Prepare Bird Feeders
Use these last few moderately warm days to clean and disinfect bird feeders. Bird feeders are like the salad bar at a fast food restaurant. They are conduits for diseases spread from contaminated food AND from sick bird to bird. Old seed and debris can harbor Aspergillosis, a mold that grows on damp feed and in debris under feeders. Birds inhale the mold spores and can get bronchitis and pneumonia. Salmonellosis, trichomoniasis and viruses for avian pox and avian influenza are serious bird-to-bird diseases transmitted at feeding areas. Experts recommend cleaning the feeder and droppings on the perching area each time you fill the feeder. Thoroughly brush the inside with warm water and detergent or commercial feeder cleaner to remove debris. Disinfect the feeder once or twice a month with one part of liquid chlorine household bleach in nine parts of warm water. Immerse the feeder for two to three minutes and allow to air dry.
Read the Label and More
A gardening friend and I were discussing whether or not a particular weed control product was "organic." She said she'd read and was advised that it was. I shook my head doubtfully. How did we track down the truth? Manufacturers are required to make public the Material Safety Data Sheets that list product ingredients, including chemicals and their amounts, toxicity, safety precautions, in-case-of-emergency action, health effects and more. MSDS can be located at the manufacturer's website, the company's customer service department, and other websites. We discovered the weed control contained chemicals, that if spilled, would require cleanup workers to wear hazardous waste disposal gear. Not what we want in our gardens.
Dig Up Dahlia, Canna, Gladiola, Tuberose, Caladiium, Begonias
Before a hard frost hardens the soil, carefully dig up and remove tender perennials' rhizomes, tubers and corms. Shake off soil. Dry those below-ground, storage plant parts for about two weeks in warm, open air. Store in loose material such as sphagnum peat, saw dust or vermiculite in a box or a woven sack in a cool, dry place for winter.
Think Intelligent Bird Feeding
Dan Edge, wildlife biologist with Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences, advises that "intelligent bird feeding" is an ethical obligation not to jeopardize wild birds. He offers these tips. Give the birds enough space; add feeders when the feeding area gets crowded. Use only high quality food, not moldy seed, bread, spoiled leftovers. Rodents can carry bird diseases so keep them out of the bird food. Check feeders for sharp edges where birds might get cut. Small scratches or cuts allow bacteria and viruses to more easily infect a bird.
Gather Fall Treasures for Holiday Creations
Pine cones, brightly colored leaves, dried ferns, curious seed pods, grassy plumes, oat grass stems, gnarled roots, exfoliating bark, bird's nests, long pine needles, delicate lace caps, puffy snowballs, purple beautyberries, twisty twigs, acorn caps, delicate lichens, funky fungi- Nature's gifts are everywhere. Keep a collecting bag or box handy, to take when you walk or keep near the door where you can empty pockets. All too soon we'll have winter nights we can fill by crafting imaginative decorations and gifts.