Count Your Birds
The 10th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 16 to 19. It takes just 15 minutes in your backyard to count several species listed at the official Web site (http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc). Tally sheets are provided on the site, and you'll also find identification tips, the results (nationwide and in Canada), previous years' tallies, and info about the photography competition. The count is sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Wild Birds Unlimited.
Turn Your Indoor Plants
By now the plants you brought indoors for winter have acclimated (or not). Rotate them every month to expose all sides to sunlight for symmetrical growth and flowering. While you're there, look for insects, chewed leaves, and insect debris.
Reconsider How You Deice
We all know that salt (sodium chloride) isn't the environmental choice. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium chlorides are less harmful to plants, less corrosive to your walkways, and readily available. Russ Alger, Director of the Keweenaw Research Center and the affiliated Institute of Snow Research at Michigan Tech University (http://www.mtukrc.org/index.htm), recommends deicing with a liquid solution. As these aren't so readily available, it's easy to make your own. Mix one part magnesium chloride or calcium chloride with two parts hot water to completely dissolve the solids. Apply liquid to the surface with a pressurized sprayer.
Check Your Pond
If your pond runs through the winter, check it occasionally to make sure the water's moving. Debris buildup or ice dams can cause slow, sluggish, or still water that could overflow the liner. If you overwinter koi, don't feed them when the water temperature drops below 50 degrees. Koi can overwinter in water at least 2 feet deep. They'll semi-hybernate in the cold water below the freeze line.
Redirect Your Gardening Energy
As this is downtime gardeningwise, some of us may be feeling less than perky while our love's on hiatus. Find a substitute. Get active. Do something fun and different. Take an art class or sign up for a dance class to keep that right brain happy. If you enjoy the nurturing aspect of gardening, consider volunteering to care for infants at a local hospital or animals at a nearby animal rehab clinic or SPCA.