I think most of us feel the garden is and should be an idyllic place, planned, planted and controlled by humans. If we do our work well, it will be a place of beauty, harmony and peace where the eye is rested and perhaps dazzled. Like our homes it should be a place of safety and quietude and for our pleasurable use. But, even though we lock the doors of the house, the safety and quietude can be disturbed by flies, mosquitos, spiders, ants – even the occasional squirrel or raccoon in the attic – dispelling the myth of safety and quietude. Even more so in the garden; we must share it with the critters that also live there.
When we accept their presence, most animals and insects add to the pleasure of the garden. For example, despite what some people think, bees and even wasps do not harm us unless we harm them. I work among plants and shrubs alive with bees – harmoniously, unless I mistakenly pinch one of them. Do not pinch or swat them and they will leave you alone. Sometimes they like to buzz around me (I think trying to find out what this being is) but they fly away quickly. Only one kind of bee has given me problems. It lives in the ground. You will not know it is there unless you disturb its nest and then you will be bitten, not stung, a lot, until you flee to the house, where you should call the pest control man and tell him you have a nest of ground bees and to come quickly and dispatch them!
I worked in a garden that had a population of toads. Oh Boy! I love to see toads. It means that there are insects there for the toads to eat, which means the garden is a healthy place. Gardens need a lot of insects. They pollinate the flowers, dig around in the soil aerating it, eat dead plant material and add nutrients to the soil. You might see butterflies, dragonflies, praying mantis, ladybugs, even walking sticks. The garden needs insects.
If you have a healthy garden, you will also see many birds and may even have a lot of nesting birds, which is thrilling to me. Robins, wrens, ovenbirds, oriels and mourning doves have all made nests where I have been able to watch the progression from nest building to fledging.
At my house, we have two bird feeders in the garden. They attract many birds and some local squirrels. There is enough food for everybody. The food that falls to the ground feeds a mother turkey and her one chick. (If my husband sees them he puts down some extra food for them.) We have a small pond so there is water for the birds, squirrels, turkeys and some visiting raccoons that stop by for a drink and to see if they can get into the compost bin.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know there are times when insects and animals become a real problem – the ground bees, carpenter ants and marauding raccoons scratching through the cedar roof shingles. The flock of 6 mother turkeys and their 20 chicks leaving presents all over the deck and those bats in the attic.
And we will talk about deer in the garden another time!
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