Dibbles and Bits

With additional snow cover locally, the USDA average last frost date (April 27th- May 3rd in this region) is not top of mind. Before planting, we consider spring drought preparations, a drought-tolerant bee balm, and what’s left at the low water mark.

Drought may continue into spring in this area, and lawn grass displays a lack of water early. The “Backyard Farmer” website, sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, http://www.byf.uni.edu, is a resource to explore fescues and other grasses that tolerate dry conditions.

Hungry wildlife pressure young plants even more in dry times. Sunflowers, a favorite here, need stem protection until they near maturity. Direct seeding sunflowers behind fence protection is one option. Another is to plant seeds in containers and enjoy them on the deck instead. 

The January/February 2023 Horticulture magazine, available for browsing at the Yankton Community Library, features fruit and sunflower protection from squirrels.

Monarda or Bee Balm is a North American native plant that tolerates moderate moisture and full sun to part shade. The perennial has a showy head of flowers that can be dried for arrangements and blooms from mid-summer to fall. As an herb, it is deer resistant and attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Bee balm refers to the use of crushed leaves for bee stings.

Monarda grows 2-4 feet tall as a specimen plant or as a color accent in mass. The ‘Jacob Cline’ Monarda pictured is mildew resistant and grows in clay soils. Because of deer pressure during the drought, a chicken wire dome protected the newly installed plant.

What do you see and don't see in spring drought?

What remains during drought may be worth considering for future planting and general interest. We may see hardy plants, often natives like Monarda, with renewed interest. 

Drought does change plants in the landscape. Living by a river, the low water mark also reveals what is left there from past times, such as parts of old riverboats from a hundred years ago. The October 2022 Smithsonian magazine featured low-water mark perspectives along Lake Powell, the second-largest water reservoir. A dead cottonwood tree, flooded fifty years ago, was revealed to remain standing. Formations, long submerged, are new vistas until water returns.

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