Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

     -by Al Barber, Portage County Master Gardener Volunteer

     Especially this spring, we yearn to get outdoors and improve our yards and gardens.  We want our environment to be aesthetically pleasing to us, but what about native plants and animals?  With native habitats shrinking, we have the opportunity to create favorable local habitats around our homes and communities. 

During times of financial difficulty, many also seek to become more self-sufficient by planting vegetable gardens, small fruits, and fruit trees.  During the depression, my grandfather fed many families around his home in Coshocton, Ohio, by growing several hundred sweet potato plants in his backyard. 

One key to successful backyard food production is the ability to attract pollinators.  Important animal pollinators include honey bees, mason bees, bumble bees, mining bees, flies, moths, and other insects, as well as birds and some mammals.  Sweet potatoes, berries, fruit trees, cucumbers, and many other plants require pollinators to produce food for our consumption.  The best way to attract pollinators is to create an environment where they can survive and thrive. 

With that in mind, here are ten ways to attract pollinators to your yard. 

Grow more flowers.  But not just pretty annual flowers.  Trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants can provide food and nesting habitat for pollinators.  Spend time in your yard to see which existing plants attract pollinators and then work to expand those plantings.  A good source for more information is

Plant to provide bloom throughout the growing season.  Early blooming trees such as maples, willows, and redbuds, and late season perennials like asters and goldenrod provide important food at critical times.  Consult for a sequence of native and non-native woody flowering plants for Ohio.

Go Native.  Native plants provide a good source of nutrition for pollinators.  Also, many native plants are critical for pollinators to complete their life cycles.  Native pollinator and host plants include:

  • Trees: Maple, crabapple, linden, serviceberry
  • Shrubs: Ninebark, pussy willow, sumac, viburnum
  • Perennials: Aster, hyssop, milkweed, purple coneflower
  • Annuals: Cosmos, marigold, sunflower, zinnia
  • Herbs: Basil, borage, catmint, lavendar, oregeno

Diversify.  Start with your lawn.  Vast expanses of thick green lawn with no weeds may be pleasing to our eyes, but such a monoculture is unnatural.  Leaving a little clover or other flowering weeds in your lawn and gardens provides essential cover and nutrition for many pollinators and other beneficial insects. 

Mix it up.  Planting flowers and herbs in and around your vegetable garden provides important food sources for insect pollinators.  Consider planting sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, lavender, basil, borage, dill, fennel, oregano, and catnip in and around your vegetable garden.  Also, consider planting vegetables and herbs in flower beds.  If you plant all your tasty vegetables in one place, you are setting the table for garden pests. 

Grow (or tolerate) weeds.  Many “weeds” provide cover and food for a variety of pollinators.  Beneficial weeds for pollinators include dandelions, creeping Charlie (ground ivy), Creeping thyme, Bee balm, Wild geranium, Joe pye weed, clover,and Anise hyssop.  Consider “tolerating” some “weeds” in your yard and gardens perhaps on the edges for pollinators. 

Provide Nesting Sites.  Brush piles, dead standing trees, and clumping grasses provide important nesting and overwintering habitat.  Avoid the temptation to cut down dead grasses and flower stems in the fall.  Leave some leaves and other garden debris for late spring cleanup.

Provide a water source.  This can be a shallow bowl or birdbath (change water frequently) or a small pond. 

