Dear Master Gardener: I enjoy watching the birds, hummingbirds, butterflies and bees from my window. Do you have any suggestions on how to attract more of them to my yard?
Dear Avian: During these terribly hot days of summer, you are very wise to enjoy the fruits of your spring labor by staying inside and enjoying your garden from afar. I try to tell my long-suffering husband how dangerous it is to go out in the heat of the summer. My number one suggestion for your winged friends is to provide adequate water. Some bird baths are too deep for our feathered friends. They need shallow water containers from which to drink. Try putting a rock or a stone in your container for them to perch on while drinking. We all like to purchase the specialized seeds for various birds, such as thistle for finches, sugar water for hummingbirds and white millet for painted buntings. In actuality, if you would plant the appropriate plants in your garden, you could save money and the birds, butterflies and bees would be just as happy and probably healthier. Shrubbery that produces berries like lantanas, sunflowers and zinnias and flowers with a throat, such as Mandevilla, all attract a multitude of beautiful species. I recently put out some inexpensive bird seed on an outside table, and I now have a painted bunting and his mate every morning at our farm cottage. If I leave the night light on in the front yard, I always have a lawn full of robins pecking at the insects in the morning. I have a “Miss Huff” lantana, which grows perennially to about 6 feet tall every year. It is a wonderful host to both hummingbirds and butterflies. Grow some milkweed and increase the Monarch butterfly population. A simple pile of limbs or an old Christmas tree placed on the edge of your property creates a wonderful nesting area for birds of all kinds. Purple martins do not really eat mosquitoes. Mosquitoes actually come out at the wrong feeding time for martins. If they did, I would have them caged in my backyard because I am highly allergic to mosquito bites. As much as I love my birds, and with a yard that meets the criteria to be a certified bird habitat I do not feed the birds at my home but only at our cottage. Why? Because I also love cats. They are well fed, but to them, it is sporting to catch birds on a lazy summer afternoon. I just provide a habitat conducive to birds, butterflies and bees, but I don’t feed them in specific areas that cats can be drawn toward. I do not pretend to be an expert on birds, butterflies or bees; however, I do love all forms of nature and enjoy the wildlife interaction in my garden. Growing beautiful plants and shrubbery will attract a wide variety of our feathered friends, and if you want to splurge on some expensive seed every now and then, all the better.
Dear Master Gardener: I have a large area in which I would like to add some trees. There is no house in the area, just an open field. It is in full sun and is about two acres large. I just can’t decide what I want to plant.
Dear Consider Carefully: Do you recall the old adage “measure twice and cut once?” That saying goes double for planting large trees. If you plant a seedling or a tree in a pot, it is hard to imagine that one day it can grow to an enormous size. It doesn’t cost a few dollars to remove a tree; instead, think in terms of $1,000 or more to remove a tree. That is, if you can find someone who can remove a large tree. New homeowners often plant numerous trees in their yards to make the landscape look full. They don’t realize that, oftentimes, a lot less will fill the area without having to go to the expense and trouble of removing over-planted ones at a later date. One, possibly two, trees will fill the same area in short order. Back to your quest for the perfect tree. Remember you probably do not have access to water for this large area so be patient and wait until the fall when the weather cools and shortly thereafter the winter rain begins. If you want lots of trees, you can contact the South Carolina Forestry Service and purchase seedlings. Pine trees will provide straw so go with long leaf pines. Oaks are majestic, and there are many varieties to choose from. Sawtooth oaks grow rapidly and produce lots of acorns for wildlife. Magnolias are reminiscent of the Old South, but grow much slower. There are numerous ornamental trees to choose from that will provide a bloom throughout the year. As you make a plan, keep in mind how large the trees will grow. As always, don’t forget to take a soil sample to your Clemson Extension Office before planting.