Thursday, June 23, 2011

Birds and Bees, Flowers and Trees

Early summer things are happening in the meadow. The baby house wrens have fledged. Harvey took this picture one or two days before they left their nest. I still see house wrens in and out of three of our nesting boxes. Maybe they will have another clutch.

The meadow is greening up. I see the usual weeds: violets (pretty, but unwanted), crabgrass, black locust volunteers, sour clover, other familiar mystery weeds. I called in my landscaper. Since he planted the seeds, I hoped he would recognize if any of them were sprouting or if we are just growing the Worthington version of Arthur's Weed Patch (remember the comic strip Miss Peach?). Jason, the Garden Guru, showed up the next day for a look. Yes, we have plenty of nasties in the meadow, but he pointed out tiny seedlings, the chosen weeds. We call them wildflowers. There are native grasses, rudbeckia, echinacea, and lots of other good stuff. Tiny, tiny seedlings, but seedlings nonetheless, all over. In the photo above you can see the remnants of our daffodils. The taller plants are undesirable weeds, but the all over green haze is a lot of the right stuff. You can also see the three hives, each three boxes tall.

This is a closer look at the infant meadow. Almost everything in this picture is desirable. The paddle-leafed plants are rudbeckia, easy to identify because the leaves are hairy. Many of the good seedlings are smaller than my pinky fingertip. The plan for meadow care this year is to not pull any weeds (and is that ever hard to do!) because some of the prairie seeds will take a year to germinate and pulling out weeds would not only disturb the still slumbering seeds, but also awaken the billions of weed seeds now dormant in the soil. Anything that grows taller than 6" this year can be whacked with the string trimmer because nothing that we want will grow taller than 6" this first season. The black locust seedlings can grow that much in a day. Because of the clay soil and our frequent showers, we have plenty of mud out there. These plants actually like dense clay soil.

This beautiful rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) is one we planted last year--a plant, not a seed. This one just started to bloom, but even more exciting are the several baby Susans nearby, offspring of our second year plant. This plant, like many of the others in our prairie mix, self sows, which is why it takes a good three years to coax the meadow into becoming a riot of native flowers and grasses. I can now easily spot these seedlings in the meadow. Sticking up through the right side of the Susan is one of those pesky locust trees. The green sprinkles are all good things.

The bees are going to love what is happening in the beeyard/meadow.

Down in the ravine, the humans are staying slightly ahead of the poison ivy and honeysuckle. All our efforts to control the noxious plants exposed rich, leafy humus with oodles of earthworms. A walk down there today revealed extensive patches of worm castings (yes!) and a lot of erosion because the honeysuckle is no longer holding the soil in place (oh, no!). We have planted so many things down there, and most of them are doing well. Without the honeysuckle hogging all the light and all the terrain, other plants will now have a chance to grow. It is time to let benevolent Ma Nature do her thing.

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