Appreciating Wildlife In Edible Gardens

Posted on November 28, 2015 by  
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A dry-stack fountainProviding habitat and food for wildlife is a primary motivation for growing native plants. But if you also grow edibles for yourself, you don’t want the wildlife to feast on all of your crops as well.

You can start by providing saucers of water in your garden so that the birds and other critters won’t have to sample nearby vegetables to get some moisture. Water is essential to life. During the drought, it pays to be especially attentive to the needs of the birds, bees and butterflies that visit your plants as well as the plants themselves. In smaller vegetable gardens, include a patch of hummingbird sage, hummingbird fuchsia, yarrow or other small perennials for pollinators and birds. Even better would be a hedgerow with a variety of native shrubs, providing a buffet of berries and blooms year-round.

Growing vegetables and welcoming wildlife are indeed compatible pursuits.

A friend has been enjoying the tips in “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature” (Storey, 2014) by Tammi Hartung. Hartung owns a 5-acre farm in Colorado that is mostly unfenced, so she has learned how to divert attention away from her crops, discourage predation on the foods she wants to harvest and still welcome wildlife.

The book is a delight to read straight through, sprinkled with charming illustrations by Holly Ward Bimba, and its index is good enough to direct you to a specific topic. Hartung has the sensibility of a native-plant gardener in her appreciation for wildlife, and the vigilance of a vegetable gardener in her attention to the well-being of her edible plants.

One of her best suggestions is to keep a nature journal, where you note such things as when you saw the first lady beetles, where the towhees built nests and the dates the chicks fledged or your favorite plants started blooming. It’s an exercise in paying attention, and the benefit of writing things down is that you can revisit last month’s or last year’s garden.


Inter-generational Bonding

Posted on November 24, 2015 by  
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Grand-FriendsSanta Rita School in Los Altos expanded its call to the community in September with the inaugural “Grand-Friends Day,” summoning a new generation back to school.

Students and their parents invited their elders to visit, learn and see if they’d be interested in returning to the classroom as volunteers.

“It is ‘grand-friends’ rather than just grandparents, because you have aunts and uncles, grand-aunts and grand-uncles, and neighbors you’ve adopted who play that role, and those are important relationships – and that matters,” explained event organizer Kanesha Baynard.

A Santa Rita parent, Baynard launched the program this year after experiencing a similar tradition of school volunteering and grand-involvement several years ago while living in Colorado. Her mother-in-law lived with the family as a “granny nanny,” convincing Baynard of the power of having hands-on support across generations – even if you move and lose access to the “granny nanny.”

“When you look at the community here, there are a lot of international grandparents and families living together,” she said.

Grandparents have already been volunteering in roles such as library book shelving and story time at Santa Rita. After gathering volunteer interest forms from “grand” participants at the September event, the school is organizing how to stay in touch with interested grands looking for upcoming opportunities to be involved.