Turn Off LIghts During Bird Migrations

Each spring billions of birds migrate back north to the upper parts of the United States and Canada. Many are traveling from Mexico, South and Central America, or the southern US.

Birds migrate at night and they use the sky and the stars as their navigation map. Artificial lighting from buildings, street lights, and towers are confusing to the birds and they can become disoriented. This in turn, causes birds to collide with the buildings, especially those made of glass.

Bird vision is different than ours, and they cannot see reflection like we do.

This artificial light can also throw off their migration path, causing the birds confusion and using up priceless energy in distress.

Thousands of birds can perish over a single night due to one single city building. Collision is the second leading cause of death for birds (cats are the #1 cause). Buildings are the most single cause, with cars, and electric lines the following leading causes.

We’re talking between 365-988 million bird deaths each year in the US alone.

Broken Window Bird by massmatt

Lights Out Programs

Thankfully, some cities in the US have initiated ‘Lights Out’ programs. These are voluntary type programs encouraging building owners to turn off building lights during certain times of the year during certain hours at night (sunset to sunrise) when birds are migrating (April/May and September/October). All in point to reduce the number of bird collisions into the buildings. Some of the programs also have volunteers who scour the grounds around buildings for research purposes or to save injured birds who have a chance.

Cities have been seeing many benefits to the Lights Out programs including saving energy. Reducing light pollution is going to also help other wildlife, and even us humans too.

Read more about the Lights Out Programs: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/beginners/helping-birds/lights-out-programs-north-america/

“Porch Lights” by webhamster

1. Advocate a Lights Out Program in your city

It starts by talking to elected officials and building owners. Audubon Society has some good tips on how to get started with this advocacy. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out

I personalized this letter, pre-written by Audubon, and emailed it to my Mayor in Lexington, KY.

2. Reduce light pollution at home

Only use outdoor lights when you need them. Here are some other tips to reduce light pollution at home.

Motion Lights: If you need security, switch to a motion light fixture. There’s fancier styles of motion lights on the market now that look better than the basic ones. GE even makes motion sensor light bulbs!

GE makes motion sensor light bulbs if you don’t have a motion sensor light fixture.

Safer Light Bulbs: If anything, use warm toned bulbs instead of blue ones (which mimic daylight). I’m unsure about the affects of colored light bulbs. Switch to lower wattage bulbs. High wattage bulbs are usually unnecessary. Your neighbors will also probably be happier. (Wish 2 of my neighbors would read this!)

Solar Lighting: Use some low key solar lighting instead of bright outdoor lights.

Deflect Light: If you do need to keep a light on at night, use something to deflect light the downward. I have ‘turtle safe’ style lights at my house, which directs light downward, instead of out into the air where it is not needed.

Landscaping Lighting: Don’t use landscaping lighting, or use it minimally. As a landscape designer, using landscape lighting minimally and affectively looks better than lighting up the whole landscape at night. I often see landscape lighting done to extreme and I personally don’t think it even looks good.

Bonus: If you reduce light pollution around your home, you’ll probably see more lightening bugs too. Light pollution is severely affecting lightening bug populations.

3. Prevent birds from hitting windows at home

Usually birds see the reflection of surrounding habitat in the window and they think they’re heading toward sky, greenery, or a perch. You can reduce this chance by simply having something in or on the window the birds can see to know the window is solid. Most people have window coverings or grid lines in the windows. If it is a large blank window or a sliding glass door, you can use bird screens or different types of window films to reduce glare.

The following article has some really good tips: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/gear/preventing-bird-window-collisions/15-products-prevent-birds-hitting-windows/

Window Alert Decals

The effects of late cold snaps

There’s a joke in Kentucky that goes something like this, “If you don’t like the weather just wait a day”.

Yesterday I worked outside in a t-shirt and got hot (and a sunburn!) This morning I’m wearing my winter coat and hat! While most of the time, it’s just a blip to our fashion choices, these weather fluctuations can be harmful.

Specifically I’m referring to cold snaps we’ve had in mid to late springtime in 2020, and now 2021.

In Kentucky and other regions of the US, May of 2020, we had several periods of heavy frost and freezing temperatures. Flash forward to last night, April 21 2121, we received a good amount of accumulated snow with temperatures just below freezing.

Our average last FROST date is technically April 15th. Much less freezing temperatures in May, or snow accumulations in late April. Who knows what else is yet to come this spring.

What happens when it freezes and snows in late spring and how is this detrimental to the ecology, farming, the nursery and landscaping trade, and beloved garden plants?

Chokeberry 2 Days Ago
Chokeberries Now

Ecology

While most plants are likely to bounce back just fine, some species will take a hit.

Some native spring flowering plants will likely loose their flowers and won’t develop seed pods. In an already struggling environment of habitat loss and invasive plants, this could influence populations of spring wildflowers. Thankfully, many are probably insulated by the forest canopy and leaf litter on the forest floor. So, in an insulated forest environment they are hopefully well protected.

