Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
December, 2005
Regional Report

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Recycle your Christmas tree by placing it outside and decorating it for wildlife.

A Present for the Birds

As Nature's food supply becomes less plentiful in late fall and early winter, it's a great time to attract birds and other wildlife to your landscape. Be it a live tree or a well-anchored cut one, you can keep our feathered friends content throughout winter.

Birds aren't the only ones who will enjoy a "food tree." This is a great family project, too. The kids like to participate in decorating the tree for the birds. Since natural food sources become more scarce in the winter, it's the spirit of the season to give to wildlife as well. Groceries for birds can be items you already have in your pantry, or you can use traditional bird foods, such as suet and a variety of seeds.

Stringing Garland
If kids are helping, use foods for the garland that are easy for them to handle, such as grapes, cranberries, and popcorn. Start stringing garland a few days before you plan to decorate the tree. Keep the unfinished strings of fruit in the refrigerator so the berries will stay fresh. Other foods that can be easily strung include blueberries, grapes, raisins, and pieces of apples.

You can use nylon fishing line for stringing garlands because it is easy to thread and less likely to tangle. Hang the ropes of garland carefully, and trim off extra line so the birds will not get caught in them. When the food has been eaten, remove the line and string on more fruit.

Other Edible Decorations
You can make simple decorations from pine cones stuffed with peanut butter and suet. Mix 2 parts peanut butter with 1 part suet or canned lard. For some extra protein, coat the pine cones in birdseed; just spread the peanut butter mix on the inside of the scales of the cone with a knife. Then roll the cone in a large bowl of birdseed. Wrap some florist wire around the cone and tie it to the tree.

You can even hollow out orange or grapefruit halves and make little cups to hold birdseed, small pieces of fruit, suet, and peanut butter. Slice the orange or grapefruit in half and cut out the bulk of the flesh with a coring knife. To make a handle for hanging the cup, poke the ends of an 8-inch length of stiff florist wire through the skin about 1/2 inch from the rim on opposite ends of the cup.

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