Good Oak News

Friday, December 10, 2010

Biodiversity loss: grossly underestimated and directly effecting our health

The loss of biodiversity is a issue that concerns me greatly.  My desire to preserve the amazing native plants and animals of the midwest is the reason I started my business.  As such, couple recent articles in Science Daily have caught my attention.  The first, Ecological Effects of Biodiversity Loss Underestimated, discusses how the complexity of an ecosystem can unwind as even a single species is lost.  It describes how many animals, particularly invertebrates can be "picky eaters" and require different food sources at different stages of their life.  If one plant species is lost from a community than several species of insects may go with it, leaving fewer food resources for the larger vertebrates that most of us think of as "wildlife".

This loss of species means we end up with a simplified ecosystem, and these simplified ecosystems will inevitably become unstable without the natural system of competition among various species providing checks and balances.  The article, Loss of Species Large and Small Threatens Human Health, Study Finds, explores the direct effect this has on people, such the increased transmission of infectious diseases like Lyme's disease.

So recent research is building the case for the importance of preserving ever scrap of biodiversity that we have.  Every plant and animal species is important, and we are today, right here in the midwest, loosing some species, particularly insects, before we even knew they existed.  Other such as "common" prairie plants we take for granted even though their populations are roughly 1% what they once were, with a corresponding loss of genetic diversity within these species.  The only way to stem this lost is to preserve and especially to restore natural areas and to re-create new ones where they have previously been lost.  That is the mission of Good Oak Ecological Services, I hope you will partner with us to achieve it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Gentian Safari Rescheduled for THIS SUNDAY, Sept. 12th at 9am!

The title of this message says it all: due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict, we've had to move the Gentian Safari wildflower walk forward a week to 9 am on Sunday, Sept. 12th.

Enjoy the brilliant blues of our wild gentians, and if we're lucky we'll find a few ladies tresses orchids in bloom too. Meet at the parking lot for the Grady Tract section of the UW Arboretum at the southeast corner of Seminole Highway and the Beltline frontage road.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"Can't miss!" keynote speaker at UW Arboretum conference next weekend!

Next Sunday, September 19th the UW Arboretum will be hosting its annual Native By Design native landscaping conference.  I'm extremely excited to hear that this year's keynote speaker will be Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home.  This is one of the most powerful and inspirational books I have ever read.  I place it up on the high mantel shelf along side the works of Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey.  This is a unique opportunity to hear Dr. Tallamy speak here in the midwest that should not be missed by anyone interested in natural areas management or landscaping with native plants.

The conference runs from 8:45 to 4:30 next Sunday.  In addition to Dr. Tallamy's keynote, there will be a tour of the Arboretum's own native plant garden and several other workshop sessions to choose from.  For more information, see the UW Arboretum's website.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Roadsalt: toxic to our streams

Here is an interesting article on Science Daily that follows up on my previous post quite nicely.  Essentially, we put so much salt on roads in the winter that the run off kills organisms in nearby streams.  So please, only salt your driveway and walkway when absolutely necessary.  Careful shoveling can remove most of the frozen wet stuff that turns into slick ice, snow blowers are less effective at scraping every bit off of the ground.  Also, if you have the opportunity to be involved in the planning stages of a building project, site the entrance on the south side where sunlight can melt most of the hazardous ice away.  Lastly, work with your city or township to encourage reduction in the use of salt on roads.  Often it is just plain wasted.  Other times there are less toxic alternatives like sand, beat juice and cinders.

Science Daily: Many Urban Streams Harmful to Aquatic Life Following Winter Pavement Deicing

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Clearing Some Air about Herbicides and Toxicity

I am working with a client now who is very worried about the impacts of herbicide to the environment.  Herbicides are commonly used in restoration to kill invasive species and other weeds.  They are so critical to our work; ecological restoration on any meaningful scale would be effectively impossible without them.  Yet we are all aware that these chemicals are toxic and can have a real detrimental impact to the environment.
Here is an interesting article from the University of Florida Extension that makes the point that herbicides are of relatively low toxicity compared to many chemical we come in contact with every day.  Take a minute to give it a read.  Done?  OK, well they do make some good points, but bear in mind that this article only discusses the acute toxicity (short term effects) of these chemicals to mammals (here rats serve as stand-ins for humans).  So in most cases you're more likely to live if you drink herbicide than if you drink bleach or down a bunch of Tylenol.  Even table salt will kill you faster than a few of these herbicides.

