Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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November 22, 2013

THE DIRT ON GARDENING: This winter, why not feed our wild friends?

When cold weather arrives, those who opt to help birds and other creatures should make sure seed and suet stations are filled regularly. Corn and nuts are good selections for ground-feeding wildlife.

Feeding wildlife supplements their diets at best, but makes for a better survival rate through freezing temperatures.

Nature provides winter food for wildlife in many ways, and one way is by producing seed-bearing plants and berries of all kinds.

Take for example all the ornamental trees and shrubs that produce an abundance of berries and fruits that cling well into our coldest months and are there for the picking by hungry birds. These trees not only provide necessary food for birds and earth-bound critters, but at the same time (and mainly why we plant them) provide us with colorful beauty throughout each of our seasons.

Spring brings the colorful blossoms, which are then pollinated and produce the thousands of tiny colorful fruits. So while we admire them for their beauty, the birds admire them for a food source and are attracted to them for this same colorful beauty.

Crabapples are the first that come to mind, but are certainly not the only berried trees and shrubs. On trees and shrubs there are many fruits because each berry produces seeds that eventually sustain the species by falling and sprouting to regenerate.

Some of the more prominent berried species that come to mind, and that we regularly see in landscapes, are the many varieties of dwarf crabapples, dwarf cherry, hawthorne with their bright red/purple fruit, mountain ash with their bright orange clusters at their appendages, holly trees with deep red berries, cotoneaster shrubs, European cranberry bushes and the list goes on and on.

The same goes with nut-bearing trees that have their “seeds” fall to the earth to root and sustain the species. The bulk of a seed tree’s production is sought after by hungry critters which stash them for the frigid winter months, or in some cases bury them to retrieve when weather permits.

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