Planting by Calendar and Growing for the Birds

seed_startsUse a Planting Calendar   

If you start vegetable plants indoors, it is often helpful to list seeding dates on a calendar so that plants are ready for transplanting at the proper time.

To do this, choose your transplant date and count back the number of weeks necessary to grow your own transplants. For example, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are usually transplanted in late March to early April. It takes 8 weeks from seeding to transplant size. Therefore, plants should be seeded in early February.

Information on how many weeks it takes to grow transplants is available in our January 3 newsletter at: .

Below are examples of some common vegetables grown for transplants and a recommended date for seeding. Dates are Saturdays as this is when many homeowners have the most free time. The dates are not set in stone, and a week earlier or later will not ruin the plants. Also, you may want to seed a week or two earlier if you are in southern Kansas and possibly a week later if you are in northern Kansas. Calendars can be reused year after year by a slight reset of the dates. Also keep notes on how well the transplants did so you can tweak the planting schedule. Your conditions may result in plants that need a bit more or a bit less time.

Crop Seeding Date Transplant Date

Cabbage, Broccoli
& Cauliflower February 4 April 1

Lettuce (if you grow
transplants) February 4 April 1

Peppers March 18 May 13

Tomatoes March 25 May 6

photo by Bill Marchel

photo by Bill Marchel

Bird Feeding: No Feeders Required

If bird feeders are against the rules—or impractical—natural foods provide the perfect alternative. Melissa Mayntz

Bohemian waxwings feast on highbush cranberry
Bohemian waxwings feast on a highbush cranberry shrub in a Minnesota backyard. Unlike feeders, such natural foods benefit a diversity of wildlife species beyond birds.

BACKYARD BIRD FEEDERS ARE EASY, convenient and available in a dizzying variety of sizes, styles and colors to suit any wildlife gardener’s tastes. But what can you do when feeders aren’t an option? Because of the mess feeders can make, some homeowners’ associations ban them. Feeders also may attract unwelcome nectar- and seed-stealing visitors, including squirrels, rats, raccoons or even large predators such as bears. And some backyard birders want to provide food but find it inconvenient to fill and clean feeders.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution—and it may even be better for birds. Natural foods such as shrubs, trees and other plants can be just as easy and convenient as feeders, and they provide additional benefits. “Plantings create more of an ecosystem, attracting a wider variety of birds,” says Kimberly Kaufman, executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio and co-author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest. “Flowers, trees and shrubs also provide cover and nesting habitat as well as important nectar for pollinators and host plants for butterflies and moths.”
From Seeds To Nuts

A wide variety of plants can nurture backyard birds: Nectar-rich flowers like bee balm, salvia and lupine are magnets for hummingbirds. Seed-bearing blooms, including coneflowers and cosmos, attract finches, sparrows, doves and quail. Jays are partial to nuts provided by trees such as hickories, pecans and walnuts, while fruit-loving birds, from orioles to waxwings, flock to sumacs, serviceberries, junipers and other berry bushes. Larger fruit trees, including crabapples and hollies, are top draws for grosbeaks, tanagers, catbirds and mockingbirds.

Don’t forget about food that insects provide. “Most birds are insect eaters, especially during the breeding season, and provision their young with the caterpillars of butterflies and moths that feed on specific native host plants,” says Mary Phillips, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™ program.

Because insects are so critical, wildlife gardeners should minimize pesticides and choose native plants, which support the greatest number and diversity of insects. In addition, “native plants thrive in the soils and climate of your region, meaning fewer pest problems and less supplemental watering,” Phillips says. “Native plants also help manage rainwater runoff and promote healthy soil.”

With all the benefits of natural foods, there’s no need to fret if feeders are not an option. Consider using the time you’ll save maintaining feeders to sit back and enjoy the avian show.

Writer Melissa Mayntz covers wild birds and birding for

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