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Gardening for Pollinators and Wildlife – May 6, 2023

Table of Contents

Shannon’s Note

Thank you to everyone who purchased plants and visited with us at Lost River Cave’s Earth Day Native Plant Sale and the Pennyroyal Master Gardeners’ Spring Lawn and Garden Fair. We loved seeing all the interest in native plants and talking with you about growing them to attract pollinators and wildlife.

In late April and early May, many of our bees that are roughly “honey bee-sized” and up in the trees gathering nectar from tulip poplar flowers, black locust flowers, wild black cherry flowers, and other trees that bloom at this time of year. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

As I write this, I’m listening to a symphony of birds singing outside my open windows. Black and white warbler, blue-winged warbler, common yellowthroat, white-eyed vireo, Carolina wren, American goldfinch, yellow-breasted chat, northern cardinal, and many others are participating in the symphony. Occasionally a turkey will interject itself into the mix.

I think we have 3 turkey nests not far from the house and our front porch phoebe nestlings are growing huge. It won’t be long before the phoebes fledge and hopefully we’ll have a nice parade of turkey poults going through the yard eating bugs by the end of the month. We haven’t seen our first fawns yet, but that should be happening soon too.

In addition to the bird songs, the smell of black locust flowers is also drifting in my window. It seems like all the big trees (wild black cherry, black locust, and tulip poplar) bloomed at once this year. Our columbine are continuing to bloom and the wilder portions of our yard have lots of fleabane and butterweed blooming. This really is a fun time of the year to get out and explore the nature around us because so much is happening and changing every week. Being able to help others enjoy all of this in their own yards and communities is one of the reasons why we do what we do.

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Nursery Update

This has been a crazy year weather-wise! From a historic late December freeze, to a generally warmer than normal winter and early spring, to what seemed like a generally much cooler than normal April (especially for the low temps). It’s been a topsy turvy start to the growing season to say the least.

Our remaining overwintered plants are beginning to wake up. Also, with warmer temperatures on the way, we should be able to move this year’s seedlings outside where they can acclimate and grow faster. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

As we move into May, the temperatures appear to FINALLY be starting to warm up and stay warm. One thing about growing anything – from vegetables to native plants – Mother Nature likes to keep you hopping.

The overwintered plants are continuing to wake up and grow on their own schedule. Unfortunately, that’s not quite as fast as many of us would like, but that’s not something we can control. With the warmer temperatures, we’ll also be able to start moving our more sensitive seedlings out of the basement. We expect they’ll take off quickly once they are outside – they usually do.

However, the cooler April means that our milkweeds won’t be ready until June. Milkweed seedlings do NOT like 30 and 40 degree temperatures. Exposing young milkweeds that have been started inside to those temperatures will set them back, if not kill them. That’s why we had to wait to start milkweeds this year – we wanted to make sure we could provide you with the best plants possible. A few other species that we would normally have at this time of year are in a similar boat.

The slower start to the growing season has been frustrating for us, as well as for many of you. However, working with nature and the ups and downs that go with that is part of gardening with native plants. Thank you for understanding as we wait for the weather to warm up and the plants to mature enough that we can provide you with healthy, happy plants which will attract lots of pollinators and wildlife.

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Upcoming Sales and Events

We have two plant sales coming up in May. One at Perryville Battlefield State Park’s Springfest and one at Lost River Cave. In addition to selling plants, I’ll also be giving a presentation on Gardening for Native Bees at Springfest.

Details about each event and the native plants we know we will have available can be found by clicking on the links below. There will likely also be a few additional species that aren’t on the list but make a surprise appearance in limited quantities.

We cancelled our May pre-order deliveries in Bowling Green and Glasgow due to the slow growth of many of our species as a result of the cooler weather. Depending on how our plant inventory is doing, we are tentatively planning an early June pre-order delivery for Bowling Green and Glasgow. If we do an early June pre-order delivery, then we’ll post information about it on the Busy Bee Nursery and Consulting event list.

We are accepting pre-orders for Springfest (May 13) and Lost River Cave (May 20). Pre-orders aren’t required for those events, and we’ll have other plants available. However, we have limited room in the vehicles so we have to pick and choose what we bring. Pre-ordering ensures that we’ll have the exact species and number of those plants available if you already know what you want.

Click on an event below to find out what we will have available that day and how to place a pre-order if desired.

Availability is usually updated approximately a week before the event.

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Cross Pollination

For our friends in the Bowling Green area who are looking for species that we may not carry, the SoKY Wild Ones chapter will be having a native plant sale on May 13 at the Community Farmers Market (2319 Nashville Rd. Bowling Green, KY 42101). Wild Ones members will be selling extra plants that they’ve been growing in their gardens as a fundraiser for the chapter. Check out their Facebook page for information about the species they’ll have available.

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May Tasks When Gardening for Pollinators and Wildlife

  • If possible, mow your yard less frequently this month and every month during the growing season, but don’t worry about conforming to the hype of No Mow May. If you are in the Kentucky / Tennessee region, then we have lots of flowers available for pollinators at this time of year.
  • If you are having trouble with carpenter bees, then paint or stain any exposed wood in the area where you are having trouble. Then place a piece of plain, untreated pine lumber nearby.
    • The bees will choose the soft, untreated lumber over the freshly painted or stained wood.
  • If you are planning to use solarization to kill existing vegetation in order to put in a new garden spot, then now is the time to start the process.
  • If you put out hummingbird feeders, go ahead and do so. Hummingbirds have been spotted in the region for almost a month.
    • Be sure to clean your feeders properly and don’t use any red dye.
  • Native plants that have overwintered completely outside, can be planted at any time because they are acclimated to the cooler nighttime temperatures and inconsistent weather that we’ve been experiencing.
  • Wait until the nighttime temps are consistently above 50 degrees before planting native plants (or really any plants) that have been started as seedlings in a greenhouse / indoors or overwintered in a greenhouse.
  • Watch any bluebird or other nest boxes you may have for nesting birds.
    • Many of our resident or early migratory songbirds already have young in the nests.
  • This is swarm season for honey bees. If you find a swarm of honey bees on your property, call your local beekeeper (if you know one) or your local extension office (they’ll put in you touch with a local beekeeper).
    • Beekeepers are always looking for swarms and will pick them up for free.
    • Note: A swarm is different from a beehive located in a tree or a building – those you’ll probably have to pay to have removed.
  • Take time to enjoy the spring wildflowers, migrating warblers, and early fireflies.
  • If you want to learn more about gardening for pollinators and wildlife, growing native plants, or the plants and animals that can be found in our yards and communities, then check out our Backyard Ecology blog, podcast, and YouTube channel.
    • We’re constantly adding more content to help you learn about and enjoy the nature that is all around us.

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Busy Bee Nursery and Consulting

Helping you create the pollinator and wildlife habitat of your dreams, so you can enjoy your land and care for the plants and animals that also call your property home.

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