Archive for October, 2011
Now that gardening chores have lightened up, it’s time to think about other things. One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to watch the birds. To see the colorful variety that shows up at the bird feeders and to listen to their songs is so nice during the long, cold, dreary winter. To be able to do that though, I have to attract the birds to our garden… or should I say attract the birds to our yard, as there isn’t much “garden” in the winter.
If you already feed the birds then you probably know the foods the birds that visit your yard prefer. If you are just getting started though, or if you don’t seem to be attracting birds to your feeders, you might need to find out if you’re feeding the right foods.
You have to give the birds what they want to get them to come to your yard and attracting the birds to your yard is the way to be able to enjoy watching and hearing them during the winter.
Here are 10 of the favorite foods of most birds in North America.
1. Sunflower seeds (black-oil or striped sunflower seed) – Almost all birds like this seed. There is a lot of food in one kernel and it is easy for them to eat. Black-oil sunflower seeds are the best but most birds will eat the others as well.
2. High quality mixed seed – If you buy the cheap bags of bird seed, which is filled with fillers the birds won’t eat, you are really wasting your money. The birds will toss out the filler seeds to get to the good ones, so you would be much better off buying mixes from feed/hardware stores or birding stores. You can even buy each of the seed you want and mix your own.
3. Cracked corn – If you want to attract doves, jays, quails, sparrows and blackbirds to your feeder, then cracked corn is the way to go. Most any bird will eat the cracked corn, so it is good to add it to your mix to attract as many different kinds of birds as you can.
4. Mealworms – Mealworms aren’t actually worms, but larvae of a beetle. You can put these out for the birds in a dish with shallow, slippery, vertical sides so that the worms can’t escape. The birds love them and this will be a great treat for them. Almost all birds that feed at birdfeeders will eat them. These can be bought at birding stores.
5. Peanuts – Jays, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers, cardinals, titmice and chickadees really enjoy peanuts in their mix. Make sure they are shelled and unsalted. Peanuts meant for feeding birds can be bought at feed/hardware stores or at bird specialty stores.
6. Suet – Birds need fat in their diet in the winter, as it is such a good source of energy. Some birdfeeders have a place to attach suet on the side, or you can buy suet holders separately. If you want to, you can even use a mesh produce bag to hang up and hold the suet. The birds won’t care, as long as they can get to the goods. You can ask the butcher at your grocery store for suet, which is trimmed off of the beef. Sometimes it’s packaged and sold. Blocks of suet are also sold in the birdfood section. OR…you can buy the suet, render it down in the microwave and add other ingredient (like fruit, nuts or seed) and let it solidify again.
7. Thistle seed (Nyjer seed) – This is the favorite seed of the finches (housefinches, purple finches, gold finches) as well as siskins and redpolls. Thistle seed is so small that you’ll need to use a thistle feeder or finch feeder. There are tube kinds with small, wire mesh and there are sock kinds that hold the seed in well. Tiny though the seeds are, the tiny birds don’t seem to have a problem pulling it through the mesh or sock and getting the tiny kernel inside.This is one of the most expensive of the bird foods and it can easily get moldy in damp weather.
8. Safflower – This is a favorite of many birds but especially the cardinal. It is a white seed and can be used in any mix. It can be bought in bulk at feed stores or at bird specialty stores.
9. Specialty treats you make – Make your own bird food mixes by buying in bulk and combining them with fruits and nuts. Use a pinecone to smear with peanut butter and poke peanuts into. This can be hung for the birds to reach. Or render down some suet and add treats to it before it hardens.
10. Fruit – Birds love fruit (if you have fruit trees, then you already know this), but it is very hard for them to find fruit in the winter. You can
offer grapes, slices of apples, oranges or bananas. Chopped raisins can be offered or added to the bird food mix. Many feeder birds eat fruit, so you will be attracting a wide variety of birds to your yard this winter.
If you put out birdfeeders, you will attract migrating birds as well as birds that winter over in your area. So the variety changes. I’ve noticed too, that the variety changes with the time of day, as birds feed at different times of the day.
If you haven’t been feeding the birds it may take a little while for them to find your feeders, so be patient and they WILL show up.
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When the freezes of the last few nights were predicted, I (even though I was sick at the time), knew I’d better get the tomatoes that were left in the garden in to safety. While I was out there I realized I hadn’t gotten the last of the green beans and the basil. I found quite a few more grapes hiding under the vines and dying leaves as well. While picking the grapes, I saw the beets looking so beautiful, and even though they would have been fine left out in the cold, I decided to go ahead and bring them in. I had been feeling better and thought that the next day I would be up to doing something with all of this produce.
