Much ado about summer pollinators

For The Tribune

Ah, spring was in the air, but it’s now time for summer.

Let’s look at the happenings in the yard this time of year.

One of the first things we notice about spring and summer are the birds’ songs. One cannot go a day without hearing or seeing a bird this time of year.

What are they singing about? Territory range, mate selection, warning intruder or perhaps general chatter seem to be the main reasons birds sing.

With the onset of birds, we have the building of nests and the unending repetition of feeding nestling and fledgling birds.

Birds have an uncanny ability to adapt to human structures for their nesting needs. If you sit and watch a nest in your yard, count how many times the adult(s) fly back and forth with food for the nestlings. This opportunity allows you to take a peak inside the world of songbirds.

American robin nestlings will nest for about two weeks after being in the egg for about two weeks, so be patient about the “mess” that they may make. It’s all worthwhile as they are playing insect monitor in your yard, keeping some of your “pests” under control.

Another burst in early summer is the weeds, glorious weeds, including dandelions, violets and clover in the yard. A weed is a weed depending upon the individual’s definition, but typically, it has a negative impression. Get to know your weeds and their purpose.

You actually might find that they are a host plant for a butterfly or moth that you enjoy seeing this time of year, as well, or provide an early food source for pollinators. And again, larvae support the dietary needs of nestling songbirds. Can you leave just a few “weeds” to support the songbird food chain?

Plantain is a “weed,” but it’s a larval host plant for buckeye butterflies, so it helps to feed the birds. Violets in the yard are also host plants for fritillary butterflies (and they help to feed the birds, too).

Can you share some space with them? White clover in the yard stays quite short (less than 5 inches or so) and honeybees love the clover (bumblebees love dandelions).

Consider mowing your lawn higher to share some space with clover and bees. You’ll save water, too, which encourages cooler ground temperatures and more worms (and by reducing your lawn area, you reduce the Japanese beetle population).

If you’re wishing to add a pollinator habitat to your yard but think it might be too late in the season, don’t worry. It’s not. Perennial flowers, trees and shrubs prefer to be planted in cooler weather (spring and fall), so, you haven’t missed the boat yet.

During the summer, plan where your garden will go, prepare the area by removing the vegetation and take an assessment of the soil.

If you want to add native plants, you really don’t need to amend your soil, as their roots go much deeper than you can amend.

Do your research. What is the goal of your garden? Who do you want to attract, feed and increase in population? Decide on your list of plants and design. Scour the end of season plant sales. Then by fall (September and October), plant your garden and/or seed it.

Come next spring, you’ll have the makings of your own great story.