Did you go on the Wild Life Garden Tour this past June? Did it convince you to plant for critters? Yesterday I watched a squirrel jump up on a stump holding onto a birdbath. From there he reached over to a branch of Blackberries and picked the ripe ones. I have been watching birds get most of my currants that hang in chains. Robins are good at being just below a chain, jumping straight up and grabbing the fruit.

          My yard has been listed as a “Wildlife Habitat” for over 40 years and in that time I have seen 44 different species of birds at some time during the year. Necessary for them is food, water, and shelter. I probably put out more food in summer than winter as parent birds are super busy finding materials for nests and then food for their babies. There is a sparrow nest (rather messy) hanging on a shelf over a garage door. I never open this door and a Robin has built on the bend in the drain pipe. In early spring a family? Tribe? Of chickadees moved into the cedar in the front yard and they expect seeds on the front steps every day.

          Bird watching/feeding and gardening are the two most popular hobbies people have. Not all birds eat seeds so shrubs that have fruit are good for them. If you look closely at their bills you can tell somewhat what they like. Humming Birds have long beaks to reach down into flowers for the nectar.  Seed eaters such as Cardinals, Chickadees, and Gold Finches have strong bills for cracking seeds. Wood Peckers have tough bills to hammer their way into spaces filled with insects. My paths are mulched so the birds pick up the pieces and throw it aside to get what is under. If you are digging, Robins will follow behind to get worms.

          Perhaps you would rather garden for Butterflies and Moths, many of whom are specialists in what they or their children (caterpillars) need to eat. I always have a patch of Joe Pye Weed, Fennel, or Dill rather than single plants.  Monarchs prefer members of the Milkweed family for their caterpillars to feed on.  I have the orange one Asilepsias tuberosa, a red flowered annual one, and a white Swamp Milkweed. When they are going back south, I have had many spend the night sleeping on a Sedum Autumn Joy.  It gets cool at night and they can not fly unless warm so they “park” until the sun heats them up.

          There are a number of annuals and perennials that provide nectar for the adults.  Double flowers like Roses are not good as their long tongues can not penetrate to reach the sugar.  In the fall the “Blue Spirea” (Caryopteris species) is a favorite of many insects that all feed at the same time.

          At the same time you need to grow plants for the caterpillars.  This list is even longer-perennials, weeds, vegetables, and wild flowers.  We have all been “attacked” by the little white butterfly who lays many eggs in plants of the Cabbage family.  If you are interested in certain Butterflies, plant bigger clumps of both nectar and leaves so there is no shortage.

          There is any number of other creatures you might like to encourage in your “Wild Life Garden”. If you have a pond of some type with a few plants, Dragon Flies will eat mosquitoes and other insects.  They have a terrific appetite for their size and a fierce disposition! Females lay their eggs on water plants.  The males will defend their territory and many of them are gorgeous.  Mosquitoes and flies are their favorite foods.

          One of the fiercest small creatures you can grow in your garden is a “Praying Mantis”. They hide and pounce. Full grow ones may be 5 inches long, from green to brown in color. Females are much larger than males and because they need the protein for their eggs, eat the males after mating. They like to eat Aphids, Caterpillars, Beetles, Leaf Hoppers, and Squash Bugs. They like to glue eggs to sturdy, straight stems such as Golden Rod, Joe Pye Weed, grasses, and bramble bushes. The egg cases are soft brown masses fastened to stems or branches in fall. Since they eat other insects they are considered beneficial so be careful in your fall cleanup to save those cases.  If you find one you can transfer it to another branch or leave it where you find it. 

Copyright 2012






          The “Tomato Race” for 2012 was won again this year by “Sun Gold”, the grape size Tomato that grows in clusters. On June 20, 2012, I picked three fully ripe ones. I think they taste better if I wait until they go to orange. The Fourth of July variety was only 3 days behind. I found several red ones that were rather small but much, much bigger than Sun Gold.  Last year Fourth of July was first.

          Celebrity, the old faithful tomato for every one is full of tomatoes but there was no sign of getting ripe when I picked the Sun Gold. Big Mama will be last as usual. It is a Roma type with thicker flesh and less moisture and big enough around for sandwiches. It did not even have little ones then so I should have tomatoes until frost.

          Ron Koch brought me big yellow potatoes, Zucchini, and cucumbers so our early Spring was also an early harvest for most.

Copyright 2012