Thursday, April 09, 2015

Maintenance in the Native Plant Garden: Springtime Editing, Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the tasks that I find needs to be done each spring is editing.   When you invite animals (especially birds) into your gardens, you are going to get quite a few seeds planted, all of which will be encouraged to grow with a nice dollop of fertilizer.  Many of these will not be plants that you want growing, especially not where they've been planted.

Of course, too, native plants are designed to reproduce on their own...and if they are happy where you've planted them, they may well decide to "go forth and multiply".   Some species are notorious for this, while others reseed or spread only when the conditions are particularly perfect.

So, as the native plant gardener, you can keep things looking relatively tidy simply by removing excess plants once a year - and I find that early spring is the best time to transplant.  Why not take advantage of free plants?!

Personally, I fully understand the need to edit plants out...but I have a terribly hard time actually doing it, especially if I have to discard the plants I remove.  To be truthful, I've gone for years without editing, so my beds tend to get somewhat overgrown at times.  Of course, I like the full, cottage garden look, so this doesn't usually bother me too much, but if you like a more controlled look, editing out is a step that you won't want to skip.

So, on to the actual editing that I'm doing this spring.

Once I got the two areas of my front garden bed appropriately and fully cut back this morning, it was much easier to evaluate what needed to be removed or moved.

The Peach Blossom tulips are planted almost on top of a penstemon, which isn't really a problem as the tulips will die back shortly...but there was also a healthy looking young honeysuckle growing up beside them.  You can see it growing from the base of the plant tag in the photo above.  I DO NOT want a 10' honeysuckle shrub in this location, so that seedling had to go.  Given their invasive nature around here, I don't have any qualms about getting rid of honeysuckle seedlings.  For that reason, I don't like to pass along honeysuckles, either. 

For this honeysuckle seedling, a single stab with a dandelion remover to loosen the soil around its roots, followed by a strong yank, removed it, root and all.

In the center of this next photo is an area under the Callery pear that I've not paid much attention to in the past.  If you look carefully, you can see 3 "small," skinny, woody, hackberry saplings.  At the base of the white plant tag there is a clump of green that is actually a cluster of seedlings which includes a honeysuckle and several Callery pears.  There is another biggish honeysuckle seedling to the left of the plant tag, and there are dozens of Callery pear seedlings in the center of this spot, too.  ALL of these baby woody plants had to go, or this will become a thicket in next to no time.

In removing woody seedlings, the sooner you get to them, the better.  That's why an annual sweep is such a good thing.  For the hardy plants that survive on the Plains, the roots will go down deep and strong;  by the time even a year has passed, getting a woody seedling out of the ground is infinitely harder than removing it shortly after it has germinated.  Give one of these plants a couple years' growth and it's going to be hard to remove without utilizing Roundup, probably multiple times.

On the other hand, if you catch a young tree seedling shortly after it has germinated, all you need to do is give a slight tug and it slips out of the ground, root and all.  If you break off the stem at this stage, there's no problem of future growth, because the plant has no reserves yet in its roots.

It's all about the roots, 'bout the roots, no cutting....  (Confession time:  I found myself singing, "It's all about the roots, 'bout the roots, no cutting...." to the tune of "All About the Bass" for way more time than was rational today.  You're welcome for the earworm, by the way.)  Once a native prairie, woody plant is established, if you simply cut it off at ground level, it will just come back, stronger than before.  Prairie plants are like that.

In the spot above, I had to dig down and cut out the hackberry seedlings as far below the soil line as I could manage.  It remains to be seen if that was far enough down to kill the plants.  If not, I'll have to repeat the process or resort to Roundup.  The honeysuckles came out with strong tugs, roots and all.  I must have pulled out 50 pear seedlings - but they were easy, as the soil was moist (I watered) and they had just germinated this spring. 

This little hackberry seedling located right next to the walkway is one that I let get too big shortly after said walkway was put in, then cut out a year or two ago.  Obviously I didn't get down far enough on the roots when I originally tried to remove it, so I had to repeat the process today.  Hopefully today's butchering will do the trick.

