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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Berry Plants in the Creation Garden

The Peace rose is popular with aphids
and Japanese beetles.

Japanese beetles were in my Peace roses yesterday, reminding me of the need to feed, water, and shelter birds.

Here are tips from Master Gardeners:

Aerial Assault – Birds
Among bird predators, Starlings are the best known beetle-eaters, eating both the grubs and adult beetles.  Other birds known to eat grubs are robins, crows, grackles, catbirds, sparrows, bobwhites, blue jays, eastern kingbirds, woodpeckers and purple martins.  You can often see birds pecking at your lawn — they may be hunting — and eating — beetle grubs among other garden and lawn pests.
By the time the adults have emerged with their protective shells, it becomes harder to control their numbers.  Some birds like Starlings are known to eat the adult beetle although if truth be told, I have never witnessed a bird eating a Japanese Beetle.  Other area birds reputed to be Japanese Beetle eaters include robins, cardinals and catbirds.

Feed Birds Year Round

Next to beneficial insects, songbirds consume the most pest insects in your yard and the best way to attract birds is to provide them with year round food (bird feeders), water, and shelter.  An excellent review of attracting garden pest eating birds can be found at National Wildlife Federation’s eNature website.

Mow The Lawn Properly

Japanese beetles prefer to lay their eggs in turf grass that is short, avoiding grass that is more than 2 inches high.  Tall grass harbors natural beetle egg predators like ground spiders and ants.  And, cool season turf like fescue should be maintained at a higher length regardless for many other good reasons, so consider this one more reason for keeping your lawn mower setting at around 3 to 4 inches. 

GJ - The hint about longer grass may surprise a number of gardeners. Beetles that prey on pests are best sheltered in tall grass and areas that are never disturbed, especially higher ground.

Beautyberries are for birds at the end of the season.


Feeding the Birds - Retail
Yesterday we brought home a barrel of popcorn from the movie theater. Normally they have sunflower seeds in the hanging and platform feeders, finch seed in the squirrel-proof feeder.

Birds are always entertaining at the feeder, and the squirrels sometimes do more than sit on top of the seed and eat. Yesterday two squirrels were having a fight over the top squirrel title and swirling around the whole feeding area.

Wild Strawberries thrive everywhere, blooming early and often.


Feeding the Birds Berries - For Almost Nothing
The Creator has designed many plants to feed the bird population most of the year. Anyone who thinks this is all an accident may drink from my empty coffee cup. I did everything right to make a fresh pot this morning. When I went out to fill a mug and jump-start a blog post, the pot was empty. These are the steps in making a pot:

  1. Empty the thermo-carafe and fill it with hot water.
  2. Empty the coffee basket, place a new filter in it, and spoon 8 measures of coffee grounds into it. Replace the coffee basket in the slot designed for it.
  3. Fill the tank with water.
  4. Empty the hot water from the carafe and place it under the coffee basket.
  5. Make sure it is plugged in and the start button pushed.
This is rather simple - if we omit the steps needed to get fresh water, a coffee pot, and ground coffee. But I missed one step today and had no coffee at first.

I did not press the start button, due to being a quart low in coffee myself. 

Therefore, the production of berries is a constant wonder to me, because these plants, domestic and wild, are always producing food for us and God's creatures, most of the year, with provisions for the end of the season. 

Elderberry flowers create clusters of berries.


Flower and Fruit
Berries are always flowering on their own particular schedule. Our Wild Strawberries were blooming with little yellow flowers in the shade, in early spring. Soon they had bright red berries for the birds. I saw more plants than ever before in the front and backyards.

Berries are a perfect example of Creation, Engineering, and Management. They flower to produce their fruit, feeding nectar and pollen to the pollinators, which make sure berries will form. The berry is the irresistible capsule for the seeds, so birds and humans have food to eat and seeds to plant from the fruit.

One way to ensure birds' favorite plants will grow in the Wild Garden is to stretch wire across it, so birds perch, poop, and plant their digested food, with fertilizer added. Since I have trees, bushes, and mulched areas for birds to enjoy, I have an abundant supply of their favorite foods - long in Wild Strawberries and Pokeweed berries.

The Beauty Berries grow last and linger on their plants, to serve as food for birds at the end of the season. They are toxic to humans.

Pokeberries are another birds-only fruit, growing in the cracks of the sidewalk and achieving full potential in the sun, reaching nine feet tall, stretching out branches to support the birds that first planted it.

Thornless Blackberries and Raspberries enjoy spreading through their root system, turning a few planted canes into a tangle of plants in a year or two. Rabbits adore these tough plants, so they may be a part of keeping them in check. On the other hand, that may be why I have a herd of rabbits in and around our home.

Blueberries like acid soil, so I mulch the pine needles and pine-cones from a neighbor to make a more acidic garden, which Blueberries and Hosta enjoy.


Gooseberries are so easy to grow that they were once a staple of food for rural and self-sufficient families. Talk up berries and someone will say, "My mother made gooseberry pie."

Elderberries are a tall, majestic plant, with large crowns of flowers and the impulse to send up new shoots of Elderberry plants to make a hedge of them. Insects love the flowers of all berries, but these berries are at eye level, so the pollinators are easier to watch at work.

Gooseberries grow on an unglamorous plant.


Management by the Creator
The management of the berry population is often ignored because we take it for granted. The appeal of berries for animals and humans will always ensure that they spread. Grains have to be cultivated. Corn has to be planted at the right time in large masses for its air pollination. Tomatoes - ach, don't get me started. They are tempting and nutritious but fraught with more problems than a sorority in a crowded house.

Lantana flowers create these crinkled fruits.