While this article does briefly address the long-term impacts of herbicide, such as the Agent Orange disaster in Vietnam, it largely ignores the often unknown long-term impacts these chemicals might have on human health.  For example, a child probably isn't going to be killed by eating lead tainted paint chips, but it is well documented that their long-term mental development will suffer.  This important impact is simply not well addressed by the way most herbicides are tested.   This article also fails to mention that 2,4-D, the component of Agent Orange inevitably contains some carcinogenic dioxins as a result of the manufacturing process.  Sure, there is a lot less dioxin than in Agent Orange proper, but considering that (according to Wikipedia) 2,4-D is the most commonly herbicide used in the world, perhaps we should be a little concerned.

So this is good information if you're just passing out these chemicals at your next cocktail party, but what about their effects on the rest of the environment?  Sure, its relatively safe to drink glyphosate, but we wouldn't go spraying Mountain Dew or bleach all over a pasture or crop field.  Who knows what the impacts would be to insects, birds, soil organisms and the fish downstream from this field?  Would our groundwater become contaminated with caffeine (with the accompanying day-glow yellow color)?  Even good old table salt can make soil unable to support (most) plant life.

We know herbicides are dangerous, and there are likely many negative impacts that we are just not aware of.  Yet we need them to get our job done; they are valuable and effective tools.  For example, the above mentioned client has a lot of buckthorn, honeysuckle, autumn olive and some of the more aggressive native shrubs such as sumac and poison ivy.

These plants are having several direct negative environmental impacts.  First, they are reducing the habitat quality for other plants and animals.  The effects range from suppressing herbaceous plants that provide food for insects and birds to blocking out the sunlight to such an extent that oak seedlings cannot germinate.  If things keep going as they are, 50 years from now this historic oak-hickory woodland won't have any oaks in it.  

Another environmental impact is the erosion resulting from the dense shade under these non-native plants.  The steep hillside this woodland is on has a LOT of bare soil, and is clearly eroding away.  The silt from this hillside then moves downstream and silts in our wetlands and streams, killing native wetland plants and animals and encouraging algae blooms and the nasty invasive reed canary grass.

This sounds pretty bad, and clearly something must be done to rectify this situation!  (Sadly this site is typical of most woodlands in the Midwest.)  The solution is to kill off the invading brush (and herbaceous plants like garlic mustard and Japanese hedge parsley) and allow native vegetation to recover (or push it along with some interseeding).

Shrubs, by definition, resprout readily when they are cut to the ground, so in order to kill this invasive brush we have to herbicide the stumps or repeatedly cut the resprouts down every few weeks for a couple of years until the energy stores in the roots are exhausted.  The latter is feasible if you have just a few invasive shrubs, as is probably the case in most residential yards in the midwest, but in a 1.5 acre woodland, cutting those hundreds, maybe thousands of stems again until those shrubs all die would triple or quadruple the project costs.  Meanwhile, in the short term at least, we would be exacerbating the erosion problem and impact to native plants as we repeatedly visit the site and scour the entire area finding every re-sprouting bush to cut down again.

While we'd be happy to have the work, I think the increase in the cost of the project would put it out of the means of most landowners.  If we do our brush clearing work in the winter when the ground is either frozen or covered in snow, we can nearly eliminate the erosion impacts caused by our work.  Furthermore, if we're careful with the use of herbicide, we could have very little "collateral damage" to surrounding plants.  We use glyphosate whenever it is feasible because this chemical is easily diluted by water (such as snow) and breaks down in the soil fairly quickly, so it's not around to impact plants, insects or soil organisms, or even wash away and accumulate in our streams and wetlands.

Even in cases when we are spraying broadcast herbicide to kill off weeds on a site before we seed in a prairie, its easy to see that the short term impacts of herbicides is a lesser environmental evil than the alternatives.  Consider the regular, long-term application of herbicide to crop fields or well (overly) manicured lawns.  Or alternately, the incredible benefit to wildlife that a prairie planting has compared to a rough lawn, pasture or weedy pasture.

