Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pollinator planting guides

This site has guides on Selecting Plants for Pollinators that are tailored to specific ecoregions.  If you enter your zip code, it'll take you to the one for your region.  This is handy because Virginia is divided into multiple ecoregions depending on how far east/west you are.

(HT:  American Beauties Native Plants)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Soil and water conservation districts

Most of Virginia is divided into soil and water conservation districts.  You can find a list of districts here.  My own district is the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District.  I got in touch with them because of some significant drainage and erosion problems in our yard.  I am building a rain garden, which is a well-drained bed of plants that will catch the runoff and use it rather than letting it flow through our yard.  (You will read a lot more about the rain garden in future entries here, as I plan to use exclusively native plants.)  My district does not help financially with individual homeowners' projects but is happy to provide advice.  Some other districts, such as the Thomas Jefferson district covering Nelson, Albemarle, Fluvanna, and Louisa counties, actually provide financial assistance with building a rain garden, converting turf to a native plant meadow, and other projects.

Last fall, a soil expert came to my house to assess the site and our drainage problems.  This is a nice free service.  Based on soil survey maps of the area, he determined what type of soil we have and then could recommend how deep we have to dig the rain garden to reach soil with better drainage.  He had tips on how to install overflow pipes and where to buy inexpensive mulch.  He was very willing to walk up and down our slope to see all our problem areas and recommended how to deal with each.

Eroded trench in my yard (with tape measure in inches for scale).
One caveat is that the soil expert didn't seem interested in promoting native plants and avoiding invasive ones, so I have supplemented with my own research.  Still, it was a helpful visit.  I would recommend checking out your local district if you have erosion problems and want advice.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Link roundup

I mentioned Dicentra (bleeding heart) in my last post.  Beautiful Wildlife Garden has a nice post about native bleeding hearts, which apparently are a good food source for hummingbirds.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a ruby throated hummingbird checking out my nonnative bleeding heart last week, so I guess that's not a total fail even though it isn't native.

Going further back, there was also a recent post on Beautiful Wildlife Garden about black gum as a shade tree.  There is actually a black gum cultivar ("Wildfire") with particularly attractive fall color.  For people who don't want to plant yet another maple, this could be a nice alternative.

Finally, it's the time of year for flowering of robin's plantain, a small, spring flowering aster.  I only recently learned of this plant, but my father has successfully propagated it from collected seeds and says that it does well in moist, partly sunny locations.