July 22, 2019

How to Make a Butterfly House a Home

I’m hanging a new Butterfly House today!  Over the years, my backyard has become a haven for butterflies and hummingbirds and I love it.  The old butterfly house was made of wood and I couldn’t see inside so I’m really excited about the new one which is made of cedar wood (which ages well) and glass giving me a view I’ve never had until this year.  So exciting!

Do butterflies really use butterfly houses?  Well, the answer is yes… and no.  Some species of butterflies will use a butterfly house but most won’t.  Most of the woodland species, such as Cloaks and common Wood Nymphs will because they spend winters in the protective cover of wood piles and tree cavities.  A butterfly house is perfect for these butterflies!  However, those butterflies that migrate south won’t stay to enjoy the free rent no matter how nice the digs.  In either case, a butterfly house make a wonderful addition to your garden decor, a great home for your woodland butterflies, and they also make great conversation pieces!

Many gardeners who want to attract butterflies may not know what to do with their butterfly houses.  Where to place them and what to put in them.  How to make your butterfly house a home for the flying flowers.  Here, we will talk about butterflies and how to use a butterfly house to attract butterflies and how to set one up.

If you are a do- it- yourselfer, Garden Gate magazine has some free plans for building your own butterfly house but if you are like me, you can find the one I bought in the links below.

Once you have a butterfly house you may be wondering what to do with it and what to put in it.  I use a hanging butterfly house and use a short shepherds hook to place it just where I think it’s going to be the most visible but also keeping it well within the habitat.  This is a good reason to use the hanging butterfly house on the shepherds hook method so that you have the ability to be able to move it as your plants grow and reserve your view.  Place your hanging butterfly house or a pole mounted butterfly house in your butterfly habitat surrounded by all the things that butterflies love.  A complete butterfly habitat needs two types of plants.  “Host Plants” that caterpillars feed on, and “Nectar Plants” for the food source for adult butterflies.

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Strawberries Gone Wild! Controlling Unwanted Strawberry Plants

I love this time of year!  Everyone is thinking about what’s in store this year for their gardens and landscaping.  Unfortunately, not everything growing in the gardens is wanted.  Let’s talk weeds and specifically what to do when your strawberries have gone wild or your unwanted strawberry plants are simply taking over your backyard.

Yesterday, a neighbor asked me if I knew how to get rid of the unwanted wild strawberries that are invading her backyard.  Every year, they have gotten worse and worse and now they are starting to grown in her lawn.  She has had it with them!

I told her that although pulling is the only non-chemical solution that I am sure of, some suggestions using vinegar can be found on this forum.  In addition, there is also a chemical option for controlling them that she could try.  You can spot treat these unwanted plants with a product such as Roundup.  These fatal vegetation killers will destroy the tops, roots and runners of these weeds, but be very careful not to get the chemicals on the surrounding grass or flowers.  It WILL kill those too!

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8 Spring Home Gardening Tips for Beginners

Here we go!  Spring has sprung and the blooming has already begun in Charleston.  I hate to admit it but I’m just a little behind in being prepared for it.  With a wedding in the family and plenty of out of town company being here over the last few weeks, lots of chores are calling out for my attention.  So today, armed with pen and paper, I sat down to make a list of what needs to be done and made a plan to carry it out.

Here’s my list of 8 spring gardening tips that need to be done around my garden over the next couple of weeks.  I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are just beginning to garden and have not yet established a routine to figure out what needs to be done in preparation of spring gardening.  There are plenty of others, however this is the list of what I need to do and beginners will appreciate the time savings of doing these things now as well.

Organize an area to keep everything as this will help you get everything ready and allow you to have an inventory of what you have and what you will need to invest in this year to make your work easier.  I also keep a wish list going for things that might not be in my budget this year but that I would like to have such as a new gas powered trimmer and a blower.  I’m really sick of the batteries always running down before I am finished trimming and using a  push broom!

