In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
April, 2013
Regional Report

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A native bee drilled a hole in this dried agave bloom stalk.

Gardening for Wildlife

In an earlier report in which I listed the seven principles of Xeriscape, Tucson landscape designer and artist Greg Corman commented that Xeriscape misses an important component: designing for wildlife. I agree. In keeping with this month's Earth Day theme, let's add fun and easy DIY landscape elements to benefit wildlife.

Make a mud bath. Male butterflies congregate in puddle parties to absorb essential salts. If you have a pond, scrape out a flat sandy area that remains consistently moist at its edge. Or dig a shallow depression and sink a large flat saucer filled with sand near a water source where it is easy to keep the sand moist. A common bird bath (or a sculpture that you create of repurposed materials) filled with wet sand placed within view of a window is another option. Site the puddle party in a sunny spot protected from strong winds. Periodically toss a handful of compost or soil onto the area to replenish minerals.

Build bee abodes.Africanized honeybees receive media attention, while dozens of native bee species, including leafcutter, mason, resin, and sweat bees, work diligently in obscurity. These natives are solitary, don't swarm, and are uninterested in humans. Because they evolved together, native bees are essential for pollinating native plants that honeybees ignore.

Help sweat bees find nesting sites in the ground by leaving a few sunny patches of bare soil without mulch. Leafcutter and mason bees build their nests in holes in soft rotting wood. Provide tree stumps, branches, or woody flower stalks from agave and yucca. You can also mimic bee efforts by drilling holes in a range of leftovers, from a chunk of wood to an old broomstick. Bees may have preferred hole sizes. Research what kinds of bees are native to your region, or drill a variety of hole sizes and see who is attracted. If you're feeling creative, follow Greg Corman's lead and construct a bee habitat sculpture from repurposed wood and metal. Gain inspiration from his bee-friendly sculptures at http://gardeninginsights.com/.

Provide a perch. All sorts of birds like a perch to survey their territory, from large birds of prey to tiny hummingbirds. If you are unencumbered by homeowner association rules or fire dangers, consider leaving a dead tree snag standing! That doesn't work for most urban dwellers, but you can leave tall dried bloom stalks attached to your agave or yucca plants after flowering. They typically last several years and tiny birds (hummers, verdins, and goldfinches) will stop by.


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