Let Them Drink Water: Urban Gardens, Solar Fountains, Bathing Birds, and Saving the Bees!

bird bath with solar fountain

A neighbor came over to borrow something the other day. We’ve been friendly neighbors since I moved here six years ago and yet this neighbor has never been in my backyard. He’s been in my garage, we’ve chatted (and, okay, gossiped) sometimes extensively in the alley, we’ve waved from our back porches, but he had never been in my backyard.

Witnessing him walk through my back gate and experience my garden for the first time made me feel a mix of pride, affection, and humbleness. After all, it’s the garden that has decided to be as gorgeous as it is. I just water it. And weed it. And do all the other stuff you do when you are way into your urban garden.

About fifteen steps in past the back gate, my neighbor stopped in front of one of my favorite elements of the garden which is a copper bird bath another neighbor gave me. She was going to put it into the alley but asked if I might want it. “YES.” I fell in love with this bird bath instantly. It already had that fabulous patina that copper gets. Had I have stumbled upon it on an alley walk I would have lost my mind with joy and carried it all the way home, weighted bottom and all, with glee in my heart and pep in my step!

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What really made the bird bath sing: The solar fountain pump

What really made the bird bath sing (…) was a solar fountain pump I found on Amazon. I don’t even know what led me to search on the term — what was it? “Solar powered fountain” – ? I can’t remember. But, as things are on the Interwebs, some random query produced this marvelous solar bird bath fountain pump in my search results.

It works. It’s inexpensive. It’s so sweet. As my neighbor, who had never seen my yard before, put it, “Wow – look at this fountain – that is so marvelous!” It really is. I love it so much that I got a second one.

This smaller bird bath was resting on a garbage can when I serendipitously took my recycling out to the alley. I immediately grabbed it and was all, “SCORE!” I cleaned it up and painted the insides with Rustoleum “Royal Blue” oil paint. That held up for a couple of summers and then started to peel here and there (my fault; rushed the job because I was so eager to get this fountain up and running) so I hit it with another coat this summer.

Just a couple of caveats

  • Solar means sunshine required

These solar pumps only work when the sun is fully on them. If even a portion of the tiny solar array is covered in shade or by a leaf or such, the fountain simply doesn’t work. Yes, that’s a bit of a bummer. But when the fountain is in full sun it’s so great! And it does as it’s supposed to – move the water around, and make that magical, meditative trinkling water sound. Salve for the soul.

  • Spray heads cause trouble for small water basins

The solar fountains come with sprayer heads that you can swap in to change the shape of the water spray. I tried these but realized quickly that the heads shot the water up too high and, here in the Windy City, that up-high-water was being moved away from the bird bath by the wind. In other words, the bath was emptying out pretty quickly – not good. I decided early on that no sprayer head was the preferred set up for my fountains. Bonus: the trickling sound the fountain makes with no attachment is the most audible and the prettiest.

I do clean the bird baths and solar pumps once a week. Just empty the water onto the plants and spray the bottoms of the pumps clean with a hard shot of water from the hose in order to clear the little filter on the bottom of the pump. But even if I can’t get to this chore every weekend the pumps continue to work without a hitch unless a lot of debris has collected in the bird baths.

I don’t yet have a photo of a bird in the fountain even though I do get birds bathing in both baths from time to time. I also get all types of bees taking a drink all day during hot Chicago summer (on into Fall) days. I’ve worked hard to create a bee and butterfly haven with my gardening. If I’m going to attract them I better supply them with a drink! (If you’re curious about bees and want to help keep bees healthy and happy, here’s a post you may find interesting.)

I leave you with a home-made video of bees buzzing around in my garden, working up a thirst. Good thing there’s water for them! Listen closely and you’ll hear the trinkling of water from a solar powered fountain pump. “Magical”, says this Passionate Chump.

 

We’re passionate about solar power! Have you tried solar accessories in your garden or around your home? Would love to hear your thoughts – post a comment!

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