Save the Date! June 25, 2022 “Make Kent Wild” Garden Tour

Saturday, June 25, 2022     1 – 3 pm
Starting at the Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden
1110 Walnut St., Kent, OH

In these times of lost habitat and food supply disruptions, the Kent Environmental Council is encourgaging people to “Wild Your Yard.”  (Last year we sponsored a wildly popular tour of gardens in the Crain to Main neighborhood.)

This year, we are sponsoring another free tour, this time of the Historic South End of Kent (with a few gardens east of South Water Street).

Several local residents who are growing edible perennials and/or pollinator/wildlife-friendly and edible plants will be giving tours of their gardens!

No Mow May Conservation Initiative Helps Create Habitat, Forage for Early Season Pollinators

by Brad Brotje

Learn more about creating pollinator habitat at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

May. It’s the month that signals to Northeast Ohioans that winter is indeed behind us and that the cycle of life continues. Take a good look around in May as life springs eternal, April’s offerings of returned abundance come to fruition and, most importantly, that abundance displays itself in the form of wildflowers of all kinds: white and red clovers, dandelions, chickweed, goats beard, fleabane and blackberry brambles to name a few. It’s also the month when we drag out our cumbersome and polluting lawn-mowing equipment. Unfortunately, a green, weed-free lawn has become a misguided hallmark of property value and has grown to represent a homeowner’s membership in a productive society. To the contrary, when we choose to mow early, we are depriving nature’s pollinators of the nectar they need to survive and to do the work that supports agriculture; without the health and abundance of these pollinators, many food crops would go unfertilized and fail to produce fruits, seeds, nuts and young plants.

Currently, 40 million acres of land in the United States is maintained as lawns, making this vegetation not only typically free of wildflowers but also the biggest consumer of irrigation in the country. In addition, these lawns often rely on fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that eventually end up in stormwater systems and then in streams, rivers and lakes. These issues have spawned the growing national movement known as No Mow May. No Mow May is a conservation initiative first popularized by the United Kingdom-based organization Plantlife that now is gaining traction across North America. The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow without a “haircut” for the entire month of May, thereby creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators. The monthlong pause in mowing is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited.
Not only are lawns burdensome for the people maintaining them, but the millions of acres they encompass also fail to provide benefits to wildlife because the traditional monoculture lawn lacks floral resources or nesting sites for bees and other pollinators. In a 2018 experiment conducted by Susannah Lerman and the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, Lerman and her collaborators explored whether different lawn-mowing frequencies influenced bee abundance and diversity. The team mowed herbicide-free suburban lawns at different frequencies (i.e., once a week, every other week, or every three weeks) in Springfield, Massachusetts. The results of the study showed that bee abundance increased when lawns were mowed every other week. Mowing every three weeks resulted in more than double the number of flowers available in lawns and increased bee diversity. The efficacy of reducing mowing may be expanded upon by altering the composition of your lawn to include more flowering species. What the researchers described as a “bee lawn” may include Dutch clover, for example, while some plants, such as native violets, may already be present and should be encouraged as they are valuable host plants for fritillary butterflies. You may even want to consider replacing that lawn altogether—planting instead a rain garden, a pollinator garden or a wildflower meadow.

Many cities and municipalities have weed ordinances that dictate not only the types of plants a homeowner is permitted to grow but also the height of any vegetation. Here are a few things you can do to avoid urban conflicts:

  • Engage with your local authorities and encourage them to remove or postpone the enforcement of these out-of-date regulations.
  • Suggest an “opt-in” program to your local health authorities, such as a Natural Lawn Registration program, to sidestep the need to rewrite a health-code ordinance. This registration could, for example, excuse the requirement for mowing in the month of May.
  • Maintain a mowed buffer in front of or around natural plantings to differentiate “lawn” from “garden” and remain in compliance with local ordinances or homeowner association guidelines. Or, maintain a tidy mowed edge to help a busy natural planting look less overwhelming and more intentional rather than neglected.
  • Educate your neighbors and passersby about your landscaping choices. Displaying a simple sign designating your yard as pollinator habitat can let people know that the area has been neglected and instead is an important part of a thriving landscape. A limited number of these signs are still available from the Kent Environmental Council. Look for our booth at the River Day celebration in Kent on Saturday, May 21. This event celebrates the importance of the Cuyahoga River in Kent and surrounding communities. Displays and information will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market on Franklin Avenue. Pollinator seed packets also will be available.

Finally, keep in mind the importance of minimizing your carbon footprint as you reduce your need to mow, and consider replacing your polluting gas-powered lawn equipment with battery-operated electric models. As you reduce the area you choose to mow, these electric alternatives become even more practical and efficient.


