News

FUCHSIA FRENZY!

February 17th, 2014

FUCHSIA FRENZY!

Fuchsia_Double_RedHardier and easier to grow than you may think, Fuchsia Plants are actually a small woody shrub that produces colorful, tropical, delicate-looking blossoms in a myriad of colors. Sometimes called Lady's Eardrops, the botanical name, Fuchsia (FEW-sha), is most often usedthough it is often misspelled, has various pronunciations and has been the subject of numerous over-the-fence discussions, as evidenced here.

Fuchsias don't require a lot of sun; this plant is perfectly happy in partially shaded areas. However, as new hybrids are introduced, some are much more tolerant of heat and humidity. This is a good thing! One such heat-tolerant fuchsia is Angel Earrings® Preciosa. In fact, all Angel Earrings Fuchsias are bred for better heat tolerance.

Fuchsias also come in various forms. They can grow upright or trail up to 36 inches, making them extremely versatile. Their blossoms can be single or double and can look like anything from whimsical Japanese lanterns to petite, slender, flowery tubes to fantastically frilled dancing ladies. One of our newest cultivars has multi-hued, autumn-colored leaves with deep purple and red blossoms. It looks simply gorgeous for the entire season and is appropriately called ‘Autumnale'.

Although Fuchsias are an annual in all but the warmest climates, they can be overwintered indoors, which is a great way to have fuchsia blossoms earlier than ever next year and to set a more bountiful dining table for your migrating hummingbirds.

Where Will YOUR Fuchsias Grow?

This is the ideal time to think about spring and summer color

and to coordinate your outdoor décor.

Look out on your winter-browned landscape.

Picture these bright beauties hanging in partially shaded areas

In your entryway, under your awnings, in the breezeway, on your screened porch.

Imagine hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower.

Preciosa_Fuchsia_Plant_E

 Visualize the colors and the pendulous blossoms

And hear the sounds of spring and summer.

Now, fill in this portrait with your choice of Fuchsia Plants!

Browse our entire selection.

Pre-order enough plants to generously fill every space you have in mind

And look forward to delivery just in time for spring planting.

Here are our Spring Ship Dates.

Every blossoming plant, especially when grown in a container, will be a heavy eater.

Feed at 1/4 strength every time you water.

And then we'd love to see your Fuchsia photos next spring and summer!

What's Better: Open-Pollinated or Hybrid Vegetables?

February 13th, 2014

Open_Pollinated_VeggiesWhen buying seeds and plants, gardeners can choose between open-pollinated and hybrid varieties. In this newsletter we'll fill you in on the differences between the two, including heirlooms, a type of open-pollinated plant.

Open-Pollinated: Designed by Nature

Open-pollinated plants and seeds are those that occur naturally. Many gardeners choose open-pollinated varieties because sometimes Mother Nature does a pretty good job all by herself. Over many years, varieties that did not do well dwindled while those that thrived in their particular environment multiplied. But in addition to this process of natural selection, Mother Nature has been helped along by people. That's because gardeners who liked something about a particular variety would save the seeds and replant them the next growing season. Varieties that no one cared about literally fell by the wayside.

When you buy an heirloom plant or seed, you are getting a variety that some particular family or community made a point of preserving over generations. However, all open-pollinated varieties that have been grown by gardeners over the years have been subject to this process of human selection, as well as the process of natural selection that happens automatically.

Advantages of Open-Pollinated Varieties

brandywine_pink_tomato_MBesides the fact that they are 100% natural, one main reason people choose open-pollinated varieties is because they can save the seeds and plant them the following year. This is not true of hybrid seeds, which can only be used for one growing season. People also like open-pollinated varieties because they are sometimes as good as or better than anything plant scientists have been able to come up with through grafting or crossbreeding. The superior taste of Brandywine heirloom tomatoes for example, is something that many people know about from articles, books, and word of mouthor from having had one in their mouth! Though not as disease resistant as most hybrids, people buy them for their flavor.

