A-to-Z Challenge, birds

Four Tips for Attracting Feathered Friends to Your Yard

There are many ways to attract fine feathered visitors to your garden.  Creating spaces where birds like to visit is easy, and just takes a few considerations.

Here are four proven ways to attract a maximum number bird species to your yard.   Not only will you get to see them, but you also will be helping them on their long migration journeys or to get through a cold winter. A well-stocked yard or deck, following the advice below, can help hundreds of birds to be healthier during the year and can help dozens survive a tough winter.  How cool is that?

1. Bubbles and Drips

Birds certainly need water, but they may not always know you have made it available. This is especially true of spring and fall migrants who are just passing through. The best way to “advertise” is to let them hear the water by using a fountain pump or a small drip hose.

Drippers, small fountains, bubblers and misters are very popular with our feathered friends. They are reasonably inexpensive and are available online and at most bird supply stores.

DSC_1719_edited-2

2. “Smorgasbird”

Different birds eat different things, so it helps to offer a variety of food types. Native plants that provide seeds, berries and insects are the best and most natural way to offer food for wild birds. You can supplement that with feeders. Here are some tips:

  • Black-Oil Sunflower is the most popular bird seed and attracts a variety of birds to your feeder.  Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, and sparrows love it.  New to backyard birding?  Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great place to start!
  • Thistle or Nyjer is a small, high quality, seed that goldfinches love. These birds have a beautiful gold color and they are a pleasure to watch along with their cousins, the red-hued house finches, and bright-colored buntings. Thistle seed requires a special bird (finch) feeder with smaller holes,
  • Seed mixes are popular for beginners because they attract many different types of birds.  They can be messy though because birds pick over unwanted seeds and toss them away.  “No-mess” seed mixes, that have been de-hulled, will cut down on the mess below your feeder.  They are more likely be picked up by ground feeding birds, such as doves, juncos, sparrows or even squirrels.
  • Suet is basically a cake of animal fat and is a healthy source of protein for birds, especially in the winter months.  When food is scarce, suet may be a lifeline for many birds in your yard. Suet is often mixed with some seeds and served through suet cages.
  • Nectar is sugar water and requires what is called a hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds are the most notable nectar-loving birds. They are a pleasure to watch in your backyard.  The increasingly rare oriole is a fruit-eating bird that also enjoys nectar.
  • Smorgasbird: there are many other types of food that you can feed birds. Many birds enjoy peanuts, peanut butter, cracked corn, millet, apple pieces and oranges.

_260

3. Litter-Bugs

There are a large number of bird species that stay on the ground to feed and seldom, if ever, land on feeders.  They will often gobble up seeds that have fallen from the feeders and others will scratch around in small piles or mats of leaf litter you can place around the yard.  This leaf litter is a natural habitat for many insects and gives insect and grub-eating birds such as robins, towhees and thrashers, hours of quality snack time.

4. Havens and Hideaways

If you watch how birds approach most feeders, they will first sit in a nearby bush as a “staging area” and then fly out for a quick snack on the feeder.  They will then return immediately to the relative protection of shrubbery or trees.  So placing feeders relatively close to some “safety cover” will attract more birds.  Keep an eye out, however, for neighborhood cats.  They like to lie in wait in vegetation that may be too close to the feeder.   Allowing a few feet between a cat hiding place and a bird feeder will give the birds time to react and get away.

Birds also attract other birds.  These curious creatures listen for activity in the area and like to see what is going on.  For them, your yard will be like the local restaurant you can’t wait to tell your friends about.

The main thing about attracting birds to your yard or deck is to let it happen over time and enjoy it.  As birds begin to find your place you will be amazed at how many you see.  Remember to keep up with the food and water supplies, especially in the winter when you can help dozens of birds survive the cold.

F

 

Be good to our fine feathered friends, for a bird could be somebody’s mother . . .

 

 

Advertisements
A-to-Z Challenge, garden

Gardening on the Edge – Define Your Garden Space

Nothing completes the look of a garden like a nice clean edge.  I’ve got a few different looks in my gardens and the one you choose will be a product of the time you want to take in maintenance as well as the general look you like.

The four types of edging you will find in my yard include plastic edging, pavers, timbers, and cut edge.

