Saturday, February 27, 2010
I have this weakness for little old books. Many little old books are of poems. If it's old, beautiful and cheap, I'm a happy camper. This book is bound in the softest leather with "Longfellow's Poems" printed in gold. It precludes when publishing houses printed dates. Anyway - to the story:
Longfellow's poem is full of the sadness of winter. As I read the lines, I almost feel as if I'm trudging along in the snow, the sky a deep gray, I'm very cold and I'm pretty darn sick of winter. There's a reason Longfellow spoke to the masses.
I doubt there's many of us, even if we are sitting in the warmth of our homes, that aren't sick of winter when it moves to the end of February. I'm just sure the only reason chocolates are sold for valentine's day is most of us can't get through the month without something sweet to boost mood.
For me, reading is perhaps the best antidote for winter blues or grays. I've got a stack of flower/garden catalogs that can keep me happy for hours. In addition, I'm rather into historical gardens right now.
Historical gardens are often so very over the top in size, design and budget that I simply enjoy the beauty and perhaps adapt a few things for my own use. I plan how someday I might visit and tour these gardens.
There's something mystic about a garden that had someone, long ago, walking along the same path as me. The thought process, the station in life, the availability of plants and labor at the time, and the fashion and fads. It's a tie, the silent but present hand of another who loved this garden and the land.
Longfellow takes your hand and guides you with his words to a winter garden. He points to the trees and the woods. Grab a book - whether of poems or pictures - and pass the last refrains of winter with me.
Friday, February 26, 2010
All my live I've seen store bought crystal glass, foil, aluminum, plastic or other ice cycles for Christmas trees. I've seen pictures painted on Christmas cards and picture books with ice cycles on trees. I've seen ice cycles on houses, eve troughs, and other things. Never have I seen ice cycles on a real pine tree made by nature. The sun shining on them was just beautiful.
It took lots of heavy snow, a very sunny day and very cold temperatures to produce this beautiful sight.
Almost, but not quite, made me want to plug my outside Christmas tree lights back on. Almost.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The annual sweet pea “Lathyrus odoratus” is a native to the eastern Mediterranean region from Sicily east to Crete. First mentioned in 1696 and was hybridized from the early 17th century to today.
Most sweet peas needs support to climb and have a strong sweet fragrance. The flowers are purple in the wild plant. Through hybridization, it is available in white, pinks, reds, purples, peaches and shades in-between. To date there is no yellow sweet pea.
Henry Eckford’s hybridization program in England was the start of the Victorian obsession with sweet peas. Prior to 1908, the Burpee Seed Company illustrated the sweet pea on its cover thirteen times. There were several hundred different choices during this period.
Although the fragrance of the sweet pea during the Victorian era was wonderful, it fell out of favor and was seldom seen outside of an old garden where the perennial “Lathyrus latifolius” continues to self seed.
The perennial L latifolius, or everlasting pea, can grow up to twelve feet, is pink, white or mauve and seldom has any scent. It is hardy to zone 3, likes full sun and does not like wet feet. Due to self seeding, it has naturalized in much of North America.
Sweet peas were popular in bouquets and in nosegays (called tussie-mussies) especially by Victorian and Edwardian ladies prior to deodorant products. Held to the nose, sweet peas produced relief from personal and environmental smells of the time.
Sweet peas are not without their pests, including being attractive to slugs, mildew and other common garden problems. Supplying a clean non crowded area will help these situations. Perennials that self seed may be considered a pest when they sprout where you don’t want them.
Eckford’s breeds were called the L. grandiflora sweet peas. Although quite small by modern standards, they were larger and more impressive than the old antiques. They are unscented and do not seed which means you must buy plants.
There are varieties over 200 years old and listed as heirlooms, antiques or old fashioned. They are famous for their strong spicy fragrance and huge range of colors and patterns.
