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Your Christmas Memories and Traditions
January 05, 2009
A belated Happy New Year.
It is still considered the new year isn't it?
It's time to get back into the groove.
I missed you guys, but the time off was needed and I think well deserved.
Welcome new readers and stick around for a few letters.
You will find I'm a simple country boy (living in the suburbs) that loves gardening and wildlife.
I like to share my experiences and in some cases my knowledge in hopes that you may learn something from time to time.
You will learn a bit about me and the goings on around here in my southwest Michigan digs.
You will find I have a love for our "Creator" and his creations.
This is a gardening and wildlife letter, but sometimes topics don't always totally relate.
Most of all, I hope we become friends.
Healing from the hernia operation is on going, but I do feel much better.
The holidays were a joy for us, I hope they were for you as well.
I want to thank everyone that participated in the Christmas special letter and for all that showed support and shared comments.
Even then, a couple of scrooges canceled.
We went from feet of snow before Christmas to record breaking warms, thunderstorms and flooding after Christmas.
Now we sit with a light snow cover.
There is a rumor however, that winter is on the way bck.With less snow and temperatures not so cold, I can take the fur kids on more walks with me.
Keet (Akita) always enjoys getting out and Ziggy the poodle is getting better (finally).
The bird activity varies with the weather.
Some days the feeders have non stop action.
Other days only the regulars show.
They are still wild creatures and often prefer to feed and hang out where they feel more comfortable.
You may see some birds you don't see every year.
Pine siskins irrupt every other year and may be common in your yards this winter.
Other birds like Common redpolls and Red breasted nuthatches may not be as common as they had a major irruption last year as many species did.
The Great horned owls are hooting at night and a couple of evenings I have heard the foxes barking and yelping.
Love is in the air.
Like many species of birds, foxes also mate for life.
Have you come down from the holiday highs?
You know, the mental and emotional rush.
All of a sudden the holidays are over and there is nothing to do.
Now the winter doldrums are sitting in, especially if you live in snow country.
You may think that this is a slow time of year.
It doesn't have to though, as there are plenty of things to keep you busy.
Besides caring for and observing your birds and wildlife at home, you can take nature walks or even a drive.
The fresh air does a body some good.
For you folks living in the deep South, you can get an early start on some gardening projects.
You may still have some pruning and other projects to take care of.
For the rest of us, it is dreaming and planning.
Sometimes that is a life savor as I do have troubles with "Seasonal Affect Disorder" some winters.
This winter hasn't been bad yet, all the snow brightens the gloomy days we get here.Working on a positive attitude helps too.
With all the seed catalogs to thumb through, there are those wish lists to make.
Anytime I feel the longing for spring, I whip out the catalogs and look at all the pictures of things I have or want.
You can do this too.
As you make out your wish list, you will find out what is reality and what is a dream.
Start making your lists out on what to order or buy locally.
You have all these seeds and plants that will be coming, where are you going to plant them?
A true gardener will always find a place for that something special.
But that may take some planning or re-designing of a garden.
Break out the plan-o-gram and crank up the creative juices.
Graph paper works well for this.
Be sure to use a pencil because you will be erasing more than a few times.
Be sure to design as a mature plant, not the cute seedling or baby tree.
For example, if the spread of a perennial is two feet when mature, sketch in a two foot wide plant.
Things grow and you must consider this or you will be moving things again in another year or two.
I don't mind moving plants, but there are times that I want to relax and enjoy as well.For your wildlife gardens, start looking for and matching up native plants for your region.
Yes, I still have some non native favorites like iris, peonies and a few rose bushes, but every year I continue to plant more and more natives that attract birds and butterflies.
Many natives are surprisingly beautiful and offer more of what your wildlife needs.
Natives are also more hardy to your climate conditions.
When you are planning, be sure to consider the plants needs.
Plant sun lovers with sun lovers and so on.
Certain plants have higher water requirements than others.
Read up on the plants needs (There will be more on this as the season moves forward).
When in doubt, take a look at the natural world around you.
If you are looking to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, plant in quantities and bunch them in an area that is attractive to them and make sure to plant where you can benefit as well.
It's not much fun having a butterfly garden where you can't see it from your favorite vantage points.
In the winter when we need it most.
