08May

What’s the Homegrown National Park and Why Do You Want In?

Logo of the "Homegrown National Park" movement, featuring their mascot, a firefly!

Homegrown National Park (HNP) is, in their own words, “a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants…where we live and work…extending national parks into our yards and communities.” We at North By Nature Landscapes couldn’t be more excited about this movement!

Whether you have 100s of acres, a suburban yard, or a container garden, you can join in growing the Homegrown National Park (HNP)!

What should you plant? The HNP team has identified “keystone species” by region that provide food, shelter, and/or nesting places for outsized numbers of different pollinators, birds, and other wildlife species. These include everything from giant oak trees to tiny flowers. Here’s their list of recommended trees and shrubs for our area of northern Michigan.

Homegrown National Park’s Keystone Trees for our EcoZone, #8.1

Why do we need the Homegrown National Park? The originator of the idea and one of the movement’s co-founders is Dr. Doug Tallamy, a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He and the HNP team explain the urgency of the project:
“We’ve reached a critical point. Local ecosystems are losing so many species that their ability to provide the ecosystem services (oxygen, clean water, flood control, pollination, pest control, carbon storage, etc) that sustain us will become seriously compromised.”

Currently, protected areas are not big enough to do it alone, “Our National Parks, no matter how grand in scale, are too small and separated from one another to preserve species to the levels needed,” says Dr. Tallamy.

BUT, the HNP team says, “…don’t worry…this isn’t a ‘bad human’ moment. We can fix this together–with good stewardship–and have fun doing it!” No finger wagging needed.

Since you are reading the North By Nature blog, you’ve probably already begun planting northern Michigan native plants. If so, you can get on the map of Homegrown National Park. Let’s get Michigan into the top ten in the state rankings!

The Homegrown National Park movement's map of those who have planted native plants in the United States.

We could go on and on, but we’ll share more about this inspiring movement and all the HNP team has to say in future editions of the North by Nature blog, on our Google profile, and on Facebook.

In the meantime, explore the Homegrown National Park website and/or follow them on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook. They aren’t kidding about having fun!

 

26Apr

Erosion Control Project Restores Shoreline Patio Retreat

 

Photo shows trees hanging perilously over the lake.

After years of family “camp” fires and fun, our client’s shoreline retreat was destroyed by ice push and erosion. Erosion had undercut beautiful maple trees and tipped them into the lake, while ice pushed boulder “steps” up under the bank and lifted flagstones on the lakeward side of a patio completely out of place.

Stones formerly used as informal steps to the water and loose logs tumbling down the bank.

With the informal stone steps into the lake undermined and the patio broken, the only access to the lake was off the dock. This confined access along the 120 feet of shoreline to just ONE spot!

Photo shows where ice has pushed the bank up under the patio's flagstones leaving them on roughly a 70 degree angle.

 

How did we fix this one??

Photo shows four men standing on the shoreline with erosion control installation in progress.

To install protective stone rip-rap on the shoreline, the NBN crew would need to make many trips with our Gator and wheelbarrows. First, we installed plywood over the patio stones to protect them. Of course, the existing boulder seating had to be set aside to create the travel path.

The design of the new biotechnical erosion control rip-rap included restoring the stepping stones down to the water and adding an access ramp. A shoreline buffer garden featuring deep-rooted, native shoreline plants (the biological part of biotechnical) will also help stabilize the lakeshore while also adding beauty and a subtle sense of privacy.

Photo of flagstone patio being reset like a giant puzzle.

With the shoreline protected, we turned to putting the patio puzzle back together. We re-set the boulder seats and slabs. This stone was one of the steps that had been pushed into the bank. The stone legs underneath brought the stone up to a comfortable seat height.

Photo shows a slab or ledge stone being lowers onto two stones which will serve to raise it to a comfortable height for sitting.

Photo of the finished patio with the access steeping stones and ramp in the foreground.

It was satisfying to see the restored patio and shoreline come together. The access ramp of smaller stones set at a gentle slope will deflect future push-ice events, freeing the family to enjoy their lake-side patio and waterfront for decades to come.

03Apr

Delay Yard Cleanup!

Photo of a chrysalis with coloration very similar to dried leaves and stems.
Do Not Disturb: a chrysalis is a future butterfly, waiting for its moment to emerge.

How would you like one less item on your to-do list this week? Pollinators are still overwintering in leaf litter, stalks, and among roots underground, so you can hold off on spring garden cleanup tasks.

When will they be safely on their way? This article from the Xerces Society shares signs to look for as spring unfolds each year.

https://xerces.org/blog/dont-spring-into-garden-cleanup-too-soon

With the time you’ve freed up, you could get out your hammock or lawn chairs: it is a great time to sit and enjoy the fresh spring air in northern Michigan! Maybe all bundled up…

Thanks for joining the North By Nature team in protecting biodiversity and pollinators!

21Mar

From Hazardous to Handsome

The owners of this new Harbor Springs home came to North By Nature Landscapes with several challenges around the steep slope to the right of their elegant front door:

  • stabilizing the surface in front of the entryway,
  • allowing for access to a water spigot located on the side of the stone column and
  • creating a path down the steep slope to their lower-level patio and yard.

