Leave the Leaves! A Message from Sustainable Princeton

Fall Foliage Lake.jpg

Reprint from Sustainable Princeton

What’s more beautiful than the fall colors that adorn Princeton each autumn? Leaving those leaves where they can do some good. Consider them an asset to the soil and plants. The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) recommends 6 things you can do to take advantage of leaves:  

  • The simplest thing to do is to rake or blow leaves into your woodlot, if available, or in an obscured portion of your yard such as behind shrubs.

  • Mulch leaves with a mower so they can disappear back into the lawn. The fragmented leaves can also be raked onto flower beds as a mulch—a technique particularly appropriate for owners of small lots. Some leaves, like those of silver maples, crinkle-up and all but disappear into the lawn on their own, even before mowing. For thick, persistent leaves like those from a red oak, a corral or the mulch mower approach will keep them from blowing back into the yard. Though a mower with a mulching blade would be optimal, all power mowers should do an adequate job.

  • Spread leaves on garden and leave them there to hold in moisture, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool in the summer, and slowly release nutrients. Planting tomatoes, for instance, requires nothing more than parting the leaves to put the new plants in. The leaf mulch reduces rotting of any tomatoes that touch the ground.

  • Create a leaf corral. A corral or circle of wire fencing will help contain the leaves and keep them from blowing around. A readily available fencing is 3 feet high, green, and comes in rolls at the local hardware store. The corral is essentially invisible when tucked in a back corner of the lot. A U-shape may be preferred so that leaves can be raked right into the enclosure rather than lifted over the fencing. The leaf pile quickly reduces in size over the winter. The leaves can be left to decompose, acting like a sponge to catch the rain, and releasing nutrients to benefit the health of all trees and other landscaping in the vicinity. Contrary to popular notions of composting, it is not necessary to laboriously turn the pile. Leaf piles do not create odors.

  • Use leaves to control weeds by raking them towards the fence line where they can serve as a mulch to keep down weeds that often dominate there. Dump leaves on any other weeds or groundcovers that are getting out of control. A thick layer of leaves discourages weeds. For weeds or groundcovers strong enough to push up through the leaves, first place overlapping pieces of cardboard on the undesired plants, then use the leaves over top to hide the cardboard. Both will decompose over time.

  • If the leaves must leave the property, bag them.

Taking these steps will reduce flooding, water and noise pollution, energy consumption, and municipal costs to pick up and transport the leaves.

Here is information from the Municipality of Princeton’s brush, leaf and log collection, including Princeton Environmental Commission’s guide to composting and mulching leaves.

For information about Sustainable Princeton, please visit sustainableprinceton.org.


Native Trees & Shrubs that Benefit Wildlife

"Native trees, shrubs, and vines are the key to successful backyard habitats, offering critical food and cover to our wildlife.  Native vegetation  will thrive with the least amount of care. Non-native ornamentals require a great deal of care (watering, chemicals for insect pests, fertilizing) and tend not to thrive as readily as native vegetation.  This should be a prime consideration with successive drought years and water shortage problems.  Many non-native ornamentals have no food value to our wildlife.  Be sure to include native evergreens, key in providing cover year-round (safe refuge from predators and bad weather, safe nesting sites, and a safe place to roost through the night)." 

Read the rest of the article and view the extensive plant list, compiled by Patricia Sutton here. 

More information is available on the NJ DEP website. 

20171128_112014.jpg

Birds of Mountain Lakes

The Mountain Lakes Preserve is home to a diversity of birds, some common, some rare.  eBird is a website and an app in which people (both professional birders and non-professional) can report their exact sightings of bird species.  In the past few months, birders have reported sightings of many interesting species.  Below is a list of some species that call Mountain Lakes home, and where to look to find them.  This is only a fraction of the diversity that exists within the preserve. 

 Palmer Lake is home to a  Great Blue Heron  that is frequently seen on the dams or lake shores. 

