The Winter Wildlife Garden

The Winter Wildlife Garden
by Ann McKean

Here in Montana most of us withdraw from the garden for the winter and dream impatiently about the return of summer, but there is a whole season of beauty and benefit that you can tap into by adding some wildlife friendly plants to provide late season food and cover. 014However, before you even plant a thing, think about changing your gardening habits.

First, switch your garden cleanup season to spring instead of autumn. Nature doesn’t do fall cleanup so why do we?! Besides returning some lost nutrients back to the soil and adding winter interest with structure and texture, the plants you don’t cut down and the leaves you don’t rake up provide critical winter shelter for birds, small mammals and even hibernating insects. They also help protect the crowns and roots of your plants. If you have a specific concern about disease and need to rake under or cut 015down certain plants in the fall, try creating a winter brush pile in another area to preserve hollow stems and create a place to hibernate and hide. Remember to wait to compost or toss what’s left until critters have had a chance to wake up.

Second, try not to use pesticides. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use not only spares the caterpillars birds need to raise their young, but also preserves the beneficial predatory insects which help keep things in balance. If you practice good cultural maintenance with proper plant selection, spacing, pruning, watering and judicious feeding,016 nature will usually be able to keep pest populations below the threshold of chemical intervention. As Master Gardeners, we must lead the way to a paradigm shift about how we view our gardens and the wildlife they support.

There are many plants we can include in a winter garden to benefit wildlife and add beauty. Native plants are always a good choice because they have evolved with the insects, animals and conditions in our region. Some of these plants offer vital late season nectar and pollen, including rabbitbrush, asters, coneflowers, goldenrod and perennial sunflowers. Many also provide nutrient and calorie packed seeds through the winter. There are also a host of native and non-native shrubs and trees which offer a bounty of 017nuts, berries and sometimes even twigs to nibble. Chokeberries and chokecherries, snowberries, sumacs, viburnum, red-twig dogwood, roses, mountain ash, crabapples, oaks and cone bearing evergreens are a few examples. I’ve even watched in amazement as wild turkeys deftly strip grass seeds from their stalks. All of these plants also add rich texture, structure and subtle color to our winter landscapes.

As you plan next season’s garden additions and head out to the nurseries this spring, think about how fortunate we are to enjoy such a wide variety of wildlife so close to home, and remember to include some plants for your winter garden to support those treasures. 018You, your garden and your community will be enriched.

Source: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National- Wildlife/2012/DecJan/Gardening/Winter- Table-for-Wildlife

 

Book Review – The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books

Book Review
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired The Little House Books
By Marta McDowell

Did you grow up traveling the prairies and woods with the Ingalls family? I got lost in Laura’s adventures as she grew up and never paid any attention to the details about the30 Little House 2 flora in the different locations. This book uses many passages from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to chronicle the agricultural practices, home gardens, seasonal chores, and daily activities the Ingalls family engaged in to grow, harvest, and preserve food for storage.

The book makes use of archival territory and plat maps of locations the Ingalls family lived from Wisconsin to Minnesota to North Dakota and more. It also verifies many events and observations Laura weaves into her stories by including newspaper articles, agriculture circulars and historical photos. Plants mentioned in her stories are often depicted by not only original Garth Williams line drawings, but also period botanical illustrations and contemporary photographs.

31 Little House 3While McDowell’s book is not a how-to-garden directive, it does show the deep connection to the seasons and land that beloved children’s author and pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder shared subtly through her childhood stories. It is satisfying to see that even with changes to our climate and the urbanization of Laura’s frontier landscapes that many of the plant species continue to thrive.

~ Review by Elizabeth Waddington

Helping Bees

Bees and other pollinators are in decline. In the summer 2019 issue of “Permaculture” magazine, there is an article entitled “Bee Roadzz” by Milly Carmichael that offers some hope. The following is a synopsis of that article.

In 2014 in England the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) wrote the 10-year National Pollinator Strategy to improve the state of bees and other pollinating insects and to monitor progress. Yet despite this focus on the pollinators’ plight, bees are in trouble still. The reasons for the decline in population of honeybees and other bees are manifold and complex and include loss of habitat. “…in the UK, in the last 60-70 years we have lost 97% of wildflower meadows, 300,000 km. of established hedgerows and 80% of flower-rich chalk downland.”16 Helping Bees 2

A group of people in the village of Marlborough decided to tackle this problem from a local perspective. Knowing that honeybees can travel up to 4 miles to find food and that their nearest village was 7 miles away, the people of Marlborough met with their neighboring village and set up a “bee road” between the 2 villages. They met with many different people in the town as well as farmers in the adjacent area. The first step was to work with existing resources, then re-assess and take the project further if successful. “Whatever can be done is encouraged, whether it is: reviewing garden plans and choosing more bee-friendly ones; sharing those plans with friends and neighbors; taking part in national monitoring schemes; reducing pesticide use; creating hibernation and nesting habitat for solitary bees; landowners surveying field margins for wildflowers and seeding the less rich areas…planting dozens of honeysuckle cuttings in the hedgerows; or letting a corner of a churchyard grow wilder.” Farmers were encouraged to increase wildflowers in edges of fields as well as in meadows, re-introduce hedgerows, and plant flowering trees.