 

 

(A closer look at the surface to be stabilized and the spigot, above.)

 

Our designer suggested using natural limestone outcroppings and flagstone to complement the color and texture of the beautiful stonework on the house. First, we retained the earth at the entryway level with this dry-stacked wall. The outcroppings were stacked, without the use of mortar, on a compacted base of crushed stone to assure good drainage. One course of outcroppings are buried to provide the mass needed to retain the slope.

 

 

Next, we created this flagstone extension of the poured concrete sidewalk to further stabilize the area and keep everything neat.

 

 

A photo showing a steep slope descending next to a new home. North By Nature Landscapes designed and installed a retaining wall and stairs which provide access from the front entry to the lower level patio and yard.

Then, we installed snapped limestone steps down the hill. Note the large outcropping stones set in the garden between the house and the stairs. These help to stabilize the slope and provide access both to the spigot and for maintaining the new garden.

Finally, we began plantings on the reshaped slopes on either side of the stairs.

Handsome, huh?

28Apr

What is a Watershed??

Watershed Awareness

A watershed is described by the US Geological Survey as a “precipitation collector.” It is, by definition, a geographical area within which all flows to a common point. For example, each of the Great Lakes is the drainage destination of their own watersheds, which in turn combine to form the Great Lakes Basin watershed, draining into the St. Lawrence Seaway and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Essentially, all but the smallest watersheds are connected. Click on the images below for links to examples of NBN’s local watersheds.

Every household within a watershed has the potential to influence the quality of water flowing out of it. Storm-water runoff from roofs, across driveways, and into sewers is often discharged straight into water bodies, carrying pollutants picked up along the way. Small actions such as reducing fertilizer and pesticide use on lawns, installing rain gardens, and planting buffer strips along shorelines can have big impacts on water quality.

Our many inland lakes and rivers are the precipitation collectors and a point of heavy activity throughout the year. Shoreline habitats are critical to the health of the entire lake yet this is where the pollutants concentrate and cause the most harm. What we lakeshore homeowners do while “fixing up” our lakeshore property can add to the end result of destroying one of our states invaluable resources, the fragile habitat along lakeshores.

Some changes we make that may damage the habitat are:

 

  • Trucking in sand used to make a beach may end up covering natural gravel which is used by frogs for laying eggs, fish for spawning and by various insects for hatching.
  • Removing aquatic vegetation for boating and swimming can create an unstable habitat that is needed for bass to spawn, loons to nest, waterfowl to eat and insects use to live underwater in! Songbirds use shoreline shrubs for nesting while ducks use shoreline grasses for laying eggs.
  • Removal of dead fallen trees along the waters edge where bass and various pan fish love to hide also makes it difficult for the turtles and other wildlife who sit atop the tree to sun themselves and take a break from the water.

Do what you can to minimize use of toxic chemicals and fertilizers on your property. Make the switch from traditional mowed lawn to native grasses and wildflowers that require less maintenance. Avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and limit the use of organic ones.

In fact, your property may have enough space for a lightly developed shoreline and a stunning buffer garden such as the one pictured below. The lush plantings on the right were installed two-three years prior to the plantings on the left. Keep in mind that it will take a few seasons to grow your garden. A skilled gardener experienced in native plants is important to keeping unwanted weeds out while the natives become established. See our previous “Sound Up” post to view pollinators enjoying the late summer Asters and Goldenrod seen here.

This Walloon Lake buffer garden is populated with native perennials, grasses and sedges aiding in the reduction of potential runoff from the lawn.

It may sound counter-intuitive: the idea that a “clean” lawn and shoreline may make a “dirty” lake but complicated things are often that way. The experts at North by Nature Landscapes specialize in natural shorelines and landscapes using native plants and materials to stop erosion and replace lost natural shoreline habitats. Call Bret at 231-340-0446: we would be happy to do our part in helping enhance and preserve your property.

01Dec

Sound Up! Shoreline Pollinator Garden Sound Effects.

Shoreline Pollinator Garden featuring New England Asters. Seed grown native species are crucial for the health of our landscapes and ecosystems. They are also visually stunning and are the last flowers to bloom – often into October when all others have faded. We have combined them with Stiff Goldenrod, Mountain Mint, Swamp Milkweed, native Hibiscus, Blue Lobelia, Cardinal Flower, and Tussock Sedge in a shoreline buffer garden replacing an unmowable and swampy lawn. Background audio is the real deal so turn it up to enjoy fully.

New England Aster and Stiff Goldenrod, October 2021, Walloon Lake, MI

New England Aster and Stiff Goldenrod

Shoreline Buffer Garden with Michigan Native Plants

 

29Mar

Construction Site Restoration

Construction site restoration services focus on cost-effective, ecologically responsible, and successful restoration of impacted habitats. At the location illustrated, plants are establishing well and will be blooming with new growth in time for early summer occupation of the residence.

12Feb

Natural Shoreline Restoration

Lake Shoreline Erosion, Emergency Repair, Natural Shoreline Restoration: Short-rooted turf grass is no match for waves or flowing water. Over 90 cubic yards of soil washed into Black Lake over a 14-year period. Within 4 days we stabilized the bank and created a seedbed for deep rooted plants.