Garden for Wildlife & Local Plants


"When the Earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow." — Native American Prophecy

Wildlife
Bugs
Wasps
Opossums

Links
Info
Chicory
Yarrow
Timing
Planting Time Ref

Native
ForWildlife Plants Perennials
Bushes
LgBushes
Vines
Wildflowers
Weeds,Grasses
SmallTrees
Lg Trees
Owls
Sales,Nurseries
Backyard
Chickens
Ducks
Guineafowls
Frontyard
HellStrip
HotWeather
Wet Soil
PoorDrainage
Edible
Sun
Part Shade
Shade
Fragrant
FixesNitrogen


Backyard future


Wildlife->
Birds page
Birds
Pool/pond pg
Fish
Frogs
Bugs
Bugs for Birds
Bees, Pollinators
Hedgerows
Butterflies
Dragonflies
Bees/

Links->
Links
Videos
No Lawn

Native Plant Lists->
Zip Code List Hill Country Plants Shade Plants Part Sun/Shade Plants Full Sun Plants Pollinator Plants

Backyard -->
Mexican Milkweed
Backyard Rose
Mexican Bird of Paradise
Esperanza
Horseherb
Verbascum
Cerinthe
Butterfly Bush
Milkweeds
Penstemons
Sunflowers

Front Yard-->
Esperanza
Montezuma Cypress Notes
Montezuma Cypress Photos
Mexican Bird of Paradise
Esperanza
Spiraea
Hibiscus Lord Baltimore
Butterfly Bush Peach Cobbler
Echinacea Glowing Dream
Rock Gardens

Hell Strip->
Lantana
Wandering Jew

For Birds/Wildlife-->
For Birds
Verbascum
Stretchberry
Agarita
Dewberry
Littleleaf Mulberry
Mexican Olive
Anacua
Desert Yaupon
Texas Kidneywood
Hog-Plum
Cedar Elm
Sugar Hackberry
Fastest Growing Shrubs
Milkweed & Butterflies
Milkweeds
Growing Milkweeds [good intro
to starting any seeds]

Bats
Lantana

Plants->
Pearl Milkweed Vine
Texas Barberry
Desert Willow Tree
Anacua Tree
Elderberry bush
Rough Leaf Dogwood Tree
Texas Persimmon Tree
Texas Madrone Tree
False Indigo Shrub
Texas Redbud Tree
Golden Ball Lead Tree
Pink Mimosa/Silk Tree
Retama
Mesquite
Cuban Oregano
Pigeonberry
American Beautyberry
Mexican Honeysuckle
Plumbago
Rusty Blackhaw
Mexican Buckeye
Bird of Paradise [two colors]
Ligularia
Almond Verbena
Lantana
Aralia
Goldenrod

Veg.Garden-->
Page on Veg. Garden

Herbs-->
Veg. Garden

Links-->
Videos
General Info

Worthy Rants-->
Leaf Blowers: Modern Pestilence
Daylight Savings Time: A Stupid Idea

Hot Weather Groundcovers/Plants-->
Lantana
Allamanda
Spiraea
Vetch
Lantana

Vines-->
Mandevilla
Fall Vines Vines
Pearl Milkweed Vine
Lantana

Wildflowers, Native-->
Native to SA
Mitchell Lake
Lantana
Catalpa speciosa
Milkweeds
Penstemons

Bushes,Shrubs->
Texas Barberry
False Indigo Shrub
Page on Shrubs

Large Shrubs->
Elderberry bush
Golden Ball Lead Tree
Retama
Rusty Blackhaw
Bird of Paradise [two colors]
Almond Verbena

Small Trees->
Desert Willow Tree
Anacua Tree
Rough Leaf Dogwood Tree
Texas Persimmon Tree
Texas Madrone Tree
Texas Redbud Tree
Golden Ball Lead Tree
Pink Mimosa/Silk Tree
Retama
Mesquite
Rusty Blackhaw
Mexican Buckeye
Almond Verbena

Larger Trees->
Texas Madrone Tree

Perennials->
Ligularia
Lantana
Perennials
More on Perennials
Biennials
Milkweeds
Iris
Penstemons

Moist Soil->
Rough Leaf Dogwood Tree
False Indigo Shrub
Ligularia

Poor Drainage Tolerated->
False Indigo Shrub

Edible->
Elderberry bush
Texas Persimmon Tree
Texas Madrone Tree
Texas Redbud Tree

Full Sun only->
Cuban Oregano
Rusty Blackhaw
Bird of Paradise [two colors]
Lantana
Irises

Partial Shade Tolerated->
Texas Redbud Tree
American Beautyberry
Mexican Honeysuckle
Plumbago
Rusty Blackhaw
Mexican Buckeye
Almond Verbena>
Muscari [Grape Hyacinth]

Full Shade->
Pigeonberry
Ligularia
Hostas

Very Fragrant->
Almond Verbena>

Fixes Nitrogen->
Mesquite

Diary-->
Garden Calendar

Products->
Products

Nurseries-->
Rainbow Gardens [Bandera Rd.]
The Garden Center [on Bandera N.]
Milberger's (1604 East)[DELIVERS]
Online, Mail Order Gardening
Seed Savers Exchange
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds [Rare Seeds]

INFO-->
Native Plant Society of Texas,
San Antonio chapter

Medicinal Plants of Texas
No Lawn
Planting a Shrub or Tree
Cover Crops
Repel Mosquitoes
Gardening Articles
Caliche Cures

Weeds/Grass-->
Weeds
More Weeds
Buffalo Grass
Texas Sedge
For wildscapes, see
Birds
Horseherb
Plateau Goldeneye
Purslane
Lambsquarters
Old Man's Beard
Poison Hemlock


FROGS

Letter draft:

We live on the NW side of San Antonio. For many years, when fall was approaching [like now] we would be serenaded by frogs for three or four nights. The sound was like the beginning of "rivet." A low sound with a ratcheting modulation, like when you moan in pain or boredom. It was both irritating [sleep would be nice] and also wonderful [romance!].

This year, there was a very different sound, sort of like a truck backing up. There was no variation in the sound, sort of mechanical with no up or down at the beginning or end. Also, the all-night sound only went on for two nights instead of three or four.

Is this a new species of frog? What happened to our old friends of prior years?

On a larger scale, how are frogs doing in Texas? Should we be worried? Are they the canary in the mine?

send to:

Texas Gardener Magazine, https://www.texasgardener.com/, contact
Birds and Blooms
KLRN CTG, llehmusvirta@klru.org :
"Linda Lehmusvirta"

Texas Amphibian Watch: Frogs and Toads of Texas

YouTube: Texas frogs and toads calling at night! Gulf Coast Toad Bufo valliceps was the frog call we used to hear.

MySA: Frogs and toads are drought survivors

USGS

Frogs of Texas





Products

Cutting Edge Brand Products - Brown Mulch Premium Quality, 2 cu ft $4.58 Free shipping for Prime members when buying this Add-on Item.


Links

SA Native Plants DB

Native Plant Society of Texas San Antonio chapter

National Wildlife Federation's GARDEN FOR WILDLIFE Create a garden that helps wildlife.

Native Perennials for Wildlife July 2016

Garden Style San Antonio
Plants reported to grow well and around San Antonio, tx

Digging cool gardens in a hot climate... living in Austin, Texas, zone 8b.

Native Plants of Texas Search Engine

Texas Gardener


Bugs for Birds

From Birds and Blooms magazine, August/September 2016 issue:

More Bugs, More Birds

by David Mizejewski.

The key to increasing winged activity in your yard is in your plants.

Native perennials, trees and shrubs offer a variety of natura foods, including seeds, berries, fruits, nuts, sap, and nectar.

The seed in feeders is only a supllement to the good eats birds get from natural landscapes. And having more plants means more of what birds need most--insects.

Bugs are especially important to birds during summer breeding season, when the parents need to feed hungry young broods. Right from the egg, hatchlings need the protein and fat insects provide to fuel their rapid growth. [maybe suet?]

Caterpillars, particularly moth caterpillars, are a vital source of food. And since they're more numerous than butterfly caterpillars, they aren'tin danger of being wiped out.

Birds don't eat just a couple of caterpillars a day. Studies of chickadees show they may catch thousands of caterpillars during the 16 days it takes their babies to grow from hatching to fledging.

A garden full of bugs is valuable to growing bird families.

There are other benefits to putting more of a focus on bug friendly backyards. Some birds simply don't eat commercial seeds or are too shy to visit a busy feeder. A wealth of insects means more species will visit your yard. When you supplement feeders with plants, your yard keeps the bird grub coming even when you're on summer vacation.

If you want birds, you've got to have bugs, too, especially caterpillars. Fill your yard with native plants, focus on caterpillar host plants. and avoid insecticides. Rely on hungry bird visitors to keep your insect population in check. When you do, you'll be doiing your part to ensure your favorite kinds of birds will reproduce and keep the species going.

Best-Loved Bugs

-Caterpillars
-Grubs
-Moths
-Flies
-Spicers
-Grasshoppers
-Crickets
-Beetles

Urban-IPM blog on bugs by TAMU



Zip Code Native Plants

National Wildlife Federation's GARDEN FOR WILDLIFE Create a garden that helps wildlife.

All living things need to eat to survive, so food sources are a critical component of wildlife habitat. Native plants form the foundation of the food chain in the natural world, and should do the same in your wildlife-friendly garden or landscape. Plants provide food to wildlife in a wide variety of ways, from berries to nuts to nectar and even the insects they support that feed other animals.

A thoughtfully structured garden palette can provide year round wildlife food: spring and summer bloom for pollen and nectar and leafy host plants, followed by shrubs and trees that bear berries late fall and into winter. Delay deadheading seed laden stalks for continued food source and strategically place fallen branches or logs in the backs of garden beds or behind shrubs to encourage grubs and insects that birds, salamander and other wildlife rely on.

Bird feeders can supplement natural food sources offered by plant material, and be particularly helpful in winter months.

Food for Caterpillars

Gardeners can play can play a key role in restoring lost habitat of host plants for many types of butterflies and moths.

Discovering which caterpillar foods you can bring to your garden to support new and interesting native butterflies offers an opportunity to try out different types of native flowering plants. The more caterpillar food you have in your yard, will also attract different types of birds.

Most butterflies and moths can only rely on certain plants, shrubs or trees to feed their young. For example, the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly can only eat milkweed leaves to survive. In one of nature’s unique designs, the plant toxins are safe for the caterpillars, but are a poison to the caterpillar’s predators.

Native Plants Finder [beta] for my zip code:

Flowers
Sunflower [Helianthus Asterales]
Baccharis [Baccharis Asterales]
Bluestem, Broomsedge Bluestem [Andropogon Cyperales]
Milkweed, Butterfly Weed [Asclepias Gentianales]
Geranium [Geranium Geraniales]
False Goldenaster [Heterotheca Asterales]
Violet [Viola iolales]

Trees, Shrubs
Hickory, Pecan, Pignut, Bitter ... [Carya Juglandales]
Maple, Boxelder [Acer Sapindales]
Ash [Fraxinus Scrophulariales]
Elm [Ulmus Urticales]
Hawthorn [Crataegus Rosales]
Grape [Vitis Rhamnales]
Dogwood, Bunchberry [Cornus Cornales]
Arrowwood, Viburnum, (Viburnum ...) [Viburnum Dipsacales]
Hackberry, Sugar Berry [Celtis Urticales]
Honeylocust, Gleditsia [Gleditsia Fabales]
Acacia, Wattle [Acacia Fabales]
Persimmon [Diospyros Ebenales]
Treebine, Grape Ivy [Cissus Rhamnales]
Juniper, Red Cedar [Juniperus Pinales]
Holly, Inkberry, Winterberry [Ilex Celastrales]
New Jersey Tea [Ceanothus Rhamnales]
Redbud, Judas-Tree [Cercis Fabales]
Horsechestnut, Buckeye [Aesculus Sapindales]
Cypress, Bald Cypress, Pond Cy ... [Taxodium Pinales]
Lantana [Lantana Lamiales]
Snakewood, Bluewood [Condalia Rhamnales]
Trumpetcreeper, Trumpet Vine [Campsis Scrophulariales]
Yellow Trumpetbush [Tecoma Scrophulariales]
Creepingoxeye [Wedelia Asterales]
Nicker, [Caesalpinia Fabales]
Desert Willow [Chilopsis Scrophulariales]
Swampprivet [Forestiera Scrophulariales]
Barometerbush [Leucophyllum Scrophulariales]
Cholla [Cylindropuntia Caryophyllales]
Golden Dewdrops [Duranta Lamiales]
Hedgehog Cactus [Echinocereus Caryophyllales]
Horse Crippler [Echinocactus Caryophyllales]
Jointfir, Clapweed [Ephedra Ephedrales]
Kidneywood [Eysenhardtia Fabales]
Lignum-Vitae [Guaiacum Sapindales]
Manjack [Cordia Lamiales]
Mexican Buckeye [Ungnadia Sapindales]
Ratany [Krameria Polygalales]
Silktassel [Garrya Cornales]
Snailseed [Cocculus Ranunculales]
Beebrush [Aloysia Lamiales]
Knockaway [Ehretia Lamiales]
Myrtlecroton [Bernardia Euphorbiales]


Native Hill Country Plants

From: Wrede, Jan. Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country. 2nd ed. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2015.

Native plants which might work well in our yard, especially for wildlife:

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Pearl Milkweed Vine, Green Milkweed Vine [Matelea reticulata] A host plant to the monarch butterfly. All members of the milkweed family show a milky white sap when a stem is broken.


Pearl Milkweed Vine, Green Milkweed Vine [Matelea reticulata]

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Texas Barberry [Berberis swaseyi or Mahonia swaseyi]. Uncommon shrub which looks much like agarita; found only in the Texas Hill Country. Flowers are yellow, fragrant; March-April. Fruit is an edible berry. A low shrub and a good source of food for resident and migrant birds. Butterflies flock to nectar at its blossoms.


Texas Barberry [Berberis swaseyi or Mahonia swaseyi]

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Desert Willow, Mimbre [Chilopsis linearis; Bignoniaceae]. Loose, often leaning small tree with gorgeous lavender-pink, trumpet shaped flowers and willow-like leaves. [Many examples to be found at PAC campus.] Flowers May to September. Needs well-drained soil and full sun.


Desert Willow, Mimbre [Chilopsis linearis; Bignoniaceae]

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Anaqua, Anacua, Sandpaper Tree [Ehretia anacua]. It grows slowly.


Anaqua, Anacua, Sandpaper Tree [Ehretia anacua]


Anaqua, Anacua, Sandpaper Tree [Ehretia anacua]


Anaqua, Anacua, Sandpaper Tree [Ehretia anacua]

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Common Elderberry [Sambucus canadensis; Caprifoliaceae]. Tall shrub with many stems growing from the [huge shrub between Dotta's house and our's on Moana]. Flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters. Native Americans soaked them in water to make a refreshing summer drink.


Common Elderberry [Sambucus canadensis; Caprifoliaceae]


Common Elderberry [Sambucus canadensis; Caprifoliaceae]


Common Elderberry [Sambucus canadensis; Caprifoliaceae]

Dried leaves have been used as an insecticide and as a poultice for sore joints.

Elderberry is an important wildlife food. Its berries are eaten by forty-five different species of birds.

PLAN--FIRST plant to plant where the pittisporum died. First, transplant the two plants in that area and dig up all the plastic ["landscapers' fabric"] and remove.

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Rough Leaf Dogwood [Cornus drummondii; Carnaceae]. An unevenly shaped shrub which grows in moist soil. Flowers April-May. Related to the exquisite Flowering Dogwood [C. florida].


Rough Leaf Dogwood [Cornus drummondii; Carnaceae]


Rough Leaf Dogwood [Cornus drummondii; Carnaceae]


Rough Leaf Dogwood [Cornus drummondii; Carnaceae]

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Texas Persimmon, Mexican Persimmon [Diospyros Texana; Ebenaceae] (Chapote). Common shrub or small tree; grows in thickets. Flowers are fragrant, white; February-June. The fruit of the female tree is eaten by many birds and mammals.

Where they are thick, they can provide good nest sites for the tiny, rare black-capped vireo.

This tree is a host plant to gray hairstreak and Henry's elfin butterflies.

With its high sugar content, fruit can be eaten raw, or fermented to make a tasty wine.


Texas Persimmon, Mexican Persimmon [Diospyros Texana; Ebenaceae]


Texas Persimmon, Mexican Persimmon [Diospyros Texana; Ebenaceae]


Texas Persimmon, Mexican Persimmon [Diospyros Texana; Ebenaceae]

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Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]. Distinctive and desirable small evergreen tree. Flowers in March; fruit is edible. The red fruit is sweet and popular with many birds and small mammals.


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]


Madrone on the Pinnacle Trail. Big Bend National Park from The Beautiful Texas Madrone


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]


Texas Madrone [Arbutus xalapensis; Ericaceae]

Texas Madrone, Naked Indian, Lady's Leg, Texas Arbutus, Madrono Arbutus xalapensis Texas madrone occurs in the Trans-Pecos and areas of the Edwards Plateau. In early spring it produces clusters of the small, white lantern-shaped flowers that are so typical of members of the heath family. The yellow-orange to bright red berries that ripen in the fall rival those of any female holly tree. The evergreen leaves are dark green above and paler on the underside. Perhaps the greatest beauty of Texas madrone is its lovely exfoliating bark. When the older layers slough off, the newer bark is smooth and can range from white to orange through shades of apricot to dark red.

Other members of the heath family grow on highly acidic soils in wet sites, but Texas madrone grows in a more xeric climate, must have good drainage, and grows equally well on slightly acidic to alkaline soils. In a landscape situation, the amount of water it receives and the type of drainage are much more important than the type of soil in which it grows.

Plant Habit or Use: small tree
Exposure: sun partial sun
Flower Color: white to pink
Blooming Period: spring
Fruit Characteristics: yellow-orange to bright red berries
Height: to 40 ft.
Width: to 40 ft.
Plant Character: evergreen
Heat Tolerance: high
Water Requirements: low
Soil Requirements: adaptable

Texas madrone, Madrone, Texas arbutus, Naked indian, Lady's leg, Madroño, Manzanita, Xoxocote, Amazaquitl Ericaceae (Heath Family) Synonym(s): Arbutus texana, Arbutus xalapensis var. texana

Usually multi-trunked, Texas madrone is a 20-30 ft., evergreen tree. Its colorful, exfoliating outer bark reveals polished, red, inner bark. Stout, crooked, spreading branches form a distinct crown. Dark-green, leaves are red-tinged on edges and undersides.

Petioles up to 1 1/4 inches long, blades to 3 1/2 inches long, ovate to elliptic, of a leathery texture, margins usually smooth. Flowers white, small, urn shaped, in wooly clusters, appearing in early spring. Fruit red or orange berries, spherical, up to 1/3 inch in diameter, in elongate clusters, edible.

It is reported that the fruit of this uncommon species is edible and that the fruit of related European species has narcotic properties. The wood has been used locally for tool handles. The local names, Naked Indian and Ladys Leg, refer to the smooth, pinkish to reddish-brown bark. The species name, xalapensis, refers to the city of Jalapa/Xalapa in the east Mexican state of Veracruz.

Growing Conditions
Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, rocky soils. Limestone-based, Caliche type, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay
Conditions Comments: One of the most interesting and beautiful native trees of Texas, but temperamental to propagate or grow. Propagation requirements are complex, and it is very difficult to transplant successfully from the wild. In the landscape, it grows best in well-drained areas.

Use Wildlife: Birds eat sweet berries. Nectar-insects, Fruit-birds, Fruit-mammals, Fruit-deer. Browsed by cattle and heavily by deer and goats.
Use Medicinal: The bark and leaves are astringent and are occasionally used in Mexico.
Use Other: The wood is used for tools, handles, rollers, fuel, and charcoal for gunpowder. It is reddish brown, sapwood lighter, close-grained, hard, heavy, specific gravity about 0.75.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds

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False Indigo [Amorpha fruticosa; Fabaceae]. An attractive open shrub with several stems sometimes found in light shade. Flowers are purple spikes, April-May. Grows well in moist soil with poor drainage. Host to several butterflies.


False Indigo [Amorpha fruticosa; Fabaceae]


False Indigo [Amorpha fruticosa; Fabaceae]


False Indigo [Amorpha fruticosa; Fabaceae]

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Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]. A popular native; grows in full sun or part shade. Pink pea-like flowers in March-April. It grows fast, has few pests, and tolerates drought.

When buying one at a nursery, make sure it is a Texas Redbud rather than an Eastern redbud. The latter is not as hardy in the Hill Country limestone soil and dry climate.

The flower buds, flowers, and new tender seed pods are edible and a gourmet treat when sauteed in butter. Fresh flowers are also good in salads.


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]


Texas Redbud [Cercis canadensis var. texensis; Fabaceae]

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Golden Ball Lead Tree. [Leucaena retusa; Fabaceae]. A loose shrub or small tree with bright, gold/yellow flowers all summer; grows in dry, rocky limestone soil.

Hell strip in front? Or, at the back fence?

Native plant gardeners like to plant this small tree in sunny spots with rocky soild. Well adopted to poor soil on hot, dry sexposures and is especially attractive in the spring [April-October] when it explodes with eye catching ball blossoms.

Deer and livestock browse this plant heavily; butterflies and bees feed on its nectar.


Golden Ball Lead Tree. [Leucaena retusa; Fabaceae]


Golden Ball Lead Tree. [Leucaena retusa; Fabaceae]


Golden Ball Lead Tree. [Leucaena retusa; Fabaceae]

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Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]. Usually a low shrub with many branches that grows in dry limestone. Flowers March-May FRAGRANT, showy pink globes. The fragrant blossoms attract many types of butterflies, and its seeds are eaten by birds.


Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]


Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]


Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]


Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]


Pink Mimosa Tree. [Mimosa borealis; Fabaceae]

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Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]. A small, open tree or large shrub with distinct green bark on slender spiny branches. Flowers are bright yellow, FRAGRANT, April-September.

In Mexico, a grove of retama is called a "retamal". In tropical America, retama has been reported in medicinal use to reduce fever, and treat diabetes.

In some places, the flowers are important honeybee forage, and the seeds are eaten by birds.


Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]


Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]


Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]


Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]


Retama, Paloverde, Jerusalem Thorn [Parkinsonia aculeata; Fabaceae]

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Honey Mesquite, Mesquite [Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa; Fabaceae]. Thorny small tree with an open crown, drooping branches, and narrow leaflets. As a legume, the tree fixes nitrogen, thus enriching the soil.

Bees make honey from the blossoms; and many species of wildlife, including deer and dove, depend on mesquite for food and shelter. A host plant for Reakirt's blue and ceraunus blue butterflies.


Honey Mesquite, Mesquite [Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa; Fabaceae]


Honey Mesquite, Mesquite [Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa; Fabaceae]


Honey Mesquite, Mesquite [Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa; Fabaceae]


Honey Mesquite, Mesquite [Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa; Fabaceae]

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Eve's Necklace [Sophora affinis; Fabaceae]. Spindly shrub or graceful small tree recognized by its smooth green twigs and in fall and winter by the dark "beads-in-a-chain" seed pods. Flowers are FRAGRANT, pale pink, pea-shaped blossoms hanging in large clusters; March-May.

Most attractive when given some space to develop an even, rounded crown... an excellent ornamental.


comments

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Texas Mountain Laurel, Mescalbean [Sophora scundiflora; Fabaceae]. An evergreen shrub or small tree frequently found on limestone hillsides. Flowers are beautiful, AROMATIC blue-purple clusters; smell like grape flavoring. Pea-shaped. February-April.

A slow-growing ornamental. The leaves and seeds contain a toxic alkaloid that is poisonous to livestock and humans. If broken and chewed, the seeds can be fatal to a human. When swallowed by a child, however, they usually remain intact and pass through the digestive tract, causing no harm.

A host to Henry's elfin and orange sulphur butterflies.


comments

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Bees, Other Pollinators

Bees Need You to Plant These 4 Flowers in Your Backyard NOW! Bees are cooperative, intuitive, hard-working, living beings whose labor is exploited for its fruits (superfood honey). The process of human-bee interaction, the human chemical-agricultural input changes, monocultures and the fact that “we’ve stopped planting cover crops” for soil fertilizers and bee food, all equal major consequences for bees worldwide.

Humans have helped, in some way or another, to create, enable and excel bee population destruction. We’ve done this by not planting bee-attracting crops, using pesticides/herbicides/insecticides and other agricultural chemical inputs that leach the soil of nutrients, destroy crops, create superweeds and superbugs and eventually poison and starve bees. We’ve also done this collectively through honey production and transporting bees to pollinate human-desired mass amounts of crops like almonds. We have been planting more and more crops for the dwindling number of bees to pollinate. They’re tired. They’re sick. They’re literally dropping dead from pollinating our food: when will it be enough? Marla Spivak gets the audience to consider these questions: when will these toxins begin harming humans at this lethal level and what are they doing to humans on a small scale level in the meantime, too?

It’s not all lost though; we can turn this around. As Spivak says in the video above, food deserts don’t have to be the future of food. She states that humans can help bees in two direct ways: planting bee-friendly flowers and not polluting them with chemical toxins like pesticides. You can also help bees by leaving their honey alone (they need it more than humans do), supporting a bee sanctuary or creating your own, always taking the opportunity to vote and get active in the fights against these bee-killing poisons and practices, too. Speak up for bees!

Here are four flowers bees need you to plant now.

1. Hollyhocks

Best when planted in fall (September or October), these beautiful, tall flower pods will bloom within the next year. This provides quick food for bees in need. Simply sprinkle the seeds on top of some rich, warm soil and cover ever so lightly with a fine layer of the soil. Make sure the seeds can feel the sun and receive full light when germinating. Thereafter, full sun or partial shade will do. These flowers come in a variety of stunning, bee-attracting colors, make for excellent garden decor and will return each year for several years.

2. Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea)

This perennial flower’s bud literally pushes itself toward the sun, providing easy access for bees to land and have a snack. It’s no wonder then that gardeners get the best flowers and best food for bees by planting purple cone flowers in full sun. What’s more? These flowers are drought resistant, making them good for the not-so-green-thumbed gardener. For more on how to grow these, check here.


Hollyhocks | Echinacea-Makro

3. Shasta Daisies

The composite shape of the shasta is what draws bees in. It is also what makes these such efficient methods of helping bees. Bees will land on the big yellow pad we know as the centre of the flower. Here, there are hundreds of much smaller flowers that form a tight round cluster called an inflorescence. It is when the bee walks across these tiny flowers that its body is covered in pollen. This pollen then is redistributed amongst flowers to create food for bees and humans alike.

4. Sedum Spectabile “Brilliant”

An easy flower to grow, this hardy perennial will feed more than just bees, too. It is known to attract butterflies with its showy or “brilliant” flower pod heads. These blooms will begin in August (plant now!) and carry on into the cooler months.

Shasta Daisies | Sedum spectabile

Please note, always try to plant native species to your own location. What the bees in one gardening zone like will not necessarily match in another location. Happy gardening!

Hedegrows for Bees & Other Pollinators

Video: How to Plant a Hedgerow how to attract beneficial insects to your organic garden by planting a hedgerow

You need a habitat for beneficial insects. With a hedgerow good bugs will outnumber bad bugs three to one. Favored are buckwheat, carrot, yarrow, clover, alyssum, nasturtium

Wildflower seed mixes are great for hedgerows. Best hedgerows are diverse. Plant in strips or on the border of your garden or orchard. Better in strips than in clumps. Uses Good Bug Blend, mixed with native wildflowers. Prepare soil. Mix seed 1:1 with perlite or vermiculite or course sand. Split in two. Broadcast half. Then make another pass. Tamp down soil or add some compost. Water in.


Hedgerow

Good Bug Cover Crop Blends We pioneered these seed mixes to create a beneficial insect habitat. We designed our mix to include plants that are proven hosts to specific wild as well as introduced beneficials, such as predatory mites and wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, syrphids, tachnids, predacious beetles and many more.

Good Bug Blend has been field-proven for over a decade in large and small scale growing areas. Since the mix blooms nearly year round, Good Bug Blend should be planted in areas which can go a little wild, such as field borders, ditchbanks, fence rows, etc.


Hedgerow

Blooms begin 45-90 days after planting and will continue for years.

Average height is 18" (but some plants can get as high as 6' depending on soil fertility, available moisture, or competition)

Contains the following seeds: Crimson Clover, Red Clover, Nungarin Subclover, Yellow Sweet Clover, Hykon Rose Clover, White Clover, Semi & Non Dormant Alfalfa, Coriander, Daikon Radish, Dill, Red Radish, Carrot, Calendula, California Buckwheat, Baby's Breath, Sweet Alyssum, White Yarrow, Caraway, Celery, Chervil, Fennel, and Parsley.

Features
Attracts Beneficial Insects
Easily Established
Fixes Nitrogen
Provides Quick Growth
Requires Summer Water

$7.99/Lb

I planted this on my side yard and it completely covered the ground with amazingly beautiful plants and flowers that bloomed the entire season and brought lots of honey bees in for the clovers! I have since ordered it in bulk! I highly recommend this as an excellent cover crop for beneficials and beauty!

How to Attract Beneficial Insects with Hedgerows To get proper coverage, divide your seed (no matter how much you’re sowing) into two parts. Mix half the seed with an inert material like vermiculite or sand (not beach sand). You want a one to one ratio: one part seed, one part inert. Using either a rotary spreader or hand broadcasting, cover the whole area.

Then mix the other half the same way and make one more pass. This will ensure you don’t have any bare spots.

Either tamp down the soil with a board or a lawn roller, or just add some compost on top of the seeds to cover them.

Water your seeds and soon you will have a beautiful home for beneficials for seasons to come.

Wildflower seeds

Butterfly Garden Flower Mix 37.99 (lb) Butterfly Garden Wildflower Mix (1/4 lb) $14.99

Ordered 4/15/17 from Peaceful Valley:

Peaceful Valley Good Bug Blend - Nitrocoated (Lb) PBE970 $7.99
Zinnia, California Mix SWF126 $2.99
Marigold, African SWF131 $2.99
Butterfly Garden Wildflower Mix (1/4 lb) SWF630 $14.99 S&H $7.99

4 Berry-Producing Shrubs that Fertilize, Too! Buffalo Berry Shepherdia canadensis, Goumi Elaeagnus multiflora, Sea Buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides, Silverberry Elaeagnus commutata

How to Plant a Hedgerow A hedgerow can offer beauty, productivity, biodiversity, and much more!

