If you've been a fan of the garden for a while you may have gotten to see the slow demise of one of our biggest and most iconic trees in the garden.
This hackberry tree has graced the entrance to the lower garden since the beginning of Downtown Greens and earlier.
Its huge branches swooped elegantly down, enticing visitors to enter a seemingly magical place.
Unfortunately, in the summer of 2021 a huge storm came through and tore off its lowest, swoopiest branch. It was sad to see but we know it's the nature of, well, nature. The branch was chopped up and used in different areas of the garden.
Then that winter when we got that big snowstorm two more branches took a tumble, leaving the once majestic tree looking a bit ragged. (But eventually providing a lot of wood chips for the garden paths and beds!) It was decided then that the tree really needed to be taken down.
Of course, before we could make that happen, another summer storm blew through (summer of 2022) and took down another branch, leaving the tree with just two branches at its very top and lots of raw wood showing where the other branches used to be.
So, it finally happened. We called in the professionals they removed the rest of the branches and half the trunk. We are leaving the rest of the trunk where it is. No longer susceptible to strong winds, this trunk will not only provide a lot of food and shelter for the local wildlife (bugs love dead wood, birds love bugs) but will also stand in memorial of the amazing and magical tree that graced us with its beauty and shade for these last several decades.
Please enjoy these photos of our beloved hackberry and it's slow progression back to the garden and back into the earth and join us as we watch how the light that was once shade changes our garden and enables more things to grow.
By: Allison Grant, Content Creation Intern
https://www.planetnatural.com/integrated-pest-management/If you have ever tried to grow something in your garden, chances are you have dealt with pesky critters taking bites out of your harvest. The fastest solution is to turn to chemicals, but sometimes these harmful concoctions have you biting off more than you can chew.
The overwhelming and never ending choices of pesticides on top of the risks associated with them can make way for future problems. The good news is that there is a more sustainable solution called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This solution focuses on management rather than eradication.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is all about monitoring, planning, prevention, and control. Not every animal or plant found within the vicinity of your garden is causing an issue. The pest must be identified before taking conscious steps to manage its population. IPM does not completely rule out the usage of chemicals. Instead, IPM encourages the combination of several lower-risk methods before turning to higher-risk chemical applications. The goal of IPM is to manage pest populations with traps, barriers, or natural methods to prevent pests from causing any problems. If the pest population is still out of control after taking these lower-risk initiatives, then chemical methods may be used. Taking advantage of IPM strategies should allow for a healthy harvest, while simultaneously causing little damage to yourself and the environment.
So how can you implement IPM in your garden? Here is a short list of the steps that you can take:
Integrated pest management requires trial and error. Not all of these suggestions will work for all gardens. Combining several of these strategies should yield the greatest results. Remember that these strategies are focused on the prevention and management of the pest population, not eradication.
Find out more about IPM at the following sources:
By: Savannah Steblein, Education Coordinator
In the past couple of years you may have seen (particularly on TikTok) people shaking parmesan shakers over empty patches of land they skate by, tossing dirt-balls out of cars, or just tossing a handful of seeds in an empty tree well. All of these are forms of guerilla gardening, a trend that started in the 70’s involving individuals working alone or together to “regreen” unused or abandoned spaces in urban areas. A special note: this means that private property is off limits -- DTG does not want to accidentally get our loved ones in trouble :)
Recently I have been doing *excessive* research on one of these guerilla gardening methods: Seed Bombs. If you haven’t heard of this quirky, yet effective way of planting seeds, then allow me to introduce you. Seed bombs are tiny balls, about the size of almond m&m’s, made of soil/compost, clay, and seeds. The clay and dirt protect seeds from erosion and hungry animals until the weather is just right. When the spring rains come, the seeds will use their soil homes to grow roots and sprout. When they break open the balls, the roots grow towards the soil floor, their new home.
There are many, many recipes for seed bombs. When making them, I referenced three different websites (links attached below). But much like my cooking, I minimally followed the recipe, using the resources I already had rather than buying anything new. Warm December weather allowed me to dig for clay in my backyard, but unscented kitty litter is a cheap alternative. I also used soil from a pre-opened bag and added native seeds that I ethically gathered this fall, but use what works for you.
In regards to seed choice:
Being the conservationist that I am, I want to add a little information on seed choice. Make sure to do your research on native and invasive species in your area. An invasive species will do more harm than good and native plants are the best option! There are so many beautiful plants and flowers native to us here in the Rappahannock Region. I highly recommend checking out the free Plant Virginia Natives plant guide pdf linked here: www.plantvirginianatives.org/native-plants-for-central-rapp
Learn more about seed bombs here:
By Savannah Steblein, Education Coordinator
It is definitely fall here in Fredericksburg— the chilly, blustery winds, shorter days, and fallen leaves are making sure we know that. And while it sure can be cold outside, the sun still reminds us of warmer times when she shines down on us. On one of those beautiful, sunny days come explore our garden and wander the paths or get lost among the trees. The trees have nearly lost all their leaves, so now is the time to search for birds’ nests, admire the ghostly branches of Seymour the Sycamore, and crunch on all those fallen leaves. Children and adults alike can play “The Ground is Lava” and try to hop from leaf to leaf without touching the ground— I know I still do ;)
We spent Thanksgiving indulging in delicious food and hearty conversation, but also reflecting upon the fact that we do live on stolen land. A little note about this: thanks to https://native-land.ca/ we were able to learn that Downtown Greens is on both the Manahoac and the Patawomeck peoples’ land. Taking the time to learn (and unlearn colonized or biased information) about the Indigenous people who lived here long before us is one way to acknowledge the losses (diseases, enslavement, loss of culture, geographic displacement, and unmentionably horrific crimes at the hands of settlers) the First Nations went through for colonizers to succeed. If you are looking to do something more, there are many First Nation-run mutual aid funds out there.
