Work With Nature, Not Against It

On Friday I talked about not having any grub damage despite the presence of grubs in my gardens. I presume I also have them under the lawn–without damage, why investigate?

Earlier I also talked about having over 30 different butterflies and moths on the property–although I suspect it’s really more. Those were the ones I could identify.

What the heck is the all about? Well, I’ve got my “backyard” certified as a habitat through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). I’ve also got it certified through my state environmental protection department, although they don’t do that anymore, rightly choosing to focus spare energies on educating the public on things like invasive plants.

That’s how I know what’s there–and sort of what shouldn’t be there. The NWF does a great job at educating gardeners at all levels–and with all sorts of backyards–about how to bring wildlife to the yard and how to enjoy it and work with it. To learn more about his program, go here.

If you’re wondering why you should care (other than maybe it’s cool to look at some birds or something), remember what I said: I don’t have any grubs because the birds eat them. After all, what are grubs but big fat caterpillar larva. And what do birds need to feed their young? Insects of all sorts. It’s pretty simple! Invite birds into the garden and you’ll have a lot fewer insects!

Of course you’ll be rewarded with lots of beautiful color (from the birds) and lots of song–and you needn’t even use bird seed. I can no longer do so because of bears. But the birds still keep coming because I have lots of things they need: water, places to raise young, cover from predators and berry producing shrubs.

And it’s that last one that you’ll want to think about. I have juniper, holly, a few native dogwoods and some crab apples–those are my “berrying” shrubs. We’re not talking anything that is attractive to the bears, nor anything I have to net or fight off the birds to get to the fruit.

I am thinking of adding some blueberries. That could be more problematic. But I’ll start with smaller, container varieties and see how that goes. After all, the chipmunks and I have managed to share the strawberries…..

What else can you do to help the garden? Plant larval crops for everything–bees, butterflies, maybe hummingbirds. What do these look like? Often you can find seed mixes already made up. Botanical Interests,
Select Seeds and Renee’s Garden are a few seed companies that sell mixes.

But I know a lot of folks worry about starting seeds. So do a little research. Often these same companies will sell plant versions of some of the plants in these seed mixes. And if you are buying plants, you don’t necessarily need to buy everything in the seed mixes. The way those mixes are designed, they have a mix of annuals, bi-enniels and perennials. The annuals come up and flower the first year, and the bi-enniels and perennials will come up the first year but not flower until the second. So if you’re looking for a perennial garden, you can just buy the perennials in the mix.

And of course, once you attract all this beneficial wildlife to your yard, don’t spray with anything. 20 years ago, I had far fewer choices on the market so I just didn’t spray at all. Even now, I will often just hose a plant off–or prune a buggy shoot off and throw it in the trash–rather than spray anything on it. It’s not bad advice.

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