Friday, October 26th, 2018

Outdoor Living: Backyard Birding in Fall and Winter

While many people put out seed and fill bird baths in the spring and summer, caring for birds tends to be largely forgotten when the leaves turn and the snow flies – a shame, because at this time of year it is actually more important than ever to look out for the birds. The tough birds that stick around for our cold and snowy months have many ways of coping, like growing extra feathers or huddling together for warmth.

Here are some ways to support and encourage bird activity in your backyard over the fall and winter:

Food

As you can imagine, finding adequate food sources is a lot trickier for birds over winter than during the summer, so keeping your feeders full is a big help. Some birds actually store food for the winter, while others adapt by changing from a diet of insects to one of seeds, nuts, and berries.

In order to attract the widest variety of birds, place several feeders with different types of seed around your yard. A mixture containing a good percentage of sunflower or safflower seeds (or both!) is a good place to start.

Birds need grit – small, hard objects such as small pebbles, eggshells, and coarse sand – in order to digest their food, and in winter, snow tends to cover natural sources of grit, making it harder to find. You can help out by ensuring that the seed mixture you provide includes this, or by adding an extra-fine grit to your seed mix in the winter.

Birds that winter in Manitoba include:

  • grouse
  • hawks
  • owls
  • pigeon
  • woodpeckers
  • crows
  • jays
  • chickadees
  • nuthatches
  • waxwings
  • shrikes
  • sparrows
  • finches

In addition to stocking feeders, you can also help out by planting shrubs and trees that provide berries for birds during their migration in fall, as well as for those who stay throughout the winter.

Trees and shrubs for fall and winter berries:  

  • chokecherry
  • snowberry
  • mountain ash
  • hawthorne
  • juniper
  • cedar

Shelter

Whether natural or artificial, providing areas of shelter and protection will entice birds to turn your yard into their winter home. Including evergreen trees and shrubs in your landscaping will provide great year-round shelter. If your yard allows, leave a dead tree standing to attract woodpeckers and owls over the winter, or pile deadfall together with some brush to provide another place for birds to hide.

Birdhouses can be used over the winter as well. Mount birdhouses on a tree if possible, facing the entry away from the most bitter winds – in Manitoba, it’s best to face the entry toward the south or southwest. Make sure there is a clear flight path to the entry. As part of your fall yard work, clean out old nesting material and plug ventilation holes to insulate the house over winter.

Water

Outdoor water fixtures normally get shut down for the winter, but a dripping water source is still the number one way to attract birds, even during the coldest months. Pick up a birdbath water heater to keep your birdbath free of ice.

Find more tips for fall and winter yard prep on our blog like planting fall bulbs and fall pruning 101, and be sure to check out our printable fall gardening checklist.

Be a friend to birds this winter!

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Our Gardens: Protecting Your Garden from Deer

While we can certainly appreciate the natural beauty of a deer stepping through a forest or quietly making its way across the prairie, deer and gardens definitely do not mix. Deer are not uncommon in Winnipeg backyards, and although deterring them from eating your plants and trees can be tricky, there are a few tips and products that will help you prevent your yard from becoming a feeding ground for our wildlife neighbours.

The only sure thing

The only sure and permanent way to keep deer out is to construct a fence, but if you’re looking to completely eliminate the chance of a deer jumping the fence, it needs to be not only sturdy but at least seven-and-a-half to eight-feet high. Obviously, this is a big investment and many of us just don’t want to go to those lengths (or should we say heights?!), particularly when a large property is involved. This is where deterrent products come in, which can be very effective when used properly.

Keep deer away by staying one step ahead

Deer are surprisingly undiscriminating when it comes to what they will eat, and they’re also extremely adaptive. Because deer typically don’t travel far distances over their lifetimes, there’s a good chance that those you see in your yard from time to time are repeat visitors. This all means that the key to warding off deer is to vary the types of deterrents you are using, rotating them throughout the season and changing tacts often so that your neighborhood deer do not get used to the products you’re using. We recommend using Bobbex, which deters by taste, and Plantskydd, which deters by smell, intermittently starting in the spring. Another variation to add to the mix is an electronic deterrent like Yard Gard, which is motion-activated to produce ultrasound waves that deter deer and other animals. Whatever products you use, the key is to mix it up and start early in the season – remember that prevention is a lot easier than interrupting an established pattern!

It’s nice to know that in addition to being effective, these products are also completely safe for your family and pets, and don’t harm deer in any way either.  

Deer-resistant plants are a guideline, but not a rule

It’s true that deer tend to avoid plants that are sticky, rough, or fuzzy, and plants with spiny protection. They also dislike fragrant leaves or a pungent flavour. However, any list of “deer-resistant” plants should be taken with a grain of salt, because if hungry enough, deer will eat almost any plant. As we’ve already mentioned, they’re also very good at adapting and will overcome their preferences if it means an easy meal, particularly when nothing better is readily available. So, just because a plant wouldn’t be a deer’s first choice, doesn’t mean it won’t end up suffering the fate of their more expected targets.

You can see a list of plants that deer are not attracted to right here. It may help to use these plants on the perimeter of your garden, leaving the plants deer enjoy well within. Keeping wild, grassy areas trimmed and cleaned can also prevent deer from being tempted to bed down.  

Protecting your trees

Deer are notorious for eating cedars and evergreens in the winter, when nutrients are scarce, or stripping the leaves off of young trees that you are trying to get established in the summer months. To protect your trees, create a perimeter around them with stakes and securely wrap wire mesh (such as chicken wire) around the stakes. Be sure to create a wide enough perimeter that deer can’t simply eat the foliage right through the mesh.

We know it can be frustrating, but with a little patience and persistence, your yard and garden can co-exist with the deer passing through it. If you need additional tips or resources, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we’re always happy to help.

Make a plan, stick with it, and watch your garden flourish!  

Hours of Inspiration

Monday – Wednesday 9am-5pm
Thursday & Friday 9am-6pm
Saturday 9am-5pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm

Shelmerdine Garden Centre Ltd.

7800 Roblin Boulevard
Headingley, MB R4H 1B6

Phone: 204.895.7203
Fax: 204.895.4372
Email: info@shelmerdine.com