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2 SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2011

TABLE OF

CONTENTS

Facts for Earth Day . . . . . . . . .2 Local woman teaches about ‘scrap’ gardens . . . . . . . . . . . .4 As recyclers, worms are top of the compost heap . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Nebraska has plenty of wind power potential . . . . . . . . . . . .5 NP citizens can now utilize wind energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Geothermal heating now everywhere . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Managing your lawn and landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Neb. gas provider runs fuel sale on earth day . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 Butterfly gardening . . . . . . . . .10 Gardening with humus . . . . . .11

LIVING GREEN 2012

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Facts for Earth Day Collecting April 22, 2012, marks the 42nd Waste n $1.6 billion anniversary of Estimated revEarth Day, a day intended to inspire enue for “hazardous waste awareness and treatment — raappreciation for the dioactive Earth’s natural waste” in 2010 environment. The for U.S. employday came from re- er firms was up action to a massive 36.0 percent from 2009. oil spill in waters Source: 2010 near Santa BarAnnual bara, Calif., in 1969. Service Survey (www.cenIn honor of Earth sus.gov/ Day and Earth services/sas/data_ Week (April 16-22), summary56.html) n $715 million here are some Estimated revenue for Census Bureau statistics pertaining “residential nonhazardous recyclable colto energy and the lection services” in 2010 environment. for U.S. employer firms was up 26.5 percent from 2009. Source: 2010 Service Annual Survey (www.census.gov/services/sas/data_summary56.html) n $2.5 billion Estimated revenue for “building remediation services asbestos contamination” in 2010 for U.S. employer firms was up 22.8 percent from 2009. Source: 2010 Service Annual Survey (www.census.gov/serv-

ices/sas/data_summary56.html)

Heating and Cooling the Home n 2.2 million Estimated number of occupied housing units across the country heat-

ed by wood in 2010, which is less than 2 percent of all homes. Source: 2006-2010 American Community Survey five-year estimates, Table B25040. (factfinder2. census.gov/ faces/nav/jsf/ pages/index. xhtml) n 38,010 Estimated number of occupied housing units across the country heated by solar energy in 2010. Source: 2006-2010 American Community Survey five-year estimates, Table B25040. (factfinder2.census. gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/ index.xhtml) n 57.0 million Estimated number of occupied housing units across the country heated by utility gas in 2010, which is about half of all homes. Source: 20062010 American Community Survey five-year estimates, Table B25040. (factfinder2.census.gov/f aces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml)

Please see FACTS, Page 3


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FACTS

n 16.1 minutes Estimated average from Page 2 time workers 16 years and older in North Dakon 88 percent ta spent getting to work Estimated percent of newly built single-family in 2010, the shortest homes across the coun- commute time in the nation. Source: 2010 Amertry with air-conditioning ican Community Survey in 2010. In 1974, it was (www.census.gov/news48 percent. Source: room/ 2010 Characteristics of New Housing (www.cen- releases/archives/amerisus.gov/const/C25Ann/sf can_community_survey_acs/cb11-158.html) totalac.pdf)

Commuting to Work

n 25.3 minutes Estimated average time for workers 16 years and older across the country spent getting to work in 2010, up from 25.1 minutes in 2009. Source: 2010 American Community Survey (www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/ american_community_su rvey_acs/cb11-158.html) n 31.8 minutes Estimated average time for workers 16 years and older in Maryland spent getting to work in 2010, the longest commute time in the nation. Source: 2010 American Community Survey (www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/ american_community_su rvey_acs/cb11-158.html)

Working in the Nuclear and Forestry Fields n 41,502 Number of workers employed in nuclear electric power generation across the U.S. in 2009. They had an average salary of $110,355. Source: 2009 County Business Patterns (censtats.census.gov/cgibin/cbpnaic/cbpsect.pl) n 53,003 Number of workers employed in forestry and logging across the U.S. in 2009. They had an average salary of $35,127. Source: 2009 County Business Patterns (censtats.census. gov/cgi-in/cbpnaic/cbpsect.pl)