The plastic edging came with the house.  The yard had been landscaped by a professional and it looked very nice when we moved in 21 years ago.  However, the strong sun we receive in the front yard has caused the plastic to become rather crispy.  When using the line trimmer around this edging, the line can sometimes cut right into that plastic.  Also, the way our ground expands and contracts in the weather can really squeeze the plastic out of the ground.

edge plastic

I have lined the Lamppost Garden and the Down Under Garden with pavers.  It takes some time to initially insert the pavers.  I like them to be flush with the ground, making it easy to mow over.  This is a very clean look and is easy to trim around.  My line trimmer cannot chew through the bricks.  The clean look and the easy maintenance make this my favorite edging option.  Once a year, I trim back the grass on the outside, pull the weeds on the inside, and the garden is ready to grow.  The pavers are easy to install and, once they are in place, they aren’t going anywhere!

edge pavers

Cutting the edge with an edging tool is very time-consuming but extremely attractive.  I really like the look of the cut edge, it’s just very hard to maintain.  Each year, I find myself having to re-cut the edge and find the right shape of my crabapple shade garden.  The newest side garden is also cut, and I was a bit more aggressive with the depth.  This helps to define the area better – just be careful not to lose the lawnmower over the edge!

edge cut

Out back, the previous owners really loved timber edging.  It surrounds the patio, driveway, and planter box beside the driveway.  It looks nice, but it’s at least 25 years old now, and carpenter ants really like it.  I’m working on replacing the parts that are closest to the house for obvious reasons.  I’m not sure I would ever install timber edging, but I suppose if it’s properly treated, it shouldn’t attract vermin.

edge timber

Some of my neighbors have invested in concrete edging.  That’s a bit too permanent in my mind.  My gardens tend to grow – quite literally.  They morph every year.  Which is most likely why the paver edge is my favorite.  Nothing too permanent in my yard, please!

edge concrete

There are many creative ways to edge your garden.  Perhaps repurposing is your passion.  Try sinking a few wine bottles.  I love this terra-cotta themed edge.  And sometimes, a simple stone wall makes a statement.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

E

 

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date — with the letter E.  Yikes!!

Think this challenge may be what it takes to jumpstart YOUR blog?  Read more about the a-to-z challenge here.

 

A-to-Z Challenge, Daylily

D is for Daylilies

My favorite flowers in the garden have to be the daylilies.  I started my collection with the standard Stella D’oro, and they continue to be the most productive plants.

cropped-1861.jpg

I have divided them numerous times, shared them with countless neighbors and friends, offered them up to the Garden Club for our annual May Mart flower sale, and I still have more to divide and conquer.  I simply cannot bring myself to destroy any, so they keep on reproducing!

One of the best features of the daylily has to be (in my own opinion) the ease of which they grow.  I do deadhead them, simply to encourage more blooms.  The plant’s purpose is to produce seeds, so the more you frustrate that attempt by removing spent flowers, the more the plant tries to reproduce by producing more flowers.  Simple.  And by late summer, many of the leaves around the base have turned brown.  Easy to remove and actually revitalize the appearance.

And they come back, year after year, even in my snowy part of the world.  And the first plants start blooming in late May, with the final show ending sometime in late August.  If you are lucky, you get a second blooming period.  No muss, no fuss.  Reliable.

A few springs back, I attended the May Flower Sale at Phipps Conservatory, which just happens to be located right across the street from where I work the day job.  I was astounded by the multitudes of varieties that the local chapter of the American Hemerocallis Society (aka American Daylily Society) had on display and for sale.  They had catalogs of all different varieties, too numerous to even count, picture albums that included the names of each.

I had some variety in mind, and naively thought I would be able to locate it in their catalog.

When I first started collecting Daylilies, I created small name tags to keep with the plants.  But these tags have been long-lost and faded, so now I really don’t know what I have. I make up names for them, and continue to Google daylilies just to try to identify them.  Diploids, tetraploids, (something to do with chromosomes, sounds too technical) throat color, petal shape, height – so many ways to differentiate.

The latest one I (thought I) ordered was called Coach’s Fast Break.  This was the picture of what I thought I was ordering (on the left).

And this is what bloomed (on the right).  A quick search on Google, and I think I have Coach’s Braided Angel.  Surprise!!

D

 

Can’t wait for this summer’s daylily show to begin!

