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My Favorite Tools

Every gardener has his or her favorite tools.  The hand trowel that fits just so in the palm of your hand, that old raking fork you modified to get into the tight places between plants.  I have mine, too.  As a disabled gardener, I’m learning to make things a little easier for myself.  Maybe a look at my favorite tools might help you garden a little easier too.  Here’s a photo of my favorite tools.

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First, the chair.  This old thing was sitting in the garden space when we bought the property nearly thirty years ago.  It’s made of a heavy duty wire which was once coated with a white plastic-like substance.  The plastic is nearly all gone now.  It gets a little more rusty-looking every year, but it’s still holding together.  I like it because it’s light, and I can move it easily to different areas of the garden while I’m pruning, weeding, or hula-hoeing.  I used it this morning to pick the peas.  Sitting sure beats stooping when you have a bad back.  The wide, wire mesh chair doesn’t hold water, so there’s always a dry seat in the garden, and I can move it into the shade for a rest when I get too hot out there.  I could clean it up, take a wire brush to it and give it a new coat of paint.  But then I’d have to worry about it getting rusty again, exposed to the weather.  I leave it alone.  It sits out all year round.  It’s one thing I don’t have to put away for winter.

The long-handled tool in the photo is called a sliding hoe, or as I learned to call it, a hula hoe.   I was first introduced to this tool nearly forty years ago, when I worked on the grounds at the Trees of Mystery in Northern California.  I’ve used one ever since.  Now that my back doesn’t like bending at all, I sit on that rusty old chair and hula hoe wherever I don’t have mulch.  It’s much easier on my back, and it takes much less effort to push the hula hoe, even in dry, hard soil or wet, heavy soil, than it takes to hack and pull with a regular hoe.

Here’s how the hula hoe works.  The blade slides along just an inch or two under the surface of the soil, depending on how much force you use, and it cuts the roots of weeds without turning over much of the soil.  This way, the weeds are eliminated without exposing more weed seeds to light, the way a tiller does.  It doesn’t work for big weeds that will sprout back out from large roots left in the ground, like dandelions.  But if you get after that patch of newly-spouted dandelions with a hula-hoe, you won’t have to worry about them getting so big they have to be dug out with a spade.

That brings me to the third of my favorite tools, my little spade.  I bought this one years ago at a yard sale for $4.   I have to be careful about digging.  I leave any major shovel work to my husband, God bless him, but for light jobs, this little spade is perfect for me.  I can spade up a dandelion or a clump of new potatoes, or dig a hole for planting without getting so much dirt on the blade that it becomes difficult to lift.  With this little spade, I can actually dig while seated on my rusty old chair.

The fourth tool is my garden stool.  I bought the stool a few years ago from a seed catalog.  I love it.  It gets me low to the ground to minimize bending, and it has a padded seat cover with those handy carrying pouches for my hand tools and gloves.  There’s a height adjustment, so it can be set for personal preference.  I use it for weeding and thinning and for picking the bush beans and pickling cucumbers.  It rocks back and forth, and it swivels on its base, so I can cover a lot of area without having to move it much.  I have found it a bit difficult to get up when I’ve been sitting on it for a while, but now, two years after the last hip surgery, my legs are finally getting strong enough to hoist me up from what is basically a squat.

We all know the saying about choosing the right tool for the job.  You also have to choose the right tool for your body.  My favorite tools make gardening much easier on my back and other compromised body parts.  One or more of them might make things easier for you, too.

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Because I Can

Sometimes I’m asked why I spend so much time gardening, and making preserves, and canning and freezing my garden produce.  Why bother with a garden at all?  I have chronic pain issues from several health conditions.  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to buy from the store?

Maybe it would.  The more I do, the more I hurt.  There’s a fine line between keeping my body as active as possible and putting my body through more stress than it can handle.  I cross that line on a regular basis.  And then I pay for every infraction.  So why do I do it?

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One of the reasons I make preserves is that it seems to bring me closer to my mother, who passed away some 15 years ago.  She learned to can out of necessity.  My father was a logger who only worked seasonally.  Mama canned and froze the garden produce, and she also took advantage of the bounty around her.  She found abandoned apple orchards and picked apples for applesauce and apple butter.  She made blackberry jelly every summer, after we picked gallons of berries.  I remember the competitions between my siblings and me–who could pick the most berries by the end of the allotted time.  I remember the laughter when my father out-picked all of us.  I remember his stories about picking cotton as a kid.