Finally, open-pollinated varieties are better for the environment because they encourage species diversity. As they continue to pollinate through the open air, new variations spring up, because that is what happens in the natural life cycles of open-pollinated plants. Some of these variations turn out to be improvements. In this way, plant diversity is increased, and Mother Nature gets to give us new gifts of superior varieties.

Hybrids: Better Living Through Science

Bee_Pollinating_CukeAs plant science developed, scientists came up with increasingly sophisticated ways of improving on Mother Nature. The earliest hybrids were done by selective plant breeding that simply involved controlling which varieties pollinated each other. For instance, scientists would take one variety of corn and pollinate it with another. They found that in almost all cases, crossbreeding made the resulting plants hardier. They referred to this as hybrid vigor.

Simple cross-pollination gave way to double crossing, and ever-more sophisticated techniques. Plant characteristics were carefully analyzed and it became possible to tweak a plant in order to increase disease resistance, or the size or amount of its yield. Time to maturity could be shortened, and even its color could be adjusted.

People buy hybrids because of all these advantages. Certain hybrids such as the tomato varieties Big Boy, Early Girl, andBig Beef, have become enormously popular because of how hardy they are, how big they get, and how quickly they mature.

As science has advanced, scientists found they could do everything on a microscopic level by identifying and splicing genes. This was the beginning of bioengineering and led to GMOs (genetically modified organisms), a subject we will discuss in a future article. Suffice it to say that we do not carry any genetically engineered seeds or plants.

Happy Gardening from Garden Harvest Supply!

If Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers

February 10th, 2014

How Many Pickled Peppers Did Peter Piper Pick?

Let's find out!

Right now you can pre-order enough pepper plants to create a peck (1/4 bushel), though you'll fit more in that peck if they're pickled.

You just have to decide if you want hot or sweetor both.

Hot peppers come in a number of varieties. Which peppers to grow should be determined by exactly what you want to do with them. Color may be a consideration, and size, although the most common distinction to be drawn between hot peppers is the number of Scoville heat units (the accepted measurement for pepper heat) assigned to each variety.

If you're pickling them, you're likely to choose a Jalapeño. Ours is considered a medium-hot variety, with a Scoville rating between 2,500 and 8,000.

For Chile Rellenos, you'll want to grow Poblano(1,000 to 2,000 Scoville units). These mild peppers are large enough to stuff but are also ideal for roasting and peeling, and then freezing or canning. You can also use the Anaheim Chili to make Chile Rellenos. It can be slightly warmer than Poblano, but can be used when red. The Poblano is too ripe for stuffing when it has turned red. The Anaheim Chili can measure as low as 500 on the Scoville Scale while green, and as high as 2,500 once it has turned red.

If you want hotand we mean really, really hotyou'll want to grow the Habañero or Ghost. The habañero used to be considered by most to be the hottest hot pepperuntil Ghost hit the market. Let's compare Scoville units: Habañeros will range between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units, while the Ghost Hot Pepper can measure from 855,000 to 1,041,427 Scoville units. Now, THAT IS HOT!

Your decision on what sweet peppers to grow may be a bit easier. Sweet peppers, a.k.a. bell peppers, are used fresh, in basic everyday cooking, in stir-fry dishes and for stuffing. If you are not stuffing them, your decision on which variety to grow will likely have to do with flavor and color. If, on the other hand, you are stuffing them, you will want a sweet pepper with a thick wall and blocky shape. Aristotleand Colossalbell peppers are grown most commonly for stuffing. Early Sunsationwill be replacing Admiral this year, this yellow pepper maturing quite early and having thicker and juicier walls. You can stuff these even when fully ripened to bright yellow.

For sweet flavor, especially in crisp, fresh summertime salads, you may want to grow our Sweet Banana pepper or Merlot.

But, if you want to set records at your local county fair, grow our Super Heavyweight sweet pepper. Humongous and lushly gold when fully mature, you can stuff one to feed two people!

  • Just browse our entire selection
  • Add a quantity of each type of pepper plant to your cart
  • Wait for healthy, ready-to-grow plants to arrive on your doorstep just in time for planting.

And finally

  • Pickle some peppers to enjoy long after your harvest!

