July 23, 2019
On Beyond Milkweed
Now that everyone LOVES milkweed, what’s next? Milkweed only serves one insect, the Monarch Butterfly. You can do more! How about adding some other historically “weedy” native wildflowers to your garden and expand the pollinator banquet? How about Thistles? They provide pollen, nectar, leaves and seeds for hundreds of insect and bird species. They are beautiful and structural, and seriously deer proof! There are some invasive ones and massive eradication programs have pretty much wiped out the good with the bad, so...
Do your bit for the good ones, get to know your thistle.
If the answer to ALL these questions is NO, you probably have a native, let it be!
Is the thistle spiny along the entire length of the stem?
Are the bracts (the bulbous part below the brushy flower) triangular, firm, and spine-tipped?
Are the bracts thick, and leathery, and jagged?
Are the roots rhizomatous (running underground and popping up all over)?
The thistle in the photo inspired this tip. Found it growing in my yard, Goldfinches love the seed. Somewhat common on LI, endangered in Ct. Keep an eye out for some of your own and welcome it to your expanding world of pollinator plants.
Thanks to Lindsay Karr https://weedwise.conservationdistrict.org
Weeds are defined as unwanteds plant. So why are people telling me their lawns are full of weeds; and they love them? What’s not to love about a lawn full of little flowers?
Not only lovely, but good for pollinators, biodiversity, soil, and you: they tell the world that no nasty chemicals have been applied.
Known as Freedom Lawns, Eco Lawns, English Lawns, Flowering Lawns…Whatever…please don't call them weedy lawns.
Irrigation running all spring!!….Your lawn needs deep roots; down where it is cool and damp when the heat of summer comes. Best way to get them down there is to let them go looking for it now. Watering early in the season makes roots lazy. They stay on top, where they will be susceptible to insects and sun later on. Watering now can cause fungus and disease problems later. Watering now encourages weed seed germination. Watering now breeds mosquitoes and ticks, so...
WAIT TO IRRIGATE!
Don’t run your system until the weather is hot and dry. Lawn grass will need watering when it wilts. How will you know? Wilted grass shows your footprint. Generally, late June.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, letting your lawn dry out is actually good for it. Periods of dryness allow the grass to develop deeper, stronger roots that are better able to resist pests, weeds, and drought conditions over time. Too much water promotes fungal growth and nutrient run off, and creates ideal conditions for mosquitoes and other water-loving pests to flourish. Plus, why waste water that your grass doesn’t need anyway?
Rule of thumb for well-established lawns: Wet the soil 6" down, then allow to dry 4-6" down before watering again. How to tell? Dig a hole or use a soil moisture meter.
Are you mowing your meadow in the fall? Not so fast please, don’t mow, let it go till the spring!
Why? For one thing, it looks much more beautiful than stubble.
Also, there are lots of ecosystem benefits:
Seed heads have time to develop and disperse
Habitat and food is provided for wildlife: think crickets, bumblebees, turkeys, American goldfinches, hawks and owls.
Mow in the spring, just before new growth begins, 8-12” high (habitat retained for solitary bees) and, best if you can rake off the cuttings.
In the Fall deer rub their antlers on younger trees and can damage, disfigure and even kill them! Larger deer go after the bigger trees. The bark is literally stripped away. They start just after Labor Day, i.e., now! This is the time to protect your tree and shrub trunks from damaging deer rub. Instead of difficult and ugly plastic or metal wraps, we have a great alternative: Biodegradable jute or hemp -- heavy twine or thin rope.
Just wrap it around, barbershop pole style from about 4' high, down to near the ground. You can remove in spring or leave it to rot away.
Cheap, easy, stylish. Done.
But do it soon. The rubbing starts any day now.