Fix Stone Walls, Garden Paths, and Ponds
Warm winter days beckon us outside but it's best not to walk on or fuss in a garden with wet soil. Sunny, comfortable days are great opportunities to do repairs on stone walls, garden paths, ponds and other hardscape maintenance projects that can be difficult to fit in during the busy gardening season.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
Think of it as European fashion or cost-effective recycling. Bringing your own cloth shopping bags for groceries (and whatever else you can) is good for the environment and your wallet. Many merchants give a small refund (5 cents is common) for each customer's personal bag. They even count recycled plastic bags from other stores. Why? Worldwide, about 1 million plastic bags are used every minute. A 2005 EPA report counts 5 million plastic bags landfilled that year; each bag takes 500 years to break down. Paper bags (produced from chipped trees) require four times more energy to make and cost four times as much as plastic bags. This is an easy way to go green with European flair. They traditionally carry items in woven string or fabric bags.
Provide Fresh Water for Birds
Keeping the birdbath filled with fresh water is as important as keeping the feeders filled. One and a half to two inches of water is a good measure. Here are three ways to keep your birdbath ice-free in winter. Some birdbaths have built-in, thermostatically controlled heaters. Separate immersion heaters are available where birdbaths and feeders are sold. The latest models turn off if water dries up. For a homemade solution, put a light bulb in a flower pot and set the water basin on top. The light bulb will provide sufficient heat to keep water from freezing.
In frigid temperatures, slugs burrow deep. When winter weather warms though, they surface and devour winter/spring bulb foliage. Get rid of them NOW. Every slug in the garden will produce two hundred offspring during spring, summer, and fall. And their offspring will reproduce, too. My favorite technique is sinking yogurt cups half-filled with 50/50 beer/water into the soil, then emptying the liquid and dead slugs after a week or so. Commercial slug traps are effective. There are lots of nontoxic removal methods. Check the Web for ideas.
Create Something "Naturally" Fun With a Youngster
Take time this winter to build something with a youngster -- a bird house, a bat house, a butterfly house, a wildlife feeding station, or a bird feeder. Learn about critters and their habitats. Share your skills and encourage a child to create a hands-on project. How about brewing root beer together? Kits are available on the Web. Build a life-size realistic bird mobile. Draw, cut, and stitch (or glue) a garden or wildlife flag to hang outdoors come spring.