Garden Club R.F.D.’s January Jottings
Garden Club R.F.D. begins its new year on January 16 with a free program by Master Gardener Irene Wanat at The Little Red Schoolhouse at 951 Middletown Lincroft Road in Middletown. Join us at 10:30 am to listen to Irene speak about choosing the correct plants for conditions that occur in a shady garden. Do you have that problem?
Our speaker teaches classes at Deep Cut Park on Red Hill Road as well as at Rutgers where Master Gardener interns attend classes as part of their curriculum. She has been a Master Gardener for over 26 years. Please call Nancy Canade at 973-452-4846 if you have an interest in this free program and/or the club.
Hopefully your garden has been appropriately put to sleep and you are now free to think of other things that are in your back yard besides your plants and the grass. I am speaking of birds that are currently spending the cold winter months outside your home. Feeding your feathered friends in winter can be most rewarding particularly when the weather is less than ideal. After a snowfall, glorious scenes are created as the red cardinals and blue jays perch among the branches of bushes that have been painted white by the weather. If you feed these creatures the best winter bird foods, a great variety of birds will visit you each day.
In any season, the best food to offer would be black oil sunflower seeds that have thinner shells and a higher oil content, making them a more efficient and nutritious food. They can be placed in platform, tube or hopper feeders or sprinkled on a table or on the ground. For high calories, suet is one of the best foods to offer—a superb winter food. It’s even easy to make your own custom suet flavors and can be offered in different shapes as well. Just Google it!
Many of the birds, including jays, titmice, nuthatches and chickadees love peanuts as they are high calorie, fat-rich and do not freeze in the cold temperatures. Be aware, however, that flavored peanuts or candy or chocolate-coated peanuts should not be offered. Peanut butter, of course, is also a great feeding option when smeared on pine cones or bark or in a small dish.
A favorite food of finches, like pine siskins and common redpolls, is the nyjer or thistle seed—an oily seed with lots of calories. It is usually more expensive.
Finally, a special treat might be fruit like chopped apples, orange wedges, banana slices, halved grapes and melon rinds placed on a platform feeder or added to suet. Of course, for more convenience, one can just purchase a good quality birdseed mix to feed your outdoor friends.
If you have a problem with squirrels, raccoons, mice or stray cats in your yard, choose specialized feeders with pest repellants such as caged perches or squirrel baffles. Try to purchase feeders constructed with heavy plastic or metal that will resist chewing. Position the feeders close to natural cover where birds can hide if needed but not so close as to allow predators a place for an ambush. If nothing works, offer them other food such corn cobs (for the squirrels)—placed in a location where they will be less tempted to raid feeders. Or, give them their own feeder in a separate area, like I did. It works!
Let your birds brighten the coldest and snowiest days of January. Be kind to them and they will delight you and your family. Backyard birding can be a joy throughout the winter—for you and the birds.