You may find it hard to believe, but our political parties can occasionally agree on something. It happened seven years ago when the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the designation of one week each June as "National Pollinator Week" -- the Earth shook that day, my friends.
This year National Pollinator Week was last week, June 16-22. Oops, that leaves only today for you to get out there and pollinate. Better yet, leave that task to the bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other critters who are more effective pollinators.
An estimated 75 percent of all flowering plants rely on 200,000 species of animals, mostly insects, for pollination. I mention this because there has been so much concern of late about the decline in population of pollinators, especially bees.
So, what's the big deal? Well, more than 1,000 plants of economic importance as food, fiber and medicines require pollination to produce the goods. This includes many of the food-producing plants in our gardens.
By focusing on our little piece of turf, we can contribute to the preservation of pollinators on the larger scale.
How? Start by reducing use of pesticides. If it becomes necessary to apply pesticides, including natural pesticides, make the applications late in the evening when pollinating insects are less active. Also, create gardens of native flowering plants, or, at least, incorporate some native plants into existing flower borders.
Hey, if the U.S. Senate can come together to do something beneficial, we should be able to as well.
Perhaps we and the Senate can come together on these tasks:
n Hand pick Colorado potato beetles on potatoes and eggplant and deposit them into a container of soapy water. Also, check undersides of leaves for the yellow eggs of potato beetles and crush these. Simple tasks such as these reduce the need for pesticide application.
n Make additional plantings of sweet corn, summer squash, cucumber and green beans until early July.
n Thin seedlings of vegetable crops as per recommendations on the seed packets. Yes, this is a tough and painful process, but the remaining plants will benefit from the reduced competition. The crowding of vegetable plants can be as restrictive to growth as are weeds.
n Apply a low nitrogen fertilizer to rose bushes when the first flush of blooms begins to fade. Specialty rose fertilizers may be used, but a general garden fertilizer with an analysis such as 5-10-10 is OK. Read the product label for amount to apply. If in doubt, apply a small handful around each plant. So, what's a small handful? I couldn't find a small hand to measure, but one tablespoon per plant should do it.
n Consider planting Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) if you are a fan of lilacs and would like to extend the season of bloom. Japanese tree lilacs pick up where other lilacs leave off. They are now in bloom. Flower color is limited to creamy white and, though fragrant, it lacks the sweet scent of common lilacs. Still, it is has fewer problems than other lilacs and is a great choice where a small (20 to 30 feet tall) tree is needed.
n Apply mulch around plants in flower and vegetable gardens. As air temperatures rise and rainfall becomes spotty and less frequent, a mulch of straw, pine needles, dried grass clippings, buckwheat hulls or other coarse materials will keep soils cool and moist.
The Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners are conducting gardening classes again this year at Springside Park (874 North St. Pittsfield). Saturday, June 28, they'll present a class on "Gardening in the Shade" at the demonstration gardens behind the Springside House at 10 a.m. The class is free and lasts one to two hours. You can register or get more information by contacting Mary Ann Emery, (413) 743-4284, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim McCarthy, (413) 637-2940, email@example.com.