Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bird Proof Your Home for Spring

(ARA) - Spring is a busy time for birds. Warmer temperatures increase food sources, and birds are on the look out for new nesting spots and mates. Whether they are returning from a winter migration or are resident birds weary from a long winter haul, they have a lot of work to be done before autumn.

Birds are in survival mode in the spring. In order to get through the next winter, they will be searching for spots that provide the elements needed to survive. Most homes and gardens provide the three elements necessary for a birds’ survival: food, water and shelter.

Whether you anticipate birds returning to your home, or are dealing with a pest bird problem now, addressing these three elements will make it easy to bird proof a home for the spring. Taking away food or water sources, and blocking off ideal nesting spots like dryer vents and eaves will help send pest birds packing.

Doing a quick check around the home in the beginning stages of spring can mean the difference between successfully deterring pest birds or not. Have you had a recurring problem with nesting birds? If yes, treating these spots with deterrents before the birds return will yield better results than waiting until they have come back. Once they begin to build a nest, birds will be more persistent about keeping the spot.

Common places pest birds like to nest include:
* Dryer vents
* Eaves
* Open attics
* Garages, barns or boathouses
* Under roof tiles
* Under air-condition units

Checking these areas for nesting materials will clue you in as to whether this may be a problem spot. Birds like to nest high, so check beams, ledges and rafters. If there are nesting materials, a cleanup is essential. Bird droppings and nests can host disease and parasites. A good cleaning will not only protect you and your family, but also eliminate scents that help a bird identify their old nest.

There are many different bird deterrents available in today’s market that can be used for a wide variety of problems. Bird deterrents usually fit into four categories;

Visual Bird Deterrents

Visual deterrents are meant to be seen by birds, to frighten or scare them away from open areas. Visual deterrents will have shiny reflective surfaces or mock predator features. Visual bird deterrents include Mylar flash tape, scare eye diverters and balloons. There are also decoys like owls available. These items work best when hung right in front of a problem area. When the bird fly’s towards the spot, they will see the visual deterrents and get confused or frightened, and want to avoid the area.

Sound Deterrents for Birds

Sound deterrents use recorded bird calls to deter pest birds from large open spaces. A mixture of predator calls and distress calls can be used to alert birds in the surrounding area of danger. Most sound deterrents are weatherproof and designed for outdoor use. These are ideal to use when you have a large open space to treat. Sound deterrents include the Bird Chase Super Sonic.

Physical Bird Deterrents

Physical deterrents are used to block or prevent birds from gaining access to the area they desire. Physical deterrents include bird netting and ledge products like the Bird Spike 2000. Bird netting is installed as a screen to block birds from entering areas. Bird spikes, bird slopes and bird deterrent gel are all used on ledges to prevent birds from landing.

Liquid Bird Repellents

There are also a few liquid repellents used for discouraging birds. Pest control companies can work with fogging machines, or misting units to deter birds from large open spaces.
A non-toxic grape extract that irritates a bird’s mucous membranes is used in these two types of devices. If you have a large tree in your backyard where hundreds of birds were congregating, it’s best to call out a pest control company to fog or mist the tree to repel the birds. The grape extract is safe for both birds, and humans.

There are also live bird traps, and a few other types of bird deterrents available. Knowing what type of bird you are having a problem with, and considering the area that is being affected will help in choosing the best product for the situation. Contacting a bird control company like Absolute Bird Control or Bird-B-Gone can also help ensure that you have chosen the right method.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Tough Economy, Gardening--And Heirlooms--Take Root

(NAPSI)-It's growing season again, and as millions of eager gardeners take to the soil, their goals are many.

First, of course, there's the matter of the economy--more people are opting to grow their own food to save money (a dime's worth of seed can yield about a dollar's worth of fruits and vegetables). And given the recent scares with tainted peanut butter and store-bought produce, food safety is on everyone's mind.

When you grow your own, you not only reduce the risks, but you can also increase the benefits. Enthusiastic home gardeners--in droves--are embracing heirloom vegetables as a healthy and delicious alternative to lackluster modern hybrids.

Heirlooms--vegetables of value that breed true from seed (and thus can be handed down to the next generation)--are diverse in color, shape, size and flavor. Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit network of gardeners who collect, share and save heirlooms (thereby promoting agricultural biodiversity), recently mailed 10,000 heirloom tomato and pepper plants to gardeners in just one month--double its usual amount.

One expert not surprised by that statistic is Amy P. Goldman (Board Chair of Seed Savers), whose recent book, "The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table," cemented her reputation as an authority on heirloom growing and seed preservation.

"Heirloom tomatoes are the people's tomatoes, bred by farmers and gardeners and designed to be homegrown," she said. "Growing your own saves money but there are also intangible benefits: Nearly everyone has room, even in a window box, to cultivate a little piece of happiness."

There's so much more to the world of tomatoes than most of us realize. Red may be the norm, but vive la difference! There's the yellow and red Big Rainbow, the green-when-ripe Aunt Ruby's German Green, the maroon Black Cherry--and the list goes on.

• In her book, Goldman provides seed sources, fascinating vignettes of the growers who bred and preserved these wondrous fruits, and delectable recipes. There's detailed information for selection of the best tomato varieties to grow according to one's taste, cooking preferences and climate, as well as everything you need to know to grow your own tomatoes successfully. Some of the tips for starting seeds include:

• Start tomato seeds inside five to six weeks in advance of setting them out at the frost-free date. Tomato seeds germinate best when given a measured supply of water, cover of darkness and plenty of heat.