A hedgerow is a narrow strip of mixed plantings, which I distinguish from a hedge–a planting of a single species. In 10 Reasons to Plant a Suburban Hedgerow, I outlined some of the top benefits that a hedgerow can provide, including privacy, water conservation, a buffer to noise, wind, or pollution, and more.


This hedgerow bordering the house includes nanking cherry and a mixture of herbs & flowers.

The type of hedgerow you plant will depend on what purpose you want it to serve, the sun exposure of the area, soil conditions, wildlife activity, etc.

Hedgerows are mostly comprised of perennial species. Quick-growing annual plants can fill the gaps while a young hedgerow becomes established. For hedgerows to have the effects you desire, it will be important to maintain it for at least two years by watering and weeding while it becomes established.

The layout of the hedgerow will depend on its desired function and location. Hedgerows are often used along property lines but they can also be used to divide sections of a property such as animal paddocks or dividing play areas from garden areas. Hedgerows can also be utilized to manage water flow, if built as swales or contour gardens.

Hedgerows are always longer than they are wide. Dave Jacke, author of Edible Forest Gardens, suggests 40 feet is the critical width for creating a biologically rich and fertile ecosystem that attracts and holds beneficial insects, wildlife, and a diversity of plants; though I doubt most suburbanites will have the space for this.

If you can swing it, a hedgerow that is at least 10 feet wide (20 feet long) is a minimum size so it can incorporate several rows of plants to be effective.

Your suburban hedgerow can include a variety of canopy and understory trees, fruit trees, berry and nut bushes, flowering and native trees and shrubs, evergreen trees and bushes, and herbs, flowers, and ground covers.

10 Reasons to Plant a Suburban Hedgerow The practice of growing hedgerows stems from at least the Medieval times of England and Ireland. Hedgerows can increase the beauty, productivity, and biodiversity of a property. Discover 10 reasons why this age-old strategy can benefit your suburban property.

Ancient Hedge Laying

The ancient hedgerows of the English and Irish countrysides were used as property boundaries, defense barriers, and livestock paddock dividers. Traditional hedge laying is a serious skill, one that has been largely lost over time. These old hedgerows were impenetrable and required a lot of maintenance.

After World War II, skilled laborers were in short supply, and hedgerows largely became unruly. Lack of labor coupled with the industrial farming boom, landholders sought to eek out every inch of production, and hedgerows began to disappear. Check out these pictures to marvel at the ancient works of art.

A few discoveries were made as the hedgerows vanished: There was more soil erosion, more pests, more wind, more dust, and far less biodiversity. In areas without heavy tree cover, hedgerows had become essential wildlife corridors.

"Hedges may support up to 80% of our woodland birds, 50% of our mammals and 30% of our butterflies. The ditches and banks associated with hedgerows provide habitat for frogs, toads, newts and reptiles."

Since the 1930s, there has been some interest in the U.S. due to assistance from the USDA shelterbelt and Agroforestry programs, but hedgerows haven’t really taken hold as a standard practice. The farm field hedgerows that were planted in the first 20 years of the program have been disappearing for the same reasons as their counterparts in England and Ireland, with similar decreases in wildlife diversity.


English Hedgerow - Suburban hedgerow

The Suburban Hedgerow

Suburbanites are always looking for creative ways to mark off the boundaries of their properties. That’s because it’s rare for side-by-side neighbors to share the same philosophies on pets, children, privacy, and lawn care. Hedgerows are an exceptional way to mark these boundaries and create privacy.

Managing our edges is an important first step in ecological property design, according to Geoff Lawton, Australian permaculturist. By defining our edges, we can better control what comes on our property, such as weeds, pests, wind, aerial chemicals, or water.

10 Reasons to Plant a Hedgerow

1: Beauty

Hedgerows can be an aesthetically-pleasing addition to the landscape. With a diversity of flowering and fruiting plants, what’s not to love?

2: Water Conservation

Hedgerows conserve water by blocking drying summer winds that accelerate evaporation. (Did you know that more moisture is lost through evaporation on a cloudy, windy day than on a still, hot, and sunny day? Wind is the game changer.)

Hedgerow trees and shrubs will catch and store water in their root systems, especially if they are planted on contour, which is one of the reasons why crops near hedgerows tend to be greener.

3: Privacy Screen

Though it takes 4-8 years for hedgerows to become established, if designed properly for the site, they will eventually fill in the space and provide a nice privacy screen. There’s something different about being enclosed by a living fence of plants and trees. In my opinion, it’s certainly more interesting to look at than a wooden privacy fence that could make you feel boxed in.

4: Food Production

Hedgerows can provide food for humans. A food-producing hedge is sometimes referred to as a fedge.

A hedge mimics the diversity usually found at a forest’s edge, which is the most productive landscape for edible species. At the edge, we’ll find a diversity of vegetation layers that take advantage of the convergence of prairie and forest.

We can design our hedgerow to be a fedge, chock full of perennial harvests for humans.

5. Noise Reduction

Hedgerows can help buffer sound such as a nearby highway. For this purpose, a hedgerow should be planted as close to the source of noise as possible. A dense hedgerow of trees and shrubs can help, but be aware the hedgerow will be at its most useful for this purpose when the trees and shrubs have reached their fullest size.

6: Windbreak

Strong wind disturbs pollination efforts and stresses plants, thereby reducing crop yields. In windy areas, plants will put more energy into growing strong stalks and branches, and will have less energy to devote to flower or fruit production.

When a hedgerow is planted perpendicular to the prevailing winds, it can reduce wind speeds by up to 75% at distances up to ten times the height of the hedgerow on flat land, according to Jude Hobbs, an agroecologist, permaculturist, and hedgerow specialist.

Buffering the wind allows you to create a calm inner environment that is comfortable for entertaining, sitting, or growing healthy crops. It can even reduce heating costs by up to 40%.

Place trees and bushes with fragrant flowers in the hedgerow, and you can help mask foul odors wafting in from nearby industry or livestock operations.

In flat land areas where wind can reach higher speeds, a windbreak can serve as a barrier to filter dust particles from the air and chemical drift.

7: Soil Stabilization

Hedgerows are densely planted with a mixed species of plants that have various types of roots, all working together to stabilize the different levels of the soil. Water will be slowed down as it runs through the hedgerow, which will help reduce soil erosion (eroded topsoil is America’s #1 export!).

8: Wildlife Corridor

Hedgerows are linear nature preserves, providing much needed nesting, forage, and shelter for mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Hedgerows restore habitat that is often missing in suburban subdivisions where land has been stripped of most of its trees, shrubs, and natural bodies of water for development.

One of the most common habitats to disappear is that of the edge, where the forest meets prairie, because wild edges tend to be weedy and unruly. At the edge of two ecosystems, however, is where you’ll find the most diversity of plants and animals, which is why hedgerows are so essential.

Hedgerows mimic edge habitat but can be designed to pass muster for suburban landscape aesthetics.

While your hedgerows are getting established, you might consider adding birdhouses, bird feeders, and bird baths to begin attracting new residents.


Lots of shelter for wildlife in here.

9: Beneficial Insects & Pollinators

Hedgerows can support a diversity of insect species. If you’d like to see more beneficial insects patrolling your garden or more pollinators coming in for a visit, a hedgerow can do more than a wildflower planting all by itself.

That’s because hedgerows consist of trees, shrubs, and ground covers in addition to herbs and wildflowers, all of which flower and fruit at different times and provide a variety of options for pollen, nectar, and shelter. More leaf litter will increase habitat for important insects, and more insects may increase the bird and bat populations. Butterflies will also be attracted to hedgerows for protection.

If increasing biodiversity is important to you, a hedgerow will catapult your efforts.

10: Riparian Zone Buffer

Riparian zones are the land areas along bodies of freshwater such as creeks, ponds, lakes, and rivers. They include the floodplain zones as well as the sloped banks of the waterway.

Riparian zones are home to many (endangered) species of wildlife and are also essential for filtering out soil particles, organic matter, agricultural chemicals, and other man-made pollutants before rainwater collects in these bodies of freshwater.

Unfortunately, modern agricultural and development policies often insist on stripping riparian zones of useful species for short-term monetary gain. This practice has contributed to the large dead zone we now have in the Gulf of Mexico due to agricultural and industrial runoff.

If you live on the edge of a body of water, even a small creek or stream, a hedgerow of riparian-appropriate species could really impact the health of the water as well as increase wildlife habitat.


Riparian buffer planting. Increase biodiversity here by planting more than just trees!

