Smell Like Dirt

In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood

Archive for tree

Backyard Babes!

Spring is when most small animals breed so that their babies are born (or hatched) when the weather is milder and food is abundant, and there is plenty of evidence right in our backyard!  The birds are busy feeding babies so we shot this video on the important of providing the 4th element of a wildlife habitat—Places to Raise Young.  Its not too late to put up some nesting boxes in your habitat.  Most songbirds will have 2-3 broods in one nesting season that they often switch nesting sites, so there’s still time!

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Feeling Blue? Get Outside!

A comment from Friend of SLD, Harry Schmeider, who writes a great blog on all things Bluebirds called Ambassador for the Bluebirds, reminded me of an article that another friend of SLD forwarded to us a few weeks ago.  Harry posted a comment on the hummingbird video post about relieving stress by smelling like dirt and Katie had sent this article to us from Discover Magazine written in 2007 which gives a scientific reason to what gardeners have known for a long time, that getting outside and getting dirty is good for your mood!  The article reports how researchers, studying treatments for allergies, injected patients with a soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae and found that it activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain—the same nerves targeted by anti-depressant drugs like Prozac!  As I said, gardeners could have saved them some time and money because we have known this for years, but its nice to have scientific proof.  And if you don’t have a garden, don’t worry about having to call your doctor to get a prescription, you can get the benefits from it by inhaling the bacterium during a walk in nature.  So, the next time you’re feeling a little blue, go outside and smell some dirt!

They’re baaackkkk!

Spring is here so the hummers can’t be far behind. This video shows some easy steps you can take to make sure the ruby throated hummingbirds choose your backyard as the place to raise their families. There’s nothing like having a bunch of energetic hummers zipping around the garden and fighting over feeders. We’ve added some great still photos from Lauri Shubert, Smell Like Dirt Official Photographer. And although we didn’t include it in this video, remember to provide a water source for the hummingbirds. We find that the mister is their favorite. We also added some clips at the end to show some of the challenges in filming videos in your own backyard! Enjoy and remember, mix your nectar with a 4:1 ratio. 4 cups water, 1 cup sugar.

Gardening for bugs

Louise, a friend of Smell Like Dirt, alerted us to this recent article in the NY Times about the importance of gardening with native plants that will feed the native insects, who will then attract the native birds. Doug Tallamy has written Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens which does a great job of explaining the importance of gardening with the entire food chain in mind. And, planting with native plants is a great way to cut down on the amount of water, chemicals and maintenance that a garden full of non-native species requires. Read the article and get inspired to attract more bugs!

Stop those Catalogs!!

If you’re like me, you get TONS of catalogs in the mail each week. And since you are on a environmentally-themed blog, I assume you are recycling those catalogs instead of tossing them into the trash. But have you ever wished you could stop those catalogs from coming in the first place? It drives me crazy when I think of the trees that are killed for the pages in the catalogs, the energy that’s used to print them and then the fuel that the post office uses to move them all over the country. If there was just some way to stop them. Well, now there is! A friend recently shared a new website that you can use to stop receiving catalogs. And the best thing is that you can pick and choose which ones to stop. Can’t bear to live without yourLL Bean? You don’t have to! This service is not like the “do not call” service for telemarketers that stops everything. You can select which ones you no longer wish to see. And its easy. I let my catalogs pile up for a few days and then when I have a few minutes, I go to www.catalogchoice.org. The first time you will need to join (its free!) and then it will ask you to enter the name of the catalog you wish to stop. Chances are, its already in their database, so you click on it, but if not, you can enter a new one. Then it will ask you to enter your name, exactly how it appears on the catalog (this is important), and your customer number if you have one–usually printed on the address label– and that’s it! They will notify the catalog company and you will be taken off their list. I figure its going to take me a few months to get all of the catalogs I receive stopped, but its worth it. I wonder if my mailman will notice?

Late Winter Pruning

If you haven’t already, now is the time to prune those bushes and shrubs that call for “late winter” pruning. Butterfly bushes, hollies, boxwoods, pompas grass, camelias— if you have any of these in your gardens, now is the time to give them a gentle pruning or whack them back drastically, whatever they need. But be careful you are not trimming anything that will be blooming soon. Azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias and spirea, for example should be shaped AFTER they bloom this spring and summer. If you trim azaleas or rhodies now, you will be cutting off all of this years blooms, which they set last fall. Wait until after they bloom but before July 1 to shape them up (if you must….I like the natural form of both plants the best) Hydrangeas are an entirely different matter. Some species bloom on old wood and shouldn’t be trimmed now and some bloom on new wood and would benefit from a good pruning, so make sure you know which type you have and do some research before grabbing those loppers! And while you are in the yard trimming, look up and take a gander at your tree limbs before the leaves start reappearing. Now is a great time to take note of limbs that might have been damaged this winter or are already dead and schedule a professional to come out and remove them, if necessary. Its too early to start planting but the days are getting longer and there are plenty of signs that spring is just around the corner, so take this opportunity to get outside and putter in your garden!

Tree Seedling and Rain Barrel Sale January 26

The annual Mecklenburg County Tree Seedling and Rain Barrel Sale is just around the corner!  If you haven’t already ordered your rain barrel, make sure you do it by Monday, January 14th.  And when you are there picking up your Rain Barrel on the 26th, you can pick up a lot of great bushes and trees which are native to the Piedmont area of the Carolinas.  This sale is an hugely popular event and even though the doors don’t open until 9am, lines start forming around 8am.  There will be dogwoods, red maples, oaks, beauty berry, long leaf pine, button bushes and more on sale for $1-$5.  For a complete list and more information, click here.  Doors will remain open while supplies last, or noon, whichever comes first. If you miss out on the opportunity to get a rain barrel on the 26th, there will be other opportunities throughout 2008. For a list of the schedule, click here.