"In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener."

— Robert Rodale

Caterpillars

Usually when we think of caterpillars, we consider them enemies. They can be serious pests on trees and other plants because they eat their foliage, which impacts their growth and vigor.

We need to think of them from another perspective, though.

All caterpillars are not pests. Some are critical to our environment.

Spring caterpillars are often precursors to butterflies. If they cannot find food sources in our yards and neighborhoods, we will not have butterflies.

We will also not have birds. Caterpillars are a critical food for young birds that are not yet able to eat seeds. For example, chickadee parents need to find from 350 to 570 caterpillars per day for their nestlings. Since it takes at least 16 days for the youngsters to fledge and manage on their own, the parents need to find over 6,000 caterpillars during this time.

In the spring, the biggest sources of food for caterpillars are native plants. So try to have some native trees, shrubs, flowers — even vegetables and herbs — in your yard to welcome birds and butterflies.

Pre-planned gardens

Not every homeowner is interested in gardening. Not only do we have to know all about soil and water requirements, color, mature plant height and width, bloom times and the amount of available sunlight each type of plant requires, we have to know all about which plants are appropriate where. Of course, we could hire professional help to do the whole job, but that isn't always possible.

Maybe a start-to-finish pre-planned garden for our properties that we could install ourselves would be easier and cheaper.

Such plans are available from some garden centers, many nurseries and catalogs. They take the guesswork out of designing. They also select flowering plants that bloom throughout the season to provide non-stop color. Plant spacing and placement is already carefully calculated, based upon mature height and width and there are often planting diagrams make it easy to install the gardens, no matter the shape of your beds.

For more info, Google pre-planned gardens.

Clay pots

It is not uncommon to find a white crust or stain developing on older orange clay (aka terra cotta) pots. This is caused by soluble salts, leached from either fertilizer you’ve used on the plants or from minerals in your water if it is hard. Clay is porous, so water seeps through and then evaporates from the sides of the pot, leaving the salts behind that stain the pots.

While some find this attractive, you may want to remove the white residue from your clay pots. Experts recommend mixing a solution of one part bleach per nine parts water. Remove the plant from the pot and scrub the pot inside and out with the bleach solution. Rinse it thoroughly with plain water, let the pot dry completely and then return the plant to the renewed pot.

Tree facts

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

• The U.S. lost 175,000 acres of urban and community tree cover between 2009 and 2014.

• During those years, approximately 167,000 acres of impermeable groundcover and pavement increased.

• About one-third of the United States of America is covered by forests.

• According to the last forest inventory, there are almost 247 billion trees over 1 inch in diameter in the U.S.

• Water originating in our national forests provides drinking water for over 3,400 communities and approximately 60 million individuals.

• Trees growing in the open, where they don’t have to compete for water, nutrients or sunlight, may grow faster than forest trees. Therefore, a tree in a suburban backyard may be slightly younger than its circumference suggests.

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