12 Plants to Entice Pollinators to Your Garden

By: Denise Ruttan, OSU

Consider adding some flower power to your landscape to bring in the buzz of pollinators to your garden.

“Floral abundance is one of the strongest ways to promote bee diversity in gardens,” said Gail Langellotto, the statewide coordinator for the Oregon State University Extension Service’s Master Gardener program. “Also, bees forage better for nectar and pollen in warm, sunny spots.”

A showy blend of flowers can charm birds and butterflies as well, she said. But which kinds of flowers should you choose? Langellotto recommends the following:

    • Lavenders: Bumblebees, carpenter bees, digger bees and large and small leafcutting bees collect the nectar of this evergreen shrub.
    • Pacific or coast rhododendron: Larval host for brown elfin and gray hairstreak butterflies. Hummingbirds, bees and Western tiger swallowtails collect the nectar of this evergreen shrub. Native to the Pacific Northwest.
    • Blueblossom: Larval host for pale swallowtail, California tortoiseshell and echo blue butterflies.. Bumblebees, carpenter bees, honey bees, digger bees and a variety of small native bees collect the nectar of this evergreen shrub.
    • Ocean spray: Larval host for spring azure, brown elfin and Lorquin’s admiral butterflies. Bumblebees and a variety of small native bees collect the nectar of this deciduous shrub.
    • Serviceberry: Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies collect the nectar of this deciduous shrub. Larval host for Weiddemeyer’s admiral butterflies. Native to the Pacific Northwest.
    • Russian sage: Honey bees, small carpenter bees and leafcutting bees collect the nectar of this perennial garden plant. The nectar also attracts hummingbirds.
    • Red-flowering currant: Important nectar source for early-season butterflies. Nectar also attracts hummingbirds. Perennial that is a native to the Pacific Northwest.
    • Zinnias: A wide array of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees collect the nectar. Annual garden plant.
    • Sunflower: Longhorn bees, sweat bees, leafcutting bees and bumblebees collect the pollen and nectar of this
      annual.
    • Salal: Larval host for spring azure butterflies. Bees collect the nectar on this groundcover. Native to the Pacific Northwest.
    • Catmint: Honey bees, bumblebees, carder bees and mason bees collect nectar and pollen from this perennial.
    • Milkweed: Monarch butterflies collect nectar and pollen and lay their eggs on this perennial wildflower. Nectar
      also attracts hummingbirds. Native to the Pacific Northwest.

Langellotto recommended using a variety of plants to attract diverse pollinators, including plants native to the Pacific Northwest.

“Native plants are fantastic hosts for butterfly larvae, which are completely dependent on native plants to reproduce,” she said. “For example, there’s a call for gardeners to plant more native milkweed, which is the host plant for migratory monarch butterflies. Without milkweed, monarchs can’t complete their life cycle.”

In addition to native plants such as milkweed, think about including some ornamental exotics as well in a pollinator-friendly garden, she suggested. For example, several studies in different areas of the country found that the exotic plants catmint and Russian sage are some of the most attractive garden plants for bees, Langellotto said. “Adult bees are much more indiscriminate than we previously thought and have been found to feed on the nectar and pollen of exotic ornamental plants quite a bit,” Langellotto said.

If you are gardening for pollinators, Langellotto advised against using broad-spectrum insecticides, particularly on plants that are in bloom, as well as systemic pesticides. “Systemic” means that the chemical can be absorbed by a plant and move around in its tissues. Broad-spectrum insecticides, which can include systemic insecticides, can kill or harm a variety of “good” insects, in addition to the target pest, she said. When mixed with water and poured on the soil around the base of the plant being treated, systemic pesticides can kill or harm insects for months or years to come, Langellotto said.

“If you’re having an insect issue, consult with your local OSU Extension office for options. Many plants are able to do just fine with low levels of insect damage. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of us adjusting our expectations and tolerating low levels of damage,” Langellotto said.