1.  Prepare Gardening Tools

  • Get the lawnmower tuned up and the blades sharpened.
  • Clean and sharpen all tools.
  • Apply linseed oil to all wooden handles.
  • Replace weak or broken handles or purchase new ones.
  • Take an inventory of my tools and make a list of new tools I’d like to buy and old ones I need to replace.

2.   Cut Perennials

Cut perennial foliage to the ground, with a few exceptions.  Do NOT prune salvia, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), creeping verbena (verbena Canadensis), or artermesia until they start showing growth on last year’s stems.  Then prune just above the emerging foliage.

Wait until sprigs of green growth appear on ornamental grasses, then cut back to the new growth. Prune butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidil) just as they begin to show new growth or when the last average frost date for your area has passed.  Butterfly lovers wanting a butterfly habitat see this.  If evergreen foliage of perennials such as Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is tattered from winter’s wear, remove blemished foliage to the ground: fresh, new foliage will quickly return.  Trim the evergreen foliage of sedge (Carex sppl), liriope, and evergreen ferns.

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Cake Feeder. Homemade Bird Suet Cakes Recipe

homemade bird suet cakesHere is an easy recipe that makes a large number (20-30) of homemade bird suet cakes.

In a large pot, melt 2 lbs of lard and a large jar of crunchy peanut butter together.  Pour into a large container, (I use a bucket) mix in 5 lbs of cornmeal, add 4 pounds of birdseed   Mix well and refrigerate or freeze after making up the cakes.

To attract Bluebirds, try adding oatmeal instead of the cornmeal, chopped nuts and raisins to the cake mix.

I save and reuse the “cake pans” from commercial suet cakes but you can also use a 9″ x 13″ cake pan and cut into size. Line the cake pan with wax paper to make removing the cut cakes easier.  Place the cut pieces into sandwich baggies and freeze until you are ready to use.

You could also roll into balls and insert a Christmas ornament hook for hanging or just  serve the balls at the ground feeder.

To keep the squirrels at bay, sprinkle a little hot sauce on the cut cakes.  The birds won’t taste it but the squirrels will and they won’t like it!

If you need a hanging suet feeder to feed your homemade suet, be sure to check out this cute suet feeder with metal roof in your choice of brushed copper, antique silver, or green metal roof.

Happy Suet Making 🙂

Leigha sig

 

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How to Attract or Deter Backyard Squirrels

squirrelTo each their own as they say. That’s certainly true when it comes to our feelings about squirrels in our backyards.

To some, squirrels can be a menace and you just wish you could  permanently evict them from the premises! It can be maddening when they eat all of the birdseed that you have so lovingly laid out for your bird friends. If you don’t want them, or would at the very least do everything you can to deter them, this article is for you.

To others, you may love their antics and the sheer entertainment they provide. If you don’t mind the furry little critters and would like to offer them some treats; this article will give you the best tips for attracting them.

Either way, here are some tips and facts about squirrels that will help you.

  • 3-4 babies are born in each litter.
  • Squirrels can eat their weight in seed during one week.
  • Because they wear them down eating and gnawing, squirrels front teeth grow 6 inches per year.
  • Squirrels can run as fast as 20 mph.
  • Squirrels are most active the first two hours after sunrise during mild weather and in winter around noon.

Combating Squirrels is war.  Although there is no way to actually keep them out of your yard.  You can however, wage war and take proactive steps in trying to deter them.  We will first take a look at some things to do if you do not want these furry little creatures frolicking around your yard and eating up all of your bird treats.

Then, if you truly love these furry friends, and find joy and entertainment with them during these dull winter days,we will give you the tools you need to attract them for hours of fun.

squirrels_nuts_1525860_l. midsizeSquirrel Proof your yard. Squirrels NOT welcome.

Get any group of bird feeding enthusiasts together and squirrel stories will soon come up!  If you want to keep squirrels from your feeder, most will agree it’s a challenge.  However, through a littel attention to feeder placement and the proper use of “Baffles”, you can minimize squirrel usage and enjoy the feeder of your choice.  If that’s not enough, there are several “squirrel proof” feeders on the marketing.

Here are some of the best ways to keep the squirrels away from your feeders by squirrel proofing your backyard.