When I use Mama’s “cone colander” to juice my berries, I remember all the times she set it up on the yellow and chrome kitchen table.  She let my sister and me take our turns when we were little, and when we got older, it was our job.  I remember the scent of warm blackberry juice filling the house on the days when she made jelly and put it up in old peanut butter jars.  I remember the taste of blackberry jelly on my peanut butter sandwich.  I remember my mama, her spunkiness, her gentleness, her strength, her wisdom, her love.   She taught me to can, gave me both my water bath canner and my pressure canner when I married, but she taught me so much more.  It’s good to be reminded of those lessons.

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Both of my grandmothers used water bath canners, and I’m sure their mothers made preserves in open kettles.  When I make jam or piccalilli or pickles, I know that I’m doing something my pioneer foremothers did.  I like knowing I have their “know-how.”  I feel proud when I see those multi-colored jars on my shelves.  I feel self-sufficient, knowing I can go out to the pantry whenever I want to and choose between six different jams or jellies, or a jar of beet pickles, or a jar of dilly beans, or a jar of venison stock.  And it all came from the garden, the forest, or the field, and through my hands.  That makes me feel accomplished in a very practical way.

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I like having home-canned goodies to give away.  When I give a jar of jam or relish, I’m giving a part of my heart and soul to people I care about.  Part of my annual Christmas gifts to my children are boxes of the good things they grew up eating.  Last year, everybody went nuts over the salsa.  My sister has her favorites, piccalilli and tomato and raisin chutney.  I also give jarred gifts to friends for birthdays, and as thank-you or hostess gifts.  Recently, as a bridal shower gift to the dear friend who gave me my favorite canning book, Canning For a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff, I offered a box of assorted preserves, one of which was Cabernet Sauvignon jelly, a recipe from the book.

After a long day of canning, does my back hurt?  Yes.  And my hands, and my feet, and my neck, and sometimes my shoulders too.  But my heart feels good.  My soul has been fed.  All kinds of sweet memories reawaken.  That’s why I bother.  It turns out, all things weighed and measured, it’s really no bother at all.

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Creature Feature

I had planned a different post for today, but there’s been too much fun happening around the garden this week.  So today, it’s a creature feature.  By the way, if you click on the photos, they enlarge.  You’ll probably want to do that with the three at the end.

First, all week I’ve been trying to get pictures of a male Rufous hummingbird who has been hanging around the feeder and ferociously driving off every other bird except one.  But he’s been too quick for me.  By the time I’d get the camera on and in position, he was either chasing another bird or camouflaged behind some leaves up in the oak tree, lying in ambush.  He’s the most beautiful little creature.  In the bright sun, his back is a glowing copper color, and his throat a dark scarlet highlighted by his white breast.  He’s gorgeous, and he knows it.  The only other hummer he’ll allow to feed is a drab little thing I’m thinking must be a Rufous female.  He let her take long turns at the feeder.  I watched him defend the feeder from all other comers for three days.  The other pair, perhaps Allen’s (they are so hard to identify when they are swooping around), could only sneak in for short sips when Rufous was off on some other brief business.  But everything changed on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Rufous male didn’t show up.  I sat on the deck all day, armed with the camera, and he never came.  However, a bird who looked like his dull, little friend came to guard the feeder.  She was almost as aggressive as the male, and she sat in the tree all day, twittering to herself, scratching, and chasing off other birds.  She sat so long in the same place, I was able to get a couple of short videos of her and a few pictures.  (I can’t upload the videos here, but you can see them on Facebook later.)  Judging by her aggressive behavior, I think she is a Rufous female, but I am not sure.  If anyone can make a positive I.D., I would love to know.

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Other hummers flew in briefly on Thursday and Friday to feed.  The little female chased off as many as she could, including a hummingbird twice her size, perhaps a Broad-tailed.  I didn’t get a picture of the big hummer, but I did get a picture of her on the feeder and in the tree afterward.

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This state of affairs lasted until Friday evening, when a Rufous male showed up.  The same one?  I have no idea.  I have read that these birds are highly migratory, making a big circle from Mexico to British Columbia every year.  They may only spend a few days in one area before moving on.  While they are around, they consider the feeder theirs.  The Rufous male was in and out all day on Saturday, but I think he may have been guarding another feeder in the neighborhood.  He didn’t really spend much time at ours.  And the little female?  She seemed to take the Rufous male’s arrival as a signal to depart.

