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Gardening For Wildlife, #28 Some summer relief and Look for plant bargains
August 20, 2007
Another week has come and gone.
Where does the time go?
This past week was dry, but the temperatures were much more seasonable.
Enough to have the air turned off and windows open for a few days.
In fact the weekend was unseasonably cool with Sunday reaching 65 degrees.
That wont be the case this week, however.
We managed about 1/2" of rain Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Ya ever notice how the weather can dominate a conversation?
Yep, you don't know what to say or talk about, just bring up the weather.
Another project on the honey do list is finished.
It took me most of the summer, but the spare bedroom is finally patched, painted and papered.
I know what you're thinking.
Isn't that a fall or winter project?
You would think so, but when Karen gets an idea.....
I admit it, it's a woman's world.
Keet has managed to kill another squeak toy.
We go through more toys with her.
The hummers are busy and everywhere now days as they begin to fatten up for the fall migration.
I enjoy the juveniles as the fly and seem to play.
They are so inquisitive aren't they?
They will fly right up to me as if to check me out.
Up and down, side to side, back and forth.
If I'm fortunate, one will taking a sip as I am hanging the feeder.
They even fly up to a window to check us out in the house.
Cooler weather has brought the robins back for now.
This time of year if they aren't busy with a late season nest, robins will head off to the wooded areas or other cool spots.
Birds aren't so dumb.
I have seen several Eastern kingbirds this past week at the nursery.
There are a few snags (dead trees) in the back 40 and the kingbirds enjoy hanging out.
When an insect flies near, they fly out and grab it then head back to the dead branch.
It's a treat for me, because I typically don't see these birds in suburbia.
I must say, a large nursery can attract several different birds and butterflies.
Several barn swallows frequent the back 40 right now as well.
The Canada geese are been busy with flight practice.
With several ponds in the area. wings of low flying geese are common this time of year.
Fortunately there haven't been any bombs dropping yet.
The mama mallard and her three juveniles waddle up to feed now.
They are still quite skittish, not at all as friendly as the bunch that were here last year and this spring.
Say, are you keeping your water sources clean and fresh?
Keep your eyes and ears open for migrating visitors.
Fledging American goldfinches are beginning to make their appearance now.
I look forward to that this time of year.
Especially when many birds have gone quiet.
The sight and sounds really liven up my yard as the fledglings chirp and flap their wings to be fed.
Especially in the sunflower patch.
Some years, the yard is filled with young finches for several weeks.
In case you didn't know, goldfinches are strictly a seed eating bird so God made them to nest when plants and weeds are going to seed.
Yes, when most birds are done raising families, goldies are busy with theirs.
If your flower gardens look anything like mine, you have several spring and early summer blooming herbaceous perennials that look pretty rough by now.
Old seed stalks that have turned brown.
Foliage that shows wear and tear from a long season.
Maybe some of your perennials are turning yellow and getting ready for dormancy.
Well, the same holds true for plants in garden centers and nurseries.
Many garden centers and nurseries are offering sales and bargains on many if not all of their offerings.
Not only because their plants are looking a bit haggard, but they don't want to inventory and winter over all of that stock.
Start looking for sales and the bargain corners.
Us gardeners are always thinking ahead and why not save while we're at it.
Sometimes the staff can be worked to make an even better deal (speaking from experience here).
You know, the mystery plant without a tag.
You may know what the plant is, but others may not. (Smells like a deal, ask.)
Besides, sometimes mystery plants are fun.
Because a herbaceous plant in a pot may look sick or dying, doesn't mean that is the case at all.
The real proof is in the dirt, not above the dirt.
Do some detective work.
Gently pull the plant, roots and all out of the pot.
You may have to coax it some as many plants become pot bound.
Okay, so you've squeezed and worked the pot so the plant (roots and all) come out.
What do you see?
You are looking for white healthy roots and healthy smelling soil.
Check out the plants crown.
Is it firm and healthy looking?
Even if a plant has already died back, there should be a firm healthy crown and young growing roots that are white.
If you tugged on the plant and it pulled out with little roots and the soil has that rotting smell......... put it back in the pot and walk away.
No matter how good the deal is, it is a goner.
Discount stores that dabble in garden plants may offer a better sale because this isn't what they are about. They want things in and out and right now (work it).
Garden centers and nurseries make a living with the stock and their reputation. The discounts may not be as good, but the plants should be better and many still offer guarantees on discount plants.
Most centers don't mind if you pull a plant out of the pot, as long as you put it back.
I encourage customers to check out what is below the surface.
Woody perennials are a different matter.(Plants like lavenders and some sages.)
Besides healthy root growth, they do need healthy growth above ground.
Start looking for plants to complement an area of your yard.
Perennials that will attract wildlife like birds and butterflies.
It's great if you are prepared for new plants, you can buy them now while selections are still pretty good.
As long as you keep them watered and protected, you will have stuff to plant later this year and new color next year.
As the weather begins to cool down, you can plant all your wonderful finds.
The air may feel more comfortable, but the soil temperatures are still warm.
Warm soil allows for plant roots to grow strong and get established before they harden off as winter sets in.
Your plant roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes.
If you live in Zone 7 and higher, your plant's roots will still take in nourishment. (Soil typically freezes starting at Zone 6.)
This is one reason to water, when it is dry.
The tops may be gone, but the root system and crown is still alive.
One more thing.
Plants may be pot bound and the roots need to be fluffed and pruned a bit.
The roots that grow around and around in the pot will eventually cause girdling and the plant chokes itself to death.
Can't pull them apart, then score them with a sharp tool.
This actually encourages new root growth.
Okay, I've talked that subject into the ground.
You folks in the warmer climates can get annuals most of the year.
Bargain annuals can be a good deal.
Amazing what proper care (water and food) can do for annuals.
Foliage will green up nicely within a couple weeks.
Most garden centers don't have the time or man power to keep plants looking in peak condition.
New plants for your wildlife and gardens.
The birds and butterflies will be happy.
You are happy.
Life is good.
It's time to fly for now.
You shouldn't have to practice by now.
Your smile should be as natural as breathing by now.
Now share that fresh healthy smile.
Its free and you just might confuse someone.
Until next time my friend.
"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
PS. Do you enjoy these letters? Please feel free to forward them to friends and family.
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