Garden Notes : Noise in the garden
Labor Day draws nigh, and school beckons, a time that used to lend the last weeks of late summer their elegiac feel and stillness. It has been a grand summer season in Island gardens, with much to harvest and be grateful for. There are some things, however, I could do with less of.
A wag put it that one person's gardening is another's noise nuisance. Wherever I am at work I hear diesel and two-cycle engines from excavators, bobcats, and lawn-care equipment. Whenever I am at home I hear the sound of two-cycle engines: constant chain sawing, weed-whacking, lawn-mowing, and hedge trimming at dusk. Running a motor is how some people show love of the outdoors. Too frequent is the chilling sound of sirens.
Concerning noise in the garden, what about the constant roar of the lawn and yard care machinery of homeowners and landscapers that is heard high and low, up-Island and down, from early until late, at all times of day, and often seven days a week? It seems reasonable for buyers of such equipment to demand that manufacturers make it as soundproof and silent as possible. Lawn services could gain market share by claiming the Island's lowest decibel levels. Individual operators might experience less hearing loss.
In another instance of noise pollution, everywhere we work biplanes that fly extremely loudly, slowly, and low follow us. We perform garden work in some of the loveliest spots on Martha's Vineyard; the owners of these properties pay some of the Island's highest real estate taxes. I merely work at these properties once a week - and noise from the biplanes drives me nuts! What about the residents? These planes snoop overhead with deafening decibels, repeatedly, on a daily basis.
The aircraft themselves are classic antique airplanes, obviously marvelous mechanical relics and providing an entertaining ride. However, there seems to be no requirement for functional mufflers on them. (I would certainly be pulled over if I repeatedly drove a motorcycle - or vehicle of any vintage - with a defective muffler through those same neighborhoods or on any Island road; and rightly so.) Don't homeowners, who are underwriting a goodly share of the towns' budgets, have rights to be free from such disturbance?
What has happened to the peace and quiet on which the fame and fortune of Martha's Vineyard is based? Does anyone join in my desire for those elusive moments of silence or birdsong? Am I the only one registering, and lamenting, the levels of continual noise that assail me when I am enjoying the beauty, ha ha, of nature?
"Strider's surrender:" Further thoughts
How much productive seabed habitat can we afford to subtract from Earth's total? Recent news items have referred to the alarming increase of dead zones in the world's oceans over the past few years. They are now as much of a threat to ocean life as over-fishing and habitat loss, say researchers in the recent issue of the journal Science. Dead zones are typically created when rivers and estuaries to the ocean carry massive amounts of synthetic fertilizer from conventional farms. The fertilizers cause algae blooms, and the subsequent eutrophication suffocates fish and the marine food chain.
The number of dead zones has risen from 162 to 405 in the last 20 years. Scientists say this year's dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, created by chemical farm fertilizer runoff, factory farm pollution, and municipal sewage contamination in the Mississippi Basin, is a record 8,000 square miles. Researchers now agree that chemical agriculture dead zones are one of the world's biggest environmental threats. The only real solution to the ocean's dead zones is to practice soil conservation and make the transition to sustainable farming methods that are free of the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides.
Fungi in lawns
Several questions about fungi growing in lawns have come my way so I mention the subject, but refer readers to Matt Pelikan's comprehensive overview of fungi and mushrooms in his August 21 column in The Times covering many aspects of this topic.
Photo by Susan Safford
In the garden
The mixed bean tower of 'Scarlet Runner' and 'Blue Lake' pole beans has proved alluring to the resident hummingbirds, as have the sweet pea blossoms, especially the red ones. Of the two varieties I grew this season, 'Prized Strain' has held up better and longer than the beautiful, stripey 'Spencer Ripple,' both from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Check over your seed collection for items with cold tolerance that could still squeeze you out a crop: some beets, kohlrabi and leeks are going into the space my zucchini occupied.
I deadhead the sunflowers to keep bloom coming, but tuck the deadheads into the netting that tops the fence surrounding the garden, using a clothespin to hold them there if the stem is short. Wrens, chickadees, and goldfinches continue to work them over until every seed is gone.
Peaches have been bountiful on our one compost-spawned tree. The fall crop of everbearing red raspberry 'Heritage' is just beginning and appears to be of mammoth proportions. It is time to sow cover crops if there are empty sections of the garden. Even a quick turn with buckwheat adds valuable properties to soils. Order seed garlic and spring-flowering bulbs.
Polly Hill Arboretum
The engaging plantsman, naturalist, photographer and author William Cullina will be speaking and leading a workshop at PHA September 12 and 13. Please check the PHA website or call 508-693-9426 for more information.