Monday, October 27, 2014

Bombing for Bees

View from the airplane as Cascadian Farms drops hundreds of wildflower seed bombs to help pollinators.

'Tis the season, friends.  Thanksgiving?  Hanukkah?  Christmas?  Not so fast.  It is still fall and, across much of North America, fall is prime wildflower planting season!

I have been ankle deep in native wildflower seed packets for the past month, doling out poppies and lupines before the rain.  Waiting for the cosmos to hurry up so I can put in the clarkia.  Last year at this time, I was involved in the same planting game and I reaped dividends in the spring with my big fat pollinator garden.

My wildflower garden last spring, buzzing with life.

This year, in the midst of planning and planting, an email landed in my inbox about an organic food company's efforts to help protect our pollinators.  Cascadian Farm recently partnered with the Xerces Society. As part of their campaign, Cascadian Farm planted over a million wildflowers. (Check out their fun video of a plane dropping oodles of seed bombs on a prepared field. My kids loved it.)

Cascadian Farm dropping seed bombs by plane.

Sure Cascadian Farm may have a plane and pastel colored seed bombs, but let's not let them get all the glory!  Anyone can plant flowers and create habitat for pollinators.

Here's how you can help if you have a garden:

Because you plant them in the fall and they die in the spring, wildflowers work well as a cover crop in the edible garden.  I usually pair them with late planted vegetables - like winter squash.  As a cover crop, wildflowers offer over-winter habitat to beneficial insects, crowd out weeds, and bring in pollinators like crazy.

These California goldfields grew in a bean tepee last winter. I replaced them with gourds in late spring. 

Use wildflowers as fillers.  I have transitioned a few flower beds to native perennials in the three years.  One day, those beds will be beautiful!  Right now, though, the perfectly spaced one gallon plants look lonely.  Wildflowers in between the perennials bring color and life to a flower bed in transition.

Wildflowers are a commitment-phobic gardeners best friend.  For instance, I have the perfect spot in my garden for an asparagus bed.  Last year, I seeded it with wildflowers because I was not quite ready to make the commitment. Of course, like me, you might be bit by the bug (pun intended) and decide to postpone that asparagus bed for just another year as you toss a few more seeds into the soil this fall.

Even if you do not have a garden, you can take these steps to help pollinators:

If you are feeling crafty, you can turn wildflower seeds into your very own seed bombs. Here's how. You can also buy seed bombs online or in some garden stores.  Then launch them into the nearest empty lot, roadside ditch, sidewalk strip.

Seed bombs dropped by Cascadian Farm.

Put in a pot of flowers on your balcony, porch, window sill, on your sidewalk strip, anywhere.

Join a community garden, donate seeds to a school garden, or help an elderly person add some color to their neglected yard.

Give the gift of flowers.  Seed bombs and packets of wildflower seeds make wonderful (and thrifty) gifts for anyone with a yard.  I save seeds from my wildflowers for re-seeding and for gifts.

Do not use pesticides. This is a biggie! We can plant all the flowers we want but if they are doused in bee-killing insecticides, we are not doing pollinators any favors.

Buy organic fruits, vegetables and everything else.

What are you waiting for?  The wildflowers are calling and fall won't last forever.  Get bombing for bees.

This post is part of the Homestead Barn HopBackyard Farming ConnectionMaple Hill HopTuesday Garden Party, and Homeacre Hop.

I did not receive anything from Cascadian Farm for sharing their video and their Bee-Friendlier campaign. I did it just because I think it is important to help our imperiled pollinators in every way possible.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Growing Hope

I pulled into the parking lot, squinting at the line of cars in front of me.  It was nothing like this last year, I thought, as the day-glow clad volunteers waved me forward.  "To the far back parking lot," the gentleman advised.  "All the front are full."

I parked and trekked toward the sale, striking up a conversation with another patron.  He was here because his county offered rebates for transitioning lawns to native plants.  We parted ways at the entrance and wended our way through the crowded aisles.

A sign near the front boasted a talk on "The Connection Between Native Plants and Pollinators."

Further inside, several folks bent over pots at the end of one aisle.  A bearded man with a "Volunteer" apron wowed the growing crowd with a tale of a monarch butterfly laying eggs on this species in his own garden.  "I'll take four," one woman announced.  Two others began scooping up plants.

Monarch butterfly on California native milkweed.

A young woman, her toddler in tow, grabbed a volunteer in front of me.  "We are already sold out of huckleberry," she was informed.  "Wait, any other plants for birds?" She left go of her daughter's hand to fish out a dog-eared list from her purse.

This year, the native plant society stocked more plants than they ever had before.  Even so, I was lucky to get the last of the coyote mint, its scent wafting through the sale as I carried my treasures to the front.

Last year, plant sale volunteers had commented on the record number of visitors at the sale.  This year, they were simply speechless.  The drought has created a wave of gardeners "going native".  Some are motivated by rebates.  My community, however, has no rebates but does have a plethora of newly native gardens.  Local nurseries are expanding their selection.  What was once half a table is now four tables, the banner out front proclaiming, "We Carry California Natives."

