Autumn is a great time to get ready for helping wildlife next year. How so? Much as many of us like to feed wildlife, most experts advise against it UNLESS you are supplying the food that wildlife evolved with: native plants that provide berries, seeds, nectar and even the insects on the plants for the wildlife who eat insects. In other words, California native plants are the best food source for California wildlife.
Fall is the best time to plant California native plants, so their roots are in the ground ready to get a head start for growing deep down during our winter rains. After two years, your plants will be established, and if you picked drought tolerant natives, your plants may not need water much, if at all, during the following summers because their tap roots are deep. Of course, this will be more likely if you live close to the ocean, where temperatures in the 90s and above never or rarely occur, or if you live in an area where the water table is fairly high—for example near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo, even if the lake goes dry.
Hummingbird lovers can attract these wonderful creatures year round by planting the hummingbird’s favorite native plant species. Watch the hummers visit each new set of blooms as they come into flower.
Fall: California Fuchsia (pictured left) will bloom from August/September into November/December.
Winter: Manzanitas (shown below), note that different varieties bloom at different times from late fall into early summer with tiny bell-shaped flowers.
Spring: Ribes (currents and gooseberries) bloom in early spring, and Dudleyas bloom in late spring.
Summer offers many choices such as sages (especially Hummingbird Sage pictured below), as well as columbines and monkey flowers.
See Las Pilitas Nursery’s Hummingbird web page for much more information about attracting wildlife with plants.
Where to buy, or get information about, native plants in San Luis Obispo County
California Native Plants – San Luis Obispo has their annual plant sale November 5, at Pacific Beach High School across from Old Navy in SLO. 9am-1pm.
Las Pilitas Nursery is outside Santa Margarita and only open for retail sales on Saturdays; they will however ship (shipping costs the same for 1 plant or 18).
Other retail nurseries can order plants for you, if they don’t have what you want on hand. For example, Farm Supply has a native plant section and will also order for you.
Wild Birds need Water
If you are trying to attract birds, don’t forget fresh clean water. It can be as simple as a large saucer such as you would put under a planter. It needs to be big enough so birds can bathe occasionally to remove the mites from their feathers, as well as take drinks. They like having a bush they can fly into quickly if something scary (like you) arrives unexpectedly. That bush just makes them feel more comfortable to be there. A thorny bush will keep cats out and might be even better for birds to hide in when they need to.
Please Keep Cats Away
Birds coming to your garden first fly up to an overlook (a fence or a tall tree) to see if it looks safe. It’s only fair to keep any cats inside if you are trying to attract birds.
Start planning and planting now, and see how many birds come to your garden, even without birdseed or sugar water. It’s a way to feed birds and other wildlife for years to come.