Wildlife summer survival tips

June 23rd, 2011 Posted in Insects, bees, butterflies, cats, garden bloggers, native plants, photography, wildlife

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

  1. 15 Responses to “Wildlife summer survival tips”

  2. By Katina on Jun 23, 2011

    How apropos! I was just lamenting the other day that I didn’t know how best to put out food and water for the animals that didn’t result in the doves and grackles going crazy while the smaller birds would just get chased off.

    The really funny part? I was just getting ready to leave a comment on Meredith’s blog asking for pointers.


    Linda reply on June 23rd, 2011 5:58 pm:

    Yahoo, Katina! Go grab those old plant saucers and old shallow bowls and put ‘em to work, too. By the way, the Thai pepper I got from you is still going!


  3. By Cat on Jun 23, 2011

    Great episode Linda! Meredith was wonderful and I’m inspired to go and put out some ‘fruit salad’ for the butterflies!


    Linda reply on June 23rd, 2011 5:56 pm:

    Thanks, Cat! Yes, I always put old “nanners” and peaches for the butterflies. It depends on what kind of butterflies you get, and in my garden, they tend to frisk on the fruit most in the fall. But it’s so fun and such a great photo chance for your incredible photography!


  4. By Jo Dwyer on Jun 24, 2011

    Just got the greatest feeder for small birds from Wild Birds Unlimited — their own brand that’s “squirrel proof” but really is the best we’ve ever found to keep out white wing doves. We hang a separate feeder for the doves, but now the tiny song birds have a perfect feeder all their own!


    Linda reply on June 24th, 2011 4:36 pm:

    Jo, thanks for this tip! Guess I’ve gotta fly over and get one ASAP!


  5. By Tina Poe on Jun 24, 2011

    Linda, I just watched the episode and was wondering how you’d keep the mosquitoes out of those additional watering dishes, but your post cleared it up perfectly! Thank you! I’m going to try it and make sure to keep them clean with fresh water.


    Linda reply on June 25th, 2011 2:47 pm:

    Hi, Tina, yes, just rinse them and add new water every day or so. In this heat, I refresh everyday.


  6. By Meredith on Jun 25, 2011

    Linda, great tips! I adore that photo of the toads along your soaker hose. You mentioned your A/C unit — there are groups of birds, titmice mostly, having a party at the condensation area of mine, but I can’t ever get a picture. I see them from my window (they are driving my cats crazy inside), but the moment I step outside they fly off. I need a tree costume.


    Linda reply on June 26th, 2011 2:28 pm:

    Yes, the birds hang out there too. I’ve given up on a picture. Need to get spycam!


  7. By Carol on Jun 26, 2011

    I really enjoyed the show this weekend. Very timely. I bought a ceramic saucer today. Have noticed several toads near water hydrants after the sun goes down. I’m having problems with doves doing a great balancing act on my 2 small feeders and eating all the food…..


    Linda reply on June 27th, 2011 4:03 pm:

    Hi, Carol! It’s amazing how fast they’ll find your saucers. On the doves, Meredith’s tips for bird food does help, though my desperate doves will eat anything. I have noticed, though, that if I wait later in the evening to put out food, the cardinals get it instead of the doves. Thanks for helping out your little friends!


    Carol reply on June 28th, 2011 8:54 pm:

    Thanks Linda. I’ve only been feeding black oil sunflower seeds, but plan to add some other items that Meredith mentioned! I love my cardinals and notice they are still out after the doves have “turned in” for the evening.


  8. By Cindy, MCOK on Jul 4, 2011

    I thought I knew what drought was … This year has given me a whole new perspective, I’m sad to say!


    Linda reply on July 5th, 2011 5:46 pm:

    Yes, me too. Looks like a lot of work ahead. This is really sad.


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