Pollinator Garden

It’s been so long since I posted here, I’ll have to ease back into it gently. So here’s a little video of one of my favourite shrubs–Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Victoria’. If you’re looking for an evergreen, low-maintenance, honey bee and other pollinator attractor, you couldn’t do better.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Victoria’

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The Battle for Your Lawn

I just read this in Friday’s Burnaby Now: “Burnaby Subsidizing Pricey Bug Packages”. Isn’t that a great heading? Even I, who has lawns on the brain, having just finished a new project with lawn in the front and the back, and having ripped up my front grass for reasons that will become apparent, didn’t clue in to the story behind this heading.

European Chafer Beetles.

If you haven’t yet been educated about the effects of ECB damage, you might find this post interesting.

Most years since the ECB really took off, Burnaby has offered a subsidized nematode package to Burnaby residents. This article is a reference to complaints that the product is an overly pricey version whereas Canadian Tire and Home Depot have nematode packages for less. Well, if I were using nematodes for my (now non-existant) lawn, I’d want the most effective.

Here are the details, for those of you who are Burnaby residents. Don’t wait too long–they’re taking orders only until Wednesday (June 24 2015). If you aren’t a Burnaby resident, you may borrow a Burnaby resident friend who doesn’t need nematodes to get you the deal. I’ve tried to find out which other Metro Vancouver municipalities are offering reduced nematode packages, but if any are, they’re not advertising very well.

Of course, you don’t need to get nematodes from your city–most nurseries and big box stores will have them. Just make sure it’s the most effective species: Heterorhabditis bacteriophora.

And this is why I don’t need nematodes for my lawn this year:

It's started...

It’s started… racoon damage, early Dec 2014.

This picture was taken about Dec 1 2014. Lots and LOTS of racoon damage.

Dec 30 2014. Lots and LOTS of racoon damage inflicted in the space of about one hour early yesterday morning.

Today, June 22 2015.

Today, June 22 2015. Ready for me to start digging a pond. After I call BCOneCall of course!

Bee “Arrival Sequence”

“Arrival Sequence” is an expression used by some designers (not me I’m afraid, I’m far to common for that) to refer to the approach to your house–how you get there, what you see as you’re getting there, and what you see and experience once you’re there.

That’s my artsy way of introducing this bee.

This is one giant bee!

Bumble bee.

Bumble bee approaching.

 

IMG_1529

Bumble bee landing.

 

I love watching all kinds of wildlife in my garden, whether from indoors on cold or miserable days, or outdoors on warm unexpectedly sunny days in February. So when this bee that looked almost the size of a hummingbird flew by, I went outside to follow her (her?).

It doesn’t take much to attract wildlife to your garden, but unless you’re looking for it/them, you’ll miss tons of beauty and enjoyment. So as I mentioned in a previous post, get out that camera or phone, and stand in some likely spot, and just wait. You’ll be rewarded in no time with something like this:

Love that melodious background music!

I’ve been searching google to try to identify what kind of bee this is, unsuccessfully. If any of you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

 

Mosquito Prevention–5 Things

Mosquito Prevention–5 ThingsLarson Mosquito

 

I don’t get a lot of mosquitos where I live, in fact, several of my windows don’t even have screens on them. But I hate a mosquito bite as much as the next person, so I was interested  in a recent article about mosquito-repellant plants.

Preventing an invasion, tho’, starts with knowing a bit about the little fly. For example, who knew she’s attracted to Carbon Dioxide?

Some other facts:

♣Most mosquitos breed in stagnant water, but it can be as little as the drop that remains in a leaf axil or cupped leaf.

♠In colder climates, many mosquito eggs and/or larvae can over-winter frozen, or even dried out, in a state called “diapause”, beginning to grow again with thaw or water.

♥Usually the period from egg to adult is up to 40 days, but the adult lifespan only a week or so. And contrary to popular belief, the female will only feed once (unless disturbed from getting a “full blood meal”), then rest several days while digesting the meal and making eggs. They can only do this two or three times before the end of their natural life. So that one mosquito that bugged you all night and left you with multiple bites was actually a family of mossies.

♦It appears to be a myth that if you allow the mosquito to finish supper, and remove her proboscis unmolested, you won’t feel the itch of the bite. Couldn’t find any evidence for this.

The feeding preferences of Mosquitos include those with type O blood, heavy breathers, those with a lot of skin bacteria, people with a lot of body heat, and the pregnant. (Wikipedia)

WOW! Hard to change most of those things!

