Wow, An Attractive Healthy Lawn

Every person on earth bears responsibility for good earth stewardship” Pope Francis

Northern Pearly Eye

How did we ever get sold on the fact that a green monoculture of a turf lawn was a good thing everyone wanted to copy? I love walking in green spaces, but should a green space have more variety than being just like everyone else trying to be like everyone else. Has our climate crisis brough us to a time we question the feasibility of maintaining something that harms instead of adding a positive to our environment?

What is my problem with a turf grass lawn?

First it takes lots of water to keep it green and needs poisonous chemicals. We have been in a drought, and homeowners are watering the sidewalk and the street trying to keep their lawns green. A weed free lawn requires lots of chemicals which run down the street into the storm drains and then into our lakes and streams where they stimulate the growth of algae. See the evidence on ponds and lakes covered with algae muck which can be fatal to dogs and wildlife. Muck covered lakes is not a natural happening!

A monoculture turf grass lawn has no benefit to pollinators. Pollinators love flowers free of chemicals and plants that are native to the area. They also like color and fragrance. The best is native plants have deep roots and can survive without much water.

Deep rooted native plants

You can create a friendly yard by just not mowing it, but I recommend thinking about a happy bee lawn. Bee lawns composed of various low growing plants don’t require chemicals and are not toxic to humans and pets. Also children can run and play on them just like turf grass. The butterflies and bees love diversity, scent and color. Some of my favorites are native violets and barren wild strawberries, both are very easy to grow and can be mowed a few times a summer. See the link below on bee lawns. Some people like non-native clover and creeping Charlie.

Violets are great for bee lawns.

Start with a small section of your yard, mow it short and work in some seeds (violets, strawberry, clover, creeping thyme, heal all) with a rake or hoe, and keep moist until you get some new sprouts. Find seeds at https://www.prairiemoon.com/

Nature’s Best Hope: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=doug+tallamy+videos&view=detail&mid=AB8B87BD969B5366B02BAB8B87BD969B5366B02B&FORM=VIRE by Doug Tallamy

How to save the planet starting with your yard: https://slate.com/podcasts/how-to/2022/08/how-to-save-the-planet-with-native-plants?fbclid=IwAR37nC8uiu9P6EoaXAF1Edm16g3zjKTCdx8zm1vH1JaZQdw0G9kQBqUgvK0

Mowing lawns as the climate warms (startribune.com) 

Endangered migrants come in all shapes and species (startribune.com)

https://www.pennlive.com/life/2022/08/bee-lawns-a-lazy-mower-way-to-help-pollinators.html

Everyday appreciating our beautiful earth, and working for healthy communities through less chemicals, less waste, And more fun!

A Special Bird Month

The sun sets on July

I am sorry to see the month of July come to an end. Lake Superior keeps the hot temperatures to the south, and the temperature has been comfortable, but the lake has been unusually cold.

It has been an incredible summer for birds.  The singing has now somewhat subsided, but in early summer we were thrilled to hear many birds singing we hadn’t heard for a few years. Mornings were so pleasant with purple finch, red starts, song sparrows, chestnut sided warblers, Northern parulas, and red-eyed vireos belting out their beautiful songs. Even though the singing has now subsided, we have an active crowd of baby birds trying to fill their hungry stomachs. Red starts and song sparrows were underfoot as I worked in my garden.

Many birds nest here because we have so many insects and caterpillars to feed their babies. This week we had many birds trying to eat the ripe elderberry berries. Today we had flickers, downy woodpeckers, chickadees, and cedar wax wings trying to hover and snatch one of these delicious berries. I’m sure they wish they could hover and fly like the hummingbirds.

The hummingbirds think they are king of the mountain. Life is a game to them as they wiz around. Even though they are the smallest they are the most aggressive and most visible. Their assertive behavior is entertaining as they are protect “their food.” I am sure the baby hummingbirds are learning from mom how to behave and survive.

milkweed

Monarch butterflies visit daily

The number of butterflies has also subsided since early July, but a monarch makes a daily pilgrimage to our yard visiting the milkweed. Unfortunately, butterfly caterpillars don’t survive long because there are many baby birds to be fed. I hope that some survive as butterflies,

An American Lady caterpillar on pearly everlasting, it probably became bird food!

