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Pollination and the Spring Garden
Posted on : April 11, 2017

There’s a real push this year to support pollinators in the garden. Where would our gardens be without them? Personally I think most gardeners do this without thinking about it but it’s tempting, for example, to pull out cilantro, mustards, broccoli, fennel, dill, etc. as they bolt to flower and seed in the spring. The white or yellow flowers are small but often numerous—a bit rough looking in the garden but try not to be too neat and take time to watch for honeybees or native pollinators like butterflies working the flowers. Plants such as fennel and dill also provide foliage for ravaged butterfly larvae like those of the swallowtail which, of course, become pollinators.

This year you can show your support for the little critters by taking the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, an initiative of the National Pollinator Garden Network. This collective includes stakeholders from the garden, pollinator, and conservation communities working together to support the health of pollinating insects, birds, etc. The objective of the challenge is to increase nectar- and pollen-providing landscapes of every size in order to address one of the significant threats to pollinator health: the scarcity and degradation of forage. The goal is to promote and count 1 million pollinator forage locations across North America.

Garden Writers Association members From April 14th-28th will be encouraging gardeners across North America to register their gardens for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. If you would like to participate simply go to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge website (http://millionpollinatorgardens.org) and complete the following steps:

1. Register your garden as pollinator habitat.
2. Upload a photo of your garden and fill in the necessary information.
3. Select The Association for Garden Communicators from the “Your Organization/Partnership Affiliation” dropdown menu. This will allow GWA (including garden writers, photographers, bloggers, radio and TV personalities) to track how many pollinator gardens are registered as a direct result of the Associations efforts.

Along the way you will learn more about how to encourage pollinators by creating natural spaces with foraging and nesting sites. You’ll learn which plants attract pollinators like native perennials and wildflowers. Texas gardeners are fortunate to have many examples that can flourish in the landscape like lemon mint, Butterfly Weed, Verbena and Mist Flower while attracting a wide variety of pollinating insects.

Just can’t get enough? Stephen F. Austin State University is hosting The Texas Pollinator PowWow May 5-6 at the Nacagodoches Exposition Center. The Exhibition Hall Exhibits are free all weekend but pre-registration/fees are required for the lectures and Bat Night/Moth Night. For more details including the Sunday Fieldwork Day (free & guided) go to www.eventbrite.com/texas-pollinator-powwow-tickets-290806640980.

Just for fun I used a Fractalius filter and Photoshop to stylize some of my favorite pollinators—Cloudless Sulfur, Fractalius Butterfly and Butterfly Collage.

By now you’re likely knee-deep into the warm season garden—the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, beans and cucumbers should be up and growing. Watch for early signs of insect and disease damage. So far the spring hasn’t been as wet as last year so perhaps we won’t see as much Early Blight fungus but keep the sprayer handy and spray the top and bottom of leaves with a registered fungicide (like Daconil)at the first sign of yellow spots on the lower leaves. Some folks are already seeing stinkbugs and we’ve lost a few plants to cutworms (a wrap of foil at the stem base when transplanting would have prevented it). Fortunately we had extras. Flower thrips can cause tomato blossoms to drop in the early spring and they’re tiny, so very hard to see. Blue sticky traps hung on the tomato cages will capture a lot of thrips- you can use a hand lens to examine the tiny demons. Organic Spinosad sprays have been reported to be an effective control.

The tomatoes we protected with palm fronds (see previous blog) are doing great and even though the fronds have turned brown they’re still working. Now it’s a matter of keeping the weeds down (scuffle hoe and a newspaper/straw mulch to come) are in play. Plan on daily checks for insects/diseases and anticipate a super harvest.

Our small greenhouse still harbors a few tomatoes, peppers and eggplants but soon it will be abandoned to bake in the heat of summer. We have intentionally decided not to fill it with tender plants that will need to be cared for all summer or that would be in the way when it’s time to start new transplants for the garden. The one exception we’ve made is for a few cacti. They might get watered once or twice in the summer but nothing else and every spring as we move transplants out to the garden they surprise us with spectacular blooms. This native Texas Rainbow Cactus is especially striking. During the transplant growing season they share the water and fertilizer with the rest of the plants and they rise like the Phoenix to bloom and re-hydrate for a long dry summer. I can’t think of a better companion plant for a small greenhouse that’s designed to grow transplants.

Written by Bill Adams

William D. (Bill) Adams is the author of numerous articles and his photos have been published in a number of magazines, calendars and books. He is the co-author/photographer of “Commonsense Vegetable Gardening for the South” with Tom LeRoy and he is the co-author of “The Lone Star Gardener’s Book of Lists” with Lois Trigg Chaplin. Bill and Tom also teamed up for another book—THE SOUTHERN KITCHEN GARDEN. Most recently Bill authored THE TEXAS TOMATO LOVER’S HANDBOOK a guide to growing the most delicious tomatoes on the planet. This latest book published by Texas A & M University Press. Bill worked in mass media most of his career appearing on radio and TV programs, and writing a weekly column. Adams also served as the Harris County Master Gardener Coordinator with over seven hundred active members. These days, after retiring from the Extension Service, Bill is concentrating his energies on gardening, writing and photography. He is a much-requested speaker at Garden and Civic Clubs and he is a regular contributor of articles and photography to Neil Sperry’s Gardens magazine. Bill has been a member of Garden Writers Assn. since 1972 and has served several terms as a Southern regional director.

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