5 Things

Standing Water

Periodically check around the yard for standing water. Could be in a planter tray, the tarp covering your winter tires, the edge of a pool where your hose bib drips. Have you got a container garden without drainige holes (or enough drainage holes)?

The key here is standing water–if there is movement to the water, the mosquito won’t find it a hospitable place to lay her eggs. So if you’ve been resisting installing a fish pond (with pump adequate to the its volume), or water feature of some kind, never fear–there’s way too much turbulence for a mosquito nursery.

Fish

If you do have a pond, consider stocking it with fish for those quiet areas behind rocks or plants where the water isn’t really moving.

Of course, that means you’re keeping more pets, because even tho’ they are easy to look after, they do need some looking after. Not to mention fish predation–but that’s a subject for another post…

Diversity

I’ve harped on about this many times–it’s the answer to most of your garden concerns, from disease and pests to garden delight. In this case having habitat for many different species in your yard will decrease the likelihood of mosquitos enjoying the same neighbourhood. Mayfies, damselflies, dragonflies all love mosquitos and their larvae, but won’t eat enough to keep your evening read in the garden pest free. Ditto for birds. But lots of different birds and dragonflies, and frogs and toads, and spiders, combined with other prevention methods will go  a long way toward ensuring your family’s comfort.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plant repellants

Plants with a lot of volatile oils are apparently good mosquito repellants, so plant them near your preferred sitting area in the garden–as well as further away, so you’ll have a mosquito-free zone.

Lemon balm--my tenant "accidentally" planted it in his section of the garden--it didn't stay there!

Lemon balm–my tenant “accidentally” planted it in his section of the garden–it didn’t stay there!

 Many of our favourite herbs have offensive smells to mosquitos–basil, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, lemon thyme, lavender, probably more. Besides growing them, picking off a few stems and rubbing it on exposed skin may increase the effect. Then there’s non-herb fragrant plants: garlic, marigold, rose-scented geranium (pelargonium, the annual kind), catmint (nepeta)…

Skin Care

Some of the above herbal applications may only work for a short time–half hour or so. Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News suggests watching out for what the mosquitos do: initially they don’t come near, then they alight but don’t bite, then they alight and bite. During that middle phase, get up and reapply some lemon balm or lavender–maybe try a different herb than last time? Some other suggestions are not wearing perfume and having a fan nearby. Apparently they’re weak fliers, but I guess the fan should still be pretty strong!

It’s a little late in the year to initiate many of these strategies, but maybe you’ll be inspired to add “anti-mosquito garden design” to your garden to-do list for fall or next spring.

Anyone have any great suggestions that I haven’t mentioned? Please share them here.

Ways to Keep Your Garden Looking Great

Steve Whysall (Vancouver Sun gardening columnist) wrote a great article in Friday’s paper entitled Six Ways To Keep Your Garden Looking Great.

He interviewed Egan Davis, the chief instructor of the Horticultural Training Program at the University of B.C. Botanical Garden, but formerly at Van Dusen Botanical Garden, and one of my Master Gardener instructors. So I’m really happy to report that all of Egan’s “six ways” have been previously addressed here in the pages of Real Life Garden Solutions!

Here’s a quick overview:

1. Mulch. And only use organic amendments to the soil, and only fertilizers that are actually needed. See here for LOTS more info.

It's about 5' high, 10'across. That means probably about 10 cubic yards.

Mountain of mulch. It’s about 5′ high, 10’across. That means probably about 10 cubic yards.

2. Make sure your soil is carrying enough moisture. Adding compost will help with that.

3. Leave your fall garden “unkempt” for the critters. Read more here.

Crocosmia seeds. Beautiful to look at, but I wonder what bird has a big enough beak to crush these. They're probably 3-4 mm diameter.

Crocosmia seeds. Beautiful to look at, but I wonder what bird has a big enough beak to crush these. They’re probably 3-4 mm diameter.

4. I love this one: Don’t be afraid to make changes. It’s one of my design mantras. A garden should be something that delights in changing over the years.

5. Grow some from seed. I haven’t written this post yet, but the pictures are all ready to go…

6. Become a backyard ecologist. Yes, I’ve written lots on this.

I think this might be a bumble bee. It's pretty fat and fuzzy.

I think this might be a bumble bee. It’s pretty fat and fuzzy.