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OP-Ed

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Monday, 05 October 2015 11:26

Living Close to Nature

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Fall organic gardening checklist

Our outdoor growing season is winding down, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook for gardening chores just yet. There are many things you can do right now to make the best of the remaining season and set yourself up for success next year. 

Fall planting

You still have time to plant fall flowers to enjoy until the frosty weather hits. Now is a good time to plant mums, winter pansies, decorative cabbages and kales. 

According to the almanac, we aren't supposed to get our first frost until Nov. 16, but keep an eye on the weather for cold nights and early frosts. On cold nights, cover your plants with a light cloth or plastic bag to protect them. If you are growing late season lettuce, protect it with a row cover before the first frost.

Now is the time to plant bulbs that will pop up in the spring. Plant garlic, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and crocus. It's also a good time to transplant trees and shrubs that have gone dormant with the cold weather because they won't get as stressed. 

Fall harvest and clean up

Harvest and preserve the last of your fruits and veggies. Can, freeze, dry, or store them in a root cellar. 

Share extras with your friends,  neighbors, and the local food bank. Throw what's left of your plants on the compost pile. 

Build your soil

Fall is the best time to focus on re-building your soil for next spring. It's a good idea to test your soil to see what it needs. If necessary, adjust your soil's pH with lime or sulfur. 

Dig compost into the top 3-4 inches of soil and around the base of established plants. You can also spread a thin layer of compost on your lawn to fertilize it. Add organic soil amendments such as kelp meal, greensand, rock phosphate and bone meal.

Cover your bare soil with mulch or cover crops. Shred the leaves from your yard with your lawn mower then spread them over your garden. The leaves will break down, feed the soil, prevent soil erosion and encourage microbial life. 

In place of mulch, cow peas, clovers or soybeans are ideal cover crops. When you till them into the soil in the spring, they will provide nitrogen for your plants. Nitrogen is essential for early seedling growth.

Deal with pests and disease

Slugs can destroy a spring garden. Shrink next year's slug population with one final slug bait application now. 

Keep an eye on your perennials for signs of pest and disease so you can treat them in the early stages. We are entering mold season.

Cleaning

Tools are expensive. If you take care of them, you'll only have to buy them once. Make sure to clean and oil them before you store them.

Once your garden is cleaned up and resting for the winter, make sure to request your seed catalogs so you can plan next year's garden.

Monica Rakowski owns KP Indoor Garden Store in Key Center. She also blogs at TheNatureLifeProject.com.

Monday, 05 October 2015 11:25

Beyond the Backyard

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Progress made toward near and distant future projects

We had a successful first committee meeting in August to plan the new Gateway Park playground. Those in attendance were asked to look through various vendor catalogues and highlight playground components they would like to see at the new park. There were many great ideas suggested and some consistencies in the committee membersdesires.

As you may recall from the July 2015 Key Peninsula News article, Key Pen Parks learned earlier this year that we were awarded a $500,000 matching grant for Gateway Park development as part of the state legislatures 2015-17 capital budget. This unexpected money will now allow us to jump start the Phase 1 plans of the project, including the design and construction of a new destination playground.

Immediately following the first committee meeting, I submitted the feedback and ideas to several playground vendors with the request that they use the information to draw up sample playground plans.

We anticipate receiving these drawings in the first week of October. Shortly thereafter, these drawings will be available for viewing by the general public. We will also open an online voting platform for the public to choose their favorite layouts, keeping in mind that the final design will remain fluid. If all goes well with permitting and any unplanned delays are avoided, we could see a playground as early as summer 2017.

When so much of the time of running a park district is spent in laying foundations for future projects, it is energizing to work on something so close to being tangible.

Another project still in a lengthy foundation laying phase but which recently had some activity is Key Central Forest. Similarly to 360 Trails, the 480-acre Key Central Forest is managed by Key Pen Parks through a 50-year lease from the property owner, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It is located north of Key Center and Vaughn between Wright Bliss Road and Key Peninsula Highway North.

Last month, DNR acted on a federal mandate to remove some culverts that existed on this property in an effort to enhance the salmon habitat in Vaughn Creek, which runs through Key Central Forest. We partnered with DNR and granted them access to the property via an easement through an adjacent Key Pen Parks-owned parcel off Wright Bliss Road in exchange for DNR clearing enough trees and bulldozing land to form a forest access road. They will sell the felled trees –– about 15 acres worth in total –– to pay for the clearing of our property.

This new road, although rough, is one of the first stages of laying the foundation for the future public access and development of Key Central Forest. For now; however, the road will give Key Pen Parks the ability to maintain this property on both sides of Vaughn Creek for the foreseeable future.

It is partnerships like this one with DNR, as well as the generous involvement of our community members, which help Key Pen Parks leverage resources so we can continue to build for the recreation future of the Key Peninsula.