Egg Incubation

By: Nathan Herr, SWCD Conservation Specialist

At some point in every chicken raiser’s life, whether it is because of predator attacks, old age, or wanting that specific egg color or breed, there is a need for more or new chickens. Incubating eggs or using a hen to hatch eggs is a fun and easy project to undertake.

There are two options with hatching chicks, either using a “broody” hen, or using an electric incubator. Broody is a term used in the chicken world meaning a hen that is prepared to sit on a clutch of eggs to hatch out. These chickens are fairly easy to identify. When a chicken goes “broody” they will take a set of eggs (usually 4-10) and sit on top of them all day. She will leave her nesting spot once a day to get a quick bite to eat and drink and go right back to sitting on the eggs. After 21 days, chicks will hatch and she will take care of them until they are big enough to take care for themselves. Overall, this is the easiest method of hatching chicks; it is basically just letting the chickens do what they do. What’s the catch? It has become hard finding chickens that will want to brood. With big market hatcheries and egg production, broody hens were culled and selectively bred out of production. Big markets do not want hens to stop laying eggs to sit on them. There are specific breeds now that seem to want to mother and brood more than others, such as Silkies, but overall it could be hard to find a good consistent broody hen to hatch out chicks.

The second option for hatching is to use an egg incubator. For eggs to hatch, the eggs first need to be fertilized by a rooster. The eggs that are to be incubated should be no more than one week old and should be turned while waiting to go into the incubator. The eggs should be kept in a cool but not cold place (between 55 and 65 degrees). After procuring the number of eggs that you want to incubate, the process is fairly simple. Put the eggs into the incubator with the temperature and humidity already set then make sure to turn the eggs at least twice a day. The eggs need to be kept at a temperature of 99.5 degrees and at least 45% humidity for 17-19 days.

Depending on your incubator, there are some that regulate the temperature and humidity very well and will even automatically turn your eggs. Other incubators need to be checked regularly for temperature and humidity and you will need to manually turn each egg. Maintaining temperature and humidity is extremely important when incubating eggs. Naturally, the mother hen takes cues from nature and herself to either turn the eggs or to adjust the temperature. When you are using an incubator it is up to you mimic these natural responses.

After 18 days, turn the heat up in the incubator and stop turning the eggs. For the final 2-4 days eggs need to be at a temperature of 101.5 degrees and a humidity of at least 65%. By day 21 there should be some eggs hatching. Eggs can hatch anywhere day 19 to day 23. Once all the chicks that you think will hatch are fully out of their shells, move them to a heated brooder. If you have any questions about this or other related issues please contact Nathan at the SWCD or schedule a site visit with him to come out and help with your incubation concerns.


Intelligent Irrigation

By: Crystalyn Bush, SWCD Volunteer

This year we have decided to test out a new and very intriguing irrigation system in our garden. Last
year was our first real attempt at a vegetable garden and our goal was basically just to get some plants in the
ground and see if we could get them to produce anything edible. Our irrigation plan consisted of a garden
hose hooked up to our wellhouse which then had to be rolled out every day during the summer to hand-water
all of our plants. This was very time consuming and, it seemed to us, somewhat inefficient. This year we are
installing a system known as Aquajet designed and produced by Intelligent Irrigation llc. The system con-
sists of subsurface pressurized PVC pipes that deliver water right into the root zone. Pipes are placed 6 to 8
inches below the soil surface and spray water in horizontal, parallel directions so that your bed/garden is
watered uniformly. Other proposed benefits of this system are that it reduces water use by up to 80%,
aerates roots, reduces runoff, and delivers nutrients and fertilizers to roots more efficiently resulting in
greater plant health and growth.

Additionally this system is supposed to be simple to use and require very little time. We will have a
nozzle at the end of each of our two long beds that we turn on for several minutes to water and then turn off
again. If this sounds as good to you as it did to us, you may wish to look into the product more online or just
stay tuned for a review in next season’s newsletter!