It was getting late as I worked, and then it began to rain, but I couldn’t quit because the freeze was imminent, and all would be lost. So I kept working till I had gathered every green tomato that was of any size at all, and picked all the beans and basil and beets.
Well, the cold and the rain was a double punch and I was down for the count. Here I was, with a kitchen full of produce, and I’m sick in bed. Yesterday I got the beans washed and snapped and the beets cooked but not canned. Oh my goodness they smell like dirt when they’re cooking. And today I was finally able to get them pickled and canned. Never done that before, so we’ll see how they turn out. We both love pickled beets, so I’m sure they’ll get eaten even if they’re less than perfect.
The tomatoes are still waiting. Maybe I’ll make the Green Tomato Raspberry Jam and Green Tomato Salsa tomorrow.
The end of the growing season is so sad…but it’s here, and it is a very long time till next May, when we can plant again here in zone6.
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Have you cleared away the debris from the perennial flower beds and mulched them for next year? Have you removed all the spent annuals and prepared the bed for planting next spring and summer? Have you been raking the leaves and composting them? Have you dug your tender tubers and stored them away? Have you made preparations to bring in all your tender potted plants? Have you mulched the roses and other shrubs that need it? Have you…..on, and on, and on.
In all of this fall activity, it’s easy to overlook putting the lawn to bed. Are you so relieved that you won’t have to mow any more for a few months, that you forgot to fertilize, to feed those roots for the winter dormancy, so that you will have a beautiful, healthy,lush lawn next summer?
What about the thatch build up? If your lawn is very thick and has a build up of thatch choking it, fall is a good time to remove that. If you have weeds growing in the lawn, fall is the best time to remove them because they, too, are putting down roots for next summers growth. They will be much easier to remove this fall, than next summer, when they’ve gotten bigger, and more established.
When the leaves have finally quit falling, remove all of them from your lawn. The leaves get wet and slimy in the winter and can cause problems for the grass beneath them. Cut your grass to about 2″ for the winter. At that height the roots will have some protection.
If you have snow, like we do, take care not to let the salt (or the salt run-off) from the sidewalks and driveways get on the grass, as it will kill it.
After you’ve done all of this, you can then truly relax, knowing you’ll have a beautiful lawn next year… that you’ll get to mow every week.
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All across the country leaves are coming down. They are so beautiful and create such an atmosphere of Autumn. But there is great potential in those fallen leaves, and you shouldn’t let them go to waste. Even though there is a lot of volume when they are raked up, when they are shredded (as when run over with a lawn mower) the volume is greatly reduced.
If you don’t have a compost pile to add them to, just setting them aside and letting them break down over the winter will give you some rich matter to add to your garden next spring. If they are bagged up, even better, as the moisture trapped in the bag will help them to break down faster.
If your area is like ours, and there are bags of leaves sitting out by the curb waiting for pick-up, then you really are in luck. Gathering up the free gifts of leaves is a smart thing to do, that is, unless you have huge amounts of leaves in your own yard.
Improving the soil is the best way to insure a healthy and productive garden. Whether you’re growing vegetables or growing flowers or whatever you grow, it will grow better with better soil, with organic soil. So the more organic material you can add to your garden, the healthier the plants will be. Healthy plants aren’t as susceptible to disease or insect attacks.
Healthy plants = happy gardener.
Last spring we had a very large tree taken down. As they were getting near the bottom, we thought it looked kind of neat, almost like a table top that we could set potted plants on. So we decided to leave it about 3′ high. I still can’t believe we were so stupid. In the first place, it is a trash tree called a Paradise Tree. If ever there was a misnomer, that is one. Soon the stump started sprouting all over like it thought it was going to turn back into a tree. With constant vigilance all summer, I kept the sprouts pulled off of that stump.
The last few weeks have been particularly busy and I hadn’t been in the side yard in a while. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The old stump (potted plants and all) was barely visible. Instead there was a huge shrub about 6′ tall. It WAS turning back into a tree. That night I was searching under “Stump Grinder” in the Yellow Paqes. Enough is enough.
When the stump is gone, I will have a ton of mulch for the roses (the stump itself is all dried and decaying so I don’t think the wood chips will hurt the roses), and next year I’ll have some more garden space to plant more roses…or whatever.
