As wildlife habitats are threatened by development, the creation of a bird-friendly environment that provides food, water and shelter is crucial to the existence of our wild bird population. Caring for our feathered-friends is an educational and enjoyable activity for the entire family that brings beauty and song to our lives.
Benefits of Wild Birds
Birds are great guests to have in your yard, garden or landscape, and they provide more benefits than many homeowners and gardeners realize. Wild birds can…
- Control insects by feasting on both flying and crawling insects, as well as spiders, slugs, snails and other creepy-crawlies.
- Pollinate plants by flitting from flower to flower as they seek out insects or eat seeds, taking pollen along between blooms.
- Manage weeds as they consume copious amounts of weed seeds before the seeds ever have a chance to sprout.
- Control rodents when raptors visit the yard in search of mice, rats, gophers, voles or other unwanted pests.
Attracting Backyard Birds
Fortunately, it is easy to attract a wide variety of backyard birds when you offer them what they need most – food, water and shelter.
Food for Birds
Wild birds rely on both natural and supplemental food supplies so it is important to consider both when birdscaping. Feeding the birds is most important in the winter when natural food is scarcer, but they will visit feeders at any time of year. Migratory birds require additional food in the spring and fall as they pass through the region and nesting birds will utilize feeders in the summer.
- Provide a variety of natural foods for birds by planting berry bushes, seed-bearing flowers, nectar-rich flowers and sunflowers. Leave windfall fruit on the ground for birds to nibble. Minimize pesticide use so birds can feast on insects as well.
- Add supplemental feeders to your yard, such as birdseed feeders, suet feeders and nectar feeders. Clean feeders weekly to avoid mold that can be dangerous to birds, and be sure feeders are full when birds need them most.
Improve your backyard bird habitat by adding water. Birds require a constant supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. This is especially important in late summer, when water is scarce, and in the winter, when it is frequently frozen.
- Place bird baths in a protected location safe from predators, and keep the baths filled at all times so a fresh supply of water is constantly available.
- Scrub off algae as soon as it is appears and thoroughly was the bird bath each week to minimize feces contamination or other messes in the water.
- Provide motion for greater attraction by using a bubbler, wiggler, dripper or fountain. Birds will see the sparkles of the moving water and will hear the splashes from great distances, so more birds will visit.
- Use Mosquito Dunks to safely prevent mosquito larvae in warm weather. A clean bird bath with moving water will also harbor fewer insects.
- Add an outdoor-safe submersible heater to the bath in winter to keep the water liquid instead of frozen, or consider using a fully heated bird bath during the coldest months.
It is important to offer safe and comfortable shelter for your wild birds to nurture their young, protect them from predators and shield them from the elements. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs and providing bird houses, along with roosting boxes and pockets, are all beneficial additions to your birdscape.
- Choose both deciduous and evergreen landscaping trees and shrubs to offer birds different types of shelter in all seasons.
- Minimize pruning to give birds denser, more secure shelter to take advantage of when they feel threatened.
- Plant in layers and create thicket-like pockets or corridors in your landscape so birds can move around freely without feeling exposed.
- Supplement the shelter in your yard with good quality bird houses, winter roost boxes or nesting pockets to give birds even more options to stay safe and secure.
When you meet birds’ needs for food, water and shelter, your birdscape will soon be home to a fun and friendly flock of backyard birds.
YOUR GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL PLANTING
PLANTING TREES & SHRUBS
Before You Plant
Always plant in a well drained soil. To test for soil drainage, dig a hole for your new plant and fill it with water. If the water doesn’t drain in 12 hours, the soil in that area will need to be amended dramatically.
What Plant Form are You Transplanting?
Your tree or shrub will come in two forms: Balled and burlapped (B&B); or containerized. Containerized or B&B plants can be planted any time the ground is not frozen. If possible plant your tree or shrub as soon as you get it home. Otherwise, it may dry out and become injured. If you can’t plant it immediately, place it in a shady and/or sheltered location. Keep the soil moist until planted.
The Planting Hole
To plant your tree or shrub dig a hole twice as wide as the diameter and 6”-8” deeper than the root ball, replacing the 6”-8” of soil with enriched backfill. Compact this 6”-8” of soil. Once the plant is placed in the hole, the top of the root ball should be slightly above or level with the surface of the ground. Placing Your Plant in the Hole Remove all tags, wires or ropes from the stems or trunk, and do the following: Balled & Burlapped Plants: DO NOT remove the wire basket. Once the enriched soil has been placed ¾ of the way up the
Placing Your Plant in the Hole
Remove all tags, wires or ropes from the stems or trunk, and do the following:
Balled & Burlapped Plants
DO NOT remove the wire basket. Once the enriched soil has been placed 3/4 of the way up the root ball, cut & fold down the top 1/4 of the basket & burlap, remove any strings around the tree trunk. Fill the remaining hole with enriched soil to its original level.
