What better time than snowy February to begin planning your perennial garden. Whether it’s a complete perennial garden or just adding one or three additional plants to an existing garden, now is the time. Here are a few selections from the garden at Iowa State to help in your planning.
A parent fed up with their child’s persistent use of technology (internet, video games, tablet, you name it!) has decided to pull the plug on their sedentary habits. They strip the devices from their child’s hands and throw them outside and say, “Go play!” The child looks around. Before them lays their entire suburban property comprised of lawn. Looking left and right they see their neighbor’s yard, more lawn. To the back of the property where once ran a creek, now buried, is replaced by a smoothly graded ditch draining toward a culvert. This ditch is planted with what? Lawn, of course.
What the above-mentioned situation lacks is diversity, and without diversity, you can’t support a dynamic ecosystem that attracts wildlife. Turfgrass is one of the largest irrigated monoculture crops in the United States. Researchers at the NASA Earth Observatory give a conservative estimate of “three times more acres of lawn in the U.S. than irrigated corn” or about 50,000 square miles of turf. To put those numbers in greater perspective that would be like covering almost all of Illinois in turfgrass.
If you desire to create an opportunity for exploration and learning for others, promote local ecosystem health, or for your sheer enjoyment, then consider creating a landscape that attracts wildlife.
For those that continually ward off deer and repair damage caused by squirrels or raccoons, you might shudder at the thought of attracting more wildlife into your yard. However, we’re talking more than just deer. When I speak of wildlife, I am referring to songbirds, butterflies, bees, reptiles, and yes the occasional ruminating mammal.
Our development patterns have significantly fragmented, altered, and eliminated native ecosystems across the U.S. According to an article by entomologist Doug Tallamy, of the total land area in the United States, only about 5% is considered wildlife zones. Tallamy estimates this loss of habitat has imperiled 33,000 species of plants and animals rendering them “functionally extinct”.
Using native plants is the best strategy to attract wildlife. Our birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals evolved right alongside our native grasses and forbs and, for some, their lifecycles are codependent. Take the monarch butterfly as an example. Over millennia the monarch caterpillar developed the ability to withstand the toxic attributes of milkweed, even acquiring the ability to feed on the leaves without triggering the milky sap that gives the plant its name.
I’m sure there are those of you that scoff at the idea of installing plants in your landscape simply to be eaten! Is that what I’m suggesting? Well, yes! But let’s put that statement in perspective. Local wildlife has developed a give-and-take relationship with their respective native plants which have in turn developed elaborate chemical and physical defenses.
Doug Tallamy’s studies at the University of Delaware tracked insect damage on natives vs. non-natives. What they found was that feeding damage was higher on the non-natives. Plus, the damage that was present on native plants was less than 1% in regards to piercing-sucking damage and around 4% with chewing damage, well below the 10% threshold where the typical homeowner notices any damage at all.
Another reason for using native plants is because of an often used alternative to attracting wildlife – feeding them. Birdfeeders aside, it is not recommended to feed wildlife.
Wildlife are NOT pets
Feeding makes wildlife lose their natural fear of people, often making them a nuisance
Animals who depend on people can cause injuries or spread diseases
Young wild animals, dependent on humans for food, are less experienced in foraging for food and less likely to survive
Wildlife requires a variety of foodstuffs to provide the nutrients required to stay healthy
“People” food bears no resemblance to the food animals eat in the wild
Using native plants provides a natural food source and options for shelter and nesting materials. For an animal to pick your yard as a home they must have their basic needs met which include food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young. Scroll down for a list of recommended native plants.
As I write this article, the goldenrod and boneset are in full bloom and loaded with insects of all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, yellow finch feast on the seed heads of spent purple coneflowers. After adding native plants, you may value them beyond their aesthetic appeal and instead admire the vast and complex web of life they support, capturing the awe of a child, forced outside away from technology into a vibrant landscape.
Recommended native plants for Illinois
Are natives the only answer to providing wildlife resources? Certainly not! Animals and insects use many non-natives such as hosta or sedum. Yet, to promote local ecology and identity, the following are some Illinois natives recommended in the home landscape.
Wild black cherry | Prunus serotina
Flowering dogwood | Cornus florida
Black gum | Nyssa sylvatica
Hackberry | Celtis occidentalis
Shagbark hickory | Carya ovata
Hophornbeam (ironwood) | Ostrya virginica
Sassafras | Sassafras albidum
Witch-hazel | Hamamelis virginiana
Black chokeberry | Aronia melanocarpa
Gray dogwood | Cornus racemose
American hazelnut | Corylus americana
Leadplant | Amorpha canescens
Spicebush | Lindera benzoin
Blazing stars | Liatris spp.
Black-eyed Susans | Rudbeckia spp.
Coneflowers | Echinacea spp.
Ironweed | Veronia spp.
Joe-Pye weed | Eutrochium spp.
Milkweeds | Asclepias spp.
Phlox | Phlox spp.
New England Aster | Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Wild bergamot | Monarda fistulosa
Good Growing Tip of the Week: Did you know that observing wildlife has a calming effect on our brains? Watching animals, birds, and even the movement of grasses in the wind actually boosts our mood and has a recovery effect for stress.
Every year, Americans recognize February as Black History Month. The month is dedicated to recognizing the achievements of African Americans and celebrating the role they have played in the history of the United States.
