Good Oak News

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Coming in 2014: Good Oak's Sustainable Garden Center

Good Oak's Sustainable Garden Center

We've had a little buzz going around about our plans, but earlier this week we made the decision. We will be starting up Good Oak's Sustainable Garden Center in the spring of 2014. We have a lot of work to do over the next 14 months or so, working with our suppliers, reaching out to our community, and of course raising start-up funds! Here is what we want the garden center to be about:


    To provide the resources that enable people to manage their property in the most environmentally sound way possible, focusing on native plants and organic garden supplies.

Our Vision

    How an individual manages their land is perhaps the most important way in which they impact the environment. In a sustainable landscape, plants aren’t just there for their good looks, they are part of a natural system, having a valuable role providing food and habitat for people and wildlife. Sustainable garden products are produced in an environmentally sensitive manner and don’t degrade the environment in their use.
    Traditional garden centers are not meeting the needs of homeowners who wish to manage their property in an ecologically sound manner. Good Oak’s Sustainable Garden Center will serve a large, untapped market of individuals in the Madison area interested in native landscaping, habitat restoration, and home food production. Good Oak’s Sustainable Garden Center will be the best and only dedicated resource for sustainable landscaping in southern Wisconsin, serving as a community resource to help people make a positive change in their own back yard and create a landscape that they and their neighbors can enjoy.

Products we will offer include:
    • native perennials, shrubs and trees
    • starter vegetable plants, fruit trees and seeds
    • organic fertilizers, compost and mulches
    • wild bird & bee supplies (houses, feeders, bird seed, etc)
    • rain barrels and other rain water sequestering supplies
    • books and other reference material
    • quality gardening tools and equipment
    • locally crafted natural products, garden art and nature-themed art
    • locally grown Christmas trees, natural holiday decorations (seasonal)

    Our new retail location will also house our existing landscaping and restoration services sharing offices, shop space and landscaping materials. This expansion will enhance the visibility and efficiency of our existing services, increasing profitability. The garden center will offer limited online sales initially, with plans to expand in this area as the garden center division becomes more established.

We Need Your Help!

We want to make the sustainable garden center the best resource it can be. Please take a few minutes to fill out our survey so we can learn from you how we can best serve our community.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Brush Clearing, Before and After

     I love to look at the dramatic difference in a habitat before and after we've cleared brush. This site on Rocky Dell Road in Middleton is an overgrown hill prairie which we are restoring to a savanna condition.

     This site is unique in that it sits right at the very edge of where the glacier stopped its advanced about 21,000 years ago and started melting back towards the arctic. On this site we see both limestone bedrock and glacial erratics, stones carried here by the glacier. On the right side of the "after" image you can see two granite stones that were dragged here by the glacier from the Canada. Also in the "after" image, dead center, you can barely make out a large rock-outcropping in the distance. This beautiful hunk of limestone bedrock, about 6' tall, was completely obscured from all directions by the brush!

Click on the photos for a full-sized image!
     The difference you see between these photos is 2 days of work for a crew of 4. We are completely removing all of the exotic invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle as well as aggressive natives like sumac, prickly ash and raspberries. The biggest problem on this site are the eastern red cedars, which, though native, is well known to invade unmaintained hill prairies. A few scattered red cedars probably lived in places like that bedrock outcropping where fire couldn't get to them (there is one living right on top of the outcropping now). However, over the past 50-150 years, in the absence of fire and grazing they are able to spread rapidly across the hill prairie. All of the cedars we have cut down so far have been less than 40 years old, which makes me think that the last time this area was grazed was in the early 1970's. Or perhaps the old farmers maintained the area with spring burns up until this time to encourage a rapid green-up in the spring for grazing fodder. We are clearing about 95% of the red cedar on this site, but leaving a few for aesthetic reasons at the request of the current land owners.

     Note also that many of the trees you see are girdled but left standing. This saves time, effort and money and also provides habitat for wildlife including a variety of insects, red-headed woodpeckers, bluebirds and other cavity nesters. We girdled or cut down all of the elm, walnut and black cherry in this area. Even though these are native species with value for wildlife, they are not a 'natural' part of this habitat type. Furthermore, we actually cut and girdled about 50% of the northern pin oak, bur oak and shagbark hickories! In most places on the landscape there are no young oaks at all. Here, there were too many, a special place indeed! By clearing some of the oaks we not only increase the light reaching the prairie plants on the ground layer, we also give the remaining oaks more growing space so they can grow faster and be healthier. We may clear more trees in the future as the restoration of this area progresses, but I always think its best to be cautious in our approach to tree thinning.

     There are many diamonds in the rough out there in the landscape like this, ready to be restored. In particular you can see a number of hill prairie remnants along the bluffs in the Black Earth Creek Watershed where this site is located. We must act soon to restore these small fragments of our prairie heritage before the prairie flora and fauna are completely lost under the shade of dense brush. Tom and Kathy Brock have had tremendous success at this at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, and so can you! Don't have your own bluff to work on? Join The Prairie Enthusiasts for their workdays, sites like Mazomainie Bluff can use all the volunteer help they can get!