Gardening & Raising Pets

Backyard Chickens … in Sudbury?

Backyard Chickens … in Sudbury?

You’ve moved to the suburbs to have some land, lots of house, and great quality of life. You’ve started a vegetable garden and have enjoyed the puttering and the fresh produce. Now you’re thinking of getting a few chickens so that you can feed them an excellent diet and have fresh eggs of your own. You’re not alone, it seems to be that this hobby is growing exponentially in popularity over the last year. In Sudbury, you’ll have to know a few things before you buy the chicks.


FAQ  for those thinking of raising backyard chickens in Sudbury:

  1. Is an Annual Animal Permit Required? yes, a special permit is required, issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals, cost is $100 first year, $50 annual renewal
  2. Is a Building Permit for the Coop Required? not if the coop is less than 120 s.f. footprint
  3. Is there an Annual Board of Health Inspection Required? yes
  4. Are Roosters Permitted? no
  5. Are there Lot Size Limitations? no
  6. What are the Coop Setbacks from Property Lines? There is a 5′ min distance from lot lines.
  7. Are there Manure Pile Storage Limitations? This would be dictated by the conditions of the special permit
  8. Is there a specific section of the Zoning Bylaws that I can read regarding this? see Sudbury Zoning Bylaw Section 2313/6200
  9. Is there an Agricultural Commission or Committee that I can join? yes email:
  10. Is there an Agricultural Group that I can contact to get help/info/advice? yes, Sudbury Grange No. 121 Pomona No. 16 , Meetings: 1st & 3rd Wednesday 8 pm, Grange Hall 326 Concord Rd (beside Town Hall), Contact: Brenda Chamberlain 508-429-5458
  11. How do I contact the Board of Health? 978 443-2209 x1379 email:
  12. How do I contact the Zoning Board of Appeals? 978-639-3387 email:
  13. How do I contact the Building Inspector? (978) 443-2209, x1361  email:
Save the Butterflies, Love your Mother … Earth

Save the Butterflies, Love your Mother … Earth

You too can have a great butterfly garden – it can start small and grow with time, bringing you year-round beauty and delight to all the senses. But to maximize your butterfly visitors later in the year, you need to plant the right foliage this spring. There are many beautiful plants that you can add to your garden that will attract butterflies. There are also some very homely ones that shouldn’t be overlooked.

 When planning your garden, you need to think of two classes of plants, those that are food plants for caterpillars, and those that are nectar-producing plants for the adults. You should also have something flowering in the spring, summer and fall to help the butterflies through their entire lifecycle. When selecting flowering plants, use those with colors which complement your garden design, but know that butterflies are attracted to purple, pink, white and yellow flowers. Also, most of the plants attractive to butterflies grow in full sun, so make sure that the area you select gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. And remember to plant “en masse,” that is group similar colors together in a clump rather than spreading them around as individual plants. This makes it easier for the butterflies to find them.

To attract butterflies, your garden is not complete without some common milkweed – also called swamp milkweed. These plants typically grow in sunny field environments and are notorious self-seeders, so plant them along an edge of your property that you want to see “naturalized”. Milkweed is important because it is the main food plant for the caterpillars of the Monarch and Queen butterflies. The milkweed is also a nectar source from which adult butterflies such as the Monarch, several types of Swallowtail, the Sulfurs, Painted Ladies and more feed. They flower in the summer and are not what one could call attractive, but if you want butterflies, you’ve got to have milkweeds.

The most popular woody shrub that you can plant to attract butterflies is called the Butterfly Bush or Buddleia and comes in colors from lavender to deep purple. The Monarchs and Swallowtails love these bushes and will be all over them in late summer when they bloom. My garden has three giants in the front of the house that are lavender and two smaller plants in the back of the house that are the deep purple. Either color seems to attract the butterflies just as well, and their sweet, lilac-like scent is a welcome addition to our late summer landscape. The secret to cultivating Buddleia is to cut them back every fall to about 18” above the ground level. They will easily grow back to 8’ tall in one season, but what’s most important is that the best flowers grow on new wood.

Another woody shrub they like is the Staghorn Sumac. We’ve got some growing up on a hillside, and that’s where it belongs. You don’t want it near your house, as it can cause skin irritation if you rub against it. Blueberries, Blue Iris flowers, Rhododendrons and Spicebush are also very popular with butterflies and their early flowers make them a key part of any butterfly garden. Tall perennial flowers that butterflies love are Queen Anne’s lace, Black Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Asters, Coreopsis, and Daisies. They can be purchased at a local nursery in pots and will come back year after year. In the fall, cut them to about 6” above the ground, and rub the dried flowers between your hands to release their seeds and spread them where you want some more.

 Low-growing perennial plants that they like are clover and mint. If you’re a lawn fanatic don’t plant either of these as they will spread and take over in direct proportion to how much you don’t want them to. Our garden has some pineapple-scented mint that the butterflies love and we eat in teas, salads and our annual mint juleps. They also smell wonderful when mowed with the lawn mower and seem to thrive. In the vegetable garden you can plant anise, parsley and carrots to attract butterflies. These also attract some types of moths, so you need to be prepared to lose some of your harvest to them, but I think it’s worth it.

