National Wildlife Federation/ San Diego County

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There’s more to a beautiful garden than just pretty flowers! If you look at a garden with a large lawn, a border of clipped hedges, and nothing ever out of place, you may be looking at something pretty boring as well as an ecological desert! Sure, it’s green and it’s wet, but it’s still a desert if there are no living creatures that are using it as an oasis. To bring in the butterflies and birds that make a garden lively and entertaining, there are very simple changes you can make.

The first step to creating a lively oasis is to change how you think of your garden. Instead of trying to make it look like a static picture from a magazine, loosen up a little! Quit pruning so much on those hedges and trees and let them open up to get some air and sunshine in. That same openness creates a place for birds to take shelter from predators and to make nests.

Quit using chemical fertilizers and pesticides which kill all the beneficial insects that are trying to help you in your gardening efforts. Pesticides often simply breed tougher weeds and insect pests. Let your new friends, the birds, eat the pests for you! They will provide that service if you make your oasis friendly to them. A good way to create a friendly garden is to provide a water source. Put out a birdbath and keep it full. Keep the water level shallow, perhaps by putting some gravel or smooth rocks in the bottom of the birdbath.

Now that the birds and butterflies have water and a non-toxic place, it is time to think about replacing some of that boring lawn with shrubs, flowers and trees that will provide food for all your new wildlife friends. Some of the best choices for these plants can be seen in the habitat garden at the Water Conservation Garden. There you will see Strawberry Tree, Toyon (also known as California Holly), Manzanita and Elderberry which are loved by larger birds for their berries. Smaller birds love the seeds of Deer Grass, Buckwheat, and California Fescue.

Butterflies need two types of plants to find your garden appealing. Nectar plants feed the adults, and some of their favorites are flat flowers like daisies, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), Verbena, Cosmos, Asters and Zinnias.

Butterflies also need host plants. The host plants are needed by the larvae-- those caterpillars that show up briefly in your garden and eat eat eat! But if you remember that the only reason they exist is to build strength so they can wrap up in a pupa to turn into a beautiful butterfly or moth, perhaps you will be a bit more patient with them!

When you visit the habitat garden you will see bright orange and red flowers called Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). This easy to grow plant will bring monarch butterflies to your garden. This is the classic “if you build it, they will come” plant! By the second year you will see caterpillars on these plants, followed by lovely pale green pupas with a band of gold on them. The pupas are hard to spot but they look like jewelry when you do find them. Then some sunny day you will see a beautiful brand new Monarch butterfly opening his wings and sunning himself in your garden.

Before you know it that boring yard will be so lively you will want to spend your free time just sitting and watching the activity!

Thanks for visiting, and remember, we improve our collective habitat one yard at a time...

The San Diego Habitat Stewards


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Neighborhood Rules - Trash Bins

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Started: September 27th 2005Replies: 0

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Started: September 27th 2005Replies: 0

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