 

A-to-Z Challenge, compost

C is for Compost

I really want to be successful at composting – I really do.  I’ve tried a few times, and lost interest once it became too much work or (more likely) had to be thought about too often.  In my latest attempt, the ingredients turned into a great attraction for fruit flies, which caused me to send the “kitchen scraps” ceramic container to the deck.  Where I promptly forgot about it.  And where it eventually cracked – ceramic does not do well in the winter around here.

With my current attempt, I’m thinking through the details before I step one foot into that, well, wasteland.

Here’s a Recipe for Compost.  A pretty easy way to remember it is by color.

photo (4)

Right now, I have an abundance of leaves that I’ve raked up from the yard and shredded with the lawnmower.  Funny side note – none of these leaves came from trees in my yard!  Thanks, neighbors!  I also can prepare some newspaper by shredding it with the office shredder.  So there’s my brown stuff.  I will keep my extra brown in a covered pile beside the composter.

The green materials seem to be easier to come by.  Kitchen scraps (including egg shells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags) will be saved and stored in this handy-dandy trash can I picked up at WalMart.

photo (3)

I have biodegradable plastic liners from a former composting attempt.  I read somewhere that you can freeze these scraps so they are available when you need them.  Not sure about the practicality of that, but it’s an idea.

Yard scraps (grass clippings, weeds that have not turned to seed) can be stored behind the fence, out of sight and out of smell range, hopefully.

I have a composter that tumbles.  It’s very easy to turn, and makes compost in as little as 4 weeks.  Or so I’m told.

composter

I have added layers of ingredients – 2 inches of green + 6 inches of brown then sprinkle with some water – to the composter .  You aren’t suppose to fill it up, so I made 3 layers.  I also added a scoop of soil that contained a few earth worms from one of my flower beds.  Those worms will get the process started.  Be sure to save a scoop of finished compost to add to your new batch, again, with a few worms.

Now I will need to turn the composter once a week.  So I will add a (yet another) reminder to my smartphone to remind me to turn the composter.  Turn it Tuesdays!

It’s a little disappointing when you open the composter and find this itty bitty amount of compost, but I have used the small amounts to amend a few of my borders.  It does feel pretty special to turn waste into something so useful.

And bonus – it’s free!

C

 

My “C” entry in the A-to-Z Challenge. 

Chugging right along!

 

 

 

A-to-Z Challenge, garden creatures, pollinators

B is for Butterfly Garden

 

Being the great avoider of housework that I am, I’ve managed to find yet another way! Pokemon Go® – I’m searching for a Butterfree.

butterfree
Butterfree

In the meantime, I’m planning to address a very neglected part of the yard this summer.  Overgrown dumping ground will become a Garden for the Butterflies.  After the monarch attempt a few years back, I’ve been thinking of ways to attract them to my garden on their way to Mexico.

There’s a  small garden center in Unity, PA called Friendship Garden that specializes in native plants.  I learned about this place a few weeks back when our garden club speaker, a master gardener from the Latrobe Area, informed us.  He encouraged native plants, but at the same time, did not criticize our love and hopes with the exotic tropicals we adore.  Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years and therefore offer the most sustainable habitat. A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction.

Some plants that attract the pollinators include Purple Coneflower (echinacea), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Butterfly Flower (flor de mariposa).

20180402_213453.jpg

My big plan was to start these from seed.  I still may, but upon careful inspection of the directions on the packet, my plants won’t be blooming this summer.

Coneflower seeds that would have naturally fallen from the flowers in the fall would have a much better chance, as these seeds should be planted 12 weeks before the ground freezes.  Ditto with the Butterfly Weed.  There seems to be some hope for the Butterfly Flower.  I will be starting them all, but will have to be patient for the bloom show.

I was able to snag 2 milkweed plants from the Friendship Garden.  I’m hoping that the Common Milkweed will attract monarchs.

Now for the work of clearing brush, moving rocks, and creating the space.

Here’s hoping all this work gets done before my plants die!!

B

 

 

My B entry for the blogging challenge from A to Z.  Trying hard to keep it up, wishing I had started these entries in March, not going to make excuses!  Keep on blogging!  I think I can, I think I can . . .