Aside from the beauty and fragrance, sweet peas make excellent erosion devices on slopes and hide unsightly fences or walls. They have been extremely helpful in genetic plant engineering. Another scientific use is the sweet pea’s toxic qualities. In large quantities, the seed produces a toxin that is referred to as “sagging skin”. It is being tested to see if it can be used to stop the hardening effect in scars.
Sweet peas are drought tolerant and deer resistant. Do not plant perennial sweet pea on trees and bushes as they can shade and kill them.
Sweet peas are making a comeback and with sweet results. As American botanist, horticulturist and agricultural science pioneer, Luther Burbank (1849-1926), said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.” For a man who developed over 800 varieties of plants, he must have known the sweet pea.
Although they still don't know how or why everything in the brain works, "Studies show that diverse, mentally stimulating tasks result in more brain cells, more robust connections among those cells, and a greater ability to bypass age-or disease-related trouble spots in the brain. The more you work your mind, the greater your cognitive reserve. And the greater your reserve, the greater your ability to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging."
Here's the news gardeners: By the very acts of gardening you are not only exercising your body, you are better able to withstand the inevitable challenges of aging. Woo babe - good news no matter what your age.
Challenging your mind and body may not prevent all illness or disease but it can certainly go a long way and that's good enough insurance percentages for me.
Gardening takes planning; layout, costs, shopping, ramifications evaluations, investigation of new techniques, and on and on. The mental exercise is for every season.
Gardening takes muscle; lifting, pulling, reaching, pushing, moving, mowing, hoeing, spading, and on and on. Even if physical ability is limited, there are many physical activities for almost every level.
Gardening is social; talking, reading, visiting, helping, listening, sharing. Although there are many tasks that may be accomplished or even appreciated for the solitude, by and large gardening is a social exercise.
The article quotes, "...studies by (Fred) Gage (Ph.D. of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in LaJolla, CA) and others have suggested that the more physical and mental exercise you get, the more brain cells you grow, the longer they survive, the better they connect with other nerve cells."
"Movement is so crucial to brain health that some of the cognitive changes blamed on aging may in fact be the result of inactivity..." Gage added.
There was a good notation in the article that I'm taking quite seriously, it cautioned: "pay attention to what you're doing. As we age, we become prone to distraction...even a split-second loss of focus can prevent memory from being stored." (It's the can't remember where I laid the clippers thing).
This easy distraction issue can cause accidents. Tripping and falling can be deadly. But, most can be prevented by thinking out what you're doing and keeping your mind on what you're doing.
Now, between you and me - just the two of us - I was always sure gardeners had the edge on staying young both physically and mentally! Is it a look in the mirror and sing "Who's the prettiest of them all." kind of young - probably not. It's heart, body and mind healthy at any age.
Here's my prescription for your gardening spring: If exercise is something new or in your past, get a check up first. Once you're OK to hit spring running, start the day with stretching first.
Before leaving the house, slather on sunscreen. Wear a hat and sunglasses in the sun. These help prevent skin cancer and cataracts.
Will you have aches and pains from gardening? It would be unusual if you didn't. Ache from hard work is good - pain from injury is not good. Know when to quit or when to take a break. Know when your body goes from "boy what a workout" to "I just pulled a muscle in my back" and stop before the pull.
Enjoy gardening and enjoy the shared experience with others. As mom used to say, "It's good for you."
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
- Buy seeds instead of buying plant sets.
- Some seeds take too long to germinate in our Zone 5 - using plant sets for these will end up giving you more produce over the summer.
- Some showy annuals cost more than perennials.
- Plant only annuals in pots that will stay blooming the entire summer (some won't) instead of replanting spring, summer and fall.
- Periodically pinch back annuals to keep them thick and blooming.
- Many herbs are good decorative flowers and food product combos.
- Dwarf vegetables and fruits are good color additions to pots and flower gardens.
- Many annuals can be brought inside as houseplants in the winter then replanted next spring.
- Buy perennials late in the fall (one month before a freeze) to find sale prices.
More bang for the buck ideas:
- Sunflowers are bird food, beautiful flowers, and can screen unsightly areas.
- Some annuals may also self seed.