Limit pesticide use.  Avoid spraying insecticide on a plant or tree in bloom.  Instead use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach with multiple strategies to reduce pest damage.  .  A good resource for IPM in your yard is

Not all pollinators are created equal.  Butterflies and butterfly gardens are beautiful additions to your backyard, but flies, bees, and moths are actually much better pollinators than many butterflies.  Butterflies typically visit flowers to get nectar rather than harvest and distribute pollen.    A good resource for attracting pollinators to the your garden is

For questions about pollinators or gardening contact Portage County Master Gardener Plant and Pest Hotline by phone: 330-296-6432 or Online:

Plant and Pest Hotline by phone: 330-296-6432 or Online:

New Director gives Kent Parks and Recreation update

New Kent Parks and Recreation director Kevin Schwartzhoff gave a presentation to the KEC breakfast meeting on Friday, February 28. He shared several initiates including:

Artist’s rendition of Main Street access to bike trail with a bike ramp.
  • mitigation of wetlands
  • widening of The Portage bike trail between Brady’s Leap and Main Street
  • Creating of an access point from the Main Street bridge to The Portage Bike trail

For more detailed information about upcoming initiatives, peruse the powerpoint from the presentation.

Dozens of Citizens Meet to Express Concern for Local Environmental Issues

The first round of networking conversations.

Local food resilience. Incentives rather than penalties for green energy initiatives. The changing market for recyclables. These were a few of the many topics that were brought up by more than 50 local citizens, politicians, activists and others representing local organizations at a networking event held as part of the Kent Environmental Council’s (KEC) annual meeting on February 17. The Social Justice committee of the Kent United Church of Christ (and KEC member organization) offered their fellowship hall for the event.

The evening started with the annual all-member KEC meeting. Renee Ruchotzke was elected president and Bob Heath was elected vice-president. Bob Wilson and Brad Brotje continued in their roles of treasurer and secretary. There was also a declaration of appreciation for Lis Regula, who had served for many years as president before relocating to Columbus for a new job. This was followed by a potluck dinner as other members of the community joined the gathering.

Facilitator Renee Ruchotzke used Art of Hosting principles, a facilitation style that makes space for all of the voices and experiences in the room. Everyone sat at round tables marked with a topic that interested them. They interacted “council style” using a process called “rounds,” where each person around the table sharded and was listened to in turn.

Everyone in each circle shared why they were passionate about the topic, then what they were doing, or would like to do. The rest of the time was an opportunity to suggest ideas about connections. Attendees then had an opportunity to participate in a discussion around another topic.

At the end of the evening the participants were asked if they wanted future networking events and they enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

The topics and themes from the evening included:

Food: Local / Natural / Sustainable

  • It seems to connect to all of the other issues
  • We need to prepare for resiliency as climate changes
  • It can be an opportunity to build community
  • We should do more to connect to and support the local food system, especially by eating locally

Conservation: Land / Water/ Wetlands 

  • Help people to understand that the wetlands have an important function for water quality and carbon capturing
  • Create opportunities for children to learn more about and feel connected to nature

Recycling: Plastics / Waste Stream

  • There seems to be a huge knowlege gap around the impact of waste, especially plastics (bags, micro-plastics)
  • There are mixed signals about what is and isn’t recyclable
  • Trash from other states coming to Ohio
  • Need more opportunities for re-use (e.g. refillable glass milk bottles)
  • Share information like the the video The Story of a Spoon

Poisons and Pollution

  • Stop the local use of Glyphosate (commercially available as Roundup®)
  • Stop the local use of Fracking Brine as a de-icer on local roads (commercially available as AquaSalina®)
  • Stop spraying for mosquitos

Renewable Energy / Peak Oil

  • Frustrations that the Ohio state government has missed opportunities to promote renewables — instead they are discouraging renewables
  • Choose renewable options for current electric providers
  • Need more local control since the state is failing us
  • More infrastructure for electric cars

Promoting Awareness: Social / Psychological / Educational

  • We need to change hearts and minds to help with action steps
  • Engage youth and young adults
  • Focus on grass roots actions — they can have a cascading effect

Preparing for Disruptions: Shortages, Climate Refugees

  • We should do a lot of networking and constituency-building now
  • Prepare to welcome climate refugees into our homes and communities
  • Develop more community gardens
  • Develop a socially responsible prepper mindset
  • Work on a Community Climate Action Plan

Political Action

  • Change building codes to make it easier to install solar panels
  • Work on home rule to prevent big money from negative local impact
  • Vote for candidates who care about mitigating climate change
  • Community solar on lands like the Mogadore Road contaminated fields.

