The March EGG350 monthly gathering took place Monday, 03/15/2021, starting ~6:30p. The event included attending a joint program hosted by Gail Borden Public Library (GBPL) and Northern Kane County Wild Ones (NKCWO). Read the meeting notes below for further details.

EGG350 Meeting Notes

Elgin’s LED

Robin reported the Elgin Sustainability Commission has re-started the LED light changing downtown after a hiatus during winter weather. This effort is part of a massive $5.4 million program (started by Councilman Terry Gavin) over 3 years to replace all the street lights with LED lighting. LEDs are about 10 times more efficient than the outgoing, old incandescents.

Solar Signup

EGG350 members Joe & Maureen Cassidy announced they are starting their subscription with Trajectory Partners (TP) to use Community Solar. This follows TP’s great presentation during EGG350’s February monthly meeting. Community Solar enables people to sign onto solar electricity without putting panels on your home; instead, energy comes from panels placed on farmland installed by community solar companies.

Summary: Gardening With Natives

At 7p, we joined the zoom webinar produced by the NKCWO and hosted by GBPL, part of NKCWO’s Start In Your Yard program. The continued meeting notes below are from that event.

Amy Lauer and her husband started their own property with native plants ~25 years ago. Amy also noted that NKCWO features speakers monthly and offers tours of members’ gardens.

Jean & Dave Muntz developed their 2 acre degraded farmland on a hillside when they built their home, which was designed with no gutters so rainwater could be channeled downhill to stone-lined guttering to use the water on their hillside landscape. When we garden, Jean noted, we replenish our spirits and create beautiful landscapes at the same time. She added landscapes like theirs are win-win such that other animals, insects and people can enjoy the property together.

Doug Tallamy, author of the book Nature’s Best Hope (the center piece of NKCWO’s Start In Your Yard program continuing through April), teaches several aspects to gardening with native plants to Start In Your Yard.

No bare ground.
Bare ground promotes weeds, while planting helps eliminate them and is better for insects, too. Thus, gardening with native plants brings us and insects (including bees) together as “inter-beings” in our yards.

Pocket Prairies
Outline small areas of your yard with bricks, boards or other edge markers and plant natives here. Mowing can be used to make paths where people can walk from one garden area to another.

Use fall leaves.
Instead of removing leaves in the fall, consider re-purposing them. For instance, place them at the base of trees. The dead leaves gathered at the base provide cover for butterfly pupae to live during the winter. Or, use the fallen leaves as mulch in other garden areas to keep nutrients in the soil.

Avoid oriental trees and shrubs.
These are non-native and not able to support our insects. They also can escape and become invasive in nearby wooded areas.

Use layers.
These are important with trees, shrubs and flowers. The tall tree layer is a nesting area, particularly with oak trees. For example, the white oak can support up to 500 caterpillars. Oaks are the best for the greater Elgin IL area. The middle layer, then, is ~15-50′ tall, with shorter trees such as pagoda dogwoods or redbud trees. The shrub layer, usually 3-15′ tall, can consist of viburnums, chokeberries and witch hazels. The vines, like those of the Virginia Creeper and carrion flower, are also good for pollinators. It is important to mass your plantings, as in groups of 3, 5 or 7, to make it easier for pollinators to also use them. Single specimens like prairie dock can be used as decorator plants.

Tree Clusters
When trees are grouped three or more, they support each other by their roots. However, do not mulch too high over the roots because this can smother the tree’s roots, killing the tree. Leaves are good to protect the bark from mowers and edging tools, also helping caterpillars to pupate during the winter.

Plant Communities
Keystone Plants (oaks, coneflowers, violets, goldenrods, etc.) are very important to incorporate in our gardens. They have been identified as supporting the most insects.

Living Landscape
Organic architecture can tell the story of our gardens, accented by a curving path throughout the garden. Gates, mirrors and other features can be added to the garden for interest and uniqueness. Nooks, tranquil places, enchanting or whimsical ideas (such as a dead tree painted royal blue) can be eye-catching art pieces added for an unexpected gardening experience.

Tallamy says if you can maintain at least a 70-30% relationship between natives and non-natives, you will have a sustainable yard.

Bottom line, we need to re-connect to the ecosystems all around us that support us. The more we can add nature areas to add these connections back to nature, the better, because nature works better when connected. This also enables bugs, bees and wildlife to stay connected.

Our yards are one piece in the quilt of life all around us.

Meeting Notes submitted by Sandy Kaptain, Chair.

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