May Blooming in the Habitat

Right now prairie ragwort is blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. It is a wonderful early blooming perennial that is native to Nebraska. It reaches one foot in height and has sunny yellow flowers.

MJ Frogge

prairieragwort

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Fall in the Habitat

We have been enjoying beautiful fall days this week in the pollinator habitat.  Chris helped me unload another truck load of bark.  Thank you Chris and I promise this is the last load for this year. Soni and I spread the bark and placed new pavers, donated by Jim.  The pavers make it easier to walk through our dry stream bed that was added for erosion control and direct foot traffic through the habitat.  I planted the seeds of native plants that we have collected this month. We also have planted several trees. Redbud, oak and spruce trees will benefit all wildlife when they mature.

MJ

View of habitat in the fall.

View of habitat in the fall.

New paver walkway.

New paver walkway.

Praying mantis in container flowers looking for next meal.

Praying mantis in container flowers looking for next meal.

Asters!

Asters are blooming in the habitat.  This is an amazing fall blooming plant.  It attracts pollinators like butterflies, moths, bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees and soldier beetles.  Consider planting asters instead of garden mums in your landscape for fall color.

MJ

Smooth aster in the habitat.

Smooth aster in the habitat.

‘Lone Wolf’ Sawtooth

Sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek Habitat

At 9 feet, this perennial sawtooth sunflower is standing tall in the Cherry Creek Habitat

My, my, my… how one of our perennial sunflowers has grown!

We have a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) in the Cherry Creek Habitat. When grown in tight colonies the sunflowers reach 3-5 feet tall. However, when you plant one by itself (described as a ‘lone wolf’) it can reach up to 12 ft tall. This afternoon, we went out and measured the sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek habitat and it is 9 ft tall. It is glorious! Unfortunately, it is too tall for the space (and could be aggressive),  so we’ll have to move it later. There are plenty of pollinators on the sunflower now and it certainly is a standout in the habitat.

Other habitat news:

  • Excited! Jim in our office is busy adding a camera out back so we can view the habitat on the web and share video. We should even have “night vision”.
  • We’ve also been doing some nitty gritty work with weeding and adding more rock to keep working on the erosion issues with the space.
  • The activity at the bee nesting structure has really slowed down, although I did see one leaf cutter bee busy at work. Bumble bees have certainly not slowed down their activity – they are still as busy as “bees”.
  • Today, we saw a lot of monarchs moving south on their migration while working in the habitat.
  • As we move into fall, it will be time to harvest seed and plant more plants.
  • Speaking of sunflowers, the Lemon Queen sunflowers may not look as pretty now that the flowers are gone, but they are providing food for birds. This afternoon, a female cardinal and three of her young were busy feeding on the seeds.

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Pollinators in Mind

pollinator habitat sign

pollinator habitat sign

 

Last week I attended Managing Prairies with Pollinators in Mind workshop in Morris Minnesota at the University of Minnesota West Central Research Outreach & Extension Center. It was amazing to be in the company of so many people who are concerned about pollinators.  I was able to share our story and pictures of our habitat, bee house and insect hotel.

The participants and speakers I met are making a real impact on pollinator education.  We learned about pollinator legislation, pollinator life cycles, how to do a pollinator assessment, endangered species and insect research projects. Minnesota is leading the way on pollinator education and habitat establishment & protection. Currently it is unknown how many native bee species are in Minnesota.  Researchers there are going to compile a list.  This will be a huge task. I was impressed with the land managers who want to learn the best way to protect and promote pollinator populations.

At this workshop we all realized that now is the time to do all we can to promote pollinators and voice our concern about their decline.  Policy makers are listening. Research and education are being funded. I have returned even more motivated to expand our habitat and educate others about pollinators.

MJ

Planning Your Garden & Pollinator-friendly Habitat

Rain barrel donated to our habitat project.

Rain barrel donated to our habitat project.

