Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Early Signs of Spring

The calendar says Spring has arrived 10 days ago, but it sure doesn't feel that way. With night time temperatures still in the 20s some nights, it almost feels hopeless. Yet, plants are slowly emerging from the ground, showing greenery even if they do nothing more than just sprout. Aside from that, there are other telltale signs. Today while working on trays in my little unheated greenhouse it warmed up to nearly 70 degrees inside. That felt nice. Earlier in the week on warmer nights I heard the Spring Peepers. Just yesterday morning, I saw my first Bluebird and flock of Pine Warblers for this year. So birds are singing  and on the move, frogs are emerging, along with the Daffodils. Daylight in the early evening. All good signs. I am hoping to see the return of "Rana" my resident Green Frog from last year. She is quite a ham and doesn't mind my getting close to photograph her. She is just adorable and loves to hang out in the bog and nursery pots.
Rana, playing peekaboo.

I am surveying the property to see where I would like to expand the nursery area. I am hoping to have larger size plants in a few species this year as well as a few shrubs and trees. I plan to expand the pollinator garden and install Bluebird nest boxes. There is much work to be done, but I am up to it. Now if it would just get warm......

Update 4/6/2015: I saw my first Mourning Cloak in the back yard yesterday. There was one in the same vicinity last year as well, so I am thinking they may have a favored hibernation spot here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Its 2015. Can We Get Some Spring Please?

My pollinator garden, installed in July 2014

Having just been assaulted by another seven inches of snow, I am wondering if spring will ever get here. With so much cold and frozen terrain, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am so tired of winter right now. But spring will come; it always does. And not a moment too soon.

So I am thinking about what I will be focusing on the for coming year and what I really feel is important is to focus on pollinators. My impromptu pollinator garden on my new property was surprisingly successful last year, having only been installed in July. By August, it was well grown and teeming with bees, wasps, skippers and butterflies and a female hummingbird. I look forward to an even larger area this year as I spent last fall adding to it. This year I plan to finish it with a salt marsh garden. I also began working on the moon garden not too far from it. I am hoping to complete the moon garden this year as well as add on to the organic food garden. 

Looking forward for the year, Monarchs will continue to be a primary area of my focus, but I am also looking to help folks understand the importance of our local native bees. These bees are primary pollinators of our food gardens so for those of us who like to grow some veggies, it is essential that we ensure we have proper habitat for the bees who will do the work for us. I have been reading the book "Attracting Native Pollinators" put out by the Xerces Society. It contains great information on the life cycles, habitat needs and behavior of pollinators. I plan to be doing some workshops based on what I have learned in this text.

I am planning on trying to offer more species of Milkweeds this year as well, including Blunt Leaf Milkweed. In the past I have not had success germinating them, but trying again this year. This looks much like Common Milkweed, only has curly leaves, and shorter. One benefit is that it doesn't spread as much as Common, so it shouldn't be running to the neighbor's yards. I am planning to plant a patch on the back of my property near the border. I have read some articles discouraging the use of Tropical Milkweed, with two reasons cited. One is that it can harbor parasites and second, that the Monarchs tend to love it so much, they don't leave for Mexico in time. So I will continue to check this news and update anything I see.

Pollinator on a Sunflower that grew
from seed from a bird feeder
I am also looking to plant sunflowers this year as I had one come up last year from a feeder seed, which the goldfinches went wild over. But before the seeds were ready, it was enjoyed by many different pollinators. I highly recommend sunflowers in the garden including the annual ones. Last year    the Atlantic City Expressway did a Sunflower wild area that was full of mixed sunflower species. It was beautiful and I always saw goldfinches around it.

So in addition to running the nursery this year, I have a lot on my plate to get my yard more pollinator friendly. All I need is a change in the weather. As I write this, it is time to "spring forward" and move the clocks ahead tonight. That is encouraging. Spring is just around the corner....I just know it.