Indigenous Rights

  • How might we be in right relationship with the land in the way the original inhabitants were?
  • How might we re-wild part of our county

KEC Annual Meeting and Community Networking Event on February 17

Thank you for your support of the Kent Environmental Council and our important work!

This year is our 50th anniversary!

A lot has changed since our inception and we are re-imagining KEC so we will continue to be a good partner and leader in local environmental issues for the next 50 years!

The KEC board hosted a visioning retreat last month and invited leaders from a few community partners. The gathered group came up with some new possible initiatives and we want to learn what you think would best serve the community.

  • We need more communication and connection and KEC is well-positioned to fill that role. We would like to create The Crooked River Environmental Network with KEC as the hub. 
  • Look for ways to create awareness and action about our local food supply (local farms, farm-to-table programs, food hub, foraging, planting edibles, etc.) We brainstormed a “Black Walnut Festival” with a focus on local food, but there are many more possibilities.  
  • We want the children in our community to feel at home with and connected to nature.

These join our ongoing focus areas of active living, green energy, local food, clean water, our support of the bog and other green spaces, as well as communication, publicity and education. 

We want to widen the conversation, so we are doing something innovative for this year’s annual meeting! Instead of a program, we are hosting a networking event to help local individuals/groups with an environmental focus to build relationships, find synergies and launch the Crooked River Environmental Network. (Please share this invitation with people in the community that care about the environment.)

Here are the details:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Kent UCC Church, 1400 E Main St, Kent, OH 44240

  • 5:30pm  KEC Member Annual Business Meeting (election of officers [details below], short update)
  • 6:00pm  Community Potluck (Please bring a dish to pass and your own table service)
  • 6:30pm  Networking conversations (based on interests from participants’ registrations)
  • 7:45pm  Harvesting Insights and Connections
  • 8:15pm  Clean up / Safe Travels

Officer slate:

President:  Renee Ruchotzke

Vice President: Bob Heath

(Secretary Brad Brotje and Treasurer Robert Wilson will be serving the second of their 2-year terms.)

Please let us know you are coming and what matters to you by registering:


Your Kent Environmental Council board

Bob Heath, Acting President

Renee Ruchotzke, Acting Vice President

Brad Brotje, Secretary

Robert Wilson, Treasurer

Action Alert: Ohio SB33 Anti-Protest, Anti-Free Speech Bill

The SB 33 bill dramatically increases the penalties for non-violent protest at fracking sb33sites, oil and gas pipelines, petrochemical plants and other ‘critical infrastructure” sites.  It makes non-profits and organizations and congregations liable for punishment if they support protesters charged under this bill. This is a direct threat to basic rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

This bill directly attacks our first amendment rights to engage in non-violent protest and speak truth to power

It looks like the State House will hold a hearing on Jan. 28 or 29, 2020.

Jan. 29 is the most likely date, at 10 am, if the Utilities Committee follows its usual pattern.

See the Greenpeace summary at:

  • Under SB33, penalties for trespass are dramatically heightened if they occur on so-called “critical infrastructure”:
  • While general criminal trespass “on the land or premises of another” is a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine, the bill would make the same offense punishable by half a year in jail and $1,000 if it takes place on a critical infrastructure facility.
  • The definition of “critical infrastructure facility” is sweeping, and includes a vast array of oil, gas, electric, water, telecommunications, railroad facilities, and other locations.
  • It includes oil and gas sites, fracking wells, petrochemical plants, pipelines and other places that destroy the environment and put our children’s health at risk.
  • Under the bill, an individual peacefully protesting in the wrong place could be sanctioned with half a year in jail.
  • The bill also substantially expands the definition of felony “criminal mischief” in ways likely to chill and put a stop to peaceful protest activity.
  • The bill’s vague definition of the new offense, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, includes “knowingly [and] improperly tamper[ing] with” a critical infrastructure facility.