Upcoming Event! From Food Desert to “Agrihood” – Resilient Community Gardening

Climate disruption, agribusiness, and big box grocery chains are making fresh and nutrient-rich food inaccessible in many of our communities, a phenomenon known as “food deserts.”

The term “agrihood” (first coined in Silicon Valley to describe edible landscaping) is now used in urban communities like Detroit to describe the repurposing neighborhood land into urban farms and community gardens.

Local leaders will share their stories and vision of how this movement is happening in our communities.

Co-sponsored by the Portage County NAACP.

Register Now!

Speakers Include:

Doria Daniels, Chairwoman of the Kent Historic South End Association.

Doria will share the story of the Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden, located near the corner of Walnut and Dodge in Kent.

Kashava Holt, Executive Director of Akron Urban Agriculture.

Kashava’s passion is creating a local food network of locally-raised, fresh, quality food, especially in food deserts.

Richie Jones, President of the McElrath Improvement Corp. in Ravenna.

Richie’s fond boyhood memories included enjoying fruit from neighhood vines and trees. Part of his vision for the McElrath neighborhood includes a community garden.

Event Details:

Thursday, February 17, 2022

5:45 pm – Kent Environmental Council Annual Meeting

6:30 pm – Speaker Presentations

This is a hybrid event!

In Person:

Kent Free Library
312 W. Main St.
Kent, OH 44240

Or on Zoom

Register Now!

Make Kent Wild June Garden Tour!

Save the Date!

“Make Kent Wild” June Garden Tour

Saturday, June 26, 2021     11am – 1:30pm
Walls / Crain to Main Neighborhood

“Chances are you never thought of your garden–indeed, all of your property–as a wildlife preserve that presents the last chance we have for sustaining plants and animals that were once common throughout the U.S. But that is exactly the role our suburban landscapes are playing.”   -Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

This year, the Kent Environmental Council is encourgaging people to “Wild Your Yard.”  Several local residents who are growing edible perennials and pollinator/wildlife-friendly and edible plants will be giving tours of their gardens!

More Details to come!

Environmental Justice Series Part 1: The Other Side of the Tracks–What Is Environmental Racism?

When you go from the wealthiest neighborhoods in New York City to the poorest and blackest neighborhoods, you’ll notice that there is more and more trash on the streets and sidewalks. Reasons often given for this phenomenon is that the poor don’t value their home. But in a recent article in The Atlantic, Mychal Denzel Smith points out that the rich neighborhoods have public trash cans on every street corner, where there are fewer trash cans as you move toward predominantly Black neighborhoods. 

In spite of a state law prohibiting the practice, the Los Angeles Unified School District continued to add schools close to freeways during the past decade. Research has shown that ultrafine particles from vehicle exhaust is hard to filter, causing higher incidents of asthma and bronchitis among students attending these schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District is 10% white.

In 2014, decisions in Flint were being made by governor-appointed emergency managers. One of the decisions was to stop buying treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, and to instead get its water from the contaminated Flint River. To save money, they did not treat the water with corrosion inhibitors, which led to the release of lead from old pipes. There were immediate problems with complaints of contaminated water coming out of the taps of homes and businesses. With weeks, General Motors was allowed to switch back to water from Detroit, because the highly chlorinated water was causing corrosion of car parts on the assembly line. The citizens of Flint, which is 54% Black, waited 20 months for the state government to admit that it made a mistake, in spite of reports of lead poisoning in 40% of homes and an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease.

In 19th century treaties between the U.S. government and the Sioux, the Sioux people–as a sovereign nation–were given “undisturbed use and occupation” of certain tracts of land in perpetuity including the sacred lands of the Black Hills. When gold was discovered in the Black 

Hills in the 1870s, trespassing prospectors asked for government protection, eventually ending in the massacre of women, elders and children at Wounded Knee. In 1927, white men dynamited the face and carved the faces of the European colonizers whose policies killed Native Americans and appropriated their land–a further insult to the Sioux’s sacred relationship to the Black Hills. In 2016, the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners planned pipeline was deemed too dangerous to build near Bismark, North Dakota, lest a spill compromise the municipal water system. The alternate location supported by the company went through Sioux sacred burial grounds and 10 miles upstream from the reservation’s water supply. #NoDAPL (No Dakota Access Pipeline) protests were met with violence from local police and the U.S. government, at first with attack dogs, pepper spray, and strip searches of women protesters, then–in subfreezing temperatures–with water cannons, teargas, less-lethal bullets and concussion grenades, injuring hundreds. 