Getting Garden Ready: The Basics on Preparing for Spring Planting

Depending on the size and complexity of your growing area, gardening can require quite a bit of time. That said, many people take great pride in their garden and derive a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment from literally harvesting the fruits of their labor. Although summer is still many months away, now is the perfect time to start planning and preparing for your garden. Below are a few helpful tips on how to get started and how to make sure you are ready for planting.

  1. Decide how much space you have to commit to your garden. Try to choose an area that gets a maximum amount of sunshine. The South side of your property will receive the most sun. If you live next to trees or taller structures be mindful of how much they will end up shading your garden.
  2. Dig up the top foot of soil with a pitchfork or rototiller. You will want to add in quality topsoil and compost before planting. You can check with your local gardening store to find out how much of each you need. If you are using raised beds, check the boxes for any damage and make necessary repairs. Check the soil quality. You can add peat moss to increase soil fluffiness. Check your soil’s pH. If it is low, you may want to add lime in the form of dolomite. Do this several week’s before planting. Finally, top off boxes with compost.
  3. Plan your garden. Order your seeds well in advance and read the instructions on the packets to find out how much spacing and light they require.
  4. Start seeds indoors 8—12 weeks before transplanting them outside. It is safe to transplant seeds after the last frost date for your area. You can find out your last frost date by looking it up online.
  5. Decide on an irrigation system. Make sure you consider the ultimate size of your plants before placing soaker hoses. If you decide on a subterranean irrigation system, this will obviously need to be installed prior to planting.
  6. Set poles and trellises for taller plants previous to planting the seedlings so as not to disrupt roots.

Attack of the ZomBees

Learn what to look for and what you can do to help stop the honey bees from Zombie Fly infestation.

zombeesThe Phorid Fly or Apocephalus borealis is actually native to the state of Oregon, but is only recently observed to make the jump to honey bees. It injects it’s larvae into a worker bee, and once the eggs inside hatch and begin to grow, the bee will make its final flight from the hive. Infected bees are observed showing unusual behavior, such as flying around at night and being attracted to light sources. The infected bees will typically die quickly and are commonly found underneath a source of light or within a light trap.

Recently, researchers at San Francisco State University and OSU have been conducting research to determine the extent of the ZomBee infestations and need the help of citizen scientists to collect data and bee samples throughout the country. The Columbia SWCD can provide assistance for Columbia County residents to set up light traps and get established as a Citizen Scientist. You can create your own account at www.zombeewatch.org, or bring your samples into the SWCD office (and we’ll handle them from there).

Download and build a ZomBee light trap in our ZomBee Booklet.


The Backyard – More Than Just a Sanctuary For You

Regardless of whether your backyard is a suburban lot, 100 acres of forest, or a small city terrace, anyone can turn their backyard into a refuge for wildlife by following any number of conservation practices. The following are suggestions from the National Wildlife Federation on how to add wildlife habitat value to your outdoor space.

  1. Provide Food for Wildlife: Plant native forbs, shrubs, and trees. These produce the nectar, pollen, seeds, and fruit that native wildlife relies on to survive. Since native plants are adapted to local climate and soil conditions, they tend to require minimal maintenance. In addition, consider hanging feeders for birds, squirrels, or butterflies to increase food availability and add fun activity to your yard.
  2. Supply Water for Wildlife: Global warming and human activities have led to reduced and sometimes polluted sources of water available to wildlife. If your property already contains a body of water such as a pond or stream take steps to ensure a healthy wetland area by checking that there is no point source pollution on your property (such as fertilizer leaking from a garden or oil from a car), allowing vegetation to stand in riparian areas (or replanting these areas if needed), and by managing surrounding areas to have minimal impacts on water quality and quantity. If no water supply currently exists on your property consider installing a rain garden or even a simple bird bath. If you are feeling really inspired and you have the space and funds, look into installing an eco-pond. They not only provide an important resource for wildlife and can require very little maintenance if installed properly, but can also look very attractive, potentially increasing your property value.
  3. Create Cover for Wildlife: Native shrubs, grasses, and trees provide important cover for animals looking to hide from predators, people, and severe weather. Brushpiles, downed trees, and other natural or man-made shelters can also make for excellent shelter for many species.
  4. Give Wildlife a Place to Rear Young: Many of the same features that are good for cover such as brushpiles and flowering meadows can be used for this purpose as well. Other useful structures include ponds where amphibians can lay their eggs, specially designed birdhouses, and caves where bats can roost.