Leave Those Violets

Beautiful violets are popping up all over our yards, and gardeners either love or hate them. I am a lover of violets. My love affair started when I learned they were the host plant to the fritillary butterfly. How could violets be a fritillary host plant? The timing of these butterflies and the blooming violets were so mismatched. This post is to try to explain how important violets are to the fritillary butterfly.

Violets are the only host plant for the fritillary butterfly.

During the past month millions of blue violets have been pulled out of gardens and lawns. It is unfortunate because the overwintering caterpillar of the fritillary butterfly is just climbing out of its winter leaf letter hiding place looking for violets to sustain their life cycle. The fritillary caterpillar will eat only one thing, its host plant—violets.

The fritillary caterpillars emerge out of the leaf litter where they have wintered, into a few weeks of munching on violets. The caterpillars eat at night so we don’t see them. Next, the caterpillar forms a secretive well-hidden chrysalis, and a few weeks later a beautiful fritillary will evolve from its chrysalis.

Fritillary on thistle

What do these beautiful butterflies’ nectar on? Not violets, but the fritillary’s preferred native nectar plants include milkweeds, Joe Pyes, native thistles, coneflowers, and wild bergamot (bee balm) Plant these native plants to keep the new butterflies in your yard!

After mating, the female fritillary looks for violets to lay her eggs on or near. These eggs grow into caterpillars that will overwinter in the leaf litter surrounding the violet. The caterpillar wakes up around the time the spring violets emerge and the cycle begins again.

I think the best way to create fritillary habitat is to have a dedicated spot in your yard where violets can thrive. Maybe a place where you can allow the leaf litter to stay. Also, creating a bee lawn is a wonderful way to sustain these pleasant violets and the fritillary butterflies too. https://extension.umn.edu/landscape-design/planting-and-maintaining-bee-lawn

A Resting Place for Migrants

Spring arrives and shakes us out of all the darkness in our world! After a violent storm last night, I was worried about migrating birds and butterflies.  Somehow, they manage to arrive and today I was treated to my first Painted Lady butterfly, a hummingbird, wrens and a Swainson’s Thrush.

Native plants create healthy food, homes and a resting spot for birds and butterflies.

It’s World Migration Week! On this big week of migration what can you do to create a healthier and friendlier environment? Find the migration happening in your county here: BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time 

Would you like your yard to be a resting spot for nature? My yard is for the birds. First, we never use chemicals as we try to create bee, butterfly and bird habitat.  Lawn chemicals aren’t healthy for people and they sure aren’t healthy for wildlife either. Native plants do not need chemicals so they are a win-win. Start small, with easy to grow wild geraniums, bee balm and asters. These three plants will get you blooms in the spring, summer and fall, and they will bring joy to you and wildlife.

Bee balm is a magnet for birds, bees and butterflies!

Here are some other ideas to get you started:

Plants for Birds (audubon.org)

How you can help North American birds during migration : Life Kit : NPR

For Earth Day, plant native plants, practice benign neglect (newstimes.com) 

Why Native Plants Are Better for Birds and People | Audubon

BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time 

Buying Bee-Safe Plants – Make a Commitment to Talk to Your Nursery! (google.com) 

“We can no longer simply “let nature take its course” and expect the return of productive ecosystems. Humans have meddled in too many ways that prevent nature from healing itself. We have introduced over 3,400 species of invasive plants to which local wildlife is not adapted, and we have eliminated the top predators that used to keep deer, raccoon, skunk, and possum populations in check. If we remove an essential part of an ecological community, we must replace it through active management or the system will collapse.” Doug Tallamy

Foreword by Doug Tallamy: The Woods in Your Backyard preview (instructure.com)

An easier way to welcome migrants and create habitat for them is to NO Mow May

No Mow May Affiliate Spotlights: Appleton, WI and Lawrence University – Bee City USA 

No Mow May: 8 Reasons to Let Your Lawn Grow This Month – Bob VIla 

My third idea for a healthy yard is creating a bee yard, and they are beautiful right now. The flowers of a bee lawn provide food (nectar and pollen) for pollinators. Bee lawns are environmentally friendly because they are managed using low-input methods that generally use less fertilizer and pesticides. Bee lawns can still be used recreationally by your household like a regular lawn. A bee lawn can attract over 50 species of native bees.

https://extension.umn.edu/landscape-design/planting-and-maintaining-bee-lawn

The Power of Trees

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.” Herman Hesse

Are you planting trees on this Arbor Day weekend?

