We like to have several pots of plants on our front porch. A typical summer arrangement is a few different herbs and one tuberous begonia in memory of my grandmother who always grew tuberous begonias next to her breezeway. We grow three large pots of basil to make pesto to freeze in small batches for winter use with the rest of the pots full of parsley, dill and oregano. These add color and beauty to our porch and flavor in our kitchen while serving as a fall smorgasbord for caterpillars. This year, we were thrilled to find the dill has been pretty much decimated by a dozen or so caterpillars. Check out the highly entertaining 13 second video on our Facebook page of one of our lively caterpillars dining on dill at www.facebook.com/delawareswcd.
I know some of you are shocked to hear that we are happy our plants are being eaten into leafless stalks, but we truly are! Why are we so delighted? These caterpillars will turn into beautiful black swallowtail butterflies. We also grow common milkweed and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in the front flower beds and after careful searching, we found a monarch caterpillar. Pollinators, which include bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, small mammals, flies and beetles, are extremely critical to plants. According to the Pollinator Partnership, somewhere between 75 to 95 percent of all flowering plants on earth need help with pollination, and one out of every three bites of food you eat is produced through the assistance of pollinators.
Anyone can help pollinators, no matter how much or how little land you have. For the urban dweller, pots are an opportunity to try some different herbs to diversity your culinary experiences and feed the pollinators, too. Just be sure you grow enough so that you have enough to share. Suburbanites have a bit more space and can create attractive flower beds and maybe even a pollinator friendly tree or two. Rural residents expand their creativity to more pots, more flower beds, and more trees. Delaware County agricultural producers can get in on the action too by calling the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service at 740-362-4011 to learn about its special projects for honey bees and monarchs. Qualified applicants may apply for financial assistance for these programs by Oct. 19. No matter where you live, an amazing resource is the free copy of Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners, which can be downloaded from www.pollinator.org by clicking on the resources tab at the top of the webpage and entering your zip code. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has several divisions with extensive resources on plants, trees, shrubs, wildlife, prairies that may be of interest to you. Go to ohiodnr.org and visit Wildlife, Forestry, and Natural Areas and Preserves to learn all you can.
In the meantime, Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District is serving as a collection site for milkweed seed pods from now through early October. This effort is part of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative. Since the collection began in 2015, volunteers have collected approximately 5,000 gallons of common milkweed seed pods totaling more than 22 million seeds. The seeds are cleaned and sown by the Ohio Department of Transportation onto conservation corridors along highways. Please collect with the following in mind:
• Common milkweed or swamp milkweed pods only
• Only pods that are dry and brown-gray with center seams that pop under gentle pressure.
• Use paper bags to avoid the development of mold
• Drop off is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 557 A Sunbury Road in Delaware. Please enter our parking lot from Bowtown Road.
The Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District has a wealth of information on its website at www.delawareswcd.org and you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We hope to see you in our office soon with your milkweed pods.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.