While Mr. Stump Grinder is here, he is also going to take a couple of dead limbs out of our black walnut tree. Life is good.
With freeze warning out for tonight, I’ve been busy gathering the last of the snap beans, beets, green and ripe tomatoes, grapes and Basil and Tarragon. I’ll make pesto with the Basil and concentrated Tarragon tea to freeze. (See the post on Tarragon)
By the way, I failed to get a picture of the basil in my garden, so I’ve used the photo of potted basil. If you have potted basil, just bring it in to enjoy fresh all winter.
Last year when I had so much basil to use, I heard about making pesto and freezing it. Since I love pesto, this seemed like such a good idea. So I froze it in ice cube trays and when frozen, I put the cubes in a zip lock bag. Then all during the year I could just get out a cube or two and thaw it to use with pasta, or in salad dressing or in soups and best of all, spread on toasted baguette slices. So if you have a lot of Basil to use up, think about the pesto idea. You can follow this simple recipe to make such an easy pesto.
Fresh Basil Pesto
3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts or almonds
3-4 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place nuts in food processor and pulse a few times. in a food processor. Add Basil and pulse a few more times. Add the garlic, pulse a few more times.
Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add the cheese and pulse a few times till blended. Add salt and pepper.
Makes 1 1/2-2 cups
Use fresh or freeze to use later.
As freezing temperatures approach our area next week, I’ve been trying to decide how to use the green tomatoes still on the vine. There area lot of ways to use these tart, firm vegetables (fruits) and some of these ways might surprise you.
Let me just say right here, that if you haven’t tried Fried Green Tomatoes yet, then you have really been missing out.
Fried Green Tomato Recipe
4-5 large green tomatoes
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
vegetable oil for frying
Trim off ends of green tomatoes. Slice tomatoes 1/2″ thick.
In 1st dish – put 1 cup flour
In 2nd bowl or dish – Beat egg slightly and add milk, combining well.
In 3rd dish – combine 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. corn meal (not self rising) and seasonings
Dredge green tomato slices in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture. Dredge in the flour/corneal mixture, till completely coated.
In a large, heavy skillet pour enough oil so that there is 3/4 oil in the pan. Heat over medium – medium/high heat.
When the oil is hot place the green tomato slices into the pan, being sure not to crowd them. Brown on both sides then drain on paper towel.
Serve hot and crispy.
Green Tomato Raspberry Jam Recipe
5 cups chopped green tomatoes
3 cups white sugar
1 (6 oz.) package of raspberry flavored gelatin powder
Heat the chopped green tomatoes in a large saucepan and heat thoroughly. Add sugar and bring to boil and cook about 10 minutes. Add the gelatin powder and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Can also be cooled and poured into freezer containers and frozen.
Green Tomato Pie
Pastry for 9″ two crust pie
3 cups of finely chopped, really green tomatoes (let drain in colander for a couple of hours)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
Zeest of l lemon, grated finely
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Prepare double pie crust. Line pie pan with half. Roll out second half and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Place in pie shell and cover with top crust. Cut vents in top crust. Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden brown.
Green Tomato Salsa
4-5 large green tomatoes, trimmed and quartered
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded if milder salsa is wanted
1 large onion, trimmed and quartered
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of sugar to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Yes, there is a Kiwi that will grow in the colder areas and it is a beautiful, hardy vine. It’s not very well known, it is an Arctic Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta). In the more mature plant the leaves are variegated pink and cream mixed with the rich green. It is a vigorous vine that will grow 40′ or more, so it does best on a tall, sturdy support like a fence or arbor. Ours are about 20′ now as they go 9′ up to the top of the arbor and cross over 10′ and are wondering around up there. It isn’t fussy about the type of soil, rich and fertile or dry clay, and it will grow in sun or shade, but it does like a good, deep drink of water at least once a week.
The more mature vines (4-5 yrs. old) will set fruit, which is smaller than commercial kiwi but sweeter. It has a slick skin and doesn’t need peeling. These Kiwi are dioecious, which means there has to be a male and a female plant planted near each other in order to set fruit.
Our Kiwi is now 2 1/2 years old and in a year or two we will start seeing the pink and cream coloration on the leaves and hopefully, we will begin to get fruit. Can’t wait for that.
Last fall, at the end of the season and the spent plants had been removed, I decided not to empty the pots, but to re-use them and the potting mix in them. There were spring bulbs on sale everywhere and perennials were being marked down at the end of the season. Since most of our pots are pretty large, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the plants and bulbs on sale. Not only would I not have to empty those big pots, but I would have something to look forward to next spring and summer.
