Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bees and Birds

Today I'm writing my weekly newspaper column; this one's on beekeeping. I'm learning as I go, & interviewing my pal Peter Philip, who's kept bees for decades. Thinking about flowers which attract bees makes me long for warm weather.

And I'm watching the birds out my front window. The main birdfeeder is visible if I peer over the top of my computer; I can see the redbellied woodpeckers at the suet, the jays crowding the smaller wrens and juncos, and the brilliant scarlet of the male cardinals against the green of the hopper.
This morning it was 5 degrees on my back porch, so when I went to retrieve my News-Times, I scattered a birdseed mix rich in black oil sunflower seed on the sidewalk. That allows the groundfeeders to get their share, and the seed does double duty as an anti-skid substance.

However, I'll have to be sure to apply organic Preen as a preemergent come late March, so all the seed not eaten by by bird visitors doesn't germinate into weeds.

In the meantime, the birds and I are muddling through the deep cold of the winter of '09-'10.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Chores

'Tis the dead of January; what could there possibly be to do in the New England garden now? Much. Though I generally wait for a mild day to do anything; temps above 40 degrees are preferred. And I appreciate sunshine, however weak the rays.

Given such conditions, I grab the pruners and do some trimming on the crabapples, the forsythia, the philadelphus, and other shrubs. Yes, if I waited a few more weeks I could force some branches into bloom, but tempus fugit, and I like to act upon my inclination to work outdoors.

What else is there to be done? Scatter granular fertilizer around the base of broadleaf evergreens such as rhodies..... Pick up branches and pine cones that aren't frozen in place. (They've got to come up by spring anyway).... Clear stone paths and other hard surfaces of leaves and organic debris....Organize your pots for spring work.. ..Start laying in a supply of potting soil, amendments, and other essentials..... Keep on deer repelling....

Yep, there's a host of outdoor garden activities for January and February. And the more you accomplish these short days, the more time you'll have come mid-March when the ground thaws, the days grow longer, and the compost can be turned. That's when the season really starts!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brush Piles and Christmas Trees

Our Fraser fir did a yoeman's job this Christmas, evoking the spirit of togetherness and providing backdrop to our revelries. And though it was festooned with lights, we never got around to draping it with ornaments or tinsel. Oh well. We had a lovely Christmas anyway, with Courtney home for a 2-week sojourn from China, and Kyle dropping in frequently from his home on the other side of Bethel. Eddie was in Florida; we missed him for the holiday, but we had a nice visit from him and Esther in November.

The Christmas tree is now ready to serve another purpose. Shorn of lights, it's off to one of the brush piles on the edge of the woods. There it'll join the other Christmas trees from previous years, as well as assorted cut shrubbery and saplings that we allow to accumulate in these spots. There are now three brush piles, each some 4-5' high, and each providing shelter to a variety of wildlife.

Sometimes it's unwise to be too tidy a gardener; it's important to think of the other creatures who dwell on this fragile planet with us.