Side Effects of Soil Building – who knew?

But first a few pictures from the last couple weeks…

Cabbage rose by the potting shed
Entry to the garden…
4 yr. old pond with skunk cabbage
Entry garden bench
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Rain garden…
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Flowering lawn with violets, coastal strawberries, clover, self-heal and baby’s tears
June Pollinator garden with many things ready to bloom!
Native iris and wild woods strawberry by pond
Sunrise in the June garden
view from the deck
Snapdragons in the center bed

There are interesting side effects to the success I am having in building rich live soil. When I began gardening here 11 years ago I rarely saw an earthworm. Now I can’t even dig in a pathway without running into multiple worms! Worms are the favorite food of  moles and relished by rats, possums and raccoons as well.

As the worms have increased so have the moles! A few years back I started using burlap sacks on my pathways and discovered this winter that when it’s wet – worms like to come to the surface under the burlap. I suppose it’s moist without drowning them and it’s safe from birds. But the moles discovered their ploy and turned my orchard pathways into a soft lumpy bumpy mess in their search for the worms hiding there!

Then I realized sitting by the pond watching a robin last evening, that the last two years they have spent the whole summer here in my garden, something that was the norm in every other garden I have had in Oregon. One garden up near Portland had the same robin family live in it every summer for several years! I knew it was the same because the male had a wing feather that stuck out oddly, because one of our cats had caught it and damaged the wing! I fortunately caught my cat in time and pried the robin out of his mouth. In spite of the danger, it showed up every spring with it’s mate, to spend the summer with us. I missed that here and thought it was because we were in the woods – or perhaps southern Oregon summers were too hot. Here they would just stop by on their way to somewhere else. But now there are worms! And we all know how much robins love worms! Who knew that a side effect of making my soil rich and alive would be robins! Each year I notice a new variety of bird taking up residence for the summer – or at least the nesting season.

And that doesn’t even touch on the number of interesting varieties of native wildflowers that have shown up each year lately. Or the frogs and dragonflies and other creatures that populate the pond.

A couple weeks ago I discovered something was eating one of my hollyhocks – knitting the leaves together with webbing as well! I found prickly looking caterpillars inside and when I did an online search on them found they are Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars! Their main “host” foods are hollyhocks and thistles! I was so excited! They ate nearly every leaf on that plant and worked on a few of the other nearby hollyhock plants a bit, but they are already growing new leaves! The plant had obviously evolved with this butterfly munching it so I knew it would be fine. And then one day I came out to see how they were doing and they were all gone! It was time for them to go in to the chrysalis stage but I have not been able to find out where! Seems like sometime in the next week or so I should see some Painted Lady butterflies fluttering through the garden (I hope).

I am always looking for opportunities to share my garden with other humans – without truly appreciating the fact that I am sharing it with many non-human lives as well! I have even had several visits to my pond this spring by mallard ducks and a pair of Canadian Geese! It was fascinating watching the ducks circle above the trees and then just drop into the pond through the small opening in the canopy.

Makes me realize how many lives we can affect with the things we do on the small patches of the earth we steward and how little we really understand the effects we have – hopefully positive ones.


    • Thanks Pauline… I was just thinking of you on my way home from town… and the fact that your prickly pear start has FRUIT! wow!… Mine doesn’t have any sign of anything yet… looks fine, though. Maybe we can get together this coming week…. 🙂


  1. The title implies that something bad happened. Perhaps it is bad for the worms who get eaten.
    Robins used to be very common in the formerly vast orchards of the Santa Clara Valley. They migrated about orchards where the mustard had just been turned under. There were other birds too; so many different kinds. Now, there are more than a million people, just in San Jose, but not much wildlife at all. Robins are scarce. I don’t know what it is about the urban landscapes, but they all seem to be so sterile. It is hard to believe that this used to be what it was.


    • Tony… I actually meant the title to imply just the opposite! Ah well…. I guess with medications “side effects” are always seen as something not good, so it makes sense, since that is how that term is most often used. I don’t see ads anymore so forgot!

      Interestingly the robins who came back each year were coming to a house in town – in one of those old tree lined neighborhoods towns have… it was likely all the trees that made it appealing. It really is sad how so many things are disappearing each year – things WE notice in our own area and time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I did not mean that in a bad way. ‘Side effects’ actually sounds rather neutral. I just perceived it as . . . . oh, regardless, it is not important.
        One thing that I notice changing in both San Jose and Los Angeles is that there actually is more greenery! I know it sounds weird, especially since I notice all the trees that get cut down. When I see what San Jose looks like from the Santa Cruz Mountains, I do not see the expanse of roofs like I remember. There may be fewer trees now, but those that remain are much more mature, and obscuring the roofs. Also, trees are planted in the streets downtown, where there were not trees before. I think that in some places, the downtown streets are shaded ‘too much’ because of all the tall buildings. Perhaps I should not complain so much.


  2. Your garden looks lovely and cool with all the greenery. I too did not realise till three years ago that I was creating a habitat for moths, not just planting trees.


    • Hi there! I just went to your blog and was delighted to find you are a fellow perennial food plant nut as I am – you actually seem to have a few things I don’t have yet. Your blog inspires me to write more about my experiences with edibles, because I found myself enjoying reading yours so much. We have very different habitats and climates (except perhaps for our cold wet winters… but interestingly we seem to be able to grow many similar things. I have been working on a blog about some new perennial edibles I discovered I am trying or will be seeding this fall. I’ll keep you posted.


      • Yes, I’m enjoying finding out what perennials are useful for food. I don’t have time enough for annual plants and am aiming for a hunter gatherer retirement! I’ll look forwards to your future posts.


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