In addition to increasing food sources in the farmland between the towns, creating bee habitats in yards and gardens was encouraged. “There is growing evidence that allotments, domestic gardens and community green spaces in urban environments offer enormous potential for increasing pollinator populations and protecting genetic diversity.”

17 Helping Bees 3

Now more villages are becoming involved in creating bee roads. The Marlborough group’s goal is to cover the country with “Bee Roadzz” so bees have habitat and food sources continuously available instead of islands of food and shelter surrounded by deserts without these resources.

In Montana our towns are many miles apart, so creating bee roads like these would be hard. But in urban areas we could work to make our yards and gardens more bee-friendly and also work with farmers and ranchers to increase food sources and habitats for bees similar to the English project.

~Submitted by Ann Guthals

A Blast from the Past

The late Dr. Bob is the father of Montana’s Master Gardener program. When he taught the classes nobody ever fell asleep. He was a writer of a great many articles on gardening. The following is just one of several hundred in my files.

A question to Dr. Bob: “How can I increase germination of my garden seeds?” (March 2002) Gardeners all over the country are right now wondering how to get better germination in the vegetable and flower seeds. Of course, start with good seeds and in most cases you’ll have good germination, but some seeds are notoriously tough with hard seed coats. Now, researchers in Georgia have found a common household substance that increases germination in watermelon seeds.

The seedless watermelon cultivars on the marker are for the most part, triploids. That means that they form fruit that has no developed seeds. While they are no good for seed-spitting contests, the melons do make great eating. The triploid cultivars are expensive to produce and, unfortunately, the seeds have thick coats that interfere with germination. Researchers have found that soaking the seeds in 1 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide at room temperature and in the dark greatly improves their germination. After just a day or two in the solution, the seeds germinated readily in petri dishes and would no doubt do so in the garden soil.

The 1 percent solution does not damage the emerging radicle, but solutions two percent or higher do severe damage to the young seedling. The hydrogen peroxide is generally available in the drug store and is a three percent solution, so you must dilute it with water. You can do that by adding two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide. So far, researchers have only tested the solution on watermelon seeds, but they suggest that it might also improve germination in a wide range of “hard-coated” seeds, such as those of cabbage and broccoli.

Moss Mansion News

Moss Mansion Features Summer 2018 Farm to Table Exhibit

Family diaries are among the interesting documents to be found in the archives at the Moss Mansion in Billings. Though Melville’s are the most numerous, she wasn’t big on painting detailed pictures with her writing. Even so, it is clear she enjoyed baking, and together with several cookbooks and recipe boxes it’s clear that food was a central part of many family traditions. After exploring the subject for the last couple of years, staff at the Moss have developed the material for this year’s summer exhibit – FARM TO TABLE: Family and Food in the Yellowstone Valley.

The exhibit explores the concepts of farming, agriculture, cooking, sustainability, and tradition in Montana over the last 150 years in the Yellowstone Valley. For the Moss family, like all of Billings, local agriculture and food traditions were integral to daily life.

In this exhibit visitors will find original farm equipment used on the agricultural land owned and developed by PB Moss, Moss family recipes, and insight into PB’s entrepreneurial spirit and success that was deeply tied to local agriculture. Stories will be shared from local families and tribes about their own experiences and food traditions that have developed in the local area.

Visitors can also expect to learn about contemporary producers and how local agriculture continues to be part of the fabric of Yellowstone Valley life in 2018. We have partnered with Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council’s Food Hub to connect our community with those local producers. Watch our calendar for upcoming dates for food and agriculture events related to this exhibit in 2018.

Moss Mansion 2

FARM TO TABLE: Family and Food in Montana is an accompanying art exhibit to the Moss Mansion’s 2018 exhibit. The art exhibit explores farming, agriculture, cooking, sustainability, and tradition in Montana over the last 150 years. Twodimensional works in a variety of media and styles are included in the exhibition which will be on view to a local, national, and international population from May 2018 – September 2018.

~ Written by Jennette Rasch, submitted by Corinna Sinclair

Nigella

Among the interesting flowers that are easy to grow from seed are the intricate and dainty nigella, or Love-in- a-Mist. Grown in Elizabethan cottage gardens and popular for centuries, they are not the fan favorite in nurseries and garden centers these days since they are not great transplant candidates. They are so easy to grow from seed that it is truly a shame if you never try them for medium-height, season- long delight in any sunny location.

To create a display from mid -spring to late summer, sow successive plantings from early spring to early summer. Plant when weather ranges between 65-70 most of the day in full sun with a little space for each plant to reach out. They don’t require much but decent drainage for soil, so water when dry and apply a little fertilizer in July and August. Watch for the deeply cut first leaves to break through in about 10 days and then prepare to enjoy the show. Multiple branches on 1-2’ plants will produce blooms rad intricate stamens and pistols. The leaves are finely divided and lend an airy quality to the middle of edge beds and cottage gardens.

The show doesn’t stop with the bloom – the seed pod is just as delightful with a balloon-like case tipped with spikes and surrounded by the net-like collar. These can be dried for quaint little arrangements or left to self-seed for next year.

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair