More Wildflowers

More Wildflowers

by Sandy Swegel

The fields and meadows of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado are awash in wildflowers this year.  Lots of moisture in the Fall and Spring has turned our mountains into riots of color that started early and keeps going and going.  We gardeners keep playing hooky from our weeding tasks to hike along mountain meadows and enjoy the beauty of nature that doesn’t have to be weeded or watered.  We also get excited about how wildflowers make us very happy and we try to plant more of them in our gardens.

There’s a deeper story to the wildflower bloom.  It’s that we’ve actually been having longer wildflower seasons for years now.  I look at a good wildflower season as a reason to rejoice and do more wandering and hiking.  Scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory looked out their windows in Crested Butte, CO forty years ago and said, “Hmmm. What’s that about?” “Let’s collect some data.”  So for the last 39 years, they sent out scores of graduate students to count wildflowers.  They recorded when the flowers first bloomed, how many flowers were produced, how long the flowering lasted, etc. Now many years later, the wildflowers are telling an important story about climate change.  Turns out we do have more wildflowers.  Almost a full month’s worth more.  The flowers bloom earlier in the Spring and last longer in the Fall.

It’s still too early to know exactly what it means that we have an extra month of wildflower season.  Clearly this is evidence of climate change. But what it means is less clear.  We get the first bloom six days earlier than 40 years ago. That means birds and pollinators have food earlier.  But we still get the same number of flowers which means the actual amount of nectar hasn’t changed.

Up in Crested Butte, the scientists still look out and ask “Hmmm? What’s that about? Let’s collect some data.”  Graduate students still count the number of flowers in little 30 foot plots across the mountain.  A new study is putting tiny radio transmitters on hummingbirds to see how their feeding is changing.

Meanwhile, the wildflowers give us abundant beauty …and… hard data that climate change is happening, rather rapidly.

Photo Credit: www.constantinealexander.net/2014/03/rocky-mountain-wildflower-season-lengthens-by-more-than-a-month.html

 

Inviting Orioles for Summer Dining

Inviting Orioles for Summer Dining

by Sandy Swegel

This is the best time of the year.  Summer Harvest is coming in strong.  Cherry tomatoes and grilled marinated zucchini make wonderful summer suppers followed by fresh cherries and peaches.  A bottle of cold Prosecco and French brie and a couple of friends make for lovely summer evenings.  The only thing needed is the entertainment.  Hummingbirds are a favorite to watch buzzing in as dusk falls.  Mind you there is a garden full of flowers planted just for hummingbirds, but the little darlings are just like humans…who wants good healthy food when you can have dessert: some fresh sugar water in the colorful plastic feeder.  We put the feeder quite close to the picnic table so we  could see the hummers coming to feed.  But last week there was a big surprise.  Something had pecked out the cute little openings on the feeder and drained it dry.  At first I had unkind thoughts about the neighborhood squirrels, but then, the evening’s star performers appeared, a pair of bright orange orioles.  What a perfect accompaniment to dinner with friends.

Now everyone wanted their own orioles.  Turns out they’ve always lived here in the big cottonwood trees along creeks. But we learned what every midwesterner apparently knows.  If you want orioles, you put out orange pieces and grape jelly.  The grape jelly is the guaranteed winner.  We heard stories from Wisconsin cousins that they can’t even buy grape jelly in the store right now because everyone is buying it for the orioles.  Ahhh, our songbird overlords.  But they are lovely dinner companions.

Enjoy the summer harvest and invite friends over.  You’ve worked hard all season for this.  Lean back and watch both human and avian friends dine on your deck! Life is good.

photo credit:

http://www.duncraft.com/Oriole-Fest-and-Orange-Swirl-Guard

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds

Wildflower Seeds

Wildflower Seed Mixes

Native Grass Seed

 

 

My Squash is Wilting

My Squash is Wilting

by Sandy Swegel

Eww…Yet another bug thriving this year and ruining my food.  Most of us have experienced our squashes suffering with powdery mildew that coats the leaves white, but knowledgeable gardeners are perplexed here in Colorado by squash that suddenly completely wilts and dies.

Turns out it’s often a very small bug, the squash bug, that injects a nasty venom into the stems wilting and killing the entire vine.

“Can’t we just all get along?” I holler at them.  There’s an entire large squash plant and I’m willing to share with bugs….but the squash bug wants it all.

This is a pest you need to be aggressive with if you see it because it doesn’t share, but will kill your whole plant given a chance. Look for the adult bug (looks a Squash Bug Nymphsbit like a stink bug) or nymph (distinctive antenna and small head) and kill it (take a small bucket of soapy water into the garden with you and throw the bugs in, to drown them, if you don’t want to ‘squash’ them). More importantly look for the eggs on the underside of leaves and crush them.  Handpicking works well in a small garden if you’re vigilant.

We have to stand our ground against creatures like the squash bug. I explain it to them as I dunk them in the soapy water or throw them to my chickens….if you don’t share and play well with others, you lose your privileges in my garden!

For more info:
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05609.html
Photo credit: http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/4h/default.php?page=snr40&stage=larva