Friday, June 27, 2014

Habitat for Humanity

Today I participated in the local Fox Cities Habitat Women Build with finishing work on a home that will be ready for the new owners to call home in several weeks.  

Habitat's vision
A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Mission Statement
Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.
Mission principles
  • Demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ.
  • Focus on shelter.
  • Advocate for affordable housing.
  • Promote dignity and hope.
  • Support sustainable and transformational development.
Several years ago in 2011, some of our local Master Gardener volunteers helped several new Habitat homeowners get started with some landscaping at their new homes.   We met with our homeowner and one of her daughters to assess that site and determine their priorities for their yard.  They were anxious to have some space for a vegetable garden, as well as a variety of flowers that would bloom throughout the season.  

Habitat had transplanted a large spruce tree to their front yard and left some trees along the rear property line.  Existing hardscape included a driveway, a sidewalk to the front porch, a gravel patio area with a picnic table, a shed, a fence at the rear boundary of the yard, and some large window wells on one side of the house to work around.  Sod that had been laid previously right up to the foundation was killed with Roundup in beds laid out with edging so mulch could be installed to help suppress weeds once plants were installed.

Front (north) before

Front (after)

Back (south) &  east sides before

Raised bed for girls to transplant tomato and
other vegetable plants into 
We purchased cypress mulch, edging and edging anchors to create planting beds.  We purchased some shrubs including yews, hydrangea 'Quick Fire', 'Double Knockout' shrub roses, and a climbing rose bush as well as assorted perennials including clematis.  The family was already growing some tomatoes and herbs in pots, so we purchased a rasied bed kit, chicken wire, and compost to enable them to transplant their plants and expand add some additonal edible plants.   Strawberries were planted in a separate bed. Plants we added leftover from the Master Gardener plant sale included: Siberian iris, spiderwort, daisies, coreopsis, rudbeckia, coneflower, sedum, columbine, primrose, lily of the valley, forget me not, lambs ear, lady’s mantle, chives, and tomatoes.  From our own gardens we added burning bush, hostas, ajuga, and coneflowers. 

Habitat Restore

The Habitat ReStore sells new and used home improvement materials to the public at discounted prices. All proceeds from the local ReStore benefit the mission of the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity. Materials in the store are donated from individual and business donors, and include such items as appliances, cabinetry, furniture, doors, flooring, hardware, HVAC, lighting and electrical, lumber, masonry, paint, plumbing, and windows. Through the donation process, tons of materials are diverted from the landfill each year! 

Our local Habitat has a number of items on display created by volunteers to inspire shoppers to use the available materials in unique ways.  Last time I visited, this guy was in the entry to greet shoppers.

There are over Habitat ReStores 600 in the United States and Canada. To find one near you:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Heckrodt Nature Center

Wild Ones Fox Valley Area's June program, Be Woods Wise (Managing Your Native woodland), was a talk and tour led by Tracey Koenig, Executive Director of the Heckrodt Wetland Reserve. Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, in Menasha, is a 76-acre urban nature reserve with forested wetland, cattail marsh, open water, created prairie, open field, and upland forest habitats.

Tracey told us that wildlife management is really habitat management.  To attract wildlife you need to manipulate the type, arrangement and availability of the four components of habitat: food, water, shelter, and space.  Make a baseline assessment of what you have including inventories of plants and animals, maps, photos, and journals, which can be updated, compared and evaluated over time.  Determine what your goals and priorities are for the habitat.

Heckrodt Nature Center
 A family from the neighborhood brings a painted turtle
to Heckrodt hoping to find a safer home for it.
Tracey Koenig identifies plants growing in the prairie.
Heckrodt’s mission is to enhance, restore, and preserve the Reserve and educate all people in the importance of conserving our natural resources while promoting the Reserve’s many recreational opportunities. The tour began along elevated boardwalks, providing access to the wetland habitat. Tracey pointed out invasive plant species they are attempting to manage on the property, and discussed projects are underway to replace native species lost to habitat damaged by alien plants such as buckthorn, purple loosestrife, and garlic mustard.  Planning has begun for the possible need to replace ash trees should they be lost to the emerald ash borer in coming years.  The tour continued on over of a bridge crossing Lopas Channel to to a prairie meadow and a wildlife management demonstration area developed in recent years from land that was once a closed landfill.

Tracey recommended consulting the The Wildlife and Your Land series, designed by the Wisconsin DNR, for  suggestions to the private landowner, on how to manage for wildlife:

Consider replacing invasive plants with trees and shrubs with native plants "grown in Wisconsin" with the highest benefit for wildlife.