I have a LOT of Callery pears germinating in my beds this year.  Callery pear, Prunus calleryana, is the official species of pear that I usually call "Bradford pear."  Bradford pear is actually a cultivar of Callery pear, but there are also many other varieties of Callery pear on the market these days. This is not a native species, but the tree came with the house and I haven't had the temerity to cut it down.  As pretty as it is in the spring, it reseeds ridiculously.  I consider it a real nuisance plant.

I've got more plant editing that I want/need to do in these beds, but I'm waiting for a friend to come over and get some of the plants when I take them out.  Yeah, I'm putting off the next stage of editing again....  I'll show you that stage next time - I promise!

Maintenance in the Native Plant Garden

As I've given talks about utilizing native plants in our landscapes, I've become aware that many people are scared of "losing control" in their gardens by using native plants and by following organic gardening methods.  So I thought folks might be interested in a blow by blow account of how I maintain my native plant landscape.  I actually think that my garden chores are significantly less onerous than those of more traditional gardeners.

To start with (or, perhaps, to end with), I don't cut back my perennials in the fall or winter.  Many insects overwinter in or on dead plant stems, including some of our native bees;  other insect species overwinter in the leaf litter.  Predators are particularly likely to be among the insects overwintering this way.  The leaf litter also provides great foraging habitat for winter birds, as do the standing seedheads.  Watching the birds forage and seeing the patterns of the plant stems adds winter interest to the landscape.  When you add in the fact that standing vegetation holds snow (moisture) in place better than "clean" beds, you definitely have a winning winter combination for the garden.

Winter, then, is pretty basic.  Enjoy the scenery!

As the plants begin to green up in the early spring, it's time to do the first chore of the year:  cut back last summer's dead plant material.  I consider this the main "work" in the organic, native plant garden.  Otherwise, the garden takes very good care of itself.  The timing of the spring cutback is always a balancing act for me.  I prefer to wait long enough that there aren't many late freezes left, although that's not always possible on the prairie.  Since I have planted a variety of crocus, daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, and grape hyacinth bulbs, I've started using their early blooming as my signal.  Darn it - I planted them, so I want to see them!

This year my spring clean up has been particularly protracted, but that's okay.  This is gardening, not a precision dance routine or an accounting balance sheet.

So that I could see the petite daffodils which had begun to bloom in the front beds, I started the spring clean up on March 18th this year.  This photo was taken on the 20th, the day after we burned the front tallgrass (which you can see in the distance).  All I had done so far was cut back the asters at the very front left of the photo...and, if I remember correctly, a few perennials along the sides of the path itself.

Here is a slightly different view, taken at the same time.  Overall, this is what the front garden looked like for most of the winter.  When I looked out the front windows, it was a rare time that I didn't see birds poking around. When we had some snow, the patterns could be stunning.

By the 26th of March, about a week later, I had cut back about half of the stems in this bed, starting at the driveway.  Of course, a few more things were blooming, too, including the Callery (Bradford) pear.  It always amazes me to see how quickly plants green up in the spring!  Several more types of daffodils had opened, and the blue heirloom hyacinths by the driveway were putting on their annual show.  (You can always click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail.)

Just 5 days later, on the 31st, you can even see how much the daylilies right by the foundation had sprouted up.  I hadn't done any more cleanup in the garden yet, though, because our kids were visiting for the last bit of March and the first week of April.

In fact, I didn't get more cleanup done until 2 days ago, when I noticed the Peach Blossom tulips in full bloom amidst the cacophony of last year's ironweed and Echinacea stems.  So I did a bit more work that day....

...quitting when I'd cleared everything to the south of the little brick access path...except for the aster stems under the redbud clump.  (See?  I told you this wasn't a remotely frantic process!) 

You can see the newly exposed Peach Blossom tulips a few feet in front of the wheelbarrow. The wheel barrow has the last load of stems for that day, which I take to the brush pile out back, while the yellow bucket holds deadheaded daffodil stems and other non-seedfilled detritus that can be put in the compost pile.   Right now there is a lot more for the brush pile than for the compost pile - but that ratio changes throughout the growing season.

This morning, I finished cutting off the last of the aster stems under the redbuds and took this photo of the bed between the house and the walkway....

...and this photo of the bed between the walkway and the buffalo grass, both looking south.  Although cutting back the stems took me bits and pieces of 3 weeks to accomplish, that was due to MY lack of stick-to-it-iveness, not due to this process taking any huge amount of time overall.  Now that my native flower beds are established, this is the primary job that I need to do in any of  these beds all year.  Period.  It's really pretty simple.

