Tree-Planting This Saturday, May 7

On May 7, children and adults are invited to join us on our mission to plant 100 trees on the Better Farm property in 2016.

Each year since 2010, Better Farm has committed to planting at least 100 trees on the property. Varietals include fruit trees to evergreens, oaks, maples, and much more.

On Saturday, we'll be planting 50 white spruces throughout the Better Farm property. We will have some shovels here, but you are encouraged to bring your own -- along with sensible shoes or hiking boots. Refreshments will be served!

Following the tree-planting, a group of us will be heading over to Macsherry Library in Alexandria Bay for their annual Garden Day celebration, featuring free seeds, gardening magazines, refreshments, a beekeeping demo and much more. All are welcome!

11 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost: FREE. Please pre-register by emailing: info@betterfarm.org

Inspiring Young Loraxes in the North Country

Volunteers helped to plant 50 white spruce trees on the Better Farm campus in the last week.
In its third year of a partnership with the DEC, Better Farm over the weekend planted 50 white spruce trees to help educate North Country youth about conservation and land stewardship.


The Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program seeks to encourage young people to learn about the natural world and the value of trees in it. We use the tree-planting to provide visitors to Better Farm with the knowledge of how beneficial trees are to the environment.

Each year, we pledge to plant at least 100 trees on the property of Better Farm and in its surrounding environs. This process replenishes our local habitat and compensates for the loss of trees throughout the year due to a variety of factors (namely ice storms!). We also harvest standing-dead trees on the property, which makes way for new growth. In the last two years, we've planted 150 trees from the DEC, dozens of fruit trees, weeping willows, transplanted at least 30 pine trees, and started from seed more than 150 black walnuts. We have 50 more trees to plant this spring—email us to get involved!

Most of us recognize the beauty of trees and their many other values. Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent erosion. They help protect our streams and lakes by stabilizing soil and using nutrients that would otherwise wash into waterways. Trees help moderate temperature and muffle noise. They even help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us, and by giving off oxygen.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what they need, and how they grow. Reps from Better Farm  use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while including many subjects that their classes are studying. As seedlings mature, the young trees can be a continuing, personalized way of relating what they've learned in books to visible, living examples. We'll be utilizing mulch and compost while we plant, so students gain the added benefit of learning about how their food waste can help nourish other plants.

Better Farm's sustainability students will provide ongoing care to the young trees throughout their development.

here's one of our volunteers reading an excerpt from Dr. Seuss' classic book, The Lorax.

Join us May 11 for Better Farm's Volunteer Day! Click here for more details.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Educational Tree-Planting Partnership with DEC Enters Third Year

White spruce illustration by Aljos Farjon, reprinted from conifers.org.
Better Farm is entering its third year of a partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program, which seeks to encourage young people to learn about the natural world and the value of trees in it. We will invite local youngsters this spring to join us for a morning of planting 50 white spruce seedlings on our property, our mission being to provide visitors to Better Farm with the knowledge of how beneficial trees are to the environment.


Each year, we pledge to plant at least 100 trees on the property of Better Farm and in its surrounding environs. This process replenishes our local habitat and compensates for the loss of trees throughout the year due to a variety of factors (namely ice storms!). We also harvest standing-dead trees on the property, which makes way for new growth. In the last two years, we've planted 100 trees from the DEC, dozens of fruit trees, weeping willows, transplanted at least 30 pine trees, and started from seed more than 150 black walnuts.

Most of us recognize the beauty of trees and their many other values. Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent erosion. They help protect our streams and lakes by stabilizing soil and using nutrients that would otherwise wash into waterways. Trees help moderate temperature and muffle noise. They even help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us, and by giving off oxygen.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what they need, and how they grow. Reps from Better Farm will  use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while including many subjects that their classes are studying. As seedlings mature, the young trees can be a continuing, personalized way of relating what they've learned in books to visible, living examples. We'll be utilizing mulch and compost while we plant, so students gain the added benefit of learning about how their food waste can help nourish other plants.

