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It used to be thought that our love of plants was an impractical but pure passion. But now, in the age of environmental crisis, we're discovering that gardening is essential to human life

~Jacqueline Heriteau~

Put Your Yard to Work

Digging, planting, weeding and trimming, our garden keeps me busy most of the year. I decided it's time to switch roles and put the garden to work!

Plants must do double duty and serve a useful purpose. YES!
Sloth be gone, pretty in itself no longer a good enough reason to demand a spot in my 2009 garden.

Vegetables and other useful plants are becoming more mainstream. No longer does one need to have a 'fruit orchard', 'vegetable' or 'herb' garden, sequestered somewhere in the back 40; useful plants have become socially acceptable even in the snobbiest front gardens of California!

Control Garden Pests

You may already know that marigolds secrete a substance that deters nematodes and insects. Marigolds are generally not high on anyone's list of desirable garden plants, after all, their loud yellow and orange colors are not the right fit in many landscapes.
So let me share a secret: there's lots of other plants with similar deterrent qualities that may just be a good fit in your garden and reduce your need for insecticides. In the scientific literature, there are credible and intriguing studies demonstrating the relationships among plants and their associated insects and microbes.

  • Herbs with strong fragrances such as mint, basil, chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, rue and tansy.
  • Annual flowers such as cosmos, asters, nasturtiums, daisies and mums.
  • Vegetables with repellent qualities like tomato, celery, black salsify, radishes, garlic, onions, green beans and horseradish.
  • Trap crops such as pelargonium, which attracts and is toxic to japanese beetles planted, for example, among rose bushes.

Produce Food

Talking about double duty! some plants are workhorses! Look at the list of herbs in the previous section. Not only do they deter insects, they can add zest and flavor to your family's dinner.

Fruiting shrubs such as elderberry, raspberries and blackberries add fun and exercise to your life. You will be racing the birds to see who gets to the harvest finish line first! Just imagine: fresh fruit with your cereal or yogurt snack, maybe even a fun day of old-fashioned canning? And to top it all off, you will pass by the expensive little fruit packs in the grocery store with a smile, knowing you have fresher and better tasting fruit growing in your own garden.

Plant a fruit tree! Rather than a decorative flowering cherry, select a fruit bearing cherry. I promise, the flower power of both types is similar, but only the fruit bearing variety will bring a smile to your face later in the year! Even a patio container will make a happy home for many small fruit trees.

Attract and Encourage Wildlife

Making your yard a better environment for wildlife serves several purposes.

First of all, bees and other pollinators are losing more and more habitat every year. Take a look around a new neighborhood: Did the builder take out every tree and proceeded to plant the required 6 shrubs in the front with an expanse of lawn to fill in the remainder? Gone are the wildflowers that most pollinators depended upon! Planting flowers helps protect this vital resource in our country.

Bringing birds and butterflies to your garden balances the eco system. Have you ever watched a hummingbird devour a drove of aphids in a basket of petunias or a group of swallows gorging themselves on mosquitoes? Let the birds do the work and make your garden healthier and less pesticide dependent.

Last, but not least, having lots of birds means all the fruit and berries that you miss when picking will not go to waste!


February in the Garden:

Feed the Birds!
Start Seeds:
Add a spot for butterflies
to 'warm-up'