Trees are fascinating in every season.

A resting place for birds.

Every tree is unique, and some species are more beneficial to wildlife than others. Always try to plant trees native to your area. https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/Plants https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/trees/native-trees.html

Oak trees are the best for wildlife. Many species of animals, birds, butterflies and insects use oak trees for food and shelter. Entomologist Doug Tallamy says native oaks are the most powerful of all for our environment. oaks: the most powerful plant of all, with doug tallamy – A Way To Garden

Trees do a lot for us. The invigorating feel we get when out in nature improves our health. Trees help clean the air, capture carbon, create homes, shelter and food for wildlife. Trees stop erosion, help manage flooding, and their shade can help cool our homes and our bodies!

Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store carbon in their wood. The older the tree, the more climate benefits it provides. The shade from trees also lessens the need for cooling in buildings, which reduces carbon dioxide and other pollutants from power plants.

For example, an oak tree with a 20-inch diameter – big enough that an adult could barely wrap their arms around – reduces carbon in the atmosphere by about 1,000 pounds annually. The energy that tree saves is enough to charge your smartphone about 55,000 times!

Trees provide many additional benefits. That same tree near a single-family home provides overall benefits of about $200 per year by increasing the property value, conserving electricity, intercepting and filtering stormwater, and improving air quality. Imagine the benefits multiplying for each tree in your neighborhood! Hennepin County

Learn more about the climate fighting power of trees and find a list of trees that can thrive into the future on Hennepin County’s Climate Action website.

How does climate change threaten birds, and how does planting natives help?

“Our warming world poses profound challenges to conservation. Audubon’s report “Survival By Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink,” published in October 2019, found that as many as 389 out of 604 bird species in North America could be at risk of extinction due to rising temperatures. Learn more at climate.audubon.org. The report showed that in order to protect birds, we need to reduce the emissions that cause the warming and protect the places on the ground that birds need now and in the future. Planting native grasses, trees, and shrubs does both. First, replacing lawns with native plants lowers the carbon produced and water required to maintain them. And native gardens also help birds be as strong as possible in the face of the climate threat—by providing food, shelter and protection. Native plant patches—no matter how small—can help bird populations be more resilient to the impacts of a warming world.” Audubon.org

Reading list:

10 Soccer Fields of Tropical Primary Forests Were Lost Every Minute in 2021 – EcoWatch

Oaktober: The Importance of Oak Trees – Nature’s Perspective Landscaping (naturesperspective.com)

5 Simple Steps to Birdscape Your Yard | Sierra Club  

Where Do Pollinators Go in the Winter? | Xerces Society

An Amazing Ecosystem

Native plants and trees create their own living ecosystem. The plants, wildlife, birds and 🦋 butterflies all work together to support a thriving environment.

The fall and winter seasons are no different . Birds eat the seeds off my native plants all fall and winter. Leaf litter contains habit and hiding for moths, butterflies and other wildlife. So what do we do with all this leaf litter?

These are my leaf litter suggestions:

— keep your sidewalks, driveways, and streets free from leaves. Lakes and rivers are polluted by too many leaves flowing into storm drains which drain into Lakes and streams.

–Leave you plants standing until spring, they also add food and habitat.

–Never use a leaf blower, they are too hard on everything your ecosystem is creating.

–Gently rake leaves into your gardens. This is wonderful mulch and plant protection. Leaves nurture the soil.

–Winter and spring garden surprises will create joy. Watch for birds, wildlife, and early insects.

–Cut plants off in the spring and work the leaves into your soil.

Pollinator Passion

“Nature is a way to escape to a healing place!” John Caddy

First there were four, then there were seven, now there are over ten monarch butterflies playing tag in my yard. This has been going on for two months. Monarchs are passionate for meadow blazing star (Liatris), and they get excited when the blazing star is blooming.  Watching them makes one happy.

Monarch butterflies love blazing star!

Our world is in crisis and we need to find ways to lessen stress on our Earth.  We know droughts, incredible heat, fires, floods, and smoky air are causing people, trees and wildlife to move to safer places or even die. Human behavior has helped to create this awful situation, and new paradigms are needed to lessen our carbon footprint. We already know that the world needs us to drive less, use less water, eat less meat, buy less, and reduce our plastic footprint.

