Amazing the transformation that happens in spring! not just in nature, but in our own consciousness. After decades of gardening, an understanding naturally engulfs us from the practice of caring for our landscape plants and spending time outside. As gardeners, we hold in our hands the health of everything around us. The health of the soil that feeds our plants. The health of the insects that, by the millions, work indefatigable to make a living on our plot of land. The web starts there. But we have to understand our ecosystem. I have visited beautiful gardens that are dead. Not a living insect or bird can survive in a land laden with pesticides and fertilizers. As I wrote in my post “Why Organic?” synthetic substances in the soil break the web of life. In our search for perfection we sometimes forget the delicate balance of the natural world around us. So, as the new gardening season begins, lets agree to be more conscientious of the world that surrounds us and weigh our actions against the impact we may have on the wild creatures that share our habitat.
“Plants are not optional on this planet. With a few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else can live without them. We invariably take plants and the benefits they provide for granted” Douglas W. Tallamy
March 16, 2015 in Biodiversity, Spring, Wildlife
Tagged Biodiversity, Birds, Conservation, Crocus longiflorus, Ecosystems, Organic Gardening, Spring, Synthetic fertilizers, Synthetic pesticides
Happy New Year to all of you frustrated gardeners and faithful readers! I know that, at this time of the year, the only thing that keeps me dreaming and excited about the upcoming gardening season is the steady influx of wonderful seed, plant and garden supply catalogs. A good catalog is that which encompasses several criteria: selection, great photos and most important, detailed information and growing tips. I usually save them through out the growing season as they are a great guide to each individual variety, specifying germination times and date of maturity this can vary quite substantially within each cultivar. Having said all that here is a few of my best picks.
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Beautifully illustrated all organic and non GMO seeds. Specializes in heirloom varieties. A real treat!
- Jung Seeds and Plants. Very nice selection of hard to find small fruit shrubs. Has been around for over one hundred years.
- Johnny’s Selected Seeds I would call this a book! Vegetables, plants and garden supplies. A lot of hybrids but also organic and non GMO seed.
- Burpee We all know their seeds, covers everything from seed to supplies. Many amazing hybrids and they have a strict non-GMO policy.
- Bluestone Perennials If you are a perennial garden enthusiast, This is one catalogue you must have. Plants are listed alphabetically and I really like their easy to understand plant symbols with planting information and requirements.
- Select Seeds Rare antique and heirlooms variety of perennial and annual flowers. Many showy varieties you will not find in the nursery trade.
- Pinetree Garden Seeds and Accessories Organic non-GMO vegetable seeds, flowers and all kinds of accessories. Most notable a line of botanical cosmetics, teas, spices and soap making supplies.
“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of conformity on all its many fronts.”
― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education
The mixed border: Echinacea, Yarrow, Monarda, Coreopsis and Rudbeckia
In July the garden is filled with activity. My perennial beds are in full bloom and the pollinators are out in force performing their annual dance from bloom to bloom. Thanks to my resolve to have a complete organic garden, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are abundant and collecting nectar for their daily sustenance and the birds are busy in and out of the plants looking for food for their broods. It is a whole world of complex life out there.
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Echinacea.
All photos in this post courtesy of the very talented photographer, Audrey Davis.
Busy Bumble Bees
As many of you have noticed, our hot steamy weather and tons of rain, have promoted and abundance of weeds as well. Just the kind of weather they need to thrive. I have spent most of the last week revisiting all my beds and doing a thorough clean up of all emerging weeds. The thing is, we must get them before they bloom and are able to set seed. You will save hours of weeding in the fall and next year by weeding now. For all of you who hate this particular chore, my advise is get yourself some good music or book on your iPod, wear something cool, and consider it your exercise for the day. Take a little time to observe wildlife while you are out there!
Eupatorium or Joe Pye weed. A favorite of all pollinators.
Hemerocallis or Day Lilly. My personal favorite variety.
“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day-like writing a poem or meditating” Anne Morrow Lindberg
Habitat fragmentation is, in my opinion, one of the biggest unnatural calamities that our native wildlife has sustained in the last century. Land development and suburban sprawl has been taken place all around us at the expense of wildlife habitat. Miles upon miles of roads and highways, blacktops in the form of parking lots, shopping centers and driveways, and huge expanses of lawn are added every year in our country alone. Read the statistics as presented by Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy Wildlife Ecology and Entomologist professor at the University of Delaware, in this post.
I know, a lot of bad news, if you care. And I care. That is why I have Changed the way that I garden and hopefully persuade you to do the same, in any big or small capacity that you can. Here are some of the ways in which we can contribute to the survival of many species of insect pollinators, birds and small mammals in our gardens:
- Go organic, start slow by limiting the amount of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizes. I make my case in this post “Why Organic?” .
- Start a compost pile. Why throw away good organic matter? Check out my super easy compost system .
- Create new garden beds that provide habitats and increase biodiversity in your garden. It is easier than you think. See this post
- Incorporate more native plants into your landscapes. Small trees, shrubs and perennials provide food and sheller to birds and pollinators.
- Connect your garden beds to create ‘ribbons of vegetation’ so species can move within a wider range. This allows small mammals, birds, and small invertebrates to find mates, food and shelter to improve biodiversity.
- Provide water sources. Even a small bird bath, a basin for water loving plants or any size pond, will increase sustainability and ensure the survival of many species.
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”
― Albert Einstein
After years of gardening, of days upon days spent outside, digging, planting, and planning, of observing and making discoveries and notes, a big realization enveloped me, it came in small doses at first, and then it consumed me: that nature and my SELF are one and the same. I belong to the natural world around me, and to do anything to alter or in any way or interfere with the rhythm of its life is agains my nature. To me, the universe unfolding just a few steps from my back deck is eyeopening and overwhelmingly awesome.
I am celebrating my tenth year of organic gardening. My back yard is truly a universe on itself. It is perhaps just a half and acre of space open on all sides to nature. Deer are free to come and go. Raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks and voles are usual visitors. Frogs, toads and snakes hang around shady areas and water features, and birds populate every available real state that suits their habits. To support all this life there are countless insects and pollinators buzzing around in an interminable web that keeps this ecosystem connecting without end.
I propose to all gardeners, that we make it a priority to create landscapes that are both beautiful and wildlife habitats. Places where life is invited to thrive and multiply so we can observe, learn and marvel in the magic of nature!
“Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher” William Worthsworth.