Building a House n 2,392 square feet The average size of a

LIVING GREEN 2012 single-family house built in 2010, down from 2,438 square feet in 2009. Source: 2010 Characteristics of New Housing (www.census. gov/construction/chars/h ighlights.html) n $272,900 The average sales price of a new singlefamily home in 2010, up from $270,900 in 2009 but down from $313,600 in 2007. Source: 2010 Characteristics of New Housing (www.census. gov/construction/chars/h ighlights.html) n 9,000 The number of multifamily buildings built across the U.S. in 2010. Of these, 62 percent had at least five units. Source: 2010 Characteristics of New Housing (www.census.gov/construction/chars/highlights.html)

Watching Nature’s Fury n 36.8 million The 2010 Census population (as of April 1, 2010) of the coastal portion of states stretching from North Carolina to Texas the area most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. Approximately 12 percent of the nation’s population live in these areas. Source:

2010 Census (factfinder2.census.gov) n 15 The number of hurricanes to hit Florida’s Monroe County from 1960 to 2008, the most in the country. The 2010 population of 73,090 was down 8.2 percent from 2000. Lafourche Parish in Louisiana and Carteret County in North Carolina have each seen 14 hurricanes from 1960 to 2008. Lafourche’s population has risen 7.1 percent over the past decade while Carteret’s population has risen 11.9 percent. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coastal Services Center (www.nhc.noaa. gov/pastall.shtml)

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2011

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4 SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2011

LIVING GREEN 2012

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Area woman teaches about ‘scrap’ gardens By HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Waste not. Want not. That’s the philosophy of a local woman who is showing others how they can be resourceful and save money during tough economic times. Instead of buying them in a grocery store, Kathy Jacobsen saves the scraps from fruits and vegetables and uses them to grow more. She teaches trash can gardening workshops throughout the community. It’s something she learned about last year. “David Lott, out at the West Central Research and Extension Center got me started

on it,” she said. “I hadn’t heard about it before, but I found it quite interesting. I had no idea things would grow like that.” Jacobsen cuts the tops off of carrots, beets and other vegetables and replants them in flowerpots. Sometimes she adds hormones to make them grow faster. “I started a pineapple last year, and it’s doing well,” she said. “Practically anything that has a seed can be grown that way. Beans, sweet potatoes, ginger roots, avocadoes and mangoes all can be. Some of them just take a little longer and you have to

You can still sign up for your curbside bin!

be patient with them.” Jacobsen conducted her first trash can gardening workshop during a Gardens and Gables Tour last summer. The annual event raises money for the North Platte Public Library Foundation. Since then, she has given demonstrations to school children, garden clubs and anyone else who has asked her. “It’s a good way to teach kids how plants grow,” said Jacobsen. “For the adults, it’s a good way to save money because they’re not wasting stuff.” People can request a workshop from Jacobsen by calling 534-5640.

Kathy Jacobsen hands Carson Erbert, 3, of North Platte a bean plant in a cup as Carson’s mother, Meredith Erbert, looks on. Jacobsen recently taught trash can gardening at the North Platte Area Children’s Museum as part of an Earth Day celebration. Heather Johnson / The North Platte Telegraph

As recyclers, worms are top of the compost heap By HEATHER JOHNSON hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

They litter the sidewalks after a rainstorm and are great for fishing, but who knew worms could be so good at recycling? Kathy Jacobsen of North Platte uses earthworms for vermicomposting, which is the process of turning organic waste into black, soil-like, nutrient-filled humus that can be spread on gardens and flowerbeds. According to her, it’s a good way to recycle food scraps, leaves and paper products. “Humus enriches the soil, increases moisture retention, improves structure and provides a good environment for beneficial soil organisms,” said Jacobsen. traditional Unlike composting, vermicomposting can be done indoors. “Some people might not like that though,” said Jacobsen. “The worms put out an awful odor.” She said the creatures are effective because they speed up the composting process, aerate the material they are in and add nutrients and enzymes from their di-

gestive tracts to the finished product. “It’s easier than regular composting because you don’t have to turn the material all the time,” said Jacobsen. “The worms are constantly turning it for you.” Jacobsen said red worms are the best to use, partly because they work fast. A red worm, also known as a red wiggler or manure worm, is capable of eating and expelling its own weight on a daily basis. “They are night crawlers, but are a smaller breed,” she said. They are common in leaf piles, manure and other decomposing materials, and are a good indicator of fertile soil because their presence indicates a high organic matter content and a lack of toxic substances. “One would think they’d be easy to find, but they’re not,” said Jacobsen. “That’s because when the material they are in begins to dry out, they move.” She recommended keeping the worms in a dark container or covering a clear container with construction paper.

