New Year's Resolutions

Posted 1/6/19

Are you as tired of making New Year’s resolutions and then breaking them as I am?  My resolutions were actually very simple … get my garage organized, get in shape, and lose some …

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New Year's Resolutions


Are you as tired of making New Year’s resolutions and then breaking them as I am?  My resolutions were actually very simple … get my garage organized, get in shape, and lose some weight.  We are only in the second week of January and my garage looks like it was hit by a tropical hurricane (maybe one of these days I will get the enjoyment of actually parking a vehicle in there), I was taking out the garbage the other day and actually had to stop and rest on the way to the dumpster, and I have gained five pounds.  This makes me a perfect 0 for 3 on resolutions, I hope you are doing better.

One resolution that each of us homeowners should make and keep this year is to get the upper hand on problem lawn weeds.  Let’s be honest, there is absolutely nothing easy, automatic, or especially cheap about controlling weeds in the lawn.  There is no such thing as one product that will take care of all kinds of weed problems in all situations no matter how much we all want there to be such a product. One of these days I’m going to invent such a product that will also control plant diseases, insects, and make you lose weight at the same time. I will simply call it “spray” and retire. Many things must be considered when selecting a chemical for lawn application. These may include the type of weed or weeds you have, certainly the type of lawn grass you have, the equipment you have to work with, and the timing.

The old saying that timing is everything couldn’t be truer than for weed control. All chemical herbicides come basically as one of two types… preemergence herbicides that must be applied BEFORE the weeds germinate and postemergence herbicides that must be applied only AFTER weeds are up and growing.

The month of February is a great time to use a preemergence herbicide for the control of summer weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass. Remember that since these are summer weeds and we are using a preemergence herbicide, you will not see the crabgrass that you are hoping to avoid. There are many great preemergence products to choose from.  Some are concentrated liquid products, while some are granular.  Just make sure the produce you choose is labeled for the kind of grass you have or severe damage can and probably will occur. For example products that contain atrazine will work wonders for centipede lawns with weed problems, but they will cause damage or stand loss if applied to cool season grasses such as fescue or even other non-dormant warm season grasses. There are several “crabgrass preventers” on the market and labeled for cool season grasses these include but are not limited to products containing the chemical benefin, trifluralin, bensulide, dithiopyr, isoxaben, prodiamine, or pendimethalin. These names are undoubtedly strange sounding and unfamiliar to you. They are chemical names and not individual product names.  Many local co-ops, garden centers, and stores carry different product lines with different names. Searching for products by the chemical name will help ensure that you do indeed choose the correct product. There are other preemergence products available for warm season turfs, some that work only for grassy weeds, some work only for broadleaf weeds, some require watering, some do not need watering, most preemergence products have a wait period, however,  between application and reseeding. If you are planning on seeding a summer grass into your lawn area, be very careful which preemergence herbicide you choose as some have a six month wait period before reseeding.

Your best bet for season-long weed control is to apply a preemergence herbicide in February and again in early fall around late September or early October. A post emergence herbicide such a 2-4,D or one of the other phenoxy herbicides can be used to spot treat any broadleaf weeds which escape your preemergence treatment. 

Another great New Year’s resolution (which does not involve cleaning, dieting, or exercise) is to be kind to our bird friends.

Many different types of feeders are available and should be chosen according to the type of birds you wish to attract. Basic platform feeders are favorites because they generally a lot of seeds and provide perching areas for several birds at any one time. Covered platform feeders are very handy (and what I recommend) since they will protect your seed from rain, snow, and ice. Tube feeders, especially those with small perches, attract more of the smaller songbirds and will be used less frequently by larger birds like cardinals and blue jays that rarely feed on dangling or swaying feeders.

Regardless of the type of feeder you select or the type of seed mix you use, your feeders should be cleaned regularly with hot water and mild detergent. All wet, moldy, or spoiled seed mix should be removed as soon as possible. Moldy food can actually be toxic to the birds that feed on it. You should also select a bird feed mix that contains black oil sunflower seed as the main ingredient. These mixes cost a little more but they will attract less nuisance birds such as starlings and grackles and they are much better for the birds. Mixes that contain large amounts of small seeded ingredients such as milo will not only attract nuisance birds but will also germinate and cause weed problems around your feeder when they are spilled or dropped by the birds.

Many species of birds that cannot be attracted to seed feeders can be drawn to suet feeders. Suet is a hard type of animal (usually beef) fat which provides birds with a high energy diet. My doctor might take offense to that and remind me of what it does to my cholesterol level, but hey birds are different….right? And besides, they probably get a lot more exercise than I get anyway which would make my doctor very happy. Suet feeders usually attract birds that normally feed on proteins…in this case insects. Thrashers, flickers, woodpeckers, wrens, sparrows, and thrushes are just a few of the birds commonly seen at well-placed suet feeders. You can actually make a very simple suet feeder using ½ inch hardware cloth. Cage-like feeders constructed of hardware cloth should be attached to trees five to six feed (about shoulder to head high) above the ground and left open on the top so that new suet can be easily added. The mesh bags that such produce as onions and oranges are commonly sold in also makes good “ do it yourself” suet feeders.

If you opt not to buy pre-made suet bricks from local outlets, you can make a suet substitute by using one part vegetable shortening, one part peanut butter, three parts yellow cornmeal, one part cracked corn, and one part flour. You can even use this mixture by packing it in a large pine cone such as a longleaf pine cone for a real “do it yourself feeder”.

For seed feeders, sunflower seeds will attract the widest variety of birds and are the recommended choice for hanging and pole-mounted feeders. The smaller black oil type sunflower seeds are preferred by most songbirds. When using mixed seeds, avoid mixes containing milo, wheat, oats, rye, or rice.  These types of seeds do not appeal to most songbirds and will attract nuisance birds such as pigeons and starlings. Mixes containing sunflower seeds, white prose millet, peanut hearts, cracked corn, and safflower are preferable but are generally a little more expensive. Thistle seeds placed in specialized small tube feeders with tiny openings are readily used by small birds such as goldfinches.

While most of us think only about plants and flowers to add color to dull winter landscapes, I personally think a great way to add color and interest to your winter garden or landscape is to attract various colorful bird species. You might also take advantage of this time of year to add a few plants that will help attract wildlife well into the future. Crabapples, hollies, elderberry, beautyberry and even dogwoods all produce fruits or berries that will attract animals and birds to your backyard.  While we are talking about birds, it is almost time for the bluebirds to begin their annual nesting activity so don’t forget to clean out those bluebird boxes or else place those new ones that you received for Christmas around your landscape or gardens.