Benjamin Chavis

The term environmental racism was coined by Black civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis and defined as “racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.” His landmark national study Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America, statistically revealed the correlation between race and the location of toxic waste. 

Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities have long felt the impact of economic and environmental policies that have favored profit over people and planet. Decisions and actions by the government over land and property rights favor wealthy and white owners over BIPOC owners even when violence has been involved. In this time of #BlackLivesMatter and other uprisings, this is also a time to learn more about how racism impacts environmental decisions.

Next: What Is Decolonization?

Join the Crooked River Environmental Network!

Logo by local artist and activist Kevyn Breeden.

As a part of the visioning for the next 50 years, the Kent Environmental Council (KEC) recognizes that a lot has changed since its inception in 1970. There is much more environmental awareness, and there are many groups, organizations and individuals working toward similar and related goals to those of the KEC.

The KEC has formed a wider communication and action network, to be known as the Crooked River Environmental Network (CREN). It’s first networking event was held on February 17 and the feedback was positive.

The pandemic set us back a bit, but we are back in action!

Additional World Cafes (using Zoom) are scheduled for:

Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Thursday, January 21, 2020, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Register for World Cafes!

(Additional World Cafes will be scheduled depending in interest and participation)

Join our network and mailing list!

Facebook Group:

Email Group:!forum/crooked-river-enviromental-network

Renee Ruchotzke, KEC President

Putting Your Gardens to Bed

by Al Barber, Portage Master Gardener Volunteer 

What should you do in the fall when your flowers have faded and vegetables and fruits have been picked?  To answer this questions we will turn to some professional and amateur gardeners with many years of experience.  

First the professionals……

Rebecca Krans Michigan State University

Falling leaves and temperatures signify winter’s anticipated arrival.  Smart gardeners can take steps now to better prepare their yard and gardens for winter. Making sure plants receive adequate moisture during fall will help reduce extra stress and possible death of plant tissue during the winter months. Sufficient water is especially important during fall months as this is the reserve that the plant’s roots will rely on for uptake during winter. Harsh winter winds cause additional loss of water from the surface of evergreen needles. If the plant doesn’t have enough reserve water in the ground for the roots to draw up and replace this lost water, then death of plant tissue occurs.  With newly planted trees and shrubs, adequate water is even more important to reduce the chance of additional stress through winter. Make sure to thoroughly water in newly planted trees and shrubs; water so that the entire planting hole is moistened

Covering up garden soil in vegetable beds with organic matter will not only improve soil health over time, but will help reduce loss of valuable topsoil. Also, leaving some plant material throughout the winter will provide valuable overwintering habitat for many native pollinators, as well as provide you with seasonal interest through winter.

Adding a thick layer of organic matter adds additional insulation to cover up bare soil. Use at least a 3-inch layer of mulched leaves, straw or compost over your vegetable garden. Consider leaving some portion of your soil alone, which means don’t till or use mulch. Many species of native bees overwinter in the ground, and cultivating or using mulch interferes with this process. Once the ground freezes, apply a 6-inch layer of mulched leaves, compost or bark mulch to perennials to provide extra insulation during winter. This is especially important in areas that will not receive sufficient snow cover, which helps insulate plants.

If your perennial plant material is healthy, allow it to die back naturally. Don’t think you have to remove all the foliage or dead plant material before winter. If the plant had a foliar disease or was infested with insects, then remove this plant material from the garden in order to help prevent additional problems. But if it’s healthy, not only are you allowing all of the remaining energy left in the plant to feed the roots, but you are also providing valuable habitat for many of our native pollinators. They will use these structures to overwinter, perhaps having already laid their larvae within the stems. Structures from grasses and other hollow-stemmed perennials are especially valuable.

Keeping these plant parts within the landscape will also provide seasonal interest through winter and prevent erosion. Once the snow melts and spring begins anew, you can easily distinguish what is living and what is not and trim accordingly.

