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Other Factors You Must Know
February 03, 2014

(Path to Bird Feeders.)

Happy February. Do you hear that?

That is the sound of the white flag flapping in the breeze.

Yes Winter, you win.

I surrender.

'Polar Vortex', you had nothing on this past week.

February comes in much like January departed.

Snow and cold.

January ended with daily temperatures 10 degrees below the monthly average.

February begins with snow, and more snow.

We aren't pushing any records just yet, but we are at or past our seasonal snowfall average. With a couple more months to go.

It's been so cold, that nothing has melted and there is little room to put the snow these days.

Still, besides the cold, snow wind, leaky roof (again), and whatever else I could complain about, there is a silver lining.

Okay, so I must look a bit harder.

We still have a roof over our head, heat and running water.

Food in our belly and able to worship our God.

The snow brightens up an otherwise drab landscape.

I am blessed enough to be able to feed the birds, a few squirrels and about eight rabbits that come to glean at night.

I finally saw my first Snowy owl (in flight) sorry, no picture.

We are in February and that much closer to spring.


Has it ever sounded so good?

I pray for our friends in the south that aren't prepared or equipped for such weather extremes.

Driving in snow and ice is a learned skill, one that many foolish northerners have yet to learn.

Slow down, give the other guy a break, lights on for safety, and leave plenty of room.

Often the safest route is to simply stay off the roads.

(Not to mention the food crop losses due to cold weather.)

Remember to care for your pets in this weather.

Fur kids can get frost bite real easy on tips of ears and even on the pads of their feet.

Fresh water is a must for farm animals as well as proper shelter.

Nature has provided for the wildlife.

The strong and healthy survive to reproduce, while the old and weak feed other creatures.

When the weather is too difficult, animals will hunker down and weather the storm.

Birds gorge while they can.

Remember, wild birds must pack it on in short winter days just to survive the cold of night.

Some birds will burn half their weight everyday just to stay warm.

The phrase "eats like a bird" is a misnomer.

Birds eat, and eat, and eat.

Fat and protein rich food is a must.

Offer suet, raw peanuts and Black oil sunflower seeds.

For your finches, Nyjer is a must.

Cracked corn, millet, milo and bread crumbs offer little in these conditions.

To help your feathered friends stay healthy, it is a good time to clean and sanitize your feeders.

Say What?

In these temperatures you want me to clean my feeders?

Real simple my friends.

Get a spray bottle full of rubbing alcohol.

Run outside, spritz your feeders well, and dash back in.

Rubbing alcohol will kill the germs and cooties, evaporate quickly, and leave no harmful residue for your birds.

Now this isn't for all cleanings, nothing beats a good old fashion scrubbing and sanitizing, but this always works in a pinch (or cold weather).

Go ahead, it works.

The past couple of weeks, I have touched on different aspects we need to know for healthy gardens.

Climate zones, Heat Zones, and hardiness zones.

Today I will finish up this mini series on other things you need to know for a strong and healthy garden and wildlife habitat.

This also goes well for your veggie gardens.

Sun, shade, water, air circulation, ph and other factors are also a must.

While you are pining away for spring and growing, this is a good time to do some research on your area and what plants may need.

I know I'm about jigsaw puzzled out.



Plant cells require oxygen for respiration.

Yes, plants breathe oxygen through the roots.

What many don't know is too much or too little water can cut off the oxygen supply to the roots and lead to a toxic situation.

You can control the amount of oxygen your plant roots receive by making sure your
plants have good aeration-adequate space between soil particles.

This is why you plant like need plants together.

Plant High maintenance plants with low maintenance plants and some will suffer and probably die.


Light affects plants in two ways.

First of all it is essential for photosynthesis, providing the energy to split water molecules, take up and fix carbon dioxide, and synthesize the building blocks for growth and development.

Light also creates heat, all plants need heat to one degree or another.

Light from the entire spectrum can enter a living body, but only rays with shorter wavelengths can exit.

The energy absorbed affects the temperature of the plant.

Cloud cover, moisture in the air, and the ozone layer-factors that you as gardeners can't control, but they all affect light and temperature.

But you can adjust light by choosing to situate your plant in shade, dappled shade, or full sun.

This is where knowing your 'Heat Zones' can come into play.

Length of Day:

Daylength is a critical factor in regulating vegetative growth, flower initiation and development, and the induction of dormancy.

The long days of summer add substantially to the potential for heat to have a profound effect on plant survival.

In annuals, herbaceous perennials, and many woody species, there is a strong interaction between temperature and daylength.

This is not a controllable factor in most home gardening situations.

Air movement:

While a gentle spring breeze can "cool" a plant through transpiration as it does us, fast-moving air on a hot day can have a negative effect, rapidly dehydrating it, or beating your plants down and causing damage.

Air movement in a garden is affected by natural features such as proximity to bodies of water and the presence of surrounding vegetation, as well as structures such as buildings and roads.

You can reduce air circulation by erecting fences and planting hedges.

Or planting along a fixed structure like your house or garage.

Proper air circulation is a must to deter most molds and mildews

You don't want trapped moisture sitting there and becoming a breeding ground.

Again, plant accordingly.

Surrounding Structures:

If the environment is wooded, transpiration from trees and shrubs will cool the air.

On the other hand, structures of brick, stone, glass, concrete, plastic, or wood will emit heat and raise the air temperature.

Gardeners wanting plants to produce early or survive in cold zones will often plant them on the south side of a
brick wall that retains heat, or a light color that reflects heat during the day.

Obviously, this would not be a good place for a plant at the southern limit of its heat zone!

Soil pH:

Soil pH is mentioned frequently for

The ability of plant roots to take up water and nutrients depends on the relative alkalinity or acidity of the soil.

Most plants prefer a soil close to neutral (pH 7), it can vary a point either way on most occasions

But, there are many exceptions, such as Hollies, Blueberries, and Hydrangea (especially if you want them to flower blue).

The successful cultivation of any plant requires that it be grown in a medium within a specific pH range.

While it is possible to manipulate the pH of soil with amendments, it is easier to choose plants appropriate to your soil type.


All plants need nutrition to some degree.

Plants vary greatly in the ratio and form of elements they need for consistent, healthy growth.

When these are present in appropriate quantities, they are recycled over and over again as the residue of woody material and dropped leaves accumulates and decays, creating sustainable landscapes.

Yet another reason to let nature take its course.

No need to rake up all the debris, it feeds your landscape year, after year.

Nature was created to be in balance, the circle of life.

When people mess with nature, nature doesn't like it and reacts in negative ways.

Do try to plant native and keep earths nutrient recycling.

When you Garden for Wildlife, native and natural is best.

If you want some ideas, only look as far as the natural habitat that surrounds you.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

We and the world, my children, will always be at war.

Retreat is impossible.

Arm yourselves.

Leif Enger

However, there is promised hope for us all.

And What a Promise We Have.

Read on.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Jesus Christ, John 10:10

And he that sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

Jesus Christ, Revelation 21:5

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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