Do YOU Ipomoea? Vining Plants Don't Trail In Popularity

February 3rd, 2014

Decorative vining Ipomea plants

We Have Ipomoea Plants for Sale

 

Ipomoea is pronounced many ways, but the most common is ihp followed by a long ‘O', the emphasis on ME and then an ‘uh', as in duhih-poh-MEE-uh. It's kind of fun to say, isn't it? But we won't judge you if you just call it by its easier-to-remember name: Sweet Potato Vine.

We are talking about the ornamental type of sweet potato vine, which does produce tubers, although these more decorative vines do not result in the tastiest sweet potatoes. Look to the sweet potatoes developed specifically for consumption, such as these, if you are looking to harvest the edible varieties.

Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines are a fantastic annual (except in the south where they grow as a perennial) ground cover, as well as the ideal pot filler and spiller, with foliage available in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes. Relatively easy to grow, they require plenty of water, especially in dry, hot weather. They will grow in full sun to partial shade and are widely adaptable to many soil types. For the best results, especially when growing them in pots, we recommend a good all-around plant food like Espoma Plant-tone® or Jungle Flora. Ipomoea plants are heavy feeders.

Sowhere do you want to grow your Sweet Potato Vines?

A sunny spot? Our BlackieIpomoea plant performs well in partially sunny to fully sunny spots, although our BronzeIpomoea is the truest sun-worshipper. Both of these will trail to at least 36 inches and up to 72 inches. If you're looking for something a little less enthusiastic, look to Compact Margie: she only vines to about 24 inches.

A shady spot? Our BronzeIpomoea will also grow well in fully shaded areas, but it won't grow as fast as it does in the sun. Marguerite'sbrightly colored foliage will light up your shadiest areas. In fact, Marguerite is prone to sunburn and should avoid afternoon sunlight.

A hot spot? Our Ace of Spades Ipomoea has exceptional heat tolerance, in the sun or shade, although the darker and usually most desirable coloration occurs in partially shaded areas. And, in addition to loving the sun, our BronzeSweet Potato Vine is also immune to the heat.

Now that you've decided where you want to grow your Ipomoea plants,

And which ones you'd like to grow,

It's time to go shopping!

Just add your selections to your cart and when you are prompted for a Discount Code,

Enter 2SWEETVINE14 to

Get 15% Off

Sweet Potato Vines

Your Sweet Potato Vines will be shipped right to your doorstep according to our

Spring Shipping Schedule

just in time for planting in your area.

Want More?

We want your Ipomoea plants to grow like crazy, so we are also discounting

Espoma Plant-tone and Jungle Flora

Enter 2SWEETVINE14 to

Get 15% Off

Food for Your Ipomoea Vines
But hurry: this sale ends at midnight on February 9!

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to call us or to Ask Our Master Gardener.

We want you to thoroughly enjoy your gardening experiences and we want to help you do that.

Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

Soil pH Simplified

January 30th, 2014

Checking_Soil_pHIf your thermometer says you that you have a temperature of 101F, you don't need to have studied immunology to know it's time to take an aspirin. Likewise, if a pH test says that your soil's pH is 5.2, you don't need to have studied plant science to know that it's time to add lime.

Any reading below 6 means your soil is acidic. The lower the number, the more acidic it is. Adding lime will correct this problem.

Any reading above 7 means that your soil is alkaline (sweet). The higher the number, the more alkaline it is. Adding sulfur will correct this problem.

And that, right there, is most of what you need to know about pH. Read on to learn the rest.

Planting to Match Your Soil's pH

Different plants have different pH preferences. Though most of them like a pH between 6 and 7, there are a number of acid-loving plants, and also a few alkaline-loving plants.

So, before you plant anything, do a quick test of your soil's pH and write down the test results. Then put that away, and make a list of the plants you want to grow.

Next, take a look at the Old Farmer's Almanac to find out the ideal pH range for those plants you want to grow. Does your soil pH fall within the ideal pH range of those plants?

If so, you're in luck.

