Special Habitat Areas
In July 2016, a microburst down draft generated by a thunderstorm toppled trees and opened a hole in the canopy of a three and a half acre-sized parcel at Aquetong and River roads. By allowing adequate sunlight, this canopy opening has created a great opportunity for us to expand and develop our meadow. Our goal is to have a fully functioning new meadow—with both wet and dry areas to maximize the potential for plant diversity and striking visual displays—by 2021.
Clearing the area began in late 2016. Tree debris were removed and invasive multiflora rose bushes mowed. In 2017, a pesticide free, neonicotinoid herbicide was applied to weeds only to minimize exotic, non-native plants without disturbing the soil. Neonics are pesticides and are the system pesticides that we avoid because they are responsible for much of the damage to native insects.
In the fall of 2018, we began addressing potential erosion issues in many ways. We seeded the meadow with winter rye to help stabilize the soil to minimize erosion and installed mulch socks to keep the soil from eroding off-site. In early January of this year, we applied straw mulch to the entire site.
This spring, the meadow was seeded with a mix of seeds derived from local germplasm. A portion of the seed will germinate this growing season, while other seeds will wait until next spring. We should expect that some flowers may pop up this year, but by and large, 2020 will be when we begin to see any significant blooming. By 2021 the meadow should be established, though not yet fully mature.
In the meantime, we will mow the growing cover crops to keep them from going to seed, which will help prevent erosion and protect the growing native seedlings. This way the cover crops also won't grow too tall and outcompete our natives. Next year, the meadow will all be natives, and no additional cover crops will be used. We may conduct some plug planting, especially in challenging locations, in the upcoming year as well.
Throughout the five-year opening phase of the project, constant vigilance against exotic competitors will be necessary. Removing unwanted plants will become more difficult and will need to be conducted through manual pulling due to their proximity to newly-added natives.