The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Practical Ideas for Birds and Blooms

Cherry tomatoes are especially good at volunteering. Eat four, toss one.

Slight changes can make a difference in enjoying birds and having better garden production.

I bought a few pounds of suet from the meat market in the fall and bagged it all in mesh bags, far less expensive than little metal cages with $1 suet cakes in them. I had six bags hanging in four locations, on trees and the bird feeder.

Business was slow at first, since birds are wary of new feeders, but now we have morning birds singing and chortling happily as they enjoy breakfast near the window, on the trees, and on the ground.

I added a folly--a useless garden item to the feeding plan--an old filing cabinet made from composite wood, with a pull-out drawer. Seed lands at various levels, with the drawer pulled out. The squirrels jump in the drawer and pop out to eat each seed (wary of foes and competitive squirrels). It is fun to watch, whether for parents, grandparents, or grandchildren. Our helper watched and laughed at the sight. I placed it between two trees, an area where nothing grows. Suet hangs on those trees and the corn feeder is placed on one, used now by the starlings. Squirrels want fresh corn only, not a processed corn cob.

Mulch is always good for feeding birds in the garden, who manage the insect and grub population. A pulled or cut weed can be added on top of the mulch to add to the organic matter. I would rather cut a big, juicy weed at the base, let its root rot into the soil, and place the leafy weed remains on the mulch or in the compost. Pigweed is good for that, and the flowers and fruit are interesting to watch form.

Pigweed will grow anywhere, so people despise it. That is all the more reason to let some grow. I am not keen on weeds that invade through the root system or seed at apocalyptic rates (fever few). But tall weeds  like goosefoot are good for the soil and good to eat.

A mass of weeds, like a crabgrass patch, can be turned into compost by laying on newspapers and wood mulch. Another solution is to cover them first with a newspaper layer, then straw bales for a straw bale gardening areas (potatoes and strawberries).

Put down the flamethrower and the RoundUp - use or eat the weeds. Allowing some tall weed growth is good for birds perching, for bird cover, and for food. As someone noted in a gardening book, taproot weeds mine the minerals from deeper in the soil, so they add to the root zone of the plants.

Weeds Are Guardians of the Soil. You laugh? The book now sells for $350 on Amazon. Look it up.

Sticks fall from trees all year around. I keep some of them in a pile for the birds to enjoy. The sticks either harbor or attract insects so they are a good place to rest and eat. I toss sunflower seeds among the sticks to create a habit of sitting there for a snack.

I first saw branches used this way in Midland, when I piled branches near the road to be picked up. Birds rested and chirped in them, feeling safe for days - even while sitting near road and sidewalk traffic.

Birds like to perch while looking for food and preening feathers, so anything above ground level is good for that - sunflower remains, a stick pile, a fence, and tall weeds.

Water pans - small pans near the sprinklers or soaker hoses will catch water for bird baths. Birds can find their own food, but water is a necessity that draws them all summer, keeping them in the winter when the water kept thawed. We did not even have frost on the car parked outside, most of the winter, so this was not an issue. In Midland, a birdbath warmer was the best investment ever for birds in the winter. We created a bird spa, watching them line up for their winter baths.

Everything organic - once people realize the value of mulch and compost, they collect as much as possible for rich soil. The Queen of England grows organically in her private garden. The great rose gardens of America fertilize organically because the roses grow better that way.

Eliminating poisons from the garden will increase life and suppress unwanted guests by turning them into food. If someone uses herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, the normal increase of counter-measures will be killed or kept away by the toxins.



Sow in abundance, reap in abundance. I recommend buying large packets of seed, by the pound if possible. We ran out of pea seeds. I could have used another two large packets. We had enough sunflower seeds because I buy those by the 40 pound bag.

2 Corinthians 9
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)
11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Those who buy large amounts of seed will have enough to share with others, spreading the joy and value of gardens, saving money and teaching others about Creation.

The "worst planting" in one that never grows to maturity, but even that one can be great for the soil. Many people start a bush bean crop before winter. They grow up, grown nitrogen gathering roots downward, and freeze in place. The soil is richer because they began to grow before winter.

Likewise, an entire spinach or garlic crop can be started in the fall, and harvested in the spring.