If not, you have two options:

  1. Substitute other plants that will do well in the pH of your soil.
  2. Modify the pH of your soil to accommodate your preferred plants. As we said earlier: Add lime if your soil is too acidic. Add sulfur if your soil is too alkaline.

Learning More

For additional information about how to make your soil less acidic, read Strengthen Your Soil with Agricultural Limestone.

For additional information about how to make your soil less alkaline, read Acidifying Soil.

To learn more about pH, read Understanding pH.

To learn more about soil testing and how to improve your soil, read our three-part GHS Guide to Soil and Soil Testing.

Parting Advice

Soil testing has become extremely cheap and easy to do. Running a soil test is the single most important step you can take to ensure the success of your gardenprovided you know what to do with the test results. We're here to help. Please email us or call us at 888-907-4769 if you have any questions.

Happy Gardening from all of us at Garden Harvest Supply!

BegoniasPot or Bedor Both?

January 23rd, 2014

We have more than 40 varieties of begonias for sale! This means we'll have at least one that tickles your fancy. These tropical-looking plants with their striking foliage and pretty blooms will easily go from indoors to outdoors and back in again, which makes this versatile annual flower more of a perennial wonder than a one-season beauty. With just a little bit of TLC and know-how, you can enjoy your begonia plants for years. You can read How to Grow Begonia Plants or Growing BegoniasNot As Hard As You Think for more information.

Here are your choices:

Angel Wing Begoniasare most often grown as houseplants. They prefer indirect light, consistent moisture and high humidity. Their blossoms are petite, while their foliage is exceptionally eye-catching. They can be moved in and out of doors as the seasons permit, though a partially shaded patio or other protected area will be best. Angel Wing begonias, a.k.a. Cane begonias, will perform their best if you avoid transplanting them from pot to bed, instead moving their container in and out of doors.

Bonfire® Begoniasare more tolerant of the sun than Angel Wing begonias. They have larger, more expressive blossoms and foliage that is serrated with colored margins. The soft blossoms and sharp leaves combine for a stunning visual display. Bonfire begonias adapt well to being moved from pot to bed.

AnchorCrackling Fire® Begoniastolerate more sun and are much more tolerant of drought conditions. They are also extremely compact, self-cleaning and come in myriad colorsthe ideal bedding plant! These blossoms are waxy-looking, textured and are further enhanced by slender serrated leaves and red stems.

Dragon Wing Begoniasare recognized by their leathery-looking, wing-shaped leaves. Extremely heat-hardy, Dragon Wing begonias will bloom as brightly and prolifically in full shade as they will in the sun. A cross between Angel Wing and Wax Begonias, this begonia is recommended for the novice, but is loved by all.

Solenia® Begoniashave been bred to love the sun, though they will also tolerate partially shady conditions. They are drought tolerant and have smaller and more numerous leaves than other begonias, while their blossoms are large, double-petalled and extremely showy. These are a cross between a tuberous and wax begonia and easily adapt to pots or beds.

Tuberous Begoniascome in many forms. The foliage and the blossoms can cascade or grow upright; the blossoms can measure up to 3 inches across and they will bear both male and female flowers. Tuberous begonias grow best in partial shade and need regular, consistent moisture but are also more tolerant of sun, drought and rain.

Wax Begoniaswill be more drought-tolerant than most, since the ‘waxy,' thick leaves store water for the plant. The foliage and blossom colors are vivid and perfectly complement each other.

So, what kinds of begonias do YOU want to grow?

Choose as many as you'd likeour begonias are on sale 'til midnight, January 28!

15% OFF

Just browse and click to add to your cart and

Enter Discount Code 1BEGONIA14

when you check out.

We'll deliver them right to your door according to our

Spring Shipping Schedule.

We wish you Happy Begonia Gardening from all of us at

Garden Harvest Supply!

What Herbs to Use When

January 20th, 2014

blue_african_basil_MWe have one of the largest selections of herbs for sale, and right now they're 15% off!

How often have you wondered what flavor a particular herb would add to a certain recipe?

How many times have you picked up a spice jar only to put it back down againafraid to take that culinary leap?

How many times have you looked at the cost of fresh or dried herbs and decided that trying that new recipe might not be worth the expense?

