With school out of session, gardens growing rapidly, and wildlife in a very active state, July is one of our busiest months. Each week, volunteers met back at Arcadia to tackle a to-do list. We often would begin by nibbling on instantly edible crops, such as snap peas or strawberries, and then go on to weeding before planting any new crops and harvesting the rest of our bounty. Each week brought a new delight.
For the first three weeks of July, we helped with the Diamondback Terrapin Nesting Survey, finding a few turtles, with a few volunteers being lucky enough to see the Terrapins digging a nest and laying eggs! We also found many “test holes” as well as predated nests, and while we mourned the loss of these could’ve-been baby turtles, we discussed the reality of the food chain, and found great interest in the “detective case” surrounding each nest as we tried to figure out “who done it” and whether or not there might be other nests around. After a couple of our Terrapin surveys, we stuck around for a couple of extra hours to help our friends from the youth volunteer corps at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization pull the invasive Pepperweed plant from the bay side of West Meadow Beach. Our “longest root competition” seems to motivate volunteers to follow those tap roots, and the results show, as this year’s Pepperweed growth was much weaker than years before!
Every other week in the summer, we head over to Sweetbriar Nature Center to lend their volunteer gardeners a few extra hands in their great efforts to beautify that lovely public space. It’s heartwarming to see folks of all ages strolling through the gardens, thanking us as we move plants, trim back overgrowth, remove invasive species, and plant native species.
One of our most exciting events in July was the opportunity to work at a not-yet-opened Department of Environmental Conservation property in Ridge. The D.E.C. was just finishing up the foot-trail loop when we were there, and is planning a horseback trail, as well. Our volunteers were some of the first people to set foot on the new trail, which is beautiful and full of wildlife. We spent the day there cleaning up rubbish left behind by the previous property owners: a plant nursery with many plastic pots, metal pieces, and other human debris. By the end of the day, we couldn’t find a single piece of garbage!
After their plant sale, our friends at the Long Island Native Plant Initiative needed help re-stocking their supplies, so volunteers went to the greenhouse to pot-up little native seedlings. Twice more, we worked on our Sand Street Beach native habitat garden, growing more fond of the project with each visit. During one of these sessions, our contact from the Stony Brook Rotary Club visited the garden and was impressed by our swift progress; the rotary club was responsible for maintaining the garden space, which was previously neglected, but the partnership has proven fruitful for the community as well as the local ecology.
Being so close to the water, mariculture efforts are always on our radar. We had the opportunity this month to make oyster cages for a group producing oysters for water quality improvement and eventual release back into the harbor. Learning about oysters as a group was eye-opening for all involved; they aren’t so much like clams, after all! Keeping on our aquatic theme, we went out east for a day on the water to partake in another ludwigia removal effort.
The end of July means the beginning of our horribly invasive mile-a-minute removal efforts at the Three Village Garden Club Arboretum. We have been keeping this new-to-the-area invasive under wraps so far, and our first shot at knocking it back was as successful as ever.