Hedgerow Summary

Hedgerows are a boon for suburban homesteads where privacy, healthy gardens, beauty, and biodiversity merge. Hedgerows help us manage the edges of our property to control weeds, pollution, erosion, and wind.

~~~
The Folklore and Traditions of The Irish Hedgerow Hedgerows give the Irish landscape its distinctive character and field pattern. However, like all living things it needs to be nurtured, cared for, and respected. It has given protection to our wildlife, provided us with food, firewood, medicines, and at times even protection.

It has also contributed to our vast treasure chest of folklore and cultural heritage. The Irish hedgerow is a rich diverse habitat that supports a wide range of plants and animals. They not only depend upon each other for their existence but also their human neighbours. It is this relationship that has influenced the history, landscape and aesthetic beauty that contributes in so many ways to the life of the Irish people. The words rural Ireland brings to mind images of nature,culture, and heritage. Within this site you will find aspects of hedgerow management, folklore, boundary issues and the portrayal of hedgerows in art.

Marvelous Video on Irish hedges near bottom.. bats need hedges to navigate. There are enough hendges in Ireland to go around the globe twelve times. 100 hours a year are spent by average Irish farmer managing hedgerows. When hedges get too tall they lay them to thicken them up.

Hedgelaying

Hedge laying or Hedgelaying is a country skill practised in the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as a few places overseas. Creating and maintaining hedges provides:

-livestock-proof barriers;
-rejuvenation of existing hedgerows by encouraging them to put on new growth, and thus helping to improve their overall structure and strength;
-weather protection for crops and wildlife; and
-aesthetically pleasing screens to fields and gardens.


Hedgelaying

The theory behind laying a hedge is easy. The practice is much harder, requiring skill and experience. The aim is to reduce the thickness of the upright stems of the hedgerow trees by cutting away the wood on one side of the stem and in line with the course of the hedge. This being done, each remaining stem is laid down towards the horizontal, along the length of the hedge.

A stem which has been (or is to be) laid down in this manner is known as a "pleacher". A section of bark and some sapwood must be left connecting a pleacher to its roots in order to keep the pleacher alive—knowing how much is one part of the art of hedgelaying.

The angle at which the pleach or pleacher is laid is a factor in the "build" of a hedge - hedges are built to a height according to what purpose they are intended for. The height and condition of the trimmed stool ("stobbin" and other local names apply) is vital as this is where the strongest new growth will come from. In time the pleaches (pleachers) will die but by then a new stem should have grown, from the stool, from ground level, which replaces the laid one (pleach).


Hedgelaying

This process takes from eight to fifteen years, after which, if the hedge has not been trimmed, the hedgelaying process can be repeated. Hedges can be trimmed for many years after laying before allowing the top to grow to a sufficient height to lay again.

Smaller shoots branching off the pleachers and upright stems too small to be used as pleachers are known as "brash" or "brush" and in most styles of laying the brash will be partly removed and partly woven between the pleachers to add cohesiveness to the finished hedge.

At regular intervals upright stakes are placed along the line of the hedge. These stakes give the finished hedge its final strength. A fancy effect is achieved by binding the uprights with such things as hazel whips woven around the tops of the stakes. The woven whips are known as "binders" or "heatherings" and can also be of birch, ash, willow etc. In fact, these can be of any green wood which will hold the stakes and tops of the pleachers down securely. The stakes and binders used in hedgelaying when properly used provide strength and stability to the hedge. Binders are not applied simply for visual effect although in competitive hedgelaying, the appearance of the binders is often one criterion for scoring the work.


Hedgelaying

Entreprise D'Elagage historical info on hedging and tree care in France. En Francaise.

Coppicing


Fall into Winter Vegetables CTG on chives


garlic chives’ starry flowers tend to the bees


Green Bee (onegreenplanet)

These Breathtaking Macro Photos of Bees Will Inspire You to Act and Save Them

Bumble Bee (NWF)


Hummingbirds

Fall into Winter Vegetables CTG


firecracker fern (Russelia equisetiformis) keeps cranking out flames for especially energetic hummingbirds fueling up.


Videos

Native Perennials for Wildlife CTG episode video


Butterflies

Guidance on milkweed management confuses butterfly gardeners Confusion reigns for gardeners and Monarch butterfly enthusiasts trying to “do the right thing” managing their late season milkweed, the host plant of Monarch butterflies.


Monarch laying eggs on Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, in downtown San Antonio November 15, 2015. Photo by Monika Mae

For the last few years, scientists like doctoral student Dara Satterfield and Dr. Sonia Altizer of the University of Georgia as well as renown Monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower have recommended slashing Tropical milkweed, Aslcepias curassavica, to the ground late in the season. Studies suggest that the year-round availability of Tropical milkweed makes Monarchs more prone to contracting Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a debilitating protozoan parasite commonly known in Monarch butterfly circles as OE.

Until recently, Tropical milkweed, technically nonnative, has been the only host plant available for butterfly gardeners hoping to lure the migrating butterflies to their yards. The reliable bloomer will thrive year-round in warmer and coastal climates, especially in Texas and Florida. Scientists believe this year-round availability creates a hotbed of nasty OE spores and spreads the disease. Its presence can also encourage Monarch butterflies to break their diapause–or temporarily suspended non reproductive state–and lay eggs, thus unable to complete their migration to Mexico.


No doubt about it: Monarch caterpillars LOVE Tropical milkweed. Photo taken 11/24/2015 by Monika Maeckle

But guess what? Those native milkweeds, which have recently become available because of all the attention on Monarch habitat restoration, are thriving late in the season, too.


Egg found on Texana milkweed, Aslcepias texana, 11/19/2015. Not sure if it’s a Queen or monarch (and it hasn’t hatched yet.) Photo by Monika Maeckle

In my yard right now, for example, I have

  • Asclepias texana, Texana milkweed
  • Asclepias incarnata, Swamp milkweed
  • Aslepias curassavica Tropical milkweed
  • Aslcepias tuberosa Butterfly weed
  • Asclepias oenotheroides, Zizotes milkweed
  • Matelea reticulata, Pearl Milkweed vine.

Should I cut these native milkweeds to the ground as well?

The theory of OE spores building up over the season, possibly infecting migrating Monarchs would seem to hold true for other milkweeds available late in the year, not just Tropical milkweed.

Right?

“You’re right that it’s less about the plant itself and more about the seasonality of the plant,” wrote Satterfield via email. “Any plant that grows 365 days a year in the southern U.S. and supports Monarchs year-round could lead to high levels of disease, as we understand it.”


Drawback to cutting back native milkweeds: we then can’t harvest the seedpods. Photo by Monika Maeckle

“My personal leaning is that if the species are native, they don’t need to be cut back on a regular basis,” said Dr. Altizer via email. “Any natives that routinely remain in lush green foliage into the fall and winter are likely going to be rare species, or it will be a rare year when this happens, whereas with the Tropical milkweed, these commonly remain in green foliage until they are hit by a hard frost or cut back.”

Dr. Lincoln Brower, always the purist, suggests even cutting late season nectar plants back–if they are growing in close proximity to Tropical milkweed.

One drawback to cutting milkweeds back late in the season is that we then are unable to harvest the seeds. I cut back a patch of Swamp milkweed in August as it was riddled with aphids and gangly. The plants failed to produce any more flowers; thus, no seeds have been harvested from that patch to propagate future native milkweeds.


Swamp milkweed in the “wild” of the Llano River, 11/21/2015. Photo by Monika Maeckle

“Our research suggests that milkweeds that support Monarch breeding year-round in the U.S. could put Monarchs at higher risk of disease. The milkweeds enabling these non-migratory Monarchs are exotic species, like Tropical milkweed and Family Jewels milkweed. We are not aware of any native species supporting large numbers of Monarch caterpillars during the winter in the Gulf states. So, we do not have any scientific support right now that says we should cut back native milkweeds.”


Why are there so many dragonflies?

Dragonflies - Indicator Species of Environmental Health Not only are they precious today, but they are prehistoric, dating back to 300 million years ago, once giant insects with wingspans of up to 65 cm, which makes them extremely magnificent and fascinating.

Scientists have theorised on the prehistoric oxygen level conditions, existing at the time, at almost 50% more than O2 levels today, which were ideal for the ancient dragonfly and may have promoted their larger growth. Whilst humans have a single tracheal system inhaling O2, insects have a multiple tracheal tube system. Other theories on their physiological size reduction include predation by prehistoric birds.


No Lawn

It's Time to Get Rid of Your Lawn! You may also know that turf grass, however welcoming it looks for our bare feet, provides virtually no habitat for pollinators and other animals and plants that make up a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

In fact, these lawns can do substantial harm to the environment and to both vertebrates and insects. Birds, for instance, may ingest berries and seeds that have absorbed pesticides from the ground. Likewise, rainwater runoff from lawns can carry pesticides and fertilizers into rivers, lakes, streams and oceans via the sewer system. This can poison fish and other aquatic animals and harm humans who swim, surf and eat seafood that may be contaminated. And then, of course, lawn mowers can pollute the air.

The No-Mow Movement

A growing number of homeowners are converting part or all of their lawns to a less thirsty form of landscape.

These no-mow yards fall into four categories:

1. Naturalized or unmowed turf grass that is left to grow wild;

2. Low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming (most are a blend of fescues);

3. Native or naturalized landscapes where turf is replaced with native plants as well as noninvasive, climate-friendly ones that can thrive in local conditions; and

4. Yards where edible plants—vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs—replace a portion of turf. (According to the National Gardening Association, one in three families now grows some portion of the food they consume).

Making the Change

A successful lawn conversion depends on climate, terrain and of course individual taste. Of the four main no-mow strategies, Osann said, native or naturalized landscaping is likely your best option. It's adaptable to any part of the country and offers gardeners an infinite range of design possibilities. If you want to join the no-mow movement, here are some pointers to get you started:

Get expert advice. Begin by talking with a landscaper who has experience with lawn conversions or even a neighbor who has naturalized all or part of his yard. A landscaper can help remove existing grass and recommend native plants to use in its place. Depending on water and weather, a low-growing turf lawn will "green up" about two weeks after seeding. Another alternative is a wildflower garden grown from seed. (Just make sure you choose a wildflower mix that fits your climate and weed out existing vegetation that would compete for moisture and sun). After the seeds germinate and the flowers bloom (in 6 to 12 weeks), they don't require watering unless there's a prolonged drought.

Do your weeding. Invasive plants like ragweed, thistle and burdock can crowd out their native neighbors and may run afoul of local ordinances (as noted below). For most no-mow advocates, the payoff in natural beauty and habitat are well worth the effort.

Check for incentives. Not surprisingly, western states such as Arizona and California, which have been in the throes of extreme drought for more than four years, have taken the lead in spurring homeowners to do lawn conversions. California, in fact, launched a turf replacement initiative that offers rebates of up to $500 per yard for homeowners who convert turf lawns to native, drought-resistant xeriscaping. On a more grass-roots level, organizations like the Surfriders Foundation, a national environmental group made up of surfing aficionados, have helped transform turf lawns in Southern California parks and homes into ocean-friendly gardens, using succulents and other indigenous plants along with hardscape materials like rocks and gravel that increase filtration, conserve water and reduce runoff.

Check the rule books. The no-mow movement may sound idyllic, but some practitioners have faced a surprising stumbling block: the law. In one example, Sarah Baker, a homeowner and scion of a family of horticulturalists in St. Albans Township, Ohio, decided to let her turf grass yard grow wild. Last year, she was forced to mow when authorities from her township deemed her garden, which had become a naturalized but well-tended landscape, a nuisance. Sandra Christos of Stone Harbor, New Jersey, said that after she replaced turf grass with native plants, she was delighted that cormorants, night herons and kingfishers made themselves at home alongside "every kind of butterfly you can imagine." But since receiving a letter from the town clerk, Christos has had to tame the mallow, bayberry, clethra and rosa rugosa along her walkway—or pay a fine.

Moving away from water-guzzling and chemical-hungry lawns and cultivating yards that are diverse and self-regulating is a matter of mounting urgency worthy of that kind of community organizing. As global temperatures rise and droughts drag on, the demands of turf grass are likely to become untenable. My Township Calls My Lawn ‘a Nuisance’—But Still I Refuse to Mow It Manicured lawns are ruining the planet. By Sarah Baker / The Washington Post August 5, 2015.

I had stopped mowing my nearly one acre of country land outside of a rural Ohio town. A diverse potpourri of plants began to flourish, and a rich assortment of insects and animals followed. I had essentially grown a working ecosystem, one that had been waiting for the chance to emerge.

But the main point of growing a natural yard is to attract wildlife and build a self-regulating environment. The un-mowed plants in our yard attract plant-eating bugs and rodents, which in turn attract birds, bats, toads and garter snakes that eat them. Then hawks fly in to eat the snakes. Seeing all this life emerge in just one growing season made me realize just how much nature manicured lawns displace and disrupt.

There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards.

This has serious consequences. About 95 percent of the natural landscape in the lower 48 states has been developed into cities, suburbs and farmland. Meanwhile, the global population of vertebrate animals, from birds to fish, has been cut in half during the past four decades. Honey bees, which we depend on to pollinate our fruits and other crops, have been dying off at an unsustainable rate. Because one in three bites of food you take requires a pollinating insect to produce it, their rapid decline is a threat to humanity. Monarch butterflies have been even more affected, with their numbers dropping 90 percent since the 1990s. Butterflies are an important part of the food chain, so ecologists have long used them to measure the health of ecosystems.

Nature preserves and parks are not enough to fix the problem; much of wildlife is migratory and needs continuous habitat to thrive. Natural yards can act as bridges between the larger natural spaces.

Habitat loss isn’t the only consequence; maintaining a mowed and fertilized lawn also pollutes the air, water and soil. The emissions from lawnmowers and other garden equipment are responsible for more than 5 percent of urban air pollution. An hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. Americans use 800 million gallons of gas every year for lawn equipment, and 17 milliongallons are spilled while refueling mowers — more than was leaked by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops, chemicals that can end up in drinking water and waterways.

I decided to tackle the issue by letting my yard grow wild, and I’m not alone. Homeowners across the country have latched on to the natural lawn and “no mow” movement.

But after we started explaining to people why we had stopped mowing, they were much less critical. If we allow ourselves to truly see a mowed lawn for what it is — a green desert that provides no food or shelter for wildlife — we can re-condition ourselves to take pride in not mowing.

For me, growing a natural lawn doesn’t mean just letting it go. I spend a lot of time weeding out invasive, non-native plants — like thistles, burdock and garlic mustard — that can take over and create a destructive monoculture of their own. But I also think it is wrong to vilify all invasive plants before we fully understand them. After all, a weed is just “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

I’ve been a gardener for years, but since I stopped mowing, I not only feel more connected to nature, I also see the interconnectedness in nature. Never before have I had so few pests in my vegetable garden thanks to my yard’s newfound biodiversity, including predators that keeps crop-damaging bugs in check. When you stop mowing, you get it; you not only see first-hand all the nature that we have lost start to come back, you get to interact with it.

Society needs to adjust its cultural norms on lawn aesthetics. For the health of the planet, and for our own health, we need to start letting nature dictate how we design our outdoor spaces. We need to reassess how much mowed space we really need. By the size of most people’s lawns in my area, you’d think they were hosting a weekly lacrosse match. But the only time I ever really see them on their lawns is when they are mowing them.

Instead of putting nature in its place, we need to find our place in nature. Local officials have told us countless times that our lawn looks bad and is a nuisance. In one public meeting, a brave young boy, Max Burton, stood up and told our critics, “What you are saying is that life itself is a nuisance.” As the planet’s environmental problems mount, the real nuisances are mowed lawns and the laws that enforce them.

Less Lawn info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

Native Grass Lawns info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

A native grass lawn may fit your needs and give extra benefits over traditional turfgrass. Installing a native grass area requires work and money up front, but is expected to repay the gardener with a healthier lawn that needs little or no water, uses no pesticides or fertilizers, and needs less frequent or no mowing.

Covers details on Buffalo grass, sedge (shade), and other possibilities.


Bunny in Yard

Why I'll never have a lawn again I didn't realize what a dead zone the lawn is until I lived in a meadow.

The "no-mow" movement is gaining steam, and I've joined it, after I've had the luck to see firsthand how beautiful a natural meadow can be. Almost two years ago now, I moved to a tiny town in the Coast Range of Oregon. When we pulled up to the house where we would be staying — on 40 acres without a neighbor in sight, I took one look at what I saw as the overgrown grass and added "mow lawn" to my mental checklist. When I looked out the back door (see image above) the sea of grass took my breath away. "This is going to be a huge job," I thought to myself.


Meadow grasses are attractive, and provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
Scene from her back porch.

Once I had spent a couple of very busy weeks acclimating to Oregon life, I realized that the meadow that surrounded my new home in the mountains wasn't an unkempt lawn, but one of the local types of ecosystems that flourish here naturally; they form post-fire. And in my first weeks enjoying my new favorite place in the world — the back porch — I was stunned and delighted by the plethora of life the meadow supported. And I immediately thought of that life extinguished if I had started mowing.

Sarah Baker, who is battling her town for the right to keep a meadow rather than a lawn, puts this death-by-lawn into numbers when she writes in the Washington Post: "There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards."


Planting

How to Plant a Tree or Shrub 1.The ideal time to plant a new tree is when it is dormant: after leaf drop or in the spring before the leaf buds break open.

2.Dig a hole a little wider than the tree root ball but only just as deep. The International Society of Arboriculture gives this advice on their web site: “Make the hole wide, as much as three times the diameter of the root ball but only as deep as the root ball. It is important to make the hole wide because the roots on the newly establishing tree must push through surrounding soil in order to establish. On most planting sites in new developments, the existing soils have been compacted and are unsuitable for healthy root growth. Breaking up the soil in a large area around the tree provides the newly emerging roots room to expand into loose soil to hasten establishment.”

3.Remove burlap or other wrappings.

4.Place the tree in the hole so that the root flare and top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. (ILLUSTRATION A.)

5.Back fill the hole with the soil that you excavated, tamping in firmly as you go. It is not necessary to amend the soil. In fact, pouring rich soil into the soil creates a “container” effect; the tree roots will tend to stay within the small bowl of soil instead of spreading out and forming a strong, stable base for the mature tree or shrub.

6.Apply a layer of mulch—professional arborists recommend that mulch be only 2-4 inches deep—DO NOT MOUND THE MULCH UP AGAINST THE TRUNK. (ILLUSTRATION B.) This type of “volcano mulching” is harmful to trees: it can starve the roots of oxygen and/or encourage the tender feeder roots to grow up into the mulch (rather than down into the soil) where they dry out quickly and are more susceptible to damage from insects and foot traffic.

7.Create a shallow “well” with the mulch that will help to collect rain water and prevent run off during irrigation.

8.Make sure your newly planted tree receives 1-inch of water per week the first 1-2 years after planting. Don't assume or guess how much it rains. Use a rain gauge and when rain fall is insufficient, place a trickling hose pipe on the root zone for an hour. Monitor the water flow so that it doesn’t wash away mulch or soil.

9.Stake the new tree only if it is an extremely windy site. Research has shown that new trees will grow stronger and establish roots more quickly when not staked.

The International Society of Arboriculture offers provides a wealth of information on their website at www.treesaregood.com, everything from how to buy the right tree, to planting, pruning and proper mulching techniques, and how to locate a local certified tree specialist.


Caliche Soil

Desert Trees in Caliche Soils Bringing other plants into the desert environment requires attention to soil, sun, and water. Many non-native plants simply can not be compensated for the extreme heat.

Desert soils are often relatively poor because conditions are not conducive to developing thick organic layers of nutrient rich soils. Gardening is challenging and requires particular attention to developing a rich soil matrix to support plant life.

The Desert Southwest in particular has a unique problem not common elsewhere: caliche. Caliche is a layer of calcium carbonate (i.e., lime) that forms a solid stratum a few inches to a few feet below the soil's surface. If you have caliche, you may already be aware of the need to drill through that layer if you want to plant something taller than an opuntia. Trees, in particular, often have deep tap roots that necessitate drilling. Sometimes, you can break through a layer of caliche with a pickax if it isn't too thick, however, it isn't uncommon for several strata of caliche to exist. Failure to ensure good drainage guarantees stunted plants in a best case scenario and more likely will result in death.

Removing caliche is the best guarantee of gardening success, especially where trees and larger shrubs are concerned, however that can be impractical in many cases. An alternative suggested by the Arizona Cooperative Extension is to drill "chimneys" through the caliche that allow improved drainage. Nevertheless, the larger the plant, the larger the area taken up by the mature root ball so caliche removal and replacement with an enriched organic soil may be necessary if you want to grow trees or larger shrubs.

Test for drainage
If you have caliche and have managed to create a hole big enough for your plant, you still need to test for drainage. Before placing your plant, pour water into the hole. If you've broken up the caliche enough, the hole will drain quickly. If not, you'll need to continue with the pickax or crowbar. If it still doesn't drain after working on it some more, plant something smaller and try in a different location.

Soils may also have an extremely high pH because of their alkalinity. Testing is essential so amendments can be added to mitigate the soil's inherent character and improve mineral absorption. In particular, iron deficiency can be a problem. If your plants have yellow leaves, but green veins, it's probably an iron uptake problem. Check with your local nursery or county extension for remedies appropriate to your situation.

One of the primary requirements for plants, and a substantial challenge in the desert, is water. Some plants, like roses, can do well as long as they have some protection from the hottest sun and ample amounts of water. Raised beds with their rapid drainage don't work as well in the desert as bermed holes that have raised edges to contain and direct water toward the plant's root system. In addition, supplementing desert soils with water retainers such as Zeba Quench™ that, along with good mulch, may reduce the amount of water wasted and improve plant health. It doesn't hurt that Quench is corn-starch based and biodegradable unlike similar sodium-based products that may degrade more slowly and affect soil health.

A number of non-native trees that have done well in the desert include olive, cottonwood, and mulberry. Unfortunately, all three have been outlawed in the Phoenix area because of the high levels of pollen, which have caused major allergy issues for many people. Small trees like palms and mesquite both do well. Natives are usually scrubby and small, often with needle-like leaves, tough, and adapted to a relentless climate.

Finding trees for a desert garden can be challenging. The best plants take the least water and are indigenous to the area. However, as long as the plant is reasonably drought tolerant, there is no reason not to experiment with additional plant materials. The following are drought-tolerant, relatively low maintenance, and some even produce something useful:

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)—deciduous, 12-15 ft. tall. Edible fruit. Useful as a hedge and for shade. Any soil type and light pruning to desired form.

Bottle tree (Brachychiton populneus)—evergreen tree that eventually can grow up to 45 feet tall. Fast growing with glossy green leaves. The bottle tree has interesting woody, brown pods. It requires regular water, especially in summer, but is low maintenance.

Fig (Ficus carica)—Big leaved trees that love the heat and produce sweet fruits. Figs can be espaliered to cool exterior south-facing walls. They grow fast to about 20 feet tall or more. Prune to shape and clean up during fruiting are regular chores.

Citrus (Citrus) like lemons, oranges, and limes do well especially around Phoenix with its expansive heat island. They need water, but can take some drought, and a good feeding schedule. Once upon a time the entire Valley was citrus from one end to another and the April breezes carried the scent for miles. If you are located in a higher altitude region, plant in pots and winter indoors.

Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota)—This is a true desert scrub tree and essential to the desert ecosystem which is threatened by sprawl. It grows to about 20 feet in height and is extremely drought tolerant. With enough water, it's an evergreen and can be used as a shade tree. A member of the pea family, the tree blooms in April and produces seedpods with brown beans that can be ground into flour.

Sweet Acacia (acacia smallii)—The semi-deciduous sweet acacia reaches 15-30 feet in height, grows quickly, and provides an attractive small tree that provides filtered shade. In spring, it has ball-shaped, yellow flowers. Maintenance includes regular pruning of the trunk to maintain shape. Well-adapted to desert life.


Native Shade Plants

Recommended Central Texas Native Plants for Shade

Eastern red columbine, Wild red columbine [Aquilegia canadensis].

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

This is an erect, branching perennial [flower], up to 2 ft. tall, well-known for its showy flowers. A nodding, red and yellow flower with upward spurred petals alternating with spreading, colored sepals and numerous yellow stamens hanging below the petals. The compound leaves, divided into round-lobed threes, are attractive in their own right.

This beautiful woodland wildflower has showy, drooping, bell-like flowers equipped with distinctly backward-pointing tubes, similar to the garden Columbines. These tubes, or spurs, contain nectar that attracts long-tongued insects and hummingbirds especially adapted for reaching the sweet secretion.

It is reported that Native Americans rubbed the crushed seeds on the hands of men as a love charm.

The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin aquila which means eagle and refers to the spurred petals that many believe resemble an eagles talons.


Wild red columbine

Lanceleaf coreopsis, Lance-leaved coreopsis, Lanceleaf tickseed, Sand coreopsis [Coreopsis lanceolata].

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

Lance-leaf tickseed grows in small clumps [of flowers] but forms extensive colonies. It is 1-2 1/2 feet tall and has leaves 3-4 inches long, opposite, sometimes alternate near the top where the leaves are fewer. Some of the leaves are deeply cut, almost forming 3 leaflets. Flower heads are yellow, 1-1 1/2 inches across. The yellow center or disk flowers stand out distinctly from the ray flowers, which appear to be attached just below them. Ray flowers are 4-lobed. The yellow, daisy-like flowers occur singly atop long, naked peduncles.

This native species has branching stems at base and often forms sizable colonies along roadsides and in old fields. A southern species, Greater Tickseed (C. major), 2-3 (60-90 cm) tall, has sunflower-like flower heads 1-2 (2.5-5 cm) wide and opposite leaves deeply segmented into 3 parts, appearing as a whorl of 6.


Lanceleaf coreopsis

Yaupon, Yaupon Holly, Cassina [Ilex vomitoria].

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)

Native from southern Virginia south to Florida and west to southeast Oklahoma and central Texas, Yaupon is a picturesque, upright, single- or multi-trunked shrub or small tree, growing 12-45 ft high but usually no higher than 25 ft. Female plants produce prodigious amounts of bright red, persistent berries. The leaves are dark green and small, usually less than 1 1/2 in. long. The pale gray bark is marked with white patches.

Yaupon Holly is often grown in residential landscapes and trimmed into hedges, with many cultivars popular: weeping forms, columnar forms, and dwarf forms. The ornamental twigs with shiny evergreen leaves and numerous red berries have been used as holiday decorations and make cheerful accents in the winter landscape.

The leaves and twigs contain caffeine, and American Indians used them to prepare a tea, which they drank in large quantities ceremonially and then vomited back up, lending the plant its species name, vomitoria. The vomiting was self-induced or because of other ingredients added; it doesnt actually cause vomiting. Tribes from the interior traveled to the coast in large numbers each spring to partake of this tonic, and it was also a common hospitality drink among many groups. It remained popular as such among southeastern Americans into the 20th century and is still occasionally consumed today, with a flavor resembling another holly drink, the South American yerba mate, from Ilex paraguariensis.

Yaupon is slow-growing and tends to get thick and twiggy on the inside, making it ideal for dense hedges but requiring careful pruning to shape it into a tree. You must have both a male and female plant to have berries. Nursery plants are typically female (fruiting) and are propagated by cuttings.


Yaupon

Cardinal flower [Lobelia cardinalis].

Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family)

This 1-6 ft. perennial [flower] has showy, red flowers in 8 in., terminal spikes. Each flower has three spreading lower petals and two upper petals, all united into a tube at the base. Erect leafy stems, often in clusters, with racemes of flowers resembling flaming red spires. The lower portion of the erect stem is lined with lance-shaped leaves.

Although relatively common, overpicking this handsome wildflower has resulted in its scarcity in some areas. Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar, for pollination.

Its common name alludes to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.


Cardinal flower

Turkscap, Drummond's Turkscap, Drummond Turkscap, Wax Mallow, Drummond's Wax Mallow, Drummond Wax Mallow, Red Mallow, Texas Mallow, Mexican Apple, Sleeping Hibiscus, Bleeding Hearts, Manzanilla [Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii].

Malvaceae (Mallow Family)

This spreading shrub, often as broad as high, grows 2-3 ft., sometimes reaching 9 ft. Bright-red, pendant, hibiscus-like flowers never fully open, their petals overlapping to form a loose tube with the staminal column protruding, said to resemble a Turkish turban, hence its most common name, Turks cap. Especially useful in shady situations.

The variety name of this plant is named for Thomas Drummond, (ca. 1790-1835), naturalist, born in Scotland, around 1790. In 1830 he made a trip to America to collect specimens from the western and southern United States. In March, 1833, he arrived at Velasco, Texas to begin his collecting work in that area. He spent twenty-one months working the area between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau, especially along the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers.

His collections were the first made in Texas that were extensively distributed among the museums and scientific institutions of the world. He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds. Drummond had hoped to make a complete botanical survey of Texas, but he died in Havana, Cuba, in 1835, while making a collecting tour of that island.


Turkscap

Sevenleaf creeper, Seven-leaf Creeper [Parthenocissus heptaphylla].

(Buckley) Vitaceae (Grape Family)

Resembling Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) but much less common, limited to the Edwards Plateau and Lampasas Cut Plain of Central Texas, where it is endemic; tendrils without disks, leaflets narrower, thicker, and shorter than in Virginia Creeper, up to 2 1/2 inches long, and turning color later in the fall. Leaflets usually 7 in number, but may be 5 or 6.

Seven-leaf Creeper looks very much like and has similar growing requirements to Virginia Creeper, the latter having five leaflets instead of seven. Vine found on soil underlain with limestone. Both species show orange and red fall color when grown in the sun. May be used as a climbing vine or trailing groundcover, though it is less likely to climb up walls the way Virginia Creeper does because it lacks adhesive disks. Reported to be a less aggressive grower than Virginia Creeper.


Seven-leaf Creeper

Virginia creeper [Parthenocissus quinquefolia].

Vitaceae (Grape Family)

A woody, dedicuous vine, Virginia Creeper can be high-climbing or trailing, 3-40 ft.; the structure on which it climbs is the limiting factor. Virginia Creeper climbs by means of tendrils with disks that fasten onto bark or rock. Its leaves, with 5 leaflets, occasionally 3 or 7, radiating from the tip of the petiole, coarsely toothed, with a pointed tip, and tapered to the base, up to 6 inches long. Leaves provide early fall color, turning brilliant mauve, red and purple. Inconspicuous flowers small, greenish, in clusters, appearing in spring. Fruit bluish, about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Virginia Creeper can be used as a climbing vine or ground cover, its leaves carpeting any surface in luxuriant green before turning brilliant colors in the fall. Its tendrils end in adhesive-like tips, giving this vine the ability to cement itself to walls and therefore need no support.

The presence of adhesive tips instead of penetrating rootlets also means it doesn't damage buildings the way some vines do. It is one of the earliest vines to color in the fall. A vigorous grower, it tolerates most soils and climatic conditions.

In years past, children learned a rhyme to help distinguish Virginia Creeper from the somewhat similar-looking and highly toxic Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans): Leaves of three, let it be; Leaves of five, let it thrive. Poison Ivy leaflets are normally in groups of three, while those of Virginia Creeper are in groups of five.

The berries of Virginia Creeper can be harmful if ingested, however, and the rest of the plant contains raphides, which irritate the skin of some people.


Virginia Creeper

Fragrant sumac, Aromatic sumac, Lemon sumac, Polecat bush [Rhus aromatica]

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Fragrant sumac is an irregular, spreading, deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with velvety twigs and lower branches turned up at the tips. Glossy, somewhat blue-green, coarsely toothed, trifoliate leaves turn orange, red, purple and yellow in the fall. Yellowish catkin-like flowers precede dark-red berries which persist into March. A sprawling, small to medium-size shrub with aromatic foliage.


Fragrant sumac

Smooth sumac [Rhus glabra].

Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

The colony-forming smooth sumac is a 10-20 ft. shrub with short, crooked, leaning trunks and picturesque branches. The pinnately compound leaves are alternate, with 13–30 sharp-toothed leaflets on each side of the midrib. Deciduous leaves become extremely colorful in early fall. On female plants, yellow-green flowers are followed by bright-red, hairy berries in erect, pyramidal clusters which persist throughout winter.


Smooth sumac

Scarlet Sage, Tropical Sage, Blood sage, Red Sage, Indian Fire [Salvia coccinea]

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Made for the Shade Shade is a priceless commodity here in South Texas, but it’s understandable to have a little bit of frustration toward it. Let me walk you through some simple guidelines that just might empower you to better manage your shade.

Choose your plants wisely

Many plants simply won’t bloom, grow or thrive at all in shade. Consider some Texas natives like American beautyberry, redbud and columbine, all of which perform beautifully in shade and are drought-tolerant. Search our plant database for shade-loving plants. I also really like this list from the Bexar County Extension office.

Have a good mix of textures and colors

Have a good mix of textures and colors, as this can help a dimly lit landscape appear alive and exciting. Frothy, light-green ferns and groundcovers against the large, bold leaves of a philodendron tend to draw the eye into what would otherwise be a dull void. Variegated gingers, variegated Dianella and gorgeous shade bloomers like Texas betony and some salvias are like rich bursts of light in a shady spot.

Pass on using an automatic sprinkler system

Pass on using an automatic sprinkler system in areas of ample shade and stick to occasional hand-watering as needed. Moisture loss is much slower here, especially if you’ve mulched the area well.

If you have buckets of shade, try to look on the bright side (no pun intended). Those spots often make a wonderful setting for some outdoor living and often require less summer maintenance!

AUTUMN FERN [Dryopteris erythrosora] full shade, evergreen, low water needs. attractive, coppery foliage in early spring and fall; hardy to 10 degrees in our area. Perennial, clay soil, freeze hardy.


Autumn-Fern


Autumn-Fern

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LANTANA X NEW GOLD [Lantana x New Gold] part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies

Full scorching summer sun. New Gold is a recent hybrid with a dense mounding habit and prolific golden blooms throughout the warm season. Since it is sterile and produces no seeds or offsets, it flowers more constantly than most other lantanas. Little maintenance and, typically, no additional irrigation is required for it to look terrific. Leaves will drop after freezing weather. The leaves have a less pungent odor than typical lantanas.


Lantana-New-Gold

plant type: Perennial; soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Thin soil
origins: Hybrid

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Yellow
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies
non-invasive: yes

