January 29, 2011

Not quite natural plans for the new land

We bought 5.46 acres of land behind our house and neighbors' houses last month, and are starting to work out what to do with it. As I noted before, there are clauses preventing building houses on it and hydrofracking it - both of which are fine because we're planning on keeping it fairly natural.

Not completely natural, at least not in the sense of leaving it alone. While we still have to do a census of the trees on the property, we already know that we don't like a lot of the undergrowth on its northern edge. The honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, and privet are all invasives (and I have no qualms about using that term about these plants) that don't provide much to the ecosystem, and I'll be applying my honeysuckle popper a lot to the honeysuckle in particular.

Popping the honeysuckle, though, means putting something in its place. Otherwise, we'll likely just get something else we don't want. Honeysuckle in particular has done well because it doesn't mind shade and is pretty much deer-proof, so replacing it will be hard.

We have a few plans for that. The general idea is that when we plant anything up there, it has to be either useful or native - in which case it's likely useful to the ecosystem, if not immediately to us. In the shaded edge of the forest, that's going to mean things like currants and gooseberries (useful to us) and northern spicebush and assorted viburnums (useful to birds and insects), along with a variety of things like ramps (which are both native and tasty and like to grow on hillsides in damp areas).

We're also going to set up a 'nursery' area, a space that's not just for propagating new plants but also protected from deer. There are a few issues with deer fencing (including some with the Town's zoning) that I need to sort out, but in general the idea is to create a sheltered population that might serve as a seed area to allow birds to spread the native plants in particular.

Deer are going to be a large problem, as they make it hard to get new plants started. Our early surveys before the snow covered everything suggested that the deer have already demolished much of what should have been up there otherwise - but we've also had less deer pressure on our plants at the house than we'd had in prior years. I'm not sure if they demolished the food sources and moved on, are facing pressure from coyotes, or are just waiting for me to plant more tasty treats so they can call their cousins in Cayuga Heights to come over for dinner.

Hunting is going to be an important part of controlling deer, though we have a lot to learn about how that works and how much impact it can really have.

The land borders Saunders Greenhouse to the east, which is up for sale with a listing that notes:

Hillside wooded area ideal to develop housing. Zoning call for up to 135 units, but will be affected by grade issue.

I suspect we'll be more comfortable working on that edge when it becomes more clear what's happening with that property.

To the west is the Parke-Dabes Natural Area, which the Town took over from the Finger Lakes Land Trust in 2007. It was logged sometime before that, and as the trust's Summer 2007 newsletter reported:

the Dabes woods are a mixed hardwood forest that makes up a portion of the Mount Pleasant view from State Route 13 near the Tompkins County airport. Although it bordered land protected through a conservation easement held by the Land Trust, careful evaluation of the Parke-Dabes site itself showed that the property was more suited to recreational parkland where recent logging had left a series of roads that could serve as a foundation for walking paths and hiking trails.

It's pretty similar to the land we purchased, though obviously it's much larger - about ten times larger. The Town seems to be actively seeking better access to the land, so I think there will be more people coming through there as well.

To the south are the Madsens, who seem intent on keeping their property about as it is, and to the north are our neighbors' houses along 366. We hope not to disturb them much at all even as we change the mix of plants.

I wrote about Native Plants for Native Birds this morning, and that's one of the key books we're using to figure out what to do, along with the others I mentioned in that review, Bringing Nature Home and Landowner's Guide to State-Protected Plants of Forest in New York State. We'll also be relying heavily on Edible Forest Gardens, which has an amazing plant inventory in its appendices, and Making the Most of Shade, though it's aimed more at ornamental gardens.

Fortunately, we have a native plant-centered nursery right in Dryden - at The Plantsmen.

We'll be starting on the edge. Figuring out what, if anything, to change in the deeper woods, where the leaf canopy is pretty complete, will come later.

More to come, as we figure out what's up there and start making more detailed plans and plantings!

Posted by simon at January 29, 2011 2:00 PM in , ,
Note on photos