I have a secret plan. I’ll share it with you because I know you all live far away and can’t bust me. I’m always trying to think of ways to boost habitat for native bees and butterflies. And I noticed how many vacant lots there are in my home town, especially near the freeway, where houses have been cleared to make way for an interchange that may or may not ever be funded. Okay, block after block of grassy lots with mature shade trees aren’t as bad block after block of boarded-up houses, but still. It just isn’t an appealing sight if you look off the highway.
So my scheme was to gather seeds from native wildflowers. Some I saved from my yard, like the Blue Flax. Most, I bought after doing research to be sure these are native plants and not alien invaders. I ended up with Firecracker penstemon, White Swan Coneflowers, a yellow perennial alyssum, Showy milkweed, California poppies, and Blue Victoria salvia. I mixed these all together and went on my secret mission.
One recent afternoon, I snuck out with my personal seed mix and tossed a pinch here, a pinch there. Because there’s a chance property owners could mistake my gift for a weed patch and mow it down, I focused on south- and east-facing slopes. Many native bees prefer to nest on slopes or banks, and the steep terrain will be harder to mow. Since these are native plants, they should be able to thrive without tending. Butterfly larvae will feast on the foliage, especially the milkweed, while bees will gather pollen. Birds will feed on coneflower seeds through the colder months.
With any luck at all, my flower patches will spread by wind and gravity. Soon everyone will see something more beautiful and productive when they look off the highway.
Remember that show I mentioned, Growing a Greener World? I was super excited that the episode last Saturday was about mason bees. Some of my comments even made it into their thread!
Also, I visited the seed library last week and came home with bush beans Pencil Pod Black Wax, cucumber Sumter, sweet pepper Marconi Red, basil Italian Large Leaf and parsley Italian Flat Leaf. I’ve transferred these into salvaged pill bottles until it’s time to plant.
If you’ve never used a seed library, the deal is that I grow the plants and in the fall collect some of the seeds for return to the library. For instance, my bush beans came with just 12 in the packet. Bet I can return at least twice that by September.
Planning continues for a privacy screen between us and the neighbor’s bedroom. I saw a really cute idea using thrift-store teapots as planters, and I’m interested in giving that a try.
Also, here’s a little update on my mulching experiment from last fall. I had laid down about an inch of lawn clippings and/or slightly crushed leaves over most of my garden patches. Some then had bird net over them, and some had nothing.
In all cases, after about 4 months, the mulch has not been incorporated into the soil. I can readily see the shapes of the original material. However, having that on there did keep down the cats digging in those beds. In another month or so, I’ll have a choice of turning that under, for a well-decomposed compost substitute, or being more permacultural and moving aside only enough of the mulch to place seeds in the ground. I’m still thinking it over.
Cabbages and broccoli are coming up, along with a few peppers. It’s almost time to take off the cover and let my first batch of sprouts reach for the light. Thus far, my penstemon seeds have stubbornly refused to sprout. That just gives me something to put on my list for finding at plant sales this sprint.
My son’s “cat grass” has done well enough that roots were poking out the sides of the peat pots. So I potted up to a straight-sided ceramic pot. Within a few weeks, I hope, the roots will have anchored enough to give the pets their treat without the baby plants being torn up from the pot.
After seeing black niger thistle spurned by my local flock, I’ve discovered that millet sprays get just the opposite reaction. There’s a party going on out there!
Groundhog Day is coming soon. (Although here in the Northwest we have marmots.) Wonder what the furry li’l guy will have to tell us?