A-to-Z Challenge, garden

A is for Azalea

As a child, I remember stalking the neighborhoods while riding in the car with my dad, looking at the first blooms of the season, noting how lovely (or not) the azaleas were this year.  Strong, deep pink puffs of lovely on each neighbor’s lawn.  As though the strength of the winter had somehow affected how beautiful the blooms would be.  Was it actually all Mother Nature’s doing?  Or perhaps the length of time since we seemed to have seen the final blooms of fall had something to do with it.

Dad always had the bright pink varieties, and when I started planting at our first home, I loved the pale pink.

 

 

My white azaleas came with the house.  Two really fine specimens that don’t seem to care if I forget to prune them, or if I do remember to prune them but at the wrong time.  Last year, I did get to pruning them right after they bloomed, which is the recommended time to prune.  The blooms for the following year are set a few weeks after the blossoms fall, so it’s best to prune shortly after the blossoms have fallen.

I have to tell you, though, that the years I did wait until even the end of summer did not ruin a great show come spring.  It may be that my specimens are just so big that there are layers of potential blooms, and I only cut off the top layer.  I really don’t know, but I have never had a disappointing azalea show.

There’s so much that actually goes into a “good year” for the azaleas.  Let’s explore!

Weather

Azaleas do best in warmer temperatures.  I live in Zone 6a, and the azaleas do very will even our hard winters.  They prefer part sun rather than direct sun, but mine do well on my west-facing front border.  They are situated very close to the house, so that could be the reason they survive our winter.  Just know that they need that part sun in order to bloom.

Soil

Azaleas love an acidic soil.  A good mulch of shredded pine bark will naturally seep acid into the soil.  And if you like to add a boost, some Holly-Tone will always be a good addition.  Wait until after the flowers bloom, otherwise you will be feeding and encouraging the greenery.  Keep the mulch about 8 inches from the base of the plant.

Pruning

As mentioned above, any necessary pruning should be done shortly after the flowers have dropped.   Don’t risk cutting off next year’s flowers by waiting until much after 2-3 weeks.  Not only will you cut off next year’s flowers, you risk stressing the plant with any midsummer trimming.  When the flowers start wilting and turning brown, that’s the perfect time to prune.

 

Propagation

Those new sprouting stems that show up after the blooming period are perfect to cut for startings.  Strip a few of the bottom leaves off and put the stem in a glass of water.  Keep the node from where the leaves were under water for a few weeks and you should have a nice rooted stem.

My large azaleas have some smaller branches underneath that sort of lay on the soil, and those branches root without my even trying.

A

 

 

Here’s to a month of Blogging from A to Z! 

Am I up to this challenge?  Stay tuned!

A-to-Z Challenge

L is for . . .

Oh, I don’t know.  In like a Lion, out like a Lamb.  In like a Lamb, out like a Lion.  Here it is, the first day of Spring 2018, so Let it Snow!  Makes sense on some level, I guess.

lions n lambs

Get ready, friends!  It’s time for the annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge!  Every day in April (except Sundays), join the fun and create a post based on a letter of the alphabet for each day.  Are you up for the challenge?  I’m not sure that I am, but I will try!

I plan to blog in the ‘Nature/Outdoors’ category, with the theme of Gardening (surprise!)  I will try to stick with flowers in my garden but may have to slip into the realm of vegetables in my garden.  Or maybe weeds . . .

Grab a month of April calendar, map out the alphabet on each day, then choose your topics for each day.  That’s the fun part!

Now get writing – that may be the hard part!

garden

A brief walk

I decided to dodge a few raindrops and take a walk down the side yard today to visit the late winter flower patch. I have seen so many snaps of snow drops and helebores these past few weeks. So many of my blog friends live in climates that are just a bit warmer and ahead of mine, I always know what to look forward to in a few weeks.

I trimmed away some of the old leaves from last year, and look what I found hidden underneath!

Peppermint Ruffles
Peppermint Ruffles Helebore

I’m glad the tag survived again so I know these little flowers are called Peppermint Ruffles, and I’m glad I decided to move these helebores a couple summers back. They weren’t blooming, and were in a very shady spot. They are still in a shady area, but now get partial sun. They really responded to the new location.

My snow drops have not spread much. I get the same two blooms but it’s still very exciting. I’ve seen some established snow drop gardens that look spectacular, truly look like fields of snow on grass. I’m going to have to get a few more bulbs, or really amend the soil they live in. It’s all about that soil, you know!