Palmer Lake is home to a Great Blue Heron that is frequently seen on the dams or lake shores. 

  Great Horned Owls  are elusive, but can be heard at dusk and dawn in the pine forest. 

Great Horned Owls are elusive, but can be heard at dusk and dawn in the pine forest. 

  Pileated Woodpeckers  often sound like a hammer hitting a tree when searching for food.  They can be found in Witherspoon Woods in large, dead trees. 

Pileated Woodpeckers often sound like a hammer hitting a tree when searching for food.  They can be found in Witherspoon Woods in large, dead trees. 

  Cedar Waxwings  are fairly common if you know where to look.  They can be found along wood edges near a water source.  

Cedar Waxwings are fairly common if you know where to look.  They can be found along wood edges near a water source.  

  Eastern Meadowlarks  can be found nesting on the ground of large meadows, such as Tusculum. 

Eastern Meadowlarks can be found nesting on the ground of large meadows, such as Tusculum. 

 Although there is no  Bald Eagle  nest at Mountain Lakes, there have been several sightings of eagles flying over. 

Although there is no Bald Eagle nest at Mountain Lakes, there have been several sightings of eagles flying over. 

Janssen Cares Volunteer Day

Volunteers from Janssen Pharmaceuticals pulled on their work gloves and hefted trimmers, loppers, and chain saws to work with members of Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) recently. Their task was to get a start on ridding the area along the driveway of the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton of some stubborn invasive species.  

J&J1.jpg

After a quick lesson by FOPOS Natural Resource Manager, Jeff Geist, in identifying the most prevalent invasives, (honeysuckle, grapevine, porcelain berry, and multiflora rose), the eight Janssen personnel enthusiastically tackled their assignment, undeterred by poison ivy and two areas of ground-nesting yellow jacket wasps.  In record time 250 linear feet on both sides of the driveway had been cleared.

Clark Lennon, FOPOS board member and supervisor of the day’s work, said he was impressed by the Janssen crew.  “I never thought we would get this much accomplished in just a few hours”, he said.  “They worked really hard and did a great job.”

FOPOS plans to remove invasive species along the full half-mile length of the driveway into the Nature Preserve with the help of volunteers and board members. This work complements the 18 acre forest restoration project on the west side of Mountain Lake which FOPOS has also undertaken.

J&J2.jpg

Friends of Princeton Open Space is always interested in partnering with corporate groups who are looking for volunteer opportunities.  For more information, contact us at www.fopos.org.

Woodfield Reservation Update

This summer, the FOPOS Trail Crew has been hard at work restoring and repairing the trails at Woodfield Reservation.  Last year, the crew cleared several thousand feet of trails to make it walk-able.  This year’s project has been constructing boardwalks over swampy and wet trails.  Thus far, in June and July, the team had 9 workdays with a total of 14 volunteers resulting in 162 work hours, 360 feet of constructed boardwalks and 130 feet of relocated trails.

 

If you are interested in helping our volunteer crew for the remainder of the summer, and into the fall, please email us at info@fopos.org. 

FOPOS Hosts Princeton YMCA Outdoor Living Skills Camp

The Friends of Princeton Open Space hosted 36 kids from the Princeton YMCA Outdoor Living Skills Camp on Tuesday, July 18 from 10:00-2:00.  During their time here, the campers learned about, and practiced, Leave No Trace, the set of guidelines for all hikers, campers, etc.

 FOPOS Natural Resource Manager, Jeff Geist, and two summer interns, Anna Korn & Katrina O'Donnell, guided the group around the property.  During their 2 mile hike, the kids learned about tree identification, how to identify edible plants (they all loved wineberries), and the guides helped them with bird and other animal identification.  We rounded out the hike with butterfly and other bug collecting at the Tusculum Meadow.  

The group then enjoyed lunch at Pettoranello Gardens, followed by a brief lesson on outdoor first aid.  Finally, the group all created key chains to remind them of the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.