Clean Up Day!

Clean Up Day at Cherry Creek

MJ picking up trash along the creek. Great to get it cleaned up!

Today was clean up day out at the Cherry Creek habitat. Wow! Beautiful weather… finally!!

We picked up a lot of trash from the creek and cut out a mess of wild grape vines that were entangling the cattails. The grape vines were added to a new wildlife brush pile. In addition to finding some nice raccoon scat, MJ found a $5 bill down in the creek! Who says it doesn’t pay to do a clean up!

To see more photos of the Cherry Creek Habitat, visit

So what’s new at the habitat? We have plants coming up (exciting!) and apparently, the habitat was a “stomping ground” for several deer recently. Good thing most of our plants aren’t up yet or they would’ve been salad for the deer! The native bee habitat will be moved outside soon after we add a small roof.

I hope you are all gathering up your scrap lumber, planning your insect/wildlife structures and thinking about plants and practices to benefit our native pollinators!

Here’s to sharing the buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

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.

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”

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!

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, 2014

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

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Tubs, Hoses and Stuff

UNL research on building/parking lot runoff

Tools UNL researchers are using to monitor runoff from buildings and parking lots

If you visit our office, you might wonder about the blue plastic tubs with hoses and “stuff” connected to them (photo). There is one set on the building and one down a drainage slope by the parking lot. University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are monitoring runoff from our building roof and parking.  This information will be used to help researchers work on reducing non-source point pollution coming from urban features like buildings and paved lots.

Bit of “Buzz” on the Cherry Creek Habitat: We’re getting more mulch soon to help conserve moisture for plants. We had so much rain and now it looks like we’re going to slide back into a drought pattern. I stopped by this weekend to water some of the newer plantings. The big cottontail rabbit who was busy munching on some of the plantings was surprised! MJ added a low-tech water feature today for insects. The feature is also perfect for the birds. Our resident robins seem most excited and vocal about all of the improvements we’re doing. Soon we’ll be putting together the components for the insect hotel. Can’t wait until this fall when we can do some more plantings.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

It is Pollinator Week!

Insect Hotel

Insect Hotel

To celebrate Pollinator Week, June 17-23, I would like to tell you about my insect hotel.  This is a fun and easy project that the whole family can be involved with.

An insect hotel is a manmade structure created from mainly natural materials. They can come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific purpose or insect it is built for. Most hotels consist of several different sections that provide insects with nesting areas, offering shelter or refuge for many types of beneficial insects.

I first saw this idea in a garden magazine earlier this year. I wanted to know more so I Google the concept and was amazed at what I found. Insect hotel are quite common in Europe and have been featured at the Chelsea Flower Show. I found a few site about them in the United States, but it is not a well known concept. I was also fascinated at how artistic the construction of them could be.
After much research, I knew I wanted to build one in my own yard. I planned my design to fit the chosen place in my landscape. I began my search for supplies. I visited my local Eco Store and found everything I needed. I purchased 7 boards, 42 bricks (whole and broken) and 2 large Spanish style roof tiles to construct my insect hotel. Total cost was $18. The dimensions of my insect hotel are: 42 in tall, 24 in wide and 14 in deep. My hotel is filled with twigs, small branches, logs, bark, dried leaves, hay and 6 inch long hollow phragmites stems.

The insect hotel has held up well with all the rain. I have many flowering plants in bloom now, plus my herb and vegetable gardens are nearby too. I am hoping that my insect hotel will be filled with beneficial insects soon.


Not so easy… not so fast

Erosion - Building Runoff June 2013

BEFORE Erosion after recent rains – June 13, 2013
(photo by SC)

We hauled in soil, we packed in eroded areas, we created a berm…. and then it rained, and it rained and it rained some more. Now for those of us in Nebraska, this is something we aren’t used to in recent years. We’ve been in a very stubborn drought. Thankfully, in a few short weeks we’ve swam out of the drought – our ponds are full and fields are green! The only negative has been progress on our project.

The rain amplified some of the issues with erosion and runoff from the building. We called on Tom Franti to take a look at what we were facing before we moved forward. Tom is the Extension Surface Water Management Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When Tom visited our site, he determined very quickly that we would not be able to install a rain garden. The slope from the building to the creek was too steep and our berm would never be able to hold the water back with the amount of water coming off the building. The soil was also not conducive to a rain garden. Tom also told us he does not recommend putting a rain garden over any utilities. Our site is full of flagged utilities with the exception of just a few places. We have a tough situation.

Continue reading

It rained!


Cherry Creek habitat – last year’s cattail stalks in a marshy area. April 2013

It rained last night. Most of Nebraska is still in a drought – every drop of rain helps! I hope when we get back to the office on Monday the berm we started is still intact and held the runoff from the office roof. If not, that’s OK. The berm is a work in progress – we’ll shore it up.

I’m sure the plants/wildlife at the neighboring saline wetlands appreciate the rain. You know, we haven’t talked about our neighbors. Just to the north of our Cherry Creek site, is an amazing resource few people know about. It is the Lincoln Saline Wetlands Nature Center, 92 acres of unique habitat. Map

What’s a Saline Wetlands? From the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District who manages the sites in our area: “When the ground water rises to the surface a wetland is created. When that water passes through salt deposits on its way up, a saline wetlands is created. Lincoln, Nebraska is one of the very few places on earth where that happens…. ” Continue reading

Runoff to rain garden

One of the features in our habitat plan is to include a rain garden and berm. This should help eliminate some of the runoff from the roof of our building. The runoff is causing some erosion problems and could carry pollutants to the small wetlands area on the northern edge of the habitat.

What’s a rain garden? A rain garden is a small area designed to temporarily hold and allow water to soak in to the soil. It isn’t a pond or wetlands. In fact, most of the time it is dry. Rain gardens can be both beautiful and functional.  A mix of perennial flowers, ornamental grasses and woody shrubs adapted to both wet and dry conditions can be used in a rain garden. We intend to use plants that will also benefit wildlife/pollinators.

About 4-5 years ago, rain gardens created quite a “buzz” around our community. I’ve got a couple spots around my own home where I should seriously consider a rain garden. Add that to my “to do” list!

Our local government has a resource page to help people create their own rain gardens. Check it out:

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Bringing in Top Soil

Adding Top Soil

Filling in erosion and building a berm

This is haul dirt day! Of course, we picked the hottest day yet this year to haul and move dirt. The past couple of weeks we’ve had snow, sleet and now record-breaking temperatures. We already have temps in the area at or near 100 deg F. Whew! We’ll be adding more top soil on Friday (hopefully the temps will be better!). I think we missed Spring??

Thanks to Gary, Dave and Chris for helping MJ and myself haul in top soil. We used the pulverized top soil to fill in some areas where runoff from the building roof has caused erosion. We also started the berm today. The berm should help hold back some of the runoff – with some help with the planned rain garden landscaping and plants.

We’re posting photos on Flickr

On our “to-do” list for the next couple weeks:

  • adding more topsoil (we’ll probably end up needing two more pickup loads)
  • picking up compost and woodchips (we need lots of woodchips)
  • stabilize the drain hose from the building by setting into the soil
  • adding a gutter to the shed and attaching the rain barrel
  • leveling the area for the insect hotel and pollinator features
  • clean up trash in the creek and banks
  • …. oh, I know there is more – we’ll keep adding to the list.

MJ has some butterfly milkweed started and they look great. Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we can begin adding plants to the habitat. We were also able to pick up some nice pallets being discarded at a dumpster near our office. We’ll put the pallets to good use when building our insect/pollinator habitat.

Did I tell you we had raccoon scat by our shed today? Sorry, no photos to share… this time!

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –