By Lisa Burns
With the arrival of cooler weather, many bird species are migrating south for the winter. For our northern neighbors, seed and food supplies are depleted due to snow cover, while in Florida the supply is low due to the demand. Setting up a birdfeeder or bird feeding station in your garden can help keep migrating and native birds full and happy.
What to feed
What you choose to place in your feeder will depend on the species of birds that you would like to attract to your garden. You can purchase a commercial mix of seeds to attract a variety of birds, which may also contain grains that some birds dislike, or provide the following seeds individually:
Bird food is not limited to seed. Many birds enjoy grains such as oats and corn and nuts including raw peanuts and walnuts. Remember squirrels love nuts. Unless you are trying to attract squirrels make sure you place them in an area where squirrels cannot get to them. Fresh and even dried fruits including apples and orange halves are a wonderful choice for your feeding station.
Dining with a view, where to place your birdfeeder
Place your feeder near a tree or bush for cover but at least 10 feet away to deter squirrels and mice from feasting from the feeder. To close to a tree will also give cats a place to hide, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting bird. Birdfeeders can be free standing, mounted on a pole or hung.
What type of birdfeeder is best?
There are many styles of birdfeeders available and just like choosing what to feed choosing a birdfeeder will depend on the species of birds. Simple platform style feeders, with a flat open surface, will attract the widest variety of birds and can be made easily using re-purposed items such as dinner plates and teacups. Some retail platform feeders come with roofs to help to keep the food dry.
If you fill it they will come
It could take some time before the birds notice the feeders. One way to attract them is to have a ready supply of clean water available, using a birdbath or fountain. Moving water in a fountain or small pond is especially attractive to birds. In addition moving water will keep mosquitoes from laying eggs.
Bird watching can be educational and fun for adults and children. Get the kids involved with this simple kid’s project; using an empty paper towel holder, smear it with peanut butter and roll in seeds. Simply place outside and wait for the birds.
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By Lisa Burns
Living in the south with our mild winters, you probably think frost damage in your garden is not something you have to worry about. Truth is if the temperature dips below freezing even for one or two nights, your plants can sustain damage. The type, age and general health of the plant are key factors in whether or not your plants will survive.
Covering your plants is not a guarantee that damage will not occur. If you lay a blanket or tarp over the entire plant and the cover is directly touching the plant there may still be damage. It is also important to remove the cover during the day so the plant can warm up. Like most of you, I am too busy to cover and uncover 100 plants every day during the cold snaps. Most of the time I don’t cover them at all and hope for the best.
Of course, some plants tolerate frost and cooler temperatures better than others do, just as some love our hot humid summers more than others. A few popular plants that are susceptible to frost damage include annuals, Impatiens, Marigolds, Coleus & some sub-tropicals like Hibiscus, Citrus & Bougainvillea. If you notice frost damage on your favorite plants, do not give up too quickly. Any plant that is still alive will attempt to recover. Many of your perennial plants like Salvia & Begonias will die back but the roots can survive the winter only to re-sprout in the spring. The same applies for bulb plants like Day Lilies and Iris. Even if a plant has lost all of its external woody parts, it can re-grow from the root or stem.
If you notice frost damage here are some tips to helping your plants survive:
What about my pond plants?
The same rules apply for your pond plants: no pruning or fertilizing. They will actually have a better chance of survival because the water temperature is generally warmer than the air temperature and the plants will be hydrated from the pond water.
Come spring when the weather warms, look for new growth & start pruning. If a plant is truly dead, don’t be too upset, it means you have an excuse to buy new plants for your garden.
Lisa Burns is co-founder of Backyard Getaway, a landscaping company in Parrish. She can be reached through her website, BackyardGetaway.net.