That said, the beds do look better if I follow up this tidying chore with some editing, which is best done at this time of year.  I'll discuss that in the next post.

Oh, by the way, I found 4 Carolina (praying) mantis egg cases and 2 black and yellow garden spider egg sacs among the plant stems as I cut them back.  If you look closely, you can see one of the mantid egg clusters at the base of this grass clump.

I saved the plant stalks with the egg cases on them and placed them strategically in the trimmed areas of the garden, so the young could hatch out and do their thing without further interference.  Last year was obviously a good year for predators in my garden!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

First Day of Spring

Just for kicks and giggles, I went around the yard yesterday and took a few photos which I thought I'd share.  Nothing particularly exciting, but just a few quick peaks at how the garden was looking on the first official day of spring....

Most interestingly, the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is blooming gorgeously this year.  It's really taken off in the last year or two, after a rather slow start. Bloodroot, a native that is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring, gets its name from the blood red sap in its rhizomes.  Native Americans used this latexy sap as a face paint and to dye or color various different articles.  Bloodroot was also used medicinally.

Next to the bloodroot, I have a small group of heirloom purple crocuses being protected by an old egg basket.  This has become my favorite rabbit protection method for small plants.  Plus it lets me recycle and reuse old egg baskets (and thus justify my love of antiquing).

Not too far away was another group of purple crocuses showing WHY I use the egg basket over the heirloom crocuses.....

The cottontail(s) in my yard really love purple crocuses.  They'll eat other colors, but purple seems to be their favorite.  The "nibbling" almost destroyed those heirloom purple crocuses that I now protect so picturesquely.

Further down this same flower bed is a nice clump of daffodils in full bloom...facing AWAY from the house and the front of the bed.  It seems like this happens almost every year with this clump, but I'm darned if I know why.  I can't think of any reason why daffodil blooms would face one way or another on a regular basis.  It's not like the bloom faces the same direction the bulb points or something.....

Anyway, this year I decided to sneak around behind the bed to get a shot from the back.  They look much nicer from that angle.

In the "stump bed" (I've GOT to get a better name for that bed!) the Cloth of Gold heirloom crocuses were finished and the pasque flowers not blooming yet, but I got a good photo of the one of the "prairie pinecones", a local name for the seed pods of the Stemless Evening Primrose (Oenothera triloba).  They are really cool little features that add a fun textural touch to the winter garden.

Up front, the burn still looked pretty stark, although a few small sprigs of green are beginning to poke through.

From the front steps, however, the burn looks less overwhelming.  It forms an interesting contrast with the (uncut) front garden and the buffalo grass lawn, currently looking totally tan.

Looking at the front garden more specifically, by yesterday morning I had only cut back the very front little area in the bottom left of the photo below, where the bright yellow, Tete A Tete daffodils poke up in this photo.  I started seriously working on the garden cut back today, focusing on freeing other clumps of daffodils first, so we could enjoy their bloom if I got distracted from finishing my task. When I get done with the cut back, I'll post another photo for comparison.

I'll leave you with this pair of daffodil clumps....  First this small group of daffodils buried in last year's aster stems.  (I actually liberated this little clump this afternoon.)

And, finally, this nice group of Tete A Tete daffodils - one of my longtime favorite daffodil varieties.  They are so cute and tiny and early.  Perfect bellweathers signalling that spring has actually sprung!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Bird Deformity

It has amazed me how many bird deformities I've seen in our yard over the last 8 years.  Some I've shared on this blog.  Mainly beak deformities, but also color changes like the piebald cardinal I've seen this winter and the "yellow breasted" red-winged blackbird I saw several years ago.

At the end of February, another beak deformity showed up.  This time it was a starling that I noticed drinking during a snowstorm.

I am presuming that this is a case of a beak malocclusion - which results in the upper mandible (in this case) not being automatically trimmed as it closes against the lower mandible.

As with so many genetic abnormalities, this one is not a good change from normal.  Note how wet the feathers down the front of this individual are?

That's because it has to drink by almost immersing itself in water and skewing its body sideways, as in this picture.  I presume it has to eat this way, too.