Years ago, when my kids were little, I put out a feeder every summer (we don’t get hummers here until June at the earliest), and we always had some traffic.  But after the kids got bigger, and everyone got busier, I stopped putting out feeders.  I knew my neighbor put out several feeders every year, and I had lots of dianthus and petunias, which the hummingbirds loved, so we still saw them for some years.  And then, for a period of about seven years, they visited very intermittently.  I believe they were feeding on manzanita blossoms higher in the mountains, and our yard was only a brief rest stop for them.  Starting about ten years ago, our area was devastated by wild fires every summer or every other summer.  I think a lot of the hummingbird feeding ground was destroyed, particularly in 2008, and that is why we saw so few of them for so long.  (About this time, we also started seeing more bears lower down on the mountain.  Much of their habitat was destroyed too.)  For three or four years, I didn’t see any hummingbirds in the summer.  Vegetation is now growing back in those burned areas, and we’re seeing an increase in hummingbirds.  It’s good to have them back again.  They always make me smile.

But hummingbirds aren’t the only interesting creatures visiting the garden this week.  I was out tickling tomato blossoms one day, and I heard a strange sound.  It was a very quiet flapping/humming noise.  I turned around and looked at the asparagus bed behind me.  I have some clary sage growing there as well, and at first, I thought a hummingbird had discovered the blossoms.  But it wasn’t a hummingbird.  It was a hummingbird moth.

I have seen these hummingbird moths before.  I got a short video of it (it’s on Facebook). I watched the moth for some time before it flew away, and I haven’t seen it since.  It was a brief visit, but I’m sure glad it stopped by.  There’s a good still photo of one at http://www.birds-n-garden.com/hummingbird_moths.html.

That same day, I saw another insect I have never seen before. I have no idea what this thing is.  If you do, please tell me!  It flew up from the potato patch when the sprinkler came on and landed on a green tomato.  The hummingbird moth had just flown off, so I had the camera in my hand.  It looks vicious.  Is that a butterfly in its jaws?

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The other visitor to the yard was a young doe.  She bedded down in the shade right beside the gate.  After she’d been resting for a bit, and I’d been snapping pictures of her, I learned why she chose that spot.  It was because she could stand up on her back legs and grab a mouthful of leaves from the maple tree.  Then she could lie right down in the shade and chew them.  I didn’t get a picture of her up on her back legs.  I’m afraid I yelled, “Hey, don’t eat my tree!” and she took off.  A photographer, a real photographer, would have let her eat the tree for the sake of the picture.  But, gardener that I am, I spoiled the shot.  That says volumes about my priorities.

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Finally, some photos I have to share because the subjects are just so darn cute.

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The twins weren’t actually on our property, although I’m sure we’ll be seeing them up here soon.  They were on the side of the road down the street.  They weren’t at all worried about us or our truck.  They obligingly stood very quietly and let me take their pictures.  No matter how many times I see baby deer, they still make me say “Aww!”  And be glad for my six-foot wire fence.

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Growing Your Own . . . Strawberries, That Is.

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Strawberry shortcake, strawberry milkshakes, strawberry jam, strawberry pie:  need I say more?

There are two crops I think everybody should try to grow, if they possibly can.  One is tomatoes, and the other is strawberries.  The flavor of homegrown in these two instances is so far superior to anything you can buy in a store, it’s well worth your time to give them some space.  If you live in an apartment, tomatoes in pots on a balcony are easier than strawberries, but strawberry jugs and pyramids make growing in small spaces possible as well.  If you have backyard space, however, consider devoting some of it to strawberries.   I’ve tried several different methods of growing strawberries, and I’m still experimenting with ways to make cultivation and harvesting easier, but over the years, I’ve learned a few things you can do to make planting, harvesting, and renovating your strawberry patch easier.

Late summer or fall, after the worst heat has subsided and at least a month before any freezing temperatures, is a good time to plant.  Your plants will have time to root deeply and establish themselves before winter.  You can also plant in early spring.  But first, you have some prep work to do.

Amend your soil

Work some old leaves, rotted straw, and compost into the soil now, before you plant.  Once your patch is established, it’s harder to fertilize and mulch it naturally.  It’s easy enough to sprinkle commercial fertilizers on your berry plants in spring, but after you’ve gone to all the trouble of planting for flavor, you wouldn’t want to do that.  So enrich your soil now with all the good stuff that will feed your plants and help keep moisture in your soil, and the following year, you can fertilize with good, organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth and fine-screened compost, which can be broadcast and watered in.