Better Farm's sustainability students will provide ongoing care to the young trees throughout their development.


Stay tuned for our planting date! In the meantime, learn more about this program by clicking here.
 To be notified via email or phone of the tree-planting date when it is determine, email us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Speaking for the Trees

Baby white spruce trees.
We planted 50 white spruce trees yesterday at Better Farm, which will allow us to teach land stewardship to children and adults for many years to come. The trees came courtesy of the Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program, which seeks to encourage young people to learn about the natural world and the value of trees in it.

Our trees will be tended by children and adults living, working, and volunteering at Better Farm throughout the coming months and years; performing soil tests, learning hands-on the value of repopulating trees throughout a region, researching the air and soil purification trees provide, and more.
A bit about white spruces (gleaned from Hidden Springs Tree Farm):

Picea glauca (Moench) Voss

Description:White Spruce

White spruce is a medium-sized conifer found in northeastern United States and throughout Canada. It is the state tree of South Dakota. White spruce has a cone-shaped crown, and when grown in the open develops a conical crown which extends nearly to the ground. This habit along with the spreading branches give it a nice appearance for use as an ornamental. Trees often reach 80-140 feet in height and 1.5 to 3 feet in diameter. The oldest white spruce may reach 300 years of age.
Leaves (needles) are needle-shaped, and are often somewhat crowded on the upper half of the branchlets. Needles are usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, blunt at the tip and green to bluish-green in color. Typically, needles are 4 angled (4-sided) and are present on short twig-like structures on the stem (sterigmata). When crushed, needles have a disagreeable odor, thus, the common name of "skunk spruce" or "cat spruce" is often used by those familiar with the species. The bark is thin, light grayish-brown and is produced in irregular, thin, scaly plates.

The species is monecious, meaning both male and female flowers (strobili) are found on the same tree. Pollination occurs in the spring and cones mature in one season. Cones are slender about 1 1/4 to 2 inches long and ripen in early fall. Cones are pale brown at maturity with scales that are thin, flexible, and rounded. Cones usually fall from the tree shortly after seeds are shed.

White spruce is tolerant of a considerable amount of shade. Its best growth is on moist, acidic, loamy soils and is often found on stream banks, lake shores and adjacent slopes. The species seldom occurs in pure stands but grows in association with balsam fir, black spruce, eastern hemlock, trembling aspen, and other northern hardwoods.

Leaves of white spruce are often infected by rust diseases resulting in premature shedding of needles. The two most important insect pests are spruce budworm and spruce sawfly.

As a Christmas tree, white spruce has excellent foliage color, short stiff needles and a good natural shape. Needle retention is better than some of other spruce species.

Range:

White spruce has one of the largest ranges of any North American conifer. It can be found from Newfoundland to Alaska and southward to the United States in New England and the Lake States. It occurs from sea level to 5600 ft. in elevation. A taxonomic variety of white spruce, densata, can be found in the Black Hills of South Dakota and is often sold commercially as "Black Hills spruce". The variety albertiana is sold as "western white spruce" or "Alberta white spruce", although some experts believe it may be a form of densata. A total of over 30 cultivated varieties of white spruce have been identified.

Propagation:

Most propagation is by seed, although both rooting and grafting has been successful. Vegetative propagation by rooting or grafting has been used to increase the number of plants of rarer forms.

Uses:

The wood of white spruce is light, soft, and straight grained. Its primary uses have been for pulpwood, lumber, furniture, and boxes and crates. More elegant uses include sounding boards for pianos and violins. The tough, pliable roots were once used by Indians to lace birchbark canoes and to make woven baskets.
White spruce is important as a source of food for grouse and seed eating birds. Red squirrels often cut cones as they mature and eat the seeds. Porcupines are considered destructive pests as they often eat the bark, particularly of young trees. Black bears may also strip white spruce bark for the sweet sapwood.


Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

The Fruits of Our Labor

3-in-1 citrus tree, three kiwis, and a banana tree gain some ground in pots.
Fruit trees are here! We wrote back in March about all the fruit trees we ordered to create a small orchard on Better Farm's property. A bunch of those trees arrived last week in various shapes and sizes, which means we've been very busy getting trees planted outside, starting some immature trees and vines in pots on the back deck, and preparing the grounds for the rest of our fruity arrivals.

Whether you order very young trees that need to go in pots first, or if you're planting directly into the ground outside, we've got a few basic recommendations.

Upon Arrival
Be sure to give your plants a great watering the second they arrive. They've been in transit a long time, and will be relieved to get some fresh air and a tall drink! If you can't plant your trees or plants as soon as you get them, store them in a cool, dark place for a day or two. If your tree arrives dormant (or in the case of evergreens), soak overnight in a bucket of water.


Planting
Whether starting them off in pots or digging out holes in the ground, make sure you give the roots plenty of room. Dig a hole three times the size of the root ball, or put the plant or tree in a pot that gives the roots full room to stretch out.

Give your plants a lot of yummy things to eat.  In the bottom of your hole or pot, put in some dead leaves, hay or straw, and a hearty scoop of fresh compost. Newspaper scraps, twigs, and even grass clippings are great too: the more stuff that rots, the better!
Lining the bottom of planter pots with cardboard, twigs, and compost.
When you're ready to plant, we recommend a mix of potting soil (aged compost is great for this), mixed in with something your particular tree or plant likes (depending on what kind of plant, you may want to add some lime, or a small handful of sawdust, or an organic fertilizer of your choosing).

Here are some very young trees (paw paws, apricots, cherry, banana, 3-in-1 citrus), vines (kiwis, angel lace, and hummingbird), and bushes ("Mosquito Shoo"—we'll see!) ready to party:
Cold-hearty kiwi vine
Our banana, 3-in-1 citrus, and mosquito-shoo bushes will live in pots permanently, but we'll likely need to transplant them in the next month or so into larger vessels:

Oh that's right, let's not forget 50 strawberry bushes! We're raising these babies on the back decks so the mice can't get to them. Sorry the photo is so blown out, the SUNSHINE on the deck is overwhelming today!

 To learn more information about the cold-hearty fruit trees we got, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Orchard

The goji berry is just one of the new fruit trees gracing Better Farm's orchard in 2013.
We have in the last several years made a few fruity forays in the gardens at Better Farm with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cantaloupes, and watermelon. Last year we upped the ante with two dwarf reliance peaches that can withstand -25° temperatures. This year, we're going all the way with a cacophany of fruit and nut trees that should begin producing in the next several years. We'll be able to can, dry, and of course eat and sell this produce fresh. Here's a rundown of what's going in the ground this year:



Better Farm's main garden. Orchard area will be outside the garden along Cottage Hill Road (area circled in green.)
ORCHARD LIST

