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Grin and Bear It

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                  GardenGuides Newsletter 
                      July 25, 2006

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Winning the Weed War

1. Be a mulching maniac. Mulch acts as a suffocating blanket 
by preventing light from reaching weed seeds. At the same 
time, it holds moisture for your plants and provides 
nutrients for your soil as it decomposes. Apply coarse mulch, 
such as bark or wood chips, directly onto soil. Leaves, 
grass clippings, or straw work better as a weed deterrent
with a separating layer of newspaper, cardboard, or fabric 
between them and the soil.

2. Water those weeds. Pulling weeds is easier and more 
efficient when the soil is moist. You are more likely to get 
the whole root system, and your yanking won't disturb 
surrounding plants as much either. No rain? Turn on the 
sprinkler or even water individual weeds, leave for a few 
hours, then get your hands dirty. (Just ignore the strange 
looks from your neighbors as you water your weeds.)

3. Cut weeds down in their prime. Weeds love open soil. But 
if you till or cultivate, then wait to plant, you can 
outmaneuver the weeds. Till the ground at least twice before 
you plant. Your first digging will bring dormant weed seeds 
to the surface where they can germinate. Watch and wait for 
a few weeks until they begin to grow. Then slice up the 
weeds again with a tiller or a hoe, only don't dig as deep. 
Now it should be safe to put precious plants into the soil.

4. Pass the salt. Try sweeping rock salt into crevices 
between paths. Although more harsh, borax also works well. 
Be sure to wear rubber gloves with the latter material. You 
might need to apply a few doses, but be aware of any 
surrounding plants because both products kill the good 
plants along with the bad.

5. Lay down the law. Try using landscape fabric as a weed 
controller. Landscape fabric is usually made of a nonwoven, 
porous polypropylene fabric, which enables air, water, and 
nutrients to reach the soil but keeps weed seeds in a dark, 
cool environment where they can't germinate. You lay down 
the fabric, cut a hole where your plants are positioned or 
will be planted, then cover the fabric with a 2- to 4-inch 
layer of mulch or gravel. However, landscape fabric doesn't 
work well on steep slopes or windy sites, where the mulch 
often slides off or is blown away, exposing the fabric. 
Never use plastic, as it prevents moisture and air from 
reaching your plants' roots.

6. Boil them alive. If you have pesky weeds in a spot with 
no nearby grass or valuable plants, boil water and pour it 
over the unsuspecting weeds. To control the stream of boil-
ing water and to save surrounding plants and your toes from 
a scalding, use a teakettle.

7. To compost or not to compost. After you've labored to rid 
your garden of weeds, be careful that you don't throw weeds 
onto the compost heap where they can drop seed and infect 
your entire yard. When you pull or till young weeds, leave 
them where you chop them and let the sun dry them out, then 
use them as mulch. Throw mature weeds on a hot compost pile 
where they should cook at 200 degrees or higher for several 
weeks to ensure the seeds are killed.
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Grin and Bear It
By Kathy Bond Borie

I could say I feed the birds to help them make it through 
the winter with its scarcity of food, but that would be 
stretching the truth. I feed them as much for my benefit as 
theirs, because I don't stop even in summer when wild food 

I feel like I'm welcoming back old friends when the first 
rosy breasted grosbeaks arrive in spring to break open the 
sunflower shells with a loud "crack," and the woodpeckers 
resume their fancy footwork up and down the tree trunks look-
ing for insects. But something put a stop to my bird feeding
this spring -- something big and furry, like a bear. 

A neighbor heard a noise one night and looked out her window 
to see a bear demolishing the wooden hot tub on her deck. No 
amount of shouting and barking dogs and projectiles out the 
window distracted the bear until he reached what he was 
after: sunflower seeds inside the tubing, probably hidden 
there by a squirrel. Subsequently the bear visited other 
homes, climbing back steps and appearing on decks and porch-
es looking for food. Apparently, sunflower seeds are like a 
drug to bears, at least when they emerge, hungry, from winter 

After many phone calls amongst neighbors and phone 
conversations with the game warden, every homeowner on the 
road was directed to stop feeding the birds or risk a fine 
for luring the bear. So now we need to rely on our land-
scapes to attract birds. Of course, some berry-producing 
plants are also tempting to bears (especially blueberries, 
and especially in the Rocky Mountain region), but in our 
area, plantings aren't considered lures, and they don't 
typically draw bears close to homes in summer the way bird 
feeders do. 

Plants not only offer tasty meals of berries and seeds, they 
also give shelter from storms and summer's heat, and provide 
a place to rest, to nest, and to hide from the neighbor's 
cat. Here are some ways to make your landscape more welcom-
ing and nourishing to birds:

Seeds and Berries
Plants that are native to the region are easy choices since 
birds are already accustomed to the food they provide. And 
when birds unwittingly deposit the seeds in new locations, 
there won't be the risk of spreading unwanted introduced 
species. Here are some of our common birds' favorite food 



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American goldfinch - Birch, spruce, fir, pine, oak, hemlock, 
maple, white ash, box elder, grape, rose, mulberry, service-
berry, thistle

Black-capped chickadee - Pine, birch, hemlock, sunflower, 

Eastern bluebird - Dogwood, sumac, cedar, hackberry, Virginia 
creeper, holly, chokeberry, cotoneaster, dogwood, crab apple, 
mulberry, rose, blueberry, grape, viburnum

Northern cardinal - Holly, hackberry, dogwood, mulberry, 
sumac, viburnum, hawthorn, magnolia, black cherry, rose, 

Northern oriole - Mulberry, highbush blueberry, maple, 
serviceberry, black cherry, blackberry, elderberry, grape, 

Tufted titmouse - Hackberry, mulberry, pine, oak, grape, 
crab apple, blackberry, Virginia creeper

Yellow-rumped warbler - Honeysuckle, viburnum, pine, sumac, 
cedar, dogwood, American elm, juniper, Virginia creeper, 
American beech 


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Include plants that offer fruit at different times of the 
year. For example, elderberries and mulberries are ripe in 
summer (and blueberries and brambles, if you're inclined to 
share), winterberries and crab apples are ripe in fall, and 
sumacs and hollies hold their fruit into winter. 

Birds need water for drinking and bathing, and birdbaths can 
be as decorative as they are utilitarian. A birdbath with a 
rough surface and a gradual slope to a depth of 3 inches is 
best, and for added safety, set it out in the open and off 
the ground where it's out of reach of any interested felines. 

Gimme Shelter
Consider planting some of these trees and shrubs for shelter: 
alder, ash, azalea, beech, birch, cedar, cherry, cotoneaster, 
cottonwood, crab apple, dogwood, fir, hackberry, hawthorn, 
hemlock, holly, juniper, larch, maple, mountain ash, oak, 
ornamental grass, pine, rhododendron, rose, serviceberry, 
sumac, yew. 

Plant trees and shrubs in mixed groupings of different types 
and sizes of plants, rather than a homogenous planting. That 
way you'll attract more different kinds of birds. 

Being a neatnik about your landscape won't help the birds as 
much as if you leave some brush piles and dead trees about, 
and some perennials gone to seed. Isn't it lucky that you 
can do the birds a favor and at the same time relieve your 
conscience about not getting to that garden cleanup! 

I miss the birds chattering at the feeders this summer, but 
they are still drawn to my yard by other enticements. Blue-
birds perch on the deck railing, and an indigo bunting 
stopped by for the first time. I just planted some choke-
berries, which will be covered with blue-black berries in 
the fall. It's better than luring a bear too close for 

           GopherCentral's Question of the Week   

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Question of the Week   
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