Monday, June 6, 2011

Birds and Gardens

You'd think with a blog name such as "Grammilou's Garden" I'd be writing lots about gardening. Well, this year there's been a change. I began caring for the vegetable garden in 2003 because Jim, who had always been the gardener, was too busy with the Garden Centre to do the planting.

Last year the garden was not very successful. For example, the corn, though it towered over me (and there's a picture of that in the post of September 4, '10) produced only two ears that actually ripened. The rest never did. Jim thought that I had planted too late (it had been the 19th of May) and used a variety that took too long (peaches and cream, 70 days). He also wanted more variety of vegetables than I was in the habit of planting. So he took over this year. That is actually fine to me, as gardening is fairly far down the list of favorite activities for me. I do like weeding--because everything looks so nice and neat when you keep it up.

There were other failures last year besides the corn. We didn't pick any tomatoes or peppers or squash, very few scarlet runner beans and modest amounts of asparagus and fava beans. There were some rows of spinach, peas and lettuce that I sowed early that never even germinated.

I think these failures were due to the lack of heat last summer.

So this year he's in charge. Because he gets busy selling in the Garden Centre by the third week in May, with some sales earlier, he had the whole garden planted very early. I kept saying it was too early, but he really "lucked out" in that we've had only three nights of killing frost since the garden sprouted. We covered the beans, corn and tomatoes those nights.

So here's what the garden is at now. This is barely half of the raised beds. It looks pretty good. See the corn way in the farthest bed in the background? He did start that in the greenhouse in March while I was away in Chile.

The wooden frames in the foreground are covered with chicken wire and are there to protect the strawberry plants from predation. On Friday R. planted lots of strawberries. About two hours late we saw a deer in the garden. After chasing it out I counted 14 newly planted strawberries that were chewed down to a nub. Hope they survive!

When I went out to take some pictures of the garden I realized that the old apple tree in the deck was chock full of cedar waxwings. They were busy eating something around the blossoms. I'm just not sure what was there but they were surely finding something! I read about these birds that when they find a good source of food, such as a loaded berry bush they will eat until full and then continue plucking the fruit but pass it down the line to a bird that isn't satiated yet. Isn't that interesting!

I didn't see Mrs. Mallard, the wonderful mother duck who raised twelve ducklings on our little front yard pond last year (see the post published on June 2, '10) until recently. Last week when M. and I were returning from our daily morning walk we spotted her leading this year's brood into the small dugout just across the road from us. This year she has ten darling little ducklings following her. I was so happy to see that she's been successful again!

In the spring it's the geese who arrive first. Then the ducks, then the robins. Later on come the blackbirds. Last year there were really too many blackbirds around. They made life miserable for Honey, our small dog. I've seen them "blitz" her, actually "whacking" her on her back. They also seemed to be, pardon the language, "shitbombing" the back of the house where she usually sat on the step. So I was not happy to see flocks of this size swirling around.

They are very aggressive birds, and will even take an egg from a robin's nest and deliberately drop and break it. So I decided to enter the fray on behalf of the robins and other species. When I found a blackbird nest on the yard I destroyed it. There are lots of other opportunties for them to nest on our 20 acres, other than near the house.

This approach has seemed to be successful. We don't see them in the yard in the same numbers as earlier this spring. Hope that means a better balanced population next summer.

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