Construct raised beds or rows

Next, rake and shovel your soil into raised beds (which can be framed in with old lumber, discarded fence posts, old doors, or even bales of straw or spoiled hay) or raised rows.  Make the beds or rows as high as you can, but make sure if you’re using raised beds, that they are narrow enough so you can reach across to the middle from all sides.

If you want to haul in topsoil to help construct your raised beds or rows, mix your compost, etc. into the soil in a wheelbarrow, and then construct your raised rows or fill your raised beds out of the enriched soil.  If your beds are more than two feet deep, don’t waste money filling them all the way with topsoil.  Strawberry roots are fairly shallow.  Use a cheaper, lower grade fill dirt on the bottom of your beds, and fill the top two feet with your amended soil.  You’ll add organic matter to your beds every year, and gradually, that fill dirt will be transformed to better soil by earthworms.  Just try to make sure the fill dirt doesn’t contain any large rocks, in case you ever take your beds apart for some reason.

The most frustrating thing, to me, about growing strawberries is how quickly they become overgrown, making it difficult to get in to pick the berries without stepping on some.  To counteract that tendency, make the space between your raised rows wide enough to run a tiller between them. This isn’t as much of a concern if you are using high, framed, raised beds.  If you don’t have a tiller, you don’t need to put as much space between your rows, but you will eventually have to dig up plants to get in to pick your berries, unless you don’t care about trampling on rooted runners which will be bearing fruit!  When your rows are as high as you want them or your raised beds are filled (I suggest at least two feet high, and three is even better), you’re ready to plant.

Buying plants

Don’t buy bagged roots from nursery catalogs or in the garden departments of the big mega-stores. You know the ones I mean.  Strawberries are really rather fragile once their roots are exposed.  Those bagged roots dry out, and then they won’t give you a live plant, no matter how much love you give them.  I’ve given away and sold strawberry plants for some years, and people tell me that their success rate with the bagged roots is very low, whereas working with freshly-dug plants makes a world of difference.  If you can’t get freshly-dug plants from a friend or neighbor or local grower, buy a flat or two from a local nursery.  They’ll have already been transplanted once, so they’re going to endure a double shock, but that’s still better than bagged roots.

Always buy plants that are recommended for your area.  One reason to get them from a friend or neighbor or local grower rather than ordering from a catalog is that you’ll know they are right for your area.  I also recommend a mix of June-bearing and ever-bearing plants.  With June-bearers, you’ll get a heavy harvest in June, which is great for putting up jam, freezing, etc.  With ever-bearing varieties, you’ll get berries all summer long, right up to a hard freeze in late fall.  Berries from June bearers tend to be larger and more like the berries you see in grocery stores, although again, the flavor of home-grown cannot even be compared to the hard, red, flavorless wedges of store-bought that need a ton of sugar to taste like anything.  Ever-bearing varieties tend to produce smaller berries, but the flavor and scent of them is well-worth devoting the space.  They don’t produce as large a harvest, but you’ll get berries for fresh eating longer than with June-bearers.  However, it’s best to keep them in separate rows or beds for future plant maintenance.

Finally, don’t buy too many plants.  It’s tempting to want to fill that raised bed or row to its maximum capacity all at once.  Resist that temptation.  Your plants are going to reproduce the first year, and you will at least double your numbers of plants by fall.  How’s that for return on investment?

Ready to plant

When it’s time to plant, dig shallow depressions about a foot apart in the tops of your raised rows or beds and settle your plants in place with roots spread.  Cover just the roots, not the crown of the plant, where the leaves emerge.  If you cover the crown, your plants could rot.  Keep them moist, and don’t worry too much if they wilt a little.  They should recover if you don’t let them dry out.  The earlier you plant in spring or the later in summer when the heat has subsided, the less transplant shock your plants will have to endure.  But don’t expect berries the first year, except maybe a few from your ever-bearing varieties.  Some people pick any blossoms off the first year to let the transplants focus their energy on rooting, but I don’t do this.  I believe in letting plants do what nature designed them to do, and strawberries want to bloom and run.  The first thing your plants will want to do is run.

