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Grow your own birdseed

As the temperatures start to warm, all gardeners start thinking about getting those hands dirty. You may have started some seeds by winter sowing or making lists of things you want to grow and seeds you must get your hands on. Most gardeners are nature lovers and therefore love their feathered friends. In your selection of plants to grow, have you ever considered growing your own birdseed?

Sunflowers are probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about birdseed. Easy to grow and are very showy in the garden. You can leave them to stand tall in your garden at the end of the season or harvest them and put them in your feeders. Cardinals love sunflower seeds, along with blue jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. Native plants such as coneflowers, sedum, coreopsis, black and brown-eyed susans are great seed producers for the birds. The important thing to remember about these perennial plants is that you must leave them to stand tall in your fall garden and don’t cut the plants back. They provide winter shelter for birds and insects as well as the seed heads for winter food. Other good plants are asters, goldenrod, allium, bee balm and lemon verbena. Again, these are perennial plants so let them provide shelter as well as food for your feathered friends. Some annual plants also provide great seeds for the birds. Zinnias, moss roses, cosmos, and marigolds are great examples to plant in your yard and containers. But don’t forget about the perennial grasses, which have become very popular in the last few years. I love the winter interest they provide in the garden, but they also help our feathered friends. Switchgrass, seed oats, millet, and feather reed grass are great examples to keep in mind when choosing your plants.

I know some gardeners love to clean off their beds in the fall, but there are good reasons not to do that. Leaving the seed heads for the birds and providing winter shelter is one of them. But also the hollow stems on some of the flower varieties provide a place for some beneficial insects to lay their eggs for the winter. Even removing them too early in the spring sometimes does not allow the eggs to hatch. One trick that I have learned over the years is if I have to cut things back in the spring, I leave the stems gathered together in a pile in my yard before taking them to the compost site. I try and do my part for the environment. I thought I would share some thoughts about plant selection for our feathered friends. The growing season will soon be upon us, the anticipation of what the year will bring is always exciting for me.

Happy growing everyone.

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