Some resources you may enjoy as you plan for spring! Be sure to include pollinator-friendly practices and habitats in your landscape plan:

What you can do right now! Now’s the time to start planning your insect and native bee habitat and nesting structures. We have some photos on the blog to help give you some ideas. From the February 2013 NEBLINE Newsletter (free) Attracting Pollinators to Your Landscape (includes directions to make a native bee nesting block) and Biology of Native Bee Pollinators. Grab those scrap pieces of lumber and start drilling!

Are your seeds OK? Have you been saving seeds for your garden? There’s a simple experiment to see if your seeds are still good.  http://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2004/seedsaving.shtml

Need inspiration? Take a look at these photos from Benjamin Vogt. Vogt lives in Lincoln and has a 2,000 sq ft native prairie garden. It is absolutely beautiful. Here he documents his prairie garden through the year (with some other photos thrown in!) Enjoy The| Deep| Middle – Living and Writing in the Prairie Echo

Reading suggestions to help get you through this cold winter – from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s blog “Beneficial Landscapes: the plants, wildlife, soil and water for our gardens” http://beneficiallandscapes.blogspot.com/

Add a Rain barrel – Try Harvesting Rainwater: We have a rain barrel for the Cherry Creek Habitat. Of course, it isn’t big enough to catch all the water run off – but it has been handy when we want to water specific plants. Consider adding a rain barrel and try other rainwater harvesting techniques this year! To help – UNL Extension has a brand new NebGuide. It provides information on how to use, install and collect rainwater. Rain barrels can be purchased or made. This publication is on-line and you can access it free! http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=1612

Just announced! 2014 Artistic Rain Barrel Program: Prairie Theme! The Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and the City of Lincoln Watershed Management Division are collaborating on a project to educate the community on the benefits of using rain barrels to reduce rainwater runoff and improve water quality. Local artists are invited to paint prairie themed designs on a rain barrel to celebrate the role prairies play in filtering stormwater runoff. The deadline to apply to participate is February 7, 2014http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/pworks/watrshed/educate/barrel/artist/

Landscape Sustainability:  Sustainable landscapes describes landscapes supporting environmental quality and conservation of natural resources. For many people, a sustainable landscape is hard to understand or visualize. Other terms such as xeriscape, native landscape, and environmentally friendly landscape have been used interchangeably to describe sustainable landscapes.A well-designed sustainable landscape reflects a high level of self-sufficiency. Once established, it should grow and mature virtually on its own — as if nature had planted it. This UNL Extension publication is available on-line free http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=203

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Planting seeds

Prairie larkspur seeds planted in the habitat.

Prairie larkspur seeds planted in the habitat.

Purple coneflower seeds.

Purple coneflower seeds.

This month we planted wildflower seeds in our pollinator habitat. Many wildflower seeds need a cold treatment called stratification. In nature this happens when seeds drop from the plant in the fall, overwinter in the ground and then germinate in the spring. Seeds we planted include:

  • Prairie larkspur
  • Showy beardstongue
  • Large flowered beardstongue
  • Purple coneflower
  • Pasque flower
  • Biennial gaura
  • Compass plant
  • Partridge pea
  • Plains coreopsis
  • Butterfly milkweed
  • Whorled milkweed
  • Swamp milkweed
  • Grey headed prairie coneflower
  • White prairie-clover

MJ

Enhancing Habitat & Drilling, Drilling, Drilling

The seeds we’ve collected from native plants have been planted so know we can focus on the insect habitats and bee nest box structure.