Growing and harvesting your own herbs makes becoming a better cook easier, less expensive and definitely more satisfying. Here are some of the less-common herb plantsand their uses:

Arugulais entirely edible, including the blossoms and seeds. Often mistaken for a type of lettuce, this herb is a nicely aromatic and spicy addition to salads, including potato salads. It can also be cooked and used in dishes similarly to how spinach is used.

Cilantrois also called Mexican parsley and is a must-have for the best salsa. More vibrantly flavored than parsley, you should add and tasteadd and tasteand pair with white onions when preparing Mexican dishes. Cilantro is a staple in many other ethnic cuisines, as well.

Lavenderis NOT just for potpourri. It can be used in the kitchen to flavor sugar, which can then be used for baking, in teas or in coffee. You can make lavender syrup or a lavender spread for your English muffin and you can substitute lavender in almost all savory-type recipes that call for rosemary (just use double the lavender).

Marjoramis great on vegetables and in stuffing for meats, as well as in soups and egg dishes. Often used interchangeably with oregano, marjoram is milder and usually sweeter. It will complement most pasta, vegetable and meat dishes.

Rosemaryhas a bright, spicy, piney taste and is widely used to flavor meats, though it can also be used to spice up punches and desserts. Have extra? Infuse olive oil, or mix it with softened butter for rolls or potatoes. Add it to Greek yogurt, to marinades, to roasted vegetables and to fruits. Rosemary is FUN to experiment with!

Tarragonhas a licorice essence and is somewhat bittersweet; used sparingly, tarragon can add a wholly different flavor profile to fish dishes, vinegars, meats and salads.

Thymewhen used sparingly can reap fantastic rewards. This perennial is commonly used in French, Creole and Cajun cooking and is excellent in fish and chicken dishes. Its flavor is somewhat pungent; some describe it as ‘clove-like'.

arugula_herb_MWhy should you grow your own herbs?

  • So you don't have to pay the high price at the grocery store.
  • Because the smell of fresh herbs is intoxicating.
  • Since bunches of fresh herbs tied with raffia bows or pretty ribbons make fantastic gifts!

Why should you buy your herbs now?

  • You save 15% when you pre-order your live herb plants for springtime delivery.
  • You'll save while learning to become a better, more daring cook!

Browse our entire

Selection of Herbs

Use Discount Code 1HERB14 when you check out.

SAVE 15% NOW

through January 26!

As always, everyone at Garden Harvest Supply wishes you Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Met Our SunPatiens Impatiens?

January 16th, 2014

Sunpatiens Blooming in the Sun

If you haven't, welllet us introduce you!

SunPatiens are sun-loving impatiens with incredible adaptability to adverse weather conditions and an amazingly high resistance to downy mildew, the nemesis of the annuals grower and impatiens lover.

Some may argue that SunPatiens are cost-prohibitive when compared to seed impatiens; however, we argue that their inspired breeding makes this a moot point. The marriage of New Guinea impatiens to wild impatiens has resulted in a hybrid with exceedingly fast growth and unusually robust foliage, and with larger blossoms with thicker, tougher petals. Simply put, SunPatiens impatiens require fewer plants to cover the same area, while these plants will easily survive extreme temperatures, humidity and rain, even resisting downy mildew contagion carried on the wind from down the block or picked up during transportation to retailers.

2012 was a horrible year for many impatiens varieties, but not so for SunPatiens. This hybrid outshone all of its competition in trials across Europe and the U.S. where downy mildew and extreme summer heat decimated the cheaper and less vigorous impatiens cultivars. The result was that fewer gardeners planted impatiens in 2013a real travesty, since these annual flowers have been a staple of exquisite gardens for eons!

Those gardeners who planted SunPatiens were pleasantly surprised (and their neighbors were green with envy) to find that even in the hottest and most humid weather, their SunPatiens just kept right on growing and spreading and doing what they do best: looking magnificent.

