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  Mike's Gardening Tips

Hope You Fed The Boids THIS Winter...

Well, its official--this was one nasty winter! We gardeners just can't wait for the warmer days soon to come! In the meantime, I hope all of youse gardeners out there have been feeding your birds. Set out a few blocks of suet and hang some sunflower seed feeders and you get double benefit--you bring a little living color to your winter landscape, and you get those birds in place to build their Springtime nests on your property and not someone else's! And many of those year-round birds, like woodpeckers, cardinals, nuthatches and chickadees, are awesome eaters of insect pests!

But now that we finally CAN see Spring at the end of the tunnel, its time to back off the suet down South--once the weather starts hitting 70 suet can make a mess on bird's feathers and impede their ability to fly well. AND the bad bugs start coming in droves once the weather warms up that much, and you don't want your pretty birdies wasting their time with suet when there's borers and cankerworms on the potential menu!

And the CHAMPION Pest-Eating Birdie IS...
Even birds who are seed eaters the rest of the year prey on insect pests in the Spring, when they need extra protein to raise their young. That's why savvy organic gardeners feed and provide nesting boxes for their birds. The champion pest-eating birdie is the cute little chickadee. That's right--they're not running up and down the sides of trees and shrubs to amuse us--they're eating nasty bugs like scale, borers, and destructive caterpillars. 90 percent of the chickadees' diet is insects, and most of those insects are pests. And don't let their small size fool you; a 1920 study estimated that each chickadee can consume up to ONE THOUSAND bad bugs every day! No wonder those little birds are so round!

Attract "The Champ" And Other Bug-Eating Boids
Yes, Bug-eating birds can be a gardener's best friend. To get the pest-controlling champion chickadee to rid your trees and shrubs of borers and scale, provide suet and sunflowers, and a little nesting box filled with wood chips in a quiet, wooded corner of your property. With wrens--champs at taking out your caterpillars, grasshoppers, flies and slugs--it's not so much your providing a home, but being tolerant of their use of eminent domain. They love to live near people and often build nests in clothespin bags on wash lines--but they'll prefer a nice hollowed out birdhouse gourd. Woodpeckers and other arboreal bug eaters like to nest in dead trees; if there's one tucked safely away in a corner of your property, leave it be. The birds who live there will keep your other trees healthy!

You'll find many sites on the web that show you the right kind of houses and nesting boxes to use to attract the most beneficial birds. One of my favorites is www.audubonworkshop.com. Click on "houses and boxes" and you'll see lots of different designs--buy 'em ready made or create your own utilizing the in-depth descriptions of each birds needs, likes and dislikes

I also really like the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat program; it tells you everything you need to do to create a mini wildlife sanctuary on your property; which is especially great if you're an organic gardener--bring in enough birds, bats, frogs, toads and beneficial insects and your pest control chores will consist of sipping iced tea all summer! They're on the web at www.nwf.org.

...HERE'S How to Get Those Boo-tea-full Boids to STAY!
Feed your backyard birds with suet and sunflower seed in the Winter, provide nesting boxes and sheltered areas, and they will rid your landscape of destructive pest insects like leafhoppers, scale, tree borers, and grasshoppers when Spring arrives.

To get them to patrol your garden areas in Summer, provide a water source in the center of your plantings. A little pond or fountain--or the classic birdbath. Keep it filled during dry and busy times, and freshen up the water twice a week if it isn't used up. Having a water source close to the ground--like just the top of a birdbath sitting in the center of a bed--attracts even more species. Be sure and position these water sources right in the middle of your plants. That way, the birds will see all your potential pests on the way in and out.

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