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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The direction of a birdhouse's entrance hole


 
   
You could put up a birdhouse (or “nestbox”) at the right height, with the right design and in just the right place, but birds still may turn down your invitation. Maybe it’s the direction that the entrance hole faces. Avoid facing it into the prevailing winds, or the direction from which most spring storms come. In north Texas that means the hole should face generally east (anywhere from SE to NE is ok). In Texas’ heat, you don’t want the hot, west sun to shine inside a birdhouse - ever.

            The Cornell Lab of Ornithology did research, proving that more birds fledge from boxes that face east. In fact, several friends have reported that Bluebirds have laid eggs in boxes already. It’s certainly not too early to put one up since many birds produce several broods – all summer long. Generally it's the older birds (with more experience) that produce early or very late broods. Putting a house up now should help them get used to its being there.
 
Many Texas birds don't even use birdhouses, preferring to build their own nests. So please put out plenty of nest-building material too.

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bought Weed & Feed recently? Big mistake!!


“Weed ‘n feed” is a two-in-one weed killing and fertilizer product which claims to kill weeds and fertilize the grass in a single application.  It’s often used purely out of habit, and is marketed under varying brand names, none of which work.
The idea of accomplishing two tasks in one action have made weed ‘n feed among the most frequently used lawn care products. But Weed 'n feed actually weakens your lawn—causing the kind of fast, weak, unnatural growth that makes your yard susceptible to pests and disease.

1.      It doesn’t work as advertised
The two ingredients in weed ‘n feed products simply aren’t meant to be applied at the same time. The pre-emergent part of it should be applied about 2 months earlier than the soluble fertilizer part of “weed n feed”. Putting them both in the same bag doesn't change this.

 2. Excessive application of weed killers is wasteful and dangerous.
Granular “weed and feed” products are applied to the entire lawn, not merely to areas of weeds, which results in chemicals being applied where they are not needed.  One ingredient should be applied to the entire lawn, and one is intended for problem spots. In most lawns, broadleaf weeds like dandelions usually occupy less than five or 10 per cent of the area.

Most contain 20 to 30 percent more weed killer than is really needed – too much fertilizer too. When we give lawns more food than they need, the excess fertilizer ends up polluting groundwater because plants simply can’t absorb it all.
3. They can kill your trees.
Quick-release fertilizers, commonly used in most weed ‘n feed products, apply a quick and heavy dose of nutrients to the lawn, and are likely to wash off. Another main ingredient in “weed and feed” – atrazine, should never be used on 99.9% of residential sites, and many commercial sites. Simply said, atyrtazine kills trees in addition to broad-leasf weeds. And tree roots cover the entirety of many residential lots.

For this reason alone I do not recommend Scotts Bonus S, Vigero, Sam’s Club weed n feed and a few others.  Studies have also linked weed-and-feed pesticides to massive bird deaths.
4. Long-term lawn health is compromised.
Once you begin a program of using synthetic fertilizers, your lawn becomes dependent on these chemicals for every following year. However, over-fertilizing with synthetic chemicals disinfects or kills most of the beneficial fungi and organisms in soil. This makes it more difficult to build naturally healthy turf which contains beneficial organisms. Result;  you need to buy more of their products every year.

5. There are safer, more effective alternatives.
Inundating your lawn with synthetic chemicals may do harm to other living things that frequent your yard. Pets, wildlife, even small children may be harmed. The good news is that you can have a beautiful, healthy lawn without using blanket applications of synthetic chemicals.

Consumers should also realize that weed ‘n feed products do not prevent new weeds from growing. You can prevent new weeds from germinating by applying a pre-emergent herbicide during that first warm spell in spring and in the early fall. One of the best pre-emergents is corn gluten meal, a completely natural substance that also provides the benefits of fertilizing. Corn gluten meal is an organic alternative to weed ‘n feed.

In short, if you bought weed n feed, and haven’t put it on you lawn yet, take it back.

 


 

Where is the “east-west” division?       In the north Texas area we see the Eastern Bluebird, the Eastern Phoebe and the Western Kingbird. Not to mention the Northern Mockingbird. Huh??
 

The clarity of the east-west line has gotten a little fuzzy. According to Roger Tory Peterson, “the logical division is a belt between the hundredth meridian and the foothills of the Rockies”. In other words, the east-west divider is not so much a “line” as a “region”. Informally it’s the Rocky Mountains.
 

However, since birds can fly, they can be found almost anywhere. Members of several bird species have flown over the Rockies. A few species are actually IN the Rockies. In north Texas, the bird species are more “east” than “west”.

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.