“I kept mine in a plastic one with pullout drawers,” said Jacobsen. “They will eat right through cardboard. I also put a mister on the back of the food they like to keep it moist.” Jacobsen said a small bin of red worms would churn out several pounds worth of humus, which can be used for planting within two to three months after it’s created. “There’s a bit of a wait because it has to dry out a little,” said Jacobsen. “If it’s put on when it’s real fresh, the plants will get too hot.” Another benefit to red worms is they reproduce quickly. Although immune from self-fertilization, earthworms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sexual organs. According to Jacobsen, fertilized eggs develop in about three weeks, and eggs typically contain at least two worms. It takes three months for them to become sexually mature and able to begin their own breeding cycle. Jacobsen teaches vermicomposting classes to anyone interested in them. She can be reached at 534-5640.


LIVING GREEN 2012

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Neb. has plenty of wind power potential By ANDREW BOTTRELL abottrell@nptelegraph.com

Fourth quarter numbers from 2011, released by the American Wind Energy Association, shows that Nebraska is not a Top 10 wind energy creator, in terms of percentage of total energy produced in the state. Yet, a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2010 shows that Nebraska has the fourth most wind energy potential in the country with a possible 3,540,370 gigawatt hours of wind energy each year. “Unlike [wind energy production leader] Texas, we have a very small population, therefore we have a very small load,” said David Rich, sustainable energy manager for the Nebraska Public Power District. “The wind that is potentially developed, if it is all developed in the state it is enough energy to supply 90 percent of the United

States. That being said, wind is a variable resource. So, there are days across the state that the wind doesn’t blow. If you were relying on that, there would be days of blackouts. The main factor is the small amount of load.” For Nebraska to fully experience the power of wind, he said it would take some help from the federal government in terms of infrastructure legislation, similar to legislation that helped spurn the growth of ethanol. He said opening up transmission lines and bolstering infrastructure would help wind-heavy states, like Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Iowa, sell more power to southern states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama that rely heavily on coal and natural gas production. That, he said, would also lower costs of energy for other states. “Wind energy is relatively cheap compared to the off-shore energy,”

he said. “Nebraska utilities are buying it for 3.54 cents per kilowatt hour. Compare that to offshore wind that is being produced in the 1820 cents per kilowatt hour.” NPPD’s goal is to have 10 percent of Nebraska’s energy needs met by new renewable energy resources by 2020. NPPD is currently utilizing four wind energy facilities in the state at Ainsworth, Elkhorn, Laredo Ridge, north of Bloomfield, and Springview. All four are partner efforts with other area public power districts. NPPD plans to The Associated Press have three more farms complete in the next Snow blankets the San Bernadino Mountains above wind farms near Palm Springs, year — two near Broken Calif., on April 14. A recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Bow and one near shows that Nebraska has the fourth most wind energy potential in the U.S. Crofton. Rich said by the end of 2012, if all three projects come on line, that number will reach 6 percent, which he said does not include existing hydro power that NPPD owns. He said Please see WIND, Page 6

5810 2nd Ave. • Kearney, NE • 308-237-2521 www.cameradr.com


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LIVING GREEN 2012

NP citizens can now utilize wind energy

By ANDREW BOTTRELL abottrell@nptelegraph.com

Citizens in North Platte now have new, greener way to combat those high energy bills. Through a conditional use permit, citizens can construct small wind energy generators Final approval for the conditional use permit availability was given by the city council on April 3, and the law will go into effect on May 3, said planning coordinator Judy Clark. “They would have to file in my office and get approval from the planning commission and the city council,” Clark said. The ordinance came about, because Clark had received inquiries in the past, though she said no one has submitted an application yet.

“[We wanted] to keep up with environmentally conscious community members,” Clark said. “Call here, stop by here, before your put one up. We’ll walk you through the process.” According to the new regulations, anyone wishing to build a tower on a half acre to one-acre plot is limited to an 80-foot tower. On lots bigger than an acre, there is no height limitations, except as imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The systems cannot exceed 50 decibels, and all small wind turbines must be approved by the Emerging Technologies program of the California Energy Commission or any other small wind certification program recognized by the American Wind Energy Association. The city will offer two types

of permits, one for a free-standing structure, and one for a structure attached to a home, or a garage. Applications and complete regulations are available at Clark’s office, at City Hall, 211 West Third Street. In 2011, Adams Middle School in North Platte began the process to install a 33-foot wind turbine on top of a new street lamp, which has not been completed. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. leads the world in the production of small wind turbines, which are defined as having rated capacities of 100 kilowatts and less. AWEA says they expect the market to expand in the next 10 years. The state of Nebraska does offer a renewable energy tax credit for individuals, that includes wind power. To learn more about energy tax credits in the state of Nebraska, call the Nebraska Energy Office at 402-471-2867, or go to their web site at www.neo.ne.gov.