Maintenance:
Can be cut back after winter freeze damage or in early spring.

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ASPARAGUS FERN [Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri] part sun/shadepart sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, evergreen, flowers

Part sun/part shade; a mounding and sprawling evergreen perennial with bright green, needle-like leaves; drought tolerant. Tiny white blooms are followed by small red berries. Not a true fern, but a member of the lily family.


Asparagus-Fern

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Shrub, Perennial, Groundcover
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Well-drained garden soil
origins: Southern Africa

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White
freeze hardy: yes
cautions: Needlelike stems require careful handling.
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance:
Light shaping; may require supplemental watering if planted in sun.

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HORSEHERB [Calyptocarpus vialis] part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts pollinators

COMMON NAMES:
Straggler Daisy, Rosemary Grass, Lawnflower, Hierba del caballo

Shade or sun. Deciduous, forming a soft matlike groundcover that often outperforms turfgrass in shade, with the bonus of prolific yellow blooms during the warm season. Many lawns on the north side are composed entirely of horseherb, the grass having faded long ago. A truly underutilized super-plant, horseherb grows low, tolerates foot traffic and mowing, and needs no sprinklers. Many of its admirers prefer it to any turf grass.

Horseherb isn't widely available commercially around San Antonio, but it's common in any suburban landscape, especially in shaded grass around live oaks. Although it may retreat a bit during summer scorch (July-Sept) it bursts back to life after the first significant rainfall.


Horseherb

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Perennial, Groundcover; soil type: Clay soil
origins: Texas, Mexico, Central America; Central Texas Native

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Yellow
freeze hardy: yes
deer resistant: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Pollinators
other wildlife: Attracts sulphurs and skippers.
non-invasive: yes

Maintenance:
type of maintenance: None required. Tolerates mowing and moderate foot traffic.

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BRASIL [Condalia hookeri] part sun/shadepart sun/shade, very low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts birds, attracts butterflies


Brasil

COMMON NAMES:
Brazil, Bluewood Condalia, Capul Negro, Brazilian Bluewood

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun or shade. A nearly evergreen small tree, with glowing lime-green foliage. The name is a Spanish reference to charcoal, for the dark greyish-black bark and reddish twigs. Flowers and fruits appear year-round. Brasil is common and thicket-forming in native understory, providing the sort of dense cover that provides great habitat and nesting opportunities for urban wildlife. In the home landscape it can also make an interesting specimen for brush sculpture. With minimal training it forms a small and quite distinctive shade tree.


Brasil

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree, Large Shrub, soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Thin soil
origins: South and south-central Texas; Mexico
Central Texas Native

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Green
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
deer resistant: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Birds, Butterfly Larvae
other wildlife: Many species of birds and mammals consume the fruit.
cautions: Thorns require careful handling and placement.
non-invasive: yes

Maintenance:
type of maintenance: Pruning, training; stiff thorns require careful handling.

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CARPET BUGLEWEED [Ajuga reptans] An eye-catching shade groundcover, with flowering purple foliage.

part sun/shadepart sun/shade. low water requirement, very low maintenance, evergreen, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts pollinators


Ajuga reptans

COMMON NAMES:
Bugleweed, Carpetweed, Carpenter's Herb, Ajuga

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Full (or at least partial) shade. Evergreen, with spikes of blue flowers in summer. A dense, fast-spreading purple groundcover spreading by runners, frequently used as an informal shade groundcover in between larger perennials. Frequent companion plants include purple heart, airplane plant, and society garlic.

Ajuga is virtually maintenance-free once established, although it may require supplemental water in sun.


Ajuga reptans

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Groundcover
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Europe

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Purple
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Pollinators
cautions: Can be invasive in ideal conditions.
Maintenance: None required. May appreciate supplemental water in sun.

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CAST-IRON PLANT [Aspidistra elatior] A lush and fast growing solution to deep shade locations. full shade, low water requirement, very low maintenancem evergreen

COMMON NAMES:
Aspidistra, Bar Room Plant


Aspidistra elatior

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Shade or filtered shade only. Evergreen, with dark glossy leaves that endure both heat and cold. The name says it all. Once established, it tolerates neglect, but not exposure to the sun: to prevent bleaching of the leaves, keep it in the shade. Cut back as needed to restart. A rhizomatous perennial that survives with minimal water or care; it is frequently massed for texture under big live oaks. Taiwan and Japan.


Aspidistra elatior

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Perennial
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Taiwan; Japan

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Purple
freeze hardy: yes
non-invasive: yes
Very Low Maintenance: Cutting bleached or freeze-burnt leaves as needed.

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CHILI PEQUIN [Capsicum annuum] Birds love these hot little native peppers and they're ridiculously easy to grow.

part sun/shadepart sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts birds, flowers

COMMON NAMES:
Bird Pepper, Chili Petin

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun or shade; a deciduous, freely reseeding perennial. The white flowers produce small, edible, hot peppers. Underused; in general, it makes a great addition to the shade garden or any wildscape. Birds relish the fruit.


Chile Pequin

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Perennial, Herb, Annuals soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: U.S., south to Central and South America.
Central Texas Native

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White
wildlife: Birds
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance: maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Cut back as needed after freezing weather. Appreciates supplemental irrigation in warm weather, but doesn't require it.

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CORALBERRY [Symphoricarpos orbiculatus] No need to irrigate this Texas native that attracts and feeds wildlife.

part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts hummingbirds


Coral-berry

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Partial shade. Deciduous, with magenta berries that attract wildlife in late autumn. Spreads by runners to form loose colonies. Useful in unirrigated settings as an informal groundcover in wildscapes or under deciduous trees and shrubs, around driveways, etc. A Texas native.

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Shrub, Perennial
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Eastern U.S. and Canada


Coral-berry

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Green
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Hummingbirds
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance: maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Light shaping.

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EVES NECKLACE [Styphnolobium affine] The deciduous cousin of Texas mountain-laurel requires minimal care. part sun/shadepart sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts pollinators


Eves Necklace

COMMON NAMES:
Texas Sophora, Katzkacke

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun or shade. Deciduous; a small, pretty tree. Flowers appear briefly in spring, with dangling seedpods persisting until winter. The fragrant white to pink racemes resemble those of its close relative, Texas mountain laurel. In shade, Eve's necklace tends to grow vinelike, spindly, and often quite tall; give it some room and some sun for a more treelike form.


Eves Necklace

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Thin soil
origins: Texas and south-central U.S.
Central Texas Native


Eves Necklace

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Pink
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Pollinators
cautions: Poisonous if ingested.
non-invasive: yes


Eves Necklace

Maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Light pruning and training.

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MEXICAN ORCHID TREE [Bauhinia mexicana] GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, very low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts hummingbirds


Mexican Orchid Tree

COMMON NAMES:
Pata de Cabra

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun, or partial shade. A tropical evergreen; the common name, "Pata de cabra," refers to the distinctive, sharply pointed cloven leaves. Pinkish-white ribbonlike blooms appear throughout the warm season. Usually seen as a shrub, it can form a small twining tree if sufficiently protected from cold. It may freeze to the ground in freezing weather, but swiftly returns from the roots to regain a shrublike form by midsummer. Mexican orchid tree attracts swarms of butterflies and hummingbirds to a sunny garden in summer and fall. Mexico.


Mexican Orchid Tree

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree, Large Shrub
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Mexico


Mexican Orchid Tree

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Pink
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Pruning, grooming, winter cleanup; it appreciates some supplemental water likely.

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FIRESPIKE [Odontonema strictum] A nice, tropical-looking solution for the shade. GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, medium water requirement, very low maintenance, flowers, attracts hummingbirds


Firespike

Es una especie integrada dentro de la familia Acanthaceae. En su lugar de origen se la puede encontrar en áreas abiertas y semi-boscosas de diversos países ..


Firespike


Purple Firespike [odontonema strictum infojardin] / Red Firespike (Odontonema strictum)

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BAY LAUREL [Laurus nobilis] A big evergreen shrub with a xeric pedigree and loads of flavor. GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, evergreen, attracts birds, attracts pollinators

COMMON NAMES:
Sweet Bay


BAY LAUREL [Laurus nobilis]

Fun Fact The word "laureate" comes from the bay laurel tree. Ancient Greeks honored victorious olympians and talented poets with wreaths made from Grecian laurel leaves.

Sun to part shade; an evergreen shrub or tree. In the right soils, bay laurel can grow quite large and sturdy. It appreciates some protection from late afternoon sun in summertime.


BAY LAUREL [Laurus nobilis]

This is the Mediterranean bay laurel of antiquity and a classical symbol of Apollo and of high status. Branches were interwoven to form the laurel wreaths awarded to winners at the ancient Pythian games (and more recently at the Athens Olympic Games.)

When crushed, the leaves impart a pungent flavor to soups, teas and other dishes.

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Large Shrub
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Mediterranean

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White
freeze hardy: yes wildlife: Birds, Pollinators
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance: score: 1: Shaping

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Part Sun/Shade Plants

STANDING CYPRESS [Ipomopsis rubra] part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts hummingbirds


Standing Cypress

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Partial shade. An upright, unbranched biennial with fernlike leaves and tall spires of red tube flowers in early summer in its second year of growth (the first year it forms a simple rosette). It tolerates dry gravelly sites and a variety of soil types.

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Annuals
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Thin soil
origins: Eastern & central U.S.
Central Texas Native


Standing Cypress

Features

watersaver: yes flower color: Yellow, Red, Orange
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Hummingbirds
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance:
maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Flower stalks can be pruned after blooming to begin a new cycle.

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CORALBERRY [Symphoricarpos orbiculatus] No need to irrigate this Texas native that attracts and feeds wildlife.

part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts hummingbirds


Coral-berry

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Partial shade. Deciduous, with magenta berries that attract wildlife in late autumn. Spreads by runners to form loose colonies. Useful in unirrigated settings as an informal groundcover in wildscapes or under deciduous trees and shrubs, around driveways, etc. A Texas native.

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Shrub, Perennial
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Eastern U.S. and Canada


Coral-berry

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Green
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Hummingbirds
non-invasive: yes
Maintenance: maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Light shaping.

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MEXICAN OREGANO [Poliomentha longiflora] part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, evergreen, flowers

COMMON NAMES:
Mexican Oregano, Rosemary Mint


Mexican Oregano

Sun/part shade; semi-evergreen. A perennial shrub well suited for deeper well-drained soils. It grows fairly large; use it more or less like a rose bush, in the middle layer of a xeriscape bed. It may be damaged a bit by drastic freezes, but can be freely cut back as needed; it'll leaf out again in spring.

Blooms appear from late spring through summer, with showy, lilac-colored blooms. The edible foliage is strongly aromatic, and deer tend to avoid it.

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Shrub, Perennial
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Northern Mexico

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Lavender
freeze hardy: yes
deer resistant: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Hummingbirds
non-invasive: yes

Maintenance: maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Can be cut back by half after bloom to control size during the warm season.

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EVES NECKLACE [Styphnolobium affine] The deciduous cousin of Texas mountain-laurel requires minimal care. part sun/shadepart sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts pollinators


Eves Necklace

COMMON NAMES:
Texas Sophora, Katzkacke

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun or shade. Deciduous; a small, pretty tree. Flowers appear briefly in spring, with dangling seedpods persisting until winter. The fragrant white to pink racemes resemble those of its close relative, Texas mountain laurel. In shade, Eve's necklace tends to grow vinelike, spindly, and often quite tall; give it some room and some sun for a more treelike form.


Eves Necklace

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil, Thin soil
origins: Texas and south-central U.S.
Central Texas Native


Eves Necklace

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Pink
deciduous: yes
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Pollinators
cautions: Poisonous if ingested.
non-invasive: yes


Eves Necklace

Maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Light pruning and training.

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MEXICAN ORCHID TREE [Bauhinia mexicana] GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, very low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts hummingbirds


Mexican Orchid Tree

COMMON NAMES:
Pata de Cabra

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun, or partial shade. A tropical evergreen; the common name, "Pata de cabra," refers to the distinctive, sharply pointed cloven leaves. Pinkish-white ribbonlike blooms appear throughout the warm season. Usually seen as a shrub, it can form a small twining tree if sufficiently protected from cold. It may freeze to the ground in freezing weather, but swiftly returns from the roots to regain a shrublike form by midsummer. Mexican orchid tree attracts swarms of butterflies and hummingbirds to a sunny garden in summer and fall. Mexico.


Mexican Orchid Tree

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree, Large Shrub
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Mexico


Mexican Orchid Tree

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Pink
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Pruning, grooming, winter cleanup; it appreciates some supplemental water likely.

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GRAPE HYACINTH [Muscari neglectum] GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, low water requirement, very low maintenance, flowers

Sun to partial shade; small, chivelike foliage, with blue spring blooms. A classic Southern bulb, it tolerates alkaline soil and multiplies from year to year. The flowers appear in early spring; by summer the leaves have usually gone dormant, returning after the weather cools in autumn.


GRAPE HYACINTH [Muscari neglectum]

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Perennial
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Mediterranean

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: Purple
freeze hardy: yes
Maintenance: score: 1
type of maintenance: Foliage withers with the onset of warm weather and returns in winter.

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Full Sun Plants

MEXICAN ORCHID TREE [Bauhinia mexicana] GENERAL INFORMATION part sun/shade, very low water requirement, very low maintenance, attracts butterflies, flowers, attracts hummingbirds


Mexican Orchid Tree

COMMON NAMES:
Pata de Cabra

PLANT DESCRIPTION
Sun, or partial shade. A tropical evergreen; the common name, "Pata de cabra," refers to the distinctive, sharply pointed cloven leaves. Pinkish-white ribbonlike blooms appear throughout the warm season. Usually seen as a shrub, it can form a small twining tree if sufficiently protected from cold. It may freeze to the ground in freezing weather, but swiftly returns from the roots to regain a shrublike form by midsummer. Mexican orchid tree attracts swarms of butterflies and hummingbirds to a sunny garden in summer and fall. Mexico.


Mexican Orchid Tree

PLANT DETAILS
plant type: Small Tree, Large Shrub
soil type: Clay soil, Sandy soil
origins: Mexico


Mexican Orchid Tree

Features
watersaver: yes
flower color: White, Pink
freeze hardy: yes
wildlife: Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Maintenance score: 1
type of maintenance: Pruning, grooming, winter cleanup; it appreciates some supplemental water likely.

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Native Plants for the Shade


Slender Legged Tree Frog / Another Tree Frog

Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it's really bad news Turns out the real issue really scary, because it is more complex and pervasive than thought.

Quartz reports:

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

The researchers behind that study in PLOS ONE -- Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose, Dennis vanEngelsdorp -- collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.

The discovery means that fungicides, thought harmless to bees, is actually a significant part of Colony Collapse Disorder. And that likely means farmers need a whole new set of regulations about how to use fungicides.

And it is not just the types of chemicals used that need to be considered, but also spraying practices. The bees sampled by the authors foraged not from crops, but almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers, which means bees are more widely exposed to pesticides than thought.

Garden Insurance with PH Soil Testing

Soil Common Sense All great plants start with great soil. Spend extra time building the soil and you'll be rewarded with a healthier garden.

The soul of your garden is the soil. A healthy soil translates into a healthy garden. But before you begin adding compost, manure, fertilizer, lime, and other soil amendments, you need to know what type of soil you have and its properties. Clay, silt, and sandy soils all behave differently and have different needs.

Soil is comprised of air spaces and organic matter, but mostly mineral particles. There are three kinds of soil minerals: sand, silt and clay. The relative percentage of each of these particles in the soil determines its texture. Soil texture won't change unless you literally excavate your soil and replace it.

The ideal amount of organic matter in most soils is between 5 percent and 10 percent. Organic matter helps any soil become more like the ideal loamy soil. Here's how.

Microorganisms feed on organic matter and produce polysaccharides. Polysaccharides help form humus, which enables small clay or silt particles to stick together to form larger aggregates. Larger aggregates create more pores for water and air to flow. The soil drains better, the plants grow better because of the increased pore space, and more nutrients are available.

Soil pH: Acid or Alkaline?

The pH of soil is a measure of the sweetness (alkalinity) and sourness (acidity) of the soil. It is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. A soil pH below 7.0 is considered acid; above 7.0 is alkaline. The correct pH for your plants is important because certain nutrients are only available to plants within a specific pH range. Usually areas of high rainfall have a low pH and areas of low rainfall have a high pH.

The ideal structure of topsoil (at least 10 to 12 inches deep) is granular, crumb-size groupings of soil particles and plenty of pore spaces. The ideal subsoil structure is blocky, with cubes of soil and vertical openings. Compacted soil has few air and water pore spaces and tends to be poorly drained.

Compacted soils in perennial beds will benefit from a yearly 1- to 2-inch-deep top-dressing of compost. A compacted layer in annual beds can be broken up by double digging or deeply tilling the soil below the hardpan layer and mixing in generous amounts of organic matter. In some soils the thickness of the hardpan layer may require building raised beds or planting in a different location.

Five Soil Tests

Here are five home tests you can conduct on your own to help you determine your soil texture, drainage, and pH.

Ribbon Test. Take a handful of moist soil and roll it in your hand to the size of a ping-pong ball. Squeeze the soil ball between your thumb and fingers in the palm of your hand to make a ribbon. Stand the ribbon straight up in the air. If you can't form a ribbon, then the soil is at least 50 percent sand and has very little clay. If the ribbon is less than 2 inches long before breaking, then your soil has roughly 25 percent clay in it. If it is 2 to 3-1/2 inches long, then it has about 40 percent clay. If the ribbon is greater than 3-1/2 inches long and doesn't break when held up in the air, then it is at least 50 percent clay.

Jar Test. Put 1 inch of dry, crushed garden soil in a tall quart jar. Fill the jar 2/3 with water and add 1 teaspoon of a dispersing agent such as Calgon or table salt. Shake the jar thoroughly and then let the contents settle. Sand will settle to the bottom in about one minute. Measure the depth of that layer. Silt will settle in 4 to 5 hours. You should see a color and size difference between the sand and silt layers. If not, measure the depth of both layers and subtract the sand depth from the total to determine the silt depth. The clay takes days to settle. Determine its depth in the same way as for the silt. Some of the smallest clay particles may remain permanently in suspension and will not settle out.

By measuring the depth of each layer of soil particles, you can figure the percentage of sand, silt, and clay in your soil. For example, if you have a 1/4-inch-deep layer of sand on the bottom and the overall depth of the soil in the jar is 1 inch, then your soil has about 25 percent sand in it.

Percolation Test. Dig holes 1 foot deep by 2 feet wide in various places in your garden or landscape. Cover the holes with plastic to let the soil dry out. Once it's dry, fill the hole to the top with water and time how long it takes for the water to completely drain.

The ideal time should be between 10 and 30 minutes. If the water drains in less than 10 minutes, then your soil will tend to dry out quickly in summer. If it takes 30 minutes to 4 hours to drain, you can still grow most plants but will have to water slowly to avoid runoff and to allow the water to soak deeply. If your soil takes longer than four hours to drain, you may have a drainage problem.

One caveat: Extremely dry soils, especially those with large amounts of clay, tend to crack. The water in the drainage test will leave quickly because of these cracks, not because of good structure.

Compaction Test. The simplest way to see if your soil has a hardpan or compaction layer below the surface is to take a metal rod and walk around your property sticking it into the ground. If you can't easily push the rod into the soil at least 6 to 8 inches deep, then you need to improve the aeration of your soil. If you push it down and consistently meet resistance at a certain depth, then there may be a hardpan layer.

Another way to tell if you have a hardpan layer is to dig up a plant and examine the roots. If they're white, vigorous, and well branched and extend at least 6 to 8 inches deep, then your soil has good structure.

If the roots are 1 to 2 inches deep, mushy, and gray colored, they are infected with a bacterial rot. If they are shallow, brittle, and black, they're infected with a fungal rot. Both diseases are enhanced by poor drainage either from a high water table or a compaction layer.

pH Test. To check if your soil is severely alkaline, take 1 tablespoon of dried garden soil and add a few drops of vinegar. If the soil fizzes, then the pH is above 7.5. The free carbonates in the soil react with the acid at a pH of 7.5 and above.

To check for acidity in the soil, take 1 tablespoon of wet soil and add a pinch of baking soda. If the soil fizzes, then the soil is probably very acidic (pH less than 5.0).

The ideal pH for most plants is 5.5 to 7.5. A few plants prefer more extreme conditions. Try this remedy for acidic or alkaline soil: If your pH is on the extreme end of either range, take a soil test to determine the exact pH.

Add the appropriate amounts of limestone (for acidic soils) and sulfur (for alkaline soils), according to the soil test.


CTG Recommendations

Woolly Stemodia (Stemodia lanata) It works in many soils, but they must be well-drained.

It spreads quickly across the ground, blanketing an area with bright, silvery-soft, almost-white, fuzzy leaves. Growing only about 6 inches tall and spreading to about 3 feet wide, Woolly Stemodia is a great filler in the front of garden spaces, especially raised beds, where it can cascade over onto the ground. It also does great in containers, spilling over the edge for dramatic effect.


Wooly Stemodia (Stemodia lanata)

Full sun is best, but afternoon shade is okay too. Woolly Stemodia flowers from late summer through fall, but the blooms are fairly insignificant. Small white or light lavender flowers stay very tight within the leaves, making them almost unnoticeable.

Once established, Woolly Stemodia should be watered sparingly. If the crown of the plant stays too wet, it will begin to rot from the center.

Unlike some groundcovers, Woolly Stemodia stays pretty much within bounds and requires very little maintenance to keep it looking good. Listed as hardy to zone 8, it’s a perennial that can die back to the ground in winter, so prune back all the top growth in late winter. Sometimes the leaves can get a bit straggly and unattractive later in the season, once temperatures are off the charts. If that happens to your plant, simply shear off the straggly parts, which will reinvigorate the plant for new growth.

Prairie Flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) The perfect wildlife tree.

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac, Prairie Sumac, Texas Sumac, Lance-Leaved Sumac, Tree Sumac, Limestone Sumac, Prairie Shining Sumac


Prairie Flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata)

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac is a small tree that grows to around 30 feet high, either as a single-trunked tree or suckering to form colonies. It is usually found on limestone or neutral soils, growing in the central part of Texas and in the higher mountain ranges of the Trans-Pecos.

It is extremely heat and drought tolerant, and its leaves are vivid red in the fall. It was once considered a variety of Shining Sumac, R. copallina var. copallina, but its leaves are narrower, to 1/2 inch wide, and it has a more refined and graceful growth habit. It grows to the west of the White Rock Escarpment (Interstate 35 E) whereas Shining Sumac grows to the east.


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Plant Habit or Use: large shrub small tree
Exposure: sun
Flower Color: yellow-green
Blooming Period: summer
Fruit Characteristics: red-brown drupes in tight conical terminal clusters on female trees
Height: to 30 ft.
Width: to 20 ft.
Plant Character: deciduous
Heat Tolerance: very high
Water Requirements: low
Soil Requirements: neutral alkaline

Roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) Roughleaf dogwood, Drummond's dogwood, Rough-leaf dogwood; Cornaceae (Dogwood Family); Synonym(s): Cornus priceae, Swida priceae

Rough-leaf dogwood is a clumping shrub or small tree, to 16 ft., with flat-topped clusters of creamy-yellow flowers and hard, white fruit on reddish brown or gray branchlets. Leaves opposite on green twigs, petioled; blades up to 4 inches long, roughly ovate with an abruptly drawn-out tip and a rounded to tapering base, smooth margins, and prominent veins bending toward the tip; upper surface sometimes slightly rough to the touch, lower slightly velvety. The upper surface of the oval leaves is covered with rough hairs while the lower surface is softly pubescent.


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Fall color is purplish-red. Flowers about 1/4 inch wide, cream colored, with 4 petals, numerous in broad clusters at the ends of branches, appearing from April to early June. Fruit fleshy, rounded, white, about 1/4 inch wide.

This dogwood is easily recognized by the rough, upper leaf surfaces and white fruit. It spreads from root sprouts and provides cover for wildlife; various small birds, such as Bells Vireo, nest in the thickets.


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The genus cornus is Latin for a horn, The species name of this plant is named for Thomas Drummond, (ca. 1790-1835), naturalist, born in Scotland, around 1790. In 1830 he made a trip to America to collect specimens from the western and southern United States. In March, 1833, he arrived at Velasco, Texas to begin his collecting work in that area. He spent twenty-one months working the area between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau, especially along the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers. His collections were the first made in Texas that were extensively distributed among the museums and scientific institutions of the world. He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds. Drummond had hoped to make a complete botanical survey of Texas, but he died in Havana, Cuba, in 1835, while making a collecting tour of that island.

Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) My earliest encounter with fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) taught me that fragrant does not necessarily mean sweet-smelling. I was asked to prune some unruly specimens that were encroaching on a stairway and I left smelling pungent with the shrub's peculiar earthy, resinous odour. A few of fragrant sumac's other names - polecatbush and skunkbush, for instance - make reference to what some have called its "malodorous" qualities. I wouldn't go that far, but neither would I recommend sticking your nose in the blooming flowers to sample their fragrance or rubbing the leaves for pleasure.


Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)

In fact, some people come away with itchy skin after contact with this plant and my exposed forearms did develop a temporary rash after my pruning efforts. This characteristic is not unexpected when you realize that fragrant sumac is a close relative of poison ivy (Rhus radicans, synonymous with Toxicodendron radicans). The list of North American tree species in the same family includes several plants with "poison" in their common names, although these have been helpfully grouped under the genus Toxicodendron - a name that should warn of the plants' nasty properties. To help with identification, fragrant sumac has three-part compound leaves, like poison ivy. Both differ from the innocuous taller sumacs whose large pinnately compound leaves can have as many as 27 leaflets.


Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)

Although the fragrance may be unappealing, and the allergenic properties a possible concern, I have developed a great admiration for the many useful and distinctive qualities of fragrant sumac. It shares with the other sumacs characteristics we easily identify with this group of plants: compound leaves that turn variable colours (orange through deep red) in fall, fuzzy red fruit, curving branches and a suckering habit. However, it is distinctly different in other respects. It matures to about 1.5 metres (five feet) in the more northern part of its range (from Manitoulin Island to the west and Ottawa Valley to the east in Ontario). By contrast, I have seen staghorn sumac specimens (Rhus typhina) over three metres or 10 feet high. (Some references say they can grow over 12 metres or 40 feet.)

While the larger sumacs tend to sucker prolifically, and rapidly form colonies in full sun locations, fragrant sumac is slower to develop suckering growth and will eventually form a dense shrub even in a fair bit of shade. It is not prone to any serious pests or diseases. I have never even seen a nibble on the leaves, a testament to the plant's tough nature.

These characteristics alone make it an excellent choice for difficult shady spots in low-maintenance gardens or naturalized sites. What's more, like the other sumacs, fragrant sumac is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions and is often found in infertile soils that receive little moisture. It has a great ability to cling to slopes, serving to stabilize the soil with its shallow fibrous root system. It is a relatively short-lived pioneer species that will thrive in difficult conditions, preparing the way for longer-lived trees and forest plants.


Fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica)

Like other members of the Rhus genus, the female R. aromatica bears a fuzzy red cluster of fruit, but it's smaller: the round terminal mass of fruit is only four centimetres (about 1 1/2 inches) in diameter. The yellow clusters of flowers appear early in spring. The tan-brown male catkins develop during the summer and persist through fall and winter. I have never found any plants identified as male or female when purchasing them from nurseries. To increase the odds of planting at least one female that will produce fruit, it is recommended that you purchase a minimum of two specimens.

Although birds obviously don't relish the sumac's fruit as much as they do serviceberries (Amelanchier spp.) or other tastier types, both the stems and fruit are eaten by many species of wildlife. A manual for environmental designers on North American native trees and shrubs, written by Gary Hightshoe, rates fragrant sumac's wildlife value as very high, saying it provides "winter food for many upland game birds, songbirds, large and small mammals, hoofed browsers". Humans have also found many uses for fragrant sumac over the centuries. First Nations Peoples took advantage of the astringent properties of the leaves and bark by making poultices. The root was made into a concoction to treat diarrhea. The bark and berries were used in medicines. Due to the high tannin content of the leaves and bark, fragrant sumac was used for dye and for tanning leather. The fruit can be made into a tea that tastes rather like lemonade.

Evergreen Sumac [Rhus Virens] This native evergreen shrub thrives with very little care or attention.

In full sun, evergreen sumac will get large, bushy, and rather round, but if grown in dappled shade, it will have a more open, lithe appearance, getting about 10 feet tall, and potentially just as wide.


Evergreen Sumac [Rhus Virens]

The bright green, shiny leaves, often with red-tinged petioles, make this a very attractive ornamental shrub.

Blooming in late summer, the flowers are small, but lovely; a beautiful creamy white that attract bees and other tiny pollinators. The resulting red, fuzzy fruit is a great boon for birds and other wildlife, making this a great addition to any naturalist’s garden or landscape. And it’s edible for us, too!


Evergreen Sumac [Rhus Virens]

Evergreen sumac also responds well to light pruning, making it a good choice for natural hedges, perhaps separating one section of the yard from another, or screening out an offensive view.

Native to rocky hillsides with almost no soil, evergreen sumac performs surprisingly well in areas with a little heavy clay. It needs virtually no supplemental irrigation once established, and no fertilization at all.

It is, however, quite a yummy snack for deer, so be prepared to protect it during its first few years in the ground, until it gets large enough to recover from being nibbled on.

Texas Persimmon [Diospyros Texana] Texas persimmon is also called black persimmon due to the color of the ripened fruits.


Texas Persimmon [Diospyros Texana]

This wonderful little native tree is beautiful and simply striking in the landscape. It has a beautiful pale gray bark that begins to flake off once it reaches maturity, much like a crape myrtle. Although I called it a small tree, it can actually get quite large with adequate water and sunlight, up to 20 feet tall.

But Texas persimmon could just as easily be referred to as a shrub, especially if used as an understory plant under cedar elms and live oaks. Since it does perform well under other trees, it makes a good choice for potentially-challenging, shady areas of your yard.


Texas Persimmon [Diospyros Texana]

It’s amazingly drought-tough, surviving even the toughest of hot, dry Central Texas summers on very little supplemental irrigation. It’s also a great wildlife plant, providing both food, with its gorgeous black fruit, and shelter for birds and small mammals. If you prefer less of a “wild” look, you can prune Texas persimmon to raise the canopy and make it less shrubby.

Be aware that there are both male and female plants, so if you want the fruit, you need to purchase a female. But if you’d rather not attract wildlife and clean up the mess, ask the nursery for a male plant, although those are less commonly found.

But you’ll probably want the fruit, because it is delicious! Tastes like blackberries.

Anacacho Orchid [Bauhinia congesta] Anacacho orchid is a beautiful spring blooming accent tree that continues to open its orchid-shaped pale pink flowers throughout the season. At maturity, it is 8-12' high and 6-12' wide, great for small spaces or to highlight a corner of the garden.


Anacacho Orchid [Bauhinia congesta]

It’s extremely tough and very waterwise once established. With just a little bit of soil preparation, it will find itself at home in well-drained soil. It likes good sunlight. It will tolerate partial shade but doesn’t bloom as well.


Anacacho Orchid [Bauhinia congesta purpurea]

Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus] There are lots of different species, varieties, and cultivars of bottlebrush, an Australian native, so do a little research on the differences before you buy.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

The two most important distinguishing characteristics are size and hardiness, since dwarf cultivars and more cold tolerant species are becoming more widely available.

Bottlebrush is a small, usually shrubby tree, normally getting only 10 to 15 feet tall. Bees absolutely love the fuzzy red flowers and the tree will be buzzing with life all summer long.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

This tree is notoriously frost sensitive, usually being completely killed if temperatures get into the 20s. But I’ve also seen bottlebrush taken out by our extreme Texas heat during abnormally hot, dry summers.

One way to protect bottlebrush from the heat is to plant it in a sheltered spot, with maybe only 6 to 8 hours of summer sun.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

And the north side of a landscape should be avoided, since that’s the coldest spot. Local garden blogger Dr. Robin Mayfield shares her story of her beloved specimen. After the harsh summer of 2010, which was followed by an abnormally cold winter, her majestic 12 foot tree succumbed to the stress of such extreme weather, but she loved the tree so much, she’s decided to plant again this year, in a different spot in her yard.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

