June a month-long ode to the outdoors

June a month-long ode to the outdoors
Herb Broda

Growing near you may be one of the deadliest plants in North America — poison hemlock. It grows 4-8 feet tall, has umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers and grows all over — in pastures, road sides, ditches and stream banks.


June is National Great Outdoors Month. Its origins go back to the late 1990s with the designation of a “Great Outdoors Week” under President Clinton in 1998. Under succeeding administrations, the concept has grown into a month-long celebration of the outdoors.

On June 1, President Biden formally proclaimed June 2021 as National Great Outdoors Month. The proclamation urges us to “explore the great outdoors, to experience our nation’s natural heritage and to continue our nation’s tradition of preserving and conserving lands for future generations.”

This is a great month to visit one or more of our local parks. In Wayne County there are several wonderful options. One example is Wooster Memorial Park, probably our most rustic local park with well-kept trails that lead through forested areas that are traversed by a delightful stream.

For those who would rather not hike dirt trails and hilly terrain, there is the adjoining paved Kenwood Acres trail. Other excellent paved trails are at Barnes Preserve and Oak Hill Park near Wooster.

For a different hike, try Johnson Woods near Orrville. It’s a unique hike through a wetland area on an extensive ODNR boardwalk that guides visitors through the normally wet areas of the park. It contains one of Ohio’s largest and best remaining old-growth forest areas.

No community in Wayne County is more than 20-30 minutes from either a community park, state park, state preserve, paved bike trail or county park facility. That’s really quite a statement when you stop to think about it. During Great Outdoors Month, set a goal to visit a park or trail that is new to you.

Nature’s plows

Earthworms in the garden are sometimes referred to as “nature’s plows.” I don’t know who came up with the term, but it’s certainly an accurate description. They also are amazing food processors and can digest about half of their body weight each day.

As they dig through the soil, they create tunnels that aerate the soil and make it easier for plants to send down their roots. Their excrement, or casting, is a rich fertilizer that also encourages plant growth.

But how do you know if you have enough worms in your garden? The Farmer’s Almanac suggests digging up a sample of your garden that is about 12 inches by 12 inches and about 6-7 inches deep. Next, count the number of worms you find.

The almanac says if you find 10 or more worms, you have a healthy population. If there are none, conditions are likely not good — “no moisture, toxic substances, sandy soil or no organic matter” are potential culprits.

To encourage earthworms to stay in your garden, there are several easy and low-cost things to do, according to Robin Sweetser of Farmer’s Almanac. Keep soil tilling to a minimum and leave organic material like manure or compost on the surface. Most importantly, don’t use chemicals on the soil. An organic mulch can be helpful to keep the soil moist and cool.

Some June wildflowers

Turning the calendar to June signals the start of the summer season. Officially, the summer solstice this year is on Sunday, June 20, but for me summer began when I flipped up “May” and welcomed June on the kitchen calendar.

June also is the time when I start to look more seriously for wildflowers. It’s the month when you start to see black-eyed Susans and tender milkweed plants. It will be a while before the milkweed will send out its classic little seed parachutes, but it’s exciting to find the plants now and watch them develop.

This also is the month when daylilies become noticeable along the roadsides. Many of them are escapees from nearby gardens, but their rich color and stately appearance are a delight along country roads.

Poison hemlock

Growing near you may be one of the deadliest plants in North America. I’m talking about poison hemlock. It grows 4-8 feet tall and has umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers. It grows all over — in pastures, road sides, ditches and stream banks.

What concerns me is the attractive look of this plant. It dominates the landscape and could easily attract children to take a closer look or, heaven forbid, take a taste. The leaves look like parsley, and the white flowers encourage a closer look.

If you live near this pretty but very dangerous plant, use caution and make sure everyone knows what it is. Check with OSU Extension about safe ways to eradicate the plant.

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