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Helping Birds Survive the Winter

Wintertime, and the living ain't easy for our fine feathered friends. Birds prepare as best as they can for the cold weather but can still have difficulties finding adequate food, water and shelter. Some birds migrate to get away from cold weather, but not all species of birds do. For those that stick around, the winter weather limits their food sources and leaves them relying on us to help them survive. There are a few things we can do to help birds get through those cold winter days:

Make Seed Available
In winter, Nature’s seed sources are depleted after most plants go dormant, and stocked feeders provide the nourishing diets and extra calories birds need to stay warm. Even if seed is available, the brisk winter winds often blow away seed and excess moisture makes available food inedible. Not to mention the shorter days give birds less time to spend searching for food.

Provide High-Energy Food
Birds burn fat for energy to stay warm. It’s important to choose bird feed that is high in calories and high in fat like suet, peanut butter, peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds. Unsalted peanuts are another excellent winter food, since nuts don't freeze and are high in calories, oil and fat. These high-energy foods give birds the fuel they need to maintain warm body temperatures during the long, cold nights.

Provide Extra Calories
In summer, birds have an endless supply of insects and fruits to eat, but in winter, insects and fruits are nowhere to be found. While some birds migrate, the birds that don’t will adjust their diet from fruit and insects to seeds. Extra feeding helps them prepare for spring mating, and when birds have access to more nutrients in winter, the spring mating season will be more successful. Chicks will have healthier weights and egg laying will happen earlier.

Provide a Safe Place for Feeding
When food is difficult for birds to find, it’s also harder for squirrels, mice, raccoons and stray cats to find, too. Help protect birds by placing food sources near thick brush or other natural canopies to keep them safe while feeding.

Provide Water
It’s difficult for birds to find fresh water in winter once it begins to freeze, but water is essential not only to help them stay hydrated but also to assists them with clean up between flights. Birds not only use water to stay hydrated, but they also utilize water to preen their feathers, which helps to keep them insulated keeping them warmer and healthier. Simply breaking up ice in existing bird baths and keeping them full will help provide them with fresh water during the frigid winter months.

To learn more about what seed attracts specific birds click here .

Pruning, McDonald Garden Center

Why Prune? Winter Pruning of Tress & Shrubs

Winter, a peaceful time in the garden when trees and shrubs spend time patiently waiting for spring’s arrival. This quiet state is an extremely important stage of their annual life cycle and the perfect opportunity for you to help promote good plant health and vigor by pruning. Pruning is a regular part of plant maintenance involving the selective removal of specific plant parts. Although shoots and branches are the main targets for removal, roots, flower buds, fruits and seed pods may also be pruned. Pruning not only helps to boost your home’s curb appeal but also allows for proper plant growth, as well as helping to control insects and plant related diseases. We’ve outlined some of the other key benefit of pruning trees and shrubs during the dormant, winter months:

Improved Appearance and/or Health. Prompt removal of diseased, damaged, or dead plant parts accelerates the formation of callus tissue and may limit the spread of insects and disease. For trees, pruning a dense canopy allows for better air circulation and sunlight penetration. To avoid future problems, remove crossing branches that rub or interfere with each other and any that form narrow crotches.

Control Plant Size. Pruning reduces the size of a plant, so it remains in proportion with your landscape. Pruning can also decrease shade, prevent interference with utility lines, and allows for better access for pest control.

Prevent Personal Injury or Property Damage. Removing dead or low limbs makes underlying areas safer. Pruning can also reduce wind resistance in trees. Prune shrubs with thorny branches back from walkways and other heavily-traveled areas. We recommend that you have certified arborists handle any pruning work in the crowns of large trees.

Train Young Plants. Training main scaffold branches (those that form the structure of the canopy) helps to produce stronger and more vigorous trees. Shaping branches with hand pruners while a plant is young is much easier than pruning larger branches later.

Encourages Fruiting and Flowering. Proper pruning of flower buds encourages early growth. There are also selective pruning techniques that will help stimulate flowering in some species and help produce larger (yet fewer) fruits in others.

Rejuvenate Old Trees and Shrubs. As trees and shrubs mature, their forms may become unruly. Pruning can restore vigor and enhance the appearance of plants.

To learn more about why, when and what to prune, join us at our Independence location on Saturday, January 11, 2020, at 2PM, for our complimentary Winter Pruning 101 seminar, a comprehensive guide to pruning by the McDonald Garden Center experts. For details of the Winter Pruning 101 seminar information click here .

For addiitonal information on pruning click on the video below.