Bottlebrush is evergreen, so it’s a good choice for screening out unsightly views. But since it’s wispy, it allows light to filter through, rather than creating a solid hedge-type feel, giving privacy without overwhelming an area.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

Robin reports that her trees were very drought tolerant once they were established, and were very happy in her unamended heavy clay soil.


Bottlebrush [Callistemon rigidus]

So, final analysis: lovely tree that brings on the bees for months in warm weather. But, it needs good drainage, sunlight but not searing, and we can lose them in cold winters.

Mexican Olive [Cordia boissieri] Also known as Texas Olive or Anacahuita, this plant is not related to the true olive, but it does produce a similar-looking fruit. And even though the fruit of the Mexican olive is not palatable, its foliage and fragrant flowers make this a show-off shrub for us!


Mexican Olive [Cordia boissieri]

Although it has a shrubby habit, you can prune it as a tree. Or, develop its shrubby habit as a natural screen.

In normally frost-free regions such as south Texas, it will remain evergreen and can get up to 20' feet tall and almost as wide. But in areas that typically see at least a few periods of freezing temperatures, Mexican olive will be smaller and deciduous or evergreen, depending on the weather.


Mexican Olive [Cordia boissieri]

Mexican olive loves the heat and the full, bright sun. It does require good drainage. It’s very drought tough, so it doesn’t need much water after it’s established.

Large white fragrant flowers cover it from late spring to frost, attracting many pollinators and hummingbirds. It produces white fruit that resemble olives. While they are edible, the olives are not enjoyable for us, but wildlife will appreciate them.

It can be rather messy when the booms and fruit drop off, so it’s not the best choice for a driveway or pool.

Pink Evening Primrose [Oenothera speciosa] Also called Mexican evening primrose, this is one of our beautiful native wildflowers. It has dark pink flowers and they start out kind of white and then they turn to pink. It’s a perennial. It dies back in the heat, but re-emerges again in cool weather to bloom in spring.

It’s normally only about 8 to 12 inches tall and 15 inches wide in the landscape. But it does get much wider if given plenty of space. It spreads easily so it makes a great ground cover, especially for large natural areas. As its name suggests, the flowers open in the evening but also during the day.


Pink Evening Primrose [Oenothera speciosa 'Siskiyou']

They also have yellow, powdery pollen pistils, giving them another common name, buttercups.

They’re easily established from seed. Plant in late summer or early fall along with other wildflowers. It’s very happy in the hottest, least cared for part of your landscape. It does great in rocky, shallow soils with no supplemental irrigation so don’t water these plants too much once you establish them. They don’t respond well to that and can have root rot. It also does well in natural, meadowy plantings with other wildflowers. It’s best planted in full sun and well drained soil and it does spread underground in the winter so it pops up all over the place the following spring in your yard.

Heavenly Cloud (Texas Sage) [Leucophyllum] This sage is one of my favorites because the flowers are fragrant. As with all Texas sages, it blooms more when the air is humid. One of the things I love about this plant is that it is quite a bit shorter than most of our Texas sages, so you can actually enjoy it in a container.


Heavenly Cloud (Texas Sage) [Leucophyllum frutescens]

Developed by Texas A&M University, ‘Heavenly Cloud’ sage is a hybrid between L. frutescens ‘Green Cloud’ and L. laevigatum. Mostly evergreen, this cultivar has medium green leaves and lavender flowers. It can grow to 6-8 feet wide and tall but is easily pruned for a more compact shape in a small space. (This picture is of Leucophyllum frutescens).

Mexican Bush Sage [Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'] This drought-hardy perennial has soft green foliage with a slight silvery tint. In fall, it produces beautiful cascades of velvety purple flowers that attract butterflies and other beneficial wildlife. It’s a great plant for kids to touch, too!


Mexican Bush Sage [Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara']

It can get to be around 4' tall. It can freeze back in winter. Cut it back in February and new growth will come up.

It prefers full sun but can accept light shade, though it may not be as full and lush.


Mexican Bush Sage [Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara' and 'May Night']

It’s drought tolerant, but it does need adequate water during the hot summers like we had last year.

It does take heaver soil than some salvias, so is not so prone to rot in those heavy soils.

Jerusalem Sage [Phlomis fruticosa] Jerusalem sage blooms in the spring with beautiful bright yellow whorls of flowers along long stems. But all year long, this perennial is noted for its silvery gray, velvety foliage that looks a bit like sage leaves. In fact, that’s how it got its common name, but it is not a sage.


Jerusalem Sage [Phlomis fruticosa]

This plant wants as much sun as possible, though will accept hours of shade, and wants well-drained soil. Prune after flowering to clean it up and fill it out. It’s very drought tolerant and deer resistant.

Phlomis fruticosa is a species of flowering plant of the Lamiaceae family, native to Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and regions of the former Yugoslavia. It is a small evergreen shrub, up to 1 m tall by 1.5 m wide. Wikipedia


Lantana [] There are so many cultivars available that I won’t list an exact cultivar for you. But now that we have so many from which to choose, you have more options in size and color.


Lantana

Most of these plants are root-hardy woody perennials, which means that they die back to the ground during the winter for us here. Occasionally we will have one be evergreen, but this winter I doubt that any would have been. In fact, we may have lost some of these plants because we were so cold this winter.

We do have some native species and those species do have more berries which are more attractive to birds, but that also means more seedlings around your yard.


Little Lucky Pot of Gold / Purple White Trailing Lantana

Most commercially available hybrids are sterile so they don’t produce as many berries and they do flower more without deadheading those berries off of them. Some of these plants are large and shrubby, but others are groundcovers that stay very small. So as I said, pick the color and the size of plant that you’re looking for.

As with many plants, available cultivars change each season according to the new plants that are available and have been hybridized by growers over the season.


Lavender Swirl Lantana / Luscious Lemonade Lantana

Lantana loves heat and abuse, so plant them in full sun on the south or west side of your home. They use very low water and they’re not too particular about soil.

Another reward is that they flower all summer from spring to frost. A few to try are ‘Texas Flame’ which is an orange, red, and yellow flower, and ‘Samantha’ which is a yellow flower with variegated foliage.


Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) Tree Verbena Almond verbena is a must for anyone who loves summertime fragrance! This large, shrubby, deer-resistant plant should be planted in full sun, or only light shade, and given plenty of room to grow.

This plant does get very tall, usually very quickly. My experience has been in the range of 10 to 12 feet tall and about 3 to 4 feet wide.


Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata)

Be sure to plant near a patio or porch to get the full effect of its strong, but lovely, delicately sweet fragrance. Almond verbena is a repeat bloomer, usually from late spring all the way through fall, maybe taking a break during the hottest time of an extremely hot, dry summer.

And when in flower, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will be attracted to it like magnets.

Listed as hardy to USDA Zone 8, in most warm climates, almond verbena will be deciduous, especially in mild winters. But even if it doesn’t die back to the ground, it will perform best if you treat it as you would other root-hardy perennial shrubs, shearing it back to the ground in late winter. This hard pruning forces almond verbena to put on all new growth, making it fuller, greener, and bushier. A little light pruning in mid-summer can reinvigorate the plant for fall growth.

Plant almond verbena in well-drained soil and water sparingly, but regularly. Once a week watering should be fine, and fertilizer is not needed. This easy-care, root-hardy shrub would make a great addition to any low water-use garden.


Ligularia (Ligularia przewalskii) Leopard Plant Ligularia, sometimes called Leopard Plant, is valued for its bold evergreen foliar impact in shady gardens.

Large, dark green, heart-shaped leaves are tinged with purple, including the undersides, veins and margins, giving this plant a truly striking appearance.


Ligularia reniformis Tractor Seat [

Ligularia is an evergreen, clumping perennial, getting about two feet wide and three feet tall. It does best in shady, wet conditions, so it’s perfect if you have heavy clay soils and a dark, boggy area that stays too wet for most other plants.


Ligularia (Ligularia przewalskii)

Even though it likes moist soil, it grows quite well in water thrifty gardens, as long as it’s in shade with deep soil.

A member of the aster family, tall flower spikes (to 24”) emerge from the leafy center, topped with yellow daisy-like flowers.


Pride of Barbados [Caesalpinia] There are two very common species of Caesalpinia in the nursery trade: pulcherrima and gillesii, and both are quite beautiful.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima is most commonly known as Pride of Barbados or Red Bird of Paradise. It has orange-yellow flowers and is a little bushier than Caesalpinia gilliesii, which is most commonly known as Yellow Bird of Paradise, because it has all yellow flowers.


Pride of Barbados [Caesalpinia pulcherrima]

Both plants love the heat, need full sun, and prefer very well-drained soil. These plants will bloom all summer long with very little supplemental irrigation, so be careful not to overwater them. Both plants may freeze to the ground in winter, but not always. For many gardeners, the Yellow Bird of Paradise doesn’t freeze to the ground in winter. If it does, just cut it back, and it will return in spring.


Yellow Bird of Paradise Caesalpinia pulcherrima yellow

Pride of Barbados, the orange flowered one (Red Bird of Paradise) is more frost tender, and does freeze to the ground in our winters more often than not. Usually it will return in spring but younger plants may be slower to emerge.


Yellow Bird of Paradise Caesalpinia gilliesii

Both plants can get up to about 8 feet tall, but Pride of Barbados is generally a little shorter and bushier, mostly due to the fact that it freezes to the ground most years. And both plants get about 4 to 6 feet wide, so give them plenty of room.

Both plants attract hummingbirds and butterflies and are considered to be deer resistant.


Mexican Buckeye [Ungnadia speciosa] Fall color, flowers similar to redbud. Draws pollinators, understory tree--best with morning sun and afternoon shade.

Mexican buckeye is a wonderful little Texas native tree that’s a real show-stopper in late winter and early spring. It’s deciduous, and like many spring-flowering trees, it puts on a beautiful floral display for a short few weeks just as it’s putting on new leaves for the year.


Mexican buckeye [Ungnadia speciosa]

The pink flowers are similar to Mexican redbud, another great small tree, but the special thing about Mexican buckeye is that it’s an understory tree that grows in bright shade.

We don’t have a lot of choices for shady yards, and that list is even shorter for plants with blooms as beautiful as these. It can also take a sunny spot in your garden, where it will get a little bigger: up to 30 feet tall.


Mexican buckeye [Ungnadia speciosa]

It has a shrubby, multi-trunked habit, but you can easily tame that to a single trunk if you want it to be more tree-like.

Mexican buckeye doesn’t need too much water, but it needs a little; about as much as other shade-loving plants. It can take slightly heavy soil, but it prefers good drainage, or even soil that’s a little on the porous side. And it doesn’t need much pruning, except to give it a little shape if you want to. It’s not susceptible to cold and even has very attractive fruit, so all-in-all, you just can’t beat it!


Rusty Blackhaw [Viburnum Viburnum Rufidulum] Good for fall and birds.

Rusty blackhaw viburnum is a lovely little native that can be found growing all over the state, from east to central Texas, mostly along streams and the edges of woodland area.


Rusty Blackhaw [Viburnum Viburnum Rufidulum]

In its native habitat, you might find a specimen growing up to 30 feet tall, but normally it’s much smaller in the landscape, 10 to 20 feet tall and equally as wide, or a little wider.

Also in its native habitat, it’s quite often a shrubby, understory tree, but in a landscape setting, will look quite striking as a stand-alone specimen, planted in full sun to part shade.


Rusty Blackhaw [Viburnum Viburnum Rufidulum]

The dark green leaves are lustrous and shiny, surrounded by clusters of bright white flowers in spring. Those flowers produce beautiful blue fruit in the fall, and about the same time, the leaves begin to turn a stunning pinkish mauve to dark purple.

Rusty blackhaw can grow in almost any soil type, as long as it’s well-drained. Hardy to zone 5, this deciduous small tree requires very little water once established, and makes a striking addition to any garden.


Plumbago [Plumbago auriculata] This perennial shrub really loves our summer heat. And it’s one of the soft blues we can grow that visually cools things down when it’s hot. You can also pair it with a white blooming variety.


Plumbago [Plumbago auriculata]

They bloom non-stop from late spring to the first freeze. In some winters or in protected sites, they may remain evergreen. Other times they will freeze to the ground. Simply cut them back and they’ll re-emerge in early spring. In really cold areas, they benefit from a layer of mulch to protect the roots in winter.


Plumbago [Plumbago auriculata]

Other than that, plumbago is basically maintenance-free. No need to fertilize or worry about insects. Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant, but may need supplemental water when things stay really dry.

It grows in sun, but it also grows really well in partial shade, as long as it gets adequate light. At maturity, it will be 3-4' high and 4-6' wide.


Mexican Honeysuckle [Justicia spicigera] Although Mexican honeysuckle shares a common name with our common honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, and looks somewhat similar, the two plants are not related. But Mexican honeysuckle is related to another great plant for Central Texas gardens: shrimp plant.


Mexican Honeysuckle [Justicia spicigera]

In harsh winters, Mexican honeysuckle is perennial, dying back to the ground. But in our mostly mild Central Texas winters, Mexican honeysuckle is evergreen, sometimes not even being frost-bit, but it will benefit from a bit of pruning in late winter, to invigorate new growth.

Size: 2-3' tall.

Light: Likes some sun for the best flowering, but wants some shade, too, as long as it’s not dense shade.

Nancy’s situation where they get some shade from a cedar elm is great.

Soil: Not too picky.

Water: Fairly drought tolerant but will need supplemental irrigation in dry summers.

Flowers: bright orange tubular flowers late spring to frost. Highly attractive to hummingbirds.

Perennial: This perennial will remain evergreen in warm winters or protected spots. In cold winters, it can go dormant. Cut it back it early spring to promote new growth. Deer: resistant.


American Beautyberry [Callicarpa Americana] Beautyberry does best in a partial shade location.


American Beautyberry [Callicarpa Americana]

In fall the arching branches load down with clusters of purple fruits. A white fruiting form is also available. This plant adds interest to shady areas of the landscape.


American Beautyberry [Callicarpa Americana]

Provide dependable moisture levels for best results. This is a low care plant that is seldom bothered by pests and diseases. Remember, fall is prime time for planting trees and shrubs!


Pigeonberry [Rivina humilis] Pigeonberry is one of my absolute favorite groundcovers for shade. This lovely little Central Texas native has many attractive qualities, not the least of which is that it flowers and fruits almost continuously throughout the growing season, a quality which is quite rare.

Very few plants flower and produce fruit at the same time, or even produce fruit for extended periods, and pigeonberry fruit are a great food source for many different species of birds. Deer resistance is moderate but we’ve seen it in deer browsed gardens.


Pigeonberry [Rivina humilis]

Each pigeonberry plant will grow to only about 12 to 18 inches tall and equally as wide, so in order to cover a large area in your garden, it might be best to start pigeonberry from seed directly in your yard. A typical seed packet is listed to cover about 20 square feet, making this plant a very economical choice if you need to fill in a lot of shady space.

Pigeonberry can take full shade, partial shade, and dappled sun, but shouldn’t be planted in super bright or full sun areas. It needs very little care or maintenance once established.


Pigeonberry [Rivina humilis]

During its first year, you should water pigeonberry once a week or so if we’re not getting any rainfall, but once established, you’ll only need to water sparingly, if at all. During times of heavy drought, even if you don’t water pigeonberry at all, it will simply go dormant and reemerge once rain comes or water is given.

Listed as hardy to zone 7 and hardy well below freezing, pigeonberry will be deciduous in light winters, and reliably perennial after even the harshest Central Texas cold snaps. Pigeonberry makes a great addition to both formal garden beds and to wilder, more natural areas of the landscape.


Variegated Cuban Oregano [Plectranthus amboinicus variegated] Variegated Cuban oregano is a gorgeous tropical herb that not only looks great in the garden, but, like its cousin, common oregano, is also useful in the kitchen.

Since it’s native to tropical regions, it will almost certainly be an annual in your garden, but I think it’s well worth the time. If planted in containers and brought indoors when there’s a potential for frosty temperatures, it may last a few seasons, but really, it will look better and be more robust if you replace it each spring.


Variegated Cuban Oregano [Plectranthus amboinicus variegated]

The leaves of variegated Cuban oregano are large and bright, making it a striking addition to any area of the landscape. Its name derives from the fact that it is commonly used in Cuban cooking, not from its native habitat, India.

As with most herbs, good drainage is important, and a bit of compost in the soil is also good. Cuban oregano will tolerate light shade, but will thrive in full sun. Water well, but sparingly.

As with most herbs, Cuban oregano has soft, succulent leaves and will rot if it stays too wet. Getting about a foot and a tall and about as wide, Cuban oregano fills in nicely and makes a great addition along borders and beds.


No Lawn

It's Time to Get Rid of Your Lawn! You may also know that turf grass, however welcoming it looks for our bare feet, provides virtually no habitat for pollinators and other animals and plants that make up a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

In fact, these lawns can do substantial harm to the environment and to both vertebrates and insects. Birds, for instance, may ingest berries and seeds that have absorbed pesticides from the ground. Likewise, rainwater runoff from lawns can carry pesticides and fertilizers into rivers, lakes, streams and oceans via the sewer system. This can poison fish and other aquatic animals and harm humans who swim, surf and eat seafood that may be contaminated. And then, of course, lawn mowers can pollute the air.

The No-Mow Movement

A growing number of homeowners are converting part or all of their lawns to a less thirsty form of landscape.

These no-mow yards fall into four categories:

1. Naturalized or unmowed turf grass that is left to grow wild;

2. Low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming (most are a blend of fescues);

3. Native or naturalized landscapes where turf is replaced with native plants as well as noninvasive, climate-friendly ones that can thrive in local conditions; and

4. Yards where edible plants—vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs—replace a portion of turf. (According to the National Gardening Association, one in three families now grows some portion of the food they consume).

Making the Change

A successful lawn conversion depends on climate, terrain and of course individual taste. Of the four main no-mow strategies, Osann said, native or naturalized landscaping is likely your best option. It's adaptable to any part of the country and offers gardeners an infinite range of design possibilities. If you want to join the no-mow movement, here are some pointers to get you started:

Get expert advice. Begin by talking with a landscaper who has experience with lawn conversions or even a neighbor who has naturalized all or part of his yard. A landscaper can help remove existing grass and recommend native plants to use in its place. Depending on water and weather, a low-growing turf lawn will "green up" about two weeks after seeding. Another alternative is a wildflower garden grown from seed. (Just make sure you choose a wildflower mix that fits your climate and weed out existing vegetation that would compete for moisture and sun). After the seeds germinate and the flowers bloom (in 6 to 12 weeks), they don't require watering unless there's a prolonged drought.

Do your weeding. Invasive plants like ragweed, thistle and burdock can crowd out their native neighbors and may run afoul of local ordinances (as noted below). For most no-mow advocates, the payoff in natural beauty and habitat are well worth the effort.

Check for incentives. Not surprisingly, western states such as Arizona and California, which have been in the throes of extreme drought for more than four years, have taken the lead in spurring homeowners to do lawn conversions. California, in fact, launched a turf replacement initiative that offers rebates of up to $500 per yard for homeowners who convert turf lawns to native, drought-resistant xeriscaping. On a more grass-roots level, organizations like the Surfriders Foundation, a national environmental group made up of surfing aficionados, have helped transform turf lawns in Southern California parks and homes into ocean-friendly gardens, using succulents and other indigenous plants along with hardscape materials like rocks and gravel that increase filtration, conserve water and reduce runoff.

Check the rule books. The no-mow movement may sound idyllic, but some practitioners have faced a surprising stumbling block: the law. In one example, Sarah Baker, a homeowner and scion of a family of horticulturalists in St. Albans Township, Ohio, decided to let her turf grass yard grow wild. Last year, she was forced to mow when authorities from her township deemed her garden, which had become a naturalized but well-tended landscape, a nuisance. Sandra Christos of Stone Harbor, New Jersey, said that after she replaced turf grass with native plants, she was delighted that cormorants, night herons and kingfishers made themselves at home alongside "every kind of butterfly you can imagine." But since receiving a letter from the town clerk, Christos has had to tame the mallow, bayberry, clethra and rosa rugosa along her walkway—or pay a fine.

Moving away from water-guzzling and chemical-hungry lawns and cultivating yards that are diverse and self-regulating is a matter of mounting urgency worthy of that kind of community organizing. As global temperatures rise and droughts drag on, the demands of turf grass are likely to become untenable. My Township Calls My Lawn ‘a Nuisance’—But Still I Refuse to Mow It Manicured lawns are ruining the planet. By Sarah Baker / The Washington Post August 5, 2015.

I had stopped mowing my nearly one acre of country land outside of a rural Ohio town. A diverse potpourri of plants began to flourish, and a rich assortment of insects and animals followed. I had essentially grown a working ecosystem, one that had been waiting for the chance to emerge.

But the main point of growing a natural yard is to attract wildlife and build a self-regulating environment. The un-mowed plants in our yard attract plant-eating bugs and rodents, which in turn attract birds, bats, toads and garter snakes that eat them. Then hawks fly in to eat the snakes. Seeing all this life emerge in just one growing season made me realize just how much nature manicured lawns displace and disrupt.

There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards.

This has serious consequences. About 95 percent of the natural landscape in the lower 48 states has been developed into cities, suburbs and farmland. Meanwhile, the global population of vertebrate animals, from birds to fish, has been cut in half during the past four decades. Honey bees, which we depend on to pollinate our fruits and other crops, have been dying off at an unsustainable rate. Because one in three bites of food you take requires a pollinating insect to produce it, their rapid decline is a threat to humanity. Monarch butterflies have been even more affected, with their numbers dropping 90 percent since the 1990s. Butterflies are an important part of the food chain, so ecologists have long used them to measure the health of ecosystems.

Nature preserves and parks are not enough to fix the problem; much of wildlife is migratory and needs continuous habitat to thrive. Natural yards can act as bridges between the larger natural spaces.

Habitat loss isn’t the only consequence; maintaining a mowed and fertilized lawn also pollutes the air, water and soil. The emissions from lawnmowers and other garden equipment are responsible for more than 5 percent of urban air pollution. An hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. Americans use 800 million gallons of gas every year for lawn equipment, and 17 milliongallons are spilled while refueling mowers — more than was leaked by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops, chemicals that can end up in drinking water and waterways.

I decided to tackle the issue by letting my yard grow wild, and I’m not alone. Homeowners across the country have latched on to the natural lawn and “no mow” movement.

But after we started explaining to people why we had stopped mowing, they were much less critical. If we allow ourselves to truly see a mowed lawn for what it is — a green desert that provides no food or shelter for wildlife — we can re-condition ourselves to take pride in not mowing.

For me, growing a natural lawn doesn’t mean just letting it go. I spend a lot of time weeding out invasive, non-native plants — like thistles, burdock and garlic mustard — that can take over and create a destructive monoculture of their own. But I also think it is wrong to vilify all invasive plants before we fully understand them. After all, a weed is just “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said.

I’ve been a gardener for years, but since I stopped mowing, I not only feel more connected to nature, I also see the interconnectedness in nature. Never before have I had so few pests in my vegetable garden thanks to my yard’s newfound biodiversity, including predators that keeps crop-damaging bugs in check. When you stop mowing, you get it; you not only see first-hand all the nature that we have lost start to come back, you get to interact with it.

Society needs to adjust its cultural norms on lawn aesthetics. For the health of the planet, and for our own health, we need to start letting nature dictate how we design our outdoor spaces. We need to reassess how much mowed space we really need. By the size of most people’s lawns in my area, you’d think they were hosting a weekly lacrosse match. But the only time I ever really see them on their lawns is when they are mowing them.

Instead of putting nature in its place, we need to find our place in nature. Local officials have told us countless times that our lawn looks bad and is a nuisance. In one public meeting, a brave young boy, Max Burton, stood up and told our critics, “What you are saying is that life itself is a nuisance.” As the planet’s environmental problems mount, the real nuisances are mowed lawns and the laws that enforce them.

Less Lawn info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

Native Grass Lawns info. on lawn alternatives and no-mow yards

A native grass lawn may fit your needs and give extra benefits over traditional turfgrass. Installing a native grass area requires work and money up front, but is expected to repay the gardener with a healthier lawn that needs little or no water, uses no pesticides or fertilizers, and needs less frequent or no mowing.

Covers details on Buffalo grass, sedge (shade), and other possibilities.


Bunny in Yard

Why I'll never have a lawn again I didn't realize what a dead zone the lawn is until I lived in a meadow.

The "no-mow" movement is gaining steam, and I've joined it, after I've had the luck to see firsthand how beautiful a natural meadow can be. Almost two years ago now, I moved to a tiny town in the Coast Range of Oregon. When we pulled up to the house where we would be staying — on 40 acres without a neighbor in sight, I took one look at what I saw as the overgrown grass and added "mow lawn" to my mental checklist. When I looked out the back door (see image above) the sea of grass took my breath away. "This is going to be a huge job," I thought to myself.


Meadow grasses are attractive, and provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals.
Scene from her back porch.

Once I had spent a couple of very busy weeks acclimating to Oregon life, I realized that the meadow that surrounded my new home in the mountains wasn't an unkempt lawn, but one of the local types of ecosystems that flourish here naturally; they form post-fire. And in my first weeks enjoying my new favorite place in the world — the back porch — I was stunned and delighted by the plethora of life the meadow supported. And I immediately thought of that life extinguished if I had started mowing.

Sarah Baker, who is battling her town for the right to keep a meadow rather than a lawn, puts this death-by-lawn into numbers when she writes in the Washington Post: "There are 40.5 million acres of lawn in the United States, more than double the size of the country’s largest national forest. We disconnect ourselves from wildlife habitat loss by viewing it as a problem caused by industry and agriculture. But habitat loss isn’t a problem happening out there somewhere; it’s happening in our own back yards."


white-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) Queens Park Cemetery, Calgary Alberta


Aralia

bigger the better: aralia cordata and its cousins

aralias: why i grow these big, beautiful plants ‘THANK YOU,’ SAY THE BIRDS, “these are delicious.” And they are delicious to look at, too–especially as fall comes on, with all the giant heads of bird-attracting purple fruit and in some cases (such as Aralia spinosa, above) incredible fall foliage color, too. Do you grow any aralias (sometimes called spikenards) in your garden yet?

Comments: These grow wild here in north central Florida, where I was taught another common name is Hercules club. To a casual observer, the fruit and foliage look extremely similar to the winged sumac (Rhus copallina), but brush up against those spiny trunks and you’ll soon learn the difference!

I would have thought those were elderberry! (sambucas). What gorgeous fall color they provide.

Yes, Stephen, I know what you mean. I love elderberry, too (as do the birds!). The fall color of A. spinosa is exceptional. Give it its own space; it suckers and colonizes!


Aralia


Aralia


Fuki


Goldenrod

Goldenrod [Solidago] Goldenrod is a perennial plant that is well-known for its healing properties. This wild edible is a plant that reproduces through its roots, bulbs, stems and by its seed. Goldenrod does not cause seasonal allergies as many tend to believe. No one is, no one can be, allergic to Goldenrod pollen. Why? For starters, it has virtually none and it is pollinated by insects. Only wind-pollinated plants such as Ragweed (which blooms at the same time as Goldenrod) can cause allergic reactions.

Currently, there are actually 140 varieties of Goldenrod; therefore it has a unique adeptness in crossbreeding with other plants. All varieties of Goldenrod all are equally nutritious and boast many health benefits... Nebraska declared a type of Goldenrod (Soldiago gigantea) the state flower in 1895.

Distinguishing Features: Long wood like stems with spiky tooth like parts which are widely-spaced, yellow flowers that grow in thick clusters.


Goldenrod flowers are usually bees last source of nectar before winter hits.

Goldenrod Care: Information And Tips For How To Grow Goldenrod Plants Goldenrods (Solidago) spring up en masse in the natural summer landscape. Topped with plumes of fluffy yellow flowers, goldenrod is sometimes considered a weed. Unknowing gardeners may find it a nuisance and wonder, “What is the plant goldenrod good for?” Goldenrod plants have multiple uses, from providing shelter to larvae of beneficial insects to attracting butterflies.

Goldenrod plants provide nectar for migrating butterflies and bees, encouraging them to remain in the area and pollinate your crops. Planting goldenrod near the vegetable garden can draw bad bugs away from valuable vegetables. Goldenrods attract beneficial insects as well, which may do away with damaging insects when they approach the food source offered by these plants. More than a hundred varieties of goldenrod exist, with one for every climate. Many are native to the United States. Goldenrod plants are clump-forming perennial wildflowers that exist on rainwater and add a golden beauty to the landscape.

More than a hundred varieties of goldenrod exist, with one for every climate. Many are native to the United States. Goldenrod plants are clump-forming perennial wildflowers that exist on rainwater and add a golden beauty to the landscape... All goldenrods are late bloomers, flowering in late summer throughout fall with stunning bright yellow flowers.

Growing and planting goldenrod is easy, as this plant will survive just about anywhere, though it does prefer to be grown in full sun. Goldenrod also tolerates various soil types as long as it’s well draining. Goldenrod care is minimal once established in the landscape, with plants returning each year. They require little, if any watering, and are drought tolerant. Clumps need division every four to five years. Cuttings may also be taken in spring and planted in the garden.

Goldenrod: This native plant should be kept out of the garden There, I’ve said it. I don’t care if goldenrod is a native plant; it is no longer welcome in my gardens. I tried to be understanding, truly, I did, but it just did not want to play nice with the other plants. It did not want to play at all: total garden bed domination was its only goal. And it just about succeeded


Goldenrod seedlings appear in mid-winter to early spring.

Goldenrod Abundance: plentiful
What: young leaves, flowers
How: tea and small addition to salads
Where: fields, borders
When: late summer, early fall
Nutritional Value: low

Goldenrod: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Goldenrod (or Solidago virgaurea) is not a bad guy. Grown and used for centuries as a medicinal herb, for a variety of ailments, goldenrod pollen is not the villain that people with allergies believe it is. Ragweed is the true culprit. Ragweed, which is blooming at the same time as goldenrod, depends on the wind to carry its pollen, whereas goldenrod is pollinated by bees.

There are well over 100 varieties of goldenrod due to its ability to crossbreed with other similar plants. The variety called Solidago is the subject of this information and can be purchased from any nursery that carries a good supply of herbal plants, or it can be harvested in the wild. Solidago goldenrod is easily identified. It has long stems that grow in clusters from a base on the ground with small, bright yellow flowers toward the tops.

If you find yourself needing an astringent or medicinal wash for bites, scrapes, and minor wounds then goldenrod is your “go to” herb. The leaves and flowers can be dropped into boiling water, then, after turning off the heat, leave the mixture sitting until cool enough to use. This application can also give relief to eczema, poison ivy, and insect bites. Just apply with a sterile piece of gauze or cotton ball several times a day. The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator, covered for about a week. Many people prefer it over iodine based fluids due to allergies.


Young goldenrod plant. These the young leaves make a tasty tea.

There are pages of scientific research using goldenrod as a diuretic for kidney stones, bladder infections, and arthritis and also as a tea or gargle for colds, flu, sore throats and as a wound treatment. All above-ground parts of the plant can be used. Just remember that with all natural herbs caution should be used in case of allergic reactions or side effects. For those who are pregnant or have serious heart problems, always consult with your doctor before ingesting any herbal treatments

Canada goldenrod [Solidaga altissima] SIZE: 3-6 feet
LIGHT: Part shade, shade
SOIL: Clay, clay loam, medium loam, sandy loam, sandy, caliche
MOISTURE: Moist, dry
DURATION: Perennial
BLOOM COLOR: Yellow
BLOOM PERIOD: September-November
FAMILY: Asteraceae (Aster Family)
DESCRIPTION: Canada goldenrod, also called Tall goldenrod, is native to the San Antonio River basin. It can grow to six feet. This plant has a very feathery appearance as well as vibrant yellow flowers. Canada goldenrod can be found in a number of habitats including in roadsides, thickets, prairies and open woodlands. This plant is attractive to birds and butterflies as well as honey bees.

Canada Goldenrod [Solidago canadensis] Our native Goldenrods (about 100 species) are THE primary nectar source used by eastern Monarch butterflies on their southbound migration to Mexico in the fall. Long ignored because of the mistaken belief that they cause hayfever, they can be hard to find but please plant them! Canada goldenrod volunteers in many areas and spreads by rhyzomes, so it can be too aggressive for small gardens. In this case consider some of the other species that do not have rhyzomes. Combine any of them with with ironweed and asters for beautiful fall purple and gold--and loads of butterflies!


Pollinator Plants

Farmscaping for Pollinators Appalachia: goldenrod bush [tea fights exhaustion], calendula, cilantro/dill/brassicas, cup plant, valerian, aster, buckwheat [waiste high blooms], lufa gourds, native diversity & messy unmown. seedum, ironweed for butterflies [deep taproot], jewel weed for hummingbirds, Mex. sunflower [blooms long, even after first frost, Monarch--head tall]--AK's window, mint family: anise hyssop/mint/basil/_holy basil_/peppermint allow to flower, zinnias, cosmos, comfrey, yarrow, milkweed,


LATER:

Harvesting Rosella & Sowing Seeds on our Urban Farm Rob Bob's Backyard Farming & Aquaponics. Rosella/sorrel/edible hibiscus.

Roselle [Hibiscus sabdariffa] a species of Hibiscus native to West Africa,[1] used for the production of bast fibre and as an infusion, in which it may be known as carcade. It is an annual or perennial herb or woody-based subshrub, growing to 2–2.5 m (7–8 ft) tall. The leaves are deeply three- to five-lobed, 8–15 cm (3–6 in) long, arranged alternately on the stems. The flowers are 8–10 cm (3–4 in) in diameter, white to pale yellow with a dark red spot at the base of each petal, and have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) wide, enlarging to 3–3.5 cm (1.2–1.4 in), fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures. They take about six months to mature.

Rosella Growing Information Botanical Name:Hibiscus sabdariffa

Common Names: asam balanda, bissap, edible hibiscus, flor de jamaica, grosella, karkade, lumanda, luo shen hua, meshta, omutete, paya, queensland jam plant, rajeab, rosela, roselle, saril, sorrel, susur. Plant Family: Malvaceae.

Plant Description
A native of tropical West Africa, it prefers warm climates. Rosella is an attractive annual shrub to 1.5 m high with large, lobed reddish leaves and attractive yellow hibiscus-like flowers. Rosellas are easy to grow, with few pest problems, hardy and productive. Most soil types are suitable, provided they are rich and well-drained. Plenty of water is needed to maintain growth, flowering and fruit development, mulching is beneficial. Three to four plants is all that is needed to produce a good crop. Plants normally begin to crop when about 3 months old and cropping may continue for 9 months or until the first frost. The fruit is ready to pick about 3 weeks after flowering, when they'll be 2 - 3 cm across at their widest part.

Planting Details
Sow When: Sow in early spring in tropical areas, rosellas need at least 5 months frost-free to bear. Rosellas need a very warm soil to germinate, preferably over 25°C. In southern areas of Australia this would be as late as October outside. Some years the soil might take even longer to warm up. So gardeners in cooler areas need to start seed indoors using a small bottom-heat unit, or the top of the water heater.

Planting Depth: Cover seed with 12 mm of fine soil.
Spacing: Plant several seeds 50 cm apart and thin seedlings to the strongest.

