Jul 282014
 

by Avis Licht Hummingbird I love watching hummingbirds zoom, dive, drink and zip around my garden. Not only are they beautiful and fanciful, they are an integral part of the health of our gardens.  While researching information on hummingbirds I came across a great article on the Las Pilitas website, which is a source of California Native Plants. “Hummingbirds prefer the native species (commonly Sambucus,Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos) for nesting. They prefer a mixed diet of nectar from multiple sources for their daily diet. I read an article that showed a correlation between nectar (pollen) proteins and hummingbirds’ immune systems. “So, although they can live on bird feeders they probably can not survive on bird feeders (sugar diet) as you’re messing with their immune system and, since there is no pollen in sugar water, their reproductive ability. Basically, the bird feeders are making winos out of proud birds. If they attack you, give them a break, it’s the ‘Twinkie’ syndrome.

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

If you’re tempted to go out and buy a bird feeder for these lovelies, think twice.  I personally feel that it’s more work to keep a feeder full, clean and safe, than planting some easy care flowers like the Zauschneria, above. From the Las Pilitas website: “Just plant, Zauschneria species, California fuchsia everywhere (well maybe not everywhere, but in a lot of places. avis.) in your garden. The California fuchsias can flower from July through December. They flower and flower, trim off the old flowers, and they flower more. They are excellent in rock walls. California fuchsias can tolerate garden water as well as being very drought tolerant. These flowers come in white, pink, and red with gray or green foliage. The vary in with from a couple of inches tall to a couple of feet.”

this is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonia.

This is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonio.

The Salvias are easy to grow, have low water requirements and are long blooming. Hummingbirds love them. To find out lots more about their life cycle and plants they enjoy, read this article from Las Pilitas.

the high wire act

Resting is important to hummingbirds as they have such a high metabolism.

Shady resting spot

Shaded branches in nearby trees are perfect for hiding from predators and resting between dive bombs on the flowers.

Vegetable Garden

Zauschneria, edges an inviting path into the edible garden.

Hummingbirds need fresh water, shelter and safe nesting sites in order to thrive, in addition to flowering plants. The greatest diversity of hummingbird species is found in areas where plant life is more diverse, which in turn leads to more diverse insect life – both plants and insects are critical food sources for hummingbirds. As you can see in the photo above, of my garden, diversity is paramount. Trees, vines, shrubs, flowers, annuals, vegetables, are all designed into a small area. A well thought out form is important for the visual enjoyment of the garden. Read this article for design elements in the edible garden.

IMG_0339

Resting hummingbird on a tomato cage

Habitat conservation is critical for protecting all hummingbird species. Creating a backyard habitat can nurture local hummingbirds as well as provide a rest stop for migrating hummingbirds, but if those migrants have nowhere safe to go, your efforts could be useless. Supporting conservation programs in tropical regions where hummingbirds are most diverse is critical for preserving these beautiful birds, and many birding organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society work to preserve habitat in many areas where hummingbirds thrive. By understanding hummingbirds’ habitat needs and knowing what makes a good hummingbird habitat, it is possible not only to enjoy these birds close by, but also to ensure their survival throughout their widespread ranges.

Feb 152012
 


by Avis Licht

Wire fencing covered with bird netting

To completely protect plants, cover with bird netting

 

We love the birds in our garden, but we don’t love how they eat the young seedlings. Here is the best way I’ve found to keep the little rascals from wrecking your garden.

1. Plant the seedlings, like lettuce, beets or broccoli in a raised bed. When you plant intensively in a bed it is easier to protect more plants than if they are in single rows.

2. Place wire  fencing over the bed in a hoop like fashion.  You can also use heavy gauge wire, flexible plastic tubing or bender board.

 

 

 

Hoop shape over bed with netting

Keep your netting off the plants to allow room for growing

3. Pin the edges down with wire staples that are used for holding down irrigation tubing.

4. Lay bird netting over the wire. Pin it down carefully along the edge of the bed.  If you leave any openings the birds will sneak in.

Seedlings under protection

 

One little thing. You need to be sure that it’s birds eating your seedlings and not some other pests, like snails or slugs. Bird netting will NOT keep the snails out. A bird will bite the plant and leave a v shaped mark like this > .  Snails and slugs eat both the edges and the middle of the leaf in curves.

snail damage to leaf

Snails and slugs will chew the edges and center of a leaf

 

Sep 142011
 

What is a pest?  In a garden an animal can be a pest one day and not the next.  One of our most beloved members of the garden is the Bird. They’re beautiful, they sing, the eat insects, we NEED birds in the garden. BUT… they can also be incredibly damaging to our crops.

In the Spring song birds come flocking into the garden.   They can absolutely devastate your early crops by pecking at the leaves and pulling them out of the ground.  One way you can tell the difference between snail and slug damage and bird damage, is that a bird will leave a triangular peck in the leaf, like this > from its beak. A slug or snail will have an uneven  edge eaten. The easiest and most effective way I have found to deal with birds is to cover the beds.  I do this by putting a wire cover over the bed and lay bird netting over that. It allows the plants room to grow and keeps out all the birds.

Edible Landscapes need protection

Wire and netting over beds for protection from birds

The wire is cut to the size of the bed.  It is then gently put over the bed like a hoop.  I peg in the bottoms with wire staples  or a stick.  After the wire is in place, I put bird netting over it and tuck in all the corners.  I don’t recommend chicken wire, because it has many sharp edges, gets rusty and you can get caught on it too easily. This green coated wire is not expensive and easy to use.  The coating keeps it looking good and prevents it from rusting.

Bird netting works very well

Bird netting over wire hoop keeps the birds away from your vegetables

The next photo shows how I put the bird netting over the wire. It’s important to keep it pegged in at the edges so that birds don’t get caught inside the netting.

When the plants are up to the top of the wire I take it off and by then, the plants are no longer of interest to the birds.  They want something more tender.

Simple Dog Barrier

How can a bamboo stick keep a large dog out of the strawberries

How can bamboo sticks keep a large dog out of the strawberries?

I know this may seem ridiculous, but in the photo above I used small bamboo sticks to create a little fence around my strawberries.  I found that my large Black Labrador Retriever would walk through the strawberries and do his stuff right in the middle.  Big Yuck.  Once I put up this little barrier, he walked around the bed and we never had a problem.  My point here, is that sometimes you can find very simple and easy solutions to a vexing problem.

It’s also the case that a beloved member of the family can be a pest as well.

 

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