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.

Monthly Wildscape Workday

by Catherine Johnson

Photos by Patricia Coombs

Much was accomplished at our monthly workday.

Patricia, Donna, Cindy, Pamela, and Alan’s guest weeded the shade garden while Neal expanded the section he is in charge of.

Pamela, Donna and Patricia take a break.

Phyllis and Ellen planted new Milkweed, Liatris and Wild Bergamot.

Catherine, Ellen, and Phyllis have fun with the water hose.

Alan and Gene cleared excess Asters.

Clearing asters takes strength

Everyone took home native plants from the Wildscape.

Cindy sits down on the job, which actually makes weeding easier!

The best part was visiting with friends.

Rain and Gopher Holes

by Donna Lewis

Well , we prayed for rain and we got it! Tons of it and in a short amount of time.

Sadly, it was not a good thing at our place here in Central Texas.   It went into our barn, our well house, our front and back porch, and every inch of our pasture and my garden!

Thankfully, it did not get in the house.

We must have at least a million gophers that live under our property.  Lucky us. So, when tons of water go in those holes, it must come out somewhere.

So, falling from the sky and coming up from the ground, it did a number on the pollinator garden.  And wouldn’t you know it, it was really starting to shine.

This will take some work to repair. It would have been a much easier task when I was younger. But I will just do the best I can.  We never give up.

You never know what Mother Nature has planned.

The Butterfly Nursery

By Sue Ann Kendall

Today on my lunchtime walk, I was looking for butterflies. I walked along County Road 140 keeping my eyes open. Here are some that I found.

I also saw lots of uncooperative tiger swallowtails and black swallowtails, along with buzzy little fiery skippers, tiny dainty sulphurs, and two gorgeous question marks. They were too busy to photograph. It’s a great time of year for butterflies.

A question mark I saw recently at another part of our ranch.

Hmm, why do I have so many butterflies?

I’ll tell you why we have so many! We let the wildflowers grow! You won’t see so many on fields that have been sprayed to remove broadleaf plants. Luckily, I let the milkweed and it’s buddies grow away. I also encourage the Texas prairie parsley.

It’s yellow.

Today I was looking for butterflies on this plant, Polytaenia texana. I didn’t see any at first. But that’s when I realized there were at least a dozen caterpillars in this one plant.

Nom nom

Well, apparently the black swallowtails that were everywhere in March and April have reproduced.

The earlier instars look like this.

It is so much fun watching the caterpillars munching away. And I’m looking forward to seeing them as beautiful adults later!