Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
December, 2003
Regional Report

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Give yourself and the birds a holiday present by decorating a tree for them. These ornaments are made of pine cones covered in peanut butter and wild bird seed.

Winter's Gifts

One of the best gifts a gardener can give him or herself actually benefits other creatures. For as the flowers of summer become a distant memory, your garden can still be filled with the brilliant color, movement, and life of wild birds. Whether one simple, inexpensive feeder, or an entire array of feeders and food choices, you'll be rewarded with the most delightful of diversions as all manner of birds become frequent visitors.

Holiday Treats
The holiday season is a perfect time to give yourself or a friend a gift of a bird feeder, various types of seed, a winter water source, or suet blocks. Even more fun is to create colorful outdoor decorations for the birds as a family project.

Design wreaths with the birds in mind. Cover a wire frame with berried juniper, then decorate it with millet or wheat sprays, small cobs of corn, or winterberry branches. If you grew and saved sunflower heads, you can cover a wire frame with the smaller heads. To make a wreath of a giant sunflower head, remove the center, add a wire on the back for hanging, and decorate with berries, peanuts, or other treats.

Christmas Trees
Ideally, you have an evergreen tree in your yard that is readily seen from the house. If not, consider planting one or buying a cut tree just for the birds. Decorate with strings of peanuts, cranberries, raisins, and popcorn. You also can create small wreaths to use as ornaments. Lightweight florist wire works well for this.

Day-old doughnuts or doughnut holes and slices of oranges and apples also make good ornaments when hung by a ribbon. Spread peanut butter on pine cones sprinkled with seed, and hang them from the tree, too. Hopefully, you've been saving those mesh onion bags because they're great for wrapping around chunks of suet. Cut a 5- or 6-inch square, put in the suet, and tie it shut with colorful ribbon.

A Bird's Version of Rock Soup
Sometimes a yummy mixture can be concocted by cleaning out the cupboard. Do a little early spring cleaning. Chuck out those old dried-up raisins, that wormy cornmeal, the dregs of peanut butter at the back of the cabinet, and some long-forgotten jelly. Mix them all together and use the mixture to fill holes drilled in short lengths of log or in scooped-out orange halves.

If the pickings are slim, supplement what you have with some inexpensive peanut butter and suet.

Birder's Mainstays
Besides all these treats, be sure to keep feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds, which attract a wide range of birds including titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, jays, finches, cardinals, juncos, wrens, sparrows, and woodpeckers. White proso millet is the favorite of ground-feeding species, such as mourning doves and song-, white-crowned, and white-throated sparrows. Avoid seed mixes with large proportions of buckwheat, cracked corn, golden millet, rape seed, and wheat, which are less appealing than other kinds. Be sure, too, to keep the suet feeder filled.

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