The crocuses have been blooming for about 2 weeks now. My favorite February blooms. I’m always surprised by them, but my TimeHop has proven that these guys arrive every February. They are still a very nice surprise.

Crocus
Early Bloomers

Along with the flowers were plenty of hairy bittercress. This weed appeared a couple of years ago and have been popping up very reliably. Seems early this year, but we have had a few balmy weeks. These guys are itchin’ to grow. Best to get out there and pull them up before the blooms go to seed.

Hairy Bittercress

The seed pods snap and let those seeds fly everywhere. Really quite a nuisance.

It did feel good to get out there and pull some weeds. There has been so much rain this year, the ground is very sloggy (is that a word?), so those weeds come right out!

rescue dogs

The Homeless Have Pets, Too

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday, a small video of a homeless man and his dog.  The dog caught my attention first as there is a special place in my heart for pit bulls.  So misunderstood.

The video took me back to a hot summer day just a few weeks ago.  On my way home from work.  He caught me so off guard, he was situated right in the middle of a traffic island.  The dog lay right beside him and he (the man, not the dog) was playing a banjo.  A banjo!  His case was open, ready to accept the loose change that might buy him a burger at the McDonald’s right there.

It was the dog that really got me thinking.  I never really considered that the homeless might have pets.  But of course they do.  And with the little that this man had, that dog did not look to be starving.

The light turned green before I had a chance to think of something I could have done.  I think I had a $10 bill in my wallet, but the light was green and I had to move on.  All the way home, I thought of how I could go home, grab a baggie of MilkBones, and take that $10 to him.

I thought of the dog a few more times that evening.  After checking on my own dog, I drove back up to the stop light.

But he was gone.  I haven’t seen him since.

I hope his dog likes listening to banjo music.  I know I do.

PS – When I visit with the dogs at the shelter, it’s always so wonderful to find an empty kennel and a sign proclaiming “adoption pending” – last week Irma and Maria found their furever home!  Congratulations, ladies!!

rescue dogs

Harvey, Irma, and Maria

Three names of three storms that hit the US this past year, 2017.  Storms so intense that those in the path either board up to ride it out, or run.

The pets in the path of these storms were also in peril.  I cannot imagine the anguish that must be felt, the desperation that has to be lived, the utter unthinkable thoughts of leaving a pet behind when faced with the challenge of survival.  How?  I don’t ever want to know.

But what I have learned is that there are people who are willing to do whatever they can to help these helpless souls who become victims through no fault of their own.

Speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.  It’s the motto of our local animal shelter that put out the call.  Who answered the call.

The Facebook page allowed us followers to witness the rescue of 12 little souls who were transported to the Pittsburgh area in the hopes that our shelter could take them in and find them temporary if not furever homes.

The shelters in Florida were packed as a result of taking in extra dogs from Texas and Hurricane Harvey.  Then came Hurricane Irma, and more room was needed for the inevitable influx of abandoned pets in the wake of this natural disaster.

The shelter volunteers loaded the van with crates and took off to the county airport to meet the 12 dogs they promised to rescue.  And they were met with 16.  How could they turn away 4?

The Southern 16.  A story of survival.  And with these extra 16 dogs to care for, the word was out that the shelter needed help.  It was something I had thought of doing so many times, but for one reason or another, just never did.  Timing is everything, a friend once said.  And the timing was now right.  I found 2 hours of my week to help out at the shelter.

I have to tell you that those two hours a week are some of my favorite.  Walking into the shelter on Thursday mornings, knowing those pups are so happy to see me, if not just for the opportunity to empty their bladders from the long night!  They know they are getting a nice long walk, and then back to the shelter for breakfast!

This shelter is a no-kill, and I’m amazed at how quickly some of these dogs get adopted out.  Animal Friends is very particular and careful to adopt the dogs out to the perfect homes.  There are still 3 pups from the Southern 16 hopeful to find their families soon.  Until that time, we will continue to love them while they are here.

Oh, and the dogs that find their way to the shelter seldom tell us their names.  We give them temporary names.  Three of the Southern 16 were given names of Irma, Maria, and Harvey.

Irma and Maria are still waiting.

Irma n Maria
My name is Maria, and this is my pal Irma.