Attracting Cardinals to your yard

Northern Cardinals are probably the most desired of all backyard-visiting birds. With their vibrant plumage and beautiful songs, it’s no wonder people want to attract Cardinals to their yards.

Luckily for bird lovers, Cardinals are not particularly hard to please. With a few simple alterations to your backyard and bird feeder set up, your yard could soon become a haven for these beloved birds.

Northern Cardinals are non-migratory birds, meaning that once you draw them to your yard they are likely to stay there year-round. This also means, however, that if Cardinals aren’t native to your area, you won’t be able to do anything to attract them to your yard.

Cardinals can be found in the north as far as Maine and parts of southern Canada. In the south, they extend through Central America and the Gulf Coast. They are native to the west as far as South Dakota and Texas. In addition to their native regions, Cardinals have been introduced to Hawaii, southwestern California, and Bermuda.

Choose the Right Food

The first step to attracting any bird is to supply them with the food they enjoy. Northern Cardinals feature a strong, thick beak, which is perfect for large seeds and other hearty foods. Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among a Northern Cardinal’s favorite seed options. In addition to large seeds, Cardinals enjoy eating crushed peanuts, cracked corn, and berries. During the winter, small chunks of suet are another great choice. Be sure to check regularly that your feeders are filled, particularly during the early morning and late evening when Cardinals prefer to eat. Once Cardinals realize that your backyard offers a year-round, reliable food source, they will likely take up a permanent residence.

Use Proper Feeders

In conjunction with the type of food you offer, you need to select the proper types of feeders to suit your Cardinal friends. Your feeders need to be sturdy enough to support the birds. The weight of a Cardinal is approximately equal to 9 U.S. nickels (1.5 ounces), which is actually on the heavy side for a feeder bird. In fact, lightweight, hanging feeders are best avoided because they may sway under a Cardinal’s weight. Platform feeders and bird feeders with built-in trays that provide enough space to perch are usually preferred. Cardinals are broader, full-breasted birds, so they require more space when visiting a feeder.

Cardinals need easy access to water for both drinking and bathing. Providing bird baths or bird waterers is the perfect way to satisfy this need. As with the feeders, a birdbath needs to accommodate the size of these larger birds. Baths with a depth of 2 to 3 inches at the deepest point are usually best. To attract Cardinals to your birdbaths, you may consider adding drippers to keep the water moving. Keep in mind, whichever method you choose, water should be changed, and vessels should be cleaned frequently to prevent algae and dirt buildup.

Unlike many other backyard birds, Cardinals will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. In addition to enjoying dense plant life for shelter, they also prefer it for nesting. Grapevines, tall trees, and shrub thickets are ideal options for nest sites. Readily available nesting materials are also essential to encouraging long-term Cardinal nesting. Make sure that your yard features pine needles, small twigs, grass clippings, and other materials so that Cardinal visitors will build a nest nearby.

Seed starting with egg cartons

Don’t throw away those egg crate cartons, because you can use them as a seed-starting tray this spring! Depending on the type of carton you have, you can even cut apart the individual sections and plant them, as the carton will biodegrade. Be sure to poke small holes for drainage, and put the cartons on a tray or in a shallow pan to catch any residual water.

Supplies that you need to start your little seedlings:

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Potting soil
  • Coffee grounds
  • Seeds 
  • Waterproof tray to place under egg carton

Make a half-and-half mixture of equal portions of soil and grounds. A soup bowl full of this mixture should be plenty for this project. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, don’t worry! You can always stop by your local coffee shop and ask for used grounds. They’re usually happy to give them away for free.

plant your seeds in the egg carton without cutting it apart, and you can also cut it apart after your seeds have sprouted, but I’ve found that doing it in the beginning helps to prevent your roots from getting tangled later. It also keeps you from accidentally crushing or breaking sprouts while trying to separate the cups later.

Fill your individual egg cups about half full with the soil/grounds mixture.

Be sure not to add too many seeds to each egg cup. Overcrowded seedlings will often die off. For larger plants like squash, I plant only one or two seeds per cup. For smaller plants like cilantro and parsley, I plant about four or five seeds per cup. Remember that not every single seed will actually sprout, but that sprouted seeds will need room to grow and soil resources for nutrients. Cover seeds with a fine layer of the soil mixture.

Place the water proof tray under the egg carton ( to help catch water drainage) 

Pour water directly into the plastic plate rather than over the individual seed cups. The paper cups will soak up the water and keep your seeds moist. I maintain about a centimeter of water in the bottom of the plate at all times.

Be sure that your seed cups are in a place where they can get enough sun & watch your seeds sprout within 4-8 weeks!

Keep Your Plants Happy

Homemade plant food is an easy and a cheap way to feed your potted plants without accidentally harming your houseplants or breaking the bank. Lots of common household items have the properties needed to replenish the nutrients in your plant’s soil, so you can create natural plant food in the comfort of your own home. 

Nitrogen deficiency : Signs showing with your plant are yellow or pale green leaves which will stun the growth for your plant. The solution is to add coffee grounds, this will boost the nitrogen throughout the soil and roots for your plant. 

