gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

My home is full of houseplants. It’s easier to care for them than performing the many chores required for the outdoor garden. In fact, the less you do, the better off your plants will be. There are, however, some things you can do to keep them looking their best. First of all, you may have to move them to where they can get the most light, and that may not be where they have been placed for decorating purposes. Misting is very important in our dry, indoor environments. Wiping the leaves with a damp cloth will keep the plants dust-free, which will help them to “breathe”. Turning them around periodically lets the light reach them more evenly on all sides. Withhold fertilizing until spring and water less frequently. Wait until spring to repot. Cacti and other succulents may only require watering once a month. To check if your plants need water, stick your finger into the soil to a depth of 2 inches. If your finger comes out dry, the plant needs water. Some plants seem to tell you clearly when to water them. My coffee plant droops as if it’s crying, and when it’s watered it immediately perks up. The avocado plant, which is watered from the bottom, also droops if it is not kept moist.

Water your plants with tepid water. Most plants will do better in winter if they are watered less frequently than in spring through fall.

photo chickadeeBirds need protection and food to survive the long, cold winter. They look for the shelter of shrubs, trees, vines and groundcovers. They are on a constant hunt for food and we can help them by planting trees and shrubs that produce seeds, berries and nuts. Bird feeders are helpful, now that it’s cold enough to keep the bears away from them. Seeds from pinecones are a valuable source of winter food for many types of birds, including chickadees, pine siskins, grosbeaks and woodpeckers. The evergreens that they grow on are wonderful shelter as well, especially during winter storms.

Some examples of shrubs with berries that persist throughout the winter include winterberry holly, bayberry and viburnum. Some native roses develop rose hips during the cold months, another source of food for birds. Flowering crabapples and red-twig dogwoods also provide berries. Twigs and branches provide insect larva and seeds.

Birds are capable of finding food from these many sources but there’s nothing like the entertainment derived from watching birds at the feeders. Even though I’ve lost many feeders from animals that come in the night to invade and demolish them, seeds and all, I keep putting them out because I love to watch the birds, and yes, the squirrels who compete with them too!

Winter is a time for watching and enjoying the outdoors from the warmth of the indoors.  ~