Lawmakers have attempted to define “improperly tampering,” but their definition (“changing the physical location or physical condition”) does not provide sufficient precision or clarity for individuals facing potential felony charges and a decade in prison.

In the absence of a clearly-defined offense, individuals cannot be expected to know what conduct is or is not criminalized. Rather than face the risk of draconian penalties, they will likely censor themselves, and avoid exercising their First Amendment rights.

It was  designed by the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – to establish special protections especially for the oil and gas industry.  And put an end to any public protest or opposition to the activities of these industries.

It is also designed to punish non-profits, environmental groups  and even congregations who dare to support the people protesting  at these sites with fines up to $100,000.  The Senate version contains criminal and civil liabilities for non-profits and organizations.  The House version tried to amend the criminal liability, but made it even more murky in its definition of organizational improper action.

What you can do.

  • Share this with your networks
  • Write a Letter to the Editor
  • Show up and pack the Hearing Room  when the House Utilities Committee meets on Jan. 28 or 29, probably in the morning.
  • Attend the House session that might follow to be present during the floor vote.
  • Provide Written Opposition Testimony.
  • Offer Spoken Opposition Testimony from those of you willing to speak for 3 minutes.

(Thanks to UUJO for this information.)


March 17-18, 2020

Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability


The Environmental Science and Design Symposium, formerly the Land and Water Symposium, is a multidisciplinary forum that promotes the exchange of ideas related to the resiliency of natural and built systems. Now in its seventh year, the symposium (formerly known as the Water and Land symposium) is organized by Kent State’s Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the university’s Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative (ESDRI), which supports multidisciplinary research related to the impact of human influence on natural and constructed environments. We are assembling a diverse group of speakers around the symposium’s theme, ‘Biodesign – Designing with Life for Environmental Sustainability’ representing topics ranging from natural resources management to art, architecture, and design thinking. 

Registration is free and open to the public.  We hope you will support the symposium, attend, submit abstracts for poster presentations, and encourage other students and colleagues to attend!

More information is available at

Fall Forum Explores Lessons from Urban Activist Jane Jacobs

In her 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, community activist Jane Jacobs described the elements that made cities vibrant and safe. She predicted how segregating work, home and play would destroy the fabric of communities. She also described how mixed use neighborhoods (shops and homes, rich and poor, arts and entrepreneurs) created the best quality of life.

In this year’s Fall Forum: Making Kent More Sustainable, Just, and Successful , Jennifer Mapes, Assistant Professor
Geography Department, Kent State University, will share her admiration for Jacobs, and look at how we can use her ideas to think about Kent today.

Jennifer Mapes

• Jacobs was particularly concerned about the increasing dominance of the automobile and loss of sense of community in neighborhoods.
• She stressed the importance of walkability and community driven planning cities designed by people and for people.
• This approach has slowly made its way into the mainstream and into Kent’s urban fabric there’s much to celebrate about the evolution of Kent’s downtown and neighborhoods, but much more work to do.

So how can the city, and we, as residents, learn from Jacobs as well as the successes and failures of cities in the past 100 years and move forward to a more sustainable, just, and successful community?

We hope you will join us to find out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019 7pm
Kent Free Library
312 West Main Street
Kent, OH 44240

Image © James Gulliver Hancock

The Changing Climate of Northeast Ohio: Future Directions

by Bob Heath

The climate is changing all over the United States but not at the same rate in all places. Ohio is among the regions where 

the climate is changing most rapidly. It is predicted that this region will be an average of 4 to 5 degrees warmer by 2050. Such rapid climate change puts at risk the economic and environmental sustainability of ecosystems, a situation that will require people to adapt to the changes or move elsewhere. 