If fruiting plants are in flower, and their flowers are damaged, they may not set fruit. Including nut trees. This could affect how much food is available for birds and wildflower later this year.

We can learn form this! Leave leaf litter and wait to clean up the garden as late as possible. This will give plants insulation during these unpredicted cold snaps.

The wood poppies may not form seed pods. The phlox flowers will probably fade while usually they last weeks.

Trees Specifically

In the case of late snow, trees and shrubs can be easily damaged this time of year. There is a reason trees and shrubs loose their leaves in winter. If trees have leaves in high winds, there is a higher chance that tree can be damaged or fall down. The same with snow. If trees have leafed out and we receive snow, there is more weight on the tree and a higher chance of it being damaged.

My nine bark is nearly completely leafed out, and looks quite droopy.

Farming

Late frosts and freezes is just one nightmare for farmers. Many fruit trees and shrubs bloom early in the season. If those flowers are damaged, they cannot develop, and they cannot form fruit. The plants then really struggle to produce any fruit at all. This in turn creates shortage, raises prices in the grocery store, and quality is compromised. No telling how this affects the farmer. The same goes with any planted crop that cannot take the late freeze or frost.

Nursery Trade

In May of 2020 and last night, I saw my local nurseries posting on social media about covering up plants. They showed rows of nursery plants covered up in swaths of horticultural fleece. Last year due to the several late freezes in May, the Japanese Maples at the nursery took a hit. They did not look their prime the rest of the year and I wonder if sales declined due to this.

While most shrubs were probably okay, perennials, herbs, and vegetables can quickly perish in frosts or freezes. In addition, these plants are grown in greenhouses to get a head start, so they’re very acclimated to the nice cushiony temperatures and environment they were grown in. They’re already trying to adapt to being outside, much less a frost or freeze.

Many nurseries do not have greenhouses. If they do, they may not be at the retail location. It’s probably virtually impossible to transport plants back to a greenhouse considering the sheer number of plants, staff, space, and the last minute forecasts.

Landscaping Trade

The freezes in May last year made my business more aware of planting client’s gardens too early. This year, I’ve been quite apprehensive to start too much planting, especially perennials. The last thing I want to do, is plant a client’s garden full of perennials, and we get a late snow or freeze. It would not be a good position to be in!

To plant or not to plant? That is the question. Landscaping businesses can suffer the loss of income either way they decide. Plants may perish if planted too early and we get a late freeze or snow. It questions who is responsible. If they replace plants, it’s a loss. Push projects later into the season, and the work season shortens, which may mean taking on less projects.

Landscaping companies already have short time frames to work within a year (unless they do hardscaping, snow removal for example). Planting season around Kentucky is about a 6-7 month timeframe at most. Late freezes, rainy days, temperatures over 90 degrees, and early freezes all shorten that season to maybe 4-5 months.

Covering up a bunch of plants can be tedious!

Beloved Garden Plants

Plants are very resilient. I was amazed how well plants did with the several late freezes in May 2020. The tender leaves on my fringe tree and buttonbush, froze off 3 times! While they barely flowered last year, the leaves grew back like new.

While I think most plants do just fine, some will not fair well.

It’s always sad to see flowers go earlier than they should. My tulips are likely done for. The tender petals on some native wildflowers will probably drop. Some plants may have the tips of their stems scalded. Many plants could be set back or show damage the rest of the year, but they will likely live on.

If the plant is already suffering, a freeze can do it in. My mom had a yellowwood tree that was making it, but not thriving. They are difficult trees to establish. The freeze sadly did it in last year. A friend just had a Japanese maple planted. There was phythophthora root rot in the soil, which causes a slow decline in plants. Also sadly, the freeze secured its final fate.

I forgot to cover my blueberries last night. I wonder if the flowers were damaged; will they form fruit this year?

I covered up my onion transplants and hope my seeds trying to germinate faired well.

I wonder how well my hostas did…

Last year, I could not plant some of my vegetables until very late in the year. I didn’t get tomato seeds planted until June. I barely got any tomatoes last year. What is a home vegetable gardener to do? For me, it means starting them inside early and waiting. Growing them up larger before planting will take more work.

Conclusion

While most plants can go through a late freeze, frost, or snow just fine, some will not. This will affect wildlife and the economy in several different ways. These impacts can be large and severe, especially on agriculture. I have never seen freeze and frost this late in the spring as I have these past 2 years. Will this be a common trend? This may affect how we landscape our backyards.

Choosing native plants that are more resilient to frost and freeze will be more important. My native columbine was barely scathed.

Every gardener should have some horticultural fleece on hand and items to secure it down to the ground.

A little drooped over, but columbine is so hardy!

