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Gardening For Wildlife #64 Is spring really here/ Wildlife Gardening
April 07, 2008
Welcome new readers.
Hopefully we all will learn a thing or two.
Could it be possible?
Has Spring finally reached southwest Michigan?
If the past few days and the future forecast is an indication, I think we might have Spring.
Last week started in snow flurries and the poor folks in parts of the Great Lakes region had a good "OLE" fashion snow storm.
We managed to have a good spring rain to wash away winter's dirt and a couple of nights ago, it was warm enough for the peepers (frogs)to be out singing.
We ended the week with day time temperatures in the low 60's.
Now that may seem chilly to some of the Florida readers and other warmer locations, but that is short sleeve and no jacket weather to us northern folk.
Yep, no pansies living here :-)
The past few evenings, I've been working on leash training Ziggy the poodle pup.
First, I'm almost dragging him along as he is afraid of strange sights and smells. Now, he is a missile that is launched as he takes off so fast and hard.
Yes, often he yanks himself backwards from the tension on the leash.
He's getting better though.
Lithotripsy for the kidney stone smashing is sometime on the 23rd of April. I will be relieved to have it taken care of, as this wont pass.
The female Robins and Red-winged blackbirds have made the trip north. Males are usually 10 days to a 2 weeks ahead of the ladies.
Now it is time for territorial skirmishes to take place.
Time for the guys to make fools of themselves as they try to impress the gals.
You know, the wooing and courtship with a special girl(s).
Don't feel so bad, it happens in the animal kingdom too.
I keep saying it's a woman's world.
Okay, back to this letter.Great blue herons have arrived and a special treat for us, was the visit of 2 male Eastern or Rufus sided towhee.
Some years I will have one visit, but 2 is a treat.
(Towhee picture is from Wikipedia)
Watching them hopping back and forth in the leaf litter tossed in the flowers beds and gardens.
I enjoy the visits.
It would be nice to have them as season long visitors.
So much is about habitat and what we offer.
So, let's do a bit of "Gardening For Wildlife" this week.
Wildlife gardens can mean many things.
It can be lush tropical growth.
Open woodlands of shrubs and various trees.
What about deserts?
Marshes, wetlands and other waterways.
All attract certain forms of wildlife.
Yet, not all are practical for you and your gardens.
What is important to healthy habitat is some maintenance and good judgment.
My friends in the deep South have a good start on gardening and clean-up.
Yet like me here in Michigan, you still may need to do some selective pruning and other up keep.
Using the right tools is essential.Not only does it make the job go faster, but is better for your shrubs and trees.
Winter was to wicked this year to get some pruning taken care of, but it isn't to late in most cases.
It is best when plants are naked, you can see where two branches are rubbing together. Now is a time to remove one of them.
Any dead growth remove now.
Does a shrub or tree need some thinning?
Maybe a young tree has 2 main branches going up from the trunk.
Remove one of them now or pay later when it splits during a wind or ice storm.
Trees in the wild don't have that benefit and many will split. This sometimes add to "Nature"s" habitat, but you don't want that in your yard or on your house some day.
Some shrubs can benefit from a complete cut down. Red-twig dogwood and Spirea come to mind.
When cutting dead wood, you can use either Anvil or Bypass pruners.
When cutting live wood or live plants, always use a good sharp pair of Bypass pruners or loppers.
Bypass cutters, make a nice even cut allowing for the plant to scar and heal faster.
Dull blades and anvil cutters will smash the ends and may cause more problems as the healing and scar time is much longer.
Not to mention it looks ugly.
If you have the land or area to do so, make a brush pile for wildlife.
Brush piles are protection for birds and small mammals as well.
If you have a snag (dead tree) that is out of harms way, leave it.
Dead trees offer food and homes to many a creature.
There was a time when I had to have the best lawn in the Neighborhood.
You know the guy,
That was me.
Greenest grass, no weeds, etc.
Man, I didn't care what it took.
