Birds keep insects away from your plants
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jun 13, 2012 | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Insects continue to be a problem in your garden during June. First, you should know that insects attack weak, sickly plants.

One good way to control insects is to attract birds to your property all long year long. They are more efficient than you are at getting rid of insects. Bluebirds, especially, work 24/7 cleaning the area of flying insects. I have seen, and I realize this sounds untrue, robins fly down under flowering plants looking for snails and insects on the ground. I saw a robin grab a snail and whack it on the ground several times. Just watching, I could hardly believe my eyes. He cracked the snail open and ate it.

Slugs are particularly repulsive. They do a lot of damage and can literally strip a bed of hostas. You can use slug bait which comes in granules in a cardboard box at your garden center. Slugs have few predators and among them are a few kinds of birds, moles, shrews and SNAKES. Those little garter snakes love slugs. I literally hate snakes of any kind and yes, I know they play a role in the ecosystem. Some people hate spiders and I love to see those big, colorful garden spiders and I would never kill one. To each his own.

Most of us agree that the most desirable inhabitants of our garden are birds. Hummingbirds especially give many people a constant source of pleasure. Having flowers that attract hummers planted near the feeders helps to attract them. They love any trumpet shaped flower and especially red, orange or yellow ones. I have found that a red rag tied to the hummer feeder helps.

Having a flower garden with a great mix of flowers has more than one advantage. This mixture attracts fewer insects and disease than a garden concentrated on just one kind of plant. You will find that roses scattered among a mixed garden are much healthier. You are more likely to attract hummingbirds if you have this variety in your flowers. Some flowers, such as marigolds, in that varied garden repel insects. I always

mixed marigolds among the flower beds. They come in such beautiful colors and sizes that they make an attractive addition. You probably have noticed that some plants never have insect problems. They are usually the ones that give off a perfume that insects don’t like such as all the herbs and the strong smelling Russian Sage and Artemesia. I understand that deer won’t bother those plants.

And the battle goes on with insects and disease. It comes with being a gardener.

I have always wondered at the gene that makes some of us dedicated gardeners and others will quit working in the flowers and shrubs when the weather gets hot or too dry or too rainy. When I was a small child, walking with my mother to Ma’s, I had to be warned not to get off the road into the weeds to pick a wild flower because there were venomous snakes where we lived. My mother, my grandmother and my great-grandmother were all flower lovers. My great-grandmother went into the woods to look for wild flowers and for certain herbs which she used in making medicines and salves. Today we would call her an herbalist. I am told that she, like my mother, would happily leave housework to go into the woods on her farm. She knew where the best of the wild flowers grew.

My dream garden would be nothing but flowers and blooming shrubs with no grass, only some paths among the flowers. I have seen two such yards. One was at an old Victorian house in Princeton, Kenucky and the other was my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Angie’s. Aunt Angie was a tiny woman, all bent over, who lived with her husband in a very small log cabin on a creek about three miles from Ma. She literally had no grass, just paths. The yard was fenced in to keep the chickens out. The poor chickens ranged outside where the foxes caught most of them. Her husband was not much of a provider so Pa hitched up the wagon and took Aunt Angie bushels of beans, tomatoes, fruit and all kinds of vegetables and I remember the wagon would be half full of fresh corn. I dearly loved to go to Aunt Angie’s. She seemed always to have a litter of kittens which I thought a grand thing. Also I could wade in the creek and catch minnows. What more could one ask for? When we left to go home, Aunt Angie walked with us to the gate, picking flowers as she walked and put them in a bucket of water for me to take home.

I later found out that pa hired her husband as a day laborer and always sent him word if Pa had a hog killing or made molasses or anything which he could send to Aunt Angie.

That was the perfect way to live to a little girl who loved flowers and kittens.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. I welcome questions and suggestions.
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