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All posts for the month July, 2014

By Lori Athey, Habitat Outreach Coordinator

It is high summer now and my early summer flowers are looking a bit tired while the late summer/fall show has yet to begin. Nonetheless, there is a lot of wildlife activity in my garden right now. The pollinators are all over the Echinacea/Purple Coneflower, Coreopsis, Butterflyweed and Beebalm, tired-looking though they may be. However, the big story right now in the habitat garden is happening in the leaves: that giant munching sound you hear is the caterpillars feeding.

Bees nectaring on Echinacea, purple coneflower.

Bees nectaring on Echinacea, purple coneflower.

If you have read University of Delaware Professor Douglas Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home”, you already know that most (about 96%) of our songbird species need insects as part of their diet. Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) caterpillars are a large diet component of insectivorous birds. Summer is prime Lepidoptera season both for caterpillars and mature adults. Some of the best plants for supporting caterpillars, and thereby birds, also provide nectar and pollen for other pollinators, fruits or nuts for the birds, insects and other critters, shelter, nesting material and good places to raise babies.

This big juicy caterpillar could be food for a hungry bird in your garden.

This big juicy caterpillar could be food for a hungry bird in your garden.

So here are a few plant superstars to try in your wildlife garden:

Do you have room for a tree? Oak (Quercus species) trees are champion providers for native caterpillars at 518 species, but they also provide pollen in the spring for the bees, acorns in the fall and winter for squirrels and other critters, as well as shelter and places to raise babies for all sorts of birds, insects and mammals. Especially lovely specimens for your garden are the Willow Oak (Q. phellos), Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea) and Swamp White Oak (Q. bicolor).

This northern pin oak will provide great wildlife value to your landscape, as well as fall color.

This northern pin oak will provide great wildlife value to your landscape, as well as fall color.

Do you have a native Cherry Tree? Our native cherries and plums (Prunus species) support 429 native caterpillar species. They also provide pollen and nectar in the spring and fruit in the summer enjoyed by both insects and birds. In addition to the Wild Black Cherry (P. serotina), others to try include the American Plum (P. americana), and for your beach home, the Beach Plum (P. maritima).

This American plum is a fine plant to add to your backyard habitat for native pollinators, fruit-eating birds, as well as insects that will eat the leaves, providing more food for birds.

This American plum is a fine plant to add to your backyard habitat for native pollinators, fruit-eating birds, as well as insects that will eat the leaves, providing more food for birds.

Don’t have room for a large tree? Try one of our native Dogwood (Cornus species) trees or shrubs. Not only do these plants offer pollen/nectar, fruits and foliage for the critters, they also are very attractive as landscape plants with lovely flowers, pretty fruit and attractive fall foliage color. Try our common Flowering Dogwood (C. florida), or one of the large shrubs such as Redosier Dogwood (C. serecia) or Silky Dogwood (C. amomum).  Another superstar shrub is the Blueberry (Vaccinium species), which supports 286 species of caterpillars. Just like the others, it also provides nectar and pollen for the bees, and fruits relished by the birds but in a much smaller size, including dwarf selections. It too has pretty spring flowers, attractive fruit and lovely fall color. Plant several named varieties for the best fruit set.

Here, a Unicorn Caterpillar feeds on a blueberry bush.

Here, a Unicorn Caterpillar feeds on a blueberry bush.

We also have some superstar herbaceous flowering plants. Members of the Aster Family (Asteraceae) are standouts for supporting Lepidoptera caterpillars with their foliage, especially Goldenrods (Solidago), Asters (Eurybia, Symphyotrichum), perennial Sunflowers (Helianthus) and the butterfly favorite, Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium). Some are just beginning to bloom now while others will bloom in early and late fall, providing an important source of late-season pollen for the pollinators, as well as seeds for the birds.

A Meadow Fritillary feeds on nectar from a blooming goldenrod, which will begin blooming in early August.

A Meadow Fritillary feeds on nectar from a blooming goldenrod, which will begin blooming in early August.

So plant some of these superstars in your garden and then put out the all-you-can-eat buffet sign for your birds and critters!

By Dan O’Brien, Community Supported Agriculture Farmer

Well, summer is finally here and the vegetables growing in the CSA at Coverdale Farm Preserve are loving the sun. With all of this sunlight and warm weather comes lots of wonderful produce. The CSA farm team has been working incredibly hard planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting all sorts of different vegetables that our CSA members absolutely love. Some of the most popular vegetables that we have been growing are the kale, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.

Volunteers and staff love seeing all the summer produce, and our members enjoy eating it!

Volunteers and staff love seeing all the summer produce, and our members enjoy eating it!

With all of the different varieties of produce growing it is hard to pick just one favorite. I for one am absolutely loving all of the cucumbers that have been growing in our hoop house. These cucumbers are grown vertically with a vine clip trellising system. This system enables us to maximize the space inside the hoop house and grow hundreds of pounds of cucumbers in a relatively small space. We also use this vine clip trellis system in the tomato high tunnel house. In this house, which is kind of like a greenhouse without heaters, we have over 300 tomato plants all clipped up and producing lots of fruit. Having the tomatoes and cucumbers planted inside the houses, we are able to plant them much earlier in the spring than all of the summer crops that are planted outside in the field. The houses keep the plants warm and protect them from frost.

Eat More Kale.

Eat More Kale.

At this point in the season we are renovating the field, removing old spring and early summer crops and getting ready to plant lots of our fall crops. These fall crops include cool weather loving plants like lettuce, broccoli, collard greens, kohlrabi, and cabbage. One of the most important things to consider with the CSA is that we must always be thinking about the future. It takes time for the plants to grow and mature and this is a process that can not be rushed. Proper planning helps make the harvest bountiful for all of our CSA members.
During these warm summer months please remember to drink plenty of water and to eat more vegetables.

Organic Coverdale Farm produce is available for sale on Farm Fun Day every Wednesdays, noon to 2:30pm, and third Saturdays of the month, 8-11am for $20 per box.  Stop by and see the farm animals and take home a box of veggies!

Farmer Dan

Summer Camps are becoming CSA farmers this summer as well!

Summer Camps are becoming CSA farmers this summer as well!