It is October in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Last night the habitat hosted the 4-H Horticulture club. The youth and their parents toured the habitat and learned about the solitary bee house and insect hotel. The youth started their nature journaling project by spending time observing everything around them and recording what they saw. They finished up the evening making solitary bee houses to place in their home landscapes next year.
The Master Gardeners visited the habitat today to help prune back the wild that grew over the summer. They pruned some of the plant material so the bench, picnic table and pathways are more accessible.
The habitat looks wonderful and is showing fall color. The tall cottonwood always leads the way with its golden leaves.
I often get asked “What perennials should I plant for butterflies?” The plant selection can be overwhelming especially if you have a small space. Here are a few suggestions. I have included pictures I have taken over the past 5 years of the plants and the butterflies.
Monarch on aster, Comma on common milkweed, Painted Lady on tall sedum, Monarch on Liatris, Tiger swallowtail on Monarda, Buckeye on Thyme, Painted lady on purple coneflower, Border patch on Rudbeckia, Crescent on butterfly milkweed, Monarch on swamp milkweed, Grey hairstreak on mint, Painted lady on goldenrod, Border patch on sawtooth sunflower and Black swallowtail on tall thistle.
Amazing flowers bloom during the summer months. We have a great collection of native flowers in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. The weather has been good and we have had plenty of rain. Summer blooming native plants are so important to pollinators. It is important to have a variety and have them in mass plantings. Native plants that have bloomed in the habitat this summer include: purple coneflower, butterfly milkweed, two varieties of beebalm, black-eyed Susan, blanket flower, fleabane, vervain, chicory, swamp milkweed and lead plant. Enjoy the summer flowers!
Happy National Pollinator Week! I hope you are able to start a pollinator habitat this year or add plants to the habitat you already have in your landscape. Gardening has become very popular this year, so more people are outside and hopefully noticing pollinators. There are many ways to celebrate pollinator week:
1. Plant Native Plants. Native plants provides native pollinators with food in the form of pollen and nectar. Select plants that have a long bloom time. Also grow a wide selection of plants so you have plants blooming April through October.
2. Let your yard get a little messy. Leave unhazardous snags for nesting places and stack tree limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for pollinators. Build an insect hotel or bee house in your landscape.
3. Create or protect water sources. Bees need water to drink. Create a water feature with rocks for insects to land. Be sure to keep birdbaths clean and change the water three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.
4. Limit or eliminate pesticide use. By using fewer or no chemicals in the landscape you will help keep pollinator populations healthy.
5. Identify non-native invasive plants. Work to remove them from your yard. Do not bring any new invasive plants into your habitat. Invasive plants do not provide as much quality food or habitat as native plants do and can threaten healthy ecosystems.
The month of May has been very pleasant and perfect planting weather. You still have time to plant and I recommend planting herbs. Herbs are great for us to eat and also for many of our favorite butterfly caterpillars. Dill and parsley are important food sources for swallowtail caterpillars. I planted dill seed several weeks ago and it is coming up nicely. You still have time to plant the seed.
Plant herbs that have flowers beneficial to butterflies and bees. Consider planting basil, oregano, sage and thyme. I hope to get my basil plants in the ground later today before we get another nice rain tomorrow.
Hope your pollinator habitat is off to a good start this year and you are enjoying it as much as the pollinators and wildlife will.
This week we celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day. We are having fantastic weather, so hope you are able to get outside and plant.
Eastern redbud tree.
Dandelion, see the tiny bee?
Many great pollinator plants are blooming now. They include pasque flower, redbud, Dutchman’s breeches, white trout lily, Virginia bluebells, spring beauty, wild plum and dandelions. Yes, dandelions are a great early blooming plant for pollinators. I found tiny native bees visiting the plants. Let a few plants remain and bloom in your habitat. Remove the dead flowers before they go to seed.
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.
Today 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.
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.
I love to go out to the Cherry Creek Pollinator habitat after it snows. It is always interesting to see what tracks I can find. Wildlife are very active in the habitat during the winter. This week I found deer, rabbit, raccoon, opossum and varies bird tracks.