- Flowers provide bees, butterflies, wasps and hummingbirds with nectar.
- Some plants provide erosion control because of their root systems and dense habits.
- The cost of a tree today will only increase as it gets older - shade, value of the wood, beauty, habitat.
- The less grass you have to maintain, the more you save on fuel, machines, and emissions. Figure if you cut the area of your current grass in half, then half the amount of gas, machine upkeep, fertilizers, insecticides, grass seed and you certainly have a long range B4B.
- Support local nurseries, garden shops and school plant sales.
- Buy from plant auctions.
- Don't throw away or let it go to waste.
- If you have too much to eat fresh, freeze or can.
The following annuals have seeds that are easily collected and may be used the following spring:
Zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, Four O'Clocks, sunflowers, Shasta Daisies, Cornflower (bachelor buttons), cleomes, nasturtiums, and morning glories. (This is just of few of the very easy ones.)
Share - Share - Share:
- See if your local food pantry, homeless shelter, domestic abuse shelter, senior citizen center and nursing homes take fresh produce.
- Share with neighbors, friends, the elderly, the disadvantaged, and a local restaurant.
- Take produce and flowers to your church on Sunday. Send both home with others.
- Make a bouquet and take to someone who needs a lift.
- If your seed packet has more than you can use, give the rest to another gardener.
Friday, February 19, 2010
For the Midwest gardener who wants a Tropical Paradise, there are options besides actual tropical plants.Strong color is the main starting point. Tropical colors are turquoise, orange, ginger/browns, fuchsia, green and most any other bright color you want to introduce.
Colors are taken from the hard scape of tropical regions such as the ocean, flowers, sand, rain forests, and fruit. They are bright clear colors.
It is difficult to find flowers in a true turquoise. This might be where you introduce turquoise with pots, cloth, stepping stones and glass.
Obviously, water plays a part in the topical garden and if you don't have a pool, river or stream, introduce water through a small pond or waterfall. A simple table top water fountain will bring the "sound" of water to the landscape. A dry creek bed or pool of colored glass in turquoise or bright cobalt blue is another option. Cheap colored glass florist marbles or aquarium rocks will work.
Typical potted indoor plants such as palms and mother-in-law's tongue placed in shade will work. Jasmine and gardenia plants along with the Angel's Trumpet will perfume the air as if in a rain forest. I would never recommend planting bamboo, it is highly invasive and almost impossible to kill or contain.
Bulbs such as canna, especially the orange and yellows, elephant ears, dahlias, and begonias. These must all be dug in the fall or they will die.
Try a small lemon or orange tree placed in a pot (making it easier to move inside.)
If you have semi shade, perennial rhododendron bushes come in bright orange and magenta. They will bring in the spring with tropical shades. There are bright magenta Weigela bushes.
Clematis, honeysuckle, and trumpet vine all have bright perennial flowers. Scarlet Runner Bean and morning glories are two bright annual vines.
If you enjoying potted plants, you can actually use tropical plants - making sure they are inside well before the first frost.
To add additional zip to a tropics based landscape, include bright colored cushions and umbrellas. Use large flowered patterns on material for tablecloths, napkins and porch curtains.
Some go so far as to "tiki" with dried grass roofs and titi gods. Many of the tiki themed items can be bought at party stores.
Beach parties are part of the tropics and patio lights, tiki lanterns, candles, and oil lamps can play a big part of night life. The seven foot lighted cacti might be over the top for you but a few torches are in most every one's budget.
If earthquakes, the recession, and terrorism have you thinking twice about that sea side vacation this year, turn a portion of your yard into a tropical paradise and enjoy the tropics right in your own backyard. Did I mention the need for a "Beach Boys" CD???