  • Banana Plant (2)— The Dwarf Musa Banana is a fast-growing plant that grows 5-6' tall indoors and has big, shapely, leathery-looking leaves. It usually bears tasty, yellow 5" bananas within 2-3 years. No extra care needed. This plant is hardy outdoors in areas that do not encounter frosts. Otherwise, plant should be kept indoors during the winter.
  • Brown Turkey Fig (2)—These figs make for great eating, fresh or dried. The Brown Turkey variety is selected for winter hardiness and fruit quality. The hardiest variety known, it grows in New Hampshire, Northern Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota. This tree must be covered before temperatures drop below 10°. Brown Turkey Figs are grown successfully here in Canandaigua. Plant 10 ft. apart or in tub. 1 1/2 to 2 ft. trees. Shipped spring only. Zones 5-9, self pollinating. 
  • Carpathian Walnut (2)Carpathians produce large crops that are easy to harvest. Trees start to bear from four to seven years after planting. An average crop for a 15-year old tree is about 3 to 4 bushels of shelled nuts. At maturity, the hull opens and the nuts fall to the ground. This planting stock comes from the Carpathian Mountain Highlands in Poland. Beautiful, dark-green tropical foliage. No roots near the surface. Grass grows right up to the trunk. The Carpathian Walnut grows in beautiful symmetrical form with strong sturdy limbs that won’t break from wind or ice. Fast-growing, cool, dense shade. Free from most diseases. Carpathians have survived 25-30° below zero with no dieback or winter injury. Carpathians grow fast. The first year while becoming established, growth is only medium. Once established they make as much as 4-5 ft. of new growth each year. They grow best on deep fertile clay, loam or sandy soils. Carpathian Walnuts Produce Large-Fine-Flavored Nuts Nuts are almost identical to California walnuts. Many are much larger and we think better flavored. The thin shelled nuts crack easily in halves and whole. Kernels have a delicious flavor, free from bitterness with an attractive light color. Zones 5-9. Plant two trees for proper pollination.
  • Chandler Blueberry (1)—Chandler has all of the qualities of what makes an exceptional blueberry. Delicious, sweet flavor makes the Chandler ideal for baking and eating fresh, the long ripening season that provides harvest from mid to late season. Ornamental plant is 4 to 5’ at maturity and hardy to approximately -10 to -15 degrees. Self-pollinating Chandler will also pollinate with your other favorite blueberry varieties. 1 to 1 1/2' vigorous plants. Zones 4-7 (Note: this plant will join our other three flourishing blueberry plants inside the garden.)
  • Dwarf Reliance Peach (2)—Plant breeders at the University of New Hampshire developed this peach tree, which can survive and produce delicious fruit after 25° below zero. Reliance is tops in quality—fruits are medium-to-large, round, with bright-red attractive cheeks splashed over a yellow skin. Reliance has a bright yellow, firm flesh that is honey sweet, fine-flavored and comes free from the pit. The stone will not cling, even in coldest, driest seasons. The pit is smaller than any other peach. Reliance fruit ripens with Golden Jubilee or about mid-August. Zones 4-8. Peaches are self-pollinating. Plant dwarf trees 10’ apart. Mature height 8-10’. 
  •  Goji Berry (1)Goji berries have one of the highest antioxidant values of any whole foods and can be eaten fresh, dried, or frozen. Delicious taste is like a blend of raspberry, cranberry and strawberry. Leaves can be eaten as a vegetable or used to make teas. Purple and white flowers start in May followed by berries in early fall. This vine grows more than 10' tall, but should be cut back to 5' in fall for better fruit production the following year. Self-fertile and drought resistant, but avoid acidic soil. pH should be 6.8 or higher. Plant in full to partial sun. Also known as Wolfberry or Matrimony Vine.
  • Kiwi Collection (2 females, 1 male)—This cold-hardy strain is a big improvement over the fuzzy, brown-skinned Kiwi. This rare kiwi is a much sweeter tasting fruit. Grows much further north than the regular kiwi. Fruits average about 3/4-1 1/2" in diameter. Tastes somewhat like a tangy combination of strawberries and pineapple. Fruit will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. The hardy Kiwi is somewhat similar to the grape vine, only much faster growing. Under ideal growing conditions it will grow up to 5" a dayand reach a height of 8' the very first year! It will quickly climb a trellis or wall. Its thick mass of bright green leaves will soon cover ugly service areas, stumps, even old buildings. Then in late May, lovely white, camellia-like flowers will appear to fill the air with a fragrant lily-of-the-valley scent.
  • Manchurian Apricot (2)In spring, dazzling pink snowflake blossoms pop out even before the leaves. In summer this tree produces an abundance of rich-flavored, red-cheeked apricots for eating fresh, canning and freezing. Self-pollinating but more fruitful when you plant with another variety.
  • Paw Paw Tree (3) The Paw Paw Tree is an ornamental tree that produces sweet, banana-flavored fruit. It grows to 30', has fragrant purple blooms and large, drooping leaves. Fleshy, oblong-shaped fruit makes unique-flavored pastries and breads. Paw Paw Tree fruit grows 3-5" long and weighs up to 8 oz. with 3-7 in a cluster. Sub-zero hardy and insect-free. Plant two trees for pollination.  
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

School Seedling Program Partnership Enters Second Year

White Spruces.
Better Farm is entering its second year of a partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program, which seeks to encourage young people to learn about the natural world and the value of trees in it.