Ohio is getting warmer and wetter. Both the average daily low temperature and the average daily high temperature are increasing; the low temperatures are increasing faster than the  high temperatures. Likewise, the winters are warming faster than the summers. The consequences of the accelerated warming are fewer frozen fields and frozen lakes, both of which threaten traditional agricultural practices that take advantage of the ability to drive heavy equipment over frozen fields. Lakes without ice cover will experience increased evaporation and increased light penetration into the bottom waters, altering temperature-dependent lake processes.

The threat is increased flooding–not lakes drying up. Lakes will be replenished by increased rainfall. Since 1900, precipitation in Ohio has increased by 15%. Five of the 10 wettest years in Ohio have occurred since 2003. Snowfall will decrease, rainfall will increase, and episodes of rainfall will be more intense than in the past. The seasonality of precipitation also is changing. Farmers have depended on the usual scenario of a dry spring (so they can plant early), followed by even rainfall amounts throughout the summer, followed by a dry autumn (so they can harvest their crops). That scenario, however, is changing to a wetter spring, followed by a droughty summer, followed by a rainy autumn. It is a worst-case scenario for agriculture, as farmers will have to alter long-standing best practices in the face of a potentially shorter growing season and the need to plant drought-tolerant crops.

Aaron Wilson

Imagine how great it would be if Ohio had a state climate  office to address these issues. Actually, such an office does exist–at The Ohio State University–and it publishes online a Quarterly Climate Summary. The director of the climate office is Aaron Wilson. Wilson spoke at the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference held on September 12 at the University of Toledo.

The quarterly report for June through August 2019 shows the following: 

  • The summer of 2019 was the 12th wettest summer on record, while June 2019 was the fifth wettest June on record.
  • Portage, Summit and Stark counties were among the counties receiving the most precipitation at 125% to 175% percent above normal (“normal” is the average during the period 1981-2010).
  • The summer of 2019 was warmer than average, achieving the rank of 30th warmest summer since 1895 (about 2 degrees warmer than average over that period).
  • The warmth was driven by warm overnight temperatures.

Kent State Announces 2019 Fall Environmental Events and Speakers

Friday, 10/18/19 

Alex Crawford, College of Wooster
“Using satellites to understand the impact of Arctic sea ice decline on marine phytoplankton”
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/1/19 

Walt Carson, University of Pittsburgh
“Biodiversity collapse and the future of the Eastern Deciduous Forest biome”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Derek Sawyer, Ohio State University
Marine sedimentology/Geomechanics/Hurricanes 
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/8/19 

Sarah Carmichael, Appalachian State University Geochemistry/Geomicrobiology
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 11/15/19 

Ryan Martin, Case Western Reserve
“The sources of variation for evolutionary change”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Richard Becker, University of Toledo
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234
Remote sensing/Hazardous algal blooms

Matt Crawford, Kent State University
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Friday, 11/22/19 

Carly Ziter, Concordia University
“Thinking outside the park: a landscape ecology approach to urban ecosystem services”
Biology Seminar, 12:00 pm, Cunningham Hall Room 13

Kevin Befus, University of Wyoming
Surface-water groundwater interactions/Ecohydrology/Critical zone
Geology Colloquium, 1:15 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 234

Friday, 12/6/19 

Daniel Herms, Davey Tree
Geography Colloquium, 2:30 pm, McGilvrey Hall Room 310

Hazardous Algal Blooms in Lake Erie: Current State of the Science and Technology

by Bob Heath

Blue-green algae bloom on the shore of Catawaba Island, Ohio, in Lake Erie, summer 2009. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For a full day, the topic of discussion among academics, federal and state government officials, ecosystem managers, non- governmental organizations, the public, and even a few retired professors attending the Understanding Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science conference hosted by the University of Toledo on September 12, was the damaging effects of recurrent algal blooms on the Lake Erie ecosystem and current efforts to abate them. The conference was produced by The Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant, an organization that promotes research in the Lake Erie and the Great Lakes with funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The green scum shown in this image from October 2011 was the worst algae bloom Lake Erie had experienced in decades. Vibrant green filaments extend out from the northern shore. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The premise of the conference was that the Lake Erie ecosystem begins at the crests of the watershed on both sides of the border. Remediation of the recurrent cyanobacterial (i.e. blue-green algae) blooms that damage water quality, harm wildlife and threaten human health requires understanding the causes of these blooms and removing those causes from the watershed with the goal of a healthier ecosystem for the physical, social and economic benefit of all stakeholders. Below is a synopsis and synthesis of the 14 papers presented at the conference.

