I knew a woman who had a greenhouse window in her mountain home kitchen with a few basil plants and a tiny dish of water tucked discretely among them. When I asked about the dish of water, she said, “Oh, that’s for Freddie”. Puzzled, I inquired the obvious and she told me about the tiny tree frog who had taken up residence in the window nearly a year before. It seemed Freddie was adept at keeping the housefly population down and was happy to hang out in the herbs waiting for his next meal. The woman talked to Freddie often as she did the dishes and always kept a healthy supply of herbs to maintain Freddie’s “wildlife habitat”. He had everything he needed: A food source, fresh water, protection from predators and a place to raise a family. Alas, Freddie was a loner.
Although our purpose is to guide you along in the world of water-efficient landscapes, we realize that many other elements make up a welcoming and satisfying garden environment—including wildlife and a healthy habitat for them when they visit. Minor adjustments made in your own garden, whether it’s a few pots on the patio, a tiny urban backyard or a larger property with lots of room to spread out will balance and enhance your efforts and guarantee good standing in the ranks of the Blue Thumbs! When you practice, healthy habits and a little patience in your own garden space, the payoff will surpass your expectations by at least mile or two.
For instance, practicing good watering habits, whether you have an automatic irrigation system or not, guarantees that your soil will remain where it belongs. Reducing chemical fertilizers and pesticides means the soil will be supportive of subsurface organisms that nurture it. And as your soil becomes healthier, the things that live on it or under it or are planted in it will thrive. Adding diverse plants that attract beneficials will lead to even more beneficials who will naturally take care of the less desirable insects. Using mulch keeps everything and everyone living in the garden cool and happy. Not planting invasive species means native plants will not be overtaken and choked out.
It is a true “trickle-down” effect: Everything you do in your garden, good or bad, will eventually affect every other garden, woodland, forest and waterway in some fashion, somewhere, someday. As you work towards making a fine habitat for the smaller visitors to your water-efficient garden, the two-legged visitors, including you and all your neighbors further downstream will benefit.
The Regional Water Authority and the Blue Thumb program are here for you as resources and so are we, the Blue Thumb Bloggers. We really do care who is in your garden because it affects all of us. You are welcome to write to us via this blog and we’ll bend over backwards to help you.
To see how you can certify your own healthy backyard as an “official” wildlife habitat, check out The National Wildlife Federation’s website, www.nwf.org. It’s a nifty idea and you can get a really neat sign to make your neighbors jealous (and want to get one too). This is the trickle-down effect at its finest! Until next time, keep those Blue Thumbs busy!