Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Gardening Tips for Wildlife

Make your garden a haven for wildlife this winter and the future with 4 easy steps:

1. Provide food for wildlife with native plants that offer acorns, berries and seeds.
2. Clean and fill your birdbath on a regular basis. If you live in an area where water freezes, invest in a birdbath heater.
3. When you finish with your Christmas tree anchor it in a secluded part of your yard and wildlife will use it as shelter from winter weather and storms.
4. You can provide additional cover for wildlife by starting a compost pile or brush pile with pine needle, pinecones and wreaths from your holiday decorations.

Remember your backyard wildlife during the winter and year round. They will appreciate it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Water for the birds!

In winter I turn my attention more to the wildlife that comes to my yard than the plants. The birds that visit my yard are colorful and are like flowers with wings!I put out seed and suet out for birds. But more importantly I provide a regular supply of clean water. Birds need water for drinking and bathing and is particularly important during the WINTER when natural supplies may be frozen.

Water to bathe in is equally important, especially in winter. It is essential that birds keep their feathers in good condition, and bathing is an important part of feather maintenance. Dampening the feathers loosens the dirt and makes the feathers easier to preen. When preening, the bird carefully rearranges the feathers and spreads oil from the preen gland so they remain waterproof and trap an insulating layer of air underneath.

There are many ways of providing water in the garden. The simplest way is a birdbath. This is essentially a dish of water that needs to be functional - the aesthetic aspects are there to please us, not the birds. The location of your garden and the type of vegetation immediately around it will determine what birds will visit your bird bath, and in what numbers. Sitting of the bath is very important - birds will only use it if they feel safe. Birds get excited and pre-occupied about bathing, and tend to be more vulnerable than at other times. Birds will need to have clear visibility as they bathe, nearby bushes or trees to provide cover if alarmed, and perches to use when preening.

I have a standing birdbath that I heat in winter to keep a constant source of water. I also use large shallow plant saucers on the ground in several locations that are very popular with some birds lie the Brown Thrasher. My pond and waterfall provide a steady source water for birds year-round.

It is important that Birdbaths be cleaned regularly as they soon build up a layer of algae, dead leaves or bird droppings. Give the bath a thorough clean every week or so. Scrub the sides and bottom to remove algae and other dirt. Use only cleaning products that are safe for birds or you can use dilute household disinfectants, but make sure that you rinse the bath out thoroughly to remove any traces of chemicals.

Provide an unfrozen source of water in your yard and see how many colorful birds you can attract.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas cactus

Technically my cactus are not part of my yard but they do live outdoors from about May until November. My Christmas cactus continues to grow even though I have divided them over and over. It was not always this way. When I moved them outdoors one spring they thrived and were full of buds. Keeping them indoors all year did not produce this result. From then on I have moved the cactus outdoors when the temperatures warm in the spring and bring my Christmas cactus in from the patio when we have our first nights that go below 50 degrees. Normally the dark pink one blooms at Thanksgiving and the orange ones between Christmas and Thanksgiving and the white usually waits until Christmas. Not this year! The pink one bloomed before Thanksgiving and the others during Thanksgiving. I guess I won’t have one blooming @ Christmas this year. The white cactus is from a cutting given to my mother-in-law by my husband’s grandfather back in the early 1980’s. I was given a cutting and over the years it has been divided and cutting have been given to friends and family. When it blooms It’s a nice reminder of both people who are no longer with us.