Source:  Prepare your garden for winter now – Rebecca Krans Michigan State University Extension

Beth Young Ohio State Extension Butler County

Many folks think of next year’s garden as beginning next spring but, it really should begin in the fall of the previous year for the most success next year.   Here are a few ideas to get ready for next spring:

  • Soil Testing:  Fall is a great time to send soil samples for analysis.  If you find out now that your soil needs help you can apply those recommended amendments in the fall and they have all winter to work their way into the soil.
  • Fall Garden Clean-up:  Rake this year’s garden litter.  Those old vines and stems provide overwintering sites for insects and diseases.  Discard foliage from diseased plants.  Other foliage should be placed in your compost pile or tilled back into the soil.
  • Fall cultivation:  I always try to till my gardens in the fall.  Fall tilling disturbs the life cycles of insects by exposing those underground grubs, and pupae to sun, birds and freezing temperatures.  Fall tilling keeps your soil loose and friable and is a real help for an easy till in the spring.  Winter’s freezes and thaws will break up any churned-up clods.
  • Sowing fall cover crops:  I sew some of my garden areas in winter rye.  Cover crop roots improve soil structure and provide spring compost material that can be mowed and then tilled back into the soil in the spring.
  • Love your tree leaves:  I rake my fallen leaves onto my gardens that do not have a cover crop.  I often layer them over a foot deep.  This is sometimes called sheet composting.  Leaves rot very quickly, and it’s amazing how many leaves you can work into your soil.  In the spring, I till these rotted leaves into the soil as a leaf mulch that encourages beneficial earthworms and soil microbes.  I also pile up leaves to use as mulching material or composted leaf mold.  I use these to enrich my garden soil the next year.
  • Fall is a great time to tend to tools:  Round up your garden tools, clean the dirt off with a wire brush, if needed.  Oil them with vegetable oil to keep them from rusting and store them in the garden shed.  Drain and store your hoses, watering cans and sprinklers before the first freeze damages them.  Drain or run out all the gasoline from lawn mowers, and tillers.  This will prevent water from condensing in the gas tanks over winter. 
  • Winter and your container gardening pots:  Don’t forget your clay pots especially. To store your pots, empty them completely, let them dry out and store them under cover.  Terra cotta containers absorb water, which will freeze and could result in surface flaking and even broken pots.  All of your containers (clay, wood, plastic, metal or fiberglass) will fare better if they are clean, dry and stored in the garden shed for the winter.
  • Saving seeds and digging up tender bulbs:  Remember to save seeds from your favorite non-hybrid plants.  Tender bulbs including cannas and gladiolus need to be dug up and stored where they will not freeze.  I pack mine in boxes of sawdust and keep them in an area that does not get cold enough to freeze.
  • Bring your garden journal up to date:  I keep a journal of my garden year so I know what I want to try again and those items that I want to remove from my list.  Think about all the joy your garden has given you this year.  Reflect on your successes and what you could have done better.  Then, close your eyes and dream about those seed catalogues that will be arriving in December and January for next spring!

Putting Your Garden to Bed for the Winter – Beth Young Ohio State Extension Butler County

Annie Rzepka, Director of Arboretum Horticulture Holden Forest and Gardens writing in the Summer edition of Forest and Gardens Magazine

Rather than rushing to clean up leaves in the fall, allow some leaves, fallen, branches, and pother garden debris to sit during the winter through spring.  “Wait as long as you can in spring to clean up to give pollinators a place to shelter the winter and the eggs they lay a time to hatch out”.  When planting, select native host plants and reduce the amount of pesticides used.  

And finally, tips from our Portage County Master Gardeners……..

Laura Davis

We put leaves a foot deep for our no-till garden. Also, I left my small covered frame—made in an MG session led by Gary Kasper—over the last 2010 cabbage. It’s a great leafy plant right now providing fresh produce for my morning frittata and stir fries. 

Nadine Hawkins

When cleaning out dead annuals and perennials, be sure to leave ones some seed heads for the birds in winter. And other just for interest in the winter landscape.  When cleaning the vegetable beds, don’t pull up plants with extensive roots, i.e. tomatoes, as you disturb all the microorganisms they have grown around the roots. 

Lynn Vogel

Well, few people go to bed in the winter without a cover!  Laura’s leaf idea is great way to reduce winter weeds.  I use a lot of leaves in my garden.  Also, mowing fall leaves to reduce size and bagging them for the winter makes for easy, early, free ‘mulch’ around vegetables the following spring – mixing spring grass clippings with the shredded leaves is even more bang for the buck you didn’t spend.  A winter-kill mixed species cover crop is one of the best things I’ve done in my garden for the winter.  Depending on your site conditions, it might take a few repeated winter covers to realize a significant improvement.

Yards – mulching fall leaves into the grass is also helpful to reduce weeds. Mulching blades on your mower or they even make mulching mowers.  

Flowers – don’t clean up too much.  Leaving hollow flower stalks and a little debris at the base is good for the bees that have made their provisioned their   Don’t clean up too early in the spring, to give the overwintering bees a chance to emerge.  End of the season is a great time for a soil test

Judy Novak- Hrdy
I use shredded leaves on my garden in the fall. I also add fully cooked compost at that time, then let it sit all winter, and dig down in the spring.