Uses
Food: the fleshy calyx is used in salads, jellies, cranberry-like sauces, jam and cordial, syrups and wine. Dried the red calyx is used for tea and it is an important ingredient in the commercial Red Zinger, Hibiscus and Fruit teas. The tea is very similar in flavour to rose-hips and high in vitamin C. Seeds are roasted and ground into flour. Young leaves can be steamed or stir-fried and are known as Red Sorrel in the Pacific.

Hedge: Rosella is an attractive annual hedge or windbreak for the summer garden.

Available as seed: Rosella

How To Grow Rosella & Make It Into Jam?


Fish

what fish eat algae When it comes to the question of “what fish eat algae?” the response is vast because there are so many different types of fish and aquatic animals that will consume various types of algae, the kind you get really depends on your tank and your needs.

The Siamese Algae Eater. These fish are great for eating algae and cleaning out your fish tank because they tend to eat types of algae that other fish don't like, mainly brush algae and thread algae. ... Siamese Algae Eaters are great for community tanks because they tend to be very friendly.

Green Water – This is the first kind of algae you may find and it is actually the rarest of them all, not to mention that it’s the worst too, which is why we’re getting it out of the way. Algae eating fish won’t eat this stuff and it’s very hard to get rid of, often warranting a complete overhaul of your fish tank and the changing of water.

Green Slime – This is perhaps the most common type of aquarium algae, but it’s also the kind that is seen the least by enthusiasts because it is eaten by almost all fish.

Thread Algae – There are various types of hair or thread algae and they all take on the appearance of thin strands that wave about in the current.

Green Dot Algae – This is a very common type of algae that forms in green dots along the glass of your aquarium as well as the fixtures. It isn’t too bad when there is only a little of it, but it can quickly multiply to create a thick layer on the glass. Unfortunately most fish will not eat this algae, and the ones that do won’t have a big effect on it.

Blue/Green Algae – This is also a common type of algae found in fish tanks and is of course blue or green in color. It doesn’t attach well to the surfaces in the aquarium and tends to float around. The real problem with this type of algae is that it is not edible for most kinds of fish due to its toxicity.

As well there are different snails(like the Zebra Nerite Snail) and other creatures that will eat algae all day long too. In our opinion the very best algae eating fish out there is the Twig Catfish.

The Twig Catfish is most likely the best algae eating fish out there, mainly because it has a ravenous appetite and ill consume virtually any type of algae that may appear in your fish tank. This fish is so hungry that if you don’t have enough algae in your fish tank you will have to supplement its diet with algae tablets; that’s how good this fish is!

Something that needs to be noted is that the Twig Catfish does quite well with other peaceful fish such as Rashoras, Pencil Fish, Hatchets, and Tetra Fish. On the other hand they don’t do so well with more aggressive fish such as Barbs and Cichlids.

These fish also don’t do well when there are big changes in the consistency of the water so be careful to keep the water at the same parameters when housing the Twig Catfish. As a base line, the Twig Catfish should be in a tank that is at least 70 liters in size. The question of “what fish eat algae?”, especially the number one choice, is best answered by saying that the Twig Catfish is your number one option.

The Bristlenose Peco is a type of catfish and they are voracious eaters. These things will eat pretty much any type of algae that they can get their sucker mouths on. That being said, of course this fish is a sucker mouth, something which makes them ideal algae eaters. If these fish don’t have enough algae to eat you will need to supplement their diet with algae tablets or other green foods because if they don’t have enough algae to feast on they will begin to eat the plant life in your aquarium.

These fish require water at about 25 degrees Celsius with a pH level of 7, as well the water needs to have a moderate current and be well oxygenated too. The Bristlenose Pleco is nocturnal and therefore likes dark spaces and areas where they can hide under during the daytime.

These fish are also very peaceful and usually don’t cause problems in community tanks unless they are threatened by larger predatory fish. As well, seeing as the Bristlenose can grow to up to 15 cm in length you will need to house this fish in quite a large tank for it to be comfortable.

Common Plecos are sucker mouth fish that will feast on pretty much all types of algae that grows on plants, the substrate, and other aquarium fixtures. One of the most important things to note is that these guys can grow up to 60 cm in length, meaning that they are only ideal for extremely large tanks which are over 300 liters in size.

These fish can be somewhat problematic because they do tend to eat many other smaller fish. Also if they don’t have enough algae to eat they will also begin to eat the plant life in the tank, not to mention that you will most likely need to feed them greens. A good thing about the Common Pleco is that they do very well in a variety of water parameters which makes them easy to house.

On the other hand they can be quite destructive due to their big heads and the ensuing head butts as well as their large tails, often ripping up plant life and substrate. The Common Pleco only does well in tanks with fish of the same size because if a fish fits in its mouth it will most likely eat it.

Malaysian Trumpet Snail: These things are great for eating pretty much all types of algae as well as dead plant, animal, and food debris too. The main thing they are used for is actually to aerate the substrate which is yet another bonus. Malaysian Trumpet snails are good indicators of bad water quality because when the water is bad they will try to head to the top of the aquarium out of the water.

On a side note, these things need to be kept in waters that are fairly high in alkaline levels because they require it to rebuild their shells.

WHAT SUCKER FISH TO CLEAN KOI PONDS? Most sucker fish, or algae eaters, are tropical or semitropical fish from South America. They are not well-adapted to extremely cold water, which is the perfect environment for koi. A few varieties of sucker fish can survive mild winter weather changes, but none will withstand below-freezing temperatures. This means that typical sucker fish are ideal for outdoor ponds only during warm months.

Bristlenose Plecostomus With more than 700 plecos known and more being found regularly, it's tough to say which species would serve a koi pond best. The most commonly known are the bristlenose plecos, of the Ancistrus genus in the Loricariidae family. Ancistrus temminckii is the smallest of the plecostomus family, measuring a maximum of 5 inches. The albino bristlenose pleco is smaller, at a maximum of 4 inches. These fish eat algae and are comfortable in a range of 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They get along with other fish.

Black Japanese Trapdoor Pond Snails
An alternative to sucker fish for outdoor ponds are trapdoor snails. These large, live-bearing snails eat algae and withstand freezing temperatures with ease. These snails also devour decaying fish food, fallen leaves and various other muck from the bottom and sides of the pond. These snails grow to around 3 inches long. Measure the area of the pond and figure one snail for 3 square feet of pond.

DIFFERENCE IN KOI VS. GOLDFISH Koi and goldfish have plenty in common. Their feeding needs are about the same, as are their breeding habits. Both are popular fish for stocking outdoor ponds, and both can be kept indoors. Koi will end up costing you more money, though. Not only do they require filtration systems for the water, they can be priced in the thousands of dollars, whereas goldfish may cost $5 to $50 or even just a little change. They may seem identical, but they have plenty of differences.

Physical Features
Many of the physical characteristics of a fish will help you determine whether you're looking at koi or goldfish. Their dorsal fins differ. Starting at the top, the dorsal fin of the koi is curved out; it's curved in on the goldfish. If that isn't obvious enough, consider the whiskers. Koi have barbels around their mouths and chins, feelers that resemble whiskers, while goldfish have no barbels. The body shapes and sizes of the two fish differ, too. Fully matured goldfish are typically 8 to 12 inches, growing to 16 inches at their largest. Koi that size would be considered very small, as they grow to full sizes of 18 inches to 4 feet. As for body shape, koi are shaped essentially the same; goldfish, on the other hand, can have different tail and body shapes and may have one of three different eye types.

Different Purposes
Goldfish have been kept as pets much longer than koi have. Around 11 A.D., people in southern and central China began breeding them for their beauty and the tranquility and harmony they engender. Koi were initially kept as a source of food because they were easy to raise and care for. Koi farming started in the 1820s in northeastern Japan.

Goldfish in Ponds and Tanks
Goldfish do not have the aeration and filtration requirements that koi do, and the calculation for figuring their water volume needs, whether in a pond or a tank, is based on weight rather than length.

INFORMATION ABOUT KOI & GOLDFISH PONDS Koi and goldfish are closely related. They are both members of the carp family with origins in China more than 2,000 years ago. They have the same dietary and environmental needs and are both easy to care for as long as the water in which they live is maintained within a healthy balance of pH and chemicals, kept clean and clear and the algae strictly controlled.

When stocking your pond for the first time, choose small, juvenile fish since they are far less expensive than full-grown koi. Feed them a high-quality pond fish diet and equip the pond with an efficient filter. Since ponds vary vastly in size, shape, type and depth, it's impossible to come up with a "one size fits all" rule for them, but basically, as long as you keep the natural balances of elements in check by testing the water regularly with test strips and adding chemicals as necessary, you will be able to keep your pond and fish in good health. If you live in an area with wide temperature extremes, such as cold, harsh winters and warm, humid summers, the pond should be very deep so the fish can dive deep to escape colder water and shaded to afford respite from the hot sun. Shading will also keep direct sun off the pond, which is an important strategy in avoiding algae, which can ruin your pond and kill your fish.

Your supplies should include a net for pulling debris or dead fish from the pond and pond decor that affords the fish places to hide. Real plants provide oxygen and keep the pond free of bacteria while helping to fight algae blooms. Provide a stone or gradient for a hapless frog or mouse to use to find its way out if it falls in the water. Use goldfish flakes for smaller fish, and pellets as they grow larger. Invest in a good pond filter, and change the filter and charcoal every three to four months. Add algaecides as necessary to avoid algae or to kill existing algae blooms. If the pond is in proximity of sprinklers that use city water, check the levels of chlorine, nitrites and nitrates in the water on a weekly basis. The presence of a functioning fountain and natural evaporation, however, usually keep chlorine levels in check. Adding a few algae-eaters, two or three for every 10 gallons, will also help keep algae under control.

Do fish eat algae in ponds?
Goldfish and koi eat string algae as well, but they prefer other foods. These fish eat algae during the winter months when the pond is frozen. During that time, goldfish and koi won't eat flake or pellet foods but will nibble gradually at the algae.


Later

Why We Should Be Urban Farming

HOW TO: Turn your lawn into an urban farm

Homegrown Revolution (Award winning short-film 2009)- The Urban Homestead
Urban Homesteading

Profile of an Urban Homesteader


Bugs

Gerridae a family of insects in the order Hemiptera, commonly known as water striders, water bugs, pond skaters, water skippers, or jesus bugs. having the unique ability to walk on water. Gerridae, or water striders, are anatomically built to transfer their weight to be able to run on top of the water's surface. As a result, one could likely find water striders present in any pond, river, or lake.

Water Boatman Water Boatman, aquatic bugs that paddle along the water surface with oarlike hind legs. Water boatmen occur in fresh or brackish water throughout the world. In certain ponds or lakes they may be extremely abundant. About 525 species are known worldwide, 132 in North America.

Like all aquatic bugs, water boatmen lack gills; they breathe air when at the surface of the water. They frequently carry an air bubble on their body surface or under their wings, and draw oxygen from this bubble while they are underwater. Water boatmen can swim rapidly, but they spend long periods clinging to vegetation. Males stridulate, or chirp, to attract mates by rubbing their forelegs against their head.


Water Boatman, Backswimmer

Most water boatmen eat algae and minute aquatic organisms. Some are predaceous and feed on mosquito larvae and other small aquatic animals; in this way, they help to control aquatic pests. In turn, they are important prey for many larger aquatic animals. Their broad beak or mouth allows them to ingest solid food particles as well as liquids; other true bugs are able to ingest only liquids. Unlike many other aquatic bugs, water boatman will not bite people.

Water boatmen are sometimes confused with backswimmers, which are generally larger bugs that swim upside down and deliver a painful bite. Water-boatmen eggs are used as food in Mexico and some other parts of the world. Eggs are collected from aquatic plants, dried, and ground into flour.


Opossums

This One Photo Will Make You See Opossums in a Whole New Light Opossums are very misunderstood in more than one way. For example, they are not rodents, like many people believe, but marsupials – and they are the only marsupials in North America at that! (You would think that should gain them at least a little bit of respect, right?) That also means that, just like kangaroos, possum mothers carry their babies in their pouches and, when they are born, little opossums are perfectly tiny and hairless. But when the time comes to leave mom’s pouch, those little fellows are already completely different – and, first of all, seriously fluffy.

WildCare, a wildlife rehabilitation and education center, is currently taking care of its first litter of little opossums of the spring – and the tiniest one of the siblings is a perfect illustration of how cute opossums can be! Just the sight of this little face will hopefully make anyone abandon their ideas of opossums being dirty and ugly – and make them start seeing these little marsupials as the wonderful animals that they really are.


Opossums are remarkable animals and it is senseless to think that they don’t deserve to have a great life just because of our strange prejudices against them. What is more, these animals have many qualities we simply overlook – like their great adaptability, strong immune system, use of trickery to survive danger – and they actually often help us out – by eating garden pests, venomous snakes (since they are immune to their venom), and destroying ticks.


Yarrow

Five Reasons to Grow Yarrow Yarrow is a flowering herb with many uses medicinally and in the permaculture garden. Here are 5 reasons why you will benefit from growing yarrow.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to the dry, disturbed soils of prairies, meadows, and the edges of forest in the northern hemisphere. This perennial grows best in hardiness zones 3-9. Like many other prairie plants, its deep, fibrous roots enjoy absorbing water in my rain garden. It will grow to 36-inches high and produce white flowers. Other varieties produce pink, yellow, red, or orange flowers.

Even if you don’t grow yarrow in your garden, it is a fun herb to forage for. The fern-like foliage of yarrow can be spotted in sunny, cleared areas.

Here are five reasons why I enjoy growing yarrow in my garden.

1. Yarrow Accumulates Nutrients (Fertilizer)

Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator. According to Edible Forest Gardens, its deep roots mine the subsoil for potassium, phosphorus, and copper, making yarrow a nutrient-rich mulch.

Fruit trees: Because of its ability to fertilize, yarrow is often grown in fruit tree guilds to enhance fruit production.

Mulch & Compost: Yarrow can also be chopped and used as mulch around the garden, or added to the compost bin to boost its nutrient content.

Food Forests

In a food forest, where edible perennials like tall nut trees have recently been planted, it will be important to protect the soil until the trees have matured. A mixed cover crop can be used in this less-visited area to build soil, mine minerals, break up compacted soil, and attract beneficial insects.

In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway suggests a mixture of the following, which would only need mowed once or twice per year:

clovers
annual rye
yarrow
dill
fennel
daikon radish

For more about food forests, see Benefits of the Edible Forest Garden.

Would you like to learn more about using herbs like yarrow to improve the biodiversity of your garden, reduce maintenance, and increase yield?

You’ll find loads of information just like this in my book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.

Clean up Lead Contamination

Yarrow mines copper from the subsoil which is an important micronutrient for plant growth and an essential amendment for acidic soils. According to Gaia’s Garden, however, plants that mine for copper can also concentrate lead if it is present in the soil, “such as along the foundation of old houses where lead-based paint may have weathered”. A simple and inexpensive soil test can inform you about contaminated soil.

This is why yarrow and many other accumulators of copper and zinc are used to clean up lead-contaminated sites: The lead concentrates in the plants, which are dug up at the end of each season (roots and all) and disposed of. It may take more than one season to remove all of the lead, and regular soil tests are important. Because the leaves may be toxic in lead-contaminated sites, it would be important to NOT use these plants for mulching, medicinal, edible, or craft purposes.

2. Yarrow Attracts Beneficial Insects & Pollinators

Yarrow, with its white, yellow, or pink flowers, attracts many types of pollinators in search of nectar while it blooms summer through early fall. A wealth of beneficial insects such as lacewings, parasitoid wasps, ground beetles, spiders, ladybugs, and hoverflies find habitat for egg-laying or refuge for overwintering in the fern-like foliage. According to Carrots Love Tomatoes, yarrow emits a pungent odor that repels pests, and is therefore a boon to grow near pest-prone gardens.

3. Yarrow makes a good Ground Cover

If left to its own devices, yarrow will grow to about 3-feet high, producing flowers throughout the summer. However, yarrow can be grown as a running ground cover that can handle light foot traffic if it is mowed a few times a year (according to Edible Forest Gardens). Yarrow may not flower if it has been cut, but the beneficial insects will still be able to utilize the foliage for refuge.

4. Yarrow has Medicinal Uses

The flower and the upper portions of leaf and stem have many medicinal uses, making yarrow an important herb to have in your medicinal garden.

A yarrow tea can help to reduce a fever and a yarrow poultice can calm the inflammation and soreness of a bruise.

Yarrow has many first aid uses such as stopping bleeding, or as a general first aid remedy for calming and healing rashes, bug bites, bee stings, cuts, and burns.

According to Homegrown Herbs, the yellow flowers should not be taken internally, such as in teas, tinctures, elixirs, syrup, or honey. Only white or pink flower yarrows should be used for internal medicine. Also be aware that yarrow should not be taken internally by pregnant women.

5. Yarrow is Edible & Crafty

Individual flowers are edible, and Homegrown Herbs suggests using them for a confetti effect in cookie batter.

The dried cut flowers also make beautiful wreaths and dried bouquets.

Useful or not, yarrow is a joy to have in the garden!

Yarrow Care – Growing Yarrow Herb In Your Garden While often sold as a flowering perennial, yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium) is actually an herb. Whether you decide to grow yarrow in your flower beds or in your herb garden, it’s still a lovely addition to your yard. Yarrow care is so easy that the plant is virtually care-free. Let’s take a look at how to plant yarrow and also tips for how to grow yarrow.

How to Plant Yarrow

Yarrow is most often propagated by division, so chances are you’ll buy your yarrow as a plant. Space your plants 12 to 24 inches apart if you’re planting more than one yarrow plant.

You can also start your yarrow herb from seed. Start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Sow the seeds in moist, normal potting soil. The seeds should just barely be covered by the potting soil. Place the pot with the yarrow seeds in a sunny and warm location.

The seeds should germinate in 14 to 21 days, depending on the conditions. You can speed up the germination by covering the top of the pot with plastic wrap to keep in moisture and heat. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds have sprouted.

Regardless of whether your yarrow plants are grown from seed or bought as full plants, you will want to plant them in full sun. They thrive in a wide variety of soils but do best in well drained soil. Yarrow plant will even grow in very poor dry soils with low fertility soil.

Some caution should be taken when growing yarrow, as in the right conditions, it can become invasive and will then be in need of control.

How to Grow Yarrow

Once you have planted your yarrow, it needs little care. It doesn’t need to be fertilized and only needs to be watered during times of severe drought.

While yarrow needs little care, it is susceptible to a few diseases and pests. Most commonly, plants will be affected by either botrytis mold or powdery mildew. These will both appear as a white powdery covering on the leaves. Both can be treated with a fungicide. Yarrow plants are also occasionally affected by spittlebugs.

YARROW: HOW TO PLANT, GROW, AND CARE FOR YARROW Yarrow is a hardy perennial with showy flower heads composed of many tiny, tightly-packed flowers. Their fern-like leaves are often aromatic. Yarrows are easy to care for and versatile: they are good for borders, rock gardens, or wildflower meadows. These flowers are excellent for cutting or drying.

PLANTING

Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil in your garden to about 12 to 15 inches deep, then mix in a 2– to 4–inch layer of compost.

Plant in the spring in well-drained, average to poor soil. Yarrows thrive in hot, dry conditions; they will not tolerate wet soil. If you grow yarrows in rich soil, the plants may require stalking because the rich soil encourages growth.

Space the plants 1 to 2 feet apart. They are quick to establish and spread, though some species, like Achillea millefolium, are invasive, so be careful when choosing your plants. Most kinds grow to be about 2 to 4 feet tall.

CARE

Remember to add a thin layer of compost, followed by a 2–inch layer of mulch around your plants each spring.

If you receive less than 1 inch of rain a week in the summer, remember to water your plants regularly.

Divide yarrow plants every 3 to 5 years. Lift the clumps of flowers in early spring or fall and remove any dead stems from the center of the clump. You can replant the divisions in well-prepared soil.

If you plant yarrows from tip cuttings, plant them in spring or early summer.

PESTS/DISEASES

Aphids
Powdery mildew
Rust
Stem rot

RECOMMENDED VARIETIES

Coronation Gold, for its beautiful mustard-yellow flowers and silvery gray leaves

Fanal (“The Beacon”), for its rich red flowers with yellow centers

Cerise Queen, to add some bright pink color to your garden

WIT & WISDOM

Native Americans used ground yarrow infused in water as a wash to treat sunburns. It is also sometimes used as a remedy for anxiety and stress.

Yarrow is thought to symbolize everlasting love.


Chicory [Cichorium intybus]

Chicory Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink. Many varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and is now common in North America, China, and Australia, where it has become widely naturalized. "Chicory" is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia); these two closely related species are often confused.

Common chicory is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, and wild endive.

Wild chicory leaves usually have a bitter taste. Their bitterness is appreciated in certain cuisines, such as in the Ligurian and Apulian regions of Italy and also in southern part of India along with coffee, in Catalonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

In Ligurian cuisine, wild chicory leaves are an ingredient of preboggion and in Greek cuisine of horta; in the Apulian region, wild chicory leaves are combined with fava bean puree in the traditional local dish fave e cicorie selvatiche. in Albania, the leaves are used as a spinach substitute, mainly served simmered and marinated in olive oil, or as ingredient for fillings of byrek.

By cooking and discarding the water, the bitterness is reduced, after which the chicory leaves may be sautéed with garlic, anchovies, and other ingredients. In this form, the resulting greens might be combined with pasta[14] or accompany meat dishes.

History

The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance").

In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importation of coffee into Prussia leading to the development of a coffee-substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were 22 to 24 factories of this type in Brunswick. Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779 as the "chicoree", which the French cultivated as a pot herb.

In Napoleonic Era France, chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee, or as a coffee substitute.

Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.

The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.

In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. By the 1840s, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee (after New York). Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans, thereby creating a long-standing tradition.

A common meal in Rome, puntarelle, is made with chicory sprouts.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that Chicory is a native plant of western Asia, North Africa and Europe.

Cichorium intybus has been declared an invasive species in several states in the USA.

Information On How To Grow Chicory Chicory plant (Cichorium intybus) is an herbaceous biennial that is not native to the United States but has made itself at home. The plant can be found growing wild in many areas of the U.S. and is used both for its leaves and its roots. Chicory herb plants are easy to grow in the garden as a cool season crop. Seeds and transplants are the primary means of growing chicory.

There are two types of chicory plant. Whitloof is grown for the large root, which is used to make a coffee supplement. It can also be forced to use the tender white leaves called Belgian endive. Radicchio is grown for the leaves, which may be in a tight head or a loosely packed bunch. Radicchio is best harvested very young before it turns bitter.

Planting Chicory

Seeds can be started indoors five to six weeks before they are moved outdoors.

In warm climates, sowing outdoors or transplanting occurs September through March.

Planting chicory in cooler climates should be done three to four weeks before the danger of frost has passed.

Sow chicory seeds 6 to 10 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. You can always thin the plants if they crowd each other but close planting discourages weeds.

The seeds are planted ¼ inch deep and thinning is done when the plants have three to four true leaves.

You can also sow a crop for fall harvest if you choose a variety that has an early maturation date. Planting chicory seed 75 to 85 days before anticipated harvest will ensure a late crop.

Chicory herb plants that are to be forced for blanched leaves will need to have the roots dug up before the first frost. Cut the leaves to 1 inch and store the roots for three to seven weeks in the refrigerator before forcing. Plant the roots individually after chilling to force the leaves to grow in a tight, blanched head.

How to Grow Chicory

Learning how to grow chicory is similar to learning how to grow most lettuces or greens. The cultivation is very similar. Chicory requires well drained soil with plenty of organic matter.

It performs best when temperatures are below 75 degrees F. (24 C.).

Extended care of the chicory crop requires vigilant weeding and a mulch to prevent moisture loss and further weed growth. Chicory plant requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week or enough to keep the soil evenly moist and reduce the chance of drought stress.

The herb is fertilized with ¼-cup of nitrogen based fertilizer such as a 21-0-0 per 10 feet of row. This is applied approximately 4 weeks after transplant or once the plants have been thinned.

Herb to Know: Chicory Hardy perennial. Chicory, also known as succory, blue-sailors and ragged-sailors, is a hardy perennial native to Eurasia but was transplanted and now grows naturally throughout North America, south to Florida and west to California. It is common along roadsides and in other wild, untamed areas, especially in limestone soils. All species in the genus Cichorium are native to Eurasia. The words chicory, succory, Cichorium and intybus are all derived from Greek or Latin names for the herb.

Chicory resembles dandelion in its deep taproot and rosette of toothed basal leaves; unlike dandelion, it puts up a stiff, hairy flower stalk clothed sparsely with small, clasping leaves. Stalks may grow 2 to 5 feet tall and branch several times. Stalkless flower heads 1 1/2 inches wide form singly or in twos or threes in the axils of the stem leaves in midsummer. They are clear blue (or, rarely, pink or white) and consist of 16 to 20 strap-like, toothed ray flowers.

Blossoms are primarily bee-pollinated and open early in the morning and close about five hours later.

Linnaeus, observing this tendency, planted chicory in his floral clock in Uppsala, Sweden. (There, the flowers opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 10 a.m.) Flowers may stay open longer on cloudy days. The herbalist Mrs. C.F. Leyel has observed that “the lovely blue color of the petals is changed into a brilliant red by the acid of ants, if placed on an ant-hill.” The plant tops make a dyestuff that produces a variety of colorfast yellows and greens, depending on the mordant used. In the language of flowers, chicory symbolizes frugality.

The second-century physician Galen called chicory a “friend of the liver,” and contemporary research has shown that it can increase the flow of bile, which could be helpful in treating gallstones. Laboratory research also has shown root extracts to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. They also slow and weaken the pulse and lower blood sugar. Leaf extracts have similar, though weaker, effects.


Winecup [Callirhoe involucrata]

Winecup A hardy, drought tolerant, sprawling perennial native to Texas and the central United States. The numerous trailing stems spread vine-like over the ground originating from a carrot­like tuber.

The magnificent dark purple­red or wine colored flowers are numerous found at the end of slender stems. The flowers close each evening and remain permanently shut after pollination. The stems and leaves of the entire plant die back in the heat of summer and should be trimmed to promote fall growth.

Easy to grow from seed, or can be started from the carrot­like tuber. Prefers full sun in gravelly or sandy soils.

Suggested use: Rock gardens, borders, wooden barrels, hanging baskets, meadows.

Miscellaneous: Keeping the faded or pollinated blooms picked will prolong the growing season. The trailing stems do not root as one might expect.

Average Planting Success: 70%
Height: 6---18 inches
Germination: 28---56 days
Optimum Soil Temp. for Germination: 68°F--­80°F
Sowing Depth: 1/8"
Blooming Period: February----July
Seeds/Pkt: 75


Planting Time References

White Flower Farm See plant descr. then click on Growing guide

West Coast Seeds see plant descr. then go to Growing Guides

Johnny's Select Seeds


Timing

Plant Hardiness:

By Zip 1st freeze 11/12... last freeze 3/20

USDA 8b 1st freeze 12/1... last freeze 3/1

Rainbow Gardening by the Month



Wasps etc.

Help! I’ve got Paper Wasps The most popular nesting site for paper wasps around here is in the eaves of a house. When the nest is by a door people tend to get uneasy.

Take a chill pill

Don’t panic! Paper wasps are extremely docile and rarely sting. Most importantly, paper wasps are a beneficial insect. They eat beetle larvae, caterpillars, flies and nectar (making them pollinators). They are your friends in the garden.


About the only way you can get stung by a paper wasp is to grasp one. I did this inadvertently once when I reached behind a fence. Keeping bees, I’m well aware of what a honeybee sting feels like. The paper wasp sting was, initially, sharper than a honeybee sting but the pain dissipated quickly.

Paper wasp control

If you don’t want a paper wasp colony next to a door or window it’s best to get rid of the colony early in the season. You can knock it down with a stream of water from a hose or with a long pole. Make sure you have an exit route planned! They will no longer be peaceable after you do this.

Most importantly, after you knock down the nest (a good while after, of course, after they’ve calmed down), oil the location where they were with cooking oil or furniture oil so they can’t attach a new nest in that spot. You can also buy poison at the hardware store but who’s a fan of poison!? It’s really unnecessary. If you have a bee suit you can put it on and remove the colony with a gloved hand. But the best option is to leave them in place so that they can eat all those nasty flies, beetles and caterpillars. A wasp colony makes your yard a healthier, more balanced place.

Also, as you decide what to do with the nest on your house, keep in mind the fact that the colony will dissipate come winter. They will produce a young queen who will move elsewhere, and the remaining workers will die off. In other words, if you can wait until cold weather, your wasp problem will solve itself. Then you can knock down the old nest and grease the area so they don’t revisit that spot.


Chickens

My life with backyard chickens Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair) Living / Lawn & Garden July 19, 2017


It's been one month since my new little flock arrived, and we've had some unexpected excitement.

I am now a proud chicken owner. Every morning I let my hens out of their little coop into a fenced-in area, where they spend their day foraging for bugs, sleeping in the grass, and flying up to their favorite vantage point on the coop’s roof to watch the goings-on. By 9 p.m., they’ve marched up the ramp into their home and nestled in for the night; all I do is shut the door, and the cycle starts again next morning.

It’s only been a month since I got these hens, but their arrival was long awaited. The process began last fall when I asked town council to allow backyard chickens – a request that was met with great controversy among councillors and the general public. Passionate speeches were given on both sides of the debate and argumentative letters were published in the local paper, but finally approval was granted – a two-year pilot project, with a maximum of 5 hens and no roosters.

I ordered my birds from a farmer in Kincardine, Ontario, who raises a rare heritage breed called Chantecler. These are a truly Canadian breed of chicken, developed by a monk in Quebec in the early 1900s who wanted a dual-purpose bird (useful for both eggs and meat) that would be highly resistant to cold. The Livestock Conservancy writes [http://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/chantecler]:

“From the French ‘chanter,’ “to sing,” and ‘clair,’ “bright,” the Chantecler is the first Canadian breed of chicken. Under the supervision of Brother Chatelain, the monks of the Cistercian Abbey in Oka, Quebec [home to the delicious cheese of the same name], sought to create, ‘a fowl of vigorous and rustic temperament that could resist the climatic conditions of Canada, a general purpose fowl.’ Although work began on this breed in 1908, it was not introduced to the public until 1918, and admitted to the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection in 1921.”

Chanteclers, I’ve discovered, are quite shy. They keep their distance and resist being caught for daily cuddling, much to my young son’s chagrin, but once held in his arms, they settle right down. We got ours at 3 months of age, so they look like full-grown feathered hens, though not so big and not yet laying eggs. Hopefully, they’ll start producing by September.

The most amusing part of this adventure, so far, has been the accidental acquisition of a rooster. One week after arrival, one of our ‘hens’ began crowing every morning as soon as she (he?) exited the coop. My instinct, as a newbie farmer, was to turn to Google, where I learned that dominant hens do occasionally crow if there’s no rooster present. (I also sent the farmer an email.) But as the crows grew louder, longer, and more numerous in the mornings, I became suspicious. When the farmer replied, she said, no, she’d never known a Chantecler hen to crow; and so, very sadly, I had to return my magnificent chanticleer to his former home. Now the remaining four hens cluck quietly and softly all day long and I miss the rooster’s cheerful morning greeting.

Another challenge has been wrapping my head around how much they poop. People had warned me, but until I was actually cleaning out their coop every few days and seeing the waste lying around the fenced-in yard, I didn’t understand how ‘efficient’ they would be! Daily rain hasn’t helped either, turning their yard to slick mud. I’ve since learned about the “deep litter” method and am trying to toss as much organic matter as possible into their yard, in an effort to recreate a soft, interesting forest floor for them – a sot of “living compost heap” that will break down the waste more quickly.

The chickens are an endless source of delight to my children, who have never owned a pet before. Even my husband, who resisted their arrival, is growing quite fond of “the girls,” as he calls them. They’re part of the family already, and will be for many years.

Why I want backyard chickens Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair) Living / Green Food October 24, 2016


From the freshest possible eggs to rich compost to pets with personality, keeping backyard chickens would be a fun and educational foray in urban agriculture

I have wanted to get backyard chickens for years. It seems like the logical next step toward getting as close as possible to the source of my family’s food, and it would satisfy my children’s longing for a real, live pet. The only problem is convincing the local town council that urban chickens are a good idea; but now the time has come. Council will vote on the matter soon, and I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts on why this is important.

Eggs

You can’t beat eggs straight from the coop. These are as fresh as they get, sometimes still warm when you collect them. They have not lingered on a refrigerated shelf, which means they pack a nutritional punch that puts factory-farmed eggs to shame. There’s an estimated 2/3 more vitamin A, double the omega-3s, 3x more vitamin E, 4x more vitamin D, and 7x more beta-carotene (via Toronto Chickens). [http://torontochickens.com/]


Waste

Chicken manure is rich in nitrogen and is an excellent fertilizer. It can be stored in a compost bin, layered with leftover leaves, and will break down into wonderful compost to feed a vegetable garden and lawn. The egg shells can be composted or added to the garden or the chickens’ diet as a source of calcium and a pest deterrent. With a recommended limit of 5 chickens per yard, the amount of waste would be entirely manageable.

Noise & Space

Chickens are quiet, apart from the occasional squawk of delight they let out upon laying an egg. Without a rooster, a small flock of hens emits soft clucking throughout the day, but goes to sleep as soon as it gets dark, meaning there’s no nighttime noise. They require minimal space and can be contained within a pen for grazing.

Pest & Scrap Control

Chickens are great for keeping pests under control. They will eat slugs, beetles, ticks, spiders, and grasshoppers. They can function as a 'chicken tractor', preparing the soil in the most natural way possible, pecking at weeds, eating pests, and preparing it for planting.

In addition, chickens would eat a substantial portion of household food scraps, converting it into another food source for my family and minimizing the amount of waste that I compost or put out for curbside pickup.


Heritage Breeds

Not all chicken breeds are the same. Different breeds have different personalities; some are quieter than others, and some will do better in Ontario’s cold winter climate. It is an opportunity to preserve genetic diversity by choosing unusual, rare birds that are not typically used in mass egg production. Another possibility is to adopt rescued birds that have been removed from battery cages because of falling egg production.

Good for Kids & Elderly

