Sexy bird songs, monarch help and houseplant hugs

Black-capped Chickadee on Redbud
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) perching on a Redbud Tree

Before I start nattering on different topics, I just want to let you know that people have given generously to the Little Free Library at my house this year, so if you’re looking for vegetable and/or flower seeds, come on over.

We literally have hundreds of donated seed packets to share, and I put more out every day. Take whole packs of seeds, or package up just a few and leave the rest of the packet for others. Everyone is welcome!

The library is located on the boulevard on the corner of 45 & Washburn in Linden Hills.

Bird wake-up calls

I love birds, and it’s wonderful to hear them chattering away. But, boy, do they start calling and singing early this time of year.

Lately, we don’t need an alarm because the birds in the front yard wake us up around 4:45 a.m., sometimes earlier. Wondering what motivates them to do this, I read up on the topic a bit and learned some odd yet interesting things that I’d like to share with you.

First, as you probably imagined, the birds that really turn up the volume before dawn are mostly males. Their goal is often to attract the ladies, but they might also be claiming and/or defending their territory.

Theories on why birds love to sing and call in the pre-dawn hours vary, and I must say some ideas sound more plausible than others.

Some argue that birds sing so vigorously and loudly when it’s still dark because, hey, it’s hard to do much else when it’s not light out yet. Fair enough.

Others think birdsong is more clear and consistent in the early morning, and that makes it more likely that other birds can tell which sexy (or tough) man-bird is doing all that singing.

And then there is the idea that perhaps the best way to impress the ladies, or stake out territory, is to sing loud and proud early in the morning because just the fact that you’re up and able to do that means you are one awesome catch of a manly bird.

Monarch way stations

A few years back we made our garden an official Monarch Waystation so we could be part of a network of folks looking to help the millions of monarchs that migrate every fall from the U.S. and Canada to overwintering sites in Mexico and California. Monarchs have long depended on plants along their migration route, but in recent years, much of that habitat has been lost to development and increased pesticide use in areas that used to grow wild.

A program of the University of Kansas, Monarch Watch offers Monarch Waystation registration as well as seed kits to establish a monarch-friendly garden if you don’t already have one. To learn more or become a part of Monarch Watch, check out their website.

Hugs for houseplants

It can really suck to be a houseplant in Minnesota, especially when winter lasts for six months. Now is a good time to help those bedraggled, light-deprived plants of yours by giving them a little loving care.

Use a damp cloth to remove dust from plants’ leaves. Or, if your plants are easy enough to carry, take them outside (or put ’em in the bathtub) and gently hose them down. Snip off leaves and stems that look diseased or just too darn tired to come back to life. See bugs? Try moving them on using a spray of lukewarm water before going for chemical treatments.

Repotting isn’t necessary, unless the current pot is too small, which you can usually tell because roots will stick out of the hole in the bottom and/or water will just run right out because you’ve got a pot full of roots and very little soil.

Repotted or not, I find houseplants do better when I mix a little bit of compost into their pots once a year.

Meleah Maynard is a writer, editor and master gardener. For more gardening ideas and tips, visit her blog, which has been renamed Livin’ Thing.