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Make your garden even more welcoming to birds and butterflies: turn it into a certified wildlife habitat.
It may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you can just forget about your garden in winter.
Keep all of your tools performing at their best.
Besides ushering in a new year, it’s symbolic of a new start, making resolutions to replace bad habits with good and continuing down the road of self-improvement.
When making those New Year resolutions, don’t forget your garden. And, to increase your success rate, keep it simple! (Honestly, how many resolutions have you actually kept)? This year, make your gardening resolutions realistic and specific, rather than the sweeping ‘I vow to never neglect my garden again’ statements. By making resolutions that are actually attainable you’ll not only feel better about yourself, but your garden will thank you!
One of my resolutions this year is to plant more natives, as a way to provide more of a ‘habitat garden’ for my area’s wildlife. Admit it - don’t you get a little thrill when discovering hidden bird nests in your window boxes, see a baby fawn with its mother, or hear an owl in the distance? In addition to enriching your soul, by creating a garden that caters to your area’s habitat, you’re enriching the surrounding wildlife as well. The faster society develops its land, the less land wildlife has to claim as its own. This is a real issue where I live in Northern California, as nature is rapidly being displaced by monster homes, mini-malls and residential developments. As natural habitats are rapidly shrinking the native wildlife is forced to find other places to call home. It’s hard to imagine, but your own garden (no matter its size) can actually have quite a positive impact in helping wildlife survive.
To set out the ‘Welcome Mat’ in your own garden you’ll need to provide three things: a food source, water source, and shelter. Look around your garden. Are there overgrown shrubs that you can replace in the spring with those that are wildlife friendly? While your overgrown shrub may provide shelter, does it also provide a food source? Is it a native in your region (therefore increasing biodiversity in your garden?)? Habitat-friendly shrubs I like to use in my designs are Toyon, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha. When covered with their vibrant berries, they not only add a shot of color in the winter months, but they provide a much needed food and shelter source for birds and small animals.
Salvias, Monkey Flowers, and Penstemon are three of my favorite species of native perennials that are not only colorful and long-blooming in planting beds, but they attract tons of hummingbirds and insects as well. As if natives didn’t have enough going for them, because they’re already adapted to your climate, they’re typically much less maintenance than the non-natives you find at many nurseries (requiring less fussing with your soil, less chemicals to ward off diseases and less water).
My second New Year’s resolution is to take care of my garden tools. I must admit, I’m truly the worst at taking care of my tools. I’m usually so tired at the end of a long day in the garden, if I even remember to put them away at night I do so with clumps of soil still on them. This year, though, it’ll be different. Good garden tools (such as Fiskars) should last for many years when properly maintained if you just remember 3 things: avoid rust-inducing moisture (a tool’s #1 enemy), keep them sharpened, and occasionally apply a coat of oil.
I’m planning on setting up a small ‘tool care’ station in our garage to make it easy and convenient to quickly wipe clean and disinfect my pruners after each day’s use. This year, I vow to not put my tools away dirty – I don’t care how tired I am! And if I happen to forget (hey, I’m human after all) the moment I see rust I’ll just use my handy wire brush to lightly scrub it off.
If you’re a serious gardener, your pruners will likely need to be sharpened quite often. Dull blades are not only hard on your hands, but they make rough cuts to your plants – definitely not ideal! To simplify this process I’ll keep a small sharpening stone and a screwdriver on my ‘tool care’ station so I can quickly disassemble my pruner, and sharpen its blades. The entire process really only takes a few moments.
And this year, when winter arrives and I’m ready to give my tools a rest, I’ll apply a light coat of linseed or mineral oil to any wooden handles. Cold air sucks the moisture right out of the wood, causing splitting. A quick coat of oil will seal the wood ensuring it remains in perfect condition until you’re ready to use them again in the spring.
I’m excited to finally make achievable New Year’s resolutions! I’m curious, what are yours?