Chinese Mantid on a log

Chinese Mantid checking out the new insect habitat structure at Cherry Creek… and we’re just getting started

The first structure we’re building is made from pallets, pavers and a variety of natural materials.  MJ took several photos so we’ll see if we can get those posted. MJ and I filled the first layer with pine cones, goldenrod stems, dried milkweed pods, bark and cattails. The next layer has several logs with holes drilled in them, prairie hay, more pine cones, sticks and well… this is where we’ve quickly learned that we need to collect a lot more materials to fill such a grand structure. We hope to make it four pallets high before winter arrives.  So off to collect more materials. Funny, how you start eyeballing other people’s yard waste set out for curbside recycling.

houses for native bees

Some of the scrap lumber being cut & drilled to create native bee nesting blocks. We’re doing the same with logs

The Native Bee Nest Box structure is also a work in progress. We went to a surplus area and found a great table and bookcase made of solid wood. The wood will be treated with natural preservatives, but it is meant to be outdoors so that’s where it is headed. The bookshelf will be screwed into the top of the table. This is the housing for the bee nest boxes. I’ve been collecting scrap lumber and logs.  There has been a lot of sawing, drilling and sanding. Each piece of lumber has 1/4″, 3/18″ or 5/18″ holes drilled in it – varying from 3-6″ deep. The pvc pipe sections will hold phragmites and bamboo tubes. In addition to scrap lumber, natural logs will fill in the gaps.

Lots of work to do before winter sets in…

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

First layer of insect hotel, filling pallet with pine cones and plant material.

First layer of insect hotel, filling pallet with pine cones and plant material.

Building insect hotel.  Filling layers as we add pallets.

Building insect hotel. Filling layers as we add pallets.

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

YAY Fall!!! We’re able to plant this week!

Progress! Sept 25, 2013

We were able to plant in the Cherry Creek habitat area today. Planting seeds later this week. More mulch will be brought in and then we can work on the specific insect habitat (area with the pallets to the left).

Fall! This is the best time of year. We’ve been taking care of the plants for the Cherry Creek project at our homes and now we can finally start getting them into the ground. The utility companies were contacted and the area has been flagged again so we don’t dig into something important!

Here are some of the plants we’re starting with – I know there are more and I’ll update when I see what MJ brings from home!

  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Common Milkweed
  • Dotted Gayfeather
  • Rough Gayfeather
  • Pitchers Sage
  • Tick Trefoil
  • Plains Coreopsis
  • Goldenrod
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Ironweed
  • Hoary Vervain
  • Black-eyed Susan – Rudebeckia
  • Blanket Flower
  • Purple Poppy Mallow
  • Pussytoes
  • Sunflower
  • Yarrow
  • White Clover
  • Asters
  • Common Blue Violet
  • Big Bluestem
  • Little Bluestem
  • Indiangrass
  • Switchgrass
  • Serviceberry
  • Elderberry
  • Tall Thistle (1st year rosette)

One of our staff members donated a young spruce (black hills) for the project and MJ ordered some “snowdrops” for early, early blooms. We also have seeds from compass plant, yellow coneflower, biennial gaura, whorled milkweed, tall thistle and partridge pea ready to start. Sedum and some herbs from our home gardens will also help encourage pollinators. Why do we have a thistle on our list? Not all thistles are bad. Tall thistle is an important plant – http://www.nps.gov/home/naturescience/tall-thistle.htm

More updates on the project: The erosion is nearly controlled – we only have a few places that keep causing us problems when we get a heavy rain. The rain barrel is in place and no problem keeping that filled the past week. We have secured the base of our insect hotel and have started collecting materials.

I’ll post a photo this week once we get planting!

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Create Your Own Pollinator Garden

Skipper on dotted gayfeather

Skipper on native dotted gayfeather – Spring Creek Prairie near Denton, NE

We’re waiting until fall to transplant some perennials and shrubs into the Cherry Creek Habitat – it’s just too hot now. If you’re thinking of creating a pollinator friendly landscape, now’s a good time to do some planning. You could start your project this fall. Here are some tips from the U.S. Forest Service:

  • Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall. Plant in clumps or groups instead of single plantings of a flower. Try to use plants native to your area. Oh and don’t forget night-blooming flowers for moths and bats.
  • Avoid modern hybrid flowers, especially those with “doubled” flowers. These flowers may look beautiful to us, but plant breeders may have sacrificed pollen, nectar and fragrance for their “modern” beauty.
  • Eliminate pesticides whenever possible. Follow an Integrated Pest Management approach (IPM). Continue reading