bird house

Prep for spring garden with this winter to-do list…

Getting more organized rests somewhere in the middle of my lengthy list of New Year’s resolutions. It includes staying on top of my regular gardening chores and getting ahead of each gardening season before it’s upon me. 
With spring around the corner, the first step is taking stock of the garden and setting some goals.  This is when I put pencil to paper and get tough on my landscape, thinking about both tasks and major projects.
In addition to tackling major items, there are also many simple chores to be done.  Here are a few of the things you can do now so you’re ready when it’s time to start planting.
Winter to-do list
Clean out your pots and containers.  It’s important to start fresh when you pot up new plants.  Old pottery can contain salt deposits or diseases borne by last season’s plants.  Physically remove old dirt or debris with a scrub brush. If you can, submerge the pots in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. If the pots are too big for that, pour the water all around them.   Then be sure to rinse them well and dry them in the sun.
Take stock of your garden tools.  Rusty, dirty, dull, or broken tools need to be prepared for the hard work you’ll demand of them when the weather warms up.  First, scrub your tools with soapy water and dry them well.  You can use steel wool or a wire brush to remove rust.  Then smooth out old wooden handles with a little elbow grease and some sandpaper.  Sharpen your clean equipment with a metal file, smoothing out nicks or jagged edges.  Finally, apply a little lubricating oil to the metal blade and wooden handles and rub it in well so it isn’t slippery.  And if your pruners have seen better days, consider buying a new pair. Nothing makes garden work easier than a shiny new pair of pruners.
Check your irrigation system.Whether you have a sprinkler system or you’ve set up your own drip hose system, give it a good inspection, looking for leaks, clogs and areas not receiving adequate coverage.  Making sure everything is in good working order will save time and money later, preventing you from having to dig up dead or dying new plants in the spring.
Amend your soil.  Does clay or limestone make digging impossible in your garden?  Did the scorching summer heat turn the soil in your beds rock-hard? Use this time to amend the soil in your beds.  A good soil blend, with some form of compost, granite sand and gypsum can help to lighten up our poor soil. There are many good independent local sources for soil – both in bulk and bagged – that work well in Central Texas.
Clean your birdhouses.  In March, make sure your birdhouses are ready for their new inhabitants.  If the house is vacant, open the roof or the back door to the house and empty out the nest.  Wipe down the box with a bleach solution like that used for cleaning your pots.  Then hang it back up with a welcome sign for a new brood of baby birds.

While winter is a slower season in the garden, it doesn’t last long here in Central Texas.  The time for putting your feet up and perusing seed catalogs is quickly coming to an end.   

Make sure you’re ready when the garden calls again.  What’s on your to-do list?

Some color in the winter garden…

The sun came out today and I took a tour around my garden, basking in the warmth.  As I passed each plant, mental notes began to form. 

Cut this one back in a month…this one fared really well in the last freeze…oh no, I should have covered that one…and, best of all…hey — this one is blooming!

Against the backdrop of grey and brown, several bright spots dotted the landscape.

 If you were a bird, wouldn’t you love spending the winter here?

 Although the roses have turned to hips, the tips of the branches remain alive with budding color.

 Apparently, the cold weather agrees with my viburnum.

 My absolute favorite spring bloomer, Japanese Quince, has begun showing off bright flowers against it’s spiny, sculptural branches.

 And next to it, the primrose Jasmine is bursting into blooms and buds as well.

 The variegated ascot rainbow spurge has been transformed from the lime and yellow stripes it sported in summer to this rich, dark green and burgundy. 

And the sight of yaupon holly berries brings the woods to life with their shiny fruit.

While I’m certainly eager for the budding days of spring, it brings me a sense that all is right with the world as I watch the garden unfold across the seasons, as it is surely meant to do.

Plenty of birdhouses for nesting birds

This year we have three bird nests that I know of.

But there could be many more in the garden where birds are sneaking in and out and hiding from me.

But even with all these beautiful and inviting homes, the swallows are nesting under the tall rock front porch ceiling again. Mama wren is nesting in the sombrero hanging in the garage — shown in my previous post here.

I’m always nervous about cleaning the houses out because the experts at Wild Birds Unlimited tell me that birds can be nesting in them at any time of the year.

This one was a gift from my parents for Christmas.
This one is in the front walkway bed on a stick so it’s the least likely to have inhabitants.
My converted gourd has seen better days — but it was too cute when I first got it (especially since I didn’t have to hollow out the gourd myself!)
Ok, this isn’t a birdhouse, but it is a butterfly house and it’s cute, so it made this cut.
This is for the particularly patriotic birds.
And this is the townhouse the Titmice are squatting in right now.
Not sure if there is anyone in this one — but it’s probably my favorite.

Might be a little loud for the birds!

Eggs in the bird nest

Count them. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven speckled little Carolina wren eggs. Sitting in a tree…wait, no, sitting in a …hat!

We’re had a wren flying in and out of the garage now for weeks. We tried to keep her from making the nest, but now that we’ve discovered it, we’re keeping the garage open so she can stay with her eggs.

This is an old Sombrero left over from a fiesta-themed summer party. Imagine my surprise to find that it’s become a stylish condo for Mrs. Wren.

Her cousin was nesting in the garage last spring — here she’s in a lovely blue and white porcelain flower pot. Sadly, opening and closing of the garage door before we knew she was there kept her from the nest too long and there were no babies last spring.

I’m hoping we found the hat nest in time this year.

Babies in the nest!

Mrs. Titmouse has been seen sneaking into this lovely birdhouse town home for a while. But I couldn’t tell if she was just going to dinner and going back to sit on her eggs, or if there were babies in there. I tried to peer in there when she was gone, but it’s quite dark in there and the babies are a long way down since it’s a two-story!
Then yesterday when she flew to the nest, I heard the magical, musical “chiro, chirp, chirp” of babies when she landed on the doorstep. This morning I perched in the woods to try to get a picture of her going in the nest. She was onto me though. She landed up in the tree above me and cackled at me – fussing loudly about my intrusion.
But I stood very still and waiting until she felt more at ease, and sure enough, she ventured down. She perched on the hook first, before she slipped into the nest to bring breakfast tacos (ok, that may be a stretch!) to her babies.

It has to be a good day after that, doesn’t it?

Gardener goodies…

Holidays are always fun when you’re a gardener. There is a never-ending supply of wonderful gifts for gardeners. From gloves to ceramic pots to garden art — even non-gardeners can find something fun to give.

And I believe you can never have too many bird feeders, houses, or baths. (More on that in my next post.)

So it’s always interesting to see what’s behind the gift wrap.

I love this little seat – it’s so portable and comfortable to sit on, and being able to tuck my hand tools in it is wonderful.
This is the most unusual gift I have ever received. My dear friend, Kristen, gave me this little package. In it? Rose seeds that are registered with a number, and waiting for ME to grow and name the rose. How cool is that?

I’m waiting anxiously to plant my seeds. I think they will get their start in the greenhouse, which is perfect for seeds this time of the year.

Naming my rose, will be another matter altogether. No pressure there! Any ideas or suggestions for names? There hundreds if not thousands of roses out there. The process will certainly have to include making sure the name I choose isn’t already taken.
This adorable birdhouse is just waiting for a new family to move in. I wonder who will find it appealing? Cardinals, wrens, titmice, finches? We’ll keep watch for our new neighbors!