Sprinkling Cayenne pepper on your suet cakes will keep the squirrels and raccoons at bay. With just one bite, these little rascals will be running for a drink of water. Don’t worry though, as birds do not taste or smell the way mammals do, this pepper will not bother them a bit.

One way you can  hang a bird feeder to that it will not be disturbed by squirrels, is to string around six empty bottles to each side. You can then punch a hole in the  bottom, feed some wire through the hole and then through the bottles open top. When the squirrels try to run over these bottles, they will spin around and knock them off.

You could also enclose chicken wire around the feeder, this will enable the birds to still reach the food which the squirrels can not.

If hanging your feeder from a branch, protect it by using a baffle above the feeder.  Make sure the baffle is is at least 1/3 larger in circumference that the feeder. Our recommended baffles for hanging feeders are Super Dome Baffle, Hanging Squirrel Deflector Baffle, and Mandarin Hanging Baffle.

If using a pole, use a baffle below the feeder and mounted to the pole to make access difficult.  We recommend the Torpedo Squirrel Baffle.

Use what you know.  Squirrels can jump up as high as 6 feet straight off the ground and across (horizontally), at least 8 feet.  Place your feeders at least 8 feet from any jumping off point and at least 6  feet off the ground. If you are using a baffle below the feeder, place it 4.5 ft off the ground.

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Planting Seeds – Reaping the Most from What You Sow

SeedsWhen you are purchasing seeds from a seed house or manufacturer, there is a risk that some of the seeds, although appearing healthy enough to produce a hardy plant, may in essence not contain enough power and vitality to grow into a strong fertile specimen.

If you save seeds from your own plants, you are able to choose carefully. There are a number of things you must consider when choosing the right seeds that will produce the best plants.

For example, if you were to save the seeds from an aster plant, what things would you look for before deciding? What blossoms should you go with? Remember though that even if a flower does have a fine blossom, it could still be from a weak, straggly plant. You want to look for a plant that is strong, vibrant and healthy. More often than not, what the parent plant looks like, will be how the new seeds will grow as well.

Look for a seed that is sturdy, strong, well shaped and symmetrical. Then if the blossoms are numerous and vibrant, this will be a good choice for a seed. If you find the time, you may want to visit a plant grower or farmer who has expertise in this field. Normally, he will tie a string or ribbon around the plants he is using for the seeds. Inspect the plant carefully, taking note of the points of which he based his decision upon.

In seed selection, choosing not only the largest but the fullest seed is one of the key points in choosing a viable seed that will produce the best plants. Under just the right conditions, these seeds will blossom into healthy strong plants producing more seeds in which you can use for the next batch you grow.

Each little plant must depend for its early growth on the nourishment stored up in the two halves of the seed. The larger the seed you choose, the more nourishment and food will be available for the little plant to feed on as it grows. Once the plants roots have grown to be able to supply food on its on for the rest of the growing plant, the seed must provide enough nourishment for the plants growth. Too small of a seed could result in a plant starving to death and wilting away. The name of the food this seed will provide is called the cotyledon. Most seeds have one or two cotyledons however some plants such as the pines, have several cotyledons.

Another thing to watch out for when buying seeds, is impurity. Seeds are sometimes mixed with other seeds so like them in appearance that it is impossible to detect which ones are which.  Any foreign matter that is mixed with the seeds can cause the seed to become contaminated and lose it’s vitality and ability to grow strong.

The third thing to look out for when choosing seeds, is the viability. We know that seeds which look to the eye to be all right still may not develop at all. Some of the reasons for this are that the seeds may have been picked before they were ripe or mature;  or they may have been frozen, or they may be too old.  Seeds retain their viability or germ developing power, a certain number of years and then are useless. Although, the viability limit varies for different seeds. Learning to harvest and grow your own seeds will enable you to choose only the best and most viable to grow.

The germination percentage of seeds is also a factor to consider when planting. Not only must you know the perfect type of ground to sow your seeds, you must also know how far apart to allow each seed before it will not have the space to grow, and at what times of the year are best for each plant.

