Month: March 2010

Help a little flutterby

beebalm709_edited Maybe it’s just my strange way, but I’ve always thought a butterfly should be called flutterby … think about it.  Then spend a few minutes contemplating what a shame it would be to not see butterflies fluttering by.  That’s what Monarch Watch hopes to prevent, at least for the troubled, beat down Monarchs.

Winter rain storms apparently hit the Monarch’s Mexico home pretty hard – something many of us can really relate to right now.  So far March has dumped 13.5 inches of rain on my southern Connecticut gardens – nearly 4 inches just today.  Unfortunately, Monarch’s don’t recover from heavy rains quite as well as humans – there are people who really watch this stuff – and a report in a local paper noted 50 to 60 percent of the Monarch breeding population might have been destroyed during winter rains.

The good people at Monarch Watch are asking gardeners and others for help by planting Monarch Waystations – places with lots of nectar producing flowers to feed Monarchs and other butterflies on their travels – and specifically for Monarchs, milkweed – the only plant Monarchs use as their nursery.

coneflower 'Green Envy' and visitor Black-eyed Susan This will be easy for me and anyone who wants to join in.  Butterflies love coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, bee balm, sedum, asters, and many other plants already growing in my gardens (good nectar sources).  But I’m going to offer more by planting milkweed in sunny spots along the edge of the woods … and you could too.  And while at it, try planting some of the larval host plants sought by other flutterbys.

Monarch Watch lists all kinds of other ways for gardeners, communities, and schools to get involved.  All you have to do is check it out.

If butterflies don’t catch your fancy, maybe your more of a bee person.  Then you must see Debbie’s post on The Great Sunflower Project.  And those who like both butterflies and bees will be happy to know many of the same flowers support both.

Bagging with BAGZ-IT

I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat … I have not received the following items free, nor have they been sent for my review.  The truth is I simply like my BAGZ-IT products and want to give credit where I think it’s due.  Here’s what I’m talking about.  This big vinyl scoop on wheels, the LG-BAGZ-IT and it’s “mini” sized sibling.

BAGZ-IT front   BAGZ-IT side

I bought my residential-size BAGZ-IT at the Connecticut Flower and Garden show three years ago.  It’s been great for garden-bed clean-ups and fall leaf collection – since it’s edge lays flat on the ground I can easily rake the millions of acorns our oak tress drop onto the lawn.  When the big green scoop is scooped full, you simply pick up the handle and roll the whole thing to your dumping area.  Because the entire unit is light-weight, I can easily rest the open edge against the upper edge of my welded-wire compost bins and pick up the wheeled end to dump the BAGZ-IT contents into the compost bin.  For things I don’t plan to compost, I simply wheel the loaded BAGZ-IT into the woods and use the same maneuver to empty contents onto piles there.

The light weight of the unit allows you to easily roll it over logs, up and down stairs, and over other uneven surfaces.  I must admit I was a little unsure the size of the wheels would allow heavy loads, but so far so good.  The manufacturer claims you can haul firewood in the BAGZ-IT, but I have not done so.  I’d rather save this handy-dandy tool strictly for gardening-related uses.  And I do wish I could stand it unit upright, but it’s not designed to do so.

It’s easy to store this 21” wide, 24” tall, 46” long unit along a garage or tool shed wall because it folds flat – try that with a wheelbarrow.  Still, the residential sized unit is a little too big to toss into the car when heading off to work away from home.

So at this year’s Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in February I picked up the mini BAGZ-IT.  Same tear-resistant vinyl, same wheels, also folds flat, but measures less than 18” wide and high, and 34” long.  When open, the mini holds 30 gallons of dry material, as opposed to 9 cu ft for the residential model.  The smaller size allows me to roll it into my perennial beds for early spring clean up, and the mini stands upright.  Plus it has a handy tool pouch on one side, closed with Velcro, to hold unused tools.  It also has a snapped strap to secure any long-handled tools you need to cart to a work site.  I caution you, though, remove any tools from the side pouch before doing any heavy dumping.  I nearly lost my favorite Hori-Hori knife when it fell out while I had the mini BAGZ-IT turned upside down.

If you need to study more photos than mine above, head to the BAGZ-IT website and scroll through the many photos there.  You can also order the bags there … unless you live in New Hampshire where a few retailers carry them, you can only get BAGZ-IT online or at a trade show.

I don’t often suggest products, but this is one set of tools that really help this aging-but-refuse-to-quit-heavy-gardening-body get jobs done.