A Gardener’s Notebook

Happy Mother’s Day, Mother Nature (P.S. Please send rain)

Special to The TribuneMay 15, 2014 

A monarch butterfly gets nectar from the flowers on a Echium candicans (Pride of Madiera).

LEE OLIPHANT — Special to The Cambrian

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    The “floating flowers,” or butterflies, are adding color and life to our garden. Monarchs have diminished greatly in numbers all over the west. The milkweed is the “host plant” on which they lay their eggs. Eggs hatch into larvae (caterpillars) and eat the milkweed. Population growth and farmers are eradicating the “weed” between Mexico and Canada, the route for the monarchs’ annual migration. Monarchs in our gardens are enjoying the abundance of nectar in flowers. DON’T spray insecticide on flowers. You will be poisoning the food supply that sustains monarchs until they travel north.

Gardening’s in our blood. It’s in our DNA. We’re in touch with the seasons. We love the soil beneath us and sun on our backs. Drought or not, we go about the business of gardening. It’s about hope and anticipation.

We’re doing whatever we can to keep the soil moist and our environment healthy. I’ve managed to plant a few edibles here and there. There are green tomatoes on “Early Girls” and the “Sweet 100’s” tomato vines are covered with blooms. I planted a row of “Carnival Blend” carrots for grandkids to harvest and blue kale for us.

Now my attention has turned upward. I’m becoming attached to my garden in ways that do not necessarily require me to get down and dig. “Look up,” is my mantra.

The birds are everywhere. Common house finches and song sparrows, American towhees and the colorful spotted towhees bathe daily in the birdbaths. Juncos, goldfinch, and mourning doves also occupy our garden. We have feeders for Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds. The rowdy Western scrub jays, Stellar’s jays, acorn woodpeckers, speckled northern flickers, and American crows and ravens can create quite a din when they visit.

A pair of red-shouldered hawks harasses our hens when “the girls” are in the garden foraging for bugs and worms. When the hens grow silent and run for cover under the artichokes, I know the hawks are overhead.

Unfortunately, California quail who used to frequent our garden with their adorable “fluff balls” have disappeared this year. The neighborhood population of “free-range” cats has increased steadily and the quail have been eaten or have taken to the hills. They’d rather deal with wild predators like foxes, bobcats and hawks than neighborhood pets.

Freeloading birds have discovered ways to get into the chicken coop for nutritious chicken pellets available there. The flying marauders wait until I go into the house before they make their way through the wire. They don’t know that I can observe them on my webcam. You can see them on my website too, (address below). As a friend of mine once noted after I’d told her about watching the hens and birds on my hencam, “You’re so easily entertained!” Indeed, I am.

Whether looking down or up, I’m enjoying my garden. The weeds are pulled and the mulch spread. I’ve planted “just enough” edibles and expect to spend a day a week hand-watering. Husband Don is going to spend an equal time keeping our tank full. I can see that it is going to be a long summer.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” Mother Nature. P.S. Please send rain.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@charter.net; read her blog at centralcoastgardening.com.

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