Sunday, June 26, 2011

Another Random Garden Video Day

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Feral Honey Bees - Urban Habitat?

While plants for nectar and pollen are important for gardeners to provide, I have another theory as to why honey bees seem to be around less, at least in my neighborhood.

Wild populations are necessary for the health of any species. So where do those feral population live in an increasingly urban world? No one wants a huge bee colony nearby,even individual bees scare the bejeebees out of most.

In our neighborhood honeybees were very common most of my life. They tended to colonize old trees that had rotted out centers that could be entered high above the heads of the pedestrian population of humans, so go unnoticed. But many severe storms and a replacing sidewalks program and utility companies worried about future damage cutting the trees to the point of causing death or such an ugly site that owners finally removed the entire tree, has caused a real lack of honey bee habitat to occur in this community. So honey bees have just about disappeared unless you live near someone with hives raising honeybees.
My own daughter had just such colony in a tree in her front yard and lost it to a new sidewalk and the presumption of its aging danger.

So I'm guessing our feral honeybee population will remain minimal for many years to come. Chicago seems determined to replace its lost trees but it will take many years and a change in attitude toward aging trees and the seeming danger of storms to recover anywhere near the population of wild honey bees once enjoyed here.

At the native California plant garden , Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, near LA in California there is a wonderful site. The slowly disappearing felled tree known to house a honey bee colony for over 400 years which is still thriving within the remains. Where else could this be left to continue to provide a habitat for bees?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Life In The Leaf Litter ...and other organic debris.

The publications page at the The Center For Biodiversity and Conservation
has made available several resources of interest.
One in particular Life in the Leaf Litter... Johnson, Elizabeth A.Catley, Kefyn M. seems of importance to wildlife gardening and biodiversity conservation in urban areas.
I have mentioned this before here at pollinators-welcome in the post Mulch-Natural Duff-Living Cover . Since then it has become increasingly apparent just how necessary this layer is to the function of ecosystems and wildlife habitat.

"Life In The Leaf Litter" is free and easy to download , consisting of 1.58 MB, just 17 pages of text and a few drawings. You can save it or just read and delete.
Within those few pages is an introduction to the function and form of leaf litter and the various occupants and their roles.

A wildlife garden produces an exceptional amount of biomass. While compost is part of the option for managing this decomposing organic matter there are other options. One is just leaving in place within the garden. This is very much the same in the meadows and garden beds as under trees and shrubs. While mowing, cutting back or burning such accumulation is needed periodically, to do so too often recks havoc with the wildlife by destroying nests,overwinter protection and many in larval stages unable to easily relocate.
Another option is composting until most matter is unrecognizable then without sifting using as a mulch.
None of this means you must leave the garden looking completely unkempt. But a relaxation of the expectations of neat and orderly in our urban gardens and local parks will go far to provide ecosystem function.

Function in the form of services, such as allowing water to filter more easily through into the soil and providing habitat for tiny invertebrates that feed on organic litter, breaking it down into smaller pieces which bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms then decompose into soluble chemicals and minerals such as nitrogen, calcium and sulfur. These nutrients are then recycled and used again by trees and other growing plants .
Service such as keeping the soil from overheating in urban heat islands and creating a spongy layer that resists compaction.

It is something to think about.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Native Seed Growers Seedling Pick-up Day

Volunteers are such friendly helpful people.
I was able to schedule an appointment for pickup and preorder the plants from the available list online. Then a helpful volunteer had the plants ready and waiting when we arrived.
Native Seed Growers

Set-up in the shade of trees were tables of trays full of seedlings looking for a home, just in case you had not pre-ordered or were able to take a few of the extras. Someone was there to help walk you through the plants and assist with removing plugs from the plant trays.

The above photo is of the four sunny prairie plants that I chose. We were encouraged to take at least three of each.

Set right to potting up to hold the seedlings for a bit while the planting area is finished.

Aster oblongifolius / Aromatic AsterLate blooming; one of the last asters to bloom. Once established this aster is drought tolerant. The flowerheads and crushed foliage are fragrant.

Compact form, with small stiff leaves. The entire plant is covered with flower heads when in bloom. Well suited for small spaces as the plant doesn't flop over when flowering.



The seed matures during late October-November. When the seed head is tan and fluffy, the seeds can be carefully removed so as to not disturb adjacent mature seed heads which can easily lose its seed if it is slightly bumped.

Allow the seeds to air-dry completely to assure that all moisture in the seed is removed for storage.

Baptisia leucophaea / Cream False IndigoOne of the first plants to bloom in the prairie, the blooms are lush but brief. The cream-colored flower groups are borne laterally near the ground in the spring. This plant develops slowly and once established it should not be transplanted.
The foliage can be easily damaged in the wind therefore it needs support from companion plants, particularly little bluestem.

Suggested Companion Plants:
Little Bluestem, Rough Blazingstar, Spiderwort, Leadplant.

Indigo is not normally bothered by mammalian herbivores because the foliage is poisonous. If livestock, such as horses, eat sufficient quantities of this plant, as well as other wild indigos, they can be seriously poisoned by it.

This plant is pollinated primarily by queen bumblebees.

How to collect the seeds:

Seed pods are elliptical, fuzzy and have a pointed beak

Psoralea tenuiflora / Scurfy PeaAn open, bushy plant with gray hairy stems. Very intolerant of root disturbance, they are best planted into their permanent locations.
The plant is a good soil stabilizer.

Suggested companion plants:
Downy Phlox, Little Bluestem Grass, Purple coneflower.

How to Collect the Seeds:
A one-seeded pods are 3/16” long and are covered with black spots.

wisconsin plants panic grass

Family Poaceae
Dichanthelium leibergii (Vasey) Freckmann
Leiberg's panic grass, prairie panic grass
Dichanthelium: Greek dich for "two" and anthelium for "flowering" - a fair translation is "twice-flowering"
leibergii: for John Bernhard Leiberg (1853-1913), its discoverer

Panicum leibergii / Leiberg’s Panic GrassA characteristic grass of dry prairies. Among the rosette grasses, Leiberg’s panicgrass is recognized by having leaf blades that are hairy on both surfaces.

Foliage may be grazed by herbivores.

Suggested companion plants:
Prairie alumroot, Hoary Puccoon, Heath Aster, Wild Bergamot.

How to Collect the Seeds:
Leiberg’s panicgrass is characterized by two distinct blooming periods. The primary flowering heads are eventually held above the foliage and are produced from late May into early June. The secondary flowering heads are produced from the leaf axils from late June into September. The primary flowering heads usually have a lower seed set than the secondary ones, which have flowers that remain closed and are self-pollinated.

The small tan, round seeds are mature when they are easily pulled from the stem.

Allow the seeds to air-dry completely to assure that all moisture in the seed is removed for storage.