Compared to the "normal way" a starling would eat and drink, shown by the bird on the left, this deformed starling has to work much harder for both calories and water.  As the top mandible grows longer, it will get harder and harder for this individual to get what it needs.  It also can't be good for this bird to get this wet during cold weather.  Presumably, eventually, it will weaken and die, perhaps becoming food for a predator of some sort.

Seeing individuals like this always makes me sad...but, at the same time, I have to admire them for their bravery and persistence in the face of difficulty.  As beautiful as life is overall, sometimes it seems starkly hard and cruel.  I just try to remember how often things go right, rather than how awful it is when they go wrong....

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Beautiful Day for a Burn!

We interrupt the "Tolerating the Uglies" series to bring you this news flash:  Today was an absolutely perfect day for a prairie burn!

It is VERY dry here, so I was a little hesitant, but the conditions were so perfect that we held our breaths and went ahead with our plans.  The winds stayed under 10 mph and were fairly steady from the SW (as predicted), Greg had recruited a couple techs from his clinic, and (most crucial of all) it was a weekend day.  During Kansas springtimes, it's a rare occurrence to have good winds and weather, the free time to burn, AND help with burning all come together!

Greg had mowed the firebreak last weekend, so the only necessary prep this morning was to gather the rakes, shovels, water buckets, burlap sacks, and water packs, then to stretch out the hoses.  We called in the burn permit...and we were off!

We started the burn very slowly and relied on backfiring the entire time to keep things under control.  This kept the flames about 3' high and moving slowly, instead of the lightning fast and 10-15' tall they probably would have been if they had been moving with the wind.

Greg and Pat went along the north and west sides; Justin and I took the east and south sides.  Our job was to patrol the edge of the fire at the firebreak, making sure that the flames didn't move out into the mowed area very far, which would have risked the fire jumping over the firebreak and getting out of control.  The fire basically burned from northeast to southwest, directly into the wind.

When we were done, our privacy from the road was totally gone, but the black ashes will absorb the springtime rays of the sun and heat up the soil.  The nutrients in the ashes will fertilize the soil, too.  With some rain (hopefully coming on Wednesday), we should be seeing green sprouts and then lush growth before long!

Many, many thanks to Chris, Justin, and Pat for their help!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tolerating the Uglies, Take 2

Probably the hardest lesson I've learned in gardening here is to tolerate the uglies caused by blister beetles.

Our vegetable garden was one of the first gardens we began after moving in during the spring of 2007.  Having just spent 6 years in southern Alabama, where tomatoes didn't grow very well, we were aching for some sweet-tart, juicy, home-grown tomatoes - and therefore tomato seedlings were some of the first plants that went in.

The tomatoes did beautifully...except that they got pretty ragged looking in late summer, in large part because of all the blister beetles - both black and gray - that were munching on their leaves.  Mind you, the plants were still producing huge numbers of tomatoes.  There were more tomatoes than we could possibly eat or even give away.  But, doggone it, the plants looked positively decrepit, with ratty leaves, covered in blister beetle, frass.  How could I call myself a gardener with my tomato plants looking this bad?

So in I rushed, intrepid organic gardener to the rescue!  Every morning I would fill an old peanut butter jar half full of water with dish soap in it and sally forth to fight the blister beetles.  Carefully I inspected the leaves of the tomato plants and gently picked off the blister beetles, dropping them to their soapy deaths in my peanut butter jar.  At first I wore gloves, worried about the defensive chemical, cantharidin, that blister beetles are known to secrete.  It's cantharidin which will cause the blisters that earn this group of beetles their family name.  Eventually, though, I shed the gloves and still had no problems.  It wasn't uncommon for me to pick 50 or 100 blister beetles off my tomatoes each day.   Best of all, I could simply flush the dead beetles down the toilet or even put them in the compost when I was done, since my "killing agent" was simply dish soap and water.

Faithfully I protected my tomato plants for several summers this way, culminating in 2011, when we came home from a trip in early June to find several huge masses of Three-Striped Blister Beetles engaged in orgies on our front lawn. 

I'd not seen ONE of this blister beetle species in our yard before, let alone thousands of them.  What should we do?!  What if ALL of these guys started eating the plants around the yard?

Getting creative, I put my soapy water solution in a small shop vac and we vacuumed most of the striped blister beetles up.  Whew.  Disaster averted.