Ecological Restoration work is like a doctor working on a critically ill patient.  We know that the radioactive chemicals used in chemotherapy are dangerous, but if they can kill the cancer and allow the patient to recover and return to health then they are a most necessary and critical tool needed to save a life.  Our natural areas are in critical condition too.  We need to carefully and consciously apply herbicides as part restoration work so that we can restore health to our natural areas for the wildflower, wildlife and innumerable ecosystem services they provide.   Herbicides are toxic, but maybe aren't as bad as we sometimes think they are, and certainly better than the alternative.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Now Taking Order for Fall Plantings

Most people don't realize that fall is a great time to start a new planting. The plants have enough time to get established on the site and so they get a head start on any planting started the following spring. Also, you usually have fewer weed problems with a fall planting since they don't have time to get established in the fall. Whether you'd like us to do an installation for you or if you'd like to purchase native plants from us to install yourself, get in touch with us now so we can have everything ready to go when the weather starts to cool off and its time to start planting.

Better Lawns and Gutters Tour is coming this Saturday!

The Better Lawns and Gutters Tour, presented by the Dane County Office of Lakes & Watersheds is a great opportunity to visit properties incorporating rain gardens, native landscapes and other ways to 'retain the rain' and keep our lakes and stream clean. The tour runs this year from 9 am to 1pm this Saturday, August 14th. Get started at the information center at Brandt Park in McFarland (just off of US 51 on Siggelkow Rd.). For more information, follow this link.

Wildflower Walk, This Thursday @ Koltes Prairie and Westport Drumlin

We have a wildflower walk coming up this Thursday to an amazing remnant prairie just north of Madison. The forcast is for hot weather, but hopefully we'll have a good breeze on these wide-open sites.We'll meet at 5:30 at the Good Oak World Headquarters, 205 Walter St. in Madison, to carpool. If you are driving yourself, take Northport Dr. north out of Madison, which becomes Hwy 113. 1.7 miles north of Highway M, take a right turn onto Bong Road Park along the side of the road 0.6 miles east of Hwy 113. Please RSVP with Frank if you plant to attend, whether you will be carpooling or meeting us on the site.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wildflower Walk: This Thursday, July 29th: Peak Flowering at Atwood Community Prairie:

By late July dozens of species may be blooming simultaneously in prairies. Come enjoy this little prairie on the near east side. We'll meet at 6pm where the Capitol City Trail crosses Ohio Ave., just off of Atwood Ave.  We'll stay right on the edge of the bike path, and only walk about 1/4th of a mile, so this should be an easy walk for everyone to access.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wildflower Walk: Thursday, July 14th 5:30pm!

Good Oak and Wild-Ones Wildflower Walk to Remnant Prairies: Come join us as we explore the amazing floral diversity of some tiny 'postage stamp' prairies north of Madison.  We will likely be visiting Ripp and Meffert Road Prairies, but we may visit other sites instead/as-well. We'll meet at 5:30 at the Good Oak World Headquarters, 205 Walter St. in Madison, to carpool. Bring some cold water to drink and dress for the warm weather but full pants are still strongly recommended.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Loss of a Legend

Last week the environmental movement lost a powerful voice: Lorrie Otto.  I'll let this obituary tell her story.  The world is truly a better place for her having been here.  here are a few of my favorite quotes from this irrepressible woman:

"When I removed my grass and planted native plants, some neighbors were skeptical, but most of them came to love it.  In fact, some of them loved the yard so much that they're interested in buying it now."

"If we care about the Earth we could heal it by removing lawns, by finding alternatives to lawns.  You can do wonderful things on your own property to protect the environment.  Each little island, each corridor will help bring back the butterflies and birds."

"If suburbia were landscaped with meadows, prairies, thickets, or forests, or combinations of these, then the water would sparkle, fish would be good to eat again, birds would sing, and human spirits would soar."

