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SHARING SECRETS: Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden

A painted lady butterfly in Linda Chisari's garden. Image courtesy of Lisa Marun.

What do you do in your garden to encourage bees, birds, and other wildlife?

Diane Kennedy: Here at Finch Frolic Garden, we use no chemicals of any sort. We build good soil instead, and plant a wide variety of native plants to encourage native insects, birds, lizards, frogs, and larger animal—and they all work as part of our integrated pest management system. If you use or purchase plants which have been treated with systemic fertilizers and insecticides, whatever chews on the plant or takes nectar or seeds will also receive those poisons. We also leave leaves and don't prune plants unnecessarily, so there is plenty of habitat, landing pads, and winter seed sources. We've identified over ninety-eight bird species on our 1.68 acres in the last seven years, over forty species of moth, and as many species of butterfly.

Joan Herskowitz: I have found that African blue basil is a magnet for bees and a beautiful plant in the vegetable or ornamental garden. It’s a sturdy plant that has to be cut back occasionally because of its rapid growth, but is easily propagated from cuttings that can be given to friends. Although it may be too strong for use in cooking, it’s wonderfully fragrant.

Laird Plumleigh: I designed and made ceramic feeders in the form of a flying bird. They are enjoyed by a variety of wild birds who wait their turn to feed.

Lori Kilmer: To encourage birds, I provide bird baths, a variety of plants for nectar, shrubs, mature trees, and bird houses for nesting. I love the bluebirds that use the nest box on my patio bank. It’s so fun to watch them bring food for the babies. They take great care of their young. Sometimes a hawk hangs out in our avocado trees.

Lorie Johansen: We moved to our home in 2002. I immediately turned off the water to kill the 5000 square feet of turf. After the courtyard was built, my husband and neighbor built a two-tiered pond with a stream connecting the tiers. We have had so much wildlife enjoy our pond including mallard ducks, egrets, quail, song birds, hummers, bunnies, frogs, dragonflies, and this lovely bobcat in the photo on left. It's such a joy to sit there quietly and see who approaches the water to drink! Very zen.

Debra Lee Baldwin: My hobby is attracting birds to my garden so I can observe and enjoy them. I don’t like plastic in the garden, so I make bird feeders from repurposed objects. I've fashioned feeders from hanging candleholders, wire birdcages, and other thrift store items. All are easy to make and attract a variety of wild birds. They're the real stars of this video—a dozen different kinds, all ID’d: Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden. Enjoy!

Dale Rekus: Planting more caterpillar food plants and more nectar plants for butterflies.

Susan Oddo: We have added over fifty varieties of butterfly-friendly bushes using suggestions from the San Diego Master Gardeners and Las Pilitas Nursery as a basis for selection. Most of these will attract all of San Diego’s pollinators. Interestingly, most of the Australian plants will, too.

Russel Ray: I live in the East San Diego County boondocks. When I installed a small water fountain at the front entrance, it was overrun with bees and hummingbirds. So I bought four hummingbird feeders and placed them around the property. I put a bird bath in back, which the hummingbirds, scrub jays, and curve-billed thrashers love. Then I built two "bee ponds" (photo above) — a small one in front and a large one in back. Then I encouraged the bees to move from the front door to the bee ponds. Once I had them relocated to the bee ponds, I put common granulated garlic on the fountain to inhibit their return.

Susi Torre-Bueno: To encourage wildlife, I allow seed heads to remain on my flowering plants, and it's exciting to see all the birds these seeds attract. I also refrain from using dangerous pesticides. We have quail living on the hillside on the north part of our garden, and every year they have one or two clutches of about twenty chicks each; we see the teenagers and adults all through the year. Coyotes sleep in our yard, too, and we have many kinds of birds. Our courtyard is planted mostly with aloes, and all year long there are hummingbirds (which nest in the courtyard) sipping nectar from the aloes. The hummers also gather spider webs from around our garden to build their nests (which they locate on the top side of the lights in the courtyard), and we have one or two nests every year.

Lisa Chisari: I have my garden registered though the National Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. This organization provides many good tips for encouraging wildlife. More specifically, I always plant flowers (zinnias, calendula, cosmos, etc.) in my vegetable garden to encourage pollinating insects to help the vegetables along. As a consequence, there are many birds, butterflies, and bees that consider my garden ‘home’.

Anne Murphy: I put in plants that are native to this area and plants that supply food and shelter for animals. Among my natives are salvias (sages) for the humming birds, native buckwheats, Eriogonum for cover, and Prunus ilicifolia for the beautiful red fruit that the birds eat. I have passion flower vines for Gulf fritillary butterflies and Cassia for the sulphur butterflies. Fruit trees for both myself and the birds. A source of water for the birds.

Barbara Lysaught: I plant friendly plants, and keep my cat from chasing the butterflies!

Cindy Sparks Bruecks: I try to give the birds what they want, and that includes letting some of the amaranth and chicories go to seed. The birds will work the seed heads diligently, and because those two are essentially perennial in my garden, the birds can mostly count on the seed. I also have a bird bath (a wok lid, turned upside down, in my veggie garden of course) that has its own dripper, so gets fresh water often for them. And third, I keep my cat indoors.

Dayle Cheever: My garden habitat is geared towards attracting birds, pollinators, and keeping the neighborhood cats from staying too long. I have installed some small perching areas using manzanita from a good friend's property in the East County and the birds love it. I provide water in a couple places and keep some flowering plants going throughout the year. Not too hard to do near the beach. I do not use any pesticides and I tolerate some pests to encourage the insects that prey on them. Aphids, for example, are allowed on some plants to encourage lady bugs and their larvae. When I find grubs in my soil I remove them by hand and feed them to my scrub jays. They really love to eat them.

Al Myrick: Well, we keep everything green and cool and lush and Dora tends thistle and nectar feeders. There are a lot of trees and a wide devariety plants and some ponds. If you build it…

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