"Aruba, Jamaica ooh I wanna take ya
To Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama
Key Largo, Montego baby why don't we go
Jamaica off the Florida Keys
There's a place called Kokomo
That's where you wanna go to get away from it all
Bodies in the sand
Tropical drink melting in your hand
We'll be falling in love
To the rhythm of a steel drum band
Down in Kokomo"
"Kokomo" by the Beach Boys
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Bruno Torfs had made an astounding sculpture garden near Marysville, Australia. His sculptures are life size terracotta figures both realistic and whimsical. His art doesn't stop with a simple display of his work, it is incorporated into the large section of sub-alpine rain forest. The art looks like it was a product of the forest and not man.
Along with the sculpture gardens, he established his family's home, a workshop, and a gallery housing over 200 oil paintings, sketches and smaller sculptures.
In 2009, the garden had over 150 pieces of life size terracotta sculptures. All surrounded with flora both old and newly inspired. The amazing talent, the unique displays, and the beautiful wonders of the setting led to Bruno opening the gardens to the public.
You may remember that in February 2009 this area of Australia had a horrible bushfire that killed both residents and the natural wonders. As only a huge bushfire can do, it raged indiscriminately amidst this area, claiming the lives of Bruno's friends and neighbours.
Bruno and his family managed to escape but their home and gallery were completely destroyed. The sculpture garden was heavily damaged. At this point, no one would have blamed the famed artist for quitting or at least leaving the area for other things. When I viewed the damage, I couldn't imagine loosing so much of of what my soul had created (an artist's work is the baring of a soul).
But, as those of us who have faith to believe our soul can not be lost, Bruno, his family, friends and even strangers, assessed the damage and started the restoration process. They found around 60% of the sculptures miraculously survived. You can read about the entire process on his web site.
- Should you visit Australia, plan a walk through his gardens.
- Use your ability to create beauty within nature.
- Don't be discouraged with garden and landscape losses.
- Use losses to build upon the future; perhaps a better future.
- Be thankful for someone such as Bruno who creates, shares, and creates again.
Many articles include slides from the original garden
Monday, February 15, 2010
- Twinflower (Linnea): This flower is shaped like a pale pink bell and grows on delicate stems found in the woodlands. The flower is so named because two flowers grow per stem. Many of these will also appear in garden boxes of Swedish homes, along with forget-me-not, another common flower. Hardy to Zone 3.
- Hibiscus: This flower is native to the Caribbean but curiously enough will grow in colder climates. Flower colors range from red to pink, white, and yellow. Includes both annual and perennial plants, bushes and trees.
- Hoya: This plant/vine is easy to grow and has fragrant flowers shaped like stars forming clusters on a vine. These look great in baskets hanging from your front porch. Must be taken indoors in the winter in our Zone 5.
- Yellow Lady's Slipper: These flowers grow in the woods, especially swamp and bog areas that are damp year round. An Illinois native perennial, it is currently considered "endangered" in Illinois.
- Salt-marsh Sand Spurrey: Also a native flower of woodlands, this one can be found in Swedish bogs with the tiny pink flowers with yellow centers on succulent stems. Needs damp alkaline, somewhat sandy soil.
- Mountain wintergreen: This can be found in most parts of the United States, which is a low growing shrub that has small white or pink bell shaped flowers on the stems. Prefers cool damp sandy woods, especially under evergreens.
- Forget-Me-Not: Practically everyone has seen a forget-me-not, the tiny little white or soft blue star shaped flowers that grow in patches on the ground of forests and yards. These are easy to grow and will return year after year in the springtime. These will self seed for several years before needing to be replanted.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I've mentioned Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois, before but wanted to expand on what you might see if you plan a visit. After all, winter is such a good time to plan such visits while you have the time to look, think, and wish.
I haven't included any photos of the gardens because their photos are works of art and protected from copying. It's just a short jump to their website at http://www.andersongardens.org/
You know how we are - never visit or appreciate the beauty of things so close. Such is the case with Anderson Gardens. So close, just a hop and skip to Rockford.
The award winning gardens have much to offer. Especially for those of us who typically visit and garden Midwest style. And although it is different, in this case, differences can be incorporated into many of our own gardens.