Your choices are incredible:

  • Compact SunPatiens are self-cleaning, with shorter, though exceptional, branching for small garden spots or container applications.
  • Spreading SunPatiens have bold, oftentimes variegated foliage and possess a tidy trailing habit, ideal for mixed applications of all kinds.
  • Vigorous SunPatiens experience superior growth, covering large areas more quickly, spreading up to 48 inches over the season.

You'll also find that SunPatiens will bloom from spring right up until the first frost, without deadheading, in full sun or partial shade. You have a wide choice of flower colors, complemented by robust foliage ranging in colors from golden variegated to rich blue-green.

Compact Orange SunpatiensNEVER have impatiens lovers had so many choices!

We first introduced our customers to SunPatiens in April 2011 with this article: Sunny SunPatiens: Bursts of Color. Since that time we've added to the number of cultivars available, though the growing information remains the samein particular, their need for consistent moisture. Many of our customers have found that adding Terra-Sorb to their containers or garden soil makes taking care of carefree SunPatiens even easier, especially when summertime activities take gardeners away from their homes at the time when regular watering is critical. We invite you to get to know our SunPatiens® Impatiens.

 

 

 

Why Grow Grafted Tomatoes?

January 8th, 2014

Grafted tomato plants in potsSimpleGrowing grafted tomato plants makes it possible to grow the most fragile and hard-to-grow heirloom and open-pollinated tomato varieties with the same success as you have growing the most disease-resistant and vigorous hybrid tomato plants.

You CAN have it all, at least when it comes to growing tomato plants in your garden. For example, if you like the incredible sweetness of the Brandywine but have never had much luck growing themyou're a candidate for growing grafted tomatoes.

Grafted tomato plants use the hardiest, most disease-resistant root stock as the foundation for the more tender and difficult-to-grow tomatoes, grafting the desired scion (top-stock) to the most vigorous root stock. Many of the heirloom varieties, like pink, black, yellow and white tomatoes, have exceptional flavor, color and size, but they may be almost impossible to grow where you live. It's also possible they'll grow where you live, but in order to have the number of tomatoes you require, you have to grow two to three times as many tomato plants as you would of another variety. Growing grafted tomato plants is the solution.

Growing grafted tomatoes will:

  • Increase production, resulting in a much larger number of tomatoes than you would normally have of a particular or favorite variety.
  • Increase disease resistance in a variety normally prone to diseases.
  • Make an otherwise difficult-to-grow variety able to withstand hotter, colder, dryer or even saltier conditions.
  • Reduce the number of plants you need to grow, which also reduces your costs.
  • Yield tomatoes over a longer period of time, with many grafted tomato plants producing plentifully up to the first frost.
  • Result in production 4 to 5 times higher than you would normally see from heirloom or open-pollinated varieties.

The costs of grafted tomato plants are coming down as the numerous advantages become more evident and as producers make them more readily and easily available. Tomato plants have actually been grafted as early as the 1920s in places like Japan and Korea, though worldwide producers have been slow to adopt the practice. Now, however, their popularity is increasing quickly in Asia, Australia and Europe, as well as in the United States. Not only can commercial growers and small farmers benefit from growing grafted tomato plants, but the backyard gardener can enjoy the same rewards: larger and hardier plants, more tomatoes and greater disease resistance.

Why wouldn't you want to grow grafted tomato plants?

You may have heard they are more difficult to grow. That is not the case at all; there are just a few differences in the way you grow them.

  1. The #1 rule for growing grafted tomato plants is to keep the graft line above the soil line, which is a departure from normal deep planting recommendations. The reason is simple: if you plant the graft line below the soil line, roots will develop from the scion, not from the root stock; therefore, you will have lost the benefit of the grafting.
  2. It is also recommended you prune the lowest branches away from the ground. These branches can actually root, also negating the benefit of the graft.
  3. You should stake them as soon as possible, using strong, sturdy support. The root systems on grafted tomato plants develop quickly. Putting the tomato cages in place early on will prevent damage to the roots. Additionally, since these plants can grow up to 30% larger, standard tomato cages may not be enough to support them as they reach adulthood and bear large amounts of fruit.
  4. If planting in containers, use at least a 20-gallon container. The root systems on grafted tomato plants are 4 to 5 times larger than a standard tomato plant and they grow incredibly quickly.why grow grafted tomatoes

That's it! Not more difficult; just different rules.