Chemicals, fertilizers, water everyday, and cutting the grass 3 times a week if it needed it.
I was the guy that carried a bottle of weed killer like a six shooter. As I was walking around or when I was mowing. If there was a weed, it didn't stand a chance in my lawn.
I wasn't much into formal gardens, but the lawn had to be perfect (I learned that one from my dad).
As I got more into nature and protecting our habitats and environments, my lawn area shrunk.
Not only was I doing my surroundings a big favor, I was creating habitat in suburbia.
Birds, butterflies, toads, frogs and more visit us every year.
I still like a lush green grass to walk in bare footed, there is much less of it and I use more environmentally, friendly products.
I water less and keep the grass cut tall.
Living near various waterways, I make sure lawn food is phosphorus free and I use less of it.
I'm down on my knees pulling weeds or where I can I use boiling water.
Pesticides are pretty much a thing of the past in my yard and gardens. Nature is a wonderful pesticide when we let it work like God intended it to work. You know, good bug eats bad bugs and so on.
Planting more natives that are hardier and many require less water and attention.
I still have my favorites, like Iris, Peonies and a handful of Rose bushes, but over time much of my gardens have gone native and some what wild.
And you know what?
I get more complements from neighbors and total strangers that stop to take a look see. Sometimes they get a tour of my small suburban lot.
Just because it say it is organic or natural, doesn't mean it is safe or chemical free.
Water, Is a chemical H2O, we use it everyday.
To little of it and we die.
To much of it and we die.
Hey this much works, twice as much will give me twice the results. After all, it's organic and is good for the earth.
Organics like man made chemicals are useful at the proper dosage.
Then there are organic pesticides.
Insects can't read and to my knowledge, there aren't to many pesticides that pick and chose what bug lives and what bug dies.
Many organic pesticides contain Pyretherins. A chmical derived from chrysanthemums.
It is just as deadly to the butterfly larvae and lady bug as it is to the aphids you are trying to wipe out.
Dish soap and warm water can kill off many insects too, but works more with direct contact.
Again, Double up and risk burning your plants. use a bit of coking oil as some recipes call for and you can fry a plant on a sunny day.
Yes, organics are good and should be used when possible
But remember, they too are chemicals that can be very deadly in the wrong hands and the wrong dosage. (Do ya, ever wonder how many people died finding out what is a toxic plant and what isn't?)
Sometimes selective man made herbicides and pesticides are required to handle certain situations. But you know why?
Because man kind messed up the natural order of things in the first place.
It is up to us to learn that point and become better stewards of our planet.
Not just for us, but our kids and grandkids.
Turn some of that green grass into flower, shrubs and trees.
Thin out some old growth if needed in your woodlands, you will be amazed at what is waiting for some sunshine.
Sometimes, fields need a selective burn (with permit of course). Nature used to take care of that with lightening strikes.
Nature is very giving and very forgiving.
How wise The American Indian was and how dumb the so called educated Eruopeans were when they settled here.
The Indians knew how important mother earth was, while settlers continued to treat her as a through away planet.
No, I wont stand on my orange crate today (I need to do that sometime again), I've rambled on for to long as it is.
The pictures are from our yard. At one time, every bit of it was grass that had to be watered, fed and mowed.
Now it offers pleasure for us an protection and homes to many a wild thing.
Well, it's time to fly for now
I do hope you enjoyed todays letter.
New readers please stick around so we can get to know each other and hopefully help each other.If you have a question, please ask.
I promise I will answer, whether I can help or not, you will get a response from me.
Do you have a bird you would like discuused or another topic?
We do that here too.
Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.
Can you feel that warmth?
Like wax melting, politeness and that ever wanting smile spreads like warm wax.
Adding a shine to you and the people you share your smiles with.
If nothing else, you will feel better and you just may confuse someone.
If you haven't had the chance, I have a quick profile on most of our Hummingbirds, or at least the most abundant and well known. Take a look see Until next time my friend
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed, Ron Patterson
PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.
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