Middle South

December, 2008
Regional Report

Clean Bird Feeders and Birdbaths

Birds deserve clean food surfaces as much as we do. Every few weeks bring the feeders inside and wash them with soap and water into which a little bleach has been added (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Rinse thoroughly.

Keep Birdseed Out of the Garden

If you've noticed disease in the past on plants near your bird feeder, particularly if infected parts are covered with white fluffy growth, the problem could be a fungus that's contained in sunflowers seeds. In addition, sunflower seed hulls themselves can impede the growth of certain plants, so to be on the safe side, move your feeder away from your gardens. If that's not possible, periodically clean up any seeds and hulls around the base of the feeder and destroy them.

Trim Back Indoor Plants

If that geranium or bougainvillea you're overwintering inside has sent out spindly new shoots, keep trimming it back until the increased sunlight can support sturdier growth. Cut stems back to just above a set of leaves, where dormant buds will be stimulated to sprout.

Using Last Year's Seeds

If you save seeds from year to year, do a germination test so you'll know if they will germinate well this year, or if you'll need to order new seeds. To do this, place 20 seeds between two sheets of moist paper towels and tuck into a loosely tied plastic bag. Place in a warm area, and check every few days. If germination is less than 80 percent, consider purchasing new seed of that crop.

Pot Up Cuttings

If you have any cuttings taken from last summer's annuals, now's a good time to pot them up so they can expand their root systems in preparation for spring growth. Give them a loose potting medium and keep the soil just moist, not wet. Small root systems can't use much water, and roots will rot if they stay wet.

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