The Origins of Black History Month
Black History Month, also known as National African American Month, has been recognized by all U.S. Presidents since 1976. Canada also recognizes Black History Month each February, while countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands celebrate in October.
In the United States, Black History Month traces its start back to 1915, The organization that is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History was founded by historian Carter Woodson and minister Jesse Moorland.
Just over a decade later, the first Negro History Week was observed in 1926. The second week of February was chosen for the observance in honor of the birthdays of two men who played a substantial role in ensuring the rights and freedoms of African Americans, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass.
This first event gave birth to what we now know as Black History Month. In 1976, Gerald Ford became the first president to officially proclaim the February observance. Every U.S. president since has followed suit. Each year, the achievements of African Americans are recognized with a designated theme. The theme for 2018 is African Americans in Times of War.
Ways to Celebrate Black History Month
Celebrate Black History Month with these ideas:
Learn about the contributions African Americans have made in American history and society. Choose one African American to study in-depth.
According to Dr. Grayver, a cardiologist at Northwell Health in New York, poor stress management is the worst habit for inflammation. Why? In part because stress causes the release of the stress hormone known as cortisol.
“Cortisol is one of those things that goes and disrupts the inner layer of our vasculature and creates unstable plaque,” Dr. Grayver says.
Wait—isn’t plaque a dental problem? Yes, but it’s also a cardiovascular issue. Dr. Grayver says that many people have stable plaque, which progresses slowly.
“When there’s inflammation, cortisol is released, it seeps out into our vasculature and it destroys that nice, contained fibrous cap sitting on top of the stable plaque and turns it into unstable plaque.”
Unstable plaque can become a problem quickly. “It’s the yucky plaque that breaks off, flows downward and causes things like stroke and heart attack,”.
It can also increase blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol, which can also heighten the risk of heart attack and stroke. “Stress causes a vicious cascade,” Dr. Grayver emphasizes.
That being said, some stress is OK—good, even.
“Some stress is normal and allows us to achieve greater goals and create certain things,”. “Severe, chronic stress is what I want to hone in on. That can have a significant impact on heart health in multiple ways.”
What’s the difference? “Normal stress has more goal orientation,” she says. “It’s not the kind of stress keeping you up at night, leading you to make unhealthy choices or have horrible chronic fatigue.”
Other Habits That Can Negatively Impact Inflammation
Stress isn’t great, and reducing it is one way to lower your risk for inflammation. But Dr. Grayver says other lifestyle habits factor into inflammation.
Smoking is a big no-no for various reasons, including inflammation related to heart health. “It’s one of the unhealthiest habits,” Dr. Grayver says. “The chemicals in the tobacco [are terrible for you].”
Drinking too much alcohol can also increase inflammation.
“I’m not talking about one glass,” Dr. Grayver says. The CDC advises men to limit alcohol use to two drinks per day and women to stick to one. (A drink is defined as a 5 oz. glass of wine, 12 oz. glass of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.) Dr. Grayver says anything more starts the inflammatory cascade. A 2017 review linked high alcohol consumption to inflammation.
Diet can also increase inflammation and the risk for heart disease risk, but Dr. Grayver says figuring out the best one for you can be a challenge.
“I was at a grocery store the other day,” she says. “There were 14 magazines displayed, and 12 of them mentioned the ‘heart-healthy diet.’”
Diets Dr. Grayver recommends include vegan, DASH and the Mediterranean Diet. Each is a bit different—vegan means no animal products, whereas Mediterranean and DASH are less rigid, for example. But the common ties include low sodium and an emphasis on fruits, veggies, nuts and lean—preferably plant-based—proteins.
Dr. Grayver noted people got into the habit of skipping regular check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to make an appointment—your doctor can catch symptoms of inflammation and heart disease, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and biomarkers. Together, you can work to manage inflammation before it becomes worse.
The kicker? Stress makes people more likely to make these types of choices, Dr. Grayver says.
“It’s then easy to fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms, like poor diet choices, alcohol and smoking,” she says.
What Is the Best Habit for Inflammation?
Dr. Grayver says exercise does the mind and body good, in part, by reducing stress. “I’m someone who has never been good at meditation, but when I exercise and do breathing during my run, that to me is meditating,” Dr. Grayver says.
Finding the right exercise routine for you is important, though. “There is not a cookie-cutter approach to anything, not in medicine, not in personal lifestyle,” Dr. Grayver says. “It’s important for people to find what works for them and makes them happy. If it works and makes them happy, they’ll continue it long-term.”
From the final season of ‘Carnival Row’ to an exciting new series starring Christoph Waltz.
Amazon Prime Video has plenty of exciting titles coming this February from some of your favorite comfort films, new seasons of hit shows, exciting new series and films, and a batch of theatrical movies from 2022.
February 2 is Groundhog Day. Groundhogs are small brown furry animals. They live in burrows in the ground, and they eat grass, berries, and other vegetation. Groundhog Day is based on folklore. The folklore is that if the groundhog comes out of its hole and sees its shadow then there will be six more weeks of winter weather. But if the groundhog comes out of its hole and doesn’t see its shadow, then there will be an early spring
The Groundhog Day ceremony is held at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania, centering around a semi-mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, has become the most attended. Grundsow Lodges in Pennsylvania Dutch Country in the southeastern part of the state celebrate them as well. Other cities in the United States and Canada have also adopted the event.
How much do you know about groundhogs ? Try this matching quiz to test your knowledge.