The celebration of Earth Day and the gift of Spring it is a wonderful time to focus on what I call “garden friends” with family and friends. These are the creatures that Mother Nature created to keep balance, health & harmony in our garden and yards and beyond. Learning about them and being aware of them fosters understanding and compassion towards the Earth we are all a part of.
Wild life such as the common songbirds, that can even be found in urban areas, and native toads found in more rural areas are tremendously helpful to all yards and gardens. And on the smaller side, lady bugs, praying mantis & dragon flies do their part in consuming harmful bugs and garden pests as well. Honey bees, native bees & butterflies pollinate our crops for us. It is always nice for children to learn about how helpful insects can be and to respect them and care for them. The experience of watching a pair of House Wrens build a nest, sit on the next and feed their young until they leave the nest is something they will always remember. They can watch how busy mother and father wren are, collecting insects to feed the young. When children learn about these creatures at an early age, to love and respect them and think of them as friends, it establishes a life long relationship with nature and a sense of being apart of this greater family.
To help establish this awareness and care, there are simple things families can do to participate in the support and longevity of these creatures. It is very important to find a balance of this kind of activity so that human intervention does not create a co-dependency of wild life on mankind, but rather encourages them to care for themselves naturally by supporting and protecting a healthy wild life habitat. A simple example of this would be feeding the birds. It is better to plant flowers and vegetables that are favored by the birds, such sunflowers, coneflowers, rudbeckias and elderberries instead of putting out commercial birdseed regularly. I only put out birdseed in deep winter when there is snow on the ground. Sometimes birds that should have migrated south & do not, like robins, need our help to get through the winter. Over all want to make wild life strong, but not dependent on us. We want to protect and create ideal habitat for them so they can prosper. Human development of homes and commercialization of land is one of the main problems for loss of natural habitat. Many common birds are what are called “cavity dwelling “ birds and their natural habitat is a hollow tree. As one can imagine, there are fewer and fewer hollow trees. We can help remedy this situation by putting up birdhouses, often called “ nesting boxes” or “bird boxes”, all being the same idea. This is a tremendous help to native bird populations and has helped bring back our native bluebird populations. The important note here is that the bird house is of the right dimension and design and mounted in the proper way. This information is readily available on line and in books. In a similar vein, nesting boxes can be put up for native bees, which are also called solitary bees. They are great pollinators and are very non-aggressive and do not live in hives. A native bee house can be hung in an orchard to great benefit of all. Houses and water can also be put out for our native toad population. Often referred to as the “the gardeners greatest friend” the common toad, harmless to all but the bugs— will consume literally thousands of bug a month. Native toads were once everywhere, have diminished from disease The toads diet includes all of our gardens greatest pests, such as earwigs, snails, slugs, squash and rose beetles, flies and many more!They feed mostly at night and only need a small water source for soaking in, such as a pot tray or crockery dish. Toads respond to human kindness in amazing ways, even learning to come when called for a bit to eat. They live 35 yrs or more in the same place and always come back to it after winter hibernation. To help toads we can create habitats for them with a water source, a house or place for them to dwell and lots of plants for them to find food around. My experience has always been that when I created a toad habitat, with water, vegetation, shady places, etc. toads would always come! Imagine the the excitement!
I will be going into more detail of how to create habitats for these garden friends in future postings! Please feel free to contact me with questions.
For further learning you can go here: Garden Toad Watch.
Lucinda Macy has been making delightful, functional & eco friendly homes out of found wood and recycled materials for many years…….time tested and loved by all. To learn more please visit her websites;