Taken from their history: "Anderson Japanese Gardens consists of two very different gardens. The first is a formal Japanese garden in the style of the Kamakura period, 1185 to 1333 A.D. The Guest House, Tea house, and machiai are 16th century Sukiya style architecture. The Garden of Reflection is a contemporary international garden with a strong Japanese influence. The gardens are designed to allow our guests to reflect upon the tranquil beauty of nature, to leave the stresses of everyday life, to commune with nature and thus with one's self. The three essential elements of a Japanese garden are: water for its soothing and reflective qualities; rock for its sense of permanence; and plants for their textures and shades of green."
They have classes (watercolor among others) during the summer months, a restaurant, tea ceremonies, guest house, gift shop and tours. The gardens (not a park) have an interesting history and a story of one family's gift to the public.
It isn't, perhaps, for young children or those with walking difficulties because of navigating the landscape and water features. It is definitely a place for the photographer, the garden enthusiast (especially if your yard has shade) and those seeking a beautiful new experience - within driving.
There are multitudes of "LOVEly" sounding names for many different kinds of plants. As a Valentine treat all year long, consider a theme garden centered around love.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Others are the "Nancy Reagan" rose, "Washingtonia" (Arecaceae) for George Washington, "Jeffersonia" (Podophyllaceae) for Thomas Jefferson, "Hillary First Lady" Rose for Hillary Clinton, the "Pat Nixon" Rose, "Rosalyn Carter" Rose, the "Barbara Bush" Rose.
It was really difficult not to get satirical with this listing because many roses have "descriptive" names that would fit President Bill Clinton possibly too well.
Plus, I'm not real sure our current President would be all that thrilled with a lichen for a namesake. Perhaps I should leave political satire to the newspapers. . .
(Images of roses are taken from the Jackson and Perkins rose catalog and lechin from scientific article.)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Images are from the David Austin web site at http://www.davidaustinroses.com/ The first is an example of how to use his roses at a wedding, second is the "Scepter'd Isle Rose", third is the Austin Renaissance Rose Garden and last is the Austin Victorian Rose Garden (all in the UK).
English roses or David Austin roses are found in the U.S.A. and probably at a garden shop near you.
David Austin roses are English roses and have several particular attributes. For me the fragrance and flower form are the most enticing.
For a garden flower lover, there is something so very alluring about the cupped and full-rounded form. It speaks of romance.
The English rose has a fragrance for everyone. When walking through a garden in full bloom with English roses is to have the most expensive perfume available at your whim. The variety is huge and the strength is not subtle.
Saying all that, the English rose is not for every situation.
Many are not hardy in our zone 5 or colder areas. They take VERY careful and complete winter protection. They do have some that are rated zone 4 and I would advise anyone at the cold end of zone 5 to try these first. They are described as "climate specific" which not only considers the cold factor but when and how cold, heat, humidity and other factors apply.
The David Austin roses sold in the USA are grown first in the USA (Tyler, Texas) which allows some degree of familiarity to our conditions. But, they are Texas and not northern hardened off and I've lost a few while getting to know the limitations of my garden's rose environment.
Some have a tendency to have blackspot - if that's an issue in your garden, you may want to go with the ones that have shown resistance.
Many are large shrubs. In other words, do your homework when choosing a David Austin rose and be prepared to perhaps loose one in the process of finding one that will work in your yard.
I've lost "Evelyn" twice and have now given it up. I did love it (soft peach and so fragrant) but most of all it reminded me of the dear lady who helped me become a woman. Yes, much of my gardening choices are sentimental and don't have a lot to do with rationality.
If you are weighing the pros and cons of buying a David Austin rose, consider this little quote:
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns,
or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
Here's a little history about the David C.H. Austin rose and the breeder himself. David Austin lives in Shropshire, England and his breeding focus has been to blend the character and fragrance of the Old Garden Roses and the repeat-flowering ability and wide colour range of modern roses. His first introduction was in 1963.
The Austin roses are not officially recognised as a separate class of roses and typically referred to as English or Austin roses. Austin has currently introduced over 190 rose cultivars. For his rose breeding, he has received numerous and the most high horticultural and rose awards.
