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Garden Solutions - January 2012

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Local Blogs - Hillermann Nursery & Florist
Sunday, 01 January 2012


Cardinal feeding on sunflower seedsThere is only 80 days until spring! FOR BIRDS, a combination of sleet and deep snow makes many food sources impossible to reach. In normal winter conditions, most birds have ways of coping with the cold. To help survive cold nights, Chickadees can lower their normal 108-degree body temperature by 12-15 degrees to conserve energy. By dawn, they, like many birds, will quickly dart to a food source to fill their empty stomachs. That’s why early morning and late evenings are some of the ‘largest crowds’ at bird feeders.

Feed the birds hi-energy foods like black oil sunflower seeds, tree nut pieces and suet, which give birds more energy per ounce consumed. One need of wild birds often overlooked by consumers in cold weather is the need for ‘open water.’ The main reason they need water is to help keep warm. Birds fluff out their feathers so they can better capture a ‘layer of air’ that acts as heated insulation. Matted, dirty feathers can’t be fluffed out. Therefore, by offering food and water, dozens of your feathered friends will soon add brilliant flashes of red and blue, gray and white, across the snow, and you’ll hear their melodious songs as the sing “Thanks” to you for helping them survive.

TERRARIUMS, a great way to satisfy your green thumb during the winter is to tackle a classic indoor gardening project: terrariums. I have a terrarium that has thrived for months with low light and no additional water. It's not so much a miracle as it is the science of nature. The plants inside the terrarium create their own mini climate, transpiring water vapor that condenses on the glass and then flows back into the soil. Science aside, I find a terrarium fascinating to look at, like a miniature landscape in a jar. Speaking of miniatures, decorating these mini gardens are even more fun to do.

Don't be intimidated by the process of building a terrarium. Materials needed include a wide-mouth glass container, potting soil, small plants, pea gravel, and charcoal. For easy access, an apothecary jar with a glass top is a great choice. If your container does not have a lid, you can cover it with clear plastic wrap, a piece of Plexiglas or a sheet of glass. Leaving it open is another option, but watering needs will vary.

To avoid insect and disease problems, wash the gravel and use top-quality, sterile potting soil. Fill the bottom of the container with about ½”-1 inch of gravel. Next add about ½” to ¾’of charcoal, this helps keep the soil sweet and not sour, which can cause disease. Top the charcoal with 3 inches of soil. Now comes the fun part: planting the “landscape”. Select varieties of plants that all have the same growing needs when it comes to light, water and humidity. Slow growers with small leaves are best suited.

TerrariumRemove the plants from their pots and plant them in the terrarium just like you would in the garden. Place the taller plants in the back, mid-size plants in the middle, and low-growing things like moss toward the front. If possible, keep the foliage away from the sides of the container. Once you have the plants in place, moisten the soil lightly and put the lid in place. How often you will need to water your terrarium depends on how tightly the lid fits. A loose-fitting lid lets moisture escape. A good indication of when to water is whether there is condensation on the glass. If there is no condensation, water the soil very lightly. If there is heavy condensation, remove the lid to allow the terrarium to air out.

The neat thing about terrariums is that you are only limited by your imagination. Add large rocks to represent craggy mountains or small mirrors for ponds. You can even create a desert landscape with succulents and cacti. Or make a mini landscape with pathways and furniture! So try your luck at indoor gardening this month! It will make every day feel like spring.

Until next month, Sandi Hillermann McDonald

Articles posted to the Local Blogs section are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily that of or WASHMO Media, LLC.

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