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 by going native.

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

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