Amidst bad news, another year of drought forecast, the proliferation of climate change denial, an island of trash the size of Texas, plummeting pollinator populations . . . amidst all this, there is something more.

Hummingbird on drought tolerant California fuchsia. 

There are people who refuse to give up.  Who wage war against climate change with a colorful California flower that attracts hummingbirds.  Who fight habitat loss from industrial agriculture by planting mountains of milkweed.  Who put their money - and their yards - where their mouths are.  There are people who grow hope.  Are you one of them?

My haul, destined for my own native plant garden.

Fall is a great time to plant natives in most of the country.  Local fauna have adapted to local plants for thousands of years.  Help local wildlife but going native.

This post is part of the Homestead Barn HopBackyard Farming ConnectionMaple Hill Hop, and Tuesday Garden Party.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Garden Chores for Children

A garden pest becomes a child's pet - and your garden is the happier!

On a walk with some family members last week, my youngest started a game of identifying the plants we passed.  After he got 9 out of 10 correct, I had to give myself a pat on the back.

Have I been patiently teaching my children botany?  Quietly sitting down with them over photographs?  Not at all.  I've simply been putting them to work in the garden.

For the past several years, I have given my boys simple chores in the garden.  While each has their own "garden bed" planted with various edibles and flowers, for the most part, the garden chores I give my children are designed to take things off of my plate.  I know realize how, in sharing the work load, I am actually sharing my knowledge.  Teaching life skills.  Imparting information that cannot readily be learned in a book.

continued at The Green Phone Booth ...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stop, Look and Spot the Pollinator

Late on a Sunday evening, after spending much of the week working on various garden projects, I sat down on my garden bench.  As much as I always advocate slowing down and really appreciating nature, most of the time, those are mere moments for me.  A dirty hand wiping sweat off my neck as I squint at a bird darting toward its favorite flower or a butterfly floating above the garden.

Today, though I sat in front of a flowering mint to watch some busy bees when I spotted a small flash of copper.  It dropped for a moment to one of the white flowers and I realized it was the smallest butterfly I have ever noticed.  Noticed.  Not seen.

I cannot identify this butterfly but it is easily under 1" in wingspan. Probably closer to 1/2".  
If you know what it is, please let me know!

We spend so much of our lives rushing from place to place that we rarely truly notice the small wonders that Mother Nature offers.  My goal in starting the Spot the Pollinator series was to encourage myself and others to slow down and look.  To motivate kids to let go of their screens and get outside to look for bugs.  

Another view of the itty bitty butterfly.

Have you stopped?  Have you looked?  No really looked?  If you have, chances are you have seen something magical!  If you happened to get a photo of that magic, please link it up here.  Or share it on social media with the #SpotThePollinator hashtag.

Grab the button if you are so inclined:
Spot The Pollinator

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Plant It and They Will Come: A Success Story!

I was enjoying a warm Tuesday afternoon.  Ogling the size of my birdhouse gourds and fretting over the lack of flowers near the pumpkin patch when something orange caught my eye.  A monarch butterfly soared over the fence and into my little garden.  It darted past the cosmos, over the Indian blanket flowers, lingered around the Queen Anne's lace, past the native mallow and buckwheat and then . . . over the other fence and into my neighbor's yard.

What the heck?  I've planted four - no five - patches of milkweed this year.  Granted, the plants in two of those patches are pretty small.  Meager pickings but still!?  I was sure that my neighbor didn't have much more to offer.  Or her neighbor.

Continued over at The Green Phone Booth.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spot The Pollinator #11

It has been a busy week over at the Green Bean household but not too busy to sneak a few photos of pollinators busy in our garden.   Please share your photos by linking up or using the hashtag #SpotThePollinator on social media.

Native bee on Delta sunflower, a California native.

Bumble rounding the crest on California rudbeckia, another California native.  This is the first time I've grown this plant.  It needs more water than I would like but I lug out the water from washing fruits and veggies because it is worth the extra work!  Such a pretty pretty flower much loved by bees of all sort.

A gray hairstreak lays eggs on my native California mallow.  This plant is a host plant for many caterpillars and, without host plants, no caterpillars.  Without caterpillars, no butterflies.  So keeping on laying, little lady!

Not a pollinator but these small milkweed bugs showed up in our garden this year.  It is the first time I've seen them and our second year of milkweed (this year with much more milkweed than in previous years).  Am I sensing a connection?

Now get outside and slow down in your garden by taking pollinator pics.  Or convince the kids that a camera and some bugs is the best way to go.  Link up below.

Grab the button if you are so inclined:
Spot The Pollinator

Monday, July 21, 2014

Spot The Pollinator #10

I am all about butterflies this week.  After waiting all summer for them to arrive, they are flitting about here and there.  Often, butterflies - and all insects - move so fast that taking a photograph is the only way to correctly identify them.  For instance, number one and three here were just bits of blue fluff before my camera froze them in time.

Common-Checkered Skipper

Sandhill Skipper

Gray Hairstreak

Common buckeye sunning itself.

This is what is fluttering about in my neck of the woods. What is going on in yours?  Please link up your photos or share them on social media with the hashtag #SpotThePollinator.

Grab the button if you are so inclined:
Spot The Pollinator


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