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WIND from Page 5

that the Omaha Public Power District, a district they work closely with, has a similar goal for Nebraska’s needs. Currently, NPPD has 135 megawatts of power generated by the four active plants, and the three proposed plants would increase the companies wind energy megawatt output to 232. The year 2012, he said would be a banner year for wind-generated power construction, because the federal Production Tax Credit extended to companies will expire at the end of the year. “[The tax credits] are very significant,” Rich said. “They can pay for 35 percent of a typical wind farm. Without those, in 2013 and be-

yond, it will be a significant increase [in costs]. Although there are record levels in construction in 2012, 2013 may be dead across the entire U.S. NPPD took advantage of that, and that’s part of the Broken Bow II project, to try and get one more installed before the tax credits end.” Increasing wind energy production will also help NPPD decrease its carbon footprint. Currently, 40 percent of NPPD’s power production is carbon free, and that number could increase with both more wind, and more nuclear energy. Rich said NPPD’s board of directors will vote later this year on whether or not to expand their Cooper Nuclear facility near Brownsville.


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LIVING GREEN 2012

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Geothermal heating is now everywhere From schools to homes, ‘green’ heating and cooling is more accessible than ever By DIANE WETZEL dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

Among the many options for going greener in today’s world where consumers are becoming more aware of the high price of using fossil fuel, geothermal heating and cooling is now, more than ever a viable option. Geothermal heating, sometimes called ground-source conditioning, uses water to heat and cool instead of air. “It’s much more effi-

cient,” said Steen Nichols of A-J Sheet Metal in North Platte. “Water is a better conductor to take heat away or add it.” The earth absorbs the sun’s heat and stores it below ground level. “Ground water is always about 55 degrees, with little fluctuation,” Nichols said. Ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. Geothermal heat pumps use the tempera-

ture of the earth as an exchange medium instead of outside air temperatures, making the most out of unused energy. A geothermal system uses a loop system to pull warmer temperatures from the ground and move it to structures during the colder months and push warm air out during warmer months. “We’ve been installing geothermal systems since the 1970s,” Nichols said. “It is coming back in popularity now because there is a 30 percent tax credit for putting it in your house.” The current green movement has generated a lot more publicity

and made geothermal heating more accessible, he said. Geothermal heating and cooling was installed at North Platte High School when it was built in the early 2000s. Four years ago, it was installed at Madison Middle School. “Using geothermal heating certainly takes us in a different direction in harvesting energy,” said North Platte Public School district business manager Stuart Simpson. “When we are drawing up water from the ground and then dumping it back for our heating and air conditioning, it does become more energy efficient,”

Simpson said. “We are creating a more climate controlled atmosphere that helps throughout the school. For the most part, we are pleased with it.” Geothermal systems may not be for everyone. “The efficiencies with geothermal are very good, but there are some peripheral issues,” said CJ Lines of Snell Services Inc. “The loop fields can be tough, and there are issues about where you can drill wells and places where you can’t.” The cost of installation of geothermal is higher but costs are recouped fairly quickly, he noted. “As we get into better efficiency gas furnaces,

those at 90-95 percent efficiency, that gap closes more quickly,” he said. “I take things on a case by case basis as there is no real cookie cutter answer. Customers are going to buy what they can afford.” There are areas where geothermal won’t work, Nichols said. “It depends on how easy it is to access water,” he said. “We have different ways of doing that. We replace existing systems with geothermal and install geothermal in new buildings. We do have a website for people interested in learning more about it, a www.ajgeothermal.com.”


