Decorate living trees with edible ornaments to feed the birds
After Christmas, your living cut tree can be moved outside and redecorated for birds. Anchor the tree in a bucket filled with wet sand or tie it to a fence or tree. Put on strings of popcorn and cranberries. Apples, oranges, leftover bread and pine cones covered in peanut butter and then dipped in birdseed can also be added. For best results, push edible ornaments well into the tree so they don’t come off as easily.
While the outdoor gardening season is over, with the exception of pruning and watching for animal damage, you can still garden indoors trying to grow herbs. Sow seeds of parsley, oregano, sage and dwarf basil in terracotta pots. Once they’ve sprouted, place them under grow lights and water them when they’re very dry. Fertilize the plants with a half-strength solution of a liquid fertilizer.
â¢ Consider repurposing your natural Christmas decorations by recycling Christmas tree branches (cut into 2-3 foot sections), garlands, wreaths and other evergreen materials as mulch for the garden and beds. -bands of perennials. It is best to remove non-plant items, such as garlands and wire, before placing them in the garden. Light, open evergreens allow moisture to reach the ground, but also help insulate plant roots and crowns from the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle of Midwestern winters. Greens can also be arranged in containers for winter interest.
â¢ It is easier to notice animal damage in the garden when you see the tracks. With the lack of snow so far this winter, it’s a good idea to walk around the garden once a week or so to watch for animal damage and install or adjust gates as needed. Look for the gnawed bark at the base of trees and shrubs.
Rabbits can cause considerable damage during the winter by feeding on shrubs. As the snow accumulates, they may reach higher and higher to eat. Chicken wire will work well to exclude rabbits. Hanging soap or hair in the branches will generally not be a deer grazing deterrent. Use physical barriers such as wire or netting to protect plants from deer.
Yews and arborvitae are deer favorites and will likely be grazed in areas where deer are active. Repellents can be applied when temperatures are above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain will wash away repellents over time, so a fall application may not provide protection for the whole winter.
â¢ Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.