In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Mpls Parks and Rec Answers to Lake Calhoun Mowing Fiasco

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: August 21, 2014 - 2:25 PM

If you read last week's blog post you'll know I wrote about my outrage upon discovering that the western shore area of Lake Calhoun had been mowed down taking with it a narrow but two-mile long strip of native plants that many bees, butterflies, birds and other creatures call dinner, baby nursery and home.

What was left of the wildflowers along the western shore of Lake Calhoun

I urged you all to contact Minneapolis Parks and Rec if you shared my sentiments. Myself, I decided to attend the next Mpls Parks and Rec Board meeting so I could voice my concerns face to face with the people that we charge with overseeing these valuable resources.

If you have never attended one of these meetings, it is like many other governing agency meetings, full of budget numbers, resolutions, parliamentary rules and a good dose of tedium. All the more reason for me to feel grateful that there are people willing to undertake these positions of responsibility. 

There is a 30-minute open session where upon calling the board earlier that day, anyone can be placed on the agenda to speak their mind about whatever park-related issue they have. You are given 3 minutes to speak.

I told them of my issue with the poorly timed and poorly done mowing and questioned whether it was policy or simply an overzealous mower. At the end of my allotted time I asked them what they could tell me (and my readers) about the mowing fiasco.

I kind of got the idea they already knew what I was going to say...thanks to all of your Facebook shares, calls and emails!

I was immediately introduced to Debra Lynn Pilger, Director of Environmental Management and Justin Long, Assistant Superintendent of Environmental Stewardship. They let me know that after seeing it on Facebook they went themselves to see what had happened.

In their words it was a problem of misdirection, a one time incident and that they were as horrified as me. They assured me that their policy is to let these plants bloom and set seed so that they can have a chance to survive and flourish, and in turn nourish and nurture wildlife along that shore. Mowing of that area, to take down extra vegetation along the shore is supposed to be done in October.

So there we have it, a tragedy for this year, but hopefully a big reminder that mowing should be done in a mindful manner and better directed next year and for years to come. Maybe this problem can be avoided in other parks too. 

If you attend one of these meetings, a few tips. Be brief, be succinct, be respectful and be passionate about your cause. The commissioners care as much as you do about the parks, but they have a lot on their plate. In my case, in twenty minutes I had my answer and a promise to make sure it didn't happen again. Thank you Mpls Parks and Rec!

Mild-Mannered Garden Blogger Outraged

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: August 11, 2014 - 1:05 PM

I'm so angry I can't see straight. It's Friday evening and I just drove by Lake Calhoun and couldn't believe what I saw. Or what I didn't see. The path edge between the walking trail and the shore have been mowed clean. It is horrifically tidy. All those native plants that so much wildlife depended upon for insects, nectar, larval food, seeds, nesting sites and shelter have been destroyed in one fell, or should I say, one fool swoop. 

I walk along that trail four to five times a week. I know the birds, the bugs, the flowers that live beside it. I love how the water, the weather, the skyline, the flora and fauna are never the same two days in a row. I love this walk so much I take a daily photograph of its ever changing beauty and post it with a big "Good morning Minneapolis!" for all to see.

During these summer months I especially love to photograph the native plants flowering with the city skyline in the background. I always felt so proud that the city, the park board had encouraged and let flourish all these incredibly important plants. What happened? Why did these plants suddenly become a problem to be mowed? Right when they were finally flowering?

The only problem plant I've seen is a patch of invasive purple loosestrife and it is growing in the water not on the path sides. 

Thanks to this ridiculous action you won't be bothered by any native plants like bee balm buzzing with bumblebees, gray-head coneflower all aflutter with butterflies or the common, but oh so crucial, milkweed that caterpillars munch before turning into majestic Monarch butterflies. And those are just the showy, more noticeable nectar and host plants that all important pollinators need to live and reproduce. The path edges were a mosaic of diverse plant life; grasses, flowers, legumes, etc., that have been eradicated in so many other places. And now they are shorn like a sheep here along our lake. 

The vast array of birds that live and reproduce along that tiny, vital strip of land, well, without all the insects to eat, the birds go elsewhere. And once more wildlife is pushed out.

So take a good look at these photos, they can't be duplicated this year. Neither can all the creatures that depended upon that habitat. If you are outraged like me, please contact the Minneapolis Parks and Rec at 612-230-6400 and info@minneapolisparks.org and let them know.

native plants along Lake Calhoun

native plants along Lake Calhoun

native plants along Lake Calhoun

Monarda fistulosa, wild bergamot. Recognized by pollination ecologists as having special value to native bees. Also beloved by honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

native plants along Lake calhoun

native plants along Lake calhoun

native plants along Lake calhoun

Ratibida pinnata, grayhead coneflower. Recognized by pollination ecologists for having special value to native bees. Also important to birds and butterflies as a food source.