For more of this article, recently published on Ezine, click on the following link:
Soon the leaves will be turning some beautiful colors, and don’t you know, those leaves WILL come down. I’ve always loved the look of the colorful leaves all over the yard but they soon turn brown and they won’t stay dry and crispy. During the winter, whether from snow or rain, they’ll get wet and slimy, and pretty much stay wet. They’ll become a slippery, sludgy mess. So it’s important to remove them from walkways and steps to prevent accidents.The leaves should also be removed from the lawn, as well as flower and vegetable beds. There are plants that need mulching for protection during the winter, but it’s better to use mulch or pine needles. Using straw can cause problems because of the possible grains of wheat etc, it could contain, which could attract mice to your garden. The mice would then began to feed on the stems of plants, such as roses.
The leaves can be shredded and added to the compost pile. We even gather up bags of leaves left at the curbs for the city to pick up, to add to our compost.
Cut down perennials that have finished blooming. Annuals and vegetables should be pulled up when they’re spent. If not diseased, tossed all of these clippings and spent plants into the compost. Some plants can be left, if they add interest to the winter garden or if they have seed heads that can feed the birds.
Autumn is a good time to divide perennials, which can then be planted in other areas of the yard or shared with friends. It’s also time to dig up tender bulbs, like Tuberous Begonias and Dahlias (wait till frost has turned the leaves black), and store in a cool, dark place.
To strengthen roots through the winter, apply bonemeal to perennial beds and around shrubs and trees.
Tidying up the garden not only makes the yard/garden look better through the winter, but spring gardening will be so much easier and more enjoyable. If you’ve planted spring bulbs, with cleaned out flower beds, you’ll have something wonderful to anticipate and look forward to.
In the fall, at the end of the season, letting the flowers go to seed, and gathering the seeds, means never having to buy seeds or plants again. There are many beautiful flowers that will produce large amounts of seeds, more than you would ever need. Gather the seeds of the healthiest plants and the colors you prefer.
To save the seeds, leave the…
To read more of this article just check on the link below.
After a long, cold winter it is so wonderful to see plants coming up and flowers beginning to bloom, all because you thought to plant bulbs in the fall. Spring flowers from bulbs are so easy to grow and if they are happy ( that is – getting everything they need) they will just get better and better each year. So it’s important to plant the right bulbs for your climate. Just do a little research before you get started, so that you’ll know what does best in your area. Get creative and have fun as you plan where to plant the bulbs. In designing your garden, you can think about the colors you’re going to use, like the hot colors of red, yellow and orange or maybe you’d like the cool colors of pinks, purples, lavenders, blues and whites.
When you’ve decided what flowers you want to grow and what color scheme you like, then you’ll need to decide where to plant, and how many plants to fill the area you have. After all that has been figured out it will be time to think about when to plant the bulbs.
The when depends on which hardiness zone you live in. If you don’t know that, click on the “Zone Map” button at the top of the page. It will bring up a map, which you just click on your area to enlarge the map. The bulbs need to be planted 3-4 weeks before it gets cold enough to freeze the ground. The trick is to get them into the ground so that they will have time for their roots to begin to grow before the ground
The problem is that you don’t want to plant them too early because if they have too much time before the ground freezes they’ll have time to send up shoots, which take energy away from the bulb. The bulbs will need all the energy they can get for next spring, when they begin to grow.
So get out the crystal ball and figure out when would be the best time to plant for your area. I think it’s almost that time here in zone 5/6.
When we begin landscaping our yard with gardens instead of lawns, I didn’t think to take before pictures. It wasn’t until we had rolled up the sod and removed 3 of our 8 large trees that I even thought about it. So our before pictures aren’t really from the beginning, because in the beginning there were beautiful lawns, mature Viburnum and Forsythia shrubs and huge trees with spreading canopies in our yard.
So in the spirit of learning from my mistakes, remember to take photos of your projects in the planning stage, the before stage and all through the work stages. It is so interesting to look back and remember the way it was.
These are some photos of our yard as we planned our deck and designed the gardens around it. By marking where the deck would go, we could go ahead and plant the rose bushes, perennials and herbs around it.
is a plant that was growing in our back yard, around a little water feature that had seen better days. Besides, it was located in the center f where our deck was going to be built and so I had to move it. When we designed our garden, we didn’t know what to do with it so I moved it to the area around the garden spigot, since I assumed it liked the moisture. It has gotten a lot bigger since I moved it and this year it bloomed, but the blooms were insignificant and not too attractive. The foliage is the pretty part of this plant. It has grown to about 18″-24″ tall and the texture of the leaves are sort of like a succulent.
