Add your email address to get all of our recent blog posts

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mycoremediation Workshop at the New Leaf Eco Center

The soil plot before the mycoremediation
As most of our readers know, TLC is located in Kennett Square, PA, AKA the Mushroom Capital of the World, where almost half of America's mushrooms are grown. TLC sticks to our roots (or mycelia--the spidery web-like "root" system of fungi) by incorporating the mushroom industry in our work whenever possible. Our nature preserves provide hay for local mushroom farmers, we host an annual series of wild foraging events, and we use mycoremediation at our New Leaf Eco CenterThrough this innovative method, fungi use their natural digestive systems to clear soil of toxins. 

In 2011 and 2012, we successfully used mycoremediation to cleanse plots of soil of DDT.
2011- 2012 remediated site with
edible forest garden plantings

This past Friday, April 18th, we returned to the New Leaf Eco Center for another Mycoremediation Workshop. The workshop’s purpose was to implement the process on another plot of soil, and to share the method with our community. We hosted the event thanks to the support of the American Mushroom Institute and The Mushroom Festival, Inc.

Workshop participants examining mushroom spawn
The workshop began with Melissa Miles, local permaculture expert and Environmental Biologist, giving an overview of fungi, how they grow, and how they absorb and digest toxins. Melissa enlightened the group with information about fungi and how important they are to our environment, as well as plenty of fun facts. Did you know that the largest living organism in the world is a 2,000+ acre armillaria ostoyae fungus in Oregon? Or that fungi are more genetically and chemically similar to animals than they are to plants?

A layer of cardboard helps mycelium grow 
After the talk, our group got to work making layers of wood chips mixed with oyster mushroom spawn, recycled cardboard (cardboard is easier for the mycelium to grow in, giving it a head-start before it reaches the wood chips), fresh mushroom compost provided by Phillips Mushroom Farms, and straw on the soil plot. Oyster mushrooms have proven most successful in removing DDT, a toxin which, because of its widespread use in the 70s, is found in a great deal of US agricultural soil.

Spreading fresh mushroom compost
Also leading the workshop was West Chester University Biology Professor Dr. Greg Turner. Under his guidance, we varied the depth of the layers in order to monitor and gauge the most ideal conditions for growth and remediation. Dr. Turner will collect the results of the mycoremediation for future scientific publication as we continue to maintain the site with frequent watering and monitoring. The oyster mushrooms will consume and digest the soil, a process that will result in chemical changes that eradicate DDT levels.

Spreading wood chips mixed with fungi spawn onto the plot
The group of workshop participants included local environmentalists, students, mushroom enthusiasts, and neighbors. We even got a visit from a member of the Vincenti family, who donated the property to TLC in 2003. The day started out chilly, but soon everyone could take off their jackets thanks to shoveling, raking, watering, breaking up mushroom spawn, spreading straw, and tearing cardboard into strips (which isn't as easy as it sounds!). If all goes well, the site will be safe for edible planting after approximately three months. By monitoring and publishing the results, we hope to encourage widespread use of mycoremediation to the benefit of the environment and community.

TLC's Gwen Lacy with Jane Vincenti, whose family donated the property to TLC 11 years ago

After a successful mycoremediation installation 
If you would like to help TLC maintain the mycoremediation site, which needs to be watered every day, please contact us at 610-347-0347 x.101. The Mycoremediation Workshop is just one of the many exciting happenings at the New Leaf Eco Center this year. Our Open Hive Day series begins at the site in May and will happen monthly until the hives are closed in October. The New Leaf Eco Center is open to the public from dawn until dusk. Stop by to see our Edible Forest Garden, Apiary, Composting Demonstration Site, BioSwale, and Wetland Observation Area.

Stay tuned for our Wild Foraging Series, which begins May 31st with a Medicinal Plant Hike. The series continues with the Wild Edible Plant Hike and Mushroom Identification Hike. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Community Read 2014

Fallen beech tree rings
After three months of Leopold Saturdays and community speaker series, TLC is wrapping up our programming for the first Community Read in Chester County brought to us by our friends at Longwood Gardens.

In January of 2014, Longwood Gardens invited the community to read A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, with local libraries and land trusts, such as TLC.

Our first program, "Through the Eyes of a Naturalist" focused on the chapter from February called "Good Oak," where Leopold describes the history of the sand counties in Wisconsin through the eyes of a fallen oak tree. He begins: "There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace."

As Leopold harvests the fallen tree for heat, he recognizes each year of growth and the historical happenings the tree has encountered. This reminds us what the land has to offer and our dependance on nature's productivity. To ensure harmony between man and land this understanding must be passed down to each generation. Our program focused on a fallen beech tree and the history surrounding the Bucktoe Creek Preserve.

TLC also collaborated with West Chester University to hold a Green Fire screening. This is a documentary examining the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold. It dives into the formation of his thoughts as a young conservationist and follows through his early adulthood. It ends with his life at the shack alongside his family with commentary from some of his children, Leopold scholars, environmental writers, and more.

TLC also held two speaker series: "How the Red Clay Greenway in an Integral Part of the Land Ethic" and "Mushrooms? A Land Ethic." 