Keeping your beds manageable

Strawberries reproduce two ways:  by seed and by runner.  The plant will send out a long stem along which one or two or even three new plants might form.  These plants will root and sometimes send out runners themselves the first year.  You’ll have to do some space management to keep your berry patch easy to pick.  Don’t let the runners root in the path between rows.  If you do, in a year, you’ll have a strawberry jungle on your hands that’s a nightmare to harvest.  (Yes, I speak from experience!)  Move the runners to position the new plants in between the ones you transplanted.  You can let the runners root down the sides of the rows as well, but then the next year, you’ll have to watch out for path creep.

This is where the advantage of raised rows or raised beds becomes clear.  Years ago, I planted a strawberry patch with my granddaughter, who was just a little over a year old at the time.  I didn’t have the energy or resources then to create raised rows, so I just planted the berries in rows two feet apart in a patch about 8X8 square.  I put flatrock stepping stones down the paths between the rows.  And at the end of that first year, I couldn’t even see the stepping stones because the plants had run so much.  For seven years I struggled to maintain and pick that patch, and as my back problems grew worse and worse, it got harder and harder to deal with.  I didn’t want to give it up because I had such wonderful memories of Kaedynce digging holes and playing in the dirt with me.  But two years ago, when the pain of picking outweighed the pleasure, I gave in.

I asked my husband to build some more raised beds from the redwood and juniper fence posts that we’d pulled from old cross-fencing on the property.  The ends had rotten through, but most of the posts were still sound.  We’d been building raised beds in the garden, a few every year for several years, to make it easier for me to do the growing I love, but we were almost out of materials and didn’t want to buy brand new posts.  So he built two low beds that I could pick by sitting on the lowest rails, and I filled them with about 60 strawberry plants from my original patch which had grown together so badly I couldn’t tell the June-bearers from the ever-bearers.  Of course, they promptly began to run down the sides of the raised beds and root in the ground.  But now I can have Dennis till the area around the beds when necessary.  I have also been giving away and selling off the extras locally to people who want to start their own strawberry patches.

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Spring tune-up

There are a couple more things to do to help make your strawberries more productive.  Early in spring, before new growth gets underway, rake the old leaves off your strawberry plants.  They’ll be crispy and dry if you’ve had a few sunny days without snow or rain, and you can compost these leaves as long as your plants aren’t diseased.  (I have to say, I can rarely get out to the garden early enough in spring to get the raking done.  Seems like there’s always snow on the ground, or I’ve got something more pressing to do.  You can skip the leaf removal step if necessary and still get a good crop of berries, but I include this because it is good practice.)

After raking off the old leaves (or even if you don’t rake off the old leaves!), broadcast a good, organic garden fertilizer, like Dr. Earth, and fine compost, every year.  If your plants are as thick as mine, you won’t be able to work the fertilizer into the soil, but a good soaking will help the fertilizer penetrate the soil and get to the roots.  If you put the old leaves back over your bed, along with shredded oak leaves or loose straw, for example, this mulch will help retain moisture in your soil through the late spring and summer months.  Don’t mulch if you have slug problems.  Mulch only gives the slugs a moist, cool place to hide in the daytime.  (Then they come out at night and eat your berries.)  After fertilizing, sit back and watch your plants grow new leaves, begin to bloom, and in early June, most likely, you’ll start getting ripe fruit.  And about that time, your plants will develop runners.  Again.

Ongoing maintenance

The thing to remember about runners is that they are the future of your strawberry bed.  I’ve found that this summer’s runners won’t bear much fruit next year.  It will be the following spring before they hit full production.  Don’t let your strawberry patch outrun itself.  Your beds should always be a mix of mature, bearing plants and young plants that will bear the following year.

In two or three years, you’ll need to go through the raised beds early in spring and pull out the oldest plants with the largest crowns.  After some years, the plants just aren’t that productive.  And this culling makes room for younger plants which will be more productive.  Some experts  advise renovating your strawberry beds right after the June harvest (for June bearers), but at that point, I’m picking raspberries.  My strawberry beds sit until I have time to get to them.  They don’t seem to mind.

I don’t renovate every year; I simply haven’t the time or energy.  I renovate when the beds are obviously too crowded or the yield seems lower than it should be, and I usually do it in fall, or early spring for the ever-bearers, instead of right after the June harvest.