I’ve asked quite a few people if they recognized it and so far no one has. I don’t think anyone has seen one quite like it.I’ve looked online and poured through my gardening books, but so far it remains a mystery plant in our garden.
If you have any information about this plant, will you please let us know about it?
Sometimes in designing a landscape a hedge is just what you need. Whether its a backdrop for a perennial border or a way to create privacy, a hedge can be a very valuable addition to your garden.
So much depends on how much room you have and where you live (what hardiness zone you’re in).
If you have a very large area then you might consider Leyland Cypress. They’re beautiful, don’t need any upkeep or trimming and they are evergreen and provide a lot of privacy. The main problem with Leyland Cypress around a garden is the shading they would cause because of their height. They will grow to about 70′ depending on the zone. Gardens need all the sunshine they can get. Placed on the north side of your garden wouldn’t cause a problem though, as the shade would be on the north (unless you live south of the equator).
For a hedge around your garden you might want something that only grows to about 3′-6′, which wouldn’t cause too much shading problems.
For warmer climates you could use privet (Ligustrum) which is pretty, either pruned or not. It can be pruned up into small trees, or left to be full and shrubby. It grows fast and has little white flowers that bees love. Drawing bees to your garden is important for pollination if you’re growing fruit or vegetables.
You could use Nandina which is pretty in all seasons with color changes and berries.
Oleanders make a good hedge too, but may get too tall. I kept mine down to about 8-10′ with annual pruning but they can get taller if you like. In the very warm climates, you have a choice of many beautiful, flowering shrubs that would work well as shrubs if planted closely enough.
Of course there is always Boxwood. Some grow taller than others so check the label. Boxwood are popular because of their slow growth, which means less pruning needed.
For coolerareas you might consider a Spirea which takes a little more room but is beautiful and it doesn’t need pruning.
Rosa Rugosa are really nice, I’ve used the Rugosa and loved it. It not only has fragrant blooms, but produces very large, bright red hips in the autumn. It is very thorny, which makes it completely impenetrable. It is a very hardy rose and needs no pruning. These rose bushes will grow 6-8′ high and about 3-4′ wide. For a hedge you’d want to plant them 2-3′ apart. It really makes a beautiful hedge if you have the room. In the photo below you can see where I planted mine next to a picket fence.
Lilacs are beautiful and make a good hedge, once again, if you have the room. They can get 10-12′ or higher so consider that when choosing.
Now is the time to plant trees and shrubs so if you are considering putting in a shrub, get creative and find something that will add to the beauty of your yard and not just be a hedge.
A friend asked a question about pruning raspberries, so I thought I’d mention something about raspberries here.
First of all, I am so excited to live in a place where we can grow raspberries because I love them and they are so expensive bought fresh. So you know that I have to have them in our garden.
Raspberries should be pruned in the late winter/early spring before they bud out.
There are 2 kinds of raspberries, Summer Bearing and Everbearing. We have the Everbearing, but they don’t really bear all the time, just in the summer and again in the fall. The Summer Bearing bear in the summer, but I think it depends on the species as to when, in the summer, that happens. Or it could depend on the climate. Sorry, don’t know about that. If anyone does please comment.
The “How” is the tricky part when it comes to pruning raspberries. On both kinds, you prune out the canes that bore fruit, because they won’t bear again. Then, on the Everbearing, you prune out the weak and smaller canes leaving the tallest, strongest, thickest canes (5-6 per foot). Tie these up to some kind of support. We have ours against a fence, so that’s easy to do. Or…I recently learned that you can cut all canes down to the ground (late winter/early spring) and as they grow in the summer, prune out all but the tallest strongest canes, again, leaving only 5-6 per foot. They won’t bear in the summer but the crop in the fall will be heavier. This would work for us because our summer crop isn’t very big compared to the fall. I think I’m going to try this way this year to see how it goes. It sounds a lot less complicated. I’ll let you know.
You should wear good leather gloves and use sharp, clean clippers to prune the canes. If you’ll remember from an earlier post, I highly recommend deer skin gloves. They are the only leather gloves I’ve found that won’t let thorns in.
The Summer Bearers need to have the damaged or dead canes removed, as well as the ones that bore fruit in the summer.