Not all plants are native, but many of them are familiar to these winged marvels and aren't invasive. Now you will find that your slow and boring days will pass by a bit faster and your moods will be a little more up beat as you plan and look forward to the time you can get out there and play in the dirt.
Even my friends in the deep South, the Southwest and Pacific coast regions can make some plans right now.
There is no reason to sit back and frown.
Get things going.
There is never a down time when it comes to "Gardening for Wildlife."
I almost forgot to mention.................
It's the first of the month, have you given your feeders a good cleaning?
I find the first of a month is a good time to do this as it becomes good habit every time the first of a month comes around.
You may have an amaryllis growing right now or if you are like me, you start them a bit later on to have some color when you really need it.
Now I understand the amaryllis have nothing to do with wildlife gardening, but they have become a popular part of our Holiday culture.
You may want to save or print this for future use.
A native of South Africa, these bulbs are easy to grow and bloom as single bulbs or gift boxes.
By following a few simple steps, you can enjoy your bulbs for years to come.
Amaryllis can be planted anytime between November through April indoors in Colder climates (outside anytime in Z8 or warmer).
Use a fairly deep pot which is about an inch larger in diameter than your bulb, and place a small stone or similar object over the drain hole.
Plant the bulb about half the depth above the soil and water.
Place your amaryllis in a warm shaded place, preferably where it will have a gentle bottom heat (70 - 75 degrees).
Very little water should be given until the bud is formed or pops out of the bulb.
Once the flower bud is well developed, the pot can be placed in a cooler and lighter location (not direct sunlight).
Bright indirect sunlight works fine.
At this stage the roots can stand more moisture and regular watering is required.
Some recommend a light feeding every other week until the blooms are done.
After blooming, cut the stalk back to within 1" of the bulb By removing the stem, more energy will go into the foliage rather than the stem which will die.
After flowering, the bulb should be kept growing as you would any foliage plant.
Long leaves will grow and may require some staking.
Now, begin feeding your bulb(s) a regular dose of 20-20-20 fertilizer every 3 - 4 weeks .
Be sure to follow instructions on fertilizer package.
After the danger of frost, find a semi shady location and sink the pot into the ground or if you are like me, remove the bulb and plant it this way.
Either way works, I prefer to plant the bulb so the roots can reach out and really feed.
Continue fertilizing through mid July the 20-20-20- every 3 to 4 weeks at i teaspoon per gallon.
By mid July, switch to a 15-30-15 and feed every 3 to 4 weeks.
The added phosphorus will help build a strong root system and help in developing flowers for fall.
On some occasions, your bulb may bloom in the summer as well.
Before the first frost of fall, remove your bulb from the pot and soil.
Leave the foliage on and wash the bulb off.
Allow your bulb to air dry for a couple of days before bringing them in.
I place my bulbs in a box and bring them into a spare bedroom.
The foliage will gradually yellow, when it is done, cut the faded foliage down to about 1" from the bulb.
Allow the bulb to rest for about 1 month before repotting.
There is no need to cool store these bulbs.
Before repotting, make sure you clean and sanitize your pots.
Use a medium weight soil with about a 25% peat moss.
Do not use garden soil.
Propagation is done with offset bulbs that form on the base of the mother bulb.
I have grown and given away several amaryllis this way.
With proper care your amaryllis can last at least 15 years.
Well, it's time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought to start off the new year.
"You hold the power to make another person's life better or worse by the things you do today.
Those closest to you --- your spouse, children, or parents --- are the most affected by what you say and do.
Use that power wisely."
John C. Maxwell
The little things you do every day have a greater impact on others than you might think.
A smile, rather than a frown, can make someones day.
A kind word instead of criticism lifts and individual's spirits rather than dragging him/her down.
In the process, you even help yourself.
Everyone is cabable of becoming a person who lifts up others.
You don't have to be rich.
You don't have to be a genius.
You don't have to have it all together.
You do have to care about others and initiate lifting activities.
Don't let another day go by without lifting up the people in your life.
Doing that will positively change the relationships you already have and openyou up to many more.
Smile and smile pretty.
Share your smile with others.
Not only do you feel better, but others will as well.
Before long, they may beat you to the punch or should I say smile.
Until next time.
"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,
PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers. Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.
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