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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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