Attract Birds & Butterflies

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Add a little extra color and motion to your summer garden with containers designed to attract birds and butterflies. Many garden centers continue to sell annuals throughout the summer and many of these mid-season annuals are a bit bigger, providing instant impact.

It’s easier than you think to attract birds and butterflies and the good news is you don’t need a lot of space to do it. Container gardens give you the ability to attract wildlife to your backyard, patio, deck or even balcony. Simply follow these four steps and your garden will be filled with color, motion and a season of wildlife.

  1. Provide food for birds and butterflies. Include plants with flat, daisy-like flowers like pentas, zinnias, and cosmos to attract butterflies. For hummingbirds, include some plants with tubular flowers including nicotiana, cuphea, salvia and fuchsia. And don’t forget about the hungry caterpillars that will soon turn into beautiful butterflies. Parsley, bronze fennel, and licorice vines are a few favorites that make great additions to container gardens. You can even create containers that will attract seed-eating birds. Purple Majesty millet, coneflower, coreopsis and Rudbeckias will keep many of the birds returning to your landscape.

  2. Include water for both the birds and butterflies. It’s a key ingredient and a decorative small shallow container filled with water can be included in a large container. Or include a free-standing birdbath within your container collection. I used a bronzed leaf birdbath in just this way. It created a great vertical accent, added interest to a blank wall and provided a water supply for the birds.

  3. Give them a place to live and raise their young. Add a few evergreens, ornamental grasses, and perennials to your container garden. Use weather resistant containers that can tolerate the extreme heat in your garden. Then fill with plants that are at least one zone hardier. Or add a few birdhouses. These can be included in the container or mounted on a fence, post or nearby tree.

  4. Skip the pesticides, please. Nature, including the birds you invite into your landscape, will devour many garden pests. Plus, the chemicals designed to kill the bad guys can also kill the good bugs and wildlife you are trying to attract. And, if pests get out of hand, use more eco-friendly products like soaps and horticulture oil as a control mechanism. And, as always, read and follow label directions carefully.

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Photo courtesy of Melinda Myers

Payson outside watering schedule: Even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

And to conserve time and energy, try using one of the self-watering containers or hanging baskets that are on the market. This helps to make it both easy and convenient when time constraints and vacations get in the way of providing ideal care. I recently tried using one of the Gardener’s Supply Easy Roller self-watering containers. I filled one with wildlife-friendly petunias along with papyrus and golden moneywort. After a five-day trip during hot dry weather I returned to find my container garden in great shape and hummingbirds visiting the flowers.

So gather your family and get started planting your wildlife container garden today.

Seven tips to help YOUR landscape beat the heat this summer

Summer has arrived and for many gardeners that means heat, drought and watering bans. This can be hard on gardeners as well as their landscapes. The good news is that there are ways to help plants thrive despite these seasonal challenges. Adjusting landscape care accordingly during the summer months cannot only provide relief for lawns and gardens, but also for the gardener. Here are some low maintenance eco-friendly ways gardeners can keep their landscapes looking their best throughout the summer months, while beating the heat:

Water plants thoroughly to promote deep drought- and pest-resistant roots. Wait until the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist or footprints remain in the lawn before watering again.

Avoid light, frequent watering that encourages shallow roots. Shallow roots are less able to tolerate drought and more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or shredded bark mulch over the soil in garden beds and around trees and shrubs. Mulching conserves moisture, keeps roots cool and moist, and suppresses weeds.

Mow lawns high. Taller grass produces deeper roots that are more drought-tolerant. A deeply rooted lawn is also more resistant to insects, disease and other environmental stresses.

Always mow lawns often enough, so you remove less than one third the total leaf surface. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They add nitrogen, organic matter and moisture to the soil.

Use a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer to give gardens and lawns a nutrient boost. This organic nitrogen fertilizer remains in the soil until the growing conditions are right for the plant.

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Photo courtesy of Melinda Myers

Payson outside watering schedule: Even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Remove weeds from garden beds and borders as soon as they appear. These “plants out of place” steal water and nutrients from your desirable garden plants. Plus, they can harbor insects and diseases that are harmful to your garden plants.

And don’t forget to take care of yourself while caring for your landscape during the heat of summer. Drink lots of liquid, use sunscreen, and work during the cooler morning and evening hours.

Then when the gardening tasks are done for the day, grab a glass of lemonade, take a seat in the shade and enjoy the beauty of your handiwork.

About the author

Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written more than 20 gardening books, including “Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening.” She hosts the nationally syndicated “Melinda’s Garden Moment” segments which air on over 115 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and writes the twice monthly “Gardeners’ Questions” newspaper column. Melinda also has a column in Gardening How-to magazine. Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for more than 20 years as well as seven seasons of “Great Lakes Gardener” on PBS. She has written articles for Better Homes and Gardens and Fine Gardening and was a columnist and contributing editor for Backyard Living magazine. Myers has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist and was a horticulture instructor with tenure. Her Web site is www.melindamyers.com.

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