Birdfeeder basics: Bring on backyard birds with the right feeders

(BPT) – When you dine, do you prefer clean and attractive tableware? Does ambiance enhance your enjoyment of your food? Birds feel the same way about their dining habits – the type and cleanliness of your bird feeders directly affects the number and species of birds that will visit your backyard this season.

To attract birds, you need to understand not only what they prefer to eat, but how they like to eat it. For example, while many species prefer seed, some birds like to eat their seed from elevated platforms, others prefer hanging feeders and still others are content to forage on the ground. All birds appreciate a clean feeder to prevent the spread of disease, and none of them like those pesky, seed-stealing squirrels any more than you do.

The bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products offer some guidance for choosing the right feeder styles to attract the maximum number of feathered friends to your yard:

  • Keep it clean – Everyone knows you should clean your feeders regularly to prevent disease, but many feeders are a pain to disassemble, clean and reassemble. Many people keep feeders less than pristine because of the hassle of cleaning. Look for feeders that make the process easy. All Cole’s tube feeders have a Quick Clean feature that allows you to remove the bottom of the feeder with the push of a button for easy cleaning access- no need to completely disassemble the feeders to clean them.
  • Tube feeders are terrific – For versatility and wide appeal, it’s hard to beat a tube style feeder. These workhorses of the feeder world can handle seeds both large and small – from sunflowers to petite mixes. Tube feeders make great all-purpose feeders or excellent starter feeders for people just beginning backyard birding. Most songbirds will happily dine at a tube feeder.
  • Some seeds are special – Niger is a favorite seed type for finches, siskins and several other appealing species, but not all tube feeders can handle this oily seed. If you’ll be serving niger, consider a specialty feeder like the Nifty Niger Feeder. The feeder dispenses the seed through special, tiny holes to limit the amount of waste.
  • Cater to the clingy – Some birds, such as chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and bluebirds, like to cling to the feeder. For these birds, a mesh feeder can be just what the diner ordered. Mesh feeders satisfy a bird’s desire to cling while also keeping larger birds from hogging the feeder. The Mighty Mesh Feeder is great for serving Nutberry Suet, Suet Kibbles, Suet Pearls, raw peanuts and any sunflower-based seed blend.
  • The beauty of bowl feeders – Bowl feeders are another versatile style, and are great for serving not only seeds and seed blends, but also dried mealworms, fruit and suet in either kibble or pearl forms. The Bountiful Bowl Feeder comes with an adjustable dome cover that you can raise or lower to prevent larger birds and squirrels from getting to the food – and it also helps protect feed from rain.
  • Hummingbird feeders are something to sing about – Hummingbirds are endlessly fascinating to watch, but you have to be quick to catch a look at them. Your best opportunity is when they’re eating, and a hummingbird feeder can help extend your viewing time. The Hummer High Rise feeder gives hummers a penthouse-view with elevated perches and keeps ants out of the nectar with a special built-in ant moat.
  • Those darn squirrels – As much as you enjoy watching their antics, you probably don’t want squirrels on your bird feeder. These persistent bandits can wipe out a seed supply in minutes and damage even the best-made birdfeeders. One way to keep squirrels away from all your feeders is to install a Tough Bird Feeder Guard from Cole’s on your existing feeder poles. The simple device uses static pulse to train squirrels not to climb on feeder poles. Use your favorite feeders on your own shepherd staff or pipe-style poles and add the Tough Bird Feeder Guard to keep squirrels away. Only the tube portion of the guard is charged, so the pole and birdfeeder are safe to touch for humans and birds alike.

For more info on birdfeed blends and where to buy, visit

Composting… The simple way to better vegetable garden soil

Whether you start your vegetables directly from seed or you buy a plant from a local garden or home center, you won’t give it much of a chance if your soil is simply not that good to begin with. What I mean by that is, and this stems from a conversation I had with a friend, if your soil lacks in nutrients or the pH level is too high or too low, seeds may never germinate and plants will never grow to their full potential. Then what happens is you blame the seeds, maybe they were too old, or the plants, ah they looked dead to begin with, as opposed to getting at the root of the problem…literally.

Like a skyscraper, your plants need a solid foundation. If a skyscraper has a poor foundation it could never get built because the base would never be strong enough to support it. Same goes for your plants. If you have a poor foundation, in this case your soil, they will never grow. You are in luck. There is one technique you can implement immediately that will have a long lasting effect on your foundation for many years to come…composting.

Composting is when you take organic material (i.e. leaves, twigs, grass clippings, last night’s left overs etc.) and let them decompose into its final usable product, humus. There are a number of ways you can compost, and which one you choose should not only fit the amount of space that you have but your lifestyle as well.

For example, trench composting, which I will touch on again in a moment, is one of the easiest and least labor intensive forms of composting is virtually ideal for anyone, especially those with very little time. You dig a big hole (hence, trench) and dump your organic material into the hole and then bury it. Nature does the work while you are hard at work uploading your vegetable gardening photos to our Facebook page.

Other forms of composting include vermicomposting, the use of red wiggler worms to do the work, and a compost pile. A simple Google or Bing search on any of these will give you step by step instructions on how to get started.

