Rain barrels, bee festival & wildflower series

rain barrel in Hamburg NYIt’s time to set out your rain barrel or buy a rain barrel

If you brought your rain barrel in over the winter, now is a good time to set it out again. And if you don’t have a rain barrel, now is a good time to get one.

Not only do rain barrels help the environment, they can provide a convenient source of water in parts of your garden where a hose connected to a tap on the house can’t reach. Connecting a hose to a rain barrel in your backyard can help you get to those hard-to-reach places. Remember that a rain barrel can catch water running off the roof of a shed or garage, too.

There’s still time to enter the Stormwater Challenge, being held throughout April by the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and the Western New York Stormwater Coalition. Answer a quiz about stormwater to be entered into a drawing for great prizes. Paper copies of the quiz can be found in municipal halls and libraries or you can enter on-line.

In addition to using a rain barrel, the Stormwater Challenge page offers ways gardeners can help prevent stormwater pollution in Western New York, including:

  • Use lawn or garden chemicals sparingly. Choose organic alternatives when possible and check the weather forecast to avoid applying them before a storm.
  • Mow your lawn less often. Try to keep your lawn at least 3 inches in height to minimize weed growth, reduce the need for watering, and decrease the likelihood of pests. Leaving the clippings on the lawn can also help block weeds and retain moisture. Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down.
  • Plant native, low maintenance plants and grasses. They often have longer root systems, which reduce the amount of chemicals and water needed. Try seeding your lawn with Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides) or Northern Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). Read more about native plants.
  • Minimize runoff by not over-watering your lawn and garden. Keep sprinklers on a timer to avoid pooling water.
  • Clean up pet waste. Bag it up and dispose of it in the trash to prevent harmful bacteria from washing into local waterways.
  • Be sure to minimize the amount of ice-melt used. Do not over-apply salt. Choose a more environmentally-friendly alternative when possible.
  • Consider minimizing impervious surfaces around your home. Use bricks, gravel, cobbles, natural stone, or permeable pavers instead of asphalt or concrete when possible.
  • Do not drain your pool, spa or fountain to a storm drain.  Allow chlorine to dissipate for several days. Test the water to ensure the residual chlorine is zero before slowly draining to a landscaped area. You may be able to drain to a sanitary sewer. Contact your local municipality for more information.

Bonus tip: You can buy a rain barrel at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


bee on sunflower in Amherst NY

Bee Festival set at Botanical Gardens

Honey Bee Democracy,  a book that tells the fascinating story of decision-making within the bee hive, will be discussed by its author, Dr. Thomas Seeley, at the Honey Bee Festival to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday, April 27 at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Avenue, Buffalo.

Dr. Seeley, a professor at Cornell University, will speak at 11 a.m. and a book signing will follow. Honey Bee Democracy may be pre-ordered and picked-up at the festival for $25 per copy or purchased the day of the festival for $28 a copy. You may bring your own copy.

Barbara Ochterski, local beekeeper, will discuss the basics of backyard beekeeping at 1 p.m. That talk will be followed by an informal question-and-answer session.

Tickets for both lectures are $5 for students, $10 for Master Gardeners and Botanical Gardens members and $15 for non-members.

The festival will also include honey and bees wax vendors, an observation hive behind glass, and information on the  bee hive structure created by University at Buffalo architecture students that houses honeybees in front of the grain elevators near the Ohio Street Bridge. The vendors and demonstrations are available to all visitors at no charge.

Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


Hepatica  wildflower by Jeff TomeWildflower series set by Audubon Center & Sanctuary

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is offering the opportunity to get an in-depth look at wildflower biology, edibility, photography and more through a series of classes and field trips.

Classes on wildflowers will be held from 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays at the center, 1600 Riverside Road, one-quarter mile off Route 62 between Jamestown, NY and Warren, PA.

The classes will be followed by field trips on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. to find the flowers described in the classes.

Participants are welcome to attend any or all of the classes and walks; it is not necessary to attend the class to participate in the walk.

The cost is $14 for each class and each field trip or $10 for Friends of the Nature Center. Thanks to a grant from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the cost of the May 22 class and May 25 field trip is $7 each or $5 for Friends of the Nature Center.

The cost for the entire series is $90 or $60 for Friends of the Nature Center. For the series rate, reservations with payment are required by Thursday, May 2.

Reservations for individual events are required Mondays prior to classes and Thursdays prior to field trips. Reservations can be made by calling (716) 569-2345, emailing info@jamestownaudubon.org, or clicking on the Program Listing link at the Jamestown Audubon website.

Class and walk leaders include Audubon staffers Jeff Tome, senior naturalist; Jennifer Schlick, program director, and Katie Finch, teacher naturalist, as well as biology professors Becky Nystrom from Jamestown Community College and Jon Titus from Fredonia State College.

Wednesday classes and Saturday field trips are:

  • May 1 class, Wildflower ABC’s: This introductory class will feature the kinds of field guides and apps available and let you practice using them as we look at some basic spring flowers. Instructor: Jeff Tome
  • May 4 field trip, Ander’s Run, Irvine, PA: This short walk is full of flowers, from trilliums to Trailing Arbutus.  Moderate hike.  Instructor: Jeff Tome
  • May 8 class, The Art of Wildflower Photography: Learn how to use your camera to take amazing photos of wildflowers.  Instructor: Jennifer Schlick
  • May 11 field trip, JCC’s Hundred Acre Lot, Jamestown, NY: This small, suburban woodlot is filled to the brim with amazing wildflowers, if you know where to look.  Walk with Jennifer Schlick to find, photograph and learn about these amazing flowers.
  • May 15 class, Wildflower Basics: Spring flowers race for the sun.  Learn all about wildflower biology from the biology expert!  Instructor: Becky Nystrom.
  • May 18 field trip, College Lodge, Brocton, NY: There will be a variety of spring ephemeral wildflowers such as spring beauty, trilliums, toothworts, wild leek, bloodroot, mayapple, trout lily and a number of other species depending upon the weather.  There will also be some non-flowering clubmosses. Instructor: Jon Titus
  • May 22 class, Wild Edibles: Many wildflowers and their parts can be used as food.  Katie Finch will introduce you to some common wild edibles.
  • May 25 field trip, Wild Edibles of Bergman Park, Jamestown, NY: Eat your way through this amazing park that is so much more than baseball fields.  Katie Finch will lead you onto the hidden trails and byways in search of wild things to munch.

Walk participants are reminded to dress for the weather. Sturdy boots are recommended, especially for the Ander’s Run hike, a short, moderate hike with some hills, stairs and rough terrain. Outdoor apparel is recommended for all field trips.

Classes are limited to 50 people and field trips to 25.


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