Bird Feeder Gardening

Having flowers grow under your bird feeder adds to the excitement of summer and birdwatching.

I have a mix of sunflower and other seeds in my feeder which hangs next to a Hummingbird feeder. The seeds fall to the ground daily as birds visit and pull out what they want to eat. Some ground feeders, like Mourning Doves, walk the ground beneath my feeder and pick up what dropped.

Some years I have flowers sprouting from the dropped seeds. Others I don’t and I figured out that the mulch in my garden has made the difference.  The homes I lived in surrounded by pinestraw mulch had flower growth; birdfeeders surrounded with mulch other than pinestraw grew nothing. The seeds get caught in the web of pinestraw making it harder for ground feeding birds and squirrels to grab what dropped.  The pine straw allows the seeds a cover so they can germinate.

This year I’m using pine straw in my new house/new garden and I’ve got millet and sunflowers growing up the around the post of my dual shephard’s crook.  Visually appealing, it also provides a new food source for both wild and domestic animals.

My dog, a Lab, has a sensitive stomach. If she doesn’t get the opportunity to graze all day, she can end up needing some greens to settle her stomach. We try to keep her bowl from getting empty; usually 4 small meals a day. And, we try to keep pet grasses available in the yard in case we fail her needs indoors.  She usually goes for a variety of grasses but I recently found her chowing down on millet.

Wild birds will find the sunflowers a great source of food once they bloom out.

I now have just 3 sunflower plants that didn’t get eaten as small plants and each one has several flower heads growing on them. I’ll be tying the stalks to the shephard’s crook before long.

Sunflowers growing around a bird feeder

Sunflowers growing around a bird feeder



It’s no secret that you can change the color of your hydrangeas.  White stays white so when making a purchase decide first what colors are important to you. The other colors (blue and pink) are changeable on any plant.

The pH in your garden’s soil determines the color, so if your soil is alkaline, your hydrangea flowers will be pink. Acidic soil will turn them blue.  Use a simple pH test kit from your garden center if  you want to keep the flowers a certain color before planting them.

I didn’t do a soil test because I don’t really care whether my hydrangeas’ blooms are either pink or blue.  And, it’s a good thing because I have every shade from pink to purple to blue on my two plants and love it. Rocks and minerals also affect the pH of soil. Some blooms in my yard seem to reflect the color of the river pebbles I have placed around the plants.


New House, New Garden

I moved into my new house in March of this year (2015) and it was nicely landscaped. I knew there would be some flowering plants and I knew that there was plenty of room for improvement. What I didn’t know was where the sun and the shade would be and when.

It is now June, exactly 3 months after I moved in. The yard still has its own character but we made a few additions and changes. I’ve learned the spring cycles of the sun. Today is the longest day of the year so after the sun sets, our days will start progressing toward the shortest day, 6 months from now in December.

The back of the house faces west and there is a line of mature, tall trees beyond the wall surrounding our yard. It limits the amount of summer sun in the afternoon but the trees keep the sun from glaring into the back windows.  The yard currently starts getting shady around 2pm.

One side of my house faces South and all spring long it has remained in the sun so I decided to plant my vegetables along that side wall.  That was a fantastic idea. I now have a great garden growing there: a bumper crop of basil (compared to all my past gardens), onions, peppers and tomato plants that are out of control.

Additions to the yard include: both blueberry and a blackberry bushes, hostas, hydrangeis. We added river pebbles on a dirt area near a walking path, filled in some pine straw around the azaleas and trimmed the wisteria. We added bird and hummingbird feeders, a bird bath, solar patio lights and patio furniture.

Here are some photos from March:

Spring flowers:

The vegetable garden, before and after:

Backyard Wildlife Habitats

Originally posted on OxfordHomeBlog - North Mississippi Real Estate:

I had a great time at the Lafayette County Oxford Public Library today leading a workshop on Backyard Wildlife Habitats and getting your yard certified. It is my favorite workshop to lead. I really missed my teaching partner, Tracy DiPietro.  When I lived in South Alabama, she and I would lead similar workshops for school children to supplement their science classes. Tracy and I are Master Environmental Educators and I am a Certified Junior Master Gardener Instructor.

I am available to help Oxford residents and schools with their gardens so feel free to contact me.

Today’s workshop was part of the Books and Lunch program at the public library. There were door prizes and lunch, made of vegetables from the library’s garden, was served to participants.

I will have another gardening workshop early in the fall. Topic TBD. Check the library’s website for upcoming summer workshops.

If you missed the workshop…

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Beware of Killer Plants

While it is always best, in my opinion, to plant organic in your food garden, not everyone in the U.S. has access to quality garden stores.  If you live in one of these Garden-Store Deserts (meaning there are no quality garden stores) and grow vegetables and herbs from conventional nursery plants I want to caution you on one thing: neonicotinoids.

I noticed at the big-box garden stores in my town that many of the fruit trees and herbs are treated with neonicotinoids and sport a little plastic label explaining “These pesticides are approved by the EPA”.


Well, that’s nice, but you should beward of them and find an alternative source for your fruit and herb plants that you are planning to eat from.

So what are neonicotinoids? These are a new type of pesticide that, according to every website on the internet that shows up when you search “neonicotinoids”, make their way into every cell of a plant to kill off pests. This pesticide gets to the nervous system of the insect to kill it.  Search further and you will find stories that tell of proof that neonicotinoids are harming bees, Monarch butterflies and more.

So, if every cell of a plant sprayed with this substance now contains this neurotoxin, what is it doing to humans that eat from the plant? And did I mention it’s approved by the EPA. So the EPA is approving my food?

I believe it is very irresponsible for any garden shop to sell products sprayed with this substance.  The best thing we humans can do is boycott the products and let the stores know that we won’t tolerate this pesticide.

If you live in a Garden-Store Desert and don’t have the quality plants to purchase, consider starting your garden from seed.  You need to start early and plant seeds indoors while it is still chilly out.  If you have passed that schedule of planting talk to your local garden shop about stocking organically grown plants.  There are also online garden shops that will ship plants to you. Below a list of a few.

I do not endorse one over another and if I’ve missed listing your favorite, please leave a comment for other readers to learn about it.  I am also not getting paid by any that I list.

The lesson here is: pay attention to what you purchase, read the tags in your plants and avoid pesticides on your edibles.

Just a few online Nurseries:

Garden Visitor

Golden Orb Spider (c) eileensaunders


I do hope this one stays away from the front door to my house. Its web is attached to the far corner of my rather large porch. Last year a spider like this one strung himself up between the crepe myrtles along my front sidewalk and the first post on my porch.  It was rather awkward and when I moved it, it came back.  Creepy but beneficial, I am hopeful that it will devour the bee that stalks my dog.