I hope you enjoy your strawberry patch as much as I do mine.  Strawberries are the first fruit of the season for most of us who grow our own, and after a winter of oranges, apples, and bananas, I’m always ready for them.  We eat our fill, and I freeze what we can’t eat to make strawberry jam and strawberry pies, which just might be the subject of a future blog.

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Sharing the Harvest

Gardens attract insects, and fruit and insects attract birds.  If you have a garden, you’re going to have birds.  While I love watching birds, I wasn’t thrilled about how many of my raspberries, strawberries, and other fruits the birds were getting.

For years, I netted my strawberries and raspberries to keep the birds out of them. Netting was more trouble than it was worth.  Netting makes for difficulty in picking, and removing netting at the end of the season damages the plants because the leaves have grown through the grid during the summer.  If you live in snow country, like I do, you can’t leave netting up all year round because the weight of the snow will cause the netting to collapse onto your plants. After a few years, I got rid of the netting.

I also tried various measures to scare the birds away:  a very realistic-looking Cooper’s hawk that an artist friend carved and painted for me, rubber snakes, old CDs strung on fishing line and hung from the apple tree and the raspberry canes, those spiraling pin wheel toys I used to play with as a kid (a Dollar store find), and fluttering bits of hot-pink plastic caution tape.  None of it worked, and the caution tape just made a mess I had to clean up when I discovered the Steller’s jays were pulling it to bits for their nests.

The problem was exacerbated when my husband took up photography in a big way.  Dennis loves to photograph birds, so for a couple of years, we hung seed feeders in the spring and kept suet out all year round.  He got some good photographs, but far too many birds were attracted to the garden.  In particular, we had so many Stellar’s jays, robins, and black-headed grosbeaks, I was getting fewer and fewer strawberries and raspberries.  I once spooked up nine robins when I came out to pick strawberries. There were at least two robins’ nests in the vicinity of my garden, maybe more, and each nest had two or three baby birds.  I’d see berries which were almost ripe and decide to leave them for just one more day, but when I came out to pick, they’d be gone, or pecked to pieces.  And when the strawberries and raspberries were done, the birds starting going after the blackberries and my Sun-gold and grape tomatoes.  I couldn’t blame them.  They all had babies to feed.

IMG_6469 grossbeak and tanager on suet

I didn’t want to resent the birds for eating what I’d worked so hard to grow. I decided to double my strawberry and raspberry plantings to provide enough berries for both the birds and the family.  And I had to tell my husband that the feeders had to go.

Early last fall, when I knew all the baby birds in the near vicinity should be self-sufficient, I took down all the feeders, including the suet cages.  (I didn’t think it was fair to deprive them of nourishment when we’d invited them in and got them dependent on the food we provided.)  When all the song birds had migrated out of the area in late fall, I put the suet cages back up for the birds who stay here during the winter—the chickadees, brown creepers, and woodpeckers.  But I decided that the seed feeders would stay in the shed, and the suet would come down as soon as it warmed up enough for insects to become active.

IMG_1943 adult robin                        IMG_6630 baby robin

We had fewer birds nesting on the property this year, and so far, fewer birds in the garden.  Yes, the robins are still harvesting strawberries and raspberries.  But there were only four or five of them this year instead of nine, or more.  We still have black-headed grosbeaks and a pair of Western tanagers nesting somewhere near the garden.  There are Stellar’s jays, of course, and our old friends, the bluebirds who live in the nest box we put up for them.  We still see plenty of birds which delight our hearts and our grandchildren.  The garden now offers enough food for the birds and for us too.

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So there it is, a truth that as gardeners, we need to accept:  gardens attract birds.  Both gardener and birds will be better off if they learn to live with each other.  Birds are beneficial to gardens.  They catch insect pests you’ll never see, and in exchange, they’ll eat a little fruit.  The seeds from that fruit they’ll scatter wherever they fly next, so they’re actually spreading fruit wherever they go.  Over the years, birds have brought many gifts to my garden, among them two wild currant bushes which I transplanted out of the herb bed to an area that was more suitable for them, a Virginia creeper which I dug up and transplanted into my son’s newly fenced yard to brighten his wire fence, and three lavenders to replace the bushes I planted from seed over two decades ago.

This year, I harvested about 7 gallons of strawberries from my beds, and I figure the birds got about a gallon, maybe more because I was away from home for a week at the height of the strawberry season.  But that’s a ratio I can live with, and so can the birds.

Next time:  Tips for creating a strawberry patch that won’t outgrow itself in a year.

Photos by Dennis French

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