We will invite local youngsters this spring to join us for a morning of planting 50 white spruce seedlings on our property, our mission being to provide visitors to Better Farm with the knowledge of how beneficial trees are to the environment.

Most of us recognize the beauty of trees and their many other values. Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent loss of soil (erosion). They help protect our streams and lakes by stabilizing soil and using nutrients that would otherwise wash into waterways. Trees help moderate temperature and muffle noise. They even help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us, and by giving off oxygen.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what they need and how they grow. Teachers can use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while including many subjects that their classes are studying. As seedlings mature, the young trees can be a continuing, personalized way of relating what they've learned in books to visible, living examples.

Better Farm's interns will provide ongoing care to the young trees throughout their development.

Stay tuned for our planting date! In the meantime, learn more about this program by clicking here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Tree Wrap

It's a wrap! Our baby weeping willow tree gets a winter coat.

Anyone in the North Country attempting to grow trees would be wise to wrap the young saplings before we really get slammed with winter temperatures. But throughout the country, growing certain trees in winter climates will require a little wrapping.

How well you wrap your trees is totally dependents on climate, wind intensity, and type of tree. If you're trying to grow a fig tree in the Northeast, for example, you'll want to wrap it with carpet and surround the whole thing with a tarp (click here for the full rundown); if you've got dwarf hybrid peach trees that are perfectly comfy at -25 degrees, you can go with fabrics, bubble wrap, and old feed bags.

In most four-season climates, it's best to wait until around Thanksgiving to wrap your trees, so as to avoid inviting insects seeking out residence. But our frost came Friday night—which meant it was time to ensure these immature trees had an extra layer of warmth. If we get warm nights again, we'll be double- and triple-checking the babies to make sure no pests have set up shop.

We have two baby peach trees and a weeping willow on the property. Here's how we protected them:

How to Wrap:
  1. Purchase tree wrap from a garden supply store. You may need multiple rolls of wrap, depending on how many trees you need to protect. The wrap is available as waterproof, crinkled paper or burlap. It generally comes in sections of four-inch widths and may include adhesive to secure the wrap. Purchase tape or rope separately, if needed. Tree wrap also is available as vinyl spirals or self-sealing foam. If you want to make your own, utilize burlap, fabric, feed bags cut into 4-inch strips, or a similar replacement. Foam pipe insulation is great for skinny saplings!
  2. Begin wrapping the tree starting from the very base of the trunk and work your way up. Overlap the edges of the wrap to ensure the wind will not penetrate the cracks. Stop wrapping where the branches of the tree begin and secure the wrap with the adhesive, tape or rope, as applicable.
  3. Don't worry about wrapping the entire tree. Wrapping the trunk of the tree will allow for enough protection throughout the winter.
  4. Place mulch around the bottom of the tree for extra protection of the trunk and roots. Make a six-inch layer of mulch extending two feet around the base. Do not place the mulch directly next to the trunk. Not only will mulch protect the base and roots but it will also help to retain moisture throughout the winter.


Got a great gardening tip to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Movin' to the Country, Gonna Eat a lot of Peaches

Our shipment from Miller Nurseries arrived this week, which means our (very small) peach orchard was planted yesterday next to Better Farm's main garden.

We went with two Reliance Dwarf Peach Trees,which were developed by plant breeders at the University of New Hampshire and can survive and produce delicious fruit even after temperatures hit -25 degrees below zero. The first actual text of this tree's moxy was in the winter of 1961-62, when the "test tree" was subjected to -25 degrees and then managed to produce a bushel of fruit. The peaches from Reliance Dwarf Peach Trees are medium to large, with round, red cheeks splashed over a yellow skin. The stone will not cling, even in the coldest, driest seasons. And the reliance pit is smaller than any other peach. Fruit ripens in mid-August.

