currently in Austin


Wildlife summer survival tips

Do you feel like this?

Sunflower drooping in drought
This round, even my established natives are suffering. Fortunately, just like their roots are hardy in winter, they usually withstand drought like this, too. Though we’re gleeful about this week’s rain, the party’s not over yet.

My native plumbago (Plumbago scandens) was blooming (top right flower) along with groundcover White avens (Geum canadense) a few weeks ago. And columbine, if you can believe that!

Plumbago scandens, White Avens, columbine
Now, the plumbago wheezes out a few tiny white flowers and then collapses in exhaustion. Normally, it would be cascading flowers.   The geum has given up flowering to spread its seeds, but otherwise is undaunted. I am watering them both, because even though they are natives, they’re relatively new to my garden.

Geum canadense, White Avens flowers
New plants are really hit hard, and need attention with a good drink every few days. But keep an eye on it, since too much water can cause rot, too.

Arborist Guy LeBlanc notes that even established oak trees are dying. He recommends watering with a sprinkler in early morning, at the canopy/drip line, to completely drench the root system. Avoid cramming a hose up against the base of the tree, which only encourages rot.

But our wildlife is even more desperate. Ones we don’t want inside are running in like crazy to share a drink with us. For wildlife summer survival tips, this week on CTG, Habitat Steward Meredith O’Reilly joins Tom for simple things we can do.

Meredith O'Reilly, Central Texas Gardener with Tom Spencer
Meredith’s blog, Great Stems, features outstanding photography, wildlife discoveries, and insight into their life style.
Great Stems blog, Meredith O'Reilly

On CTG, she shares some of her insight: like about hummingbird feeders. Change the water frequently in this heat so it doesn’t ferment.

  • Wash out your feeder every few days and fill with 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Please avoid commercial products that contain red dye.
  • Avoid metal feeders that rust and harm your little birds. And don’t buy one with cute yellow flowers. The color yellow attracts bees and wasps that can chase or even sting your hummingbirds.

Instead, provide flowers and water for your bees and wasps for sustenance of their own. My welcomed wasps hear the water hose and follow me as I fill up the bird bath.

Wasp getting drink at bird bath
And oh, yes, keep those bird baths refreshed with cool clean water. Meredith and I use a dish scrubber to scour saucers and baths. Who’d want to go into a hot, icky bath? Plus, an abandoned bird bath comes with a bonus: mosquitoes!

how to clean a bird bath
Fill plant saucers or shallow bowls with water to attract toads, anoles, jand other ground creatures. Again, empty and refresh every day.

Shallow water bowl for toads, lizards and other wildlife

Your wildlife is looking for any chance for a drink. These toads are actually hanging out in my A/C condensation pipe puddle. The soaker hoses that surround our house are to save our troubled foundation on clay soil.

Toads getting drink at A/C condensation drip near drip hose
It’s too hot to clean up anyway, so be happy that birds relish your lethargy so they can snag dinner.

Coneflower seeds for birds

Meredith has lots more tips on how to feed our birds and nourish our butterflies. After all, we can always re-plant this fall, but we can’t replace the wildlife that we depend on for a balanced, healthy garden—not just ours—but the big wide world garden picture.

To fuel hummingbirds and insects, Daphne’s Plant of the Week is Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis).

Desert willow flower

There are many cultivars of this drought-tough shrubby tree that accepts diverse soil conditions, as long as it doesn’t get too much water or fertilizer.

Desert willow flower

Use its willowy form for structural accent and as a gentle shade break for understory perennials that appreciate a break, like we all do!

Desert willow

Since photographing our wildlife is such a joy, on tour we visit Mary and Howard Cheek in their Certified Backyard Habitat in Kempner. Get Howard’s behind-the-lens tips that earned him top award in The Nature Conservancy’s photography competition.

Wildlife photographer Howard Cheek

Although plant-sucking aphids aren’t a big problem right now, they’ll be back!  This week, Trisha identifies one of your best friends: ladybug larvae, natural vacuum cleaners.

Ladybug larva eating aphids
Regarding the feline “wildlife” that uses our gardens as litter boxes, Daphne answers a viewer’s question about how to reclaim  raised beds to grow vegetables.

Maude, who owns KLRU’s Director of Web Services, Libby Peterek, has a great respect for plants and  a low opinion of such behavior.

Maude kitty

Maude invites you to help us launch Maude & Augie-doggie’s Garden Pet of the Week with your pictures, videos, and tips! It doesn’t have to be a dog or cat, but any “pet” that gives you joy in the garden, even a cute little toad in a bowl of water.

Until next week, Linda