Natural Areas Management Plan

Reminder about Natural Areas – Please read

gardenmap2016Those of you who attended the All Garden Meeting in April should have received a map of the garden that listed all of the rentable garden plot by designated number or letter. A copy of this map is also posted on the kiosk. The plot map also delineates areas that are not for rent, to include the Children’s Garden, two areas designated as Wetland Prairie Mix, and “F”. One of the Wetland Prairie Mix areas is across the swale from the storage shed (once designated as plots 9 and A) and the second such area abuts garden plots 72 and H 9( and is currently covered with black plastic to kill weeds in preparation for fall seeding) in the SE corner of the garden. Plot F lies between those two areas and was also designated for wetland prairie mix. Over the years we learned these three areas could be too wet to be conducive to veggie gardening. Thus we have been planting them with seeds/transplants for about three years, and with plants that benefit wild and pollinators. It takes about 4 years for such native areas to overcome the non-native plants that had been occupying the area, and can look quite messy in the interim. Please contact a member of the Governing Board If you are adjacent to such areas and concerned about encroachment by remaining weeds. Do not attempt to do so on your own, because telling weeds and young native plants is a tricky process. The same would apply to the area designated as “Savannah” on your maps. Please notify a member of the Board if you would like to join the committee that maintains the aforementioned areas. We ask that you only walk around the edges of the native wetland meadow areas within the garden – they are reserved for use by insects, birds, etc.

History of the Natural Areas and Management

Scattering seeds Fall 2014

The strip of land between the gardens and Hwy PB was cleared of woody invasive species like Buckthorn and Honeysuckle in 2014 by a group called Operation Fresh Start. In the fall of 2014, Dane County Parks provided us with a Woodland Savannah native seed mix that a group of garden volunteers scattered throughout the area. The native species mix was chosen to create a natural area that would be low maintenance after establishment, and would support local wildlife and offer habitat and food sources that might appeal to them more than our vegetable gardens. The native species mix would also benefit gardeners by attracting pollinators needed for vegetable plants, and be pleasing too look at as well. We planted approximately 75 native plants by plugs over the course of the last couple years including species like Cardinal Flower, Bee Balm, Springell’s Sedge, Blue Lobelia, Golden Glow, Ironweed, Nodding Onion, Wild Columbine, Sand Coreopsis, Showy Goldenrod, Zigzag Goldenrod, and Golden Alexander. We mulched a couple areas within the , with the intention of adding some native shrubs with edible fruits like Elderberry, Serviceberry, American Hazelnut, and Aronia (Chokeberry) in the future.

In the fall of 2014 we determined that the plots at the north east corner of the gardens were too wet to be gardened successfully, so we had them tilled, and then dormant seeded a native wet prairie mix of flowers and grasses to create a low maintenance, naturalized area that would again attract pollinators.

In the winter of 2014-2015, we started removing invasive shrubs and trees, like honeysuckle and boxelder, from along the creek bank, north of the parking lot. In the spring of 2015, some native seeds were scattered in this area, and we would like to continue naturalizing this area in the future. This area may see some damage this season when a bridge is scheduled to be installed from the bike path to the parking lot in 2017, so we will not be focusing a lot of energy on this area for now.

In the fall of 2015, we tilled a strip running all along the south edge of the gardens and we seeded deer resistant, native flowering plants to attract pollinators and create an attractive border that might also act as a fence of sorts to make it slightly more difficult or less appealing for deer to wander into our garden plots. We planted seeds in approximately 4′ x 8′ blocks and grouped complementary species together to create small masses of plants. This will make it a little easier to identify seedlings when they come up in the spring and help us decipher which plants are good and which plants are weeds. This year we will be carefully monitoring and weeding those areas. Canada Thistle is the biggest problem weed in this area, and we may need to diligently cut or pull them, rather than digging aggressively because this would cause too much disturbance and loss of native seedlings.

We also laid plastic over an area at the south east corner of the gardens that is too low and wet for vegetable gardening, and we will be dormant seeding a wet prairie mix in that space in the fall of 2016.

Current Management Plans

Our management goals for this season primarily consist of controlling and eradicating non-native and invasive plant species when possible, to encourage the establishment and success of the native plant species. We are also planning to add 50 plants of the following species to the roadside area: Ironweed, Smooth Penstemon, Compass Plant, Riddell’s Goldenrod, Culver’s Root, Spiderwort, Poke Milkweed, Marsh Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed.

We will remove weeds and invasive plant species in all natural areas most often by either digging or pulling them. Alternatively, when invasive populations are too high, or digging and pulling would cause too much disturbance in areas where new native seedlings are small and vulnerable, we may mow areas with either a lawn mower or string trimmer.   This is done to restrict their growth, thus preventing them from shading out young seedlings, and perhaps more importantly; it prevents weedy species from flowering and producing seeds, which will keep them from becoming bigger problems for us in the future. We will also work on controlling woody/shrubby invasive plants like buckthorn and honeysuckle by cutting them with a brush cutter or hand tools.

Our main goal is to remove or mow invasive plants BEFORE they go to seed and multiply, so timing can be very important. Digging and pulling can be done anytime the plants are identifiable to prevent them from reproducing. Burdock is a good example of a plant that is large and easy to identify at all stages of growth. Some plants are most easy to find and identify when they are flowering, Queen Anne’s Lace for example, so this is the stage we will often be managing them, just before they produce seeds. When mowing or cutting is being used to control weeds, it is best to do so just before or at the start of the flowering stage. Some plants, like Garlic Mustard, can still produce seeds after the plants have been mowed or pulled if they have reached an advanced flowering stage. Some plants must be placed in plastic bags and disposed of rather than composted to prevent weed seeds from being spread to other areas of the gardens, Dame’s Rocket and Garlic Mustard are examples.

There are lists of the species planted in each area, and ID guides available for identifying many of the native plant species that are growing in our natural areas. Go to Invasive Plants page to see the most common invasive plant species we will be dealing with and how to manage them.

Future Plans

In the future, as time and resources permit, we would like to work on getting rid of Reed Canary Grass, which is a very aggressive, non-native, colony forming grass that is growing in some large patches along the road side. We would also like to expand some of the natural areas in the future by continuing to clear invasive brush, for example along the creek bank north of the parking lot and extending to the west. We would like to continue to add native plant species to both benefit native wildlife, attract pollinators needed for vegetable plants, and enhance and beautify all areas near the gardens.