Johnson Grass War Update

by Eric Neubauer

Finally, I’m seeing significant results in my attempt to convert about three acres to a modern bunchgrass prairie. It’s been five years since the last crop, wheat, grew here. After a couple of years, it became obvious that Johnson Grass was my greatest enemy because it could out compete all the
other plants leaving dense, impenetrable groves of nothing else. Herbicides weren’t an option because there were many native species coming up that I wanted to preserve. So, my only option was pulling up the Johnson Grass by hand. There were also several other non-native grasses, but nothing that would take over.

The first image is looking down the driveway. Instead of being lined with Johnson Grass, it’s lined with 5′ tall Long-spike Beardgrass.

The second image is looking to the side. Although the Beardgrass appears impenetrable, it’s possible to walk between the bunches. In the meantime, the wildflower seed bank has been gradually returning and filling in the gaps. Pinkladies and Frogfruit were some of the earliest species to arrive, but others have followed.

The third image is a place where wildflowers have taken over. That area was entirely Johnson Grass
three years ago, and now only requires occasional attention to remove any new Johnson Grass seedlings. Not shown is the Poverty weed and Mesquite that has sprung up to give the landscape texture. It’s apparent I’ll need to thin out the Mesquite eventually.

Water Needs for Plants and Our Wild Friends

by Donna Lewis

Right now it’s 7:00 am and go outside to put up the bird feeders and fill up all the bird baths.

The birds are eagerly awaiting my food offerings. The mosquitoes are waiting just for me! I have to wear long sleeves that I hate.

This is delicious!

Anyway, we need to remember our birds, bunnies and other critters need water that is accessible.  Putting it under some shade helps keep yhrm a little cooler. Of course, that also gives the cats a place to hide and pounce. So, use common sense about water placement.

Bird baths should be varied in height. That gives everyone a chance to drink. Make sure to put a stone in the bottom so the babies don’t drown.

I fill all (10) of them every day.  And people wonder why I have so many birds.

So many feeders!

In the evening as a treat, I will put out a sprinkler in one area and leave it on for about 30 minutes.   The birds go crazy and call all their friends.  It’s great to watch them.

The morning is also a good time to water the plants in your garden.

Remember if you use sprinklers, you wash off the nectar on a plant which takes hours to replace. So, watering under the leaves and flowers is the best.  I know it is not always possible to do that.   In that case rotate the watering, so there is always nectar on some of the plants.

Helpful rocks!

Don’t forget to place your hummingbird feeders under a shaded area and change it out every three days when it is hot. It’s always hot here in Texas.

I hope these tips help.

Remember who you are gardening for.

Lemon Mint or Purple Horsemint

by Donna Lewis

Many of us who own some acreage probably are seeing this unusual plant right about now It goes by several names: Beebalm, Plains Horsemint, Lemon Beebalm, or Purple Horsemint, while its Latin name is Monarda citriodora.  Wow…who knows what to call it?  I don’t think the botanists can agree.  Myself, I like easy things to remember.

I also have noticed that after looking in four different reference books from my own library, it can look very different from the photo in each book.  That is confusing for sure. I think the soil has something to do with the shade of pale yellow and the purple color.

This one at Donna’s house is quite purple.

This plant likes dry, sandy, or rocky soils. It grows one to three feet tall with leaves up to two to three inches long and is a member of the mint family. It is an important pollinator plant here in Texas.

This one is from the Walker’s Creek area near Cameron and is more pink. Photo by Sue Ann Kendall.

So don’t mow it down, it’s NOT a weed.

Have you done something for the planet today?

What a Treat for the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

Every inch of the Wildscape was explored recently at a Mason Bee program for Milam Home School Co-op. Forty-one people attended, which included twenty-six children and seven Master Naturalists. After the bee houses were assembled, everyone took off to all parts of the garden observing butterflies, hummingbirds, and spiders.  The children enjoyed refreshments, hide and seek, and receiving goody bags and nature books.

The parents were interested in building their own Wildscapes and want to return for free native plants. We enjoyed ages from baby to teens and hope to spend more time with them at the Wildscape.

Do You Have Milkweed in Your Garden?

by Donna Lewis

I took some photos today even though it was very windy.

Most of the Monarchs have already come through here in Central Texas and are on their way North.  I am seeing one or two, but that is all.

So of course, just now the milkweed is blooming. Not a good situation for the Monarchs.

When the climate is off, the plants are off. And when the plants are off, so are the insects.

If you have been a lifelong gardener or a bird watcher, you have watched this scenario take place.  Observing the natural world is better than reading a book on nature.

So, now what should we do?

All I can think of is to try to plant nectar plants that bloom earlier. I do not think that will work with the milkweed. though.

We can encourage others not to mow the native milkweed down and to leave it at least till the Monarchs have moved on, and the milkweed has seeded.

That would help a little.

If each of us did a little, great things could happen.

Remember who you are gardening for.