Managing Knotweed Organically

Modern folk tales abound in Nova Scotia about the indestructible plant that grows like a weed all over our shorelines, dominating other plants with its giant bamboo-like stalks. I’m talking about Japanese knotweed, which is a problematic invasive plant across the province and beyond.  Japanese knotweed was once a prized garden plant, which is how it arrived on our shorelines. Over time, it became less popular because of its invasive quality. There is also some evidence that Japanese knotweed has hybridized with giant knotweed in Nova Scotia, making it an even more formidable foe. Knotweed is a pioneer plant that thrives in disturbed areas. It loves water and roots, spreading along shorelines and wet areas via floating root clumps. The main concern with knotweed is that is creates a monoculture by out-competing all other plants. This monoculture worsens shoreline erosion, decreasing biodiversity and creating an unsightly brown view throughout much of the year. Read more about Japanese knotweed in Nova Scotia here.

Japanese knotweed

Many a gardener has tried to tackle this plant, only to find it re-sprouts seemingly larger than before. Some have resorted to pesticides, which only further deteriorate our shoreline ecosystems. At Earthshine Gardens, we have been experimenting with organic knotweed eradication and have found our method to be extremely effective; having created diverse and beautiful shoreline gardens in what only a few years ago were knotweed monoculture jungles.  Our method is simple and achievable, using the following steps:

1.       Cut all the stalks and leaves off of the knotweed, prior to flowering if possible. The non-flowering aerial plant parts can be used to build biomass in the area and will not re-sprout if there are no roots attached.  The green plant parts can be laid down in the area to decompose, providing valuable nitrogen to build the soil as a foundation for other plants.

2.       Dig or cut out as many of the root clumps (called rhizomes) as you can. This is the main way that the plant reproduces. These are very hard and will take some muscle to uproot.

3.       Bag all rhizomes and seed heads in black garbage bags for disposal, to ensure they don’t sprout elsewhere.

4.       Lay a thick tarp over the entire knotweed area and weight it down well. The tarp will deprive the rhizomes of light and water, which will cause them to come closer to the surface over time so you can dig them out.

5.       Lift the tarp once per month for 1-2 years to remove any green sprouts and dig out rhizomes, using the same process as above. Over time, you will see less rhizomes, and eventually none at all. Walking on the tarp once per week or so will ensure shoots break and the tarp is not damaged.

6.       Create a sheet mulch over the entire area using thick cardboard topped by brush materials, compost, soil, woodchips etc. This will allow new soil to be created for plants to establish.

7.       Plant hardy perennials or shrubs over the area. Ensure that you use a diversity of different plants that are strong competitors but allow diversity. Add 2-3 inches of straw or bark mulch over top of the area.

8.       Keep an eye out for knotweed re-sprouting and pull it as soon as possible. If possible, work with other natural plants that are establishing in your new garden. This will allow a diverse, low-maintenance ecosystem to develop in your new garden.

I recommend folks try this method and let us know how it goes.  If you need help, we’re here for you. Just call Earthshine Gardens, the South Shore’s holistic ecological land care team.

Contact us to book your complementary site-visit today.

Thanks for a joyous and productive first season!

What an amazing first season it has been! We want to express our sincere thanks to our clients, vendors, staff, family, friends and community who supported us this year. Thanks to you, Earthshine Gardens has designed, created and cared for some beautiful outdoor spaces across the South Shore in 2017. Our projects included designing and creating six new gardens, creating three forest trails and stewarding sixteen properties over the season.

As we move towards winter, we are winding down our field work to focus on landscape designs and other preparations for the 2018 growing season. With fall also comes time to reflect on this amazing whirlwind journey we've been on. We feel immensely grateful for the warm welcome we received this year as a new local business. We look forward to continuing our work next year to make the communities we love greener, more beautiful and more connected.

Caitlin and Guy Doucette Earthshine Gardens

THANK-YOU for helping us grow!

With love, Caitlin and Guy Doucette

 

Springing into Action: Nova Scotia's All-New Ecological Land Care Team

Spring has sprung and Earthshine Gardens is giving our local land some love. Our team is already working on land and garden care projects across Nova Scotia's South Shore. Our Gardeners are busy tending asparagus, edging new beds, completing spring clean-ups and starting veggie gardens. Our forest technicians are pruning apples, planning trails and creating rustic brush walls. Our designer is drawing up ideas for local business fronts, new home constructions and edible landscapes. Every day, we are working joyfully to reconnect Nova Scotia's people with the beautiful nature around us, one landscape at a time.

We've also been working hard behind the scene this month. We've created a stellar workshop space complete with a new tool collection. We've been out there throughout the region and online talking to people to share our story. Our team is off to a great start with a unique staff orientation focused on skill-sharing, team-building and hands-on outdoor projects.