A Guest At The Wallis House

Last week I was a guest at the Wallis House, which is the home of The Garden Club of Kentucky. I got to speak with a lovely group of ladies on how to attract birds to your landscape. Hopefully I inspired them to plant some new plants in their gardens that the birds will appreciate.

The Garden Club of Kentucky was incorporated in 1931. It is divided into districts, 5 total in Kentucky, and has over 50 local chapters. You can join any local garden club or you can join the Garden Club of Kentucky at large. You can check their map to see which clubs are local to you.

The Nannine Clay Wallis House & Arboretum in downtown Paris, Kentucky is their headquarters. The house was built in the 1850s on its 4 acres of land. The property was bequeathed to the Garden Club of Kentucky upon Wallis’s death in 1971, who was the second president of the club.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is rentable for weddings, meetings, and other special occasions. Definitely consider supporting this venue for your next special event! The home is open to tours by appointment, but the Arboretum is open to the public daily dawn to dusk. They have some neat trees, including the Kentucky Grand Champion Northern Red Oak.

I was partial to this Basswood.

While both in the genus Tilia, In America, we call the species Basswood (like Tilia americana), and in Europe, they’re called Lindens or even Limes.

After I spoke, we had some super cute sugar cookies and lemonade a lady made for us!

Before I left, I was then given something to take home with me. A Wallis Rabbit! This rabbit has an interesting story!

Before we left, we walked around the Arboretum grounds, which had a lot of nice spring color…

…some interesting garden nooks…

…and a goldfish pond.

If you’re around Paris, KY make sure to stop by the Wallis House for a walk around the gardens.

I put my ‘William Wallace” rabbit where I had seen the real rabbit who lives in my yard had been the day before, eating the phlox flowers…

Free Virtual Garden Tours

2020 was a tough year to get out and do anything, and it looks like the beginning of 2021 (at least) is going to be about the same. I know many parks and hiking trails have been closed, which has made it difficult to enjoy the outdoors beyond the backyard. Thankfully, many gardens have created virtual garden tours!!

On the positive, these digital excursions have been a blessing for someone like me. It’s extremely rarely I ever get to do anything besides work, chores, or a little shopping. I have enjoyed being able to go on these ‘tours’.

Below is a YouTube playlist I created with a roundup of garden tours from around the world. Visit the organization’s channel if you’d like to see more garden goodness!

My Virtual Garden Tour Youtube Playlist

Click the icon (3 lines with an arrow) in the top right corner of the video to see the full playlist.

The following is a list of garden tours that you can visit right on the garden’s website:

Birmingham Botanic Gardens (UK)

Highgrove: Home of Prince of Wales & Dutchess of Cornwall

Hicote National Trust Garden

US Botanical Garden

Lewis Ginter Garden

Denver Botanic Gardens

Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Past Annual Tours

Gardening new years resolutions

I recently heard on a news story that the biggest resolution Americans make is to get healthy. It was also noted, that of any country, American’s are the least likely to keep their resolutions!

They attributed this fault to creating too large of a goal. There are many ways to become healthy such as: exercising, eating whole foods, meditating, stretching, or drinking more water. It’s much better to focus on one aspect!

The other top New Year’s resolutions included getting organized, learning a new skill, saving more money, quitting smoking, and traveling more, which might not be a popular resolution for 2021!

I’m here to tell you, New Years resolutions can include goals for your garden!

Here are some Gardening New Year’s Resolution Ideas:

  1. I will plant more native plants
  2. I will plant a native tree
  3. I will reduce lawn and make more garden spaces
  4. I will remove an invasive species in my yard
  5. I will volunteer for a garden club, nature preserve, etc.
  6. I will eliminate pesticide and chemical use on my property like mosquito and lawn spraying
  7. I will leave my perennials standing through winter to provide habitat for overwintering pollinators.
  8. I will grow a vegetable or herb garden this year
  9. I will observe and appreciate nature more often
  10. I will learn about gardening through a book, class, or a professional garden coach

The Why

The most important step to a New Year’s resolution to create the ‘why’ since this will be the motivator. You may want to plant more native plants in your yard because:

  • They’re easier to take care of
  • Are hardy and can usually handle drought or tough weather better
  • They’ll attract beautiful butterflies
  • It’s better for the environment

Always write down your ‘why’s’ underneath your goal and refer back to them. Really think about each why and envision what that looks like in real life.

My Garden New Year’s Resolution

  • I’d like to add some more texture and contrasting foliage in my front yard.
  • Restructure my vegetable garden and add some irrigation
  • Successionally sow crop seeds for a more even harvest (I can only eat so much salad!)

Gardening resolutions are great because there’s plenty of time to plan for your garden escapade before spring arrives. However, it’s a good idea to start planning now in case you need any supplies. Visioning your goals also helps when it comes time to actually take action!

If you need help in your garden this year, contact EARTHeim soon to get on my schedule! January and February are the perfect times.