Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Natives Are Restless

Here is a new favorite for my "blue" garden- Spotted Bee Balm, or Monarda punctata L. Thanks to Hannah from the Friends of Horton Park for suggesting this wacky-yet-beautiful native for the sandy soil here. As I was checking it out today, I saw a number of different wasps and bees doing their thing. It reminded me of my Leadplant earlier in the season. I saw 4 or 5 different types of bees on that native plant at one time (they move fast, so its a bit hard to count). The pollinator sightings would please the Horton Park community gardeners, many whom have taken a course on native pollinators this season.

My winged visitors highlight an important reason to plant natives in your landscapes- to provide food sources for our native insects. As we use more and more cultivars (like the petunias on the left of the monarda) the options for native pollinators become slim which impacts the foodweb that relies on those insects. The diversity of insects can also be on your side when it comes to bad bugs.

Just last night, as I was with a group of community gardeners in SE Como brainstorming ideas for a rain garden at Como Corner Community Garden (a project sponsored by SECIA and Mississippi Watershed Management Organization) and one of the gardeners had a book in hand by Douglas W. Tallamy called "Bringing nature home". As we envisioned raingardens, cisterns, dry creek beds, the group also insisted upon native plants and "ugly bugs". The word is spreading about the important role these insects have in the greenspaces of our cities and suburbs. Something the Horton Park community gardeners would cheer on.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hanging it all out

This time of year means gardens galore, so to change it up, here is a non-gardening post-Clotheslines!

I admit it, I really enjoy hanging laundry. Enough that it causes me pause before passing the task onto my kids. Hanging clothes on the line is a calm, repetitive, hypnotic task which cools me down on a hot day. I can ponder, watch birds or just enjoy the process of getting our clothes up in the sun to dry at no carbon cost. We run about 1 load of clothes per day, and from April to October, we use our line as the primary clothes drier. I feel a bit for allergic households who cannot use a clothesline because their clothes bring in allergens. Automatic clothes driers are a typical household's second biggest energy using appliance (behind refrigerators). Air drying is free in both dollars and on carbon footprints.

In SE Como Minneapolis, the neighborhood association SECIA, raised awareness of energy consumption of driers by distributing free clotheslines to residents in 2007. It was a very popular program sponsored by the City of Minneapolis climate Change micro grants and really could be repeated every year with the high resident turnover due to proximity to the U of MN. The neighborhood association distributed mini retractable clotheslines to 78 residents.

Numbers cited for energy conservation due to clothesline use include a 3.3% reduction of CO2 if everyone used a line for half a year, and 5.8% of a household's energy demands can be due to an electric clothes drier.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Midway Community Greening and Gardening gets busy

The Midway is bursting with community greening and gardening events this weekend. Time to enjoy the spoils of summer, join any or all!

These events are reflected on the Hamline Midway Community Gardening Calendar (see the events box on the right sidebar).

  • Horton Park Community Garden time Sun, July 12, 12:00pm – 2:30pm. We may do a bit of watering, continue the pursuit of identifying grasses, lookover the beauties such as butterfly weed and its usual monarch caterpillars (see photo). Group info is here at the community garden's googlegroup.

  • HM Rain Garden Tours Sun, July 12, 12pm – 2pm Where: Meet at the Hamline United Methodist Church raingarden located near the church parking lot at the intersection of Minnehaha at Simpson (Tour-goers are very welcome to make a pass through the Horton Community Garden time too!) Taproots is hosting walking tours of neighborhood raingardens to discuss and share wisdom about gardening, plant lore, and hydrology. Raingardens are a great way to deal with drainage problems, reduce runoff, improve water quality downstream, and strengthen native plants and the local ecology. For more information about the tours or Taproots, visit the group's blog at or contact Jonathan Dregni, 651-207-3539 or jdregni@yahoo.com.

  • Midway Barter Market Sun, July 12, 1pm – 3pm Where: 1724 Englewood Ave Bring something to share if you can, we've seen CSA produce, jam, bread, fruits, homemade candles and soap, jewelry, cassette tapes, clothes, anything that's in good condition that someone else may want. It's an informal gathering that's lots of fun, and you get to take home stuff you want that someone else has too much of. Midway Barter Market also runs on Wednesday evening- see the calendar for more information

With all these events, we are sure to see you- Right?