Better Prediction of HABs (Hazardous Algal Blooms) in Lake Erie

The ability to predict the timing and extent of cyanobacterial blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie is a measure of how well scientists understand the causes of these blooms, sometimes referred to as hazardous algal blooms (HABs). The better that scientists understand the causes of HABs, the better they can predict them. Past predictions were so-so. In some years, the predictions were accurate but, in other years, they missed the mark. Something was missing in the equations used to predict these algal-bloom events, but what was it?

Dr. Rick Stumpf, an oceanographer at NOAA, presented improvements in the ability of scientists to predict when HABs  occur and how intense they will be. The size of the annual HAB in the western basin of Lake Erie is determined by the amount of bioavailable phosphorus (BAP) that is loaded into the basin, largely through the Maumee River. Only BAP loaded into the lake from early March through mid-June leads to the bloom. Recent studies have shown that the extent of the bloom also is determined by the temperature of the water in June through mid-July, even though the bloom reaches its largest size in mid-August through early September.

Maumee River

Using only the spring BAP loading to the lake, the HAB in 2019 would have been predicted to be among the largest on record. On a scale of 1 to 10, it would have been predicted to be about a 9.0 or 9.5. However–and this is the important point–because June was wetter and cooler than normal, the bloom was predicted to be modest, at 7.5. Observations to date indicate that the bloom appears to be about 7.5, exactly as predicted. This indicates that scientists are understanding the causes of these events better because the predictions are borne out by the observed extent of the HAB.

Progress to Abate P (Phosphorus) Loading to Lake Erie

Example of phosphorus buildup in water

In addition to the ability to predict HABs, scientists want to be able to prevent the blooms–or at least to diminish them.  Many years of study into the land-use effects on Lake Erie’s water quality have shown that the majority of phosphorus loaded into the lake is from agricultural activities, primarily from the Maumee River watershed. BAP runs off fields in one of two ways: from the surface of the field as erosion or from drainage through tiles placed below ground that empty into streams and eventually into Lake Erie. Abatement is achieved best by having tile drainage pass through a phosphorus filter, a device that traps phosphate on industrial slag before it runs into streams. The filter is an efficient device but also an extremely expensive one, precluding its use on all farm fields.

Example of a potential source of phosphorus

Not all farm fields, however, bleed phosphorus equally. Some fields are much more potent sources of phosphorus. Scientists  are looking for ways to identify these phosphorus hot spots and remediate them with phosphorus filters or other techniques. These other techniques include riparian buffer strips between fields and streams, the use of cover crops to retain phosphorus, and constructed wetlands. None of these techniques alone is sufficiently effective. The best approaches seem to be a combination of these techniques used in sub-watershed hot spots. 

Identification of the source of the phosphorus has been relatively easy, and technological advances have readily identified procedures and practices that are likely to be effective. Implementation of these procedures and practices, however, will require substantial public funding and cooperation by a majority of individual farmers. Implementation also will require a well-informed public to provide the necessary political will and societal patience to achieve the eventual outcome of a healthier Lake Erie. Likely, it will take at least a generation to achieve the intended results.

Can that happen, or is this a hopeless pipe dream? The success of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Management Plan shows that it is possible to achieve the necessary cooperation between many layers of government and society. The Chesapeake Bay experience may well serve as a template scenario of management development and implementation.