LIVING GREEN 2012

8 SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2011

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Managing your lawn and landscape By CAROLINE SABIN Telegraph correspondent

For landscaping to have a comprehensive effect, the planning can’t be done through isolated decisions. That was the resounding message during the first Lawn and Landscape School held Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. The event drew participants from areas up to 180 miles from North Platte. The 30 participants came from a range of landscaping interests that included landscaping businesses, nurseries, sod farms and groundskeepers from municipal parks, cemeteries and golf courses, in addition to private property owners. The three-day school encompassed the topics of trees, turf and plants, yet addressed the symbiotic relationships between the three that become part of the life balance of the landscape. “Landscapes are never static. They are always involved in change,” said David Lott, Lincoln-McPherson Extension Horticulturalist and Landscape school instructor. “These sessions are meant to build skills, knowledge and the realization of how much landscape needs are inter-related.” Rachel Allison, district forester, spoke to the group during the first day sessions,

File photo

which included information about soil properties; tree selection, planting and pruning; tree diseases, pests, and disorders. She stressed how a landscape can be more effectively planned with some insight to the specific growth characteristics and needs of the plants, trees and turf involved. If initial planning is made with those considerations in mind, then over time, input costs will actually be lower. The early sessions dealt with landscape maintenance and abiotic disorders in landscape plants. David Lott presented information about pruning various types of

plants. In trees, if the pruning needs become excessive, it might be an indication that the tree may not be in good health. “If there are lots of suckers around the base of the tree, it is a sign that the tree roots are sending up an S.O.S.” said Lott. “They are sending up another plant to survive.” Lott also commented on the pruning practice of topping trees, which is like cropping the tops off at one level. It is a practice that is often done around power lines. The tree’s response to that loss is excessive growth, but the new growth is often very fragile. It is better to avoid

planting trees near power lines. When making decisions about tree placement, first be aware of the tree’s growth characteristics and expected mature height. This is also the case when considering the spacing of trees. Trees that grow together can’t be properly pruned, so cramped branches of the tree become unsightly. Eventually if one of the trees must be removed, it becomes a case of needing to remove all the trees. Correct tree spacing is important for the above ground space as well as the underground space needed for roots. Trees should not be planted too close to any-

thing that presents a barrier because the branches and especially the roots need sufficient space for correct growth. Abiotic disorders are those caused by non-living influences. Those plant diseases are non-infectious and nontransmittable, yet comprise 85 percent of the plant disease problems. These outside influences often put the plant in distress or create an injury that allows disease to be introduced. Stress or injury to the plant can come from soil changes due to soil compaction or pollutants, or weather extremes that effect plant moisture needs and ideal temperature range. Nutrient deficiencies are often associated with soil needs. Overfertilizing or overtreatment is equally as damaging as a deficient application. Care should be taken with mowers, weed eaters or pruning to avoid injury to the plant. Pruning cuts should be clean and flush with the surface. Mulching should not be excessive so that it traps moisture around the plants, preventing soil aeration. Lott said that in addition to the information presented, instructors hoped to impress on students the importance of networking with others involved in providing for the landscape needs or care.


Neb. gas provider runs fuel sale on Earth Day By NANCY GAARDER World-Herald News Service

OMAHA — Gas goes on sale for 99 cents a gallon for 24 hours starting Sunday morning in Omaha. Natural gas, that is. Don’t have a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas? Well that’s just the point. Metropolitan Utilities District scheduled the fuel sale on Earth Day to signal that it’s serious about establishing Omaha as a regional leader in the alternative fuel. “It’s not very often that one can take an active role in a new fuel,” said MUD board chairman Mike McGowan. “[We] will be relentless in promoting the compressed natural gas market.” MUD doesn’t expect the public to be lining up Sunday. There are few privately owned vehicles that use compressed natural gas, although local auto dealers sell them now. The initial market in the Omaha area is fleet vehicles and cross-country buses. MUD hopes those vehicles pave the way for consumer cars and trucks. MUD began promoting compressed natural gas as a fuel in 2008 and expects demand to more than double this year over last, a rate that could continue for the next several years. Friday, MUD and officials with the City of Omaha, Douglas County and Metropolitan Community College held a press conference to spotlight their efforts to add natural gas-pow-