Happy Tomato Growing from all of us here at Garden Harvest Supply!

Why Feed Corn Feed?

January 2nd, 2014

Bird in feeder eating corn feedI discovered how much wild birds love corn feed quite by accident. This past summer I expanded a pen to enclose my chickens because I was losing so many to coyotes. This resulted in my feeding them where they are more easily observed through my back windows, along with the realization that my wild bird population is much greater than I thought. At least they've moved closer to MY world, and that's a good thing. It turns out that even with all of their ‘natural' foods available due to a nice wet spring and not-too-hot summer, they still flocked to the corn!

Once the chickens are done with their first feeding frenzy of the morning, the wild birds move in, no matter what time of year. In addition to the normal resident birds like wrens, finches and cardinals, I've got an ever-growing population of doves (we don't hunt them). I'm sure the birds were eating corn before; I just hadn't noticed it because they weren't being fed in an area close to the house.

This discovery led me to do a little bit of research. I've now got my bird feeders filled with black oil sunflower seed, but I still have birds voraciously feasting on the corn on the ground. At first I thought my feeders were being ignored in favor of the corn, but then I realized that different birds were eating the corn off the ground, while others were taking advantage of the sunflower seeds.

There are ground-feeding birds and those that are not, though when push comes to shove, if they're hungry, they will eat where they can find it. At the feeders (I've got a couple of tube-type feeders with perches and a tray-type barn feeder) I've observed nuthatches, titmice, goldfinches, wrens, chickadees and sparrows. The titmice and sparrows also frequent the ground under the feeders. On occasion I even see a flicker hanging on the tube feeders. Call me a bird geek, but I always love it when I have an occasional unexpected guest.

Meanwhile, in the chicken yardI have at least a dozen mourning doves, a bunch of cardinals and some blue jays, along with some of the smaller songbirds eating off the ground. Some of my property is fairly wooded, while the rest is in pasture, and I've now noticed that a bevy of doves will fly up from behind my well-house when I walk outside, which I'm sure means they are sheltering there. I'm SO looking forward to nesting doves in the spring! I'm crediting the corn with their arrival and prolonged habitation; they must have spread the word.

Corn feed can be fed whole or cracked (sometimes called chopped), though you will attract a greater variety with cracked corn feed, as opposed to feeding whole shelled corn. Nutritionally, corn is lower in protein than some other foods you can offer, but it's high in carbs, important for a bird's fast metabolism and to keep energy stores up. Everything I've read leads me to believe a combination of corn and black oil sunflower seed will provide life-giving, nutritional sustenance for any bird who may visit.

sunflower_seed_MBlack oil sunflower seed is 28% fat, 25% fiber, and 15% protein, and it has calcium, B vitamins, Vitamin E and Iron. What makes it so attractive to a wider variety of birds is that it has a softer shell than other types of sunflower seeds; therefore it is easier to access the meaty seed. And though some experts would disagree, corn feed is also quite nutritional. Corn has about 4% fat, 2% crude fiber and 8.5% protein, along with the high carbohydrates that the sunflower seed is lacking. Put out bird feeders designed for the type of food you will be offering, as well as making some available to those ground-feeding species.

And where there is food, there must be water. Water is critical for the birds' survival. If you do not have an un-frozen water source close by, you need to provide it for them. In the winter months a heated bird bath will do the best job. They are economical to operate, easy to keep clean and will be much appreciated by both the migrating and local bird residents.

Additionally, if squirrels are a problemif you'd like to keep the squirrels happy and away from your bird feedersget an ear corn squirrel feeder. Most squirrels enjoy the play time that comes along with these feeders and will leave the harder-to-access bird feeders alone if they have an alternative, while their antics can be just as entertaining as the birds'.

I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. I tend to want to hibernate. But watching the birds at the feeders makes me more aware of the difficult life a bird has, especially in the winter. It feels good to feed the birds and they make me smile.