The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist in Residence

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Put Down That Weed Killer - Take Advantage of Creation Principles

Crepe myrtle seed pods remain on the bush all winter,
providing snacks for the birds,
who also find  insects waiting in vain to emerge.

A pruned and mulched cape myrtle bush will have vibrant flowers
and foliage.

This crepe myrtle could be pruned like a hybrid tea - the vase look.
Or it could have the Lyle Lovett flowers on top haircut.


The first green plants in the yard are probably going to be ground cover - weeds - growing in the thin lawn and luxuriating in the sidewalk cracks and depressions.

Spraying sidewalk weeds is tempting but a waste of toxic chemicals. Yesterday I used the snow shovel to dig up the soil and and weeds there and put them under the crepe myrtle bush. The soil is the best, washed down from the yard, and the shallow rooted ground cover embedded will fade away in the shade of the bush.

The bush is mulched in a wide circle. by wood mulch and leaves. When clumps of grass come off the mulching lawnmower, I put them under the bush, to feed the creatures below. The clumps do not last long, so the area is quit active and fertile.

Crepe myrtle tolerates neglect, but that is no reason to ignore the plant. Our plan is to make it once again the finest in the neighborhood, pruned and mulched, with solar-powered faerie lights sparkling in it all night.

Soil is not dirt, but a living creation, made up of sand, clay, organic matter, and microscopic creatures. Topsoil in the wrong place can be used to innoculate the compost pile and mulch. Soil devours mulch by fostering mold and decomposition, creating a rich base for the web of life feeding the plants' roots.

I kill the crab grass, really a low quality but prolific grain, with frequent mulch mowing. The grass is fed this way and the crab grass cannot find room to grow. If it does, the mature flowering and seeding phase is cut short. No flowering means no seeds and no future. A patch of hearty crabgrass in a garden area can be converted into compost by covering it with newspapers and a mulch to help down yesterday's news.

Crab grass grows well in the sidewalk and driveway cracks. A little rock or pool salt will drip up the plant and prevent regrowth for a long time. Our landscaper on the corner was surprised to hear this.

Note the crab grass spreading out with no competition for sun.
In thick lawns, this guy would be mown to stubble.


Solar-Powered Lights, Indoor and Outdoor
Solar lights are inexpensive and quite effective with their various lighting modes and colors. I have lights on all the trees and a doorway to the garage.



When LED lights got in the way in the rose garden, I put them in the crepe myrtle bush and enjoyed the effect. Later I ran two long strings of white lights along the top of the chain link fencing. Christmas solar lights are still in the maple tree and framing the front porch. Solar lights from Phoenix illuminate the rose garden angels.

When our helper and I failed to cover the dead tree with a long string of colored lights, he fixed the break caused by his misstep. I put the lights on our living room shelves, but the solar collector did not get much energy through the window, especially since the window had film on it and a porch shading it. The film spares the wood from solar destruction but also the lights from getting energy, so we slipped the collector out the window, across the porch, and into full sun. When the sun goes down, sparkling lights provide a night light in the living room.

Keeping the Yard a One-Stop Shopping Area for Birds
Every moving creature is food for another, even slugs. If you maintain a good slug population, toads will hang around for food and the same abundance of water that helps the slug population thrive. Slugs seem repulsive, but so are worms to the skittish and sheltered. Both are effective in improving the soil and feeding other creatures.

Birds have eaten about nine pounds of suet in our yard, mostly in the late winter. Doubtless they needed time to adjust to the new feeding stations. They come to the yard for baths and drinks of water because I have around 10 pans of water for them, catching faucet and rain water. When the baths were iced and snowed on, the birds left tracks in them to remind me of my duties.

Bird watchers love to provide food for the birds, and that does not amount to much per week. I used a combination of thistle, hulled sunflower seeds, corn, and sunflower seeds. A good habitat, starting with water, is more important.

I keep a stack of branches and twigs at the Jackson Bird Spa. They have four baths to use, several suet bags, two wooden suet feeders, and a pile of branches. They perch on the branches and wipe their beaks on them. Bathing is always followed by preening the feathers, so a safe place for combing their feathers is essential. They can fly up to the trees, but they also like mid-level areas for preening and spotting food. Branches also provide the illusion of safety for bugs, so they are self-filling bird feeders.

The tiny fruits and wildflowers have a special beauty.


Two types of berries are on order for us and the birds. I plan on more berries that will spread on their own for shelter, food, and bee food. If it fruits, it flowers - if it seeds, it flowers. Bees need the flowers and we need the bees. Wild strawberries are already making their way across the west side of the house, fueled by the sun and watered from the leaky faucet and soaker hose.

The growth of the wild strawberries is accidental, showing that that an an increase of mulch and water will generate unplanned growth. With only grass I had a little patch of wild strawberries and...grass. Now I have a long line of strawberries opportunistically grabbing the sun and water for its growth, a tiny bird-feeder expanding on its own.