Magazine article Sunset

Edible Ornaments for the Birds

Magazine article Sunset

Edible Ornaments for the Birds

Article excerpt

ast winter Bud

Stuckey, Sunset's try-anything-once test garden coordinator, decided to give birds a present, so he decorated an outdoor tree with ornaments made of fruit and seeds.

By any standard, the edible ornaments were a big hit. From the human point of view, it was fascinating to see the tree covered with various small songbirds every morning. From the avian standpoint, the ornaments provided a needed dietary boost during the lean winter months. Within 10 days after the tree was trimmed, birds had stripped it of all the edibles.

If you'd like to duplicate this project, you have two options: decorate a live tree in a container or in the ground, or take your cut Christmas tree outdoors after the holidays and redecorate it.

Our menu is designed to satisfy both fruit-eating and seed-eating birds. For the fruit eaters, Stuckey strung garlands of dried apples, bananas, hawthorn berries, and cranberries onto sewing thread and covered wire loops with fresh grapes and peanuts. He wired orange slices to the branches.

For the seed eaters, he tied stalks of ornamental wheat onto the branches, along with ears of ornamental corn and broom corn. The piece de resistance, as far as the birds were concerned, was peanut butter-coated pinecones encrusted with wild birdseed mix and hung with florist's wire. THE MENU

Dried apples, bananas, hawthorn berries, and cranberries Fresh grapes and oranges Raw whole peanuts, wild birdseed mix Ornamental wheat Ornamental and broom corn Peanut butter-smeared pinecones A recipe for home-baked soil ny serious gardener can always use a fresh supply of potting soil. For a practical gift, you can give your own "house blend." Here's my no-longer-secret recipe: 2 parts fine compost 2 parts coarse sand 1 part garden loam 1 part leaf mold

Thoroughly blend the compost, sand, loam, and leaf mold. The mixture can be used immediately for potting container plants. But if it is going to be used to start seeds or to root cuttings, you'll need to sterilize it first. Spread the mixture out in baking pans and pour cup of water over the soil. Bake it in a 180degoven for no less than two hours. (Note: higher temperatures will destroy valuable components of the soil.) Heating soil can be a stinky process, so open the windows and doors in the kitchen to air it out.

Let the soil cool, then pour it into a bucket or a heavy-duty plastic bag and tie on a ribbon. - Steven R. Lorton Mini roses: cute but fragile Miniature roses in 2-, 4-, and 6inch pots have become widely available at nurseries, florists, and even grocery stores during the last few years. …

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