- Lorrie Otto, founder, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers:  1920 - 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Orchid Hunt at Stricker's Pond

June 10th: Orchid Hunt at Stricker's Pond: A few species of orchid hide amid the woods at Stricker's Pond. Come join us as we look for these rare wildflowers along the trailside in this remnant natural area in the midst of suburbia. The hunt will begin at 6 pm and end around 8 pm or 9 pm. From High Point Road in Middleton, head east on Parmenter St, then take a right onto Westfield Rd. Park on the street near the paved path access to the park.
See you there.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 20th: Wildflower Walk: Early Prairie Wildflowers of Koltes Prairie & Westport Drumlin

Join us for a hike through some amazing prairie remnants just a few miles out of town.  We'll see shooting star, wild geranium, prairie phlox, prairie violet, hoary pucoon and many other flowers in bloom at these high-quality prairies just north of Madison.  Don't miss it!  This event is co-sponsored by Good Oak Ecological Services and the Madison Chapter of Wild-Ones Native Landscapers.

We'll meet at 5:30 at the Good Oak World Headquarters, 205 Walter St. in Madison, to car-pool. If you are driving yourself, take Northport Dr. north out of Madison, which becomes Hwy 113. 1.7 miles north of Highway M, take a right turn onto Bong Road Park along the side of the road 0.6 miles east of Hwy 113.

For more information, see our wildflower walk web page.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Green Roof Presentation

On Thursday May 13th there will be a meeting to discuss green roof possibilities and opportunities here in Madison.  I will be giving a brief presentation on native plants for green roofs among a series of presentations by experts in fields relevant to green roofs.  Following these presentations there will be time for Q&A and discussion. The event will be held at the Sequoya Branch Library starting at 6pm.  Refreshments will be provided.


THURSDAY, MAY 13, 6:00pm

Topic:  Building Earth Hall
Dr. Cal DeWitt, Professor of Environmental Studies

Topic:  The Environmental, Economic and Community Benefits of Green Infrastructure
Emily Green, Sierra Club

Topic: The Benefits of Green Roofs (the Water Resources Standpoint)
Michael Rupiper, Environmental Engineer

Topic: Terra Caelum, the Production Facility for XeroFlor Pre-vegetated Mats
Bruce Johnson from TerraCaelum

Topic: Pioneer Roofing
Anthony Mayer from Pioneer Roofing

Topic: Hydrotech 
Ron Rediger and/or Bill Schaefer from Hydrotech

Topic: Grants for Green Roofs
Sean Foltz, Associate Director of the Clean Water Program for American Rivers

Topic: Maintaining a Green Roof
Tom Miskelly Facility Manager at The First Unitarian Society

Topic:  Using Native Plants for Green Roofs
Frank Hassler, Good Oak Ecological Services

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring WIldflower Walk: Today at 6pm!

If anyone is coming to our site to find out more about the Good Oak / Wild Ones wildflower walk for this evening, here is the info:

Meet at the west side of Heritage Heights Park on Madison's east side, at 6pm.   Take Cottage Grove Rd. east of Stoughton Rd, then go north on Meadowlark Dr. for 3 blocks. We'll take a hike through these two hidden gems on Madison's far east side and enjoy the rich suite of spring wildflowers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Wildflower Walk coming up April 22nd: Note the date change!

Enjoy Earth Day by visiting dutchman's britches, rue anemone, spring beauties, toothwort and more of our spring ephemeral wildflowers. Meet at the Wingra Springs Parking Lot, on top of the hill, north of the Arboretum's main Visitors Center.

Note that we've moved the date of our April wildflower walk forward a week to accommodate the early spring we are having.  Still, many of the flowers we expected to see in late April are already blooming and will be done by the time we get there next week, never mind the original date we had set!

This wildflower walk is sponsored by Good Oak and the Madison Chapter of Wild-Ones.  There should be a lot of beautiful MID-spring wildflowers in bloom, we hope you can join us!  For more information, see our wildflower walks web page.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First Wildflower Walk: Thursday March 18th

This coming Thursday, March 18th Good Oak Ecological Services and the Madison Chapter of Wild Ones will be hosting our first wildflower walk of the spring.  We will be seeking out skunk cabbage, our first native plant to bloom in the spring, which is able to melt its way through snow and attract carrion flies to its unique flowers.  Meet at 6pm at the Wingra Springs parking lot, on top of the hill, south of the Arboretum's main visitor center.

