The Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat has received much needed rain. It is raining right now! Plants have grown well and the habitat has greened up. Common milkweed, Joe-Pye weed, hoary vervain, bee balm, tall thistle, common yarrow, aster, penstemon, purple coneflower, goldenrod and cup plant are found in the in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Master Gardener volunteers helped cut back dead plants, weed trees and spread mulch earlier this month. I added new blocks to the solitary bee house. We should be seeing leaf cutter bees soon. Spring is here.
Mid-March is the perfect time to start seeds for plants to place in your pollinator habitat. Growing your own transplants is a great way to add annuals, perennials and herbs to your landscape for pollinators. Consider starting herbs like basil, parsley and borage. Annual salvia, tithonia, sweet alyssum, cosmos, zinnia and calendula are great annual flowers for bees and butterflies. Perennials like Black-eyed Susan, milkweed and mint can be started inside as well.
Spindly growth is a common problem when growing transplants indoors. It is best to place the seedlings under artificial light. It is not necessary to have a grow light plant stand. A standard shop light fixture with one cool and one warm fluorescent tube light works fine. Or you can purchase an inexpensive ready to go, out of the box, shop light with LED lights. For best results, the lights should be approximately 1 inch above the seedlings. Raise the light as the seedlings grow. Leave the lights on 12 to 16 hours a day.
February has been very dry with up and down temperatures. With the warm, dry weather I have received many calls asking, “Should I be watering the lawn and landscape plants?” The answer is yes, it is a good idea to water, if the ground is not frozen.
Wildlife will also benefit from adding water to the landscape and habitat. Keep bird baths and water features filled with clean water. A heated pet dish would be helpful when the temperature dips. Place a rock in these water features to provide a shallow perch for honey bees and birds. Honey bees will visit these water features when the temperature is above 45 degrees F.
January is a great time to make plans for the coming year. Buy a notebook for a journal and use it to keep all your pollinator gardening information. List the plants growing in your habitat. Include the name of seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date and flower date. During the growing season keep notes on how well the plants do and if there are any issues. All this information will be helpful when you are ready to add new plants. I also enjoy visiting other gardens to get ideas. The Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium have beautiful butterfly gardens.
Lists! I need lists to help me with my plans for the new year. My favorite list is what plants am I going to add to the pollinator habitat. Annual flowers, perennials, herbs, fruit trees and vegetables are all great additions to a habitat. It is also important to consider bloom time. Early blooming plants are just as important as summer and fall bloomers. If you need help with plant selection, a good list to start with is the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program. This plant list has plants that bloom from March to October and are well suited for Nebraska.
The Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program has a new website:
Feeding the birds has never been so fun. Decorate your trees with homemade garland and wildlife friendly ornaments.
Decorate outdoor trees with a fruit garland of cranberries, orange & apples slices. Supplies needed include cotton string and a large sewing needle. Alternate different fruits to make your own design. Remove string from the tree when fruit is gone, to prevent girdling the branches.
Pine Cone Bird Feeder
Supplies needed: pine cones, cotton string, peanut butter, bird seed and a spoon. Tie 8-inch string around pinecone and make a loop. Cover pinecone with peanut butter. Roll peanut butter pine cone in birdseed. Make several and hang on tree branches. Remove string when birdseed is gone.
You can purchase suit cakes or make your own.
Recipe for homemade suet (source Penn State Extension)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup vegetable shortening
4 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
Suet can be frozen in blocks and placed in suet feeders. Or use cookie cutters for making different shapes. Place large cookie cutters on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Fill cookie cutters with suet mixture. Put in freezer. When hard, pop out of cookie cutter, place in suit cage bird feeder and hang in tree.
Cup plant is a native perennial that is 3-6 feet tall with numerous large, yellow composite flowers. The leaves are joined at stem to form a small cup that holds water that attracts insects and birds. We have several cup plants in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. It started flowering in early July and is still blooming. This would be a great addition to any pollinator habitat.