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Gardening For Wildlife #40 Time for fall cleanup
October 29, 2007

No more flowers or tomatoes.

On Saturday and Sunday there was a hard killing frost.


Finally, I can finish the yard work.

I must confess, I do have a single tomato plant I covered.

I want to be able to say I picked tomatoes in November.

Now here in Michigan, that doesn't happen.

However, this year has not been a typical year weather wise.

Fall color is at its peak here in SW. Michigan.

That isn't saying a whole lot this year.

Because of the hot dry summer, many trees dropped their foliage early.

Add to that a much warmer fall than normal and you have some rather bland colors in most places.

I'll take the warmer fall as a trade off any year.

Keet enjoys her walks as she now has leaves to pounce on and kill as they blow around.

For the new readers, Akita (keet) is the family dog or fur child.

To my surprise, I still have a couple of white crowned sparrows hanging around.

Juncos are becoming more prevalent and there are fewer goldfinches these days.

Black-capped chickadees are more abundant and I am blessed with several red breasted nuthatches.

One nuthatch in particular is very friendly.

Three times this past week I managed to get it to take peanuts from my hand.

Next time I try, I hope to have a camera with me.

Chickadees and nuthatches are the easiest to teach to hand feed as they are a trusting and more friendly bird.

This is a first for me, as I usually am in the wrong place at the wrong time or have little patience to sit and wait.

If you have some time, give it a try.

The red-tail hawks continue to play in the wind.

What marvels they are.

As you continue your yard and fall clean up, there are a few things to consider.

Wearing gloves is a good thing.

Not only to keep your hands clean, but your skin absorbs plant toxins and some plants have plenty.

Every year I read cases of people becoming nauseated and ill from absorbing plant toxins. (It happens all the time to tobacco pickers.)

You may know that plants like Monkshood are deadly and Hyacinth bulbs cause itchy rashes on several people.

But, do you realize that morning glory vines are toxic too?

People complain about headaches or nausea and have no clue as to why they feel this way.

Blurred vision may also occur.

Morning glory seeds have been used for centuries by the native people of Mexico etc. as a source of getting high for rituals and customs.

Today's young people have discovered morning glory seed as a legal way to trip out.

Research has found the chemical compounds of these seeds to be very similar to LSD and the buzz to be very similar as well.

Granted, several seeds are needed, but that doesn't stop them from coming into the garden center and asking if we sell morning glory seeds.

Time is running out for us Northern folk as far as getting our fall chores done.

Yes, there is some clean up involved in wildlife gardens as well.

With the mild weather, I am way behind on certain tasks.

Not that I always procrastinate, (I do sometimes) some things were delayed because plants were still in bloom and there are birds and butterflies to enjoy.

Here is a small list of fall chores to consider.

1. Enrich garden beds with compost or manure.

If you can work it in, all the better by next spring.

2. Collect dried seed from open pollinated flowers & veggies if you plan on planting some of them.

Remember, hybrids will not be the same as the plant you picked them from. Sometimes there is a big difference.

3. Clean bird feeders to get them ready for use.

This should be done on a regular basis, not just as a fall chore.

4. Gather herbs, seed heads and flowers for drying.

5. Clean out cold frames for winter use.

6. Cover water gardens with netting to keep the falling leaves out.

Clean pumps and prepare water plants for winter.

7. Keep trees and shrubs well watered until the ground freezes.

Even if the leaves have fallen the roots continue to grow until the ground freezes. This is especially important for new plantings. A new planting is anything less than a year.

Evergreens really need water as moisture continues to evaporate from the foliage. You may need to wrap them with burlap or spray a product called "Wilt Proof" on your broad leafed evergreens to aid in moisture retention.

8. Cut back diseased perennials and remove all foliage.

Do not compost this material.

Diseases and fungus winter over and when you use your compost material, you are spreading the diseases.

Sometimes I hear about letting old stalks winter over or I'm letting the birds have the seed.

Sick foliage and canes need to be removed and trashed.

Diseases and fungus survive, they have for thousands of years.

You can minimize the damage and spread by removing the sick materials.

That means your tall phlox with powdery mildew or your maple leaves that have tar spot.


Healthy leaf litter remains.

9. Clean, sand and oil garden tools before storing them for the winter.

A healthy tool now will be ready when you are next spring.

10. Take cuttings of your favorites.

Some for the blooms to enjoy a few day more and some to root for a new planting next spring.

This is also a good time to think about relocating your feeders and birdbaths if you live in the snow belt.

If you can place some feeders closer to your home, it will be less work for you to go out on a cold or snowy day to feed the birds.

Keeping a water source from freezing requires electricity.

see if you can hook up a bath near your home.

This is a convenience for you and for your birds.

Are you knew to feeding birds?

Maybe you've been feeding for years.

Here is a page on feeder location that should give you some general ideas.

Here is a page on feeder location that should give you some general ideas.

Do you need a birdbath?

Read this before you go out and buy one.


It is time to fly for now.

Keep a positive attitude, it is the speaker of our present.

I've found that smiles help with a positive attitude.

It's hard to be negative when your smiling.

Look around you and thank "Our Creator" for his wondrous works.

That is sure to put a smile on your face and in your heart.

Please be careful as children of all ages will be out this week.

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,

Ron Patterson

PS: Feel free to forward this to friends and family or send them to so they can register to recieve their free copies.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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