Anne Marrison

Gardening in Langley: bird bathing

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Dear Anne,

We have many birds visiting as we have a feeder. The swallows return each year to the nesting boxes. Up until 2 years ago we had a white plastic birdbath which they used frequently. We then bought a nice, modern one (not concrete) and since then not one bird has used it. We placed a large flat stone in it, but it was of no help. We are hoping you, or one of your readers can come up with a suggestion about what we can do.

Maureen, Langley

Dear Maureen

Could your new birdbath be more slippery than the other one? Or deeper? Birds seem to prefer shallow depths and rough surfaces in their birdbath. You could try putting some grit, small stones or sand in the bottom.

There are birdbaths that have one or two ornaments resembling birds fastened on the side – or even figures of saints or angels fastened to the birdbath or nearby. Since birds are always alert for rivals to attack them or humans to avoid, I doubt any of those ornaments would encourage them to get closer.

Or could your birdbath be a colour that wouldn’t occur in any pool or stream in nature? Or a shape that looks artificial. One reason concrete birdbaths are often a bird favourite is that concrete looks very similar to the rock birds see on the edges of shallow woodland streams.

I also wonder if there have been any changes to vegetation around your birdbath. If you’ve cleared away shrubbery or done heavy pruning there, maybe the location is too open. Birds are always on the watch for predators and feel safest when there’s are trees or shrubs for escape.

Is there a possibility that fewer birds than in the past visit your yard even though a good many still remain. During the last two years, we see far fewer birds – not just in our garden but in the whole neighbourhood.

Dear Anne,

I have healthy looking pole bean plants, but there are hardly any beans on them. What is the cause of this? Lack of insects?

Heidi Naman, Vancouver

Dear Heidi,

It’s most likely the heat, Heidi. When temperatures rise to over 85F (29C) the bean blossoms tend to drop. Also drought can prevent beans from forming. I wonder how much you’ve been able to water your pole beans. Beans need a lot of water and grey water for beans can be just as useful for as fresh water.

Lack of insects wouldn’t be the problem because beans are mostly self-fertile. Bees (or smaller pollinating insects) do visit beans to get nectar and they also move pollen around, but the beans manage the basic pollination themselves.

There is another possibility: Pole beans don’t start producing nearly as quickly as dwarf beans. So if you planted your pole beans fairly late, they may not have started forming beans yet.

Another thought is whether you fed them with high-nitrogen fertilizer. This fertilizer makes plants concentrate on producing lots of leaves and stems, but not so many blossoms.

But really the high heat we’re having is by far the likeliest reason. Beans are quite weather-dependent. If temperatures cool somewhat in September and a few showers kick in, your bean plants should recover and give you an adequate crop.


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