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The MasterGardening.com Blog


If you’re not a fan of ice skating, snowboarding, skiing, sledding, or being late to work every day for three months because the cold makes you go about your morning routine with the agility of a three toed sloth (a three toed sloth that completely forgot to warm up the car and scrape the windshield first), winter is a tough time.But, for as tough as it is on those of us who lament low temperatures, it’s brutally tough on wildlife that must find alternative means of staying warm, fed, and hydrated, particularly where winters are harsh.

Birds relying on seeds, insects, vegetables, fruits, and nectar have an exceptionally difficult time finding nourishment when plants are bare, and when what little food is available is buried in snow or ice.Water sources become inaccessible due to freezing, so often, finding a drink of water is even trickier than finding a bite to eat. To cope with the lack of food and water, most birds head out for warmer and more fruitful pastures, but whether birds stay or go during the winter, having a source of energy is pivotal to survival, especially for the ones planning on taking a cross-country trip.

Turning your backyard into the perfect place to stop for a rest will help migrating birds tremendously on their travels.To create the perfect rest stop, you will need to include food, water, and shelter.

When it comes to food, just be sure that you’re keeping your feeders constantly stocked through the worst of winter.Birds have come to rely on the food we set out during the year, so try to never allow your feeders to sit empty.Offer food for a variety of birds that may pass by during migration, particularly sunflower seeds and suet which are high in fats and good for keeping energy up.Also, don’t forget your hummingbirds—many put hummingbird feeders in too early during a time when food for hummingbirds is scarce.

Keep some kind of bird bath or dish with fresh water in it for drinking and washing feathers.In the coldest parts of winter, you may need to walk out and tap the surface with a hammer if it freezes over.If you have a fountain, water feature, or pond, keeping the water circulating or heated with a small water heater will keep it from freezing completely, creating a nice water fountain for birds.

Create natural shelter spots by leaving brush and leaf debris under hedges, and creating winter brush piles around your landscape.You can also purchase roost boxes—these give birds a great place to get out of the cold and take a break.

When it comes to making sure that your birds survive many winters ahead, creating long term food and shelter solutions is important.Plant hedges and evergreens to give your birds a place to rest in every season, and a source of berries in the winter.Planting grasses, shrubs, and flowers that provide seeds and nectar in the fall will make your yard the go-to pit stop for many species of birds.

You'll Regret It: Ivy

Just about every single nursery and garden center has at least one variety of ivy available for purchase.  It is inexpensive, hardy, and very forgiving with neglectful owners.  When planted in hanging baskets or containers in windows or on tall plant stands, ivy will quickly send long and elegant vines cascading down to the floor [...]

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You'll Regret It: Bamboo

Running Bamboo: Destroying Relationships Between Neighbors Since…well, since the first person figured out that the height, thickness, and quick-spreading nature of bamboo made it a great privacy fence.  Unfortunately, without taking precautions and regular maintenance measures, along a fence line, property edge, or deck isn’t where it is likely to stay.  If planted along a [...]

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Why Garden Gnomes?

At some point, you have probably seen a little ceramic garden gnome in a neighbor’s front yard or flowerbed.  At the very least, the words “garden gnome” conjure up a very specific image in your mind: a little man, one to two feet high, with a red cone hat and a long white beard.  People [...]

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Raised Bed Gardening

“The yard didn’t really have any plants in it except for an unknown and overgrown tree, so I thought, I’ll prune it back and dig up a small flower bed underneath for some summer bulbs.  I wanted to make a nice little spot for hanging out when the weather was nicer.  So, I handled the [...]

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Plant and Gardening Myths and Misconceptions

Deer-Proof” PlantsDeer-proof?  Don’t we wish.  There is no such thing as a completely deer-proof plant.  Deer-resistant plants, on the other hand, do seem to exist, but even still, a plant that is deer-resistant in one area may not be resistant in another.  Deer, like us, have a taste for some things, and not others, and [...]

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Plant a Literary Garden

For the bookworms among us, one of the best things about a garden on a quiet day is having a calm and relaxing place to sit and read.  But, here’s an idea: take the story out of the pages and put it in your landscape.  The Secret Garden, beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, tells the [...]

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Orchidaceae (Orchids)

Few flowers have captured the esteem and appreciation that comes so readily to orchids the world over.  Their unusual shapes, delicate symmetry, and exotic splashes of color have made them sought after symbols of love and beauty to many cultures through the centuries.  Even now, the orchid boasts dedication from many clubs and societies, and [...]

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More Incredibly Weird Plants

The durian tree produces a fruit that is widely considered in southeast Asia to be the King of Fruits.  The durian fruit is incredibly large, weighing several pounds and up to a foot in length.  The husk is tough and spiked, but when opened reveals a soft and sweet yellow flesh that many consider to [...]

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Keep Your Garden Free of Ticks, Fleas, and Mosquitoes

With summer approaching and the start of summer break for many schoolchildren, families will be spending much more time in the yard playing games, cooking out, having a dip in the pool, and working on the garden.  While this increased activity outdoors is great for keeping in shape and getting much-needed fresh air and sunshine, [...]

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