Spring & New Normal

Spring is here and we are enjoying the roller coaster of temperatures. Warm & sunny one day, cloudy & cold the next. That is spring in Nebraska. Due to COVID-19 we have a new normal to our life. Nebraska Extension staff are working remotely and the office is closed. I am disappointed I can not be in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat, it is a special place. I like to watch the plants emerge and the start of bee activity. We can watch the Live Habitat Web Cam, so that does help me keep an eye on what is going on. You can watch too by clicking the link above.

I hope everyone is spending time in their home pollinator habitat. I have been. It is nice to spend lunch time outside seeing what is blooming and plotting my next project. Now is a good time to make a list of spring blooming plants you need to add to your habitat. Consider spring blooming bulbs like scilla, crocus, snowdrops, striped squill and glory-of-the-snow. Spring blooming trees include redbud, plums and cherries. Perennials that bloom in the spring are Dutchman’s breeches, spring beauty and pasqueflower.

Get outside!

MJ Frogge

Start Seeds Indoors Under Lights

startseedsToday I started flower and herb seeds under grow lights. Growing your own transplants is a great way to add annuals, perennials and herbs to your landscape for pollinators. I started basil, parsley, borage, salvia, tithonia and calendula.

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.

For more seed starting tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhLhtIHWvc4

Many flowers do well or better as direct planting outside. Plant zinnia and sunflower seeds after the chance for frost has past and the ground temperature is consistently warm, over 55 degrees F. This usually occurs in mid to late May.

MJ Frogge

Seed Heads

You many think there is not much to see in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat this time of year. It may be brown, but there is a lot to see. We do not cut back the habitat plants in the fall. This plant material is cover and protection for the birds, squirrels, opossum, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and deer that frequent the habitat during the winter. The seed heads from our native plants bee balm, goldenrod, brown-eyed Susan, tall thistle, milkweed and sawtooth sunflower feed our wildlife and also reseed themselves for more plants next year.

MJ Frogge

Asters Blooming

Asters are blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Asters are hardy perennials that bloom late summer until the first hard frost. Many asters are native to Nebraska and are a late-season source of pollen for bees, migrating monarchs and other pollinators.

Asters native to Nebraska include:

Smooth aster – 2-4 feet tall with purple flowers

Prairie aster – 3-4 feet tall with lavender flowers

Heath aster – 1-3 feet tall with white flowers

New England aster – 3-5 feet tall with pink, red-violet, purple or blue flowers

Asters are easy to grow and look great in a mass planting. They can be planted with other native plants like purple coneflower, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan and native grasses.

The main plant disease is powdery mildew, it causes a whitish growth that appears on leaves. To reduce the chance of this disease, make sure asters are in full sun and plants are not crowded.

MJ Frogge

Blooming in July

The Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat is full of bees and butterflies this month. We are seeing many native plants blooming in July:  Rosinweed, Illinois bundleflower, swamp milkweed, wild bergamot, purple coneflower, hoary vervain, and chicory. It is wonderful to have a diverse selection of plants in our pollinator habitat.

MJ Frogge

Spring Flowers

Near the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat wild plum and willow trees are blooming. These plants are important early blooming flowers for pollinators. Wild violets and dandelions are also blooming. Yesterday we taught youth about habitats at an outdoor education event at a nearby state park. It was great to show the students the early blooming flowers we saw, white trout lily and Dutchman’s breeches. Hope you can get outside this weekend and see what is blooming.

MJ Frogge

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Fall Habitat Day

This morning Nebraska Extension Lancaster County Master Gardeners volunteered and helped me in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. We had plenty of wonderful rain this year. So the Habitat got a bit over grown. We found the path, bench and picnic table, they were all over grown with native plants and a few weeds. We took out the weeds, cut back a few native grasses, but left everything else. It is important to leave plant material in pollinator habitats for overwintering insects and praying mantis egg cases. Many wildflowers like milkweed and Rudbeckia are dropping seeds now for plants next year. Birds like, American goldfinch, are seed eaters. Leaving the native tall thistle is an important food source for them. I hope we have many more beautiful fall days like today.

MJ Frogge

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June: Leaf Cutter Bees & Flowers

Lots of activity in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat this month. Soni added new blocks to the solitary bee house. It did not take long for solitary leaf cutter bees to start filling them up.

beeblock

There is also many flowers blooming this month. Common milkweed, butterfly milkweed, purple poppy mallow and yellow sweet clover.

MJ Frogge

milkweedflowerbutterflymilkweedpoppymallowyellowsweetclover

Blooming Spring Bulbs

The spring bulbs I planted last October are blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Grape hyacinth, crocus and glory-of-the-snow all bloomed this spring. They are excellent early blooming plants to add to your pollinator habitat. Consider planing spring flowering bulbs this fall.

MJ Frogge