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from the employee owners at Gardener's Supply Co.

Jennifer’s Journal: Welcoming Beneficial Wildlife

Hilling potatoes

Potatoes are an unusual crop in that you bury the plant as it grows.

June 24
Some quick gardening between rainstorms: I weeded beds and fertilized the tomatoes, thinned the newly planted lettuce and hilled all of the potatoes. I also set up a Small Animal Barrier to protect the lettuce from neighborhood critters.

June 26

At some point, as your garden grows, you’ll come to terms with the fact that you’re not the only one who wants to spend time there. You may even want to go out of your way to create the preferred environments for some potential wildlife friends; they can be great helpers by keeping down the mosquito and harmful insect populations. Here are some
easy-to-attract helpers:

Birds: Birds are year-round organic pest control and can be fun to watch. Of course, they also add a splash of beauty to your garden and a cheerful soundtrack to do your chores by. If you provide birdhouses, you can often glimpse their family interactions. For more tips, read the article, How to Attract Bug-Eating Birds.

Bird eating

North American tree swallows often return year after year to the same spot to breed. This is the fourth year this guy has come back to this bird house.

Frogs: Frogs will eat a variety of pests, including mosquitoes, beetles and slugs. If you’d like to attract some, remember that frogs need water, shade and a spot to hibernate, such as tall vegetation or a leaf pile. I live on the edge of a marsh and have regularly occurring puddles in my garden; however, many gardeners will need to create a pond if they’d like to attract frogs.

Frog

I find frogs to be really sweet and even a bit social.

Toads: Toads are great garden helpers, eating thousands of insects and destructive caterpillars each season. Although they breed in pond edges and prefer damp environments, unlike frogs, adult toads are strictly land lubbers. Because toads don’t drink but instead absorb water through their skin, pesticide and herbicide run-off can be deadly to them.

Snakes: Here in Vermont, we gardeners can take comfort in knowing that there are no poisonous snakes in the region. As far as pest consumption goes, snakes eat plenty of insects and if you are lucky enough to host a larger snake, you can even expect that they may help out with some rodent control. Generally speaking, snakes are entirely reclusive and would prefer to avoid you. They seek out warm spots, such as rocks, in which to sun themselves.

Garter snake

A garter snake enjoys the sun’s warmth on my compost-yard door

For the first couple of years in my garden, the resident garter snakes and I underwent a bit of an adjustment period, like any new roommates. What we have agreed upon is that neither of us appreciates being surprised. So, quiet and thoughtful footsteps, paired with an understanding that both of us like to lurk, has gone a long way in preventing the jumping and shrieking scenario. Now, I even believe that my snake friends have overcome a bit of their shyness as they no longer see me as a threat.

Cute, no? Tell us about what you’ve done to attract beneficial wildlife to your garden.

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We are an employee-owned company of avid gardeners, located in Burlington, VT.