A gardening dispatch from India
Charlie Nardozzi is traveling in India and visiting a local garden center there. Nardozzi noticed several plants, flowers and veggies that grow well in Vermont, too.
While Charlie Nardozzi is traveling in northern India, he wandered into local garden centers and nurseries there to compare and contrast the types of plants, shrubs and trees that grow well in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and Vermont.
The area is the northernmost in the country and shares a similar latitude with northern Florida, which lies in plant-hardiness Zone 8 or 9 (Vermont is Zone 4 and 5), making the plants that grow there subtropical. The region is also about 5,000 feet in elevation.
And the elevational range in Himachal Pradesh makes for cooler daytime temperatures while the nights can get below freezing in the winter.
The temperatures this year in Himachal Pradesh have been cooler than normal, and conditions have been very sunny and dry. Currently, a lot of cool season vegetables are growing well, like the things we will be growing in April and May in our gardens in Vermont.
Lettuces and kale, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and all the root crops are in the garden centers and markets right now, along with traditional Indian vegetables like fenugreek.
Annual flowers like zinnias, marigolds, pansies, primulas and petunias, which all thrive in the cooler weather, are filling up the garden centers there, too.
And because of the range of temperatures, trees and shrubs that grow well include oleander and cypress, as well as blueberry bushes and citrus, like limes and oranges.
A listener question about how to create a lawn that's irresistible to birds
Q: What plants can I grow to attract birds? — Archie, in Bridport
A: One of the best ways to attract birds is to make your backyard their go-to grocery store. That means growing the kinds of trees that have a lot of insects in them to feed their young!
Doug Tallamy researched “keystone” species of trees, and they tend to have lots of caterpillars living in them. Those caterpillars are a vital food source for birds raising their young.
For example, a pair of chickadees will need 5,000 to 6,000 caterpillars to raise their chicks from hatching all the way up to fledgling!
Choose from these keystone tree species that grow well in our area — like oaks, willows, poplars, birch and cherry. If you can plant some of these trees in your yard, that will provide a ready source of food for many types of birds and their young.
Another way to encourage feathered visitors is to leave snag trees in your yard. They are a great way to attract birds. Those are older, dead trees that have fallen or are full of holes for nesting and for insects.
And consider this permission to leave brush piles in your yard instead of cleaning them up! These brush piles provide the perfect hiding spots for birds who need to duck out of the way from prey.
Berry-producing shrubs are another great food source and will attract birds. Consider planting viburnums, dogwoods and aronia berry, and some seed-producing plants like sunflowers. These will provide needed energy for birds, whether they migrate or spend the winter here.
And lastly, have a water source nearby for the birds — a pond, a stream or even just a bird bath.
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