Growing Concerns: Feed the birds (and squirrels) during the winter

What can I do for the animals in my garden? How can I help them through this winter?

Birds are resourceful by nature but we all could use a bit of help. Every year after the holiday I watch my neighbours drag their fresh Christmas tree into the back yard and prop it up in the corner to provide some shelter for the birds for the rest of the winter. Another way to provide shelter is by adding bird houses and nesting boxes. Remember to make sure the entrance hole is facing south so the winter winds do not blow the snow right into the shelter. I am lucky because my neighbours love the birds and like to attract them to their yard. I get to enjoy them as well.

Here are a couple of craft ideas you can do with children to help feed the birds.

Make a milk carton bird feeders. They are so simple. Wash out a cardboard milk carton well and cut a hole in two of the sides large enough for a bird to get its head inside comfortably to get the seed. Next, decorate your container with paint, stickers or anything you want. Poke a hole in the top so you can tie a string on it to hang in a tree or from a garden hook. Fill with birdseed and watch the birds visit your yard.

I have left coneflower and sedum flower heads standing in my garden to provide a natural food source for the birds, but I also put out suet balls to provide much needed fat for the birds. There are  many great recipes online to make your own. You could give the birds the biggest buffet they have ever had.

Lots of folks wonder, “Does all that birdseed make a mess out there when you are feeding the birds?” I say: No. I only put seed out about once a week, because I want them to finish up what is there. Between the birds at the feeder, the mourning doves and the squirrels, all the seed that falls on the ground is pretty much cleaned up.

Meanwhile, start planning your garden for 2021. Seed catalogues should be arriving any day. Let’s dream big.

Growing Concerns is produced by Parkway Gardens. Send your gardening questions to Homes, c/o The London Free Press, 210 Dundas St., Suite 201, London, Ont., N6A 5J3.

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