first couple of hours will be devoted to laying in a layer of soil. Wildflowers and native plants actually like poor soil conditions but there are parts of this lot that are more akin to asphalt than dirt.

Once the soil is in they will begin planting the plugs — or baby plants as I call them. This work is likely to continue all day.

It’s going to be a hot one but stop by and say hello. We are hopeful that Catherine Zimmerman will be there for a least part of the day shooting video for her new DVD series “Wildlife Gardens by Example.”

Thank you Horseshoe Bar

Gregg Snyder, for whom gregg’s gardens is named was a bartender at the Horseshoe and the idea for memorializing him was born on the patio of the ‘shoe. It is the place members of The Wild Bunch (gg volunteers) usually meet to update one-another. We raised $2000 there recently thanks to Gregg’s many friends and the Dennis Drummond Group.

And now The Horseshoe Bar is the newest sponsor of a full gregg’s garden, for which we thank them deeply. See their page under the “Gardens” menu for a cool video and an old photo from back in the day.

You can find the Horseshoe at 206 East Market Street on the corner of Pine, or visit them on Facebook.

What we’re planting

Man, this is a tough town. Davey went back in to apply herbicide today and to mow certain of the lots and one of our prospective gardens killed their industrial-strength mower. But never fear — we won’t give up but it will require another trip in to spray next week.

We have a tentative date of June 28th for planting the flagship garden on Elm and Atlantic and the following list of plugs that will be planted:

  • Ox Eye Sunflower
  • Nodding Wild Rye
  • Butterfly Weed (above)
  • Lanceleaf Coreopsis
  • Wild Bergamot (below)
  • Virginia Mountain Mint
  • Prairie Blazing Star
  • Sweet Joe Pye
  • Stiff Goldenrod

John Stewart would have a field day with that last one. I’ll post more photos soon.

Herbicide Friday

Tomorrow is Herbicide Friday. We are going to have a second application of weed-killer sprayed on the lots in order to make the weeds even deader.

We have had a couple of questions about the herbicide; it is Roundup, the most commonly used herbicide in the world. It has been in broad use for 40 years and can be purchased in almost any hardware store. According to the EPA it presents no health risk. That said, it is advisable for both humans and pets to stay off the lots for at least 48 hours after application.

Important update

Since we’ve had remarkable success our previous updates have been pretty simple, straight-line progress reports on the gregg’s gardens project, but with anything this complex a bump-in-the-road was bound to happen eventually and we’ve just had one.

So while there is nothing to worry about as we have already put a very good Plan B in action, we have so many supporters in this grand adventure that it is very important to be 100% transparent about everything we do. So, here’s the update:

The false early spring and weird weather that came with it delayed the application of the herbicide on the vacant lots until May 18th — a little later than we originally planned. If you’ve been by the lots you know it is working, as they are very dry and yellow now, but on May 30th, Catherine Zimmerman, a noted author of books and videos on wildflowers and a certified horticulturist and landscape designer visited Warren and toured the future garden sites. She told us that in her opinion most of the lots need an additional herbicide application and more time to let it do its work. (Even the weeds are tough in this town.)

We also consulted with our contractor, David Riddell, from the Resource Group of the Davey Tree Expert Company. Dave is a biologist with extensive experience working with wildflowers and native grasses. He agreed with Catherine that the lots would benefit greatly from an additional herbicide application. Both experts emphasized that weeds are the biggest threat to establishing great wildflower gardens and that if we kill them all off now and give the wildflowers seeds an even start they will out-compete the weeds.

So in the interest of the long-term success of the gardens we are applying more herbicide next week; however we need to allow it at least a few weeks to do its job, which takes us into mid-July when it will be too hot to plant. Fortunately that does not mean we have to wait until next spring as wildflowers do very well when planted in the autumn – in fact there are some advantages to waiting until the cooler weather returns.

But as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, that means no flowers this spring on most of the lots. Most, but not all.

Our “demonstration garden” located at the corner of Elm and Atlantic across from Warren G. Harding High School will be a very visible exception. Because of a grant we won and because of the cooperation we received from the WGH graduating classes of 1967, 1968 and 1969 we will be able to plant that most visible garden later this month using “plugs” (baby plants) rather than simply seeding them as we will do with the other gardens.

This will give the Elm & Atlantic garden a big, bold start, and to ensure success, Davey is providing their hands-on care of that garden for the next year as a special “value-added” service to the community. This should result in something very special there. We will keep you posted on the planting date.

These changes haven’t been that expensive but they were not expected. The extra herbicide application will cost about $150 per lot or a total of about $3000. Fortunately we are blessed with a great roster of sponsors and, once again, one of them saved the day.

Do you remember Mr. A? He made a very generous donation early in the project and asked that he remain anonymous. Mr. A has now given us his blessing to use his donation to pay for the added weed-killing, and while this will result in a fewer gardens in phase one of the project it also means better quality and longevity for the ones we create.

Most people would agree that it is more important to create 20 really good gardens than 25 that do not impress.

All 20 Atlantic Street lots targeted in phase one will still be turned into wildflower gardens and we expect them to outlive the grass, weeds, dandelions, thistle, and various and sundry other unattractive vegetation they are replacing by decades.

We regret that this means we will have to look at yellowed, dried-up straw in these lots this summer, but we believe strongly that the long term benefits will be worth it.

This is the (probably too long) story as best as I can tell it but if you have more questions please don’t hesitate to ask them either in the comment section below or by email to: info@warrenexpressed.

Thanks for your support and understanding.

Amp it up!

Tonight is opening night for gregg’s garden sponsor “Country @ the Amp,” featuring a tribute to Tim McGraw.

The show starts at 7:00. It’s going to be a beautiful evening; I hope to see you there.

Our secret weapon

We’re blessed to have knowledgeable professionals and dedicated volunteers helping create gregg’s gardens, but our secret weapon is a documentary film producer, author, environmentalist, certified horticulturist and landscape designer named Catherine Zimmerman (right).

While Catherine now lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC she grew up on a farm near Dayton. She and I have had an email acquaintanceship for the past year or so and she has followed gregg’s gardens from its inception. Last week she stopped in Warren for a few hours on her way back to DC after visiting relatives in Ohio; so I finally got a chance to meet her and thank her. Catherine offered a lot of encouragement early on and her book was a big help in planning and explaining the concept for our wildflower and native plant gardens — or our “urban prairies” as she might call them.

On her trip to Warren last week she also offered some very specific practical advice on planning and developing our gardens. I’ll go into more detail on her suggestions in another post in a few days; I want to use this post just to encourage all of you to visit Catherine’s web site, The Meadow Project. Here are a couple of very good reasons to do so with a direct link to the relevant pages on her site:

  1. She’s a really interesting person. I found out about her by seeing Jane Pauley interview her for a Today Show segment, which is just a few minutes long and can be seen here.
  2. She has written a wonderful book about creating urban and suburban meadows called, not surprisingly, “Urban and Suburban Meadows” (below). The book is great and offers step-by-step directions; given her film experience it is also not surprising that she produced a companion DVD that is just as informative and very beautifully filmed. You can see a clip from the DVD and order it and/or her book here.

There is a good chance Catherine will visit us again this year to film the planting of our big garden at Elm and Atlantic. We hope to get her to stay long enough so that others can meet her, but in the mean time visit The Meadow Project; you’ll enjoy it.