atTRACTING birdS TO YOUR garden


Birds require four basic needs to be happy:

·        Food

·        Water

·        Protection from predators and weather, and

·        A safe place to raise their young.

FOOD : Pick plants that provide berries or fruit such as viburnums, currents, hawthorns, and crab apples (especially those that hold their fruit longer). Elderberries are popular and there are several variegated leaf ones, so you can have beauty for you as well as bird food.   Red cedar berries are a favorite of many birds, such as finch, sparrows, and of course cedar wax wings. If you’ve ever had a cherry tree you already realize the birds will probably beat you to the fruit.

          Many of our native wildflowers such as sunflowers, coneflowers, rose hips, and sumacs provide for a junco to perch while he eats. Then as a fun way to watch birds, you can put feeders.  Some birds like some seeds better than other so you can play favorites and stock your feeders to attract your choice.  Birds may feed on the ground, on hanging bird feeders, or in trays of various levels.  Be sure your trays drain so the food doesn’t get soggy.

WATER: Water is almost more essential than food as many people are now feeding at some time of the year.  Bird temperatures are higher than ours and on a 100 degree day they need to drink as well as cool off. A bath deeper than 2 inches doesn’t work as well. I have one about 3 inches deep that I put a brick in.  The larger birds like it but the tiny ones do not.  I have five baths going in the summer and they are busy!  Since they drink and bathe in the same water it needs to be cleaned out and changed          daily.          This also prevents mosquitoes from breeding there. During the winter my one heated bird bath is used so much it    has to be refilled every day.

          Have you ever watched a starling taking a bath at 0 degrees F. outside?  Just remember the water is above 32 degrees so it’s actually warm!

PROTECTION:  Protection is extremely important as the hawks and other predators are also hungry.  Tight evergreens keep snow and rain off as well as being a good place to hide.  Near your feeders and baths there needs to be shrubs or trees for escape as baby birds are naked so need shade and cover. Hedges work well here if they are thick enough. Tall grasses are fun!  In the winter you can see the small birds swinging on the seed heads as they eat.

          For more information NebGuides and Educational Circulars (G and EC) and some NebFacts (NF) are available on the internet. Go to On the left in the box type in the name of the plant, or the subject (such as Birds or Wildlife), or the name of the pest (insect or disease or weed), then hit search. The following NebGuides are available on birds and wildlife: #G1571 (Backyard Wildlife: Planting for Habitat), and #1572 (Landscape Plants for Wildlife). These are also available from your local county extension office. There may be a charge for some publications

Copyright 2009



geranium budworm

by george edgar

          The past few years Geraniums and Petunias have been hit by a “Geranium Budworm”, also known as a Tobacco Budworm.  These worms drill into the bud of the plant and proceed to eat the heart out of the flower bud.  If the bud opens, it is all chewed up. Sometimes, they also attack the leaves. When you see the small (usually green) worm, that is the time to spray.

          Budworms can be controlled with repeated applications of Bt (bacillus thuringensis) or permethrin (Eight).  Bt is an organic biological insecticide and sold as a liquid concentrate (Thuricide) or as a wettable powder (Dipel). Both need to be mixed with water and used as a spray. Mix and use as directed on the label. Repeat weekly until infestation is over. Bt is the best and works on most all worms and caterpillars. Remember that not all caterpillars are destructive. Some turn into beautiful Butterflies.

Copyright 2009




            Spring flowering shrubs such as old fashioned Spirea ( Van Houtte also known as Bridal Wreath), French or old fashioned Lilac, Forsythia, Flowering Almond, and Viburnum should be pruned as soon as they are done blooming. You only have a three to four week window to prune these shrubs without removing the flower buds for next year. Thinning type of pruning each year is best where you remove one-fourth of the oldest canes clear to the ground in order to open up the plant for new growth and to shorten the height. Next years flowers will develop on the new wood that will grow this summer. For Lilac this will also remove the oldest canes that are very susceptible to the Lilac Borer which usually attacks canes that are 4 to 5 years old or older.

          Pruning at any other time of year on these spring blooming shrubs will remove next year’s flowers. Do not just shear these shrubs at the same height as this will produce excessive or unsightly branch formation where you cut. Thinning out the oldest branches at the ground maintains the natural habit of growth and usually results in lowering the height of the shrub. Viburnum and the other shrubs mentioned really benefits from this rejuvenation pruning if they are overgrown.

Copyright 2009