If you are a book enthusiast, there are many David Austin and Austin/English rose books available. Seldom is there a public rose display garden that doesn't include some of the Austin roses. I've received the DA catalog and keep it because they are simply a visual joy much like bookstore quality.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
- Most vegetables need full sun.
- Plant sets will work easier than seeds.
- Short is best in front or for edging your beds.
- Vegetables planted towards the middle or back need access to pick.
- Lettuce: Dwarf, Kale, Romaine, Loose Leaf, Batavia, Butterhead, Arugula. There are light, dark, cream, green, red, purple, blue and spotted. Flavors vary.
- Peppers: There are red, green, orange, purple, yellow, gold and variegated. All shapes and sizes - not to mention heat.
- Herbs: Chard, Sweet Marjoram, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme. Most herbs have many varieties, smells, and uses.
- Leafy: Mustard, Chard, Aucurbita
- Herb: Dill, Lemon Balm, Basil, Chives
- Tomatoes: Grape, Current, Cherry, Pear. Red, yellow, chocolate cherry, green, gold, peach colors. The flavors vary widely.
- Dwarf ornamental Gourds, Pumpkins "Baby Boo." I don't usually recommend planting peas or beans to climb on the fence or bushes in perennial beds because it's difficult to get back to pick every single day when they're producing.
Anyone interested in visiting with other daylily enthusiasts, let me know.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Some garden flowers will never look good in a big vase or in mass. If you believe only a big bouquet is worth the effort, you will deprive yourself of some truly wonderful examples.
This picture has several little containers I've used for flowers. Only the gold glass jug on the left is a vase. Next is a clear spice container, a brown perfume bottle, a blue what-not, white creamer, clear flavoring bottle, blue liquor glass, brown eyedropper, clear juice glass, white creamer, and a frosted candle stick. A little ribbon tied around the top will often cover the grooves where a cap once belonged.
If your water forms crystals on these things, simply fill with vinegar for a day or two, rinse and dry and it should be like new.
Flowers and foliage that adapt to small containers particularly well:
Perennials: Nasturtiums, Violets and Viola, Lily of the Valley, Cosmos, Small Daylily, Roses or Rose buds, Salvia, Clover, Daisy-like flowers, Fern tips, Bleeding Heart, Pinks, Clematis, and Snow Drops.
Herbs: dill, basil, rue, and sage.
Annuals: Petunia, Pansy, Maragolds and Impatients.
Use one stem, three or a little nosegay. A few small leaves will make it more full and formal.
I've found if I put a small amount (one small dot) of bacterial hand wash soap in the water, the plants last longer and the water will stay cleaner.
Be a trend breaker - swim against the current - don't allow commercials to form your criteria for your life - small can be beautiful - just take a look at this little beauty:
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Sponsored by the University of Illinois Master Gardeners in McLean County will be held at Central Catholic High School, 1201 Airport Road, Bloomington, Illinois on Saturday, March 6, 2010.
The event fee of $40.00 includes several choices of workshops, a keynote speaker, exhibitors, door prizes, and lunch.
This year's featured keynote speaker will be Dianne Noland, host and producer of WILL -TV's Illinois Gardener Show.
To request a brochure/registration form, please call the University of Illinois Extension in McLean County at 309-663-8306, email email@example.com
If interested in the Illinois Henry and Stark County Master Gardener classes and events, contact the Henry Stark Unit/County Extension office at 853-1533 or check the state Master Gardener web site for more specific information, the application process, requirements and future training dates. This extension office coordinates and combines classes with Knox County.
University of Illinois Extension State Master Gardener web site: http://www.extension.uiuc.edu/mg
For Indiana Master Gardener classes and events, contact the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service-Howard County Government Building, Suite 105, 120 E. Mulberry, Kokomo, IN 46901-4660
The "12th Illinois Products Expo...A Food and Cooking Extravaganza" will be held on March 6-7, 2010, in the Orr Building, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, IL.