You must be prepared that not every seed you plant will grow, even if you have taken all things into consideration. But as time goes by, you will soon find the seeds that have the most viability and strength to make it through and produce strong, healthy plants you can be proud of.

Happy Growing!

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Fighting Plant Enemies

Fighting your plants enemies is one of the most important tasks in maintaining a healthy garden. You have a wide assortment of devices and implements to choose from in this fight, but there a generally only two varieties:Fighting plant enemies - protecting your plants

1. Those that provide mechanical protection to the plants

2. Those used to apply insecticides and fungicides

Mechanical Protection

Mechanical devices are usually consist of a wooden box. They’re about eighteen inches to two feet square and about eight feet high, covered with glass, a protecting cloth, mosquito netting or mosquito wire. The first two coverings have the additional advantage of retaining heat and protecting from cold, making it possible for you to plant earlier than is otherwise safe. For example, you can use them to get an extra early and safe start with cucumbers, melons and the other vine vegetables.

Simpler devices for protecting newly-set plants, such as tomatoes or cabbage, from the cut-worm include stiff tin, cardboard or tar paper collars, which are made several inches high and large enough to be put around the stem and penetrate an inch or so into the soil.

Chemical Protection

Chemical protection includes applying poison powders and liquids that fight plant enemies.

ou’ll need a powder gun for applying poison powders in your home garden. If you must be restricted to a single implement, however, it will be best to get one of the hand-power, compressed-air sprayers. These are used for applying wet sprays, and should be supplied with one of the several forms of mist-making nozzles, the non-cloggable automatic type being the best. For more extensive work, a barrel pump, mounted on wheels, will work better for you, but one of the above will do a great deal of work in little time.

Extension rods for use in spraying trees and vines may be obtained for either. A good hand-syringe may be used for operations on a very small scale. But as a general rule, it will be best to invest a few dollars more and get a small tank sprayer, as this throws a continuous stream or spray and holds a much larger amount of the spraying solution.

Whatever type you procure, get a brass machine, as it will out-wear three or four of those made of cheaper metal, which succumb very quickly to the corrosion caused by the strong poisons and chemicals you’ll be using.

Generally speaking, a combination of mechanical and chemical protection methods will keep your garden in the best health. As always, your local plants and conditions to find out which methods and combinations of methods will work best for you.

Happy Gardening!

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Birds and Blooms New Plants for 2010

I’m playing catch up and really trying to get my website cleaned up for spring so I’m a bit behind in my writing schedule.

In the meantime, I wanted to pass along an article from Birds and Bloom magazine titled “New Plants for 2010“.

EarlyBird Cardinal DayLilyZaharaStarlightThere is not a single one of them that I don’t just love!  My favorites tho, are the Earlybird Cardinal Daylily and the Zahara Starlight Rose Zinnia, both I believe will be perfect for my hummingbird/butterfly garden!

The good weather is back here in Charleston, SC and I don’t anticipate too many more cold days.  I got some seeds started indoors this morning and that really gets me excited that spring is almost here!

Happy Gardening!

P.S.   If you’d like to receive our weekly newsletter full of gardening articles, tips, and projects, sign up below.

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Photography Tips for Backyard Birds. Capturing the Best Bird Pictures.

Bird Photography isn’t just for pro’s.  With a digital, traditional, or even a video camera and a little patience, you can shoot great bird images in your own backyard.

If you wanted to get the best bird photos you could:perched bird 7

  1. Spend thousands of dollars on photography equipment.
  2. Travel to expensive faraway places.
  3. Wade through muddy swamps, fight off mosquitoes, and sweat profusely in the humidity to get that “perfect shot”.
  4. Check your own backyard

If you like option “D”, they’re going to love my six step plan for snapping great bird photos.  This method has given me professional quality photographs for relatively little money and work.  All it takes is a little practice and patience.  Chances are, you already have plenty of interesting backyard birds in your area, such as Cardinals, Blue Jays, Black Capped Chickadees, Purple Finches, Song Sparrows, Dark Eyed Juncos, Spotted Towhees and more.  So keep reading, and soon you’ll be able to capture a bird photo you’ll be just as proud of as the pros.  And the best part is you don’t even have to leave your backyard!

