Lets bust some myths about birds!


    Does peanut butter kill birds? And do they really explode if they eat rice thrown at a wedding? Mike McGrath looks into the best—and safest—ways to feed your feathered friends. Plus Mike speaks with St. Joseph’s University Professor Karen Snetselaar about the Fungi in your landscape! And your fabulous phone calls!

    Question of the Week

    “A few weeks ago, I repeated some {ahem} ‘advice’ about what to do with your leftover cut Christmas tree. I said you had two main choices: Either prune off the branches and use them to protect pansies over winter or to mulch azaleas and rhododendrons; or “stand the tree up in your backyard unpruned and cover it with suet feeders and big globs of peanut butter to create the most natural bird feeder imaginable.” The latter is actually my preferred use, because the birds you nurture and attract are also the best eaters of insect pests in the Spring and Summer. “

    Mike McGrath

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    • Photo by Flickr user Mike

    Highlights from show for January 24, 2015:

    Raised beds vs flat earth gardening

    Steve in Maple Glen, PA is thinking of starting a vegetable garden, but does not know whether he should grow them in raised beds or till them out onto the field. Mike provides Steve with some facts on flat earth gardening, which has no advantages, it really is not a good idea, and raised beds will most likely give better results. He might want to assemble boxes, 4 foot wide and can be at any desired length. The whole concept of raised beds is that you never compress the soil, so you may never need to till the soil, and also have good drainage. In a situation such as Steve’s, he may want to scalp the grass area a few times, cover the entire area with a single layer of cardboard and drop the raised beds over the cardboard. Then he will want to fill them up with a mix of screened top soil, meaning it’s black when dry, with a good amount of compost.

    Holding contractors accountable

    Landscape architect, Lauren from Ringoes, NJ actually has a response to a caller from a previous show who had their property trampled by a contractor, and she wanted to comment that depending on how much of the area the contractor damaged, that they may be required by law to reestablish vegetative cover or a mulch cover for soil erosion and sediment control is something perhaps she may want to delve into. She mentions that PA has similar laws to NJ about soil erosion and sediment control requirements. She also says most contractors aren’t aware that they are on the hook to keep the mulch all throughout the season until permanent vegetative cover has been placed. Home owners should know their rights that your contractor is obligated to keep the temporary cover over the winter before vegetation can grow.

    The nematode nemesis

    Looks like Don’s vegetable garden in Parrish, FL has an enemy: the southern root knot nematode. This plant-parasite feeds off plants and in some other cases, off of bacteria, and fungi, and such. Apparently, they have been munching, chewing, and eventually destroying Don’s poor tomatoes; not to mention these are the nematodes favorite. When Don’s tomatoes are pulled up by the body, the roots are a “twisted mass of knots”. Don has planted a healthy crop of French marigolds in hope of helping to control them, which he has had some success with. His pole beans are getting affected by these nematodes too, that are in the same soil he treated by growing the marigolds. Mike has some suggestions: since he is Florida and it is easy for him to do, he would want to solarize his soil. Which is the use of an environmentally friendly method of using solar power for managing pests such as nematodes. Mike instructs him that he must turn over and break down the soil well and level and saturate it with water until the soil over flows and cannot take in any more water. He should spread clear plastic material over the top of the soil, do this as you creep up to the hottest month of the season. Stretch it tight and anchor it down at the sides. Mike says to let it it cook about 2 months for he lives in a certain climate that will allow it to completely eradicate the nematodes and any other parasite, disease born in the soil.

    Caring for newly installed sod

    Lin in West Cape May, NJ had sod installed in her front and backyards. Concerned about what might be causing her backyard sod to turn brown, she questions Mike if there is anything she can do or if he can confirm the cause is her installing the sod too late in the season (mid- December). She mentions she has watered it religiously ever since she had them installed 10 days ago. Mike replies that one does want to saturate the sod for the first 2 hours but not water it again for a while for it will drown it. Mike rejects the idea of being planted too late, because plants grown in the winter time, do grow but at a much slower pace; therefore, her plant is alive. Also, it only needs one-tenth of the water it’s receiving right now. Since they’re are a variety of sods, if Lin’s sod is the turf type tall fescue sod, which he mentions is very popular, she can easily replace dead areas with seed. On the other hand, “If it is a variety of blue grass or if it’s a mix of blue grass and fescue, the blue grass is a running grass and will fill in any bear spots”. Mike tells Lin to see how it goes through the Winter and in the Spring she will be able to recognize if there are any dead areas. To treat this she can either go to a nursery and get supplied with seeds to match the dead spots if she has the first variety of sod.

    Caring for your fig tree

    Ron from Ambler, PA is lost as to when he should prune his fig tree. He also mentions that in the winter, he protects the tree by wrapping it in a light tarp and stuffs it with mulched up leaves. He receives many figs but they seem to never want to ripen, says Ron. Mike says his figs are not ripening, because his tree gets hit with winter winds. Figs are Mediterranean plants and are sensitive when in cold temperatures. At the end of the season Ron should not touch his plant. in the spring when all is animated, take the cover off earlier than later. Also he should prune his fig tree during the spring time and get rid of any dead wood, anything that isn’t green, which will actually provoke the figs to fully mature by the end of the summer. If he still is not getting any new and ripe figs, he should get a new plant that is designated for the north.

    • Photo by Flickr user Jon

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