Debbie Barber

Fall cleanup needs to include preserving habitat for our little friends whom we need for pollination, and to preserve various at-risk species.  Just pretend you are a teeny, tiny child and you want to play hide and seek.  Where would you hide?  Maybe in a hollow stalk of hydrangea, or perhaps under an upside down flower pot.  You might get hungry and want that last little seed from your cone flowers or parsley.  Or, what about that bucket lying on its side by the shed?  Think about how to provide habitat instead of how neat you can make your yard.  Spring will come soon enough.

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

     -by Al Barber, Portage County Master Gardener Volunteer

     Especially this spring, we yearn to get outdoors and improve our yards and gardens.  We want our environment to be aesthetically pleasing to us, but what about native plants and animals?  With native habitats shrinking, we have the opportunity to create favorable local habitats around our homes and communities. 

During times of financial difficulty, many also seek to become more self-sufficient by planting vegetable gardens, small fruits, and fruit trees.  During the depression, my grandfather fed many families around his home in Coshocton, Ohio, by growing several hundred sweet potato plants in his backyard. 

One key to successful backyard food production is the ability to attract pollinators.  Important animal pollinators include honey bees, mason bees, bumble bees, mining bees, flies, moths, and other insects, as well as birds and some mammals.  Sweet potatoes, berries, fruit trees, cucumbers, and many other plants require pollinators to produce food for our consumption.  The best way to attract pollinators is to create an environment where they can survive and thrive. 

With that in mind, here are ten ways to attract pollinators to your yard. 

Grow more flowers.  But not just pretty annual flowers.  Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants can provide food and nesting habitat for pollinators.  Spend time in your yard to see which existing plants attract pollinators and then work to expand those plantings.  A good source for more information is

Plant to provide bloom throughout the growing season.  Early blooming trees such as maples, willows, and redbuds, and late season perennials like asters and goldenrod provide important food at critical times.  Consult for a sequence of native and non-native woody flowering plants for Ohio.

Go Native.  Native plants provide a good source of nutrition for pollinators.  Also, many native plants are critical for pollinators to complete their life cycles.  Native pollinator and host plants include:

  • Trees: Maple, crabapple, linden, serviceberry
  • Shrubs: Ninebark, pussy willow, sumac, viburnum
  • Perennials: Aster, hyssop, milkweed, purple coneflower
  • Annuals: Cosmos, marigold, sunflower, zinnia
  • Herbs: Basil, borage, catmint, lavendar, oregeno

Diversify.  Start with your lawn.  Vast expanses of thick green lawn with no weeds may be pleasing to our eyes, but such a monoculture is unnatural.  Leaving a little clover or other flowering weeds in your lawn and gardens provides essential cover and nutrition for many pollinators and other beneficial insects. 

Mix it up.  Planting flowers and herbs in and around your vegetable garden provides important food sources for insect pollinators.  Consider planting sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, lavender, basil, borage, dill, fennel, oregano, and catnip in and around your vegetable garden.  Also, consider planting vegetables and herbs in flower beds.  If you plant all your tasty vegetables in one place, you are setting the table for garden pests. 

Grow (or tolerate) weeds.  Many “weeds” provide cover and food for a variety of pollinators.  Beneficial weeds for pollinators include dandelions, creeping Charlie (ground ivy), Creeping thyme, Bee balm, Wild geranium, Joe pye weed, clover,and Anise hyssop.  Consider “tolerating” some “weeds” in your yard and gardens perhaps on the edges for pollinators. 

Provide Nesting Sites.  Brush piles, dead standing trees, and clumping grasses provide important nesting and overwintering habitat.  Avoid the temptation to cut down dead grasses and flower stems in the fall.  Leave some leaves and other garden debris for late spring cleanup.

Provide a water source.  This can be a shallow bowl or birdbath (change water frequently) or a small pond. 

Limit pesticide use.  Avoid spraying insecticide on a plant or tree in bloom.  Instead use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach with multiple strategies to reduce pest damage.  .  A good resource for IPM in your yard is

Not all pollinators are created equal.  Butterflies and butterfly gardens are beautiful additions to your backyard, but flies, bees, and moths are actually much better pollinators than many butterflies.  Butterflies typically visit flowers to get nectar rather than harvest and distribute pollen.    A good resource for attracting pollinators to the your garden is

For questions about pollinators or gardening contact Portage County Master Gardener Plant and Pest Hotline by phone: 330-296-6432 or Online:

Plant and Pest Hotline by phone: 330-296-6432 or Online: