Leave the Leaves…You Can Be Neat While Being Messy!

Well right now we are looking at our yards and thinking about how messy they look, from leaves everywhere to dead stems in the gardens. But turn your thinking around for a moment to the idea that this mess is vital to many of the creatures we love, such as songbirds, and those we don’t see but keep our yard healthy and resilient.  It’s much better to leave fallen leaves, branches, stems, and seedheads where they are rather than blowing, shredding, or raking them away. That organic matter is essential forage and cover for butterflies, moths, bees, salamanders, birds, and other creatures. It also insulates plant roots through the cold winter months and then decomposes to build up living soil that’s so important to a healthy ecosystem.

If you want to follow these healthy practices but also have your yard looking neat and cared for, you can do some of the things that have worked for me. My yard is a very visible place in a neighborhood, so I have been learning ways to strike a balance between leaving all of these valuable materials in place and looking neat. For my pollinator garden, I leave tall meadow plants standing, but rake away leaves from the edges where I have lower plants and mulch. I also rake the grass turf area. I keep these raked leaves on site in a compost area in back. Many of these plants such as coneflowers, sunflowers and asters look lovely standing in winter with frost and snow on them. For some stems that don’t stand up as well, I trim them and leave them in place in visible areas. Next spring, I will add mulch right over the top of this rich organic layer in areas I want to look neat.

Learn more about why it’s important to leave your yard “cleanup” until spring in this article from the Ecological Landscape Alliance.

It’s Fall…Think Pollinators

It’s nearly the middle of October, and though it seems like most plants are dying or becoming dormant, if you look closely at fields and roadsides you’ll see bees of all sizes as busy as summer on the many flowers still blooming. I don’t know about you, but I love to look at the natural beauty of Maine roadsides in the fall, with perfect patches of deep purple, white and pink asters, black-eyed susans and goldenrods. We have native fall wildflowers that are even sold for gardens since they are so striking, such as the purple New England Aster (in photo above). Even goldenrods (which contrary to what you hear don’t cause seasonal allergies),  which many think of as weedy have beautiful species and cultivars that look lovely in the garden. All of these plants provide absolutely essential late season food for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. Long grasses, shrubs, and unmowed pasture and crop field edges all help to provide what pollinators and other beneficial insects need.

We are starting a Pollinator Pathways project here in Waldo County, where you can let us know about your pollinator site (garden or even a field managed for wildflowers) and we will be creating a map to help folks create a patchwork of pollinator habitat to help support our many beneficial insects. And, our first site is already in place, at Wales Park in Belfast. It is also a demonstration, with labels on plants and pathways to explore. Check out our page on the park, and our new video series on planting for pollinators on our YouTube channel. If you visit Wales Park now, you can see bees of all sizes loading up pollen on native asters, goldenrods and also garden favorites like Zinnias and Cosmos. Next spring we’ll let you know how to submit your planting for Pollinator Pathways.

Now Available: Teacher Materials for 2020 Theme Where Would We BEE without Pollinators?

Download the materials for the National Association of Conservation Districts 2020 Theme on pollinators here. The District has a limited supply of printed copies, so please contact us to request these if you are ready to teach this theme, or would like to talk to our staff teacher about teaching about pollinators. We will be sending a sample packet of these materials and other resources to all K-8 teachers in Waldo County (look for yours in late October), and you can also request a packet from us on the contact form.

If you would like to participate in the 2020 poster contest on pollinators, see this link for more information, and contact us to get started.

Downloads

Notes:

The Educator’s Guide is for teachers of all levels, and the Pollinator Big Book is the “text” for all grades.

Activity books are one for each level 1-4: Level 1 is for Grades K-1, Level 2 is for Grades 2-3, Level 3 is for Grades 4-5, Level 4 is Grades 6 and up.

Educators_Guide

Pollinators_Big_Book

NACD_Pollinators_Level 1 Booklet

NACD_Pollinators_Level_2_Booklet

NACD_Pollinators_Level3Booklet

NACD_Pollinators_Level4Booklet

Pollinators_Placemat

Fish Lead Free Tackle Exchange Station at Unity Pond

As part of our Love Our Lakes program, we have erected our first lead tackle disposal receptacle at the boat launch at Unity Pond (Lake Winnecook). Lead tackle can be deposited in the receptacle and will be disposed of properly, and you can pick up free lead-free tackle in exchange. Just call our office on Tuesday or Wednesday to set up a time to come and select your free tackle. You can also get a fishing kit for children as a bonus. The program  isn’t necessarily a one-for-one exchange, and there is a great variety of  non-toxic tackle to try.

We hope to set up the stations around the county, so let us know if you know of a fishing hot spot on a large pond or lake that could use one.

Why get rid of lead tackle?

Lead commonly found in fishing tackle is highly toxic, and hazardous to humans, wildlife and the environment. Wildlife species are affected by ingesting lead fishing tackle, particularly the common loon. Loon bodies and behavior make them susceptible to lead poisoning.

What better time than right now to clean out your tackle box, making  fishing safer for you, your children, and Maine’s wildlife?