American bittersweet-winter fruit
Virginia creeper-fall food
Wild grape-fall food
Bristly Greenbrier -summer fruit
Trumpetvine-summer nectar
Balckberry, black raspberry, thimbleberry-summer fruit
Green alder, speckled alder, smooth alder-spring & summer food
Gray dogwood-late summer & fall food
Red-osier Dogwood-fall food
Silky Dogwood-late summer and fall food
Common elderberry-summer food
American hazelnut, beaked hazelnut-fall & winter food
Ninebark-fall & winter food
American highbush cranberry-winter food
Nannyberry, mapleleaf viburnum, & arrowwood viburnum-late summer, fall & winter food
Staghorn sumac, smooth sumac & fragrant sumac-winter food
Wild rose-winter food
Fruit-bearing trees
Prairie crabapple, sweet crabapple-fall & winter food
Hawthorn-winter food
Black cherry, pin cherry, choke cherry-summer food
American Mountain Ash-fall & winter food
Wild Plum-fall food
Eastern serviceberry or shadbus, downy serviceberry,smooth serviceberry-early summer food
Red Mulberry-early summer fruit
Nut-bearing trees
Beech-fall & winter food
Butternut-fall food
Black Walnut-fall & winter food-BUT they secret juglanic acid into the soil
           which inhibits plant growth, especially plants in the tomato-potato family
Shagbark hickory, bitternut hickory-fall & early winter food
White oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, red oak, black oak, northern pin oak-fall & winter food
Other Deciduous Trees
Green ash, white ash, black ash-fall and winter food
Big-toothed aspen, quaking aspen (also called poplar or popple)-winter & spring food
Basswood-summer food
Yellow birch, paper birch, river birch-fall & winter food
American elm, slippery (red) elm, rock elm-late winter and early spring food
Hackberry-fall and winter food
Sugar maple, red maple, silver maple-spring & fall food
Boxelder-summer food
Willow-summer browse–winter food
Balsam fir-fall and winter food
Northern white cedar or “Arbor Vitae”-fall and early winter food
Eastern red cedar-fall, winter and spring food
Hemlock-fall and winter food
Jack pine-fall and winter food
White pine-fall and winter food
Red pine-fall and winter food
White spruce, black spruce-fall and winter food
Tamarack (American larch)-fall food

common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
glossy/columnar buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)
European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia)
Amur maple (Acer ginnala)
Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
black locust(Robinia pseudoacacia)
Chinese elm (Ulmus parviflora)
Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)
European or black alder (Alnus glutinosa)
White poplar (Populus alba)
Lombardy poplar (Populus nigra italica)
all bush honeysuckles (Lonicera tatarica, L. x bella, L. morrowii, L. aackii)
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
European barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
European cranberry bush (Vibernum opulus)
common privet(Ligustrum vulgare)
burning bush/winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus)
autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
smooth sumac (Rhus glabra)
round-leaved bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)
wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)
periwinkle (Vinca minor)
English ivy (Hedera helix)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Little Free Library Installation Options

A variety of installation options to consider in addition to the modified mailbox post:

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. 

Where should we install the Little Free Library?

The bed with the rather sparse spruce tree will be expanded to the left as you face the front of the house towards the road to create a landscaped area to install the Little Free Library and a bench for sitting to peruse books available to "take" along from the library.

The plants already in the bed on the west side of the spruce include:
   spruce tree
   3 red twig dogwood  
   3 grass clumps
   iris (coneflower, shasta daisy, agastache, salvia, lavender, peony, sedum, euphorbia, geranium) 
   shasta daisies (catmint, yarrow, coreopsis 'Sun Ray", sedum-autumn)
   coreopsis verticillata (coneflower, veronica 'Sunny Blue Border',  Salvia 'May Night')
   coneflower (butterfly weed, Russian sage, black-eyed Susan)
   veronica  (Coneflower, shasta daisy, coreopsis verticillata, NE aster, yarrow, Black-eyed Susan)

Want to add:
   yellow butterflies magnolia
   Bartzella peony
   climbing rose
   milkweed (Veronica, grasses, Siberian iris, amsonia hubrichtii) - to attract monarchs
   lady's mantle (spiderwort, Siberian iris, Balloon flower, corydalis, salvia, heuchera)

Expanded planting bed with benches and flagstone path installed awating completion of Little Free Library.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Quick trip to Echota Gardens before it closes for the season on June 30th

On our first visit to Echota Gardens, we picked up some succulents at 1/2 price from a large selection of different varieties in their remaining stock.

Leinie Lodge

View of Fox River flowing by on it's way to Green Bay

One of the special Wisconsin gardens on the 2014 Outagamie Master Gardener Garden Expectations Walk

Cottage-style garden along picket fence in front yard
Following path along side of home to "secret garden"

Alliums spray painted to bring continued delight to the garden

Screened porch provides perfect spot enjoy sight and sound ofwater
spilling into pond of koi. Outdoor curtains hung on the outside
 of the porch can be pulled closed to keep the rain out. 

