Category Archives: In the Yard

What Kind of Bird Food Should You Use?

What Bird Food Should You Use?

Looking to attract a particular bird?  A great article from National Audubon Society pretty much covers it!

Black-oil Sunflower Seed:  This will attract the widest variety of species, including: Chickadees, titmice, cardinals, and nuthatches.

White Millet: Ground-feeding species, such as juncos and sparrows favor this food.
To Order: Cole’s MI10 White Millet Bird Seed, 10-Pound

Red Milo:  Western Species, like jays, enjoy red milo.

Cracked Corn: Scattering cracked corn over the ground will invite doves to the area.  To Order: Wagner’s 18541 Cracked Corn, 4-Pound Bag

Mixed Seed: Sprinkling mix seed on the ground or onto platform feeds is the best option.  Mixed seed usually contains high quantities of millet, preferred by ground-feeding birds.  Many feeder birds will not take miller.  Likewise, ground-feeding birds that favor millet will not have access to it if it’s in a feeder.

Nyjer Seed (Thistle): Attracts chickadees and finches, including goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls.  There are feeders specifically designed for thistle seed.  To Order: Wagner’s 62053 Nyjer Seed Bird Food, 20-Pound Bag

Safflower:  Usually a more expensive seed than sunflower, it is not proven to be more preferred.  Some reports do claim that squirrels dislike it.  To Order: Wagner’s 57075 Safflower Seed, 5-Pound Bag

High-energy suet cake: Attracts nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, and titmice.  You can hand this in a mesh bag, but it won’t be as protected from raccoons that might help themselves.  You may want to purchase a sturdy suet feeder.  To Order Suet Cakes: Heath Outdoor Products DD12 Birdie’s Blend Suet Cake, Case of 12

Fruits:  Fruits, such as raisins, bananas, currants and sliced apples may attract mockingbirds, robins, bluebirds, and waxwings.  Oranges are a favorite of orioles.

Bird Food Preference Table

Colocasia gigantea “Thailand Giant”

The first year (2012)
IMG_1629_edited
The second year (2103) with weekly fertilizer

It was love at first sight when I first saw this plant. Living in Indiana, I love to have that tropical feel in my backyard during the summer. I bought this plant online and planted it in a pot after the threat of frost was past. It was a beautiful addition to my patio.

Keep in mind that in its native habitat, it reaches heights of 9 feet or more. My plant, however, only reached a height of maybe 3 feet.  The leaves were truly gorgeous though. You can see plant in the above picture, which is directly behind the standing woman (me!).  I’m confident that with a longer growing season plus more fertilizer would have made this plant grow exponentially more than it did. I will be experimenting with that next summer.

Overwintering
With its native habitat being Thailand, it prefers zones 8-11. This is important information when considering your overwintering needs. After some research, I learned that not all species of the Colocasia genus are quick to grow corms. And this happens to be one of those. For my growing zone, this particular plant should be brought indoors during the winter and placed in a cool location (45-60°F) with bright light, being careful not to overwater as this plant will be semi-dormant. I have chosen to overwinter this plant in my garage under a grow light.

Harvesting the Seed
As Autumn approached, the plant produced several inflorescences, I wanted to try my hand at propagating it. Inflorescences are essentially the complete flower head, shown in the picture below, consisting of the spathe and the spadix.  The spathe is the white thin bract that surrounds and protects the spadix.  While the spadix is the spiked center portion, which contains the male and female portion.
Pollination occurs when the male portion of the spadix produces a powdery-like build-up of pollen. In nature, the pollen can be transported with the help of insects. Hand pollination can be achieved too, especially if your plant is contained indoors.
Individual seed pods are located towards the bottom of the spadix, which is the female portion (see picture).   Each seed pod will be about the size of a pea when ready for harvest and the individual pods are full of seed. An entire seed head may have up to 100 or so individual seed pods. So, there is a potential for thousands of seeds!

Seeds shown settling to the bottom of the bag

When is the seed ready?
You will want to wait until the white portion of spathe actually falls from the plant. The seed will develop in the lower (female) portion of the flower. After 3-4 weeks, cut the flower completely off at the base of the female portion. You can then peel that surrounding green portion that is around the female part and you should see the swollen seed pods containing seed.  Take the entire seed pod, soak it in a Ziploc-style baggy with 1/3 water and all the air pressed out. Let the seed pod soak for a couple of hours to soften. Once soft, massage the entire seed head and you should be able to see the tiny seed. Try to get the seed to sink to the bottom of the bag (see image below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Alternate Method
Now I’ve also read where if the spadix is left alone, the female portion of the spadix will eventually rupture open full of seed.  From there, the seeds can be extracted.  I have yet to try this technique.  However, I have successfully extracted seeds with the prior technique.  I then dried the seeds and will propagate in the Spring.

Anyone have any thoughts or experience to share?  Please feel free to share your knowledge.

New Plant Hardiness Zone Map Reveals Warming Trend

 

 

The USDA released their new version of the Plant Hardness Zone Map in January 2012. The new map is generally one 5- degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous released map back in 1990. This mostly is a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period. More specifically, it uses data measured at weather stations during a 30-year period from 1976-2005. The 1990 map used data from a 13-year period of 1974-1986.
Another change with the new map is the addition of an interactive “find your zone by ZIP code” function. Click here to see the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Aquascape’s Poly-Resin Decorative Water Fountains

New for 2012!  Lightweight, affordable and eye-catching!

Aquascape poly-resin decorative water features combine beauty, detail and intricate design of more expensive traditional decorative pieces. Decorative water features are often made from more expensive materials like brass, steel or copper. Poly-resin is a sturdy material that can be intricately molded, allowing for an amazing amount of detail and consistent texture that easily fits into most budgets.