For more information, see our wildflower walk page.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Now Hiring!

We're looking to hire for two positions in the next couple of months.  One position is full-time, the other is a seasonal intern.  For more information, follow the links:

Ecological Restoration Specialist or Native Landscaping Specialist

Native Landscaping and Ecological Restoration Internship

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting Social

We've made a few changes in how we "keep in touch" with people lately.  First, I hope you like our newly re-designed website!  I think it looks great and it should be easier for you to find the information you are looking for.  If you have a news reader, you can follow this blog by clicking on the icon on our site and follow along with the news and information I post to our blog from there.

In addition to the Linked-In account I set up last fall, Good Oak now has its own Facebook page and Twitter account.  I hope to use the Twitter account to give people a peek "behind the curtain" so to speak, with a little more information about what Good Oak is up to and links to interesting information I come across while researching projects.

The Facebook page will have listing of upcoming events, photos of projects and wildflower (from our walks) and blog posts about relevant topics (also seen on the Good Oak website).  I hope we can make this Facebook site a place for us, our "fans" and clients, and native plant enthusiasts to interact.  If you are not on Twitter, the twitter posts will show up as "status updates" on the Facebook page.

Fhew, that's a lot of ways to get the word out.  I'll do my best to keep it all useful, informative and interesting.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Garden Expo Presentations

Did you make it to one of our presentations today?  Even if you missed it, you can still download our presentation and handouts below.

Native Landscaping: a Primer
Controlling Weeds and Invasive Plants

Monday, February 8, 2010

Good Oak at the Garden Expo

Good Oak will again have a booth at this year's Garden Expo. Please come to the expo and stop by to say "Hi." Additionally, Frank will be giving two talks on Saturday that we hope you can attend. Here's a summary of the talks:

12PM in the Waubesa/Kegonsa Room (on the second floor)
Native Landscaping: A Primer

There are many benefits to landscaping with native plants. Learn why native wildflowers and grasses are a good choice, and explore some of the species that will work well for you.

3PM in the Mendota 5 Room
Controlling Weeds and Invasive Plants

Identify many common and troublesome plants in our landscapes and learn how to deal with them with a focus on organic control methods.

There will also be other presentations about native landscaping and natural areas restoration, and several organizations such as Wild Ones, The Audobon Society, The Prairie Enthusiasts, the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association and more will be there too.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

lawns contriubute to global warming: shocking! (not really)

Recent research has landed yet another strike against our obsession with the lawn, once again pointing out that just because lawn is green, is not really "Green".

Numerous reports have pointed out that many of the pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to non-target plants and animals (including your pets and your family), and groundwater. Fertilizers are used in great excess on lawns and in-turn pollute streams and lakes. And nearly 1/3 of our fresh, clean, drinkable water is used to water lawns, and half of that is wasted, not even making it to the plants its meant to water (EPA). If you ask me, putting so many resources into a lawn is a waste to begin with.

Now, a recent study confirms the obvious: lawns contribute to global warming. Sure, lawn grass is a plant, all of whom take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to make food. However, lawn roots are too shallow to store much carbon. Emissions from decaying lawn clippings, decomposing fertilizers, and (here's the biggie) emissions from lawn maintenance equipment are four times greater than what the lawn manages to store.

There are many great reasons to choose native plants instead of defaulting to a boring lawn. As far as global warming is concerned, native plants are powerful carbon sinks, with deep roots to draw carbon compounds deep into the soil where they can be stored for thousands of years. You don't need to run a lawn mower over them ever week either.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ahead of the Curve

I am attending the Mid-America Horticultural Trade Show this week to learn a bit more about the mainstream landscaping industry. The theme this year is "Sustainability for a Greener Tomorrow" and I am feeling pretty good that Good Oak is well ahead of the curve on this. Emphasis is on choosing plants that are well adapted for the site, reducing water use, reducing run-off, cleaning, cooling and slowing water before it reaches streams and sewers, soil heath, and inteligent, proactive design. The plantings, prairies, rain gardens, shoreline buffers (and more) that we install, all planted with native plants, already accomplish these goals. I'm looking forward to continue to lead the way in 2010 and beyond.

Location:S Indiana Ave,Chicago,United States