Charming shed in the back

Chraming garden vignettes

Fairy garden in an old wheelbarrow
Still looking for a bee skep like this for our garden...
Following path back out of a lovely garden...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First day of summer

"Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

June 21st at 6:51 a.m. EDT, is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which marks the beginning of summer. On Saturday morning, the Earth will be positioned so that the sun shines directly on the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5 degrees north of the equator.  Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere will be tilted away from the sun, so people there will experience the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. The opposite will happen in December, when the sun will shine directly on the Tropic of Capricorn, when Southern Hemisphere experiences its summer solstice, while the Northern Hemisphere experiences its winter solstice.

Here in Sherwood, WI (Latitude, Longitude: 44 10.4' N, 88 16.5' W), the longest day of the year will be 15 hours and 31 minutes from the sunrise at 5:09 AM until the sunset at 8:40 PM.  The length of visible light will be 16 hours and 43 minutes from 4:32 AM until 9:16 PM.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Good bugs"

Natural enemies, or "good bugs", can provide a safe, environmentally friendly means of suppressing pests. Predators such as lady beetles and lacewings consume many prey during their lifetime. Another important group of predators are the spiders. Parasitoids, which include many wasps and flies, are more specialized than predators; the immature stage actually develops within the body of a single insect, ultimately killing it. 
Some flowers are better than others for attracting small wasps and flies that are predators or parasitoids of pest insects. Flower architecture and insect morphology are important in determining what’s a good bug flower. Many natural enemy species are around as adults only for short periods during the growing season, so to be useful, pollen and nectar must be available when the adults are active. This is most easily achieved by planting a mixture of plants that have relatively long blooming periods that overlap in time. In the home garden, sequential plantings of dill, coriander, and caraway can be made to provide a continuous source of their valuable flowers throughout the season.

Good Flowers For Bugs
Umbelliferae (Carrot Family) 
  carawayCarum carviDill is a common garden plant with flowers that are quite attractive to natural enemies.
  coriander (cilantro)Coriandrum sativum
  dillAnethum graveolens
  fennelFoeniculum vulgare
  flowering ammi or
     Bishop's flower
Ammi majus
  Queen Anne's Lace
     (wild carrot)
Daucus carota
  toothpick ammiAmmi visnaga
  wild parsnipPastinaca sativa
Compositae (Aster Family)  
  blanketflowerGaillardia spp.
Yarrow is visited by many insects.
  coneflowerEchinacea spp
  coreopsisCoreopsis spp.
  cosmosCosmos spp.
  goldenrodSolidago spp.
  sunflowerHelianthus spp.
  tansyTanacetum vulgare
  yarrowAchillea spp.
Fabaceae (Bean Family)  
  alfalfaMedicago sativa
A clover flower.
  big flower vetchVicia spp.
  fava beanVicia fava
  hairy vetchVicia villosa
  sweet cloverMelilotus spp.
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)  
Aurinium saxatilis
Sweet alyssum flowers attract large numbers of beneficial insects.
  hoary alyssumBerteroa incana
  mustardsBrassica spp.
  sweet alyssumLobularia maritima
  yellow rocketBarbarea vulgaris
  wild mustardBrassica kaber
Other plant families   
  buckwheatFagopyrum sagittatum
  cinquefoilPotentilla spp.
  milkweedsAsclepias spp.

(Note that many of these plants are considered weeds!)
Phacelia spp.

Pollinator Week, June 16 - 22, 2014

Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator Partnership. Seven years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week”  to address declining pollinator populations.  Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The numbers of both native pollinators and domesticatedbee populations are declining. They are threatened by habitat loss,disease, and the excessive and inappropriate use of pesticides. The loss of
commercial bees to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has highlighted howsevere the issues of proper hive management are to reduce stresses causedby disease, pesticide use, insufficient nutrition, and transportation practices.

A site providing help identifying wild bees, honey bees, wasps, and flies.

A regional guide for selecting plants for pollinators in Wisconsin and other states in the eastern broadleaf forest area:
  • Choose a variety of plants that will provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. 
  • Resist the urge to have a totally manicured lawn and garden. Leave bare ground for ground nesting bees. Leave areas of dead wood and leaf litter for other insects.  Leave some weeds that provide food for pollinators.
  • Strive to eliminate the use of all pesticides.
  • Find local resources to help you in your efforts-local county extension agent, native plant society, regional botanic gardens and arboreta.
  • Determine when you need additional flowers to provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season
  • Add plants that provide additional seasons of bloom, create variable heights for shelter, and attract the types of pollinators you want.
  • Don’t forget to include host plants that provide food and shelter for larval development.
  • Use Integrated Pest Management Practices to address pest concerns. 
  • Provide safe access to clean water.
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates (including bees, beetles, butterflies and moths, caddisflies, crustaceans, dragonflies and damselflies, flies, mayflies, stoneflies, worms, freshwater sponges, mollusks, starfish, mussels, and crabs) and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.