And last, to the less beautiful but hardy common weeds that attract butterflies. Some of the weeds that shouldn’t be overlooked are Fireweed, Goldenrod, Butterfly weed, Wild Geraniums, and Cinquefoil. They grow in poor or good soils, and are best used as naturalizing elements in the transition zone from your woods to your lawn along the edges of your property. With a little planning, your garden can look beautiful to you and to all sorts of butterflies. When you see dozens of bright orange Monarch butterflies flitting about in August when everything is turning drab, the rewards of your efforts will be obvious!

A Story About Foundation Plantings

A Story About Foundation Plantings

My first house was a 1920’s colonial with a tiny lot with the worst set of foundation plantings I’ve ever seen on a house. In addition to planting inappropriate species, they were planted too close to each other and the house and were allowed to overgrow about twenty years too long. Especially troublesome were a couple of evergreen yews that were covering the windows and trimmed to an ugly shape that was not flattering to the cute house. They also severely restricted access to the front door. So what’s a new homeowner to do?

You guessed it, you get a couple of friends together on the hottest weekend of the year and decide to rip the suckers out. We started with what seemed like the least amount of work, putting a chain around the base of the plant and hooking it to my 1974 Volkswagen beetle. Then I got a running start and when the chain tightened the car leaped off the ground about 6 feet and stalled. Once my heartbeat slowed down below stroke speed, I checked the car to see that the rear end hadn’t been ripped out, unhooked the chain, put the car away and went to see how the yew was pulled out of the ground. Now you would think that having had a crushing 1500 lb. car with a whopping 65 horsepower going 20 mph play tug of war with it would have the yew looking pretty sad. As you can probably guess the plant hadn’t budged and in fact there wasn’t even any damage.

So next we took a handsaw, a particularly rusty and dull handsaw, and started cutting the trunks of the bush off about a foot from the ground. Once the entire bush was cut we discovered that first, the painters hadn’t painted behind the bush for about thirty years and in fact our gray house had once been a lovely mustard yellow, and second, the cutting of the upper part of the bush is the easy part – you’ve still got to get the roots out. Proceeding along we dug around the roots and with a combination of chopping with an axe and digging with a shovel finally got a 10’ diameter crater with the ugliest 300 lb chunk of gnarly yew roots anchored firmly in the center. By now it was getting dark, so we called it quits and started back on the project about three weeks later with sharp tools and an upcoming housewarming party deadline looming. The yew finally yielded to steel and muscle that day, but not before teaching us a very good lesson – choose the right foundation plant and take great pains to trim it and keep it looking right.

Foundation plants came about out of necessity. A pretty home would be built on a stone and mortar foundation and something was needed to hide it. In colonial times the foundation plants were a combination of things you could eat and things you could make stuff out of – such as herbs, vegetables, lilacs and if you could get seeds some strawflowers or sunflowers. Wild junipers and bayberries were also dug up and planted near the foundation for candle making. Current thinking on foundation plantings has evolved from this completely practical beginning. Today’s plantings are used as a design element to transition the eye from the low, soft, fine horizontal texture of the lawn to the hard, vertical form and scale of the home. They also can introduce seasonal colors and flowers and varying shades of green to bring the beauty of the outdoors right up to and sometimes into the home space.

If you’re a beginner gardener and putting in some foundation plants this fall do yourself a favor and remember two things: first, space the plants for their mature form and size, not their cute little form in the container at 1 year old; and second, this is New England and it snows here. Also good to remember is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that full sun exposure is south.

In the years when my first home was built, very formal, symmetrical, high-maintenance foundation plantings were de rigueur. In those days if you planted something on one side of the door you planted another one on the other side of the door and it had better have a conical shape and be an evergreen. Nowadays with many homes having multiple rooflines and irregular foundation shapes I like to combine a variety of shapes, sizes and textures not only to hide the foundation but also to tempt the senses. And even though I make fun of yews, I like to have a ratio of 1 evergreen to 3 deciduous plants, and yews do provide a consistent green color. However, please don’t trim them to unnatural shapes, select one with the right natural shape and give it a tuck and a trim once a year but for the most part let it be.

My all-time favorite foundation plant is andromeda. It is an evergreen shrub, grows to be about 4’ tall and 4’ around and has light green waxy foliage. It is one of the early blooming shrubs that lets you know that winter is over, and it has showy chains of white to golden flowers that cover the entire bush. Andromeda does not do well in shady locations and prefers very acidic soil, lots of peat moss (it’s native location is in the peat bogs of Europe) and lots of mulch. Never use any lime on it.

Another good plant is the dwarf rhododendron. They’re in the same family as azaleas (which are also good foundation plants) and have slightly larger evergreen leaves, will grow only about 3’ high and don’t require trimming until they’re about 50 years old. Their flower colors run the gamut from white to purple, and they also love acid soil. When planting them, place them in the hole about 2” higher than they were at the nursery, they tend to be planted too low. Also mulch heavily in the fall and it doesn’t hurt to spray on some anti-desiccant spray to keep the leaves from drying out in the winter winds.

Somewhere I heard that a home without foundation plants looks like a “doll house plunked down in the middle of a pool table” and I tend to agree. If you’re new to gardening planting some of these around your home can be one of the easiest most rewarding projects for your new home.

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