Building Earthshine Gardens has been a positive, heart-affirming process for myself (Caitlin) and Guy. We are passionate about weaving experiences of gardens, nature and home-grown food into our community. Earthshine Gardens is a platform from which we can launch our creative contributions to growing sustainable and resilient communities. We are falling in love with our business every day that it blossoms and we are overjoyed to have this opportunity to nurture positive change.

A duck friend enjoys  Earthshine Gardens '  living shoreline  on the  LaHave River .

A duck friend enjoys Earthshine Gardens' living shoreline on the LaHave River.

Personally, creating balance in life is a key value that I (Caitlin) am trying to uphold. I believe that balance between personal, professional, political, social and emotional aspects of our lives is necessary for our wellness. I also believe in the power of popular education praxis that combines lived experiences with theoretical knowledge and critical reflection. Praxis allows us to create a sustainable feedback cycle that helps us find solutions to live better with nature and one another. This may sound complicated, but it is the same thing that nature does in an ecosystem. Elements (animals, water, soil, trees etc.) exist in relation to one another, and nature creates resilient systems by allowing feedback between the elements and their functions. For example, if there is a dry, hot climate over time, evolution by natural selection favours plants with thick leaves and deep root systems while selecting for animals with slim bodies and long limbs that cool more easily. The system receives the ecological feedback and makes the change. Nature is my inspiration to find balance as the owner of Earthshine Gardens. My hope is that holding time for reflection, knowledge-sharing, dialogue and experimentation will allow our business to respond and thrive in the face of change.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

Me enjoying a morning sunbeam with my seedlings.

For me and Guy, balance includes creating time for personal projects. We've been having fun these past few months growing our own organic vegetable seedlings for our balcony, for our community garden plot at Hodge Podge Garden and for the new garden we are creating at Blueberry Hill, space graciously shared with us by Laura, who is a member of our staff team. I started my tomatoes early and the plants are already big and strong. I have a feeling I will be neck-deep in canning and dehydrating projects by August! We've also been nurturing our living shoreline garden on the LaHave river, building the soil, combating the Japanese knotweed and adding new plants including luscious Medway Moss. It warms our hearts to hang out with our shoreline friends - Spirit the red squirrel, a little sparrow called Mustachio and his mate, River the rat (who shares a home with Spirit), Goofy Foot our silly loon, our beloved Autumn duck (RIP), and a revolving cast of sea birds. Sometimes we are even treated with a visit from a sleek seal or majestic bald eagle! When we need a break from the gardens, we've been working on art projects and rocking out with The Shadow Band, which provides the perfect balance for our hands-on work in the field with Earthshine Gardens.

Let Earthshine Gardens give your land some love. We're now booking for the 2017 growing season. Contact us to set up your complementary site visit for stewardship, design and creation projects, or explore our website to learn more about our services. Stay connected with our holistic ecological land care team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as we spring into action!

Happy spring,

Caitlin Doucette, designer / project facilitator

Launching Earthshine Gardens!

Late-winter reflection at one of my favourite places on Earth ( Gaff Point , Nove Scotia).

Late-winter reflection at one of my favourite places on Earth (Gaff Point, Nove Scotia).

It brings me (Caitlin) great joy to launch and share our new holistic ecological land care business, Earthshine Gardens! Starting in 2017, we will be offering a suite of organic garden and land care services in our community here in South Shore, Nova Scotia. In our work, our team will seek to re-connect our clients with their land and provide our community with meaningful experiences in nature.

I am thrilled to be working with a skilled team including Gardeners, Forest Technicians and even an Artist-in-Residence. Our small-team structure will allow us to personalize our projects to give our clients the best service possible. Together, our team has strong and diverse experience working with nature in ecological garden and land care initiatives. I am excited to provide an alternative to conventional landscaping that enhances beauty and bounty, while strengthening the ecological value, biodiversity and natural resilience  of our land.

My spring  living shoreline  garden on the  LaHave River . We're looking forward to even more blooms this year ( Bridgewater , Nova Scotia).

My spring living shoreline garden on the LaHave River. We're looking forward to even more blooms this year (Bridgewater, Nova Scotia).

This new venture brings together so many things that I am passionate about - people, gardens, nature, food and creativity. I have experienced the immense power and positive energy of really being in nature, of eating fresh garden harvests and of sinking hands into the soil. Earthshine Gardens will offer a new way for my team and me to share this experience by bringing it to others in our community.

Spring bulbs are coming soon, I promise!

Spring bulbs are coming soon, I promise!

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs, including more on our team and services.

I love to connect so please feel encouraged to contact me. I believe that nurturing strong and resilient communities is the root of living more local, more sustainable and ultimately more fulfilling lives.

Warmly, Caitlin Doucette