Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sustainable Peat Moss?

Consider the environmental costs of using it.

Before the mid-1900s, peat moss was largely unavailable and unused by gardeners and farmers in the United States. In the decades since then, peat’s popularity has increased dramatically. And with it, an unanswered question: Is peat moss a responsible and sustainable choice for gardeners?

Peat is the partially decomposed remains of plants, most commonly sphagnum moss. It forms over many millennia in bogs, marshes, and swamps—known as peatlands or peat bogs—often gaining less than a millimeter in depth every year. The process is simple but very slow.

As sphagnum moss grows on the surface of a bog, the older parts of the plant are submerged in oxygen-poor water. The lack of oxygen slows decomposition dramatically, preserving the moss and anything else that falls into the bog. Given enough time, submerged sphagnum moss forms the dense, absorbent material known as peat moss. Left alone, the process won’t stop there. Although the transformation requires eons, undisturbed peat will eventually form coal. Peat is essentially young coal—a baby fossil fuel. And, like all fossil fuels, it is rich in carbon.

A 2009 article in the journal Science makes the claim that, “meter for meter, peatlands store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem.” All told, the world’s peat bogs store approximately 562 billion tons of carbon—more than all the trees in the world, and roughly equivalent to half the carbon currently in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, or CO2. Healthy peat bogs accumulate an additional 110 million tons of carbon every year, more or less. All this despite the fact that peat bogs cover only 3 percent of Earth’s land and freshwater surface.

Sphagnum moss grows so slowly that management for sustainable use is a significant challenge. At the average rate of 0.6 to 0.7 millimeter per year, Canadian peat bogs add 6 to 7 centimeters in depth (less than 3 inches) over the course of a century. It will require 3,000 years to amass the 2-meter depth needed to justify the costs of extraction. Under these conditions, a fully mined peat bog will not be able to support a second “harvest” for at least 3,000 years.

Can a resource that renews itself this slowly ever be considered sustainable? If we balk at cutting down 500-year-old trees in old-growth forests, should we accept the extraction of 3,000-year-old sphagnum moss from peat bogs?

Article by Cristina Santiestevan from Organic Gardening, Feb/Mar 2011
For full article visit, http://bit.ly/e0WDmu

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Plants for Privacy

The 8 Best Plants for Privacy
Use these unexpected options that can create a unique hedge or screen.

or needled evergreens create large-scale, year-round boundaries. Their glowing hues of emerald green, blue, or gold brighten the landscape, especially in winter. Conifers, in addition, exhibit strong, vertical, and often pyramidal growth habit, which gives them a unique presence. Although they seem like an odd choice for hedges or screens, they are ideal for establishing a visual boundary in the landscape.

'Yoshino' Japanese cedar
Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 5 to 8
Growth Rate: fast
Height: 30-35 feet
Width: 5 feet Soil Preference: Will tolerate drought and will grow in dry soil but prefers well-drained/loamy, sandy or clay soils with a pH of acidic to slightly alkaline
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: Tolerant of many soils

'Gowdy' Oriental spruce
Picea orientalis 'Gowdy'

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 4 to 7
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 8-10 feet
Width: 4-5 feet
Soil Preference: Clay, moist, sandy
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: Intense dark green foliage, recurved, sweeping branches

Western red cedar
Thuja plicata and cvs

Type: Evergreen tree
Zone: 5 to 7
Growth Rate: Slow
Height: 50-70 feet
Width: 20 feet
Soil Preference: moist, loamy
Light Requirements: Full sun
Attributes: tolerant of somewhat wet soils, can easily be sheared

Broad-leaved evergreens make a perfect four season fence. If the size of a conifer is too big for your space, consider one a broad-leaved evergreen that stays smaller and more more compact. These plants reach a mature size quickly and flower readily, some even have berries, which give them added appeal.

Ilex glabra and cvs

Type: Broad-leaved evergreen shrub
Zone: 5
Growth Rate: moderate
Height: 4-8 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Soil Preference: adequate soil moisture, acidic pH
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: tolerates wet soil, lustrous dark green glossy, black berries

Photo by admin
Heavenly bamboo
Nandina domestica

Type: semi-evergreen woody shrub
Zone: 6-9
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6-8 feet, clumping spreader
Soil Preference: prefers rich, moist to average soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to shade
Attributes: tolerates dry spells once established, panicles of bright red berries that hold on for months, Plant can become invasive in warmer climates

Deciduous shrubs create unobtrusive screens. A quality a plant needs to be an effective hedge or screen is a dense growth habit. Even in winter, when these shrubs have no foliage, their thick branching habit will create a visual barrier. If you're looking to create an informal screen or would like to use a plant that offers more than predictable green leaves, try these options, which have attractive foliage as well as interesting blooms.

photo by Northscaping.com

Chinese neillia
Neillia sinensis

Type: woody shrub
Zone: 5a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: tolerant of urban pollution, red fall color, showy peeling bark for winter interest

Cutleaf stephanandra
Stephanandra incisa

Type: low growing shrub
Zone: 4a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 5 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average, acidic soils
Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Attributes: emerald green, fine textured foliage emerging burgundy in spring, orange fall color

Buttercup winter hazel
Corylopsis pauciflora

Type: multi-stemmed deciduous shrub
Zone: 6a
Growth Rate: fast
Size: 6 foot tall, 8 foot spread
Soil Preference: moist to average, prefers rich soil
Light Requirements: Full sun to shade
Attributes: fragrant lemon yellow in early spring, forest green foliage turning outstanding yellow in fall, relatively low maintenance

Article by Vincent A. Simeone from Fine Gardening, Feb 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Plant Pick

American cranberry
Vaccinium macrocarpon

Zones: 2 to 7
Size: 6 inches tall and indefinite spread
Conditions: Full sun; moist to wet, acidic soil

An evergreen shrub, American cranberry can be successful used as a ground cover in wet areas or as an elegant accent along the edge of a pond. The tiny leaves line 8 to 10 inch long vines that look like branches, The delicate pink flowers are barely noticeable in early summer, but you can't miss the bright scarlet fruit that follow. The cranberries will be larger than what you might see sold in the grocery store. they ripen as the plant's foliage turns purple in the fall, and they taste sweeter after the first frost.

Article by Petie Reed for Fine Gardening Dec 2010