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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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