Yardening: Caring for nature is giving thanks for life

The scarlet of maples can shake me like a cry

Of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

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To see the frosty asters like smoke

Upon the hills.     

— William Bliss Carmen

Fall reflections

Every year at this time, I pause and reflect on the past year in the yard. Caring for the environment and the wildlife it supports here at Creek House is for me a deeply felt obligation. Stewardship of our natural world seems to me to be a fundamental necessity for humans because humans depend on it for our lives (and mental health).  It is also a form of giving thanks for life. I am fortunate to live on a property with several different habitat areas — woodland, wetland, grass — I can enjoy interacting and supporting the great variety of creatures that live here with me. Actually, it is amazing how much opportunity there is on even the smallest residential property to create safe places for the local population of creatures that live in soil, water and trees. We can protect tiny soil micro- and macro organisms, worms, insects, and small animals by covering bare soil with leaf debris or wood chips. To support bees and other pollinators, try establishing relaxed planting areas of native plants and then allowing them to dry out and drop seeds and sheltering debris in place during the winter. Trees and shrubs that serve wildlife in dozens of ways when they are alive can continue to provide shelter, standing or fallen, when they have died. Of course putting out food for the overwintering birds, and incidentally some raiding squirrels, provides critical energy for them. In general, hold off on serious yard clean up until spring.

Holiday gifts

By mid-November holidays begin to happen and gift giving season begins. Here are some suggestions for hostess and holiday gifts for folks who are yardeners.

  • Houseplant water meter
  • Outdoor rain gauge
  • Pair of sturdy work gloves
  • Watering can for indoor plants
  • Bulbs to force for indoor bloom
  • Membership in a local arboretum or public garden
  • Grow light for indoor plants.
  • Bringing Nature Home, a book by Doug Tallamy

Bird shelter quiz

One way to provide refuge to the many bird species that do not skip town when cold weather arrives is to have lots of shrubs and trees, especially evergreen ones, a brush pile and other potential shelters for birds in the yard.  Match each bird species with its preferred winter shelter.

1.__Chickadees                       a. tree cavities

2.__Nuthatches                       b. woodpecker holes in trees

3___Downy woodpeckers      c. dense conifer branches

4.__ Tufted titmice                 d. roosting boxes

5.__ Eastern bluebirds                        e. hanging planters, wreaths, window boxes, mailboxes, etc.


Spring bulbs

Hardy bulbs such as crocus, daffodil, snow drops and other spring favorites are likely on sale now. Although it is recommended that they be planted in early fall, it is not too late to plant now.  Protect bulbs from critters by covering the soil over them with a layer of pine needles or chopped leaves as usual. Then, cover that with window screens (often found at yard sales) or netting, until the soil freezes. Consider “species” tulips if you see them on sale. They are originally from the Mediterranean, and Asia Minor. They have unusual flowers, various heights and wonderful colors. A bit less showy in the spring than the large hybrid tulips, they have advantages the hybrid types lack. They come back faithfully year after year, and most bloom earlier and they multiply into lovely clumps over the years.  They are especially good for rocky areas.

Quiz answers:  1c; 2a; 3a; 4b; 5d; 6e.


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