Milkweed growing along Lake Calhoun

Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed. There are many varieties of milkweed but they are the only larval food source for Monarch butterflies. No milkweed, no monarchs! It is also recognized by pollination ecologists for special value to honeybees, native bees and bumble bees.

Three Things to Know for Next Week

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: August 2, 2014 - 5:37 AM

Pollinators are on lots of minds nowadays. Good thing if you like to eat. Or if you're just into watching butterflies flutter by and hope your grandchildren will too. Lots of things are going on locally with the push to protect pollinators.

Here are three things to check out.

1. Reason to Celebrate:

A new law, Nursery Label/Pollinator Statute, Minnesota 18H.14 has gone into effect. In short it says that,

A person may not label or advertise a plant as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that:

(1) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or

(2) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section of the insecticide product label. 

You can find the details here. http://www.mda.state.mn.us/labelfactsheet

2. More to learn:

Pollinators and Pesticides: A 360 Degree Perspective will take place August 5 from 8:30am-4pm at the Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Parkway North, St Paul MN

This event is put on by the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association to disseminate information from a number of experts and perspectives so that you can make informed choices around pollinators and pesticides.

Registration is open until 8/4/14. For more detail check here http://www.mnla.biz/events/event_details.asp?id=443489

3. Participate in #pollin8rchat: 

I'm hosting a weekly Twitter chat that hopes to help people celebrate and collaborate for pollinators. Whether you're a beekeeper, backyard naturalist or concerned gardener, we'd love to hear from you. This week's subject will be on Monarch butterflies. It's on Tuesday nights at 8PM CT. Search out the hashtag #pollin8rchat and follow along. Email me from my blog if you have questions.

 

Two Pollinator Events This Week

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: July 20, 2014 - 5:36 PM

Want to learn more about what you can do for pollinators? You're in luck this week with two events surrounding these tiny but oh, so important, creatures.

#pollin8rchat Tuesday at 8PM!

I'll be hosting the first ever #pollin8rchat on Twitter this Tuesday at 8PM. Twitter chats can't solve the world's problems in 140 characters, but they can bring together people with a common cause to learn and share tips, ideas and concerns, in this case about pollinators. Whether you're a gardener, beekeeper, farmer or simply someone who eats food, this is a topic that's trending but not trendy when you think about the fact that every third bite of food is brought to you by one of these tiny but important creatures.

If you haven't participated in a Tweet Chat before you'll need a Twitter account. It's easy to create one, follow the setup steps and then you're ready to tweet and chat. To follow along with the chat, search out #pollin8rchat  to follow the conversation from 8-9pm on Tuesday July 22.

If you decide to participate, and I hope you do, the more the merrier, always include the hashtag #pollin8rchat (I made it as short as possible to allow more chat) in every tweet so that your thoughts aren't lost in the twitter sphere and land where they can be appreciated. You can also see #pollin8rchat tweets on my blog, The Garden Buzz. If you have any questions about the technology or the topic ahead of time, leave your question in the comment section below. Or email me from The Garden Buzz.

Party for Pollinators

How many cities throw a party for pollinators? Another reason Minneapolis is a special place to live! it's July 24 from 5-8pm at Lyndale Park Gardens on the east side of Lake Harriet.

The event brings together scientists and beekeepers to educate the community about bees and their role in modern agriculture. There will be educational booths and lots of bee-related products, like honey ice cream, so that's another great reason to come and find out more about bees at this unique event. There's live music too. Buzz on over.

Top Ten Bee-Friendly Tips: #6 Leave Some Bare Soil and Debris

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: July 16, 2014 - 3:16 PM

Not all bee live and raise their young in hives. We tend to think in cartoon pictures when we think of where bees call home. We conjure up pictures of trees with honey holes a la Winnie the Pooh, or we think of the tidy boxes set on a meadow's edge.

Honeybee hives near linden trees and clover meadow

In fact not all bees are social and live in colonies like honeybees that have been domesticated to live in manmade hives. Native bees whether they are social or solitary species live in the ground, tree cavities or other hollow compartments found in nature. Some species live in separate cells within a colony while other live in their own cell by themselves. 

The tiny hole at center is a single cell bee nest.

No matter their lifestyle they need bare soil and a bit of mess in the garden. Neat as a pin gardens with every inch covered in turf and mulch leave those bees without the necessary material for nest making. Landscape fabric and impermeable plastic are even worse. 

Some bees live in colonies in tree cavities

Other bees need some debris in the form of hollow stems, tree cavities, clumps of grass and other plant material where they can find shelter and reproduce. You can supplement this with manmade "insect houses" like the one in the picture that provide the nooks and crannies that form "condo" like crevices for insect habitat. In addition they are kind of decorative like birdhouses. You can even buy Mason bee houses, or make them by drilling holes in wooden blocks. Place these around the garden, the bees will find them, and appreciate them.

Manmade insect habitat

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