My garden exploded with color this fall and I’m out in it every morning. I enjoy the rising temperature as the fog lifts and fades. I want to burst into song and sing John Denver’s “Sunshine on my Shoulders Makes me Happy.” But I don’t. My neighbors may not share my enthusiasm for the morning hours.
The hens join me, clucking and scratching around my feet as they dine on juicy grubs, earwigs, and weed seeds that are exposed. I’m able to let them “free-range” now that the Labradoodles are a mature 2 years of age. The dogs consider the hens curious creatures, but requiring too much effort to chase down, pluck and debone, when kibbles are so available.
I’ve been patrolling the garden each morning for green-spotted cucumber beetles. I’ve put hundreds of notches in my belt.
We’ve had more than our share of bird visitors this year. Several families of yellow finch nested nearby, along with the usual sparrows, finch, juncos, bushtits, jays, towhees, woodpeckers, crows, and doves. Hummingbirds buzz by my ears letting me know their feeder is empty. Coveys of quail scurry through the garden with little ones in tow. How tiny and vulnerable the chicks are, and how vigilant their parents.
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Our sly neighborhood fox has been cruising but we haven’t seen her kits yet this summer. The vultures soar high overhead as the fog lifts, occasionally leaving a “Jackson Pollock” creation on our deck. I hose it off.
The honeybees are humming throughout the garden, dancing in flower centers, gathering pollen. They’re especially fond of the fading lavender, creeping thyme and rose blossoms. I’ve never been stung by a bee. Not since learning that it was dangerous to garden barefoot. Bees are industrious, gentle creatures. Yellow jackets, a member of the wasp family, are another matter. I consider them the Tyrannosaurus rex of the insect kingdom. I give carnivorous yellow jackets a wide berth. But bees are a good thing.
There are over 1,000 species of native bees in California. Our garden vibrates with the yellow and black wide-bodied bumblebees. Like the honeybee, they are social bees, complete with queen and drones. The most common bees found in our gardens year-around are the species that makes up the majority of native bees in California, the solitary bee. They can be iridescent in color or brown or black and resemble a large, hairy fly. They deposit eggs in a cell in the earth or in tiny holes in trees and fences.
Part of our responsibility, as gardeners, is to provide a safe, balanced garden that attracts living things while we breathe in the color and life around us.
Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@ charter . net; read her blog at central coast-gardening.com.