But, wait.  No.  Disaster NOT averted.  It just wasn't the disaster I thought I was getting.  Up until this point, we hadn't had any real issue with grasshopper populations, despite living in the country and being surrounded by tall grass and crop fields.  Beginning in 2011 and continuing into the present, we've learned the benefit of blister beetles.

You see, blister beetle young (larvae) burrow through the soil and eat grasshopper eggs.  For every adult blister beetle you see, 21-27 grasshopper eggs have NOT grown up into grasshoppers.  And those 21-27 grasshoppers that haven't grown up also haven't produced any eggs or young of their own.  While blister beetles eat leaves for a few weeks and make them look pretty ugly while they are munching, they don't generally eat a wide variety of plants and they don't even defoliate the ones they do lunch on.  Grasshoppers, on the other hand, will eat almost anything, including bark, and they will eat it all down to nubs.  The photo below shows what they did to our (shrub) althea one summer.....

Weather certainly played a role in our grasshopper outbreak, but I'm quite certain that our grasshoppers wouldn't have been as numerous if I hadn't been so zealous about controlling the blister beetle populations in our yard.

Blister beetles have now become almost a sacred animal around here.  I welcome them to the yard when I see them, and I mentally encourage them to munch for a while.  Happily, I've been seeing a few more blister beetles each year.  I still don't see three-striped ones, though.

Meanwhile, last summer had wet spells.  It turns out that, during rainy spells, grasshoppers get a fungus which causes them to climb to the top of plants, grasp the stem firmly,... and die.  Our yard was full of these weird grasshopper mummies gruesomely hanging on to the tips of plants. 

Between healthier blister beetle populations and grasshopper reproduction being down due to the zombie fungus last year, I'm hoping there will be fewer grasshoppers overall this summer than there have been in recent years.

I'm hoping, too, that the blister beetle populations will once again be healthy and that our tomato plants will look quite ragged by summer's end.  From now on, the blister beetle "uglies"  will be welcomed with open arms in our landscape!

Tolerating the Uglies

I think one of the most important concepts in healthy gardening is also one of the simplest.  Do YOU always look camera-ready??!  I highly suspect not.  I certainly don't.  And neither should our gardens.  As with any living organism or community, sometimes life is messy but that doesn't mean anything is wrong at all.

When I give garden talks, I talk about this and one of the phrases I use - and it almost always gets a sympathetic laugh - is that we should learn to "Tolerate the Uglies" in our gardens.  What do I mean by that?

Well, any number of things can occasionally be ugly in a garden, but I first came up with the concept in relationship to leaves that have been eaten by caterpillars.  What do YOU do when you see leaves disappearing, slowly or (even worse) rapidly?  Most of us, I suspect, run for the pesticide.  After all, isn't a good gardener supposed to protect her plants?!

Actually, no, that sort of protection is not necessary.  Mother Nature has designed an entire type of animal, predators and parasites, that will take care of leafeaters for you...if you give them a chance.

My first conscious lesson about this idea of learning to tolerate ugliness came about 7 years ago when I was beginning the front garden at this house.  I had planted a couple young Echinacea plants, two of the "Sky" series, earlier in the spring.  They were establishing well, I thought, until one day in mid-June I looked out the window and saw what appeared to be black mildew all over the leaves of one of them.  Damn!

I went outside to look more closely and realized that the leaf damage I was seeing wasn't mildew at all.  The leaves had actually been skeletonized by a large number of little, hairy, black caterpillars.  The poor leaves were also covered in frass, a.k.a. caterpillar poop.   If I'd had any in the house, I probably would have grabbed the Sevin right then and there, but luckily I didn't.

So I went back inside the house, got on the computer and looked in books, and did some research.  Without too much trouble, I learned that the caterpillars I was seeing were the half-grown young of pearl crescents, one of those pretty little orange butterflies you commonly see on flowers in the summer time.  Their young feed "gregariously" (in a group) for the first several stages of their lives, then scatter to finish feeding before they pupate and change into adults.

What to do?  I wanted butterflies.  I like butterflies.  But I also like my plants and I'd spent $4 or $5 each on those 2 Echinaceas.  I didn't want to lose them.  I decided that I'd go out the next morning and move the caterpillars to other plants throughout the garden where their eating habits wouldn't be as easily noticed.

