Monday, June 25, 2012

Becoming and Outdoors Woman- Birding in Montana Workshop wrap-up

Thanks to Liz Lodman from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Becoming an Outdoors Woman program (BOW) for organizing a great birding workshop and thanks for the invitation to participate. I always look forward to teaching workshops and programs at BOW events. It is great to see so many interested and engaged people of all different backgrounds learning about things that are important to me- whether it is hunting, fishing, or, in this case, birding in Montana. BOW is a great program and Liz does a wonderful job organizing all the events.

Below are links to posts on this blog that cover much of the information I discussed in the workshop:

There are probably a lot more relevant posts, but that seems like plenty to get you started!

Here are a list of plants and other resources to get you going for growing your own backyard bird garden!

Easy to find, easy to grow, recommended native plants:
–White yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
–Horse mint (Monarda fistulosa)
–Hairy golden aster (Heterotheca villosa)
–Blanket flower (Gaillardia aristata)
–Blue flax (Linum lewisii)
–Wilcox’s Penstemon (Penstemon wilcoxii)
–Showy fleabane (Erigeron speciosus)

–Bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum)
–Prairie June grass (Koelaria cristata)
–Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)
–Rough fescue (Festuca scabrella)

•Shrubby Shrubs
–Rubber rabbit brush (Crysothamnus nauseosa)
–Big Basin Sage (Artemesia tridentata)
–Woods Rose (Rosa woodsii)
–Golden current (Ribes aureum)
–Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)

•Shrubby Trees
–Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
–Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
–Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
–Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina)
–Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
–Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)
–Black hawthorn (Creataegus douglasii)

Deer Resistant Plants:
•Bluebunch wheatgrass
•White Yarrow
•Blanket flower
•Hairy golden aster
•Monarda (bee balm)
•Goldenrod (Solidago spp)
•Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Instant Prairie:

•Bluebunch wheatgrass
•Idaho fescue
•Prairie junegrass
•White Yarrow
•Blanket flower
•Hairy golden aster
•Monarda (bee balm)
•Sage/ rabbit brush
•Wilcox’s penstemon
•Showy fleabane

Books to help you get started (some of my favorites!):
•Bringing Nature Home
•The New American Landscape
•Shrink Your Lawn
•The Landscape Revolution: Garden with Mother Nature not Against Her
•Noah’s Garden
•Paradise by Design
•The Forgotten Pollinators
•Landscaping with Jays
•Gardening with a Wild Heart
•The Magic of Montana Native Plants

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The repurposed potting bench in use

My wife spent the afternoon re-potting some of our basil (read: a huge fleet of basil) in our shady area repurposed potting bench.  Although this new addition to our garden performs many tasks (room divider, buffet, potting bench and trellis), today was the first day it got a workout as a potting bench.  
Here are just a few photos showing her (and the potting bench) in action.
We grow a lot of basil.  Everything from Genovese basil (pictured) to Siam queen and holy green.
These plants will go back into our greenhouse where they will fulfill their destiny.  We don't grow basil outside of our greenhouse anymore-  the production in our greenhouse is so much greater.  A few years ago, we compared yield of basil grown outside vs inside the greenhouse.  With the greenhouse basils, we were able to harvest leaves from each plant 3 times before our outside basil was ready to harvest for a first time.

So, after an afternoon using the potting bench, I am happy to report that, according to my wife, the potting bench is "functional".  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's National Pollinator Week- Learn about bee and wasp mimics!

Celebrate National Pollinator Week by joining me at the Fort Missoula Native Plant Garden this Thursday (June 21) at 5:30 pm to learn about bee and wasp mimics.  This workshop is presented by the Montana Natural History Center.  I hope to see you there.

I will discuss insect identification in general (i.e., the distinguishing characteristics of bees, flies, beetles, moths, etc...), and introduce the diversity of native bees in Montana and their interesting ecology. And then the exciting part: exploring the Great Deception by flies, moths, and others who mimic the color and shapes of stinging insects!
There is a suggested $5 donation to the Montana Natural History Center, which helps support natural history education for all ages.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Little Green Roof: a year later

Things didn’t quite go as planned. Nothing bad happened, per se, but this is not the green roof I was expecting. If you recall- my goal was to try to find some native plants to grow on a green roof. I selected species I thought would do well- those that were easy to grow, were diverse, would tolerate hot and dry conditions, and had a low rooting depth and some that would spread via rhizomes to hold the soil. I wanted this green roof to really fill in and be lush and interesting.

Below is a picture from last summer showing the diverse species.
Here was my list of species with the rationale:

Prairie June grass (Koeleria macrantha), bunchgrass, prolific seeder, deepest root depth of the group
Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), bunchgrass, prolific seeder, low rooting depth
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), forms a mat and spreads with rhizomes, tallest plant (when in flower)
Rosy pussytoes (Anntenaria rosea) - forms a mat and spreads, their light foliage reflects sun
Cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus) - these form a low mat and flower for a long time (starting in April)
Lanceleaf stonecrop (Sedum lanceolatum). I used sedum because it is a requirement on any green roof. It is mandatory. And they enforce this. A nice succulent, though.
Elkhorn clarkia (Clarkia pulchella) this is for color- they are annuals, with very shallow roots, but they readily reseed

Here are the results:
All the lanceleaf stonecrop  survived and only one prairie junegrass survived- everything else died. Furthermore, perhaps to add insult to injury, the stonecrop reseeded like all get-out. The yarrow that was there last year seeded, and now there is a ton of yarrow, but no survivorship.
The few clarkia I planted went to seed and are filling in exceptionally well.
So, why did this happen? I have no idea. The sedum survival was no surprise, but the amount of volunteers was a surprise. They essentially carpeted the whole roof.
It's possible the prairie Junegrass needs more rooting depth- for whatever reason. This one was kind of a stretch- it had the greatest rooting depth of the bunch (a little native grass pun). The Idaho fescue was surprising and so were the pussytoes and cutleaf  daisy-m both have a super low rooting depth. In the wild you find them growing on a rock, and they are happy with it.

