Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is Success in the Garden?

I was mowing the lawn the other day and nearly ran over a frog.  I immediately thought to myself, 'Success!'


Don't worry, my feeling of success was not related to almost decapitating a frog. (He thankfully hopped to safety.)  Rather, it was because I was so happy that my garden and yard had managed to attract such a variety of local wildlife.

American Goldfinch eating Salvia seeds
A few years ago, after we moved into our house in North Carolina, we hired a pest control service to spray around the perimeter of the house for bugs.  That's just what one did in the South, spray for poisonous spiders and ticks and such.

The next day I found several dead frogs next to the house.

Bee and Penstemon
In horror, we canceled the pest control service, but it was two years before I saw frogs in the yard again.

Norman, our local groundhog
That was when it hit home for me that I must be much more judicious with chemicals around me.  The environment was more connected than I realized, and in trying to get rid of things I didn't want, I could end up affecting so much more.

American Lady butterfly on Allium
While I know there will still be critters that I think of as pests and animals that I wish would move out of my garden...

hint, hint
...in general, I now try to garden more conscientiously, with the lives of those around me in mind.

Snowy Urola Moth
Success in the garden has stopped meaning the perfectly manicured lawn or perfect looking, un-chewed plants and flowers anymore.  Those things are beautiful, but not at the cost of a different type of beauty.


I do get a huge thrill of accomplishment when I see my garden with lots of flowers in bloom and no weeds in sight (okay, I'll settle for few weeds in sight),

Sulphur butterfly on Purple Coneflower
and I love it when my vegetable garden is productive and we get a nice haul of fruit and veggies,

Grey Catbird overlooking the veggie garden
but to me, possibly an even higher level of garden success is seeing frogs hopping out of the way of the lawn mower.


Happy gardening for wildlife!

27 comments:

  1. I love this thoughtful post. I too enjoy much wildlife in the garden-well most of it that is. If I manage to get a decent pepper this year I will really call that success as I will have won over the fight against stink bugs. My garden looks mess because I can't bear to pull out off the dead seed heads on cone flowers. The goldfinches just love them. As to pill bugs that find an easy way into the house. The spiders are there waiting for them. No spraying here. We all live together.

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    1. I struggle with how much to deadhead on my flowers. The goldfinches come for the seeds before the flowers have even truly gone, so I leave them up for a little bit before cutting, and then leave the last flush in fall. Good luck with your peppers! Those plants attract all sorts of trouble. I'm fighting aphids on mine.

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  2. I never see frogs here but I do have lots of toads. One black one keeps hopping under my feet and almost upset me a few days ago. I keep a watch when mowing because the grass is full of tiny new toads. I love to see birds and critters while gardening but would like to see fewer chipmunks.

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    1. Aw, the toad likes you :) Mowing is almost hazardous now, with so many little critters in the lawn. I try to mow slowly and let all the moths, grasshoppers, crickets, and frogs escape!

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  3. This is a very important posting, Indie. Yes, I would say you have achieved success in your garden, proved by your beautiful photos. I am a totally organic gardener, and it is frustrating when plants are 'less than perfect' sometimes. I remind myself when I see a nibbled leaf that I am providing habitat for another creature. P. x

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    1. It really gets me when my plants are chewed up by invasive bugs, though! I don't get too bent out of shape by a few holes in plants, but when invasive bugs come and devour our trees, that makes me sad. Lately we've been battling the winter moth caterpillars eating the trees here in Massachusetts, which are followed by the gypsy moth caterpillars. Poor trees can't get a break!

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  4. I couldn't agree more! Happy wildlife is more important than perfect plants. I love your critters, especially Norman.

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    1. Thanks! Norman has done damage to a few plants, but thankfully he mostly stays on his side of yard and eats the weeds! I am hoping that Norman is indeed a boy, though..

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  5. Love this post! No pesticides, insecticides or chemicals around our house. I too discovered the hard way that using any of these will create an unbalanced ecosystem and I am horrified if I see dead creatures in my garden. Norman is adorable! And, the squirrels...they are a menace for sure. I came home from being away 5 days and they had opened every single suet feeder and removed the contents. They are such rascals!

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    1. We just got home from being away for four days, and I am quite sure that the previously filled-to-the-brim bird feeder is empty due to the squirrels, as the squirrel baffle was down near the ground. I need to get a better squirrel baffle!

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  6. Gardening is a balancing act and great if you and nature can work together and not use pesticides. Not always easy when green/brown/blackfly are munching their way thru' your gorgeous blooms.... grrrrr

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    1. Very true. My houseplants got attacked by all sorts of stuff last winter, and I was almost ready to break down and drench them in pesticides. Some of those bugs can drive a person crazy! I try to use organic methods, but even some of those may harm the good bugs as well as the bad. Definitely a balancing act.

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  7. I wonder if or when we will see little snakes and frogs in this garden. We do have lizards and lots of birds.

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    1. I used to have a lot of little lizards in my last garden and loved them! I've seen salamanders and snakes here and now frogs, but no lizards yet.

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  8. My garden is 100% organic and pesticide-free. But 10 years ago when I was using pesticides, I noticed even the birds avoided my garden. It was sad and humbling and a sign I had to change. Squirrels are pains but they're excellent exercise for my dogs. :o) I have toads but no frogs. Lucky you!

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    1. I've noticed that lawns that have had stuff put on them don't have nearly the array of little critters living there that organic lawns have, so it would make sense that it wouldn't attract any birds. And who knows what eating pesticide covered bugs would do to a bird. I have read that in areas where the water tested high for neonic pesticides, the bird population had declined. One thing leads to another.

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  9. I love this post.... This is how I feel... Please link it into Nature Noted this week or next... Wonderful post.... Michelle

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    1. Thanks! So many people don't realize how much one thing affects another in the environment. I sure didn't!

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  10. What a lovely post, Indie, and I enjoyed seeing all the critters in your yard. Norman does look a bit intimidating, though:) I have made a similar journey. When cleaning out the garage last year, I found a big container of insecticide that I bought our first year here to spray around the foundation of the house. I never did use it and have no intention now. There are lots of little pests I wish we didn't have--mosquitoes come to mind at the moment--but it's not worth endangering all the other wildlife that visit my garden.

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    1. If you think Norman looks intimidating, you should see George, the six-foot long black racer snake... Thankfully he mainly stays over in the neighbor's yard :)

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  11. I could get little happiness from my garden without the wildlife. Pesticides are not the only dangers our critters must face. I recently saw a large groundhog, just like yours, hurrying as fast as his short legs could take him across the busy highway. He made it, this time. I told my husband I hoped he did not have to go back the same way.

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    1. Most of the happiness I get from my garden is from the wildlife, too. I realize that a large majority of the garden photos I take are of critters. I get a happy feeling when my flowers are full of bees and butterflies.

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  12. I am with you....no chemicals and critters galore...lots even the pests! And lots of weeds but I will get to them.

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    1. Sounds like my garden :) I'm slowly getting to all those weeds, though it's a never ending cycle until winter!

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  13. We share the same thoughts. I pretty much garden for the wildlife. When it buzzes, crawls and flies around, I am happy. Success comes in so many ways, and sometimes the simple ways are the most rewarding.

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