Chickens are considered therapeutic and calming for kids with autism and elderly people with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. My own children would benefit from the responsibility of caring for living animals. Chickens will respond positively, too. From Natural Living Ideas:

“Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between over 100 human or animal faces? They love to play, they dream, they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great mothers – they talk to their chicks while still in the egg, and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.”

Something that surprised me when my family kept chickens years ago was how attached the hens became to their keepers, such as my brothers, who fed them and let them out daily, and my father, whom they ran to greet whenever he came home from work. These quirky little birds are surprisingly intelligent and friendly.

SA Animal Care Services Did you know that it shall be unlawful for any person to keep livestock in the city without first applying in writing and obtaining a livestock permit (Chapter 5. Sec. 5-114.).

Did you know that the total number of domestic fowl and livestock allowed at a residence is five which may include: (Chatper 5. Sec. 5-109)

Up to three domestic fowl (chickens, roosters, etc.) and

Up to two animals from the following classes of livestock (with a livestock permit):

Equines
Bovines
Sheep
Goats
Llamas

A chicken tractor on steroids: Using chickens to build your soil Sami Grover (@samigrover) Science / Sustainable Agriculture August 23, 2016

Flat pack urban chicken coop lets you raise chickens on your balcony Kimberley Mok (@kimberleymok) Design / Sustainable Product Design March 13, 2014

Modular all-in-one chicken coop & garden composts too Kimberley Mok (@kimberleymok) Design / Sustainable Product Design February 11, 2014

Clever Tunnel System Makes Chickens Do The Gardening (Video)


Image credit: Ecofilms Australia

We've already seen how one farmer trains her chickens to eat slugs, and the internet is full of examples of chicken tractors... But one Australian permaculturist has taken this idea to the next level—designing an intricate system of "chook tunnels" that let him funnel his ladies into any part of his garden. The amount of work that these creatures can do is actually quite amazing.

Raising Chickens 6-part series. a beginner’s guide in 6 chapters. We’ll talk about how to get started raising chickens, choosing a chicken breed, building a coop, raising chicks, chicken care, collecting and storing eggs, and more. The author, Elizabeth Creith, has fifteen years of experience keeping chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys on her farm in Northern Ontario.

Once you’ve eaten farm-fresh eggs, it’s hard to go back to grocery store eggs. Fresh farm eggs, free-range or not, are delicious, with bright yolks and firm whites. Give your hens ground oyster shell or a similar calcium supplement, available at farm suppliers, for strong eggshells.

You’ll want to collect eggs every morning; hens cackling loudly are a sign or clue that they’re laying. I usually have another look in the afternoon, as well.

Oddly enough, chickens like to eat eggs as much as we do. Most egg-eaters learn on broken eggs and then begin to break eggs themselves. Chickens are opportunists and will pick at whatever looks edible. If you clean up broken eggs immediately and throw out any “eggy” straw or shavings, you can prevent egg-eating. A chicken that learns this habit can’t be cured, and others may follow her lead. You don’t want the chickens eating your eggs—you want them yourself!

You can tell what color eggs a hen will lay by the color of her ear. Yes, her ear. Birds don’t have external ears like humans do, so look for a small circle or oval of skin on the side of the head, next to the ear hole. If it’s white, your hen will lay white eggs; if it’s red, she’ll lay brown ones. There’s no difference in flavor or nutrition, but white eggs show the dyes more brightly at Easter! (Especially natural dyes, as pictured here.)

Eggshells have a “bloom,” a natural coating that protects the egg from bacteria. Avoid washing your eggs if you can; instead, wipe with a dry, rough cloth.

Always use warm water; cold water will make the egg shrink inside the shell and will draw in bacteria.

Let eggs air-dry thoroughly before putting them away.

Put them in dated egg cartons, and store them in the fridge on a shelf—not the door, where they will get jostled with every opening/closing. For partial cartons, I mark each egg in pencil with the day it was collected. Fresh eggs are good for a month in the refrigerator.

A cooking tip: To make deviled eggs, use week-old or older eggs, not this morning’s. The shells of really fresh eggs stick and don’t peel cleanly.

Farm chickens can live 4 to 7 years and lay eggs for most of that time. Every year they go “off-lay” (stop laying eggs) for several months. This happens over the winter, when there’s too little daylight to trigger egg-laying. They’ll begin again in the spring.

RAISING CHICKENS 101: HOW TO GET STARTED Be sure you’re ready to commit! Here’s the first post of a six-part beginner’s guide to raising chickens. Let’s “start from scratch,” so to speak.

There’s a lot to like about raising chickens. The eggs are a real temptation—tastier and fresher than any store eggs and better for baking, too. The shells, along with the chicken poop, can be tossed right into the compost pile. Much of the day, the birds entertain themselves, picking at grass, worms, beetles, and all of the good things that go into making those yummy farm eggs.

Remember, though: Nothing good comes easy.

PREPARATION FOR RAISING CHICKENS

You’ll need a chicken coop. It has to hold a feeder and water containers and a nest box for every three hens. It should be large enough that you can stand in it to gather eggs and shovel manure. Here’s HOW TO BUILD A CHICKEN COOP in your backyard.

Chickens need food (and water) daily. Feed is about $20 per 50-pound bag at my co-op; how long a bag lasts depends on the number of chickens that you have.

Hens will lay through spring and summer and into the fall, as long as they have 12 to 14 hours of daylight. Expect to collect eggs daily, or even twice a day.

All year ‘round, you’ll have to shovel manure.

If you go away, you need a reliable chicken-sitter, and they are scarcer than hens’ teeth.

HOW TO RAISE CHICKENS

Chickens are sociable, so plan to keep four to six birds. They’ll need space—at least 2 square feet of coop floor per bird. The more space, the happier and healthier the chickens will be; overcrowding contributes to disease and feather picking.

The birds will need a place to spread their wings, so to speak: a 20x5-foot chicken run, for example, or a whole backyard. (My hens had lots of outdoor time. They had places to take a dust bath and catch a few rays.) Either way, the space must be fenced to keep the chickens in and predators out. (Did you know? Predators include your own Fido and Fluffy.) Add chicken-wire fencing and posts or T-bars to support it to your list of equipment.

All of this costs money. The materials to build and furnish a coop and a 20x5-foot run are going to set you back $300 to $400. If you can’t do this work yourself, you’ll also be buying skilled labor. Want to increase your flock? Young chicks need a brooder lamp for warmth, but don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.

CHOOSING CHICKEN BREEDS When it comes to choosing your chickens, there are more breeds than you can shake an eggbeater at. One of the delights of this step is learning some of the types of chickens and their names: Silkie, Showgirl, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Rosecomb, Redcap, and Russian Orloff, to name a few.

Some things that you’ll want to consider include the number and color of eggs produced, the breed’s temperament, its noise level, and its adaptability to confinement. If you can’t let your chickens range free, the confinement factor is important for a happy, healthy flock. Noise level really matters if you do not reside in the country. Some sources advise against mixing ages, but I’ve never had trouble with older birds picking on younger ones.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/61220876162564034/

Most varieties thrive in all climates, although some have special needs: Phoenix and Minorcas chickens need heat, for example, and Brahmas and Chanteclers chickens prefer cool conditions.

Every breed produces eggs, even the so-called ornamental breeds, but egg size and production vary. Medium-production layers are plenty for a family. Bantam chicken eggs are small; to complement their yolks, you’ll need more whites than most angel food cake recipes call for.

I kept Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks, both of which are usually available from a local hatchery. These are docile, not particularly noisy, high-laying, dual-purpose chicken breeds that take confinement well. They gave me 75 percent egg production—that is, a dozen chickens produced nine eggs a day while they were laying.

Another favorite of mine is the Jersey Giant. It is black or white, and large. (My black Jersey Giant rooster was 16 inches at the saddle!) The hens are medium- rather than high-laying chickens, but the eggs are larger than those of the Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red. This breed is calm and docile but needs more room because of its size.

Araucanas are flighty (not docile), but they thrive in almost any climate, take confinement well, and are quiet. If you want to make them more calm and docile, try hypnotizing them (and no, we’re not kidding!) Plus, the green-shelled eggs are a novelty. (One of my Rhode Island Red hens mated with an Araucana cock and gave me a hen that laid olive eggs!)

My dream team would include Easter Eggers. (Yes, that’s really the breed name!) They’re similar in temperament to Araucanas and lay blue or green eggs. It may take me a while to track them down, but—hey!—the dream team is worth it.

HOW TO BUILD A CHICKEN COOP First, decide on the size. You will need 2 square feet of floor space per chicken, and one nest box for every three hens. Nest boxes should be about a foot square. For larger breeds such as Jersey Giants, allow an additional square foot of floor space per bird. Learn more about the sizes of different chicken breeds to figure out which size chicken coop is right for you.

Sketch the chicken coop on paper, with measurements. (Don’t know where to start? Check the plans for any size of flock here.)

Small Chicken Coop Designs & Pictures of Chicken Coops

It might also be helpful to mark the ground where the coop will be erected, taking into consideration its location relative to the sun (southern exposure ensures greater warmth and sunlight); any nearby structures (will you attach it to a garage or barn?); and the need for a run, fenced or not (more on that in a moment). Build your coop and run on high ground to avoid battling water and mud problems!

Do not forget to include a door and a floor in the plans. A door can be as simple as a piece of plywood on a frame of 1-by-2s, with hinges and a simple latch—make it large enough for you to enter and exit easily with eggs in hand or a basket.

A dirt floor is perfectly adequate. However, if you build a wooden floor, plan to raise it 6 inches off the ground. A third option is poured concrete, if your time and budget allow. Also consider whether you will bring electricity into the coop: A low-watt bulb will prolong the day during winter months and keep egg production figures constant.

Coop ventilation is more important than insulation. Plan to have openings near the ceiling for air circulation. (While chickens enjoy moderate—around 55°F—temperatures, ours survived nicely in the barn through –40°F winters. Their feathers kept them warm.) Also plan to install a couple of 1½-inch dowels across the upper part of the coop; this will enable the chickens to roost off the floor at night.

SPRING CLEANING THE (HEN) HOUSE April is the beginning of the busy season for me. The snow is gone and the garden beckons but the first thing that I do in the spring is clean out the hen house.

Once a year, the chicken coop needs to be thoroughly cleaned; shoveled, swept, vacuumed and washed. Everything in it comes out and gets scrubbed down before being allowed back in.

I put a few nesting boxes under the coop outside so the girls have a place to lay their eggs. Then I shut their door to the outside—so they can’t get back inside. They don’t like it much, but this thorough cleaning is a major key to the health and well-being of the chickens.

Chickens are dusty. Their scratch and peck habit constantly agitates the floor and the dust bunnies land in all the crevices and on all the flat surfaces of the coop. So, after everything vacates the premises, I shovel the used bedding into the compost pile, sweep the cobwebs, windowsills and shelves, vacuum the entire building and power-wash the whole place.

I hand scrape all of the leftover poop on the floor and throw in a bucket of sudsy water treated with a half bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Spreading it all around with a broom, I make sure that the soapy water gets all over the floor. Then it’s rinse, rinse, rinse. If the smell isn’t gone after one application, I give it another. It’s really important to get the odor out even though it will be coming right back in a few short days.

The nesting boxes also get scrubbed down as do all of the containers, lights, feeders and any other paraphernalia. Everything gets set out to dry and I sit for a few minutes. This is my most physical day of the year. It’s a big job and I always get at least some help.

When everything is dry, it all goes back into the coop. Two bales of new wood shavings are placed on the floor and the nesting boxes are returned to their shelves. Now the girls can get back to business!

I plant lettuce every ten days to two weeks all summer long as it gets bitter when it gets big and it’s my husband’s favorite crop. I get the whole bed ready, but just plant one section marking the area with a shell.

Raising Chickens 101 The final chapter in our Raising Chickens series is what to do when your chicken stops laying eggs or suffers from illness and pain. Yes, this is the cycle of life and an unfortunate responsibility that comes with the job of raising chickens.

10+ Photos Proving That Hens Are The Best Moms In The Animal Kingdom

Hen and her piglet ~ Hen and her kitttens

Gertrude adopts Rhea chicks ~ Hen adopts puppy

Hen And Dog ~ Hilda The Hen Hatches Clutch Of Ducklings After Sitting On Wrong Nest And Now They're Her Babies

Mother Hen And Her Pigeons ~ Hen And Her Kittens

Hen Taking Care Of Kittens During Storm ~ My Cat Had Kittens In The Chicken Coop. When She Is Away, A Nesting Hen Babysits For Her



Ducks

Why Ducks are better than chickens?
Ducks from the better-laying breeds and strains can lay well enough to earn their keep for years. ... Ducks tend to lay eggs that are bigger than chicken eggs from a breed of equivalent size. Some dual-purpose duck breeds (such as Anconas) lay eggs that are very big for the size of the bird.

Ducks Vs. Chickens Deppe is a duck-lover at heart. In the following excerpt from The Resilient Gardener, she explains that ducks are easy to herd, have routine egg laying hours, and are superior to chickens in terms of pest control. However, she concedes that chickens are more readily available, usually cheaper to purchase, and are a better confinement animal, which is an important factor if space is an issue.

The most ecologically well-adapted livestock for the maritime Northwest is the duck. The best-laying duck breeds lay better than the best-laying chicken breeds. Ducks can free-range year-round in our region. Ducks forage much more of their diets than chickens and eat a larger variety of natural foods common here. Ducks eat snails and slugs, and are better for yard and garden pest control. Ducks love our weather. (I should perhaps mention my biases. I’ve kept five breeds of chickens, two breeds of geese, and seven breeds of ducks. The ducks are my favorites, especially Ancona ducks, and at this point, I keep only a flock of thirty-two Ancona ducks. But I like chickens too.)

~

Ducks are easy to herd. You can use one or two herding staffs, or you can just walk behind the ducks with your hands extended sideways, making scooping motions in the direction you want the ducks to go and saying, “Let’s go, ducks.”

In Asia, the free-range egg industry is based upon ducks that are kept in secure permanent quarters at night and herded to various separate foraging areas during the day. Since chickens can’t be herded, the night pen or house usually needs to be in or adjacent to the foraging area. To rotate chicken forage, you move their house, which must be portable. To rotate duck forage, you just herd the ducks to a different spot during the day, leaving their permanent pen in its permanent spot.

Climate Considerations

In many areas free-range chicken eggs are only seasonal, but free-range duck eggs are year-round. Here in the maritime Northwest, the free-range duck is happy foraging outdoors the entire year, and ducks of appropriate breeds are good winter layers. Ducks delight in cold rain. Chickens are so miserable in cold rain and use so much energy keeping warm that they either don’t lay or their egg production isn’t economical. The duck is the only way to get economical, year-round, free-range egg production in the maritime Northwest and other areas with cold, wet winters. (In areas where the ground is frozen much of the winter, there is no way to get winter free-range egg production from any poultry.)

Diet

Ducks can forage a larger part of their diet than chickens. Chickens eat mostly grain and animal life, with greenery as a salad. Ducks eat grain and animal life but also considerably more greenery than chickens, including grass, as long as it is succulent and growing.

In addition, ducks can make excellent use of wetlands, waterways, lakes, and ponds.

Ducks are more resistant to disease than chickens. Ducklings are hardier than chicks. Ducklings are more heavily feathered and have a layer of subcutaneous fat. They are designed for cold, wet weather. Ducklings can be outdoors earlier in spring than chicks. If allowed to waterproof themselves properly, ducklings can be out foraging in their third week. Chicks are normally kept indoors the first six to eight weeks.

Ducks, however, are much more vulnerable to four-footed predators than chickens, especially chickens with intact wings. Some people with marginal fencing or night housing can keep chickens but not ducks.

Water

Ducks need bathing water. Chickens maintain their skin and feather condition via dust bathing. Some people find it much easier to provide a dry dust bath than a bathing pool. Books sometimes say ducks can be raised without bathing water. Although this is technically true, raising ducks that way isn’t kind. Ducks keep their skin and feathers in condition by bathing in water and preening and coating their feathers with wax. All you need for a handful of ducks is a kiddy pool of water changed a couple of times a week.

Chickens are a much better confinement animal than ducks. Ducks drink far more water, have a much looser, more liquidy poop, and need more space when confined than chickens. Some people need to confine their poultry and bring the garden produce and food to the birds. Chickens are usually the better choice for that situation.

In areas where winter is harsh and the ground is frozen or covered with snow for months, any poultry has to be confined. This fact can translate into chickens being the most workable option. If I lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin, or upstate New York, I think I would keep chickens instead of ducks.

Chicken tractors work best with chickens. You can’t just substitute ducks. Laying chickens roost on raised perches at night and will use nests stacked in a bank against the wall. So the chickens use three dimensions of the space in a small movable house.

Ducks use only floor space, and so need much more floor space than chickens, even before taking into account that their manure is much wetter. They need extra floor space for nests and resting. They need much more water and bigger water containers and bathing water. By the time you have given the ducks a big enough pen to be comfortable for them, it won’t be able to hold many birds in it, and it will not be very portable.

A FOWL BATTLE: DUCKS VS CHICKENS We love eggs and eat quite a few of them each week. However, we’re pretty careful about what we eat. We don’t eat factory eggs, because we don’t really want to eat arsenic and pharmaceuticals. Plus, not surprisingly, truly free-ranging birds produce eggs that are healthier for people. Sure, we care about animal welfare issues as well, but you can be totally self-centered and still see how it makes sense to only eat eggs from healthy outdoor-living animals.

Welsh Harlequin ducks ~ Two day old ducklings

“Petunia, the duck.”

We wanted prolific-laying, hardy, disease & parasite-resistant, low maintenance, long-lived birds that wouldn’t destroy our garden when foraging. After doing some research, spending time with our friends’ chickens, and (now) having raised seven heritage breed Welsh Harlequin ducks this summer, we’ve come to realize that we’re decidedly in the “ducks are better than chickens” camp.

ONE MORE REASON TO GET DUCKS…

Have you ever seen cuddly chickens? No? Neither have we. If you raise certain breeds of sociable ducks from day-one (like Welsh Harlequins), you won’t just have great egglayers, you’ll have loving pets too!

Duckling’s first outdoor adventure ~ Month-old ducklings getting ready for movie night on the sofa

TOP 10 GARDEN PLANTS FOR CHICKENS AND DUCKS

Six week old duckling enjoying a nap and belly rub ~ In Canada?

Raising Ducks or Chickens? But lately I have been reading more and more hints of a new reality: ducks are the new chickens.

Which duck breed is best for small and backyard poultry flocks? As with many domesticated species, ducks have been genetically selected for different purposes, primarily meat production and egg production. In addition, ducks are raised for exhibition, pest control, herd dog training, and feather and down production. If you plan to raise ducks, it is important to choose a breed that best suits your particular needs.

All domesticated duck breeds are believed to have originated from the wild mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The male mallard has a couple of curled tail feathers, called sex feathers. No other wild duck has these sex feathers, yet the males of all domesticated duck breeds do.

Ducks and mud seem to go hand in hand ~ the one thing a duck house must be is predator-proof. Domestic ducks move very slowly on the ground and can’t fly, so they are extremely vulnerable to predators—especially at night

Another bird widely kept in domestication is the Muscovy. Although often referred to as a duck, the Muscovy actually is a different species. It is hard to categorize Muscovies—they have a body like a duck; they nest, attack predators, and hiss like a goose; they roost like a chicken; and they have a plump breast like a turkey. The male Muscovy has characteristic fleshy growths around the eyes called caruncles. It is believed that Muscovies originated from South America. They are still found in the wild in the warm regions of that continent and are raised domestically throughout the world. The Muscovy is called the Barbary duck in southern Europe and North Africa and the Brazilian duck in Brazil. In the Guineas, it is known as the guinea duck or turkish duck because of the caruncles on its face. The Spanish call it the Pato, as do some handlers in the United States. The Muscovy also is known as the Cairo duck, Indian duck, musk duck, and turkey duck.

Saxony Ducks ~ Muscovy Ducks

Video: Call Ducks Race to the Pond!!
Video: fun with Saxony Ducks
Video: My Blue Swedish Ducks Playing In The Yard
Video: Dog And Duck Are Inseparable Best Friends

Cayuga Ducks ~ Cayugas are said to be the quietest of pet duck breeds.

Duck Breeds

Choosing a Breed of Duck What are your goals for raising ducks? Eggs, meat, pets, preserving a rare breed, or a combination? Say you want ducks for eggs. You can eliminate Aylesburies and the other breeds that lay very little. Or if you want ducks for meat, don’t choose Khaki Campbells. Some breeds aren’t the best for pets, either.

Looks and personality are also a major factor. Breeds purported to be calm can often be quite the opposite, so you can’t necessarily go by a blanket statement, but if many people say a breed is calm, then you have a pretty good chance of it being calm.

Some people want a breed that doesn’t fly, others want a breed that does. Foraging and mothering ability are also often important. There are many choices.

Biological Control of Pests

For centuries, ducks have been used as a biological control of insect pests in rice paddies in Asia. Today, in many parts of Southeast Asia, duck production has been integrated with rice and fish farming. One advantage of ducks is that they normally lay most of their eggs within three hours of sunrise (compared with five hours for chickens). This makes it possible for ducks to range freely in the rice fields by day and be confined at night.

Welsh Harlequin Ducks ~ Silver Appleyard Ducks

All duck breeds help eradicate mosquito larvae from waterways. They also eat slugs, snails, and insect pests in gardens and clean algae slime and duckweed from ponds. The best foragers are the Anconas, Campbells, Welsh Harlequins, magpies, runners, and various bantam breeds. Silver appleyards, Cayugas, and Saxonies do a good job but do not cover as large an area, preferring to stay closer to their homes.

Ancona Ducks ~ Khaki Campbell Ducks

How I Potty Trained My 5 Ducks So when I say I’ve potty trained my ducks, what I mean is that I have trained my ducks to do most of their poopingNon Eaten Comfrey, UNDER the fruit trees using a plant called Comfrey

I tried chickens, but because I live in the Pacific Maritime northwest, where we get tons of rain… my chickens just like to hang out in the coop on rainy days and WATCH the slugs eat everything.

And this SUPER productive perennial plant, that according to an article I was reading from Purdue University, can contain as much as 30% protein and is comparable with legumes as a high protein feed when fed dry.

Not only that, but this plant thrives when cut to the ground 3-4 times a year.

Magpie Ducks

Plus its roots go deeper then my fruit trees roots can go, and pulls up minerals for my fruit tree… its really pretty awesome.

I had been told that ducks love this plant. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could bait my ducks to EVERY fruit tree on my property, and get them to poop specifically under each fruit tree, by baiting them underneath my trees with Comfrey?”

If so I’d basically have potty trained my ducks to poop under my fruit trees. My fruit tree production would go up from their manure, plus the ducks are getting a super high protein feed to boost their egg production.

Egg Production

The runner and Campbell breeds are excellent egg layers, often attaining levels of production higher than those of egg-laying chicken breeds. Both breeds are hardy but tend to be nervous and flighty and stampede when startled. Both breeds are good foragers but also do well in confinement when a good layer ration is provided.

Runner ducks cannot fly, are lightweight, and stand upright like penguins. They run rather than waddle, thus their name. Only the females quack; the drakes are limited to a hoarse whisper. A runner duck's level of egg production depends on whether it is an exhibition strain or a utility strain (that is, bred to meet the standards for purebred exhibition birds or for egg production). Typically, a runner duck lays four eggs per week for about eight months, and some utility strains have produced more than 300 eggs in a year. In fact, the runner duck has such high egg production levels that it often is referred to as the Leghorn of the duck family. Darker varieties of runner ducks lay a blue-tinted egg. Runner ducks rarely form nests; instead, they drop their eggs wherever they happen to be. Consequently, when raising runners for egg production, confining them overnight makes egg collection easier. Good at foraging, runners eat worms and slugs and have even been seen to catch flies. Because of their small size, runners eat less feed than meat ducks. Of course, it is important to provide them with sufficient calcium and protein-rich feed to maintain egg production during the extensive laying season.

Runner Ducks

The Top 4 Pet Duck Breeds Pekin Ducks are the large white ducks (think Aflac commercials), they have a calm demeanor and relaxed temperament. Pekin ducklings are the soft, yellow ducklings that you probably see most often in photo shoots, television, and across the internet. They are the most popular breed of domestic duck in the United States and most likely the most commonly raised breed of duck in the world. Not only are they one of the best pet duck breeds, but they are also very commonly raised for eggs and meat.

Rouen Ducks are larger cousins of the mallard ducks, having the exact same beautiful coloration while packing a few extra pounds that make them ideal for backyards or farms. They are very calm and sociable, and bred to be a pet duck or farm duck. They key difference between a Mallard and a Rouen is that Rouens are too large to fly, and you won’t have to worry about clipping wings.

Cayuga Ducks are medium sized ducks (still too large to fly), which have a very unique iridescent green plumage. Usually appearing black, when in the right sunlight, they’re feathers will show iridescent green and sometimes purplish hues. They are said to be the quietest pet ducks, and are often the choice for people who live in close proximity to their neighbors. However, as they are still ducks, we can’t guarantee they will be the quietest of pets.

Buff Ducks, sometimes also referred to as Buff Orpington Ducks, are also a very popular duck species for backyards. Great egg layers, and traditionally raised as a dual purpose meat bird as well, the Buff has a fairly calm demeanor and provides a great variety of color to your flock. The Buff Duck is also a medium weight duck breed with beautiful golden “buff” plumage.

Swedish Ducks are most commonly found in Blue and Black varieties and have become one of the more popular backyard duck breeds as they are becoming more available. Similar in demeanor to the Pekin Duck, they Swedish is a large bread with a unique “bibbed” plumage pattern. A good layer of eggs, Swedish made an excellent addition to the backyard flock.

Daffy Duck is modeled after a Black Swedish Duck

Generally speaking, Metzer Farms in CA is the best hatchery for pet ducks when it comes to pricing, availability, and shipping skill.

10 Important Things to Consider When Building a Duck Coop Well, come to find out I had their coop all wrong. But thankfully they are durable little critters because they had to go through my learning curve with me.

1. Let The Coop Breathe

Be sure that your coop has lots of room to breathe. Ducks put off moisture when they breathe. Therefore, their breath can actually cause mold in their bedding from it being so wet. It can actually cause frostbite on their legs during the colder winter months. So make sure that there is ventilation towards the top of the coop and anywhere on the side you deem necessary as well.

2. Make It Easier to Keep Clean

First, you can make the coop large enough for you to walk in. A walk in coop actually makes it to where you can add shelving to store the ducks’ food and other items right inside the coop. But if not, you can make the coop have a roof that can be easily lifted up so you can get inside of it.

You can also make the floor to where it slides out. If nothing else, definitely paint the interior with exterior paint. All of these things will make it easy to simply pull out the water hose and spray it down.

3. Provide Larger Entrances And Exits

The ducks’ entrance and exit of their coop are super important. The reason is because although ducks are sweet little creatures, they can be pushy.

So be sure to create their entrances and exits with that in mind. It should be big enough for at least two ducks to enter or exit at a time. If not, you may come out to find that your ducks are stuck in the door of their coop.

4. The Actual Structure

The actual structure of a duck coop can be as basic or as fancy as you’d like. Our first duck coop was built out of PVC pipe, chicken wire, left over greenhouse plastic, and a really cool sliding door.

And our next (and current duck coop) was built out of pallets. I’m hoping one day they’ll get to graduate to an adorable duck house. Until then, I dream.

There are important things to note about the structure, though.

First, it should be around ground level. I messed this up big time with my first coop. I was so worried about predators I practically put it on stilts.

Second, if you can’t put it on the ground then you need a ramp for them to walk in it. However, don’t make it so high off the ground that the ducks have to climb a steep incline to get in their coop. We did this and our ducks wouldn’t use the coop because they wouldn’t climb in it.

Third, keep in mind the coop needs to be big enough that you can have at least 4 square feet of floor space for each duck.

5. Water, Water, Water

Ducks love water.

But they don’t require an actual body of water. You can do something as simple as giving them a kiddie pool.

We actually dug a deep hole in the ground. Lined it with a heavy duty tarp. And then filled it with water so they got a mini in ground swimming pool. They really loved it.

Then I didn’t have to worry about them struggling to get in and out of a plastic pool. When you are that low to the ground climbing in and out of things becomes difficult.

They also need lots of drinking water.

The next challenge within your coop is going to prevent water spillage. Here's a tip: keep their food at least two yards away from their drinking water because ducks are extremely messy and will muck up their food really quickly.

You might want to come up with a water disposal plan. I like this one so it is easy to reuse the water for fertilizing and watering plants. Ducks’ water becomes rather nasty really quickly. They will play in it, drink it, and poop in it.

6. A Comfy Bed

Ducks are really not finicky creatures. They are happy with food, some kind of water, and a coop that has plenty of air running through it. Honestly, the more run down the coop is the happier they appear to be in it.

But still, bedding important.

You can use either shavings or straw. Shavings are okay as they are comfortable and help absorb some of the moisture. Straw works really well because it doesn’t get as wet as fast and it keeps its shape a little better.

It is important to mention that you never want to leave wet or soiled bedding in the coop. This too is a great place for mold and fungus to begin growing. As I already mentioned, this can really upset and infect the ducks’ respiratory systems.

So if you are looking to give your ducks the comfiest of places to sleep, consider these two bedding options.

7. Location, Location, Location

You really need to think about where you are going to locate your ducks’ coop for multiple reasons.

First, the closer it is for you to easily check and see what is going on the harder it is going to be on predators. Because one glance out of your window, and you can quickly spring into action if needed.

Second, you need to figure out which direction your strongest winds come from. That way you can build the coop in the direction with the most protection.

Finally, try to place your coop near your compost pile and where gravity will be your friend. You will get a lot of wet bedding and good fertilizer from your ducks’ coop. Imagine how much easier it will be on you if you could simply open the coop and spray it all downhill directly into your compost pile.

8. No Clutter

Ducks are not a friend to clutter or debris. Their feet can be easily harmed if they step on glass, a nail, or any other sharp debris. Not to mention, a duck will try to eat anything. So you don’t want them choking down the wrong thing.

Be sure to clean the area where they roam thoroughly.

For instance, my goats wear collars with bells. One day one of their bells went missing. When I was looking for it, I noticed my ducks were trying their best to chomp on something so I went to investigate.

Sure enough, they were trying to eat the missing bell.

Thankfully, it was much too big. But had that been something smaller like a piece of glass or a small screw I could have lost a duck.

So keep that in mind when cleaning out the area for their future home.

9. A Nesting What?

Ducks aren’t similar to chickens. There, I said it. They can co-exist wonderfully. But as far as thinking the two are alike, you’d be mistaken.

As you know, chickens love their nesting boxes. They fight over who gets the best one. And mine even sleep in them though they have plenty of roosting space.

But ducks don’t really care for nesting boxes. They will rarely use them.

Some of them will prefer to make some beautiful nests out of any material they can find. They really are gorgeous!

So if you decide to give your ducks a nesting box, know that it needs to be on the ground and about 14 square inches. But if you’d rather them just do their own thing and create their own nests from straw and whatever else that is certainly okay too.

10. “I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in”

Unfortunately for your ducks, they and the three little pigs have the same problem. They both have predators.

A duck's biggest predator is probably a raccoon. They are smart little creatures.

So you must predator proof their coop.

First, begin with giving your ducks a solid floor under their coop. It should be wood, cement, or even vinyl to stop critters from coming up from under the coop.

Second, your ducks need windows in their coop for ventilation. However, be sure to place hardware cloth over these windows.

And consider adding shutters so that they can be closed at night. That way predators can’t see in and scare your ducks. Nor does it entice them to try to get into the coop.

Finally, use multi-step latches. Raccoons have the same intelligence of a toddler. (Or so it has been said.) So if a toddler can open a latch the raccoon probably can too.

So be sure to use latches like the ones that have the hook that has to fit into the hole. It is difficult for them to figure that out. Or use multiple latches on your coop. Anything to make the process as difficult as possible on the predator.

Well, that’s it for me today guys. I hope this has helped you all to figure out what is vital when building or buying a duck coop for your precious web-feet friends.

Feeding Ducks: What Do Ducks Eat, What NOT to Feed, and Everything Else You Need to Know Are you toying with the idea of raising ducks?

If so, let me go ahead and encourage you to go for it.

I absolutely love my ducks. They are probably the easiest birds we have.In my experience, they have been very resilient to illness, they have great temperaments, are fun to watch, great layers, and very low-maintenance.

But before you dive into them, it is important to do your research.

Today, I want to help you understand their nutritional needs.

The only drawback to ducks is that they eat a lot!

Don’t let that scare you though because they eat a variety of foods that are very easy (and inexpensive) to come by. You can just browse through the list and see what is easiest for you to grow or buy and pick what works best for you and your feathered friends.

1. Bird Feed

Yes, plain old bird seed will make your ducks happy as can be. They love seeds.

But you can also buy chicken feed too. I would go with whichever is the most cost effective. But your ducks will eat scratch-grains or any other grains that you would feed your chickens.

Ducks also love layer feed. If you have a female, feel free to give her that extra boost of protein. She’ll need it for laying anyway.

2. Cracked Corn

I give my ducks whole kernel corn. But people say it is easier for them to digest if it is cracked.

However, I also read a while ago that the oils on the outside of the whole corn was actually better for them so I’ve switched to whole corn ever since.

It is cheaper too.

But it is your call. Whatever you are most comfortable feeding your ducks, please do. But corn (cracked or whole) is a food they really love.

3. Bugs

Oh yes. We cannot forget that ducks love bugs.

They are not picky.

You can bring them any kind of insect, night crawler, worm, or meal worm and they will be happy.

The great thing about bugs is that you can actually raise them yourself and not have to pay for them. You can raise your own meal worms (as we do) right in your own living room. And you can raise your own red worms as well.

So whichever worm strikes your fancy to raise, will save you money and your ducks will be thrilled to have.

A special note, just be sure your ducks have lots of fresh water. Ducks are messy eaters so their water will require some attention.

Your ducks need that fresh water to aid digestion of their food. So just be sure to check them twice daily and freshen their water each time (and any time you choose in between.) They will thank you for it.

Snacks And Treats For Ducks

Your ducks are big eaters so they’ll love to snack too. The only guideline you’ll need to follow is be sure that snacks take up no more than 10% of their diet.

However, green snacks like weeds, lettuce, kale, cut grass, etc. can be given in an unlimited amount. Your ducks love them, and they are great for them as well.

1. Fruit

Ducks love fruit. Watching them eat it is pretty comical as well. So any extras from your berry patches or orchards can be tossed their way. They will gladly accept it.

Fruits such as berries, melons (ducks love watermelon rind), seeded fruits, and pit fruits absolutely make their day. Watching a duck eat a strawberry will make your day too. So go ahead and toss them your left overs or items that are a little too ripe for you.

It is a wonderful treat to them.

2. Vegetables

Your ducks will love your seconds from your garden or even if you just have too much of some things growing in your garden.