What can we do more of that is actually good? Making a healthy change to your yard by planting native plants is a positive action you can take. Deep-rooted native plants are a win-win for our earth! They do not need chemicals and they do not need watering.

The native plants growing in my yard have produced way beyond my expectations during this harsh summer environment. Because deep-rooted plants don’t need to be watered and don’t use chemicals they create a healthier environment, and an important way to help our Earth.  Planting earth friendly plants will bring more birds and butterflies to visit your yard.  A pollinator garden brings joy many months of the year, but especially in July and August when the pollinators are crazy over nectaring plants.

How do you create this healing place for yourself and the birds and butterflies in your neighborhood? Remove some hostas and turf grass and replace them with native deep-rooted plants. You can create your own eco-system of life in your own yard. Start simple!

milkweed

Start by planting some milkweek and bee balm

and purple cone flowers.

Every yard should have purple cone flowers

Native gardens are an eco-system of their own creating food and joy for pollinators and humans alike! Create your own escape from the world by using deep-rooted plants to invite birds, butterflies and other wildlife into your space. Many birds raise their babies on the insects and caterpillars they find in the pollinator garden. Birds eat seed from the native plants all year. The goldfinch are already eating away on the bee balm, cone flowers and brown eye Susan.

hummingbirds love cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers will bring humming-birds to your yard, but cardinal flower is not drought tolerant.

Reading list:

Study: Birds Are Linked to Happiness Levels – EcoWatch 

Wild Ones Introduces Free, Native Garden Designs – Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes

Earth Overshoot Day Moves Forward By Nearly a Month – EcoWatch

How Non-Native Plants Are Contributing to a Global Insect Decline – Yale E360 

Could Las Vegas’s Grass Removal Policies Alter the Western US Drought-Scape? | Sierra Club

Pollinator-Friendly Alternative to Hosta and Daylily – Monarch GardensCornus alternifolia Pagoda Dogwood | Prairie Moon Nursery

Weed garden wins RHS gold at Tatton Park flower show – BBC News 

Soft Landings – Bee and Pollinator Books by Heather Holm (pollinatorsnativeplants.com)

Top US scientist on melting glaciers: ‘I’ve gone from being an ecologist to a coroner’ | Climate change | The Guardian    

A Lot to Celebrate!

A Juneteenth holiday weekend, pollinator week, the longest day/summer, and Father’s Day, a lot to celebrate! Enjoy this historic weekend by planting a native tree or plant in honor of the slaves that helped build our country, the beginning of summer, and your dad. Happy Pollinator Week! Happy Juneteenth!

Plant native plants and trees.

This is National Pollinator Week.

What are pollinators? Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, or other animals, or by the wind.

Pollinators are essential to our environment.  They are necessary for most of the world’s flowering plants and crops. Habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases are taking an enormous toll on our pollinators.

Agriculture, land development, mowing and chemicals to reduce weed and insects have resulted in loss of habitat loss for our pollinators. These essential pollinators are necessary for most of the world’s flowering plants and crops.

Urban areas are food desserts for pollinators. Turf lawns and hostas contribute to these urban food desserts. My yard is full of plants for bees, birds and butterflies, but I’m surrounded by too much treated turf grass.  I encourage everyone to help pollinators by creating and maintaining native habitat to help bees, birds and butterflies. Native plants and native trees are excellent choices for pollinators. Their deep roots keep them surviving during droughts and heavy rains. Dig out some hostas or grass and plant something helpful to our earth. See suggestion in reading list.

This is an exciting new holiday weekend, in recognition of the day 156 years ago when the enslaved people of Texas were finally met with the far overdue promise of freedom. Juneteenth | History, Meaning, Flag, Importance, & Facts | Britannica

Our new United States holiday!

Reading List:

https://www.ecowatch.com/lawns-must-die-2653462778.html

Pollinator Supportive Trees – Michigan Pollinator Initiative (msu.edu)  

TreesShrubsPoster.indd (msu.edu) 

Trees for Bees and Other Pollinatorss – The Arbor Day Foundation

Pollinator Conservation Resource Center | Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation 

Some Minnesota dragonflies are peaking – StarTribune.com 

Attract Birds: A Dozen Native Trees and Shrubs that Birds Love (abcbirds.org) “Every single person who owns a piece of property of any size can make a difference. They can begin by removing non-native plant species on their land and replacing them with natives. Why native plants? Native plants are important for many reasons, but they are essential as virtually the only hosts for many native insects. Insects are essential food for many birds, particularly nesting songbirds. … A small yard, even in the heart of a city, can provide these crucial sites.”