Perhaps rooting depth/ rooting media depth was not the issue with some of the failures. For example, with yarrow, maybe there were too many organics in the soil, so it just flowered its head off and died last year.
The roof is actually quite beautiful, and a lot more colorful and interesting than the species composition I had envisioned. There is nothing wrong with the roof- it is just not what I expected and I don’t know why. I need another year of data, so I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Repurposed Garden Tool Trellis

I’ve been meaning to install a trellis on the side of my house for some time.  This portion of my house always seemed like a blank slate- an expanse of siding. Visually this is a common problem with many houses- between windows house look like monoliths- a monotone expanses of siding.  To me this always represents an opportunity to garden vertically with trellises, add architectural elements, and it helps to add some height- to draw your eye up.  And, for me, it is an opportunity to build something.  

I have been making trellises for some time in our garden to dress up the 6’ privacy fence, adorn (or hide) the garage/ shop, for vegetables to grow, etc…  Most of these trellises I’ve made from recycled cedar fence board and they are all the same or based on the same dimensions.  

Making so many of these adds repetition of form that leads to a cohesive feeling to the landscape. This continuity in design is first a reflection of the divided light windows of our 1940’s home.  

To make a lot of these trellises I made a simple jig years ago, so now I can crank them out in no time- whether to support tomatoes, a vine, to keep cats from digging in our vegetable beds, etc…

However, for this side of our house, I wanted something different, something a little more formal, sort of and something unique. 
So, this is what I came up with- a pretty robust and formal frame, but the vertical dividers made of old garden tools, adding a little whimsy and also to show that a gardener lives here. However, the grid formed by the tool handles and the horizontal supports are the same dimensions as the divided lights of our windows.
Like most of my projects, the materials from this one came from Home ReSource- the tools were, obviously, garden tools, and the wood was cedar deck boards and fence posts I re-milled.  Even though most of my projects are made from recycled or re-purposed materials, typically I try to conceal that fact. However, in the case of this trellis and my new, re-purposed potting bench, I embraced the materials heritage, so to speak!
This definitely breaks up the space and adds interest to an otherwise blank wall and, perhaps more importantly, adds a place for white clematis (Clematis ligusticafolia) to climb.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Native Plant and Widlife Gardening Opportunity!

Join us Sunday night at 7pm, at the 8th Street Pocket Park Native Plant Garden (at the corner of 8th and Grant) for an hour of light weeding and garden clean-up.  This is a great opportunity to learn to identify native plants, learn gardening techniques and see some easy to grow beautiful native plants in action. 

Ranger Orientation
Since the planned events don't work with everyone's schedules, several neighbors have requested to do an "independent study" that is, to be assigned tasks that they can work on outside of scheduled clean-ups.  We are really excited about this, and those that have volunteered  we are calling Pocket Park-Rangers! So, if you'd like to be assigned a task, come by for an orientation.  The types of things for the independent studies are dandelion patrol and removal, mowing the horseshoe court, trimming the grasses along the edges of the park and the ditch, trash pick-up, and maybe watering some new transplants. 

Here is a little background on the park:
The 8th Street Pocket Park is a small neighborhood park my wife and I have been volunteering our time and donating plants and materials to for over 5 years including planning, landscaping, grant writing and maintaining the park (click here for more information). This was an unused right of way (owned by the city) that was not being maintained, cared for, and had just turned into a gathering area for trash and noxious weeds. We transformed 1/2 of it n 2008, using drought tolerant native plants, and incorporated many wildlife features.  In 2009 we received a grant for plants, mulch and other landscaping materials and in 2010, we completed the park. Funding for materials for this project has come from the Missoula Office of Neighborhoods, UM Natural Areas, and Montana Native Plant Society. Materials were also donated by Home Resource (like recycled lumber, fencing, lawn edging and more), and plants and bird, bat, bee houses and interpretive signs were donated by Butterfly Properties (that is, my wife and me).

Our neighborhood is deficient in parks and open spaces. Landscaping this site transformed existing public space from an unusable state into an attractive little park. While the final product meets a community need (more park space), the process of creating the native plant landscape also engaged neighbors visitors to the area.

Also, while you are at the park, check out the various houses- bee (below), bat (above) and chickadee nest boxes in the garden. 
You can stay up to date on all the happenings in the little native plant garden by liking it on Facebook.  Also, here is the event page for the clean-up event.

If you come, bring some gloves and weeding tools if you have them.  And don't forget your camera!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chickadee update: they fledged

The black-capped chickadees that had been nesting in our garden fledged this morning, and fortunately I was able to watch it all.  I took this lousy video of the last two leaving the box.  Even though the video quality is not too good, it is still adorable to watch them fly out of the box for the first time.

It is always amazing how quickly they grow- just a couple of weeks ago they were eggs.

Here is a video from inside the nest box on May 15 showing the first 4 hatchlings getting fed for the first time

There is a good chance they will have a second clutch, and if they do, you can watch all the action inside the nest box on our live streaming video.