Louisiana Swamp – Clatskanie, OR

LA swamp3

Last summer the Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partnered with the Lower Columbia River Watershed Council (LCRWC), the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership (LCEP), and several other conservation agencies to undertake an exciting restoration project in Clatskanie, OR. The area called “Louisiana Swamp” is a 45 acre property adjacent to the Westport Slough. Historically, this area was a freshwater marsh boasting a healthy wetland ecosystem that included several species of salmon. The property was also naturally bisected by Tandy Creek which is known to contain Coho, Chinook and Steelhead salmon populations.

In more recent years “Louisiana Swamp,” owned by the Lower Columba River Tree Farm LLC and managed by GreenWood Resources, Inc., has lost a lot of its ecological function and value. In the 1930s the Department of War (now the Army Corps. of Engineers) installed levees throughout the area to facilitate conversion of the land to agriculture. In the 1950s Louisiana Swamp was cleared, floodgates were installed, and Tandy Creek was rechannelized through the property in an effort to convert it to pastureland. Despite these modifications to the land, Louisiana Swamp turned out to be unsuitable for grazing. The levees were poorly built resulting in periodic flooding and a high groundwater table. At the time this project was identified, the tide gates were no longer functional and reed canary grass had taken over most of the pastureland.

The artificial changes to Louisiana Swamp resulted in a lack of floodplain connectivity, homogenization of habitat, and a loss of native species. The Louisiana Swamp is just one piece of important habitat that has been lost along the Lower Columbia River’s system of freshwater tidal floodplains as a result of diking, filling, and installation of flood control structures. Managers estimate that around 70% of natural scrub-shrub habitat in the area has been lost since the early to mid 1900s mainly to clear the way for agriculture. When the land manager, Rick Stonex, approached the SWCD for help with the property, the agency saw an opportunity to restore a crucial piece of habitat back to a natural and ecologically productive state. k The Louisiana Swamp project presented a great opportunity for conservation agencies to partner together to achieve a common goal. The LCRWC submitted an application for funds to the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership in February 2013. Funding for the project came from LCEP and an OWEB grant. LCRWC contributed labor and GreenWood Resources Inc. contributed some of the materials for the large wood placement and also agreed to perform future monitoring of the site. US Fish and Wildlife handled all federal permitting for the project and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife performed fish salvage.

In addition to the predicted ecological benefits of this project, there were economic advantages for the local community as well. The project was designed by Lower Columbia Engineering and implemented by a local construction company, Kynsi Construction. All of the large wood purchased for use in restoring in-stream habitat came from Columbia County and all of the native plants were purchased in Vancouver.

The restoration plan included the elimination of the two failing tidal gates that disconnected 35 acres of the property from the other 10 as well as from Westport Slough and prevented fish passage. The plan also called for the restoration of Tandy Creek to its original state, reconnection of floodplains, creation of off-channel habitat, improvement of in-stream habitat with large wood placements, and restoration of the native plant community. Agency workers believed that all of these actions would result in improved rearing and refuge habitat for juvenile salmon as well as quality habitat for many other wildlife species including waterfowl, neotropical and songbirds, beavers, reptiles, amphibians, and deer.

The project was completed in the summer of 2013 with the exception of the planting phase. Managers state that there are approximately 30,000 trees as well as an abundance of herbaceous plants that still need to be planted. With the natural hydrology of the site restored, faulty tidal gates removed, and landowners who are committed to the project’s future success, Louisiana Swamp is expected to become a sanctuary for many wildlife species struggling to survive in a landscape dominated by human manipulation.

For a visual tour, click here to view the project photos