When I went out the next morning to carry out my plan, the caterpillars were gone.  They could have all been eaten by some predator, but I suspect they'd reached the age/stage where they naturally scattered to find more food on their own.

And the Echinacea they'd thoroughly skeletonized?  Three weeks later, it bloomed on schedule - see the photo above - and within a couple months, you had to look hard to see the remains of the damaged leaves.  By the next summer, it was a beautifully healthy plant with no sign that anything had ever munched hard on it.

I, the brave gardener, did nothing but accidentally Tolerate the Uglies.  The plant survived and thrived.  The butterflies survived and thrived.  And I survived and thrived.  A big win for doing nothing at all (except observing and learning).

I'll share another couple stories about tolerating occasional garden uglies in the next post or two....

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Potter Wasps

Have you ever run across a little mud pot, perfectly formed, about the size of a small marble, stuck to a twig or a rock or something else rather stationary?

If so, you've come across the nursery for a type of solitary wasp known as a potter wasp.  (A very appropriate name, if you ask me!)

These are great little insects to have living in your garden.  They are gentle wasps and will not sting unless you actually pick one up.  That pot?  Well, let me tell you about the life cycle of the potter wasp....

Adult potter wasps feed on flower nectar to provide themselves with the energy they need to perform their adult tasks. For a male potter wasp, this is pretty simple.  He needs to find female potters wasps and mate with them.

As a side note, in these photos the potter wasp (Eumenes fraternus) is nectaring at Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata), an annual wildflower that can be surprisingly attractive, although it tends to get a little leggy.

Life is a bit more complicated and definitely harder for female potter wasps, which are usually larger than the males.  A female not only has to find a male and mate, then she has to locate a suitable site to build her pots and ensure that the next generation has enough food and is safely protected enough to make it to adulthood.

To do this, the female potter wasp gathers mud in her mouth (some sources say she actually carries water to dry soil and mixes up the mud herself, mouthful by mouthful!) then flies to her selected site to put the mud in place.  It can take hundreds of flights to build each pot, so the pots are usually located fairly close to a source of appropriate building material.

Once the pot is built, the female begins looking for small caterpillars.  When she locates an appropriate caterpillar, she stings it with just enough venom to paralyze the caterpillar but not kill it, then drags it to the waiting pot, where she deposits it through the open mouth of the pot.  Depending on the size of the caterpillar(s), the female potter wasp may provision each pot with from one to 12 caterpillars!  Then the mother potter wasp lays a single egg and closes up the pot with more mud.

When the egg hatches, the larval wasp eats its way through all the nutritious food (a.k.a. paralyzed caterpillars) that Mom packed in.  When the larva is finished eating and growing, it changes into a pupa and undergoes more changes, finally emerging as an adult potter wasp.  The new adult potter wasp chews its way through the side wall of the pot, which is thinner than the neck, and flies away.

You can tell, then, whether the pot is being worked on (the neck of the pot will still be open), has a baby wasp inside it in either the egg, larval or pupal form (the pot will be sealed up tightly), or has successfully hatched out an adult wasp (there will be a hole chewed through the side of the pot.  One of the pots above, then, is fully provisioned and has an egg and paralyzed caterpillars in it, while the other pot has been constructed and the female has begun hunting for caterpillars with which to fill it.

Not surprisingly, the female will not start constructing a new pot until the one she's working on has been fully provisioned, the egg laid in it, and the neck opening has been sealed.

While wasps can strike fear in human hearts, the solitary wasps such as potter wasps and mud daubers are almost never aggressive.  After all, if a female solitary wasp gets killed, she has lost all ability to procreate.  Since a stinger is a modified egg-layer, a male wasp can never sting, no matter how scared or angry he gets.  It is only the social wasps, like paper wasps and yellow jackets and hornets, that have enough "extra" individuals that they can afford to aggressively defend their nests and risk losing their lives.

Since the baby potter wasps are completely "created" by eating paralyzed caterpillars, potter wasps are an important biological control of caterpillars in any natural community...and in your garden.  So next time you find a little round clay or mud pot or two or three, pause a minute to say thank you to the female potter wasp that built it and that helped make your garden healthier as she stocked the larder for her developing offspring.