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Saturday, August 10, 2013

homemade Bird-Drip attracts lots of birds on hot days, and recycles too!

We've all seen it - birds are magnetically attracted to dripping water on hot days. Several complicated contraptions are sold in stores that do this.  Some even work!!

However, here's one you can quickly make yourself, with things that are very likely in your house already. The cost - zero.  All you need to find is an empty milk jug, a push-pin, about a gallon of water, and a way to hang it up.

Fill a plastic, one-gallon jug with plain water. Put the jug's lid on loosely and poke a tiny hole (I use a push-pin) on the jug's side, near the bottom (about half an inch above the base). Hang the jug above a birdbath, or an old plate or tray, and let it drip. Tighten or loosen the lid (or poke holes in it) to adjust the flow. Refill as necessary.

This sort of setup is an efficient way to constantly water a plant too, although it may look to your neighbors like you're starting your own landfill.

Stick it to them.    Lots of folks are fans of dragonflies and damselflies, in addition to birds. Here’s a simple trick to attract them; just stick a bare twig (2 or 3 ft. long) into the ground. In or near a wet or muddy area is best. Then just sit back and watch the “odonates” (as they’re called) perch on the end of it in hot, sunny weather, to watch for mosquitoes, which they eat voraciously.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to care for your landscape in this super-hot weather

crying about it won't help
When the weather in north Texas lingers around 100 degrees, and won’t budge, it’ll undoubtedly take a toll on your landscape. This inhumane heat is usually accompanied by relentless drought too, which can spell doom for plants. There’s not
much you can do to change the temperature, but you CAN help your plants survive, although tender, non-native plants are likely to wither away.

Make sure that plants in your yard are native (or well-adapted) to the Texas heat. (You probably should have considered this several months ago, when selecting your plants.)  The plants you have now, that die, should just be left in place. The “remains” will naturally mulch adjacent plants, helping them survive.

Resist the temptation to plant new plants right now, unless you’re prepared to give them extensive daily maintenance. Many plants are nearly dormant in this heat anyway. (As a Landscape Architect, I tell my customers who want to plant now just to dump them right into the trash, after buying them. They’ll probably end up in the trash anyway, and you’ll be saving a step.)   

Right now, mulch is essential. Just about the worst thing you can do is rake up and remove all the “leaf litter” of dead leaves, small twigs and dead plants that currently serve as a natural mulch, keeping moisture from evaporating rapidly and providing a bit of much-needed shade to the root-zone of plants.

For a grassy lawn, cut it as high as possible. Grass won’t grow much now anyway - so you may be able to cut your grass just every other week. The lawn mower I have is now set at “4” (as high as it will go). The logic behind this is that the millions of grass blades provide shade for the root-zone of grass plants; and more shade means more green grass and lower water usage.

When you do water, try not to let the water run off – the object it to allow it to soak into the soil, encouraging roots to grow deeper. Exactly how you accomplish this depends on the watering system and the topography of your landscape. Some folks water for a just a few minutes, every hour or so. Others water in the early morning. The method is not crucial, just keep the goal in mind.

For potted plants and hanging baskets, try putting lots of ice cubes on top of the soil. As they slowly melt they’ll thoroughly water the plant, instead of letting much of it pour out the drain-hole, as it does when liquid is dumped on all at once.

Speaking of water, put out as many birdbaths as possible during the heat. Temporarily use anything that can hold water, and refresh it daily. (an upside-down garbage can lid is more enticing to birds than many “birdbaths” I’ve seen sold in stores.)

Despite everything, some plants are bound to die. That’s the world’s natural process. But remember, the cooler days starting in mid-September aren’t very far away.