Step 1.  Put Up a Bird Feeder

Put up a bird feeder.  Almost any kind will due as long as the birds can get the food.  My personal favorite for this activity is a platform feeder.  Although it doesn’t have a lot of pizzazz, it does the trick.  (its’ basically a plane horizontal stand with low walls on the sides to contain the seed).  You can place this type of feeder anywhere, fill it with any kind of seed and use it to attract any type of bird.

Step 2.  Fill the Feeder with Seed

Fill the feeder with tempting food.  There are many kinds of birdseed, and some are better than others.  I prefer Black Oil sunflower seeds because it tends to attract the most birds.  You could also try Millet for sparrows, peanuts to attract Blue Jays, and thistle for finches.  Try a few different offerings in advance to see what kind of birds you will attract.

Step 3.  Location, Location, Location

perched goldfinchPut your feeding station in a good location for photography.  If you don’t have a perfect place, don’t panic.  Find the best spot you can, giving highest priority to areas with good light.  As a general rule, try to follow these guidelines.

• Your best bet is to find a spot that gets early morning sun, which will give you a nice lighting.

• Place the feeder near cover, such as bush’s, trees and other objects so the birds have a spot to perch and the background in the photo looks natural.

• It’s important NOT to put the feeder in the shade.  This will cast shadows on the birds that will show up in your photos.

• Position the feeder near a window, so you can easily capture the moments from inside your home.

Step 4.  Providing a Perch

perched bird 2Place perches strategically around the feeder.  To get nice, clean shots of birds in their natural environment, you’ll probably have to “create” perches.  Birds like to land on branches near a feeder before eating to make sure the coast is clear.  You might want to experiment a little to see which perch works best and where, but I like a plain dead branch stuck into the ground near the feeder.  It’s sturdy, doesn’t wilt and it isn’t complicated.

Mix it up, though.  You don’t want all of your photos to look the same, so give your feathered friends plenty of perches to choose from.

Step 5.  Go Into Hiding

Find a cover for yourself.  You can devise many ways to hide yourself 10 to 15 feet away from your birds.  This distance should be perfect for shooting your photos.  However, depending on your camera, you can move in a little closer if you don’t have the ability to zoom in.

If you have somewhere inside the house that you can shoot your photos from an open window that’s close to your feeder, that’s perfect.  If not, consider putting up a tent in your yard and shoot from inside the tent.  Another option is to build a temporary cover in your yard.  Hang a camouflage tarp over a couple of metal posts stuck in the ground, this too works wonderfully.

Make sure you’re comfortable, though.  Finding the perfect shot takes patience.  If you have a long wait, you’ll want a chair to sit in to keep from getting cramped.

Step 6.  Check Your Equipment.

Use basic, reliable camera equipment.  You can spend a lot of money on fancy cameras and lenses, but they are not necessary.  The three main things you need are a basic lens, a tripod, and a flash.  The tripod will help you keep the camera still and pointed in the right direction while the flash can help lighten a dark picture and put a glint in the bird’s eye.  Pre-focus your camera where you think the birds are crowing to land.  Some birds stay for a only an instant, so you’ll need to snap the picture quickly.

One final tip.

Video Bird photography can also be accomplished with the same idea in mind.  Bird videos you make yourself will bring you hours of enjoyment watching your backyard birds from the comfort of your own living room. While you are away at work or if you don’t have time to watch your backyard birds in person, this is the perfect solution!  Two Bird Cams are available from my store and I’ve provided two short videos so you can see what you can expect from each.

Hawk Eye Nature Cam

Hawk Eye Nature Cam shoots black and white infrared images at night and color video by day.  You can attach it to a tree, a feeder, or inside of a bird house and see your backyard birds like you have never seen them before.  Video credit to YouTube’s Wildman50.

