Monday, May 31, 2010

The importance of native pollinators

The Midway community gardens are hatching a plan for the August event called the Parade of Community gardens on 8/21/2010. Its too soon to let you know about all the fun details, but it will involve six Midway community garden sites, and will give visitors a peek at pollinators. Even in our urban area, pollinators are vital. In this photo, my Leadplant is being visited by bees. at the Midway Greenspirit garden, the beehive there are increasing yields of tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, , raspberries, apples, melons, sunflowers, pumpkins, plums, and squash both in the garden and for miles around. Native pollinators can be even more efficient at the job, such as bumblebees increasing yields even more. The Xerces Society is an organization looking into the importance of invertebrates. Below is some quality information from Xerces on how to encourage native pollinators which were developed for roadsides. While a small residential urban yard may need to be selective from this list of practices, most are applicable for our cities too. I see it in my own yard and in my community gardens regularly. Xerces research show that using native plants in a landscape can double the number of bee counts and increase the types of bees found there by 35%. So you want to get the most out of your food production gardens? Plant for the bees too!

From Xerces:

Eighty-seven of the world’s 124 most commonly cultivated crops are insect/animal pollinated. Between 60 to 80% of the world’s 250,000 flowering plants depend on animals for pollination.
In the United States, the National Research Council (2007) reported noteworthy losses of both managed and wild pollinators. Habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, parasites, and the spread of invasive species are the major causes of pollinator decline. Threats to pollinator communities affect not only pollinators themselves but also natural ecosystems and agricultural productivity.

Key design factors & practices to enhance flower diversity for bee habitat around farms, gardens or roadsides include:

Planting choices
1) Use native wildflowers and grasses, with high densities of flowers.
2) Plant a minimum of 3 blooming plant species during each season.
3) Aim for season-long blooming plants, early and late season blooming plants are especially important.
4) Plant a range of wildflowers of varying colors and shapes. Bees mainly visit blue, white, yellow, and purple flowers.
5) Plant flowers in single species clumps for best results.

Providing Nest Sites
6) Warm season, clump-forming grasses provide bumble bee nest sites.
7) Have a mix of forbs and shrubs.
8) Don’t mow or hay entire grassy meadows or roadsides, leave some for pollinators.
9) Conserve habitat for rabbit burrows and groundhog burrows for bee nesting sites.
10) Reduce tillage and avoid plastic sheeting for ground nesting bees.

Reducing the Impact of Mowing and Spraying
11) Intensive mowing or grazing impacts abundance of bees.
12) Avoid or minimize the use of insecticides.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Seeking Midway "citizen scientists" to help count ash trees during the 2010 summer

The 2010 Hamline Midway Tree Planting and Ash Tree Inventory Program

This summer, the Hamline Midway Environmental Group Tree Team will be counting the number of residential ash trees to guide our 2010 tree planting program that will occur this fall. Volunteer surveyors are being solicited! Are you a person who may walk frequently in the neighborhood? Or, one who would like to engage their kids in a local eco-opportunity after school is out? Or are you a person who is interested in our urban forest/habitat? Or, would you like an “excuse” to go beyond your immediate block and explore a different part of the neighborhood? Then this could be a volunteer experience for you; neighbors become citizen scientists! Volunteer surveyors will be taught how to confidently identify ash trees and record their observations on a simple recording form. Residents of the Hamline Midway neighborhood, of all ages and experiences, are encouraged to participate! You can do this at your own pace and on your own schedule as long as we get the data by August 1.

We will be hosting two upcoming training sessions at the Hamline Midway Coalition Building (Snelling and LaFond) for volunteers (of all ages) on:

  • Tuesday June 1 – 6:30-8:30 and
  • Saturday June 5 – 9:00-11:00

With the center of the Emerald ash borer (EAB) infestation so close to the Midway neighborhood, now is the time to consider the impact of losing our ash trees and do something about it! The information we collect will help target future tree plantings in our neighborhood.

Residents who are interested in volunteering with other neighbors for the ash tree inventory are encouraged to contact the Tree Team at or call Tanner at (651) 917-1248.

Look for more info on this project and tree care at the HMEG table at the Hamline Midway Spring Festival on May 23rd from 12:00-5:00 in Newell Park!