Over seventy Illinois food companies (and a few non-food companies) will be exhibiting. Food companies will provide free food samples and most of these products will also be available to purchase at the Expo.
A few non-food items, such as soy & herb candles, agricultural-based soaps, lotions, etc., will also be on display and available to purchase.
The Expo is open to the public. The cost to attend is only $4.00 (children 10 and under - free).
The "Illinois Wine and Cheese Garden" will once again be a featured attraction at the Expo. At least twenty Illinois wine companies will participate. They will sell wine samples (for a nominal fee) and they will sell their wine by the glass and by the bottle.
The hours of the Expo are:
Saturday, March 6 - 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 7 - 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
A Weber Genesis® S-310 LP gas grill (retail value-$949.00) and numerous "Illinois Products" gift baskets will be given away as door prizes.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Marketing and Promotion is coordinating the event. For more information, contact Larry Aldag, (telephone - 217/524-3012; e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a great chance to see what your Illinois neighbors are producing, view alternate agricultural products, think of something new you would like to produce and sell, or simply go, enjoy and buy a few locally "Illinois made in the USA" items.
8.9 Billion Dollars in state and local tax revenue was generated in the U.S. by wildlife watching in 2006. Americans take their birding seriously.
I'm amazed that the groundhog ever comes out on Groundhog Day since they are in their active breeding stage. Maybe they don't use bedrooms for breeding. . .enough said.
It is a month where many animals start the breeding process: Raccoons, mink, skunks, screech owls, coyote, and salamanders.
The red-winged blackbirds, mallards, ducks and robins start returning to our landscape. Chickadees sing their first songs of the year. Snow geese and woodcocks move through Illinois going farther north. Wild turkeys start gobbling and the males roost near the hens. Great horned owls start to nest. Pheasant flocks break apart and go their own solitary way.
It's time to make sure the bird houses are cleaned and up for the incoming and breeding birds.
Maple sap starts to flow.
It's the time to burn prairie and woodland. Having said that, keep in mind there are many rules and regulations pertaining to controlled burns. Key word here is "controlled". How many times do we see a harmless little burn turn into acres not meant to be burned or how often is the fire department called because it got out of hand and endangered buildings. If you've never done a burn before, call your local forester, extension office or fire department for information. You may need a permit. A burn that gets out of hand can get you fined, get charges for emergency fire response, and cause insurance problems. "A word to the wise is sufficient!"
Now is an excellent time to spread dry manure compost on your gardens. If you can manage it, put it down on snow cover. This allows you to gauge the coverage.
It's an especially good time to feed the birds (and squirrels if you do this) because natural sources are beginning to be depleted. There are few berries left on any of my bushes.
The squirrels have been a challenge this year. We have more of them and it appears the newbies are not as good at finding all the walnuts buried from last year. In my quest to keep them away from my close-to-the-house bird feeders, I've feed them corn and peanuts out by the woods. I may have inadvertently made them dependent upon being fed by humans. In years past, they would always be high in the walnut trees munching on nut after nut. Huge piles of walnut shells would litter under the trees. This year, even though we had an abundant crop of walnuts, I'm not seeing much action in the trees. My dogs are just not doing their part here. Come really cold weather, the coon hound sticks to sleeping in her bed more than guarding the bird food. The lab is a squirrel terror and has caught a couple every year but his mind is more on defending us from deer and coyote than defending the bird food. AND the final squirrel whine: they are bearing their first litters from mid February to March. Nooooooooooo.
Although I'm not advertising for Preen, they do have a good informative web site: http://www.preen.com/ The garden hints page is a good one.
Prior to the snow last night, I took a walk around my yard. It's always a surprise to see what plants are still green in February. The thick snow cover has insulated many of them from the frigid weather. Unfortunately, the flip side is it is also insulating the pest insects and weeds. The other flip side, it is insulating the good insects, too. Lots of flip sides I guess.
Hope you have voted - informed and confident you are making America a better place for our grandchildren.