Friday, November 24, 2017

Feeding Birds in the Fall and Winter By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Like most outdoor wildlife, birds depend on the natural surroundings for food, water and shelter. Often some areas have little open space for wildlife to thrive and providing supplemental nutrition during the fall and winter can help birds survive and cope with the changing weather.

In a previous blog (10/19/2017: Love Birds and Pollinators? Don't Clean the Fall Garden by Carol King) we discussed how not removing some of your flower seed heads can provide a good source of seeds for the birds.  So instead of doing a full scale clean up of your landscape to remove dried seeds and pods, leave some for the wildlife to enjoy. 
Providing seed and suet blocks for the birds throughout the cold weather months is also a good and acceptable way to give birds an extra source of nutrition.  

There has been some discussion as to whether filling your birdfeeder with seeds is good for the birds or if they should depend solely on natural foraging and finding open water sources. Research shows that providing food for the birds is acceptable and focusing on the right seed such as the black sunflower seeds which is high in nutrition, plus fresh water, provides an important and healthy supplement to the bird’s diets. 

For water, you don’t need to invest in an expensive birdbath, a shallow durable dish will work just as well. Change the water often so that it doesn’t freeze and remains clean is important. Electric or solar water heaters can also be purchased to keep the water from freezing. 

When it comes to choosing the best food, before investing in a large amount of certain seed, first start with the black sunflower seed. If you then want to test another type of seed, start with a small amount.  

Choosing the right bushes and trees to add to your landscape also is very important to provide shelter from the weather and predators. The bulletins below provide good research based information on feeding your birds and other wildlife and suggestions for shelter plants:



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cornucopia: Origins by Carol King

Cornucopia Photo publicdomainpictures.net
The cornucopia is the symbol of abundant harvest and is most often associated with Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a horned shaped vessel filled with an abundance of the earth's harvest. 

Cornucopia became an English word in 1508 when it first appeared in the dictionary. Its origins are from two Latin words; Cornu meaning "horn" and Copia meaning "plenty". 

The cornucopia has been a symbol of a great harvest for centuries and was probably first referred to in Greek and Roman myths and dates back to the 5th century B.C. My favorite is the Greek version: “ Almathea was a goat who nursed and raised Zeus. While playing one day, Zeus accidentally broke one of her horns. He was so saddened by this that he used his godly powers to fill the broken horn with whatever Almathea wanted so it became the horn of plenty. Zeus also put the goat's image in the sky and that is our constellation Capricorn.”

The symbol of the cornucopia was also used, along with rolling fields of grain, to lure new settlers to come to the New World. It is now in our national consciousness as a symbol for bountiful garden harvest and the sharing of food that has become our American Thanksgiving.  

Wishing you and yours a harvest of good food and good fortune! Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Amaryllis: The Joy That Keeps on Giving by Patti O'Neal




Samba Amaryllis, photo courtesy Donna Duffy

Amaryllis is a rare gift to a gardener, providing near instant gratification producing a magnificent spectacle in 4-6 weeks. It’s a gift of growing something and making it bloom right in the middle of snow and freezing temperatures. The trick for many is to get them to do it again the following year. 

Amaryllis is a tender bulb, meaning it does not require a chilling period to bloom.  These beauties originate in the temperate climates of South America where they grow and bloom outdoors.  Here in the chilly Rocky Mountains we enjoy them “forced” during the holidays of December and on into January and even February.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gardening Power to the People: Planting Bulbs Video

It's not too late to plant spring blooming bulbs! Gardener Gail will show you how.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Prevent Floppy Paperwhites: Give Them a Stiff Drink by Carol King


Cornell University Bulb Experiment

Have you heard that drinking alcohol will stunt your growth?  Well this is certainly true with narcissus and amaryllis bulbs.

We bulb lovers love to force bulbs to bloom during the winter holidays.  They brighten an otherwise dark time in gardening. Narcissus (also known as paper whites) and amaryllis are notorious for getting tall and leggy and flopping over.  To combat this problem look no further than the liquor cabinet.

The Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell University conducted experiments using various kinds of alcohol and discovered that plant height will be reduced by one third thus stopping the “flop over”. Alcohol interferes with water uptake, thus less cell stretching and shorter stems. Here are their recommendations:

“Start your bulbs in plain water. When roots have formed and the green shoot is 1 to 2 inches long, pour off the water and replace with a solution of 4 to 6 percent alcohol. If you are using 80 proof liquor (40 percent alcohol), that works out to one part gin (or the like) to 7 parts water.

Rubbing alcohol (either 70 or 100 percent isopropyl alcohol) can be substituted; just remember to dilute it more. Keep the beer and wine for yourself; their sugars damage plants.” 

Distilled spirits are watered down at a rate of 1 part to 7 parts water. Rubbing alcohol needs more dilution at a rate of 1 to 11.

So enjoy a glass of wine while you give the bulbs a good stiff drink of the hard stuff! Enjoy your beautiful shorter flowers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Senior Gardening 5 – Tools by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Photo courtesy freepix.com

The most important tool in the garden is either a mobile phone or an alert system. If you were to fall in the garden and couldn’t get up, a tool for communication would be essential.  Having a communication device will ensure that you can get the necessary assistance if needed.


Gloves
There are a number of specially designed gloves that can improve your grip and protect your hands while you work. Some gloves have extra padding in the palm and finger joints that can improve grip, and cause fewer calluses and blisters.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 4 - Raised Beds, Trellises, and Container Gardens by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Raised bed, Clear Creek Path in Golden, photo by Carol Russell

Raised garden beds, trellises, and container gardening are easier ways to grow plants and flowers because it brings the garden to you, eliminating most stooping, squatting and kneeling. They are also adaptable for gardening in a small backyard, an apartment patio, or on the grounds of a retirement home.

Raised Beds
To eliminate bending and kneeling entirely, think about raising your garden a few feet above the ground. Raised garden beds are great for seniors as the garden planters have legs bringing the gardens up to your level. Table beds are elevated and offer a shallow bed of 6” - 12” at a raised height and can be tended while sitting down. These beds are especially good for the chair-bound individual who wants to be able to get his legs underneath the bench so that he can work comfortably. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 3 – Pathways, Don’t Fall this Fall by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Concrete pathway, photo by Donna Duffy
After being diagnosed with a degenerative disease that affects balance, my first question was “How will I be able to continue gardening without falling?”  I found that garden accessibility starts with paths. Accessible paths allow for increased mobility and safety of movement throughout the garden. I went to the garden and wandered down a path: my typical walkabout. Was the path easy to walk on or was I paying more attention to where I placed my feet rather than smelling the roses? Edges in the garden are hazardous. A flagstone pathway is much more treacherous than a flat cement path.  

Also, places to pause are an integral part of pathways.  Did I need to sit down to appreciate a beautiful flower or a combination of great perennials? I should consider this location for a bench. Is the pathway cool as a result of shading? 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 2 - How to Design and Modify Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Benches provide places to rest, photo by Donna Duffy
When I found out I had a degenerative disease I also learned I was part of a large group:  nearly 20% of Americans have disabilities. Although not everyone is handicapped, we all age. We need gardens that can take care of themselves as we mature.  My garden, like yours, needs to be easy to access, reasonably low maintenance but still beautiful. Following are a few design elements I learned, with advice from some experts, on transforming your gardening from a daunting list of chores into a rewarding, joy-filled activity. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 1 – Maturing Gracefully with Your Garden by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker



Nance Tucker in the Jeffco PlantSelect Garden,  photo by Carol Russell
Many of us from the baby boom era are approaching retirement thrilled to finally have time to play in the garden but also with angst because our bodies just don’t function as they once did. After I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I thought my gardening days were over - not so. I continue to garden and continue to learn. However, I needed some inspirational tips and science-based knowledge to improve my long-term, quality-of-life in the garden.