Dear B.L.: As a general rule, a broad variety of trees, shrubs and other plants in a garden will provide birds with shelter and nourishment. It helps as well not to be too tidy. Seed heads left on old sunflower plants, ornamental grasses and perennials such as border sedums all feed the birds.
Tall mahonias (Oregon grape) flower in winter to provide nectar and, like salal and low-growing forms of Oregon grape, produce berries as food.
Other plants that feed birds in winter are small-fruited crabapples, mountain ash, cotoneaster and beautyberry.
Some birds eat the seeds and insects found in fir and pine cones.
Dear Helen: As I was shopping in the herb area of a local health food store the other day, I overheard two people talking about a herbal “activator” for compost heaps. Do you know anything about this?
Dear A.C.: Yes, I do. Years ago one of my brothers gave me a book about composting using a “quick return” method that treats compost heaps with a herbal blend that stimulates bacterial growth and hastens decomposition.
The powdered herbal blend, made by Chase Organics in England, is available from Richters, a source for herb seeds and plants, dried herbs, tinctures and herbal products, in Ontario (Richters.com).
For years I’ve inoculated my heaps in the spring, as the weather starts warming, with either the purchased powder in solution or my own mixture of some of the same herbs used in the commercial blend.
According to my book on the method, yarrow and stinging nettle are the two most essential ingredients. The others are chamomile, dandelion, valerian and oak bark. When I make my own mix of herbs I use all but the last one, placing about one teaspoon of each herb in a bucket of warm water along with a teaspoon of honey. The solution is allowed to “steep” for a few hours before small amounts are poured into deep holes punched into all the compost heaps, which have been previously turned or fluffed.
Dear Helen: I do not find using a garlic press very handy. Do you know of a less messy way of transforming raw garlic into a sort of mash for adding to salad dressings and cooked dishes?
Dear D.R.: For more than a decade now, I have been using a stainless-steel wood rasp from Lee Valley Tools instead of a garlic press.
You can buy it on its own or with a base that catches and contains the grated food.
I use my rasp almost every day, mainly for pulping garlic cloves, grating ginger root or zesting lemons, limes and oranges. The rasp is also good for grating hard cheeses and chocolate.
Cleaning is a snap. Just rinse it under hot water.
The rasp is 30 cm long and three cm wide.
Dear Helen: How can I get rid of this (enclosed) weed in my lawn? It grows close to the ground and forms roots all along its creeping stems.
Dear P.D.: The leaves enclosed with your letter look like creeping buttercup, a ground-hugging perennial whose leaves are divided, clover-like, into three primary leaflets, each one further lobed and toothed. The flowers are a shiny-bright yellow.
This is an aggressive spreader.
The best control is to lift the entire plants out while the soil is moderately damp and before any seeds can develop.
Other controls that can knock the plants back are applying boiling water or spraying repeatedly with herbicides based on acetic acid, such as EcoClear, or fatty acids, such as Topgun. Spray in spring as the plants are actively growing.
Chrysanthemum meeting. The Victoria Chrysanthemum Society will meet on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the St. Matthias Church Hall, 600 Richmond Ave. (at Richardson). There will be a discussion of chrysanthemum classifications.
View Royal meeting. The View Royal Garden Club will meet on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Shoreline Community School, 2750 Shoreline Dr. Carol Dancer, local gardener extraordinaire, will share photos from her recent trip to Japan before presenting a show-and-tell on plants of interest in the winter garden. As well, a judged mini-show will feature exhibits from members’ gardens. There will be a sales table with plants and garden items. Visitors and new members are welcome. For more information, call 250-220-5212.
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