Check out all the poly-resin selection here at our website.

Emerald Ash Borer

Image compliments of www.emeraldashborer.info/

If you live in the Midwest, you have probably heard of the emerald ash borer (EAB) and the havoc it has caused on ash trees.

Believing to have originated from imported shipping material made from ash, this exotic beetle was first identified in Michigan where it’s destruction started.  Since then, it has spread to surrounding states and Canada killing millions of ash trees.

EAB’s are only attracted to ash trees and they will kill every ash tree if not treated with a preventative insecticide.

Identifying an ash tree:

  • Branches and buds are opposite of each other not alternating or staggered
  • Compound leaves, which are composed of leaflets instead of a single leaf

Some visual signs of EAB infestation:

  • Dieback of leaves at the top of the tree
  • Vertical splits in the bark
  • Tiny D-shaped exit holes in the tree’s bark
  • Curvy S-shaped channels under the bark
  • Epicormic  shoots at the base of the tree
  • Woodpecker damage on the bark “flecking”

To find out more, contact your local county extension office.  Purdue University also has information here.

What is that Tree?

Need help identifying a tree?  A new smartphone app, called Leafsnap, is available for iPhone and iPad users.   This free service uses visual recognition software to search a growing library of leaf images from your submitted photograph.

More information is available at www.leafsnap.com

Maintenance Calendar for Indiana Lawns

Want a few tips from the experts?  Purdue University Department of Agronomy has developed a great calendar titled, “Maintenance Calendar for Indiana Lawns” (Publication AY-27) aimed to help Indiana residents with their lawns.  Their calendar/chart, which is shown below breaks down the monthly lawn responsibilities based on maintenance levels.

Maintenance levels are as follows:

High– For those wanting the densest, greenest, healthiest lawns and are willing to commit considerable time and money to maintain.

Medium– For those wanting an acceptable lawn, but who are not as committed to spending as much considerable time and money to maintain.

Low– For those who want an average-looking lawn with minimal inputs.

 

If you’re not from Indiana, check with your local state’s Master Gardener program, which can help to guide you the right direction.

 

7 Steps to a Better Lawn

If you are the primary lawn care expert of your yard, you know that having a beautiful lawn takes work.  But, that hard work will pay off in time.  Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy has a great publication discussing this very topic.  This publication is quite beneficial for individuals in zone 5 so always consult your state’s local Department of Agronomy or Cooperative Extension to find out more.

Mow at 3 inches

Cool-season lawn grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue found in Indiana and Illinois thrive when mowed at a height of 3 inches or the highest mower setting.

Mow Frequently

Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in a single mowing.  Keep in mind, this might increase the mowing frequency in the spring.

Return the Clippings

A mulching mower is a great way to return the clippings back to your yard.  As the clippings decompose, they add valuable nutrients back into the soil.

Fertilize in the Fall

Fertilizing primarily in the fall promotes healthy turf while not stimulating excessive leaf growth.  Fertilize a minimum of twice a year, applying 1.0 pound of nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in September and 1.0 to 1.25 pounds nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in early November.  If desired, an additional application of 1.0 pound nitrogen per 1000 ft2 in mid-to-late May will keep the lawn green and healthy throughout the summer.

Irrigate

Water only as needed when the lawn first shows signs of water stress.  These include a bluish-gray color of the grass and/or depressed footprints that remain visible after walking across the lawn.

Control Dandelions

Following the first five steps will help to reduce the likelihood of dandelions.  However, if treatment is needed, a mid-October treatment of a broadleaf herbicide containing 2,4D, MCPP and dicamba are effective.  Spot spraying directly on the occasional weed is also an effective control for minor dandelions problems.

Control Crabgrass

If crabgrass is a problem, a preemergence herbicide applied in early spring is most effective.

 

 

 

 

LED Lighting Has A Bright Future

LED, light emitting diodes, are becoming commonplace in most homes.  In the past few years, this technology has expanded to the water gardening arena as well.  It’s easy to see why this technology is becoming popular since it offers clean, bright light.  Compact in size and more energy efficient make LED lights a great alternative to incandescent lighting.

Many options are available, including: waterfall lights, floating fogger lights, bullet spotlights and accent lighting.

Check our entire selection of LED lights.

 

Rain Gardens

While forests and agricultural land are replaced with urban areas, it’s easy to see why increased storm runoff from these impermeable surfaces becomes a problem.  Storm water runoff picks up pollutants from streets, sidewalks and lawns.  It’s then rushed off to storm drains and to our local waterways and lakes.  The end result is flooding and added expense due to municipal treatment that is needed on this polluted water.  One solution that many homeowners are opting for is a rain garden.

Rain gardens are landscaped areas planted with native vegetation and wild flowers that soak up rain water received from impermeable areas, like your roof, sidewalks, and driveways.   Rain water is diverted to the rain garden and is slowly filtered into the ground instead of a storm drain.

In addition to solving the residential flooding and water pollution problem, rain gardens also help enhance our yards and neighborhoods, while providing a valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and many beneficial insects.

Think you might be interested?  Here are a few more items to consider:

  • The rain garden should be at least 10 feet away from the house, on a gentle slope that catches downspout water.
  • Do not place directly over a septic system.
  • Do not put the rain garden in an area that already ponds.  You want an area that infiltrates.
  • It’s better to plant the rain garden in full or partial sun, as opposed to under a big tree.
  • Typical residential rain gardens range from 100 to 300 square feet.  It can be almost any size but time and cost should be factored in to your final decision.

For more information on rain gardens, the reference article listed below is an excellent source.

Reference: “Rain Gardens: A How-To Manual for Homeowners”, University of Wisconsin