A big thanks to the Bayard Taylor Library for hosting the lectures! The goal was to highlight some of the projects going on at TLC and ways they relate to topics in A Sand County Almanac, such as recreation in nature and scientific development.

Learning about sustainability options with our beekeeper at New Leaf Eco Center
Each lecture followed up with a field trip to the location. The Red Clay Greenway is a 10-mile trail loop throughout Kennett township, parts of which are still being developed. You can read more about this project here.

"Mushrooms? A Land Ethic?" looked at the process of mycoremediation, which is a technique where mushrooms improve soil quality by removing toxins, such as DDT at TLC's New Leaf Eco Center. Participants then followed up with a tour of the New Leaf Eco Center learning about other sustainability options such as composting, mycoremediation, bioswales and beekeeping!

Exploring a key education tool, the Bucktoe Creek Preserve arboretum.
The second Leopold Saturday event was the "Bucktoe Restoration Walk." We celebrated the arrival of spring with a hike through the Bucktoe Creek Preserve with TLC & BCP staff members as guides. The crew hiked through woodlands, meadows and along the Bucktoe & Red Clay Creeks talking about the history, restoration efforts and goals of the Bucktoe Creek Preserve. The attention was focused towards the land-community interaction: management of wildlife species and development of education and research opportunities.

Dr. Curt Meine. Photos courtesy of Longwood Gardens.

As a special event in the Community Read Initiative, Longwood Gardens brought together several conservationist in the community, including TLC's Executive Director, Gwen Lacy, to explore Leopold's ideas and the impacts they have had on conservation efforts in the Brandywine Valley and beyond. The discussion was facilitated by Dr. Curt Meine, author of Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, who also gave an inspiring presentation on the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold and A Sand County Almanac.

TLC would like to thank the Bayard Taylor Library, the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, West Chester University, and last but not least, we would like to thank Longwood Gardens for bringing together our community to focus attention on issues of stewardship, restoration, and land conservation.

Stay tuned for 2015! We look forward to participating in future Community Read Initiatives to further promote the importance of community, collaboration, and conservation. 
Dr. Curt Meine and panelist. Photo courtesy of Longwood Gardens.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Planting Ideas!

Monarda didyma

I saw my first spring ephemeral wildflowers out in full bloom over the weekend, which means that spring has officially sprung!! I thought I would share two diverse and underutilized plants in the landscape that you should put on your list of plants to purchase at one of the upcoming plant sales in your area:

Monarda didyma or beebalm is a great native plant that will attract hummingbirds and other native pollinators. It has a tendency to have mildew in spots that are continuously shady, but overall this is a beautiful easily adaptable plant that spreads readily in moist conditions

Asimina triloba
or Paw-paw is a fruit tree that will produce delicious fruits after it has been established for seven years.  This plant is a host plant for butterfly larva, most notably the zebra swallowtail larva and produces edible fruit.  It is one of the two native plants that have a brown bloom in the spring.  This plant will form colonies but should be planted with three or four other paw-paws for cross-pollination.  The fruit tastes like banana cream pie--if you are skeptical, La Michoacana in Kennett serves up Paw-Paw Ice Cream once it is ripe (usually in mid-August but WHO KNOWS this year!) 

There are many native plants to choose from that could be perfect for your backyard . If you are planning on hitting one of the upcoming plant sales, let TLC's Landscape Visionaries team stop on out for a site visit to help you come up with a personalized list of native plants for your backyard! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Awareness is Key!

I received my April Newsletter from Penn State Cooperative Extension office today, and I thought that this article about ticks was timely as I recently had a discussion with some friends who were surprised that their dogs were already coming in covered in ticks.  The long, cold winter and slow start to spring has everyone thinking that the ticks are also slow to come to the surface but it is time to break out the Frontline for your pets!

If you live in southern Chester County, you know that Lyme Disease is a very real and valid threat to all of us nature lovers.   At TLC, we want you to #GetOutside and enjoy all of the beauty nature has to offer but want you to be aware and informed!  This article has a lot of great information about the life cycle and transmission of Lyme disease!   We want you to be informed and then join TLC on the land at one of our upcoming Programs, Events, or Volunteer opportunities! It is Earth Month!!  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Board Volunteer Work Day

New access trail at Stateline Woods Preserve.
Thanks to TLC's dedicated board members, we accomplished a great deal of spring cleaning at Stateline Woods Preserve on this damp morning. One of the trails was completely rerouted and is now accessible for walkers, runners and our canine and equestrian pals. The old driveway trail that passed by TLC's shed is now restricted to better accommodate visitors by providing a safer, quieter, and more scenic route through the preserve. The photograph on right is of the new trail through the hedgerow.

In just under three hours we were able to lay down wood chips and gravel on the new trail, clear and clean tree cages along additional hedgerows, remove brick, block, and large stones from a fall tree planting area, fill 5 bags of trash from an old farmer's dump site, and delivered hundreds of used plastic plant pots to Kennett Township's Recycling Center.   In addition to all that we also organized our nursery and resource yard.  We then followed our busy morning with lunch and a few laughs.

Organized nursery and resource yard
Truck being loaded with debris

A big thanks to TLC's awesome board members!  
See you next time!

Betsy driving the gator
Job well done!

Popular Posts