Help pollinators by inviting them into your garden
Resources for learning about pollinators and inviting them to your garden can be found on the CNPS Habitat Gardening website. Here you will find articles on biodiversity, butterflies, hummingbirds, songbirds, other pollinators, and wildlife.
In her article, “Welcoming bees into our hearts and gardens,” author Debbie Ballentine says, “Although we might not think about it much, pollinators provide important services to humans and the ecosystem. They are critical to the survival of plants, animals and humankind.” Her article mentions the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Project, which offers a list of the Best Bee Plants for California.
Good information on attracting butterflies to your home garden can be found at Art Shapiro’s Butterfly Site, and more specifically, his page on Butterfly Gardening in the Northern California Foothills.
Your garden can help the monarch butterflies
If you think monarchs only fly along the coast to settle in Pacific Grove before migrating to Mexico, it may surprise you to know that they also appear frequently in El Dorado County. They have even been seen at the relatively-hot Traverse Creek area! And you may also know that they need milkweed for depositing their eggs, because the caterpillars depend on this single plant group for food before they morph into the butterfly stage.
The problem is, their natural habitats are being reduced: land development, farming, weed spraying, and just plain bad weather are all working to reduce their food source. If you want to encourage monarchs to visit your garden, and help them with a “green island” for them to reproduce, consider planting some milkweeds.
If it’s not currently the season to plant milkweeds, then keep them in mind. Maybe when you start dreaming of next spring’s garden, you would like to see the colorful possibilities: Annie’s Annuals sells Mexican milkweed, Las Pilitas sells Monarch milkweed. Meanwhile, you might want to read this information about establishing a Monarch Waystation.
Attracting Birds to Your Garden (Using) Locally Native Plants of the Central Sierra Nevada (PDF) is a 17-page manual which describes trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, grasses, and wetland and aquatic plants, as well as the bird species that use them. It generally includes the height of plants, habitat requirements, flowering times, and other useful and interesting information for the gardener. The El Dorado Chapter wishes to acknowledge the authors’ generous release of this valuable publication for central foothill residents.
You may be surprised to learn that the berries of poison oak (Toxicodendron diversifolium) are a good food source for many birds. You may think of poison oak as a problem, especially if you have children around. However, if you have an area where you are able to avoid contact with the plant and let it grow, you will be providing food and habitat for some birds. For example, the California Towhee thinks it’s a great place to nest, and the berries are a treat!
Sometimes, you’d rather NOT attract wildlife. Deer that munch your shrubs to death, gophers that pull whole plants underground, and insects that devour leaves are not always welcome. Here are some resources to help you: