This Week's Podcast: A Replay: Native, Organic, Sustainable and Beautiful
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Nate McCullin is the Horticulturist and Facilities Coordinator for the New England Wild Flower Society and can most often be found at the society’s “Garden in the Woods” in Framingham, MA. This place, which is open to the public, is a living museum with over 1,000 wild plants, including some 100 species endangered in New England. Nate is one of the young people helping this woodland jewel grow.
North American and local habitats from the region are represented along with the species that live in those communities. There is a woodland walk, meadow garden, bog, lake, living fern catalog and limestone rock outcrop. Recent additions include the “Idea Garden” and “The Edible Garden.” Propagated native plants are grown on site in the “stock beds” and at Nasami Farm nursery and offered for sale.
The garden was originally a private property begun by Will C. Curtis in 1931 when he purchased 30 acres to create his dream of a “big wildflower sanctuary in which plants will be grown, their likes and dislikes discovered, and the knowledge gained passed on in an effort to curb the wholesale destruction of our most beautiful natives.”
Thirty-four years later Curtis and his partner Howard Stiles deeded the property to the New England Wild Flower Society. The Garden was then expanded to 45 acres with plantings along new trails and in extended habitats. The beauty and charm of the original “naturalistic” Garden, with winding paths and a choice collection of rare and beautiful plants, are still hallmarks of the garden today, but the prime directive has altered over the years. Now the plantings are exclusively native, and the garden incorporates the latest organic and sustainable practices.
Nate has taken it upon himself to develop a compost tea program. The soil at the Garden in the Woods is so great after having chopped leaves added to the woodland beds year after year for decades, that using compost tea as a soil drench isn’t really necessary. However the brewed tea is used to prevent diseases and to reduce transplant-shock as propagated plants from the beds are moved into the garden or into containers for sale.
Examples of Nate’s achievements are shown in the photos, left. On the far left is a detail of untreated Monarda (bee-balm) disfigured by powdery mildew. On the right is an example of the same variety wetted with compost tea early in the season.
Nate just built a large compost tea brewer. Giant gauze “tea bags” filled with compost from the garden are lowered into water that is vigorously aerated with three large aquarium pumps. The microorganisms are “fed” with humic acid, simple sugars, rolled oats and a product like powdered kelp or fish Hydrolysate. The tea is brewed for 24 to 48 hours depending on temperature, and used within four hours.
Brewing compost tea at home to improve the health of your soil and plants may or may not be realistic (although it can be done). Nate’s brew is used in the garden and sold to members who bring empty gallon jugs to the garden on compost tea days.
For more information on compost tea brewing and supplies, visit some of the sites suggested by Nate McCullin.
The Compost Tea Brewing Manual
Compostwerks information and supplies
Earthfort information and supplies