There were thunderstorms and I know some people don’t like thunderstorms, but they can provide benefits, and not just due to the sometimes incredible light shows. You gardeners know that nitrogen is the main nutrient our plants use to grow lush and green. Well, our atmosphere or air is around 78 percent nitrogen, but it’s in a form plants cannot use. Lightning causes a chemical reaction that transforms some of that nitrogen into a form plants can use that’s deposited in our soil with the rainfall. Admittedly, it’s not a large amount of nitrogen, but every little bit helps.
We gardeners know there are all kinds of quirky things that happen in the wild world of gardening and I recently experienced one with both positive and negative consequences. Each June, many of our gardens are visited by orioles, and no, I don’t mean the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, but the colorful bird. This year, some Bullock orioles visited for a few weeks. The male is quite striking, with his bright orange feathers, black throat and back, black line across the eyes and black wings with large white patches. Since I enjoy bird watching that was very positive. However, a negative aspect is the oriole’s incredible love of fruit — and the cherries were ripening at the time. So yes, the birds beat me to most of my cherries, although I was able to snag a few.
While that was a negative, there was another positive aspect. When feeding, the birds hang upside down and I noticed them on a honey locust nibbling on something. It took me a while to realize they were going after honey locust plant bugs, which have been in high numbers this year sucking the sap out of leaves and leaving them distorted and often times yellowing. So yes, I lost the cherries but I enjoyed the sheer presence, amazing color and pleasure of watching the antics of the birds going after the honey locust plant’s bugs.
While our cherries are gone, one way or another, other fruit will soon be ripening. So what are some options for keeping birds from eating it? A basic method used for years has been to put netting over the trees. This works but it’s costly, time-consuming in getting it on and off, and since the trees continue to grow, the netting can cause distortions in the limb growth. Another option is to hang items from the tree limbs, including flash tape, pie tins or old CDs. In this category, flash tape is probably the best option as it has a colored side, such as red or gold, and a silver side. A colleague working at the Colorado State University Yellow Jacket research center told me they had pretty good control using this. Most flash tape is 1-inch wide and comes in rolls of 50 feet. Just cut off a strip and tie it onto a tree limb and the combination of wind moving it and sun reflecting off it has been shown to work pretty well as long as you have some breeze, even gentle, moving it.
Another method is using 20-pound monofilament fishing line. For young fruit trees, place a pole by the side of the tree trunk that rises up above the tree. Before doing that, tie multiple pieces of fishing line to the top. Once in place, attach the lines to the ground with a tent stake just past the drip line at 2-foot intervals. This results in a teepee-like shape but is still easy for you to slip through. How this works is the birds see the line appearing and disappearing due to the sun reflecting off it. They think it’s a barrier and won’t fly down to the limbs, even with the open spacing. It’s proven quite effective in many applications and I’ve used this in the past and also found it very effective. For low beds such as strawberries you can place lines 2 inches above the fruit about 12 inches apart.
So enjoy the birds, enjoy your fruit and continue enjoying a Grand County summer.
Thought for the day: “The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” —Jeremy Paxman
Previous articles are available at The Times-Independent website, www.moabtimes.com. Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.