Phosphorous deficiency: Signs showing dark around edges of the plant leaves creating stun growth and small flowers. The solution is to add bone meal or even fish tank water to the soil if the water isn’t “salt water”, this will boost the levels of phosphorus in the soil and roots. 

Magnesium deficiency: Signs showing yellow veins of the leaves and edges of the leaf which can look like a marble effect. The solution is to add epsom salt directly to the top of the soil before watering your plant, this will boost the magnesium within the soil. This is especially great for roses, tomatoes, and pepper plants. 

Potassium deficiency: Signs showing brown and yellowish leaves veins and outer leaf edge. The solution is to add by burying banana peels into the soil this will take a slow process and help each day boost your plant soil. 

Homemade plant food is ideally used for outdoor plants since smells and ease of application can vary. Adding plant food to potted plants can also be a little messy, so be extra careful when adding homemade plant food to your indoor plants. Now that you’ve learned a few ways to feed your hungry plants, keep a close eye on them in the following weeks to see how they respond to their new food. Adjust how often and how much you feed your plant based on how they react. If your plants start to perk up, you can afford to feed them a little more and see if it helps its growth. 

Crazy for Catmint

Its spectacular blossoms will have your garden happily singing. This spring why not add a little mint to your garden. Catmint is both related to catnip and mint, it forms soft stems 12 to 18 inches high and has violet- blue flowers amid mounds of gray-green foliage.

Many people wonder what is the difference between catnip and catmint. While basically considered the same plant as they share many of the same characteristics, there are differences between the two species. Catnip has less ornamental value in the garden than its catmint, in addition catnip attracts cats with many of them exhibiting a naturally induced euphoria around the plant. They may nibble on it or even roll around in the foliage. This type is most suitable for “cat-friendly” gardens. If you don’t want your garden overrun with felines, plant catmint instead, which is much less attractive to them.

The catmint herb is easy to grow. These plants are good for mass planting or edging and are suitable near vegetables as an insect deterrent — especially for aphids and Japanese beetles. Catmint can be grown in sun or partial shade with average, well-draining soil. They are even heat and drought tolerant, making them excellent plants for dry garden areas.

Basic care of catmint is easy. Water catmint plants regularly until they become well established. Mulch will help retain moisture and keep down weeds. Once plants are a few inches (8 cm.) tall, pinch them back to promote bushier growth. Catmint blooms throughout summer and fall.
Our Etsy shop offers a variety of herb and flower seeds and starting in February we will have catmint available.

Chill Factor, Succulents

Looking for succulents that go below freezing? You’re in the right place! 

Did you know certain succulents can take the cold?  A list below is 5  succulents, which are hardy to zone 3,4, or 5. There are different zones to prompt you on when is the best time to plant flowers and is used to determine where certain plant/flower species are most likely to thrive.

Pacific Blue Ice Sempervivum: This cold hardy succulent has an icy-blue rosette with leaves that turn pink to purple when stressed. This succulent is monocarpic, meaning it will die after blooming. Watch for pink flowers in the summer. Pacific Blue Ice’ has typical watering needs for a succulent. It’s best to use the “soak and dry” method, and allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

‘Pacific Blue Ice’ is cold hardy to -20°F (-28.9°C), and will survive the winter under snow.

Angelina Sedum:The fleshy, gray-green leaves can grow to be three quarters of an inch long. In cooler climates, the needle-like foliage color transitions to shades of yellow and red in the autumn months.At bloom time Angelina sedum displays showy, star-shaped yellow flowers in summer from June through August.Sedum rupestre grows best in full sun, but it can tolerate a bit of light shade. The plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8 and requires the soak and dry method as well.

Cape Blanco Sedum:  silvery leaves make this a great choice for use as a groundcover, pathway accent, in rock gardens, or in mixed succulent containers. Clusters of tiny yellow flowers contrast nicely with the foliage, which takes on an attractive purplish tinge in cool weather. Thrives in the Pacific Northwest. Foliage is edible. It needs Full sun, Partial sun and water regularly – weekly, or more often in extreme heat or containers.

Unicorn Sedum:It takes on shades of tawny yellow to pink and purple through the seasons. It is a large, open rosette and produces heaps of offsets on long, bubblegum pink stolons in spring. It is an easy grower that forms a solid clump and turns lilac in the winter cold.will thrive with weekly watering and afternoon shade if temperatures exceed 80F. They are incredibly frost hardy and will happily thrive through winter under a blanket of snow. Protect from heavy rains and standing water to prevent rot.

Red carpet Sedum:is valued for its dense, ground-hugging carpet of red foliage that turns a deeper shade of red throughout fall and winter. Clusters of tiny pink blooms decorate the plant for up to a month in early summer.Tolerates poor soil, heat, and drought. Does best in light, well-drained soil. Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.

You will be able to find these succulents at your local garden shop or online Mountain Crest Gardens
You can also follow our blog about starting succulents

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