By Beth Sullivan
We are in full summer mode now, and the best place to spend a day is at the shore, right? Well that’s where several of us have spent a LOT of time over the last month or so.
|Juncus, a native marsh grass, has grown up in once empty areas.|
The Long Island Sound Futures Fund Grant restoration project on Dodge Paddock is forging ahead. We watched and waited to see what native plants came back on their own after the Phragmites were eradicated. The land was so degraded by years of Phragmites overload, that it is pretty barren and the seed bank is not strong. But looking closely there are signs of hope: some grasses, annual “weeds,” and best of all native shrubs have sprung up in the bare areas. The green is creeping in from the edges as the native marsh grasses are recovering and getting stronger and filling in.
We have had several work parties to rake out debris, some remaining from as far back as Storm Sandy. We have hauled out truckloads of the woody matter and have created compost piles that we can use for planting.
|Several work parties have cleared debris and made fast work of planting|
Help from Mystic Aquarium
We have an Intern from the Mystic Aquarium working with us, who has jumped, boots and all, into the project doing soil testing, water testing, studying the areas, and making data charts. We put together an order of plants that formed our base plan. We knew it would be experimental. The site is so very complex: fresh water, salt water, wet soil, dry soil, hot sun exposure and storm tides and wind. The first plants were distributed in the wettest, bare areas to see what would survive best. Other plants were put up onto the dune/berm that was created when Sandy pushed it up. The plants there will help contribute to stabilizing the bank.
|The viburnums seem to like where they were planted.|
We also planted about 300 grass plugs! Our team of volunteers made 2 inch holes and popped in native marsh grasses in areas we believed they would thrive. So far the grasses have survived rain and tides and heat but not the CROWS! The local crows have discovered that if they pull out the plugs, there are plenty of tasty invertebrates in the holes! Several of us have spent countless hours replanting what the crows have pulled. The good news: while there are some losses, many of the grasses have rooted well and resist tugging.
|A clump of Spartina alternifloria has taken root.|
|Crows continue to pull out the plugs.|
High water problems
We did lose a few shrubs, probably due to drowning when the water was just too much for them after a heavy rain. That soil doesn’t drain well. We will not plant any more of those. But we have been very encouraged by several species of natives that have not only survived, but seem to be thriving in their designated spots.
|It is a complex site and not every plant is happy.|
The planning for the next phase has begun. We assessed our efforts so far, will do more testing, and plan an order for fall planting. We have more work parties on the calendar, to clean the next areas, and we will have a DEEP professional come in to help us eradicate more invasives. We will also attack the poison ivy that seems exceptionally lush this year.
|Our goal, a natural, beautiful marsh preserve.|
Come down and enjoy the cooling breezes and check out the restoration.
Photographs by Beth Sullivan.