Sunday, October 19, 2008
Well, so you've come back! Great. :-) Let me tell you a little more how the idea of the sanctuary came about.
I live in a neighborhood of large lots, from 1 to 2 acres each. These lots have extensive lawns and some are are sprayed regularly and kept weed-free. My 1.25 acre lot has 3 neighbors backing up to my property on one side and 1 on the other. To boot, my property backs right up to a golf course. You can only imagine the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, etc. float around here.
I leave my lawn natural, more of a mown meadow. It is filled with violets and dandelions in the spring and blankets of white cover during the summer. One of my neighbors also has such a mix. This summer, after he'd also seen the PBS special about CCD we discussed how difficult it is for both us to mow our lawns when we run over honeybees on the clover. So I decided that I just wasn't going to mow down my clover regularly, but instead left almost half an acre in bloom.
At the same time I started investigating what I could do with my existing gardens that could turn to benefit bees. I took a look at some of my long-time gardening methods. Simple things could make a difference. Take coleus.
I've always loved the colored leaves of coleus and to increase leaf production I'd religiously pinch off flower buds to make the plants bushier. I'd never really liked the long untidy flower stalks. But come to find out, those tiny flowers are like bee magnets! I let all of my coleus bloom this year. I had nearly a dozen huge plants up on the deck and not only did the bees line up for these tiny treats, but the butterflies and hummingbirds visited every day! So I also let my basil plants bloom as it has the same kind of long flower stalk. Again, the bees were all over the plants.
And then there were the zinnias. I had originally planted perhaps 50 of the 'cut-n-come again' variety for their riot of color and summer long blooms. Turns out it was standing room only on those blossoms: every kind of bee around here visited. So did at least 8 kinds of butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, a preying mantis and lots of goldfinches. It was amazing and when friends came, we would sit next to one of the zinnia beds and watch the action. And up to that point all I'd done was let some clover bloom and not pinch back the coleus and the basil!
All that bug activity, of course, drew in more birds than usual. (A note: as always, I provide a dependable supply of fresh water in the form of bird baths, especially one on the ground where the squirrels and chipmunks and the occasional injured bird can have easy access. This year it was especially important due to drought conditions in Ohio. Another benefit of all that dependable water - it saves my tomatoes and other crops since with easy water around, the critters don't chomp into something juicy to quench their thirst.)
Talk about fast gratification. If just a few things like I did during that first couple of weeks could make that much difference, just imagine what a determined effort might do? Keep watching this post and I'll let you in on other little things I did that are making a big difference in the gardens.
More "Garden Buzz" soon! :-)