We are officially under contract to purchase a 56-acre parcel of land that contains living wetlands and mature trees, as well as the last farmland in Fredericksburg. As an extension of what Downtown Greens has been doing for over 25 years, this project will protect and nurture urban greenspace, teach the community about sustainable and organic growing techniques and provide accessible open space.
To learn more, visit our Expansion Project page.
If you haven't heard, Downtown Greens is working to purchase and conserve a parcel of land that contains living wetlands and mature trees as well as the last farmland in Fredericksburg. It is in the industrial park adjacent to Braehead Farm and would allow us to collaborate with several local groups and expand our reach in the community.
Downtown Greens has brought the community together for more than 25 years. A second campus for the organization would mean conservation of the last agricultural space in the city of Fredericksburg, additional outdoor education and recreation opportunities, and a protected wetlands space that is nurtured and open to the public.
Visit our Braehead Buffer page for more information, including detailed information about our plans for the space, a letter from Board President Brad Smith about the project, community letters of support, and more.
Please support us if you're able, and get in touch if you want to make a larger, tax-deductible investment in this exciting and ambitious community project!
If you're anything like us, that means you have been enjoying this newly warm weather with some much-needed outdoor time. Over the last couple of weeks, tulips of all different colors have been blooming around the city.
The spring flower derived its name from the 'delband,' which is the Persian word for turban. It was given this name because it reflects the shape of the flower. There are over 150 different species of tulips found in the world today! One thing that a lot of people don't know, is that tulips can be utilized in the kitchen! The edible flower can make a great alternative to onions when preparing any dish. Be sure to use the petals only, as the bulbs themselves have the potential of being poisonous.
We are hoping that all of you will get the chance to see these beautiful flowers while they are still in bloom. Luckily, if you miss them, there are an endless amount of other flowers to be appreciated!
To begin with, we are so glad that we have finally welcomed the spring season. After a cold but quick winter, we are happy to get the ball rolling and see what harvest this warmer weather will be bringing us in the coming months.
March seems to have flown by, with April seemingly coming out of nowhere. That being said, we are more than prepared and excited to take this rainy month on! We a handful of exciting events and workshops happening at the gardens this month. Our popular monthly mushroom workshops are seeing a twist this month, as we join Ryan Mooney in learning how to grow and care for bioluminescent mycelium, which gives off a beautiful earthy green glow. Alongside this, we are looking forward to celebrating earth day, hosting a tree workshop with Anne Little, as well as with some other events.
We are looking forward to seeing some of you in the gardens throughout April! If you have not seen the latest newsletter or would like to sign up for one of our upcoming events, you can do so here!
March is finally here, and we have an exciting month ahead of us. To begin with, the Downtown Runaround has officially begun! We are so happy with the turn out and are looking forward to seeing pictures of all the runners, walkers, and skaters too! Alongside this, we have another Reishi Mushroom Workshop coming up on the 13th, so be sure to sign up while you still can. If you are looking to help in the gardens, we are happy to let you know that our Thursday garden hours (3-6) are back in action!
If you haven't already taken a look at this month's newsletter, you can take a look here!
If you are anything like me and spend most of your time looking at the ground (that’s where the cool stuff is), you’ll probably have noticed these tiny flowers popping up all over town. So diminutive in size, these little blooms go mostly unnoticed and even if they are noticed, they take up so little space that most people’s minds quickly move on and think about bigger things. But let’s take a moment to appreciate these tiny harbingers of spring, the Bird’s-eye Speedwell.
Bird’s-eye Speedwell, or Veronica Persica, is an introduction native to Asia and parts of Europe. Of all the Speedwells the Bird’s-eye is considered the one of the largest with it’s blooms coming in at a whopping 1cm wide. The thick and sprawling growth pattern makes this an aggressive ground cover with most of its vegetative growth occurring during the cool weather of late winter and early spring.
Despite its unassuming nature, Bird’s-eye Speedwell is playing a big role in some scientific studies of its medicinal properties. Extracts of this plant have demonstrated anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral activities and have shown to accelerate the healing process when given to test subjects. Modern scientists aren’t the only ones that have noticed this little plant’s healing properties. In the mid-20th century Afghan herbalist, Mahomet Allum, used the plant to treat patients with heart trouble.
Even without its reported healing properties, this lilliputian bloom decorates the ground around town, attracting small bees and telling the world that spring is near!
By: Janet Douberly, Program Coordinator