Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

Garden Talk: Planning for the birds

By JEAN THOMSON, Master Gardener | Jan 24, 2013

If a look at your garden in winter spotlighted some deficiencies, now is an ideal time to plan improvements.

For many gardeners, birds visiting feeding areas are a winter highlight. Planning with those birds in mind is one good way to build winter interest into your garden.

Broad, seemingly empty spaces in winter signal a less-than-ideal environment for birds. All that open space means a lack of cover, and birds have good reason to fear predators.

The solution for the birds is more shrubs and small trees. If you select varieties with berries, you’ll add a food source for birds as well as four-season visual appeal.

Some possible choices include fruit trees, viburnums, hollies, serviceberry, sumac and berry bushes, such as raspberry and blueberry.

One recent study identified Northern barberry as the single most valuable food source for birds in winter.

Ideally, you’ll group or layer plantings. A lone shrub in the middle of an expanse of lawn is like a target for predators: “songbirds here.”

So start at ground level with Virginia creeper; group shrubs into informal hedgerows; and, if you’re fortunate enough to have mature trees, underplant with smaller trees.

In my garden, blessed with oaks that offer shelter and acorns, a tree lilac has proved to be a favorite stopover for many small birds. Chickadees and cardinals dine on sunflower seeds at the feeders, perch in the lilac for a break and then fly on.

Right now: Check house plants closely for signs of infestation. If the problems are not extensive, careful washing of all plant surfaces (including leaf undersides) may provide adequate control.

Take advantage of a terrific enhanced resource from the good folks at ISU Extension. Find the “Yard and Garden FAQs Home Page” by going to http://expert.hort.iastate.edu. You will find a very large and accessible database of information.

As an example: click on “Search by Categories,” then on “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines.” You’ll then be able to learn that now is the perfect time to prune oaks.

Not sure what equipment you’ll need? The answer is right there as well. Similarly useful information concerning lawns, vegetables and fruits, annuals and perennials and more is available in that same database.

Plan to attend the seventh annual Spring Symposium, sponsored by Henry County Master Gardeners. It’s set for Saturday, March 2.

Find complete information at Henry County Extension, 127 N. Main St. in Mt. Pleasant.

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