Water, Bats & Spiders

I know my column last week was all about watering, but with these days of really hot temperatures I feel it’s important to briefly touch on some great watering tips.  These guidelines will not only keep your yard looking fantastic but they’ll also help keep your water bill low too.  Using your fingers, check the soil two inches down.  If there is moisture you don’t need to water yet, wait until it feels dry.  Ideally, your garden should have a good 12 to 18 inches of quality top soil but we all know that is mostly a pipe dream.  The best thing you can do is to add an annual 1-2 inch layer of compost which will help your soils retain more moisture.  Lastly, make sure you have the appropriate sprinkler for the job - one that is efficient.  If you want more information on these tips, check out my previous columns about watering on our website, right here.


Now let’s talk about bats.  Last week my wife was opening up an umbrella in the patio when, much to her chagrin, a “cute and furry” bat dropped out, fluttered around for a few seconds and flew away.  Fortunately, she remained calm and didn’t wet her pants, which is more than I might have done.  While bats can seem “creepy” we need to remember that they are a valuable part of the ecosystem and do an incredible job of helping to manage insect populations, especially mosquitos.  Gardeners can encourage bats by installing bat houses, which are non-intrusive looking structures that mount to the house, preferably high up under the eaves where they will stay dry.  If you are lucky enough to get an established family of bats you might also get to harvest some bat guano, which is rich in nitrogen and a fabulous fertilizer for the garden.  I would recommend adding it to the compost pile first rather than incorporating it directly into the garden as it will put your compost into first gear and speed the whole process along quite nicely.


August and spiders are like peanut butter and jelly.  “Swimming through the garden in August” is how I like to think about spiders this time of year.  When I go outside first thing in the morning I instinctively put my arms out in front of me, much like I would do if I was doing the breast stroke.  There are spider webs everywhere and no matter how many I knock down they come right back the following morning.  These webs are the work of the European Yellow Cross Spider, which is also known as the Cross Orbweaver, but for most of us they are simply garden spiders.  These spiders are harmless to humans so there is no need to fear them.  They build a new web every day after consuming the previous day’s work along with whatever flies, mosquitos or whatever were caught in them.  Like bats, these spiders are a gardener’s friend and should not be killed.  Just brush them out of your way, get your gardening work done and figure you will be doing the same routine the next day, and the next day and…………..


So for the rest of this month embrace bats and spiders and be responsible and efficient with the water.  And if you go on vacation make sure you get someone to take care of the garden.  It’s worth the investment.