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Celebrate pollinators this month, especially

With more than enough artichokes to eat, this community gardener let the rest go to flower. The result was a honeybee rave. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Support the hard-working creatures that make food and flowers possible

With so many vegetables and other plants flowering right now, it's no wonder that June has been designated National Pollinator Month by the National Wildlife Federation.

Pollinators are responsible for assisting more than 80 percent of the world's flowering plants to reproduce, according to the USDA Forest Service. They provide an estimated 1 in 3 bites of food we eat.

And while bees do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to pollination, they have help from many other creatures: Birds, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles and even bats contribute.

Here are five ways to help pollinators in your garden and in your neighborhood:

2) Let some of your herb and food plants go to flower. Designate a certain portion of the garden or even just one plant as a pollinator plant. Ever seen bees react to fluorescent purple artichoke flowers? It's party city!

3)  Plant pollinator-friendly plants in clumps, which are more likely to entice them, especially hummingbirds. Hummers are drawn to long, tubular flowers in the warm spectrum: orange, yellow and especially red.

Monarch caterpillars happily devour leaves of a tropical milkweed plant.
(Photo courtesy Elizabeth Riley)
4) Love butterflies? Remember that they start as caterpillars, which eat leaves. You have to put up with some chewed leaves to get those gorgeous butterflies.

5) Most important: Avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides in the garden. Wiping out the good bugs along with one troublesome pest is bad for the environment and bad for us. Read any insecticide label before using it. Don't deploy the equivalent of a bulldozer when a trowel will do.

Bonus note: Here's a fun thing to share with young people in your life: A National Wildlife Federation kid-friendly webinar called "Pollinators All Around Us."

-- Kathy Morrison


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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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