Birds in the Garden: Naughty or Nice?

As a gardener rather than a birder, I admit it's hard for me to think of birds as feathered friends rather than feathered foes. When considering birds in my garden space, I usually spend most of the time devising ways to keep them away from newly planted seeds and young seedlings instead of finding ways to encourage their presence in my garden space. But let's face it: Birds are here to stay. Is there any way my garden and the birds can co-habitate peacefully? According to a recent article in January/February 2012 issue Hobby Farm Home magazine, growers can create "bird friendly" spaces in their gardens that provide sustenance for our pollinator friends, and deter them from tender new growth planted for us. The article suggested trying to intentionally create a "bird seed garden," with an emphasis on plants and flowers that attract birds like sunflowers, cereal grains, and even hops. Intentionally growing a bird-friendly space away from your other growing endeavors will help deter the birds from seeking food from your flower beds and vegetable patches; not to mention, reduce your carbon footprint. How? Well, if a bird can acquire nutrition through seeds, grains, and even insects from your garden, less commercial seed will have to be purchased. The less seed refined and trucked to stores, means less green house emissions for our environment.

I know inviting birds into our gardens is a new concept to those of us with a green thumb. But this season of giving coupled with the fallow ground puts me in a generous mood. Gardens are therapeutic because they are places of respite and refreshment. I think our feathered friends could benefit from this too.

Have you found birds to be friends in your garden? I'd love to hear about it! Leave me a post or contact me today. LaFleur Plantscapes + Fresh Flora offers a complimentary consultation to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. Check out my website for a complete listing of the services we offer.

Winter Garden (Part 1): Edibles

One of the best parts of living in Tucson is the year round gardening. While our friends up north are shoveling snow and de-icing their windshields, we are busying ourselves in the garden for yet another season of veggies, herbs, flowers, and succulents. I wanted to focus this week on some great winter garden edibles that anyone can grow in their backyard, in a container, or even incorporate into their landscaping. Edibles are a wonderful way to introduce gardening to your kids and encourage healthy eating habits for all of us. Plus, it's another fantastic opportunity to experiment with native varieties of edibles to create some new favorites for your table. This list is by no means comprehensive - these are just a few of my favorites that are high yield and easy to grow. Enjoy! Carrots are a highly adaptable root vegetable that grows well, spring, summer, fall and winter. There are as many varieties of carrots as there are ways to prepare them. Consistent watering and soil temperature matched with the appropriate seasonal variety will yield sweet, tender, colorful carrots year round. A couple of varieties that are particularly good for cooler climates are Carnival Blend carrots (which are cold hardy up to twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit) and the Paris Market variety (which grow exceptionally well in containers and mature in about 50 days). I like both varieties because they are exceptionally cold hardy, mature quickly, and can be grown easily in containers. I have both varieties growing in my back yard right now and hope to be able to serve them with Christmas dinner. I'll keep you posted...

Onions are a culinary staple in the kitchen. Just try to prepare a savory stuffing, homemade stock, or garden fresh salsa without onion - it wouldn't be very tasty. I use onions for cooking so regularly that I decided to try growing my own. Onions take a couple of weeks to germinate, so make sure that you amend your soil with compost or manure before planting the seeds. Onions like their soil on the acidic side, so a trip to your local nursery for a pH kit is worth the investment. If you plant your onions in a container (like me), make sure the soil is well drained to prevent rot. Short day varieties of onions do best in our region; short days mean the variety needs less sun to grow. Some popular types are Texas Early Grano or Red Burgundy.

And finally, where would the winter garden be without a beautiful cluster of greens? Greens (like lettuces, collards, kale, and spinach) grow very well in the southern winter garden in both containers and in the ground. They are packed with nutrients and so delicious! Consider a new twist on an old favorite: Plant various varieties of kale and lettuce around the borders and in decorative containers instead of flowering annuals. Greens come in an array of colors and flavors to coordinate with any landscaping theme.

I hope today's post has inspired you to try a few edibles in your winter garden this season. If you have other ideas or success with any of the veggies listed above, I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment to share!