WELCOME SPRING!! Yes, we have had snows...many and wet. Yes, we've had rains...many and wet. Family pets are developing webbed feet and quacking rather than barking and meowing....but as we love to say, "We surely can use the moisture!" Email us, Cathie Draine and Brad Morgan, at email@example.com.
Welcome the good guys - those early spring pollinators!!
As much as I thrill to see the earliest of the spring bulbs bloom, I am more excited to be reassured that the early pollinators are at work. For almost three weeks I performed a daily pilgrimage to adore the blooms on my six tiny snowbells, galanthus nivalis. The blooms finally faded and I thrilled again to see each flower’s ovary, a green ‘bead’ located just at the base of the petals, swell with developing seed. Daily, I saw the stem, still looking strong, gently bend to lay the fading flower and developing ovary on the ground – ready to deposit seed for new plants next spring.
I was over the moon with joy. But I had missed the most exciting part. I did not get to see the tiny insects that did the pollinating. I felt cheated. I want to meet these little guys, express my gratitude, thank them, invite them for tea.
I looked at the small planting of later blooming crocuses. These flowers have their ovaries located at the base of the stem that holds the flower, underground. I’d like to shake the fuzzy legs of whatever insect group is working on those, which are spreading delightfully. Good job guys.
What I can do to make all insects welcome in the garden is keep the gardens pollinator friendly.
There are some ways to do this that follow Nature’s model and are simple, inexpensive and rational.
First, practice diversity in your planting pattern. If you plant row crops, widen the planting bed and intermix a variety of vegetables with both perennial and annual flowers. Insects are lazy and easily confused if they actually have to hunt for a target plant.
Know the ‘bug schedule’. For example, the onion thrips appear when the stems are lush and green just before the onion bulbs put on their push for growth. Planting both annual and perennial flowers that have varying bloom times will keep a broad variety of insects in the garden.
Why bother? Why not kill everything that moves? Here is the answer: 99 of 100 insects are good. They break down organic material and add nutrients to the garden. They kill and eat each other (remember the lady bugs and the aphids?). They pollinate. They often delight us. Many of us grow dill and parsley and milkweed as host plants for butterflies.
Insects know much more about our gardens than I do. If I watch, as a student, I know when to expect the aphids, the blister beetles and assess and often ignore their slight damage. And I learn from them.
Last summer I noticed small milkweed bugs, Lygaeus kalmii, on the milkweed seedpods. They control milkweed populations by ingesting nutrients from the seeds as well as tolerating the toxins in the milkweed sap, making them unpalatable to birds.
So bring on the insects –pollinating heroes, food for birds, controllers of plant populations. Most are good. Remember that. Cathie Draine
May gardening tip: To grow annuals in containers on the patio, use a light weight soil mixture. Keep the plants well-watered, because the soil dries out fast. Apply a water soluble fertilizer according to package directions every two weeks. More May tips
Poison ivy video reminder. Poison ivy is all over the Black Hills. Most adults can identify it, but kids still have to learn that it can be either a "groundcover
, a vine, or as shrub," and shouldn't be confused with the nonpoisonous Virginia creeper. We've found that Kansas State University horticultural information is a good fit for the Black Hills. video
Gardening in Spring (add some lovely math). There is a time each spring when I wish I had had more mathematic and science aptitude. My only memory of high school chemistry is my seat in the class. And LeRoy is the family numbers guy.
As I began my yearly euphoric ramblings about the warming soil, I appreciate but do not fully understand its complex chemistry. more (#12)
If you thought LAST summer was hot, you were right and recent research suggests that global average temperatures are close to an 11,000 year peak. So what does this mean to gardeners?
At the very least, utilize some simple strategies: mulch your gardens to cool the soil and conserve water; make and install rain barrels to harvest rain water; stop spraying water into the air when you irrigate the garden. Keep the water close to the surface of the soil or even better, do some simple study and make your own drip irrigation system (it's
easier than you think. Check here.)
I am conflicted about the advent of spring this year. I’m not certain we have had much of a winter, and frankly, I miss it. Perhaps when daylight savings time starts on March 10, I’ll have a better answer to “Are you ready for spring?” than a polite polysyllabic mumble signifying not much.
Actually there are some things that interest me greatly. The dire predictions of continued drought ought to finally bring the good sense of drip irrigation into focus. Yes, let’s finally learn to water our plants on the ground and not spray the air. Let’s quit apologizing for bucket-catching tap water as it warms rather than watching it swirl down the drain in the bathtub and kitchen sink. Let’s put up more rain barrels. more #11
Just for fun...and speaking of spring birds....click on this to a fun birdcall test. It's good fun and a great way to sharpen up your bird recognition skills.
Are you finding that spring fever got the best of you and you have way too many cuttings that need to be potted up? We show a very simple and inexpensive way to make great self-watering pots for those cuttings. Look here.
For those who are in love with dahlias and plan to continue the floral affair' this summer check out the excellent video of Scott Kunst of Old House Bulbs in Michigan planting dahlias, glads and tuberoses on the Martha Stewart television show. Click here.
Elke Baxter tells us about some dandy winter plants. Read about the amaryllis and the Protea. Look under the Clubs tab.