Always start small. I recommend you keep a big Tupperware bowl close by where you can put your coffee grinds, egg shells and food left overs in so you can bury them in your garden. When the Tupperware bowl gets full or near full, take it out back and dig a hole about 24 inches deep, put the contents of the bowl into the hole and then cover. Repeat these steps over choosing a new location each time and never use the same location earlier then 1 to 3 months. On a side note, do not bury steak or ham bones or meat for that matter. The bones will never break down and the meat could attract unwanted rodents.

After you get the hang of trench composting move on over and start a compost pile. This is where you will put all of your leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Over time the pile will breakdown into a nice, rich soil that your plants will love. Just remember to turn the pile over with your pitchfork once in a while. It will help speed things up.

So why do you compost in the first place? Beyond the “keeping it out of the landfill” aspect, composting adds nutrients into your soil, creates volume in your soil which allows for better soil retention and water drainage and helps maintain a constant yet beneficial soil pH level. All items you need in order to grow healthy and safe vegetables.

Four ways to be more green at home

It doesn’t take much effort to run your household in a more eco-friendly way. You might even be surprised by how much money you can save.

“A small change can make a big difference,” says Charles Valinotti, senior vice president of an insurance company which recently implemented a series of small environmental changes and the savings are adding up. “These are changes anyone could make in their own home. We just did it on a larger scale.”

Here are four simple green changes inspired by the company that could benefit any homeowner:

1. Recycle – and not just the obvious stuff.
Chances are, you’re already recycling glass bottles and aluminum cans. But why stop there? Consider recycling before you throw anything away. You might also consider collecting aluminum cans and bringing them to your local recycling facility where you may get some cash for your efforts.

One business recycles electrical wire, cabinets, shelving, scrap metals and light fixtures. In two years, not only did the company collect $4,000 for non-traditional recyclables, it also avoided fees for disposing of them.

2. Switch to high-efficiency lighting.
For years we’ve heard that high-efficiency lighting is the way to go. But did you know the magnitude of difference this one change could make? Experts report that each compact florescent light bulb can save up to $40 in energy costs over its lifetime.

Another company’s site converted from halogen to fluorescent light fixtures in its parking garage. This one change is saving 378,554 kilowatt hours per year in electrical usage, totaling $26,575 in annual utility expense.

3. When it’s not in use, turn it off.
Moms all over the world can be heard reminding their brood, “Turn the lights off!” While there’s no doubt it makes sense to turn off lights, some may question when and if a computer should be turned off since it takes a bit more energy to power up than to leave it running.

The experts report that for energy savings and convenience, consider turning off your monitor if you aren’t going to use your computer for more than 20 minutes. Turn off your computer if you’re not going to use it in the next two hours.

A lot of people don’t always shut down their computers at the end of the day. Last year, the company began automatic shutdowns at 9 p.m. local time – saving about $55,000 in energy costs each year. The system gives a prompt 60 minutes prior to the automatic shutdown, allowing employees who are actively working to bypass the shut-off.

4. Paper – who needs it?
Valinotti suggests that taking baby steps toward a paperless existence can be natural and painless. For example, many homeowners already do their banking online – so why not also switch to paperless bank statements? Many utilities, credit card companies and municipalities also offer online billing.

By just moving a portion of its monthly reports online, the company saves 2.5 reams of paper and $11 per day, totaling $2,000 in savings last year.

As you can see, just a few small changes can help you go green – and help you build financial strength as well.

Get Your Garden Clean Up into Gear

Start your garden cleanup to get it winter-ready and you’ll be doing less work come spring, as well as doing your part for the environment.  Here are a few tips for getting your garden cleanup into gear.


Mulch and Compost
The most environmentally-friendly way of dealing with fallen leaves is to mulch and then, if desired, to compost them.  Using your lawnmower’s mulcher not only saves you from raking and bagging, but provides free mulch and compost for your garden.

Once mulched, spread a layer at least 16 cm deep on top of your vegetable garden, flower beds, and even your lawn.  The worms will mix it in!  Mulching will help the soil retain moisture, protect it from heat, cold and wind, and also inhibit the growth of weeds.

Deposit any remaining leaf mulch into your compost bin.  Making compost from your leaf mulch is a longer, more complicated endeavour.  It requires the addition of organic material such as kitchen waste, which then needs to be mixed, watered and turned over in order for the material to decompose over time.  The result is a nutrient-rich humus that will feed a thriving garden.

Eco-friendly cleanup
Start from the top by removing dead limbs from trees before heavy winter snow weakens them, causing further damage to your property.  Prune hedges and overgrown bushes and cut back anything that touches your house walls.

Clear your vegetable garden by digging out old plants and shriveled vines.  Add them to your compost and till the plot well.  Top with several inches of compost and cover with mulch.  In your flower garden, discard spent annuals and pooped-out perennials.  You can save the seeds of annuals in an envelope and store in a cool, dark place to plant in the spring.

For the Birds
There’s no need to cut back on everything in your garden, making it look severe and barren.  Many plants look great until a serious frost, and it’s good to leave some stalks and vegetation for the birds.  Clean out birdhouses and scrub birdbaths with baking soda and cleaning vinegar.  Vinegar is safer than bleach and any residue will not harm birds or surrounding grass or plants.

A simple fall cleanup will protect your garden during winter, and give your little pocket of nature a head start in spring!