Twelve spotted skimmer

What Brings you Joy?

This morning a cardinal and other birds were singing, I worked in a community garden with friends, and I saw a new butterfly. This brings me joy.

As this pandemic retreats, what is bringing you joy? Being outside, seeing birds, butterflies and new lush green plants? The beginning of June has brought hiking, biking and gardening and lots of joyful outside time for me. Seeing people in person again has also been a time of joy and freedom.  I am so thankful for the science and the vaccines that have made it possible for us to get our lives back. It is now time to get back to enjoying everyday! Take pictures of what brings you joy, and send them to us.

swallow tail butterfly

Butterflies bring joy

milkweed

What are the special events to celebrate in June? June 5,  is World Environment Day, June 8 is World Oceans Day and June 19, is Juneteenth. June 20 is Father’s Day. All of June is Pride and Gun Violence Awareness Month. See the Actions for Happiness calendar below for joyful ideas. This June take pictures of what brings you joy. Send them to us.

Take care of our beautiful Earth

World Environment Day , This is our moment.

We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature.

Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid. 

Join #GenerationRestoration

READING LIST:

 Hundreds of lakes losing oxygen:  https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-york/articles/2021-06-02/hundreds-of-lakes-in-us-europe-are-losing-oxygen#:~:text=

7 Educational Nature Activities for Kids You Can Do at Home This Summer – EcoWatch

UN World Oceans Day 2021 – UN World Oceans Day  

Join the Fresh Start Challenge! – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Six skills we need as citizens who can’t agree on scientific facts – StarTribune.com

Biden takes aim at all factors hampering Black Americans – StarTribune.com 

98 stories of garbage: State plans to expand 4 over-stuffed landfills in metro – Twin Cities 

‘The Ancient Woods’ Review: Deep in the Forest – The New York Times (nytimes.com) 

15 Healthy Foods That RDs Say Will Make You Happier | Eat This Not That  

 June 19th is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.

June is Gun Violence Awareness Month. 

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence will mark Wear Orange weekend June 4-6, and we will honor and remember the lives, families, and communities who have suffered and continue to suffer the ongoing scourge of American gun violence.

Take pictures of what brings you JOY

Plant Flowers Loved by Bees and Butterflies

I love the bee yards that are popping up in my neighborhood. Homeowners are getting the message that turf grass yards are food deserts for pollinators. Our bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and moths have been devastated by habitat loss and excess chemical use. We can all make a simple difference by planting a few plants for them.

As we celebrate World Bee Day make an effort to add some pollinator environment to your yard. Native plants are the best because they have deep roots and don’t need watering or chemicals. I don’t trust some plants from garden stores, I worry about what they could have been sprayed and treated with?? We don’t want to plant for bees and butterflies only to add more chemicals to their bodies! Shop garden shops that can answer your questions. Native plants should be chemical free. Everyday we have an impact on our community, make it positive.

The reading list below has good suggestions for bee lawns. Bee balm, wild geranium, culvers root, milkweed, cone flowers, asters, and Joe Pye weed are some of my favorites for attracting both bees and butterflies.

Bee Balm

A garden workhorse for pollinators

Joe Pye Weed

Cone flowers

Bees like yellow flowers

Native plants have deep roots.

Reading List:

6 Ways to Transform Your Lawn Into an Eco-Friendly Oasis – EcoWatch

How to Turn Your Yard Into an Ecological Oasis | YES! Magazine (yesmagazine.org)

Angelina Jolie Raises Pollinator Awareness With Bee-Covered Portrait – EcoWatch 

Pollinator Lawn – Blue Thumb

Bee Lawns | Bee Lab (umn.edu)

To Help Save Bumble Bees, Plant These Flowers in Your Spring Garden – EcoWatch

Why You Should Grow a Lawn for Bees (treehugger.com)

http://www.queenofthesun.com/get-involved/10-things-you-can-do-to-help-bees/ 

Pollinator Garden Plants and Practices | Habitat Network (yardmap.org)

Gardening for Wildlife with Native Plants (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) 

30 Unique Plants That Attract Butterflies (treehugger.com)