Attention, Gardeners! Science needs you to join the army of citizens advancing the body of scientific knowledge.
Citizen scientists are the extra eyes researchers need to help look for nine-spotted ladybugs, note the first tulips in spring or keep watch for endangered arboreal toads. They partner with scientists to provide valuable data that helps answer real-world questions.
Volunteers can join any number of organized efforts to use their backyard living laboratories to observe plants, insects, birds or other animals and report their findings. Researchers say citizen scientist initiatives help identify signs of climate change, track migrating species and monitor the health of animals and the environment.
Whether you prefer to watch birds or bees, monitor blooming plants or count the spots on ladybugs, there’s a science project waiting for you.
For example, citizen scientists in Boulder are helping real scientists at the University of Colorado gather data on bees for a program called “The Bees’ Needs.”
What if we had a drought and the lawn didn’t notice?
Because of the continuing drought, gardeners in the Denver metro area will have twice-a-week lawn watering restrictions starting April 1–no fooling.
Along with these restrictions will be higher water bills for using more water on other parts of the landscape, too.
I remember the summer of 2002 and how difficult it was to keep the garden going with limited irrigation. It was fortunate I had already removed a good deal of lawn the summer before, replacing with low-water perennial flowers, shrubs and bulbs.
I’ve dusted off some of the water conservation tactics I used the last time we had Stage 2 drought restrictions and plan to rely on them again this summer. Here are some of my top tips for gardening in a drought:
Happy Fourth Anniversary to WesternGardeners.com!
I wrote a short post about the predicted drought conditions in the West, with the headline: Warmer, Drier Forecast is Daunting!
It seems like I could have written that headline yesterday, too.
Over the last four years I’ve written a lot about conserving water in our landscapes from planting water-wise flowers, trees and shrubs, to ways to use water more efficiently in the garden.
Those tips are even more relevant today.
Of the 449 posts I’ve written, I’ve been surprised by the one that’s been most popular: my simple recipe for Pickled Jalapeno Peppers. That one post continues to draw hundreds of gardeners looking for ways to use their home-grown jalapenos.
The earliest blooming shrub in my yard is this cold-hardy Nanking cherry.
The same thing is happening in my backyard with a mini-version of the annual event.
The lovely white flowers on the Nanking cherry shrub burst open late last week, two weeks ahead of schedule.
In one way this early blooming is a good thing. I noticed quite a few honeybees enjoying this early-season source of food. I also appreciate being able to look out my office window and see something so beautiful where empty branches stood just a week ago.
But it’s a worry, too. Is this a warning signal about a warming climate?
These famous trees that line the Tidal Basin typically bloom from March 26 to April 10.
I stopped by on April 11 and almost all the blossoms were off the trees because of a big windstorm the previous weekend.
I’m glad I had the chance to have my own mini cherry blossom festival.
This year the trees have already bloomed–a full two weeks ahead of schedule.
Trees aren’t the first things you think of when you think about New Mexico, but Albuquerque’s urban forest is a important environmental tool.
Nick Kuhn, city forester, was one of the speakers at the New Mexico Xeriscape and Water Conservation Conference in Albuquerque last month. I guess it never occurred to me that cities in the southwest would need foresters, but by the time Nick finished his talk, I was a believer.
Nick explained that even the southwest needs an urban forest and street trees are valuable “solar-powered environmental tools.” Each tree is a natural resource for economic, social and environmental benefits.
However, in the city of Albuquerque many residents have stopped thinking of trees as an important part of the ecosystem equation. With water at a premium, and a big push to conserve it, many think that a treeless yard saves water. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
The theme for the 15th Annual Water Conservation and Xeriscape Conference is the “Land Use, Water Use Connection” and includes the transect from the natural environment to the urban environment.
The weather in Albuquerque is warmer than it was when we left Denver yesterday, but that’s not due to global warming or climate change. It’s always a bit warmer here in late February when the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico puts on its annual conference.
I look forward to this conference every year, not only to escape the chillier Denver weather, but to hear well-regarded experts talk about water issues. For the first time in several years, there seems to be more optimism in the tone of the presentations.
That’s not to say we aren’t still in the midst of a water crisis, but it just seems there’s more hope in working together to find solutions.
These Happy Gardeners welcome visitors to the North Carolina Botanical Gardens at Chapel Hill.
Even though I’m back from my travels to North Carolina, I wanted to share a bit more of my trip because I visited so many wonderful public and private gardens and saw so many plants I’d never seen before.
We had but a short time at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
I only caught a glimpse of the the gardens’ new environmentally-sustainable visitor education center as the bus pulled into the parking lot.
It was then a mad dash to the gardens to see as much as possible in 40 minutes flat.
I’m afraid I didn’t get too far into the official collection of North Carolina native plants, because I was enjoying the herb garden too much.
The Herb Garden included large beds of culinary and medicinal herbs that were used to treat a number of common ailments, like chest diseases, infectious diseases, rheumatism and other external complaints.
A healthy garden can be destroyed by a hail storm in a matter of minutes.
The thunderstorm last night in the Denver Metro area was a destructive one. High winds, drenching rain and hail destroyed the hopes of many gardeners who woke up to find their gardens in shreds.
I heard from one gardener this morning who told me the community garden she was working with in Lakewood was “completely destroyed last night in the hail storm…bad day in the neighborhood.”
This is another one of the challenges of gardening along the Front Range in Colorado. The eastern half of the state is especially prone to severe hail storms because of where the plains sit in relation to the Rocky Mountains and clashing wind currents from the east create a perfect thunderstorm.
My copy of Good Bug Bad Bug has seen a lot of use in the garden.
Have you ever wished you could tell the difference between insect heroes and insect villains in your garden?
There aren’t many gardeners I know that haven’t wanted a little extra help in identifying what’s nibbling on the roses or who’s causing damage to the broccoli. That’s why Jessica Walliser wrote her nifty field guide called Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What they do, and How to Manage them Organically.
This book is especially helpful now that we’re seeing more than the usual suspects in the garden. Invasive insect species are spreading from their normal habitats and moving across the country so gardeners may not be familiar with some of these new pests.
Jessica’s book includes color pictures, on water-proof pages, that make it easy to take the guide into the garden for a better observation. Each insect labeled as a pest has a complete description, information on how to spot the damage and the plants they attack.