ered vehicles to local fleets. MUD has more than 80 such vehicles. Other local governmental entities are starting with a handful or so. Steve Oltmans, chief of staff for Mayor Jim Suttle, said the city saved $4,000 on a highmileage passenger vehicle in its first year of use. The biggest barrier for now, he said, is the upfront cost of a natural-gas powered car. According to a comparison provided by MUD, a 2010 Honda Civic equipped to run on natural gas cost $25,490; a hybrid version cost $23,950; and a regular gasoline-powered car cost $15,805. Curt Simon, executive director for Metro, the city’s public transit system, said the main barrier to Metro’s use of such vehicles isn’t cost but infrastructure. Natural gas adds about $35,000 to the cost of a $350,000 bus and the payback comes quickly. But Metro would have to spend about $3.5 million upgrading its transit headquarters to fuel a fleet of buses, Simon said. “We’re very interested,” he said. “But with this, you have to go all in.” Nationwide, the main barrier to wider use has been fueling stations. MUD has built two public fueling stations and plans to add a third next year. The two are twice as many as are available in the Twin Cities, Kansas City, Mo., or even Washington D.C., according to the Department of Energy.

MUD has a station on its property at 2614 S. 64th Ave. and on property at 5318 L St. owned by Happy Cab Company, a station called I-80 Fuel. The public may buy gas at both places, for 99 cents a gallon, beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday. Happy Cab has added a number of natural gas-fueled cabs. MUD’s everyday price of a gallon of compressed natural gas is $1.70 per gallon, and the utility said it won’t fluctuate the way gasoline does. Even though natural gas vehicles don’t get as much press as hybrid cars, they have been on the market for a number of years. Because natural gas has less carbon in it than gasoline, it burns cleaner. “Assuming you have access to fuel, the cost of compressed natural gas is lower than gasoline and (it’s) cleaner overall than a hybrid,” said Shrupi Vaidyanthan, senior transportation researcher for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Barbara and Christopher Ihle bought their first natural gas-powered car, a Honda, in 2009. Barbara Ihle said they already have recovered the extra cost in fuel savings, because they drive a lot. The car already has more than 48,000 miles on it. Her husband, a doctor, commutes between Omaha and his medical practice in Fremont. “There isn’t anything we don’t like about it,” she said. “We are saving just a ton of money on fuel.”


10 SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2011

LIVING GREEN 2012

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Butterfly gardening offers beauty, fun The Associated Press For a spring project that can get your family working and learning together — and also help some beautiful insects — try a bckyard butterfly garden. With just a little planning, you can create an attractive and welcoming habitat for butterflies through the warm weather months, says Rick Mikula, author of “The Family Butterfly Book” (Storey Publishing, 2000). The biggest problem facing butterflies is destruction of habitat, Mikula says. Even if your garden offers just a few butterfly-friendly The Associated Press blooms in pots or conIn this August 2006 photo provided by Iowa State University, a Phyciodes tharos tainers, it can help the insects’ population — butterfly is seen at Reiman Gardens, at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. and improve the look of your living space. “Any offering for butterflies in a garden, no matter how small, is like chicken soup for a cold,” he says. “It can’t hurt.” The choice of nectarproducing plants on which butterflies feed varies by region. But wherever you are, Mikula says, your options don’t have to be fancy. Simple flowers such as varieties of daisies, Echinacea, asters and even some violets can serve as butterfly-friendly snacking spots. Non-invasive milkweeds can be especially appetizing to migrating butterflies, without taking over your yard. “Even one or two plants like that are going to be great because when the butterflies are moving, there’s a place for them to stop,” says Mikula, who lives in Hazelton, Penn. You can start your research with books such

as Mikula’s, or by contacting a nearby cooperative extension office for free advice about what flowers are best for your region. Online, try bugguide.net or butterfliesandmoths.org, recommends Nathan Brockman, curator of the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing of Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University, in Ames. Some gardensupply retailers, such as Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, offer online and in-store advice as well. There are some concessions you may need to make if you plan to entice butterflies into your yard, Brockman says. One is understanding that caterpillars, the butterflies’ offspring, are going to eat host plants, including some herbs and vegetables you may have planned to serve at your own dinner table. Plant extra, and remember you’ll be rewarded for the sacrifice when caterpillars turn into fluttering butterflies. Also, be prepared to give up the use of pesticides on vegetable gardens or lawns. “Don’t use any at all if you are truly gardening for butterflies,” Brockman says. Mikula’s tip is to soak tomato leaves overnight in water, then strain and spray the solution onto plants as an effective and organic pesticide that won’t harm butterflies. Butterfly gardening can either be budgetfriendly or, Mikula says, it can be like buying a car and getting carried away with all the extras. Don’t overlook smaller, less costly nectar-producing flowers that will

