Friday, May 25, 2012

Friends of the Garden -- the Birds and the Bees

When I moved to my home in 1993, I planted a large strip of mixed wildflowers close to the garden plot. Little did I realize then I was doing a big favor to my yard and garden by attracting alot of birds and bees with the flowers. Over the years, some of the flowers died out but the most prevalent and aggressive still come back every year with zero maintenance. Pictured above are "Mexican Hats" and it's easy to see how they get the name, as they do resemble a large brimmed sombrero to include the pointed crown.

Pollinators like honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees and butterflies are attracted to bright colors like blues, yellows, reds and violets. These "Black-Eyed Susan's" pop up everywhere in the yard even where I have to mow the grass and I cut around them when possible. Pollinators are crucial for high yield and quality fruit and vegetable crops, strawberry, squash, melons and apples to name a few.

I also planted day lilies close to the garden but I don't remember the name of this variety, I just love the color.

Fragrant herbs like this basil deter many unwanted insects in the garden. The pink flowers in the background are wild primrose. This is just a small sprinkle that appeared at this location. There is a bigger grouping on the right side of the garden. Pollinators are important to set seeds and set fruit in the initial growing stage. How do they do it? They light on the anther (male part of the flower) and collecting pollen on the mouth, body, antennae or legs then light on the stigma (female part of the flower) and deposit the pollen and so on and so forth.

So, how do you attract them? Diversify, limit pesticides and leave flowers blooming in your yard and garden when possible, unless disease or insect infestations are a problem. These bok choy above have bloomed and are now seeding, but we won't cut them back until the pods fully ripen and then turn brown because they are attracting the pollinators we need for our garden. Plus we will harvest the seeds and plant them in the fall.

Another wildflower close to the garden that comes back ever year is this white yarrow. Although it's not my favorite I do love the fern like leaves. Yarrow comes in a variety of colors and can be used live or dried for arrangements. Plus, it also attracts pollinators.

I've talked about the bees, but now I'll give the birds some credit for being friends of the garden. Birds are not only fascinating to watch and sing beautiful songs, but if you let them and attract the right kinds, they will control unwanted bug populations. For several years, I have let the blackberry bushes around our garden grow until the crop ripens then cut them back. Why? One reason is so we can make a blackberry cobbler but another reason is to give my birds a tasty treat.

Also, I have a fig bush growing within yards of the garden, another attraction for the birds. And a plus to make preserves or dried figs to use in other recipes. Just like bees, birds need staples to attract and keep them close to your yard and garden. They need fresh water, shelter, food and the absence of strong chemical pesticides. All these staples are easy to purchase at a local garden center like Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.

All in all, the birds and the bees are some of the best "Friends of the Garden" and the yard for that matter, so I hope you take steps to attract them at your house.

Monday is "Memorial Day," so, please pay some tribute to a family service member, friend or someone in the military you may not know, regardless of past or present service.

Until next time.....

Happy Gardening 2012!

Posted by Wilma Smith

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