You can get the Hawk Eye Nature Cam by clicking here

The Audubon Birdcam

Audubon Birdcam is a better quality camera (but also more expensive) however, as you will see it records images are clearer.  This is the obvious solution for serious minded bird watchers.

Here is a video from Wingscapes showing you what you can expect from the Audubon Birdcam:

You can get the Audubon Birdcam by clicking here.

Have fun and enjoy your bird photography!

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Olive Oil Soap and Other Natural Homemade Beauty Products

Happy New Year!Happy new Year 2010

Since today is the first day of the new year, I thought that something to lift body and your spirit was in order.  With a few veggies and a few natural ingredients that you probably have on hand, you can give yourself a treat and help yourself put your best foot forward in the new year. Whether for olive oil soap to other natural and homemade beauty products, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make your own homemade and natural beauty products!  Have some fun with it.

As you know, nature is the newest trend in skin and hair care. For years, we’ve been putting chemicals and preservatives into our bodies that build up and over time, make us feel tired and sick, regardless of whether we eat them or apply them to our bodies. People are finally catching on that natural is better way to treat ourselves.

Whether you find your beauty products at the Department Stores or in the discount stores, practically everyone carries lines of “natural” beauty products. Unfortunately, they often come with a big price tag attached too. Often times many of these products are not actually “natural” so it does pay to do your homework to ensure you are getting what you pay for.

avocadoAnother aspect of these “natural” beauty products that most of us don’t even consider is the packaging.  Today most of the packaging used by cosmetic companies is not biodegradable and perhaps even not recyclable.  Do mother nature, yourself and your pocketbook a favor and try making some of the products you use yourself at home with ingredients from your own garden.  Your fruits and veggies don’t have ANY packaging!

Making most of the beauty products you need yourself isn’t too difficult. So if you want beauty products that you know are natural and are also inexpensive, just make them yourself. Here are 5 quick and easy recipes you can make at yourself.

To get you started, I found these simple recipes with just a few ingredients each.
olive oil2Olive Oil Soap

  • 80% olive Oil
  • 20% coconut Oil

Or, to make about 4.5 lbs of soap, you would use:

  • 40 oz. olive oil
  • 10 oz. coconut oil
  • 16 oz. water
  • 6.9 oz. lye
  • Between 1.5 and 2.2 oz of fragrance or essential oil, according to your preference.  You can find basic soap making instructions and other olive oil soap recipes here.

natural face maskFace Mask

Eating good food helps give you the right nutrients you need to look good.  You can get more of these vitamins and minerals by putting the good stuff right on the skin.

Combining a mashed carrot, mashed avocado, and a beaten egg with a half cup a few tablespoons of honey creates a great face mask that provides vitamins, and improves the tone and texture of your skin. Just stir well, apply, let sit for about 15 minutes, and then wash off with cool water.

After you’re washed and nourished your skin, you can use grated cucumber or diluted lemon juice as a toner to help tighten your skin and close up your pores to close your pores and keep your skin looking great.

Hair Conditioner

Many people pay a lot of money for a conditioner that actually makes your hair look and feel good. Here’s a great natural recipe to save you money and help your hair.

Just mix an egg yolk with a tablespoon of castor oil and apply to hair. Let sit for about ten minutes and rinse out. You can use this every so often as a conditioning treatment for healthy shiny hair. If you like being experimental, you can try mixing other kitchen items, herbs, and natural items with eggs for healthy, shiny hair.

Hand and Foot CreamNatural Beauty Products

A quick face mask will help make you look great in not a lot of time, but hands and feet require extra care.

Use ½ cup of olive oil mixed with natural sea salt and massage into your hands and feet. Leave a few minutes to soak and then rinse off with warm water.

When it comes to natural beauty products, these recipes are just the start.  You can find hundreds of different combinations in natural beauty books, magazines, and on the internet. Or you can go to your kitchen cabinet and make your own special creations.

A new year and a new decade.  Many opportunities await!  I am optimistic that the new decade holds many new opportunities for us all.  May you enjoy happiness, health, and prosperity in the coming year.

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Garden Decorative Items & The Empty Nest
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