entice tiny but attractive butterflies, he says. Brockman suggests choosing plants native to their region. They’re most beneficial to the environment and require less maintenance. Colleen Maiura, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s stores, says there are more ways to make a garden hospitable to butterflies besides offering flowers. Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so putting out flat rocks near feeding spots can provide a perfect place for them to rest. While butterflies can get most of the moisture they need from feeding, many like to gather around puddles and wet places. You can offer a “puddling station” by simply creating a damp area of ground covered with sand. “Place stations where butterflies — and you — can easily see them, and where they are sheltered from the wind,” Maiura advises. Beyond the “sheer joy” you get when finding a butterfly in your garden, Mikula says, butterfly gardening also can teach families about the life cycle of insects, and about caring for plants and their environment. The best part, he says, is that you will be doing the beautiful insects “a world of good.” Don’t be disappointed, Brockman cautions, if you don’t draw a lot of butterflies right away. Keep at it, and try to get neighbors to grow a few plants that will encourage butterfly activity too. We “need to instill in our youth that insects are good,” he says. “Fortunately for the butterflies, they are considered the pretty ones.”


GARDENERS NEED A

sense of humus The Associated Press Let’s pay homage to humus. As the garden gets into full swing, it’s a good time for such tribute, because enthusiasm can be parlayed into action. No one can say exactly what humus (pronounced HUE-mus) is because it’s a witch’s brew of thousands of organic compounds that result from the decomposition of dead plants and animals. “Yuck,” you say? Don’t. Think of compost, leaf mold, the spongy, dark layer of earth you see when you push aside leaves on the forest floor. Think of the rich, dark soils of our Midwestern plains, the Argentine pampas, the Russian steppes. Such soils have been the breadbaskets of the world because they are rich in humus.

Humus helps your garden in many ways

Both the chemistry and the feel of humus make it such great stuff. For instance, humus is covered with negative charges, which keep positively charged plant foods, such as potassium and calcium, from washing out of the soil. A soil rich in humus is also rich in microbial glues. At first, glue of any kind might seem like a bad thing for soil, but what these glues do is to join small clay particles into larger aggregates. Large aggregates have large air spaces between them, and — lo and behold — formerly tight clay soil is now breathing as easily as well-aerated sand. Humus also has

The Associated Press

In this image, a pile of humus, made from organic compounds from the decomposition of dead plants and animals, is shown. Humus has many benefits. It buffers acidity, which means that you no longer have to be so careful about getting your soil acidity (pH) exactly right. And humus binds with certain nutrients like iron to make it easier to be absorbed by plants.

buffering acidity, which means that you no longer have to be so careful about getting soil acidity (pH) exactly right. And humus binds with certain nutrients — iron, for example — to make them more easily absorbed by plants. Physically, the sponginess of humus makes soils fluffier even as it absorbs water — just what plants like.

Take steps to preserve this ‘black gold’ Humus is one of those few things in life that you — your soil, rather — cannot get too much of. Although it’s naturally present in all soils, if you garden you have to conscientiously preserve and augment humus. This is because many garden activities hasten humus decomposition. Not that humus decomposition is all bad;

many of humus’ benefits, such as release of plant nutrients, come about as humus decomposes. But when humus loss outstrips its accumulation, it’s like taking money out of a bank faster than you put it in. Tilling the soil and using concentrated nitrogen fertilizers accelerate humus decomposition. Tillage charges the soil with air, causing microbial populations to soar, and these hungry microbes then gobble up humus very quickly. Following an initial burst of nutrients, the soil is left poorer. Concentrated nitrogen fertilizers have a similar effect, so go easy on both tillage and concentrated fertilizers. You can and should add humus to your soil. Grow it in place by setting aside part of your garden or part of the season to cover crops, which are plants grown specifically for soil improvement. Grassy plants, such as oats, rye, sorghum and wheat, are best for increasing soil humus. And haul humus or the makings of humus into your garden in the form of compost, straw, leaves, wood chips and other bulky plant materials. Just lay these materials on top of the ground and the goodness will naturally work its way down. You’ll also get mulch’s benefits, which include locking moisture in the soil, preventing wide swings in soil temperatures and snuffing out weeds. Once you have gained reverence for this material, explore ways to preserve and augment it. Humus is what put the “organic” in organic gardening.



The Green Life 2012