We do that every year. We’ll plant too much of something and by the end of the season I am so sick of canning it. That is where my ducks come in handy.

I can feed it to them and not feel bad because I’m not wasting it. I’m actually saving on the feed bill.

So vegetables like cucumbers, peas, squash, zucchini, corn, kale, or broccoli your ducks will gladly take those off of your hands.

3. Whole Grains

Ducks love grains. However, you need to make sure that you feed them only whole grains otherwise, they’ll pack on too much weight.

Ducks gain weight very easily (I have that in common with them.) So you have to make sure that you give them healthy options so their snacks don’t go straight to their tail feathers.

So snacks like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread will absolutely make their day.

4. Protein food

I already mentioned that bugs could and should be a part of their regular diet. However, snacks high in protein are a great option as well.

When I was researching snacks high in protein for ducks I laughed when the most obvious answer flew up in front of my face—scrambled eggs. It seems kind of odd to feed scrambled eggs to an animal that lays eggs, but many people claim that their ducks love them.

I’m in the middle of a rainstorm now, or I’d be making some for my ducks and taking it to them to see how much they love them. That is on the list of things to do tomorrow.

Anyway, if you have too many eggs (as many of us do during the warmer months) don’t let them go to waste. Just scramble them up for your ducks.

Food Supplements For Ducks

Ducks are very simple animals for the most part. They eat a lot but love a variety of things to eat. So that makes feeding them easy enough.

They are hearty animals, love to lay eggs, and don’t require much else outside of shelter and fresh water.

So when I mention food supplements, don’t be alarmed that there aren’t many and they are all simply suggestions and by no means a necessity.

1. Grit

If your ducks are anywhere that they have access to dirt then they probably will not need grit. They have a way of finding small pebbles in the dirt and eating them to help grind up their food.

But if your ducks are in solid grass, or you don’t feel like there is enough rocky soil in their area just purchase a bag of grit to be sure.

You will just need to throw a handful or two in their area once a week. This will ensure that their food will be digested as it should be.

You can purchase your grit here or at your local farm supply store.

2. Oyster Shell

Okay, so you feed your ducks a well-rounded diet. Yet, their eggs are still coming out pitted or thin shelled. You will need to add some oyster shell to their diet to give them added calcium to strengthen their shells.

Feeding Ducks: What Do Ducks Eat, What NOT to Feed, and Everything Else You Need to Know

Are you toying with the idea of raising ducks?

If so, let me go ahead and encourage you to go for it.

I absolutely love my ducks. They are probably the easiest birds we have.In my experience, they have been very resilient to illness, they have great temperaments, are fun to watch, great layers, and very low-maintenance.

But before you dive into them, it is important to do your research.

Today, I want to help you understand their nutritional needs.

What To Feed Your Ducks

We raise Pekins. I adore them and wouldn’t trade them for anything. I also have a Mallard in the mix as well.

The only drawback to ducks is that they eat a lot!

Don’t let that scare you though because they eat a variety of foods that are very easy (and inexpensive) to come by. You can just browse through the list and see what is easiest for you to grow or buy and pick what works best for you and your feathered friends.

1. Bird Feed

Yes, plain old bird seed will make your ducks happy as can be. They love seeds.

But you can also buy chicken feed too. I would go with whichever is the most cost effective. But your ducks will eat scratch-grains or any other grains that you would feed your chickens.

Ducks also love layer feed. If you have a female, feel free to give her that extra boost of protein. She’ll need it for laying anyway.

2. Cracked Corn

I give my ducks whole kernel corn. But people say it is easier for them to digest if it is cracked.

However, I also read a while ago that the oils on the outside of the whole corn was actually better for them so I’ve switched to whole corn ever since.

It is cheaper too.

But it is your call. Whatever you are most comfortable feeding your ducks, please do. But corn (cracked or whole) is a food they really love.

3. Bugs

Oh yes. We cannot forget that ducks love bugs.

They are not picky.

You can bring them any kind of insect, night crawler, worm, or meal worm and they will be happy.

The great thing about bugs is that you can actually raise them yourself and not have to pay for them. You can raise your own meal worms (as we do) right in your own living room. And you can raise your own red worms as well.

How to Raise Mealworms

So whichever worm strikes your fancy to raise, will save you money and your ducks will be thrilled to have.

A special note, just be sure your ducks have lots of fresh water. Ducks are messy eaters so their water will require some attention.

Your ducks need that fresh water to aid digestion of their food. So just be sure to check them twice daily and freshen their water each time (and any time you choose in between.) They will thank you for it.

Snacks And Treats For Ducks

Your ducks are big eaters so they’ll love to snack too. The only guideline you’ll need to follow is be sure that snacks take up no more than 10% of their diet.

However, green snacks like weeds, lettuce, kale, cut grass, etc. can be given in an unlimited amount. Your ducks love them, and they are great for them as well.

1. Fruit

Ducks love fruit. Watching them eat it is pretty comical as well. So any extras from your berry patches or orchards can be tossed their way. They will gladly accept it.

Fruits such as berries, melons (ducks love watermelon rind), seeded fruits, and pit fruits absolutely make their day. Watching a duck eat a strawberry will make your day too. So go ahead and toss them your left overs or items that are a little too ripe for you.

It is a wonderful treat to them.

2. Vegetables

Your ducks will love your seconds from your garden or even if you just have too much of some things growing in your garden.

We do that every year. We’ll plant too much of something and by the end of the season I am so sick of canning it. That is where my ducks come in handy.

I can feed it to them and not feel bad because I’m not wasting it. I’m actually saving on the feed bill.

So vegetables like cucumbers, peas, squash, zucchini, corn, kale, or broccoli your ducks will gladly take those off of your hands.

3. Whole Grains

Ducks love grains. However, you need to make sure that you feed them only whole grains otherwise, they’ll pack on too much weight.

Ducks gain weight very easily (I have that in common with them.) So you have to make sure that you give them healthy options so their snacks don’t go straight to their tail feathers.

So snacks like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread will absolutely make their day.

4. Protein food

I already mentioned that bugs could and should be a part of their regular diet. However, snacks high in protein are a great option as well.

When I was researching snacks high in protein for ducks I laughed when the most obvious answer flew up in front of my face—scrambled eggs. It seems kind of odd to feed scrambled eggs to an animal that lays eggs, but many people claim that their ducks love them.

I’m in the middle of a rainstorm now, or I’d be making some for my ducks and taking it to them to see how much they love them. That is on the list of things to do tomorrow.

Anyway, if you have too many eggs (as many of us do during the warmer months) don’t let them go to waste. Just scramble them up for your ducks.

Food Supplements For Ducks

Ducks are very simple animals for the most part. They eat a lot but love a variety of things to eat. So that makes feeding them easy enough.

They are hearty animals, love to lay eggs, and don’t require much else outside of shelter and fresh water.

So when I mention food supplements, don’t be alarmed that there aren’t many and they are all simply suggestions and by no means a necessity.

1. Grit

If your ducks are anywhere that they have access to dirt then they probably will not need grit. They have a way of finding small pebbles in the dirt and eating them to help grind up their food.

But if your ducks are in solid grass, or you don’t feel like there is enough rocky soil in their area just purchase a bag of grit to be sure.

You will just need to throw a handful or two in their area once a week. This will ensure that their food will be digested as it should be.

You can purchase your grit here or at your local farm supply store.

2. Oyster Shell

Okay, so you feed your ducks a well-rounded diet. Yet, their eggs are still coming out pitted or thin shelled. You will need to add some oyster shell to their diet to give them added calcium to strengthen their shells.

It can be purchased here or at any local feed store, usually. A small handful of this added to their daily feed, and you will have some strong layers in no time.

What You Should Not Feed Your Ducks

There are actually quite a few items that you shouldn’t feed your ducks. If you decide to give snacks you need to be aware of this list.

So please do not feed your ducks:

1. Citrus fruit

Citrus fruit has the ability of interrupting a ducks ability to absorb calcium. This can cause thin shelled eggs which is not good if you enjoy their eggs.

2. Spinach

Spinach is in the same boat as citrus fruit. It too interferes with their calcium absorption which in turn makes for thin shelled eggs.

3. Iceberg lettuce

If you feed them iceberg lettuce in small amounts it is okay. However, too much can give them diarrhea which throws their whole bodies off. So give this food with caution.

4. White Potatoes, Green Tomatoes, and Eggplant

These are all part of the nightshade family. So unfortunately all parts of these plants (stems, leaves, and fruits) are extremely toxic to ducks.

5. Raw, Dried Beans

If you want to give your ducks beans, be sure they are fresh or sprouted. If you try to feed them raw or dried beans, it is toxic to them.

Just remember when feeding your ducks, it is better to be safe than sorry. So when in doubt do a little research.

How To Feed Your Ducks

Ducks are big eaters but are very easy to care for. They don’t require much special equipment and can usually be fed once a day.

So when feeding your ducks, I think it is best to give them free choice so they can pick and choose what they want, when they want.

Now, ducks are big eaters so I actually feed my 5 ducks through an automatic feeder for their corn. I also give them a 5 gallon buckets of weeds per day. And they are in a shaded, wooded area so they have lots of bugs to choose from on their own.

Most people usually give their ducks 2 cups of food per duck about once or twice a day. You’ll know by watching them if they are still hungry. Believe me, when they are hungry they will quack loudly to let you know.

Mine are so spoiled that if I’m out in the garden weeding, and they think I’ve cheated and given the chickens more, they begin to quack and tell me about it.

Now, here are the only two items you will really need in order to properly feed and water your ducks.

1. Poultry Feeder

Poultry Feeder

This poultry feeder can be filled up and that way you can simply refill when they’ve eaten it. No worries about under feeding your ducks then.

It is also great because it is harder for the ducks to waste and make a mess with their food in this type of feeder.

So it works well all the way around.

2. Poultry Waterer

Poultry Waterer

You have multiple options for this. You can purchase a poultry waterer (preferably the largest one they have because ducks drink a lot.)

Or you can also make a poultry waterer. This is actually a really cool idea because they can’t climb in and try to swim in it. Believe you me, if they can get into water, they will do it. So this will help keep their water a little cleaner which means less waste and extra work for you.

That is all there is to feeding ducks.

It seems rather simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s because it is. They are a joy to have around the farm and don’t cause much trouble.

12 Things You Need to Know Before Getting Your First Ducks Raising ducks is an amazing experience! They are cute and bring a lot of entertainment to the yard.

However, ducks are unique creatures. A lot of people think raising ducks and chickens are one in the same.

In some ways they are similar. There are grave differences as well, though.

Understanding ducks and their needs are something that should be understood before jumping into raising them.

1. Recommended Breeds

Pekins come as my most recommended breed for a backyard duck.

They are great for many reasons. The first is they are such large ducks that they are too heavy to fly. Therefore, you can allow them to free range in your yard because their average weight is around 10 pounds.

Being that heavy, you won’t have to worry about them trying to fly south for the winter.

Pekin ducks are great foragers and are also a very friendly duck breed. They are a great meat source because of their size and also excellent layers of large white eggs.

It is noted that if you would like to raise Pekin ducks that it usually requires artificial setting because the hens are not good setters.

In my experience, I have not experienced this at all. Our female Pekin has been a great setter. I think this depends more upon the duck and its personality.

Khaki Campbells are another highly recommended duck breed. They are smaller in size (usually weighing about 3 pounds or so) but have limited flight. It is important to find a breed that is limited in flying because otherwise it is difficult to keep them home.

They are noted for being great layers as well of large white eggs. However, these ducks are also noted as being a more skittish breed in comparison to Pekin ducks.

As stated in their name, they are a khaki color. Their feet color differs by sex. The males have orange feet while the females have brown feet. Khaki Campbells are excellent foragers as well.

2. Proper Protection

Ducks are highly preyed upon. If you have a normal dog, you will have to keep the ducks away from it. I say normal because some dog breeds or older dogs just don’t have the energy to chase down a duck.

However, I will say, most dogs do! So take that into account before raising ducks.

Keeping ducks fenced in is a wise option because of hawks and other birds of prey. Placing them in your fenced in backyard or even placing a fence around their area should keep them safe.

Hawks have a hard time navigating how to pull an animal out of a smaller fenced in area. They can’t operate like a helicopter so if you have a fence that stops them from being able to “swoop” down then it adds protection for your ducks.

3. Housing

Ducks do not require nor do they desire a fancy house.

As a matter of fact, the more run down the house is the happier they seem to be. Because ducks are waterproof, they love to be wet as much as possible. Giving them a home where they can keep a little moisture in their house and have lots of airflows seems to be what keeps them happy.

Dreaming of Duck Houses

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Duck House 101

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Pallets are a great option for duck houses because it gives them shelter yet also allows airflow and some moisture.

The most important part of building a duck house is making sure that it is low enough to the ground that a duck can enter it with a small ramp. If you make the duck house too high, the ducks will be afraid of it and won’t use it.

You can give a duck a nesting box within their house, but that is really for your convenience when collecting eggs. If you leave hay out, the hen will make a nest where she wants it and lay there regularly.

Our hen chose to lay under our rabbit hutches daily so we let her be, and she remained quite content.

4. Laying Habits

Ducks are not like chickens.

Chickens decrease laying when the days become shorter, but they still lay sporadically. Ducks do not.

They take a hiatus every year during winter. Where we have had a rather mild winter this year, our hen continued to lay until after Christmas.

Most years, they will quit around November and reconvene at the onset of spring.

However, ducks are actually earlier risers than chickens. During their laying time, she will have already laid an egg before your feet have hit the floor.

It is been my experience that though ducks don’t lay all year long, they lay much larger eggs and are much hardier birds than chickens.

5. Water

People that have never raised ducks might assume that they need a body of water in order to have them. I know I did! This is not the case.

Ducks do not require water besides for drinking purposes.

Even for that, fill up a 5-gallon bucket of fresh water every day, and they will be very happy!

Though ducks don’t require water for swimming to survive, they do love water. If you live on a property without a source of swimming water, invest in a $5 kiddie pool.

Ducks don’t care! They love to swim and will swim all day long in a plastic kiddie pool!

6. Food

Ducks eat a lot of food. They love to eat!

They can make quite a mess with their food and waste a lot if certain steps aren’t followed to prevent that. The most important thing to do is to keep their food and water separate.

They love to play in the water, and they love to eat so, of course, they are going to try and mix the two!

Ducks do forage so they will eat all weeds and any other plants you offer them.

Ducks love fodder. Here is how you can grow your own fodder to feed them inexpensively.

They also love corn. Corn will make them much fatter so if you are planning on using them for meat be careful how much corn you feed them.

7. Garden Guards

Ducks are a gardener’s best friend!

They will patrol your plants for all bugs that might be trying to eat them. They are great at pulling the bugs off of the plants without harming the actual plant.

The only word of caution is to be sure not to allow your ducks in your garden until the plants have passed the seedling stage. Ducks have a tendency to step on small plants and kill them.

8. Great for Meat

Ducks are great for raising as a source of meat, especially Pekin ducks. They can grow to be 10+ pounds in a matter of 3-4 months.

9. The Difference in Gender

You do not sex a duck the way you would most animals. It is important to know the difference in characteristics of ducks, so you don’t end up with two males.

The female duck will look like a regular duck. However, her quack sounds more like a honk. She is the louder of the two, hands down.

The boy duck will have a little tail feather that curls at the tip of his tail. He will usually follow behind her and be the quieter of the two of them.

When he leads her, you will see him bob his head up and down to communicate and quack softly at her to get her to go where he wants her to. Though male ducks are softer spoken they are very brave birds!

If you are getting too close to his hen and her eggs he will guard her. He won’t flog as a rooster would. Instead, he will start off by bobbing his head (as though to nudge you) to get you to move away from her.

If you don’t take the hint is when he will get angry. The female will hiss and let you know you need to back off.

10. Mating

It is important to know that male ducks (a drake) usually require more than one female.

They have an extremely high sex drive and can literally breed a female duck to death. One drake can handle up to 12 hens!

Also, if you ever come across your ducks mating don’t panic!

He is not trying to kill her.

A lot of times they will look like they are playing in their pool together when really they are mating. If you see him push her head underwater, don’t panic and think he is trying to drown her.

37 Free DIY Duck House / Coop Plans & Ideas that You Can Easily Build

Metzer Farm Breed Comparison



Guinea Fowl

Metzer Farm Guineas originate in Africa and are excellent foragers. After starting they grow and thrive on bugs (they love ticks), insects and weed seeds. Guineas are also great watchdogs as they call out at the approach of any strangers. Their meat is all dark and highly prized by many restaurants. All of our Pearl Guinea eggs are from breeding stock imported from Grimaud Freres of France and have been bred for excellent growth rate and feed conversion. As this strain has been bred for meat production, not all birds feather out with the pearl coloration. Some are lighter and some are darker. Game bird or turkey feed should be used for the rearing of guineas.

Raising Guinea Fowl: A Low-Maintenance Flock Compared to chickens, guinea fowl are low-cost and low-maintenance, and do a standout job as chemical-free pest control.

A domestic guinea hen lays seasonally, just as her wild cousins do. ~ Pearl Guineas at Metzer Farm

Like officious little men in baggy gray suits, the guinea fowl scuttle up and down our driveway. Since dawn, they've been scouring our orchard for beetles, locusts, spiders, and ticks. Now they are ready to patrol our yard and garden for ants, cockroaches, flies, wasps, termites, cutworms, grubs, and snails. The guinea fowl are relentless in their pursuit.

I can remember a time when my husband and I had no guineas. Our former flock had roosted in trees and nested on the ground where, one by one, they had fallen prey to owls and foxes. While we were guinea-less, our potato crop was denuded by potato beetles, our hibiscus hedge was decimated by locusts, and we lost several fruit trees to flat-head borers. We soon realized that our "little gray men" had given us far more than just a pleasant diversion (and occasional good eating). So we got a new crew to work our land, and I hope never to live without these little guys again.

Vulturine Guineafowl ~

Many people have never seen, much less heard of, guinea fowl. Visitors, on spying their first guinea, invariably ask "What is that—a turkey?" Nope, but not a bad guess. Like turkeys, guineas are Galliformes, a group encompassing all chicken-like birds. But while chickens are members of the pheasant family, turkeys and guineas each have a family of their own. Native to Africa, they are known for traveling in large, gregarious flocks.

Guinea fowl were introduced into Europe by 15th century Portuguese explorers, and then arrived in North America with the early settlers. There are seven species of guinea fowl, of which the "helmeted pearl" is by far the most common, and certainly the weirdest looking, with its oddly shaped helmet, white, featherless face, bright red wattles, and gray polka-dotted feathers.

Helmeted Guineafowl [New Zealand] ~ Guinea in flight

12 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Got My First Guinea Fowl Don’t get me wrong, I have grown to love our guineas very much, but it has taken some serious getting used to.

1. A Guinea Is Not A Chicken

But I mean they are not even remotely the same. Chickens are very domesticated birds. You can coop them, free range them, or do half and half. Chickens are fine with both. Guineas are not the same. Unless you clip their wings extremely short, they are going to get out of the coop. That is actually a good thing if you have them for any reason beyond meat and eggs. Guineas are also very dominant. So don’t be surprised if they end up running your coop. Our guineas have completely taken over.

2. Guineas Know No Boundaries

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but chickens know when they are off of their turf. I’m not sure how, but they do. Well, guineas are not like that. Not in the slightest. Guineas will walk onto a road and think they own it. They will take over the neighbor’s yard if they so desire.

When we first got our guineas, they not only took over our yard and chicken coop but our neighbor’s too. Thankfully, he was a good sport about it. But most Saturday mornings I’d go out to feed the animals and sure enough my neighbor would go into his coop and find my guinea rooster roosting in his coop. But our neighbors have grown to enjoy the benefits of guineas too, so it all worked out.

3. They Are ‘Chatty Cathy’

They talk all of the time. The hens make a noise that sounds like they are saying, “Come back. Come back,” while the roosters make a “Chi chi chi” sound. This is the main way you can tell your males and females apart. Not only do they converse a lot, but they do it loudly. I can’t emphasize this point enough.

Guineas are loud creatures. It can be annoying at times, but you either choose to embrace it, or guineas aren’t your cup of tea.

4. Who Needs ADT When You Have Guineas?

This is a great benefit of owning guineas. I was not prepared for how great of watchdogs these birds were going to be for our homestead. We don’t have a lot of predators around our homestead, but we did have a stray dog problem.

We raise meat rabbits and unfortunately these stray dogs had figured out we had them. It got to a point where we were going outside every morning to either find a hutch destroyed or a rabbit missing. We tried everything to catch them in the act but never had any luck. Then the dogs started getting more brazen and showing up in the middle of the day.

Then we got guineas. I heard the guineas going nuts the first few days they were released on the property. I went outside to check out what was going on, and sure enough, there stood one of those stray dogs. It was so afraid of them that eventually our dog problem ceased.

We had a few stray cats stalking our chickens as well. A cat tried to stalk our guinea rooster one day, and he actually let the cat pounce. As soon as the cat pounced, the guinea flew over his head and attacked him. We no longer have a stray cat problem either.

They will guard your animals and property from both predators and people that should not be around. They are great to have for this reason alone.

5. You Don’t Need The Orkin Man—You Need Guineas

Our middle son came in one day with a giant tick on him. He had the ring around the bite so off to the doctor we went for antibiotics. That day is what led us to guineas. My husband made an executive decision and a few days later we were the proud owner of our first guineas. Since we have had guineas, we don’t have bugs.

They go all throughout the woods, in the different animals’ areas, in the garden, and all over the yard. Bugs don’t stand a chance. This is another huge benefit to owning guineas.

6. Guineas Must Be Trained

As mentioned earlier, guineas are not very domesticated birds. They don’t actually require a coop. They will roost in the trees. However, if you want them to come home and roost then they’ll need a coop.

If you decide to start with keets, you raise them basically as you would a baby chick or duckling. They require a brooder box and starter feed. They need to be protected from the wind and kept warm for the first few weeks.

Our first go round with guineas we raised day old keets. We raised them all the way up until they were ready to start free ranging, and we messed up big time. We let them all go at once.

Guineas travel in close-knit groups so once they are all out and gone, they are gone if they aren’t trained that this is home.

The next go round we bought all adults. We cooped them for about six weeks. Then we let them out one at a time. We would release a new guinea about every day or so. Because they won’t leave each other, they had to keep coming home to roost. By the time all of our guineas were released, they knew that this was home.

Giving them a coop with food, water, and roosts will entice them to come home every day more so than if you just let them roost in the trees.

7. Guineas Are Poor Mothers

Guinea fowl are fast paced, flighty birds. They are also seasonal layers. They prefer to nest on the ground instead of nesting boxes like chickens do. It takes guineas about 26-28 days to hatch a full clutch. A lot of times they will make a nest off in the woods. If you find it, it is a good idea to move the nest back to the coop. Guineas are usually great setters.

The problem is that once the eggs hatch, the moms are off and running again. They take their babies through wet areas which can cause them to chill and ultimately die.

So what do you do if you want to raise those baby guineas? You have two options:

Put the guinea eggs under a broody hen. She will raise them as her own and take great care of them.

Incubate the eggs and raise them as you would day old keets that you purchased.

8. Fly Away Little Guinea

Have I told you yet that guineas are nothing like chickens? Well, they aren’t. Chickens don’t really fly. They can use their wings to help them slightly hop to high places, but they don’t soar. Guineas fly. I’m talking like actually take flight.

It is nothing for our guinea fowl to fly on top of our house. They sit on our fence posts with ease. If something scares them, they’ll just fly right over it. I was not aware of this when we got them. I imagined them to fly like a chicken flies. The first time I saw them soar over our house, it was amazing. So just be prepared that they will actually soar longer distances than you’d probably think.

9. Guineas Are Excellent Gardeners

I already mentioned that guineas are great at eating bugs. They have saved our garden from being ravaged by the June Bugs. I am so thankful for that!

What is even more amazing is that they don’t destroy your garden.

Chickens like to eat bugs, but they’ll also eat your plants and scratch the ground all around them.

Ducks are great at eating bugs, like chicken. However, their feet are so big that if the plants are not large enough, they’ll squoosh them in the process of eating the bugs off of them. And ducks like certain plants too.

Guineas don’t do that. They eat the bugs, are delicate on the plants, and don’t scratch the ground. If you are like us and try to grow as much of your own food as possible, then guineas are a great little weapon to unleash on those unwanted garden pests.

10. Guineas Are Crazy Fast

If you need to catch your guineas, you can forget it. They are fast.

The only way you’ll most likely be able to catch them is if they are cooped at night. Even then, you get only one shot. If you blow it, you won’t catch them that night.

So how do you catch them? You first have to wait until they are cooped. Then you have to grab them by their wings. We actually use a net, so we don’t hurt them. Guinea fowl have really delicate legs. If you grab them by their leg, they’ll whip around on you and actually break it. That is why it is best to grab them by their wings or just use a net and catch the whole bird at once. When you have to catch them be prepared to laugh at yourself. It gets humorous quickly.

11. Guineas Are Free Entertainment

People told me chickens were funny. They were right. People told me goats were funny. They were right. But no one ever told me how funny guineas are to watch.

When they shuffle up and down the driveway looking for bugs, it is an adorable sight. Watching a guinea outsmart a cat and then running it off is a funny sight. Guineas just add one more funny thing to watch while you are out on a homestead. It is nature’s free entertainment.

12. Guineas Are Low Maintenance Birds

Guineas don’t have to have a coop. They forage for their food. Guineas don’t need nesting boxes. Yes, a coop is a good idea as we discussed previously.

But in all actuality, guineas are super low maintenance. There are no nesting boxes to clean, no large coop to maintain. They are just happy to fly around your property and eat your bugs. You don’t get much more low-maintenance than that.

Having these amazing birds as part of your homestead will give it a complete feeling. Yes, they have their pros and cons, but from my personal experience, I wouldn’t trade my guineas. They have been much more of a help around our homestead than a hindrance.

5 Reasons NOT to Own Guinea Fowl NOTE: Since the original publication of this article, I have received a lot of comments and heard from many other people who have raised guinea fowl. I would like to add that the 5 reasons I wrote about below are in line with MY experience with guineas. They will not happen for everyone, but I shared my experiences in order to let those who are on the fence about adding guineas to their homestead about the possibilities. I encourage everyone to read through the comments. There are a lot of stories there shared by people either with similar experiences or contradictory experiences.

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Guinea fowl can be sort of an exotic addition to a homestead. You will hear many glamorous things about them such as the fact that guinea fowl will eat ticks and snake and rats. You might hear that they are easier on the yard than chickens, that they don’t scratch as much or won’t go after your garden as much. And, yes, all of that is true. Guinea fowl can eat ticks and snakes.

They are somewhat easier on your land. Though they will still dust bathe and peck at your garden veggies. But in the interest of full disclosure you really should know the things that they do that aren’t so glamorous.

1. They are loud. Let me say that again. Guineas are LOUD!!! No cute little clucking noises from these guys, it’s full out screaming and screeching.

2. They can be bullies. All birds have a pecking order. When you have new additions there will always be a period adjustment while they figure out the new order. And if you thought this was a tough process to watch with chickens, you will be amazed with guineas- these guys are mean! The guinea fowl figured out their own pecking order eventually but be prepared for a longer adjustment if you have other birds as well.

3. They love to roam. I recently shared my thoughts on free range chickens, but I assume if you want to purchase guinea fowl it is mostly for their tick-eating tendencies. I’ll tell you now that they won’t eat many ticks in a covered run. They are free range birds and they take it to the extreme.

If you’ve done your research about raising guinea fowl you will know that you should raise them in their final home, or keep them locked in their new home for quite a few weeks before allowing them outdoors so that they know where home is. I am here to warn you, even if you do that, they will still have trouble coming home at night.

Guineas can fly pretty well and jump pretty high which means fencing isn’t really going to do much. Once they are comfortable with being outdoors they will start pushing the limits. They will cross roads, bother your neighbors, terrorize the horses down the street- all while screaming and squawking. They might come home at night, they might not. They might go into their coop or they might find the tallest tree imaginable and fly and jump their way to the tiny top branches.

4. They will brood and breed. So if you have survived the first few months with guinea fowl and you make it to laying season, you will begin to notice small speckled eggs in your nest boxes. Either that or you will notice some of your guinea hens are all of a sudden missing.

5. They are stupid. Okay, I don’t like the word stupid. I try not to use it often, but unintelligent just doesn’t get the point across. I am pretty sure that guinea fowl are one of the stupidest animals I have ever met.

They have no sense of self preservation and when they get scared or separated it’s like their brains fly out the window. This will get them in all sorts of trouble. It will cause them to get eaten by predators. It will cause you to give up on getting them in the house at night even though a hurricane is blowing through. It will cause them to squawk and screech incessantly until somehow their brains return.

I can’t live with the bullying. Chickens are important around here- both as a productive member of the farm and a beloved pet to my children. And, ultimately, we let the guineas go because of how mean they were to our chickens.

Comments: We have four, one is so mean to our chickens. I am ready to find them a new home. They are sooo noisey!!

We’ve been raising and enjoying them going on 25 years. Once here, we never say another tick. even the neighbors love them.

I love them as well. They are loud and yes stupid is a good term but I’ve never had a bullying issue with my chickens. The guineas just do their thing. But loud isn’t even a good word to describe these guys.

I’m aware of the noise risk, however, my garage has been repeatedly broken into lately, and a psychotic neighborhood child has been trespassing and murdering my chickens. I needed something noisy that could dial it up to 11 in the middle of the night, and I have warned my neighbors. We’ll see how hair-trigger these two are when they’re done growing.

I’e found guineas to be hilarious, and some of this comedy can be attributable to their “stupidity”. I’m not going to claim these birds are regular Einsteins, but their instincts are honed to a razor’s edge. Their programming has very particular protocols for particular scenarios, and their instincts have not caught up to their modern surroundings. They don’t adapt to changes very well at all–despite millennia of domestication–and so, when faced with new circumstances, they fall back on their old programming… to hilarious, mind-boggling, infuriating, exasperating, and/or tragic results.

This is my first year, my first four guinea. Every night they look for me to herd them into their cage. I find them a great deal of fun. I can’t hug them, however they seem to honor the idea that they belong “at home”, at night. They will be forever pets.

I saw a documentary on wild turkeys in north Florida, I know you were all talking about guineas, but just listen a minute. The man who lived with the turkeys for more than a year, noticed that where the turkeys lived, there were a lot of rattle snakes. When the turkeys moved on, leaving him behind, the snakes went with them. So, maybe you should look at other wild fowl in your area that may be attracting the snakes. That said, I also have guineas and they are loud, mean, and really stupid.

That is so odd because I lived in big time snake country, but we had wild turkeys galore and NEVER found a snake around the yard.

Snakes behave differently around turkeys than they do around humans. Human presence will cause wildlife presence to recede generally. In other words, the snakes hid from humans but not so much from turkeys. Turkeys tend to escort snakes around and find them an object of curiosity, which is why snakes don’t outright flee from turkeys (it’s a waste of effort). The turkeys would sound alarms and otherwise modify behavior in the presence of snakes.

Got me 4 as well. I love them. I love their look although they are not very pretty to look at. I love their sounds. We don’t have chickens and that is probably a good thing, we do have horses, mini donkey and cats and dogs, so far no problems here. I had some before and they were the best watch dogs…and like I said I love to hear them, esp. the females.

The answer to fire ants, Button Quail eat every bug that crawls or flies. They are great and they have a funny noise they make now and then that isn’t loud or annoying.

Coyotes are extremely intelligent, opportunistic, shrewd, and nocturnal. To protect your birds, only feed them a little grain at night…but put the feed inside their coop or outdoor pen ( make sure it’s very secure, and covered, as they do fly. Also, inside the pen, be sure to give them something higher than 4' to roost on at night. You can use netting or a tarp, to try and form a tent over a tall roost, like a 2×4 pole, with “branches” other smaller boards for roosting. Be sure the bottom of the fencing is staked into the ground, you can use thick sticks or garden spikes for this, to keep coyotes from digging in to them.

They love our alpacas and tend to stay near them especially at night. They roost on the feeder so they can be close to the protection of the alpacas. They make me laugh and smile when I see them getting a little too far away I just go out and holler “Come to mama”, and they come running to me. They know that they will get rewarded with chicken scratch. So far neighbors are fine with it , after all they are no worse than barking dogs, crowing roosters, squawking peacocks, braying donkeys and cat fights. They are interesting and bring laughter into everyone’s life.

I so agree. They annoy me far less than the barking dogs around here.

If you want turkeys raise Mini whites. Tooo cute about 10- to 12 lbs of pure personallity. Loved mine but my one neighbor didn’t

I COMPLETELY agree! We raised some from babies once (and I did say once!) and when they grew into adults-we GAVE them back to the people we bought them from! The noise was ear splitting! I know some people-even my own dad- love the sounds they make-but I can’t handle it.

Free-ranging guineas spend most of their days foraging. They work as a team, marching chest to chest and devouring anything they startle as they move through the grass. When they discover a special treat—a rodent, for example, or a small snake—they close ranks, circle their prey, and move in for the feast. All the while, they keep up a steady stream of whistles, chirps, and clicks, a sort of running commentary on the day's hunt.

But these little foragers have their faults. Like chickens, guineas are natural-born scratchers—I once watched a week-old guinea scratch vigorously in a saucer of starter mash while others stood by trying to catch bits of mash sailing through the air. Nevertheless, a guinea doesn't scratch as enthusiastically or as persistently as a chicken, and is far less likely to dig up garden seedlings, although they are attracted to freshly worked soil and will spend hours digging holes for luxurious dustbaths. Once I acquired a whole flock of guineas simply by arriving on the scene moments after they had devastated a friend's blossoming snap beans.


6 Best Farm Animals to Raise (and 1 Not to) When You’re Just Starting out ducks, rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, cows, honey bees,


Owls

Long-eared Owl


Send comments to co@dadbyrn.com, Colby Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Professor Emeritus