Get the Kids into the Garden

Planting a vegetable garden or a row of summer flowers gives kids even as young as 4 or 5 the chance to dig in the dirt, learn where food comes from and feel comfortable outdoors. To help our kids avoid having Nature Deficit Disorder, a documented problem these days, it’s best to start early!

Are You Planting Milkweed?

From New Terrain, a newsletter of Ball Publishing: As many as 1.8 billion additional stems of milkweed plants in North America may return imperiled Monarch butterflies to a sustainable population size, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study. Habitat plants in the Monarch’s Midwestern flyway are most important.

“Milkweeds in corn and soybean fields produce more Monarch eggs than milkweeds located in non-agricultural areas,” Wayne Thogmartin, USGS Research Ecologist, said in a USGS press release.

“Competing demands for space in these agricultural locations limit the highly desirable habitat available to milkweeds and Monarchs.”

More than 860 million milkweeds were lost in the northern United States over the last decade. Scientists with the USGS and collaborators examined the density of Eastern migratory Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico from 1979-2002 and the amount of milkweed plants available to them in North America. The study found that 3.62 billion milkweeds are needed to reestablish the Monarch population, but only 1.34 billion remain in the U.S.

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Rain, rain, rain

We’ve had a lot of rain this spring, and this past weekend added another 3 to 5 inches in our area. While we wait for drier conditions, sunnier skies and warmer temperatures that are inevitable sometime this month, remember not to work the garden when it is very wet, and especially, do not walk on wet garden beds! Now is a good time to observe where water is pooling in your yard, and determine if you should consider a rain garden in the area to help absorb excess water. The pictures above show a rain garden in winter, when it is apparent, and in summer, when it blends into the garden border. If you feel it’s time to consider a rain garden, keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain away and note the size of the pooling. Then call Sage Advice!

Spring ephemerals! Spring what?

This term refers to spring wildflowers that appear quickly in early spring when sunlight, moisture and soil nutrients are just right. Ephemerals  bloom, fruit, die back, and then disappear completely from the garden before the spring season has even completed its run. Novice gardeners may think the plants have died, but they have not! Spring ephemerals return each year only at the exact right time given the conditions mentioned above. Why spring? Because that’s when the sunlight can still reach the forest floor – and ephemerals are native to the woodland. Ephemerals must bloom before the leaves of overhead trees unfurl and block the light. They are able to do so because they grow close to the ground, where soil moisture protects them from the cold temperatures we sometimes experience in spring.

Why Sustainability Matters

Sustainability will help us educate our children (and ourselves) about the needs of our land for the future, primarily these days by getting involved in programs to help the bees and butterflies survive. In so doing, we also protect our own survival as a species. This may seem surprising, but its true. Entomologist Doug Tallamy at the University of Delaware has stepped out boldly to tell us that the benefit of diversity at the bottom of the food chain — among insects and birds — flows upward and has a direct effect on human life and health. His website is worth a look! What he’s telling us is important because in just the last 40 years we have lost half of the songbird species, and though the bee population is beginning to stabilize, we still have a long way to go.

It takes a village to help the Monarchs

Carol Becker and Cindy Grau, from the  Go Green Park Ridge Committee
Carol Becker and Cindy Grau, from the Go Green Park Ridge Committee
A single seedling with great rooting!
A single seedling with great rooting!

Sage Advice pleased to be able to offer help to an energetic committee in Park Ridge Illinois that is working to increase awareness of sustainability in our home suburb! One of the major projects of the committee this year is their Milkweed Project. The goal is to distribute 500 milkweed plants throughout the community this summer to help support Monarch butterflies. Committee members collected seeds last fall and this spring worked with Pizzo Native Plant Nursery who generously offered to stratify and germinate the seeds at their facility in Leland, Illinois. Plants will be ready in June for distribution throughout the community. Lurvey Landscape Supply in Des Plaines has offered to provide individual pots for seedings, and plants will be ready for distribution throughout the community in June. Committee members recently donated a day to help Pizzo Nursery transplant more than 8000 seedings into plug trays.

Thousands of plugs are replanted each day in spring.
Tens of thousands of plugs are replanted each day in spring.

Daylilies always brighten the garden

We had the rare privilege of visiting recently with daylily expert Ann Redmon from Manhattan Kansas. Ms. Redmon has cross-bred many daylilies in her acerage to create new varieties, and has registered four of them. Pictured here is one of her registered lilies, called “Hannah Banana.” Daylilies are great in any garden. But remember, you want cultivated varieties, not the common and very tall orange “ditch lilies” that spread by rhizomes and crowd out cultivated plants.

Daylilies are easy to care for and add bright spots of midsummer color in shades of yellow, orange, red, white, pink, even green like this one, and combinations of these colors. Ms. Redmon specializes in creating new lilies with narrower petals and a more modern look.

hannah banana