Ease the pot off without disturbing the root ball. If the roots are extremely compacted, you may need to make a few shallow cuts through the roots on the side and bottom of the root ball.
Enriching Your Soil & Backfilling
Mix the soil taken out of the hole with Bumper Crop then backfill around the root ball. Tamp the soil lightly every 2”-3”, and fill the hole with the enriched soil to its original level. Use excess soil to build a ring 6” –10” from the outside of the hole. This will help the water to move slowly down to the root zone of the plant as well as minimize the runoff.
Water your newly planted tree or shrub by using a slow, deep watering method. B&B and container plant roots dry out faster than the soil around them, so it is important to monitor their soil moisture. Water slowly to attain deep water penetration which encourages widespread root development. You will need to water once every 7-10 days (or more during hot dry periods). Apply Root Master B1 after every watering
General Watering guidelines:
1 gal. Pot – trickle water for approx. 15-20 minutes
2 gal. Pot – trickle water for approx 30-40 minutes
3 gal. Pot – trickle water for approx 40-50 minutes
4 gal. To 7 gal. – trickle water for approx 60 minutes
B&B – trickle water for 60-70 minutes
Remember, if it rains for 1 hr, it probably was not enough water for a newly planted shrub or tree.
Water your plants thoroughly, then remove them from their pots by inverting them and supporting the root ball. If the roots are compacted, you may need to make a few shallow cuts through the roots on the side and bottom of the root ball. Place your plant into the hole. Add the enriched soil to ground level. Water the plant thoroughly to ensure the soil fills in completely around the roots, eliminating air pockets. Apply Rootmaster B1 at this time. Reapply Rootmaster B1 at every watering for the first year. Monitor your plants daily. Water slowly to attain deep water penetration which encourages widespread root development. Feed perennials bi-weekly with Bud & Bloom fertilizer. Add a 2”- 3” mulch layer around the plant. This will prevent water loss and keep mowers & trimmers from getting too close to the plant. Avoid overly deep mulch against the stem or trunk of the plant, as this can promote disease or pest injury.
Unless necessary, trees should not be staked. If your tree or shrub is top heavy or in an exposed area, you may stake the plant to anchor the root ball so roots can develop rapidly into the new soil around the tree. Connect the stakes to the trunk with flexible lines and straps designed for this use. Allow for some movement in the plant for strong growth. Remove the stakes and lines after one growing season so you do not inhibit trunk development.
Add a 2”-3” layer of shredded mulch or chips around the plant. This will prevent water loss and keep mowers and trimmers from getting too close to the plant. Avoid overly deep mulch against the trunk or stem of the plant as this can promote disease or pest injury.
PLANTING PERENNIAL & ANNUAL PLANTS
Plant your plants around your planting area while still in their pots. Make sure you have taken into consideration the mature height of the plants as well as the sun or shade requirements. Determine an appropriate location for planting, then dig a hole2 times the width & 6”-8” deeper, replacing with enriched soil (compact this 6”-8” of soil) Add a generous amount of Bumper Crop to enrich the soil. Blend into the soil.
FOR SUCCESSFUL PLANTING
An all-organic soil builder with high organic nutrient content and endo-and ecto-mycorrhizal fungi.
A fertilizer for all new plantings of sod or seeded lawns, shrubs, ground covers, flowers, or bare root plantings. Provides the right nutrient mix to develop a sturdy root system and strong top growth.
Root Master B1
Formulated to reduce plant shock and improve resistance to stress. Improves water and nutrient uptake.
Vegetables That Are Perfect to Plant in Late Summer
The long dog days of summer are here as the days are hotter and the sun sets late into the night. Any cool season vegetable you had in your garden are at the end of their days and warm season veggies are still going strong. Now it is time to grow vegetables that are perfect to plant in late summer for the fall.
Squash plants encompass many different subspecies of plants. In the squash family you have cucumbers, zucchini from yellow crookneck to pattypans to green beauties. Then add in your winter squash like acorn, butternut, and gourds. Don’t forget the many varieties of pumpkins that also fall into this category from Jack O’Lanterns to minis and sugars to Giants. All of these plants are perfect to get into your garden around the 4th of July.
Winter squash is planted in the summer and then can overwinter for months at a time. Planting pumpkins in July allows them to be ready to carve by Halloween and cooked up for pumpkin pie by Thanksgiving.