Sounds too good to be true, no?

I soaked the saplings in water for an hour while I dug out the holes (10-12 feet apart) and got the peat moss, hay, and topsoil mixture ready; then planted the trees between the garden and Cottage Hill Road. The mature peach trees will be between 8 and 10 feet.

We also ordered a weeping willow, which I planted at the far end of the pond out back. Now to just keep an eye on the babies, make sure they've got plenty of water, and start researching delicious peach cobbler recipes.

Miller Nurseries is a family-owned and operated company in Canandaigua, N.Y., that's been in business since 1936. For more information, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Farm Partners with DEC, Plants 50 Trees


Better Farm this year is participating in the School Seedling Program, an initiative by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation to educate students about the care and conservation of trees.


Most of us recognize the beauty of trees and their many other values. Trees provide food and shelter for wildlife and prevent erosion. They help protect streams and lakes by stabilizing soil and using nutrients that would otherwise wash into waterways. Trees help moderate temperature and muffle noise. They even help improve air quality by absorbing some airborne compounds that could be harmful to us, and by giving off oxygen.

When students plant tree seedlings, they can see for themselves the structure of trees, learn what trees need, and how they grow. Teachers can use the planting process to discuss the benefits trees provide, while incorporating other subjects that their classes are studying. As seedlings mature the young trees
can be a continuing, personalized way of relating to what they’ve learned from books to visible, living examples of what is being taught.

Students become aware that they can play a role in protecting the environment through personal involvement in establishing a grove of trees. Ultimately, it is hoped that the experience will help them make intelligent decisions about conservation and use of natural resources.

All schools are eligible to participate in the DEC's program, as are any school-sponsored organizations. Though Better Farm isn't officially a school, per say, it does qualify as an educational center and so 50 white spruces were shipped our way this week.


DEC’s Saratoga Tree Nursery provides the trees, which require 1,800 square feet of open space for the 50 seedlings. Each needs a growing space of about 6 feet in diameter. For schools where planting space is limited, an Urban Wildlife Packet is available. This contains 30 seedlings of shrubs that attract different songbirds, as well as a variety of other wildlife.


White Spruces are native, short-needled evergreens. They grows in clay and/or loamy soils and
reach 70 feet at maturity.

The seedlings we received are 2 or 3 years old and approximately 8”-16” tall. Though our interns won't arrive until next week, we had to get the young trees into the ground. The interns will tend to the trees and keep track of their progress.


For more information about this program, click here.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Planting Black Walnut Trees

Black walnut trees-to-be. Photo/Nicole Caldwell
A mature, leafy tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year, and acts as a huge filter for the air around it. So when our friend Fred dropped off a huge bag of highly desirable black walnut tree seeds for us, it wasn't just the beauty of a tree-lined Cottage Hill Road that we had in mind (although let's not kid ourselves, who doesn't want a beautiful, tree-lined street to look at every day?).
Photo from Wunderground.com.
May, Erin, and I planted a bunch of seeds yesterday afternoon in the unbelievably balmy, 70-degree weather. We stood about six feet off the road so the eventually enormous trees wouldn't interfere with the roadway, and planted each tree about 10 big paces apart from the next. We did both sides of the road between the main house and the sawmill down the road. Here are Kaiser and Han Solo seeing what all the fuss was about:
... and inside the bag:
Here's the size of an individual seed, surrounded by the meaty fruit of the plant (the actual seed is deep inside that pulpy exterior, and will sprout in the spring):
We dug down three or four inches in the dirt, dropped the seed in, and covered it back up with dirt and a little hay:

We're going to plant the rest throughout the property (about 200 trees in all), wait 30 or 40 years, and invite about 2,000 of you over to breathe in our new, black walnut-lined promenade leading to Better Farm.

 
Any local residents who would like free black walnut seeds can e-mail info@betterfarm.org to arrange a pick-up.
1 Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.