February Gardening 2017

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden

I think that February is my favorite winter month because it is the beginning of ten hours of daylight, which is the signal to our plants to start a new growing season. You can resume watering your Clivia and begin to bring the bulbs you have forced into the house. It is also the month to check houseplants for bugs and give them a good cleaning in the shower. And, for extra insurance, spray them with insecticidal soap, if necessary.

Notice the rusty patch on the rusty-patched bumblebee.

February is also the time to start ordering seeds and planning your garden. Just recently the rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis) became the first bee in the United States to be protected under the Endangered Species Act to prevent its extinction. The native bee is an important pollinator of wildflowers and food crops. The Xerces Society stated that their numbers have decreased by 87% due to “factors like disease, habitat loss, and insecticide use”. How can gardeners help turn around this decline? The Xerces Society recommends the following to create a habitat for healthy bees:

“Plant Native forage flowers for adult bees from early spring through fall.

A bee-safe yard that doesn’t have diseases or pesticides on flowering plants.

A secure place for bees to build their nests and over winter.”

Nepata is the lavender on the right.

These practices will also encourage other wildlife such as butterflies, birds, hummingbirds and other beneficial insects. They recommend planting bright colored flowers in blocks of color to attract these pollinators. I have a row of nepata that I planted along one of the walls of my garden to discourage rabbits and I have always noticed that it is full of bees whenever it blooms. It is recommended that these “blocks” should be 3 ½ feet by 3 ½ feet to be ideal and contain:

“Several different plant species flowering at the same time.

A combination of flowering annuals and perennials.

Flowers of different sizes, shapes, and colors.”

Many of us will not have the space to plant “blocks” this large, but putting together a combination of appealing bright colored plants that bees love should definitely help.

Spring: Flowering Fruit Trees, Crocus, Daffodils, Tulips and Lilac

Summer & Fall: Peony, Wisteria, Honeysuckle, Asters, Black Eyed Susan, Bachelor Buttons, Bee Balm, Cosmos, Gaillardia, Golden Rod, Loosestrife, Nepeta, Sedum and Sun Flowers

Vegetables: Broccoli in flower, Tomatoes and all the squash family

Herbs: Basil, Lavender, Mint, Sage and Thyme

Berries: Blackberries, Strawberries, and Raspberries

Click image for a larger version.

The Xerces Society has put out a book, 100 Plants to Feed The Bees, which can be a guide to all of us. Happily, Fishers Island has many plants growing in the wild that pollinators love, but we all should encourage them to come into our gardens, even if we only plant containers that will attract them. It is also of vital importance, with our hotter and drier summers, that we provide a water source like a birdbath. But remember, the water should be replenished regularly to prevent the breeding of mosquitos, an insect that nobody wants to encourage! If each of us does our part, I am sure the number of native pollinators will increase on our Island.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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