A few root vegetables do best when planted in late summer and then come to maturity in the cool days of fall. This is the perfect time to plant beets, turnips, fennel, kohlrabi, and radishes. You can also get in a few succession plantings of carrots if you live where you get cool summer nights. Bunching onions like scallions and garlic chives also do great when planted in late summer.
Quite a few green vegetables do best when planted in late summer. This allows the seeds to warm up and germinate, but the plant matures as the nights get longer and cooler. Start from seed Swiss Chard, kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, and spinach. These plants will need to be well watered until the summer heat dies down to build a healthy root system.
Tomatoes are a true heat-loving plant! When grown in late summer, start with transplants instead of seeds as it is too warm for them to germinate. Once the temperatures drop below 75 degrees then the plant will flower and produce buds. Tomatoes like to produce in the sweet spot between 55° and 75° which is perfect fall weather!
Do you have a favorite vegetable you are planting now for fall harvest? If so, what is it!?
The garden is at its peak, and long days offer ample time for picking fresh flowers and sun-ripened produce.
Temperatures Soar and Color Sizzles
Some plants thrive as summer heats up. If your perennial beds lack color, try a few of these plants that flower through sweltering August afternoons. All are drought-tolerant once established.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.) brightens the garden with cheery yellow blooms perfect for cutting. It’s a good choice for a wildlife garden. Flowers beckon butterflies; seed heads are a goldfinch favorite.
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) unfurls silvery foliage accented with lavender blooms. Plants are deer-resistant.
Threadleaf tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata) opens daisylike blooms in shades of yellow, white, or pink. Low-maintenance plants have fine foliage and open flowers steadily until frost.
Yarrow (Achillea) sounds a steady note of drought-resistant color in the summer garden. Look for flowers in many shades, from white, to red, to peach, to yellow.
Test Garden Tip: Even the most reliable summer bloomers stage a stronger show when you faithfully remove faded flowers.
August Watering Tips
Water plants a few hours before applying pesticides, especially during times of drought. In these conditions, plants have less water in tissues, and as pesticides enter cells, they may burn leaves.
Avoid watering during midday, when more water will evaporate than soak into soil.
It’s not uncommon for plants to wilt on hot afternoons even though soil has adequate moisture. The wilting occurs because plants are losing water faster than their roots can absorb it. Leaves should revive by early evening, after the sun is no longer directly on leaves. If not, water deeply.
Some shrubs need weekly deep watering now. Rhododendrons are beginning to form flower buds for next year’s show, and adequate water is vital. Fruiting plants, such as hollies and firethorn, need water to ensure berries mature and don’t drop.
Test Garden Tip: Water newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials — any plants you added to your yard last fall or spring. These plants need weekly irrigation to ensure roots establish deeply.
Garden-Fresh Flavors from the Herb and Vegetable Garden
Peppers: Pick peppers at any stage of development. The longer fruits stay on a plant, the more intense flavor becomes — sweet peppers grow sweeter, and hot peppers develop a stronger burn.
Herbs: It’s best to pick herbs before they flower. Harvest herbs on a dry morning, after dew has dried. The exception is mint, which you want to pick at midday, when essential oil concentrations in leaves are greatest. Avoid harvesting herbs following a rain, when foliage is wet.
Tomatoes: Even though tomatoes continue to ripen after picking, fruits develop greatest flavor when allowed to ripen on plants. The exception is cherry tomatoes, which are prone to splitting. Pick these tasty morsels as soon as fruits start showing color.
It’s Time to Stop…
Fertilizing roses. Stop feeding roses this month so that growth can harden sufficiently before killing frost arrives. This will help reduce the amount of winter kill.
Pruning evergreens. As August arrives, put away the pruners as far as evergreens are concerned. If you prune now, you risk plants pushing new growth, which won’t harden off and will be killed during winter’s chill.
Ignoring zucchini. Daily inspections of squash vines are a must. In August heat, small, tasty fruit can transform into inedible baseball bats overnight.
Composting weed seeds. Unless your compost pile gets hot enough to kill seeds, it’s best to destroy weeds with seed heads. If your town has a community composting facility, place seedy weeds at the curb. The community compost will be hot enough to kill seeds.
August Garden Chores for the Northeast
Pull annuals that are past their prime and aren’t likely to recover. Cover bare soil to deter weeds.
Take cuttings of plants you want to overwinter. Choices may include fuchsia, scented geranium, coleus, or wax begonia. Stick 3- to 4-inch green stem cuttings in soil. Place pots in a shaded spot, and keep soil moist.
Make sure mower height is raised so you’re cutting grass higher. When grass is taller, it shades soil beneath, which reduces water evaporation from soil. Taller grass generally has deeper roots, which helps it withstand drought better.
September is peony planting time. That means August is the month to order peony roots. You should have peonies in the ground about a month before the average first frost date.