Author Archives: Nathaniel

Friends of Sustainable West Chester

Here’s a great new initiative from West Chester Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Committee: to put together a network of volunteers who can help SAC research different topics and inform the public. This aligns closely with the West Chester Green Team’s aspirations!

Here is the official description:

The Sustainability Advisory Committee established Friends of Sustainable West Chester consisting of volunteers working to further sustainability initiatives in the Borough. The group serves three primary purposes:

• Create issue-focused teams to supplement the SAC’s work on key areas (e.g. energy, stormwater, recycling)
• Broaden citizen awareness and involvement in Borough sustainability initiatives
• Recruit future SAC leadership

Efforts of each team are coordinated by a 2nd year SAC member. Activities will be limited to research, organization of events or initiatives, and volunteering time and resources. There are no standing meetings.

Click here to join Friends of Sustainable West Chester.

Membership is subject to SAC approval.

They’re Back! The Spotted Lanternfly Returns

Advice from WCU Office of sustainability Summer Bulletin No. 4: June 22, 2020

If you’ve spent any time outside in the past few weeks, you’ve likely spotted the above pictured Spotted Lanternfly Instar, or early stage nymph. The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species spreading throughout the state of Pennsylvania, negatively affecting agricultural crops and hardwood trees. In an effort to decrease their numbers, the following steps are recommended:

• Remove host vegetation (tree of heaven, oriental bittersweet, grape, etc.) but realize that when they are in their early instar stages, they are more generalist, and can be found feeding on a variety of plants, including ornamentals.

• Smash them if you can catch them – they’re very quick and jumpy at this early instar stage, so this is difficult. For these early instars, pillow cases can be placed around full branches and vines, closed around the limb, then after shaking to release the bugs from the limbs, smash in the pillowcase.

• Put up Web-Cote brand sticky bands with wire mesh to avoid birds and small mammals being caught (pictured here), or

BugBarrier bands , or

• Circle trunk traps (make your own)

 

A more rustic trellis

Here’s a more rustic trellis than the one pictured earlier and made with metal supports and nylon mesh.

This one is made out of fallen branches tied together at the joints with pieces of wire or string. Pieces that fall apart are easily replaced. Very good for peas, but not recommended for heavier veggies like squash and cucumbers!

My view of composting

by Nathaniel Smith, June 8, 2020

I have never figured out how to build a compost heap that would heat up enough to kill weed seeds. The compost manuals make it sound simple, but it isn’t! (See lots of really good composting advice from the Chester County Solid Waste Authority, though.)

For me, patience is the key. I just make a big pile and turn it over every couple of months (more often is better, of course!). If it’s not turned over, pockets of wet leaves or dry branch parts can form and sit for years.

My heap is long, narrow, and tall. I leave a blank spot from which I remove usable compost, and then I move the next 4-foot segment into the gap….

Read more here. Of several photos, here is one showing compostable packaging materials, used by Bob’s Red Mill, well on the way to returning to nature in a compost heap:

“Nature abhors a vacuum”

Life tends to fill all possible niches, from the extreme depths of the sea to roofs of our homes to even our own digestive system. Gardeners know this all to well, because it’s not as if we weed once and relax. There are millions of weed seeds just waiting to be dampened, or warmed by the sun, or turned over in the soil, and then they will be hard at work to fill the void, that is, the open space between our vegetable plants!

Here is a hosta that has fond a presumably hospitable spot (we’ll see if it gets enough nutrition to flower) in a crevice in bark on Sharpless St., West Chester:

Building a backyard veggie trellis

by Justice Mogano, West Chester

Here is my tip for building a backyard trellis. Purchase two pieces of 1/2” thick rebar, about 3’-4’ long. Space them appropriately and hammer them into the ground, leaving about 18” above ground.

Then, slide two pieces of 3/4” diameter conduit over the rebar These will be the uprights. These are 6.5’ tall in this photo.

Next, connect the uprights with a shorter length of conduit using elbow connectors.

Finally, fasten a nylon garden net to the frame using zip ties.

These cucumbers will grow quickly, and produce a lot of weight. The vines will grab hold of the netting. If your trellis is firmly staked in the ground, it will support the weight, prevent the vines from snapping and allow for better exposure to the sun.

This can be assembled in under 30 minutes.

For our other trellis, I used the exact same construction, but made it slightly wider from side to side. In the past, we used wooden two by fours to suspend our tomato plants. But the tomatoes are much too heavy and they completely warped the wood. Now we use the trellises for squash and cucumbers, but for tomatoes, we use the ordinary tomato cages you can buy at the hardware store.

West Chester’s Goose Creek fire of 1931

In the recent Earth Day commemorations, commentators mentioned the infamous 1969 Cuyahoga River fire, which although hardly the first time the chemically-polluted surface of that river in Cleveland caught fire, was strategically timed to dramatize environmental efforts building at that time toward the first Earth Day the next year.

West Chester had its own river fire and environmental 9/11 89 years ago. Goose Creek, which flows through the east side of West Chester on its way to the Delaware River, caught fire on September 11, 1931. According to research by Professor Jim Jones in 2006,

“A road paving company stored tar and other flammable materials in tanks near the creek at Union Street. One tank leaked, and some neighborhood boys accidentally set fire to the resulting oil slick near the Nields Street bridge. The fire spread upstream along the creek and burned down fences and sheds belonging to the houses on Franklin Street. The heat destroyed the Lacey Street bridge and the flames ignited the tanks at Union Street. The fire burned for three hours and closed down the railroad. No one was killed, but several were injured when the crowd of onlookers panicked and began to run.”

Daily Local News coverage of the fire compiled by Professor Jones (download it here) says, in the dramatic language of the period:

“Confronted by a roaring fury of flames and enveloped in billowing clouds of dense black smoke, fear-stricken householders, property owners and volunteer firemen from every end of town and every walk of life, battled into submission one of the most spectacular and dangerous fires in the history of the borough.”

Jim comments that “I was part of the annual Goose Creek cleanups for a lot of years. In the first year Goose Creek still seemed pretty dead, but I remember seeing our first fish a year or two later, and then seeing larger fish each year after that. At the same time, the amount of trash that we collected went down, leading to the formula ‘Trash weight down = fish weight up.'”

Yes, streams like Goose Creek are a lot cleaner now, thanks to initiatives begun in the 1960s and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) enacted on 1/1/70. Only continued efforts, in West Chester and elsewhere, to keep such programs viable will continue protecting environmental and human health and safety.