Peas on Earth

“Peas” on Earth
I have a holiday and Christmas wish for Michigan this year. An El Nino’ winter because my opinion is we deserve it after the last two winters we’ve all endured. I remember past El Nino’ November months in West Michigan. Wearing short sleeve shirts as we put the garden to bed for winter and stringing lots of Christmas lights outdoors to celebrate the holidays ahead. We would unload Christmas trees, in by November standards, warm temperatures. These were the years that due to a lack of ice and snow people would be inclined to string a lot of Christmas lights on the home and in the landscape. The final leaves of fall are raked in November and tilled into the garden. Anticipation of the upcoming holidays builds as we begin to decorate indoors and out. I am not a meteorologist, but when scientists predict an El Nino’ winter due to warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures it gets my attention.

After two very cold winters could the winter of 2015/2016 be an El Nino winter in the Midwest?
After two very cold winters could the winter of 2015/2016 be an El Nino winter in the Midwest?

Warmer November temperatures allow us to “hoe hoe hoe” extending the gardening season in West Michigan and get the ladders and extension cords out to string some “electric ivy”. I call it “peas” on earth and good “till’ towards men and women to enjoy the great outdoors in November.
November is a great month to take cuttings from the natural landscape to add to fresh greens for Porch Pots. These entry door containers are an inviting welcome to holiday visitors. Pruned Rose Hips from the rose bushes, lengths of Russian Sage, Red Twig Dogwood branches or Birch Branches as examples are great compliments to fresh evergreen boughs in containers for entryways. Now that the flowers are frozen but the soil is still workable, arrange the branches in these containers and they will look great through the holidays into February.

Porch Pots provide a great natural welcome to guests arriving at your home
Porch Pots provide a great natural welcome to guests arriving at your home

Forcing bulbs for indoor color is another way to brighten the home. Paperwhite narcissus and Amaryllis are easy to grow bulbs to flower indoors otherwise known as “forcing”. You can also still purchase Tulips and Daffodils or Hyacinths to plant outdoors or “force” indoors into bloom.

Bulbs for forcing indoors are wonderful little orbs of potential
Bulbs for forcing indoors are wonderful little orbs of potential

 

 

 

Finally don’t forget that indoor foliage plants are our friends as we spend more time indoors in the winter months. They can improve indoor air quality and keep us connected to nature as the winter months arrive. Try to give your foliage plants a brightly lit window and rotate them from time to time. Remember not to kill them with kindness as the shorter days and less light of winter causes them to require far less water than the summer months.

Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!
Foliage plants like these Sanseveria (pictured) are a welcome and healthy addition to any home!

Fowl Play

When the landscape is white and the sky gray and dreary we long for color as we glance out the window. Time for a little “fowl play”. Just the “tweetment” for the winter blues, backyard birding is among the most active hobbies in the United States and Canada. Backyard birds provide color and movement in our otherwise dreary landscapes in January.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hill

Our feathered backyard friends have ways of staying warm on cold days. They shiver to increase their metabolic rate, fluff their feathers to provide some insulation and look for cover both from the cold wind and predators. Small birds have the toughest time in winter. For the entertainment they provide we in return  should consider providing some food for energy and warmth. It’s the least we can do while they’re out there “winging” it.

The best of the best bird feed to use is black oil sunflower seed. A high energy food, black oil sunflower seed “fills the bill” for both large and small birds. Another great high energy and versatile feed along with being economical is suet.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hill

There are many great flavors of suet cakes available today and they’re easy to use.  Suet is consumed by a large variety of birds and is a great supplement when insects are hard to find for a snack. Don’t forget some peanuts, safflower, thistle seed and shelled corn as well as millet. These feeds will provide the supplemental nutrition the birds need when their natural food sources are more difficult to find in the dead of winter. When food is scarce and the air is cold you don’t want the birds to become birds of “pray” just to get by.

Make sure feeders are kept clean and sanitary. This goes for the ground around the base of the feeding station also.

Make sure to add plenty of Black Oil Sunflower

Position feeders a short flight away from natural cover in the landscape so they have some cover from predators (I hate it “wren” that happens). Also make sure feeders are at least 20 feet or more from windows. If the birds get spooked you don’t want them crashing into a window as they make their get away. If possible consider feeding birds during all 4 seasons. They can really use the help right now, but 4 season stations reward the property owner with a rainbow of fowl color all year. The birds will love it and you won’t “egret” it.

“Bush” Ups

We’re in the middle of hot and steamy weather. Have you thought about how plants perspire (called transpiration) like people in the heat? While the stomata or “pores” of a leaf are open for the passage of carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, they may just decide to close up shop if things get too hot and stressful for the plant.

Hot Hot Hot!

If that happens loss of turgor occurs and the plant wilts. If the roots fail to keep up with the rate of transpiration decline or death occurs or as I call it “involuntary plant slaughter”. Actually humid weather can be our friend. There is less transpiration when the air is still and both the foliage and the air are humid. Dry windy air speeds transpiration as the air and leaf surface contrast in condition. Plants of course do transpire more rapidly when the temperatures are high and the days are long. That’s why plant conditioning is so important both before and after a stressful event. I call the conditioning “bush ups” simply meaning pay attention to proper soil preparation, mulching, feeding and care so that when the stressful event arrives like a week of hot weather, your plants can stay grounded, survive the heat wave and weather the stress.