Insulated seed trays with water reservoirs and capillary matting make the best seedbeds; ordinary seed trays are also fine. Fill your seedbed with a sterile artificial soil mix (containing materials such as peat moss, vermiculite and perlite) and water until thoroughly wetted; allow it to drain.

• Space five or six seeds equidistant on top of the moistened soil in each seed cell, and label as you go. Dust a quarter-inch layer of potting mix on top and tamp down. Water with lukewarm water, cover and set aside in a warm dark place. Early tomatoes will emerge in as little as three days. Uncover the tray and place under a fluorescent light rigged with a timer to provide 16 hours of light daily.

• Thin seedlings to one per cell; feed with a half-strength liquid fertilizer weekly and pot up into individual pots after the first set of true leaves (not the seedling leaves the plantlet was born with) appear.

For more information, go to www.rareforms.com.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Planting Can Be for the Birds, and Butterflies

Spring means that backyard gardeners and landscapers are hard at work beautifying their yards. But in all of the bustle and planning, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division recommends adding a place for wildlife, no matter the yard’s size.

Some tips:

** Plant fruit-producing shrubs like native crabapple, serviceberry, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, dogwoods and wax myrtle. To attract songbirds including cardinals, robins, bluebirds, orioles, brown thrashers and mockingbirds, plant in clumps, clusters or islands. Cover provides nesting areas for birds and small mammals, as well as shelter from predators and inclement weather.

** Always use caution when using pesticides. Overuse or misuse of lawn chemicals can harm wildlife. Contact a local Cooperative Extension Service with questions about amounts and types of pesticides to use.

** Create a pool as a birdbath and gathering place for wildlife. A pool can be as simple as a small pond or as elaborate as an in-ground reservoir with waterfalls. Also, shallow birdbaths make excellent landscaping focal points.

** Don’t forget the butterflies! Cultivate nectar-producing plants such as salvia, lantana, butterfly bush, milkweeds, blazing star, impatiens and verbena to provide butterfly-viewing opportunities and add an array of color to backyard habitats. Planting butterfly larval host plants like hollyhock, fennel, violets, pawpaw and asters will also encourage butterflies to come to your garden and help them complete their life cycles.

** Use native plants as much as possible. Native wildlife is adapted to the plants, and the plants are adapted to surviving under local conditions with little need for extra fertilizer or water.

** Remember the field guide and binoculars. Watching wildlife can be fun for the entire family, especially considering Georgia’s rich diversity of wild animals and plants. Close-focusing (6 feet or less) binoculars allow you to observe butterflies up close. Field guides featuring birds and butterflies are great resources in helping identify species.

With proper planning, any yard can feature trees, shrubs and other plants that will provide food, shelter and habitat for wildlife. For more information on spring planting for birds and butterflies, visit Wildlife Resources’ Web site, www.georgiawildlife.com, click “Conservation” and choose “Wildlife in Your Backyard.”

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Get Started Composting At Home In Time For Earth Day

(StatePoint) With Earth Day on the horizon, it's the perfect time to get the whole family involved in doing something at home for the good of the environment.

Composting is a great project to get you started going green: It's easy for the entire family, costs nothing, is simple to keep doing and can save you money on fertilizer.

A natural form of recycling, composting turns your organic garbage -- such as food waste, paper, disposable tableware, grass clippings, and much more -- into one of nature's best mulches for your garden or yard. By setting up a compost pile or bin, your family can take positive steps in reducing its carbon footprint while saving money on commercial fertilizers.

"The average American produces four pounds of landfill waste daily. That's more than 50 tons over a lifetime. About half of this waste is compostable, which means we have fantastic opportunities to put our garbage to use to help save the planet," says Julie Stoetzer, brand manager and environmental expert for Chinet disposable tableware.

And with gardening the number one pastime in America, all that waste can be added to yards to improve soil fertility and root development in plants and grass.

Here are simple steps from Stoetzer and the experts at Huhtamaki, the makers of Chinet, to get underway composting:

* Select a convenient spot. It should be semi-shaded and well drained. Don't put your compost pile under acid producing trees like pines. If you do not have space for an outdoor pile, use a bin indoors which can be purchased or made at home.

* Combine organic wastes such as yard trimmings, food wastes and biodegradable paper plates into a pile. Add bulking agents such as wood chips to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials, allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process.

* When choosing disposable tableware such as plates, bowls and platters, select those made of 100 percent pre-consumer recycled content, such as Chinet Casuals and Chinet Classic White lines that also are biodegradable in home composting.

* A properly managed compost bin will not attract pests or rodents and won't smell badly.

* Typical compost will turn into rich soil in two to five weeks. Use compost in home gardening or donate it to city or public benefit projects.

* Examples of what can be composted: Cardboard rolls, clean paper, biodegradable disposable tableware, fruits and vegetables, yard trimmings, coffee grounds and filters, dryer and vacuum cleaner lint, eggshells, fireplace ashes, hair and fur and tea bags.

Items that should NOT be composted:

* Coal or charcoal ash which may contain substances harmful to plants.

* Dairy products such as butter, egg yolks and milk, which can create odor problems and attract pests.

* Meat or fish bones and scraps may contain parasites, bacteria and germs. Fats, grease, lard and oils which can create odor problems.

* Diseased or insect-ridden plants that can contaminate other vegetation. Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides may kill beneficial composting organisms.

"Composting is a simple solution to reduce the waste your family puts into a landfill. We kept this in mind when developing premium disposable Chinet tableware, using recycled materials that otherwise would have gone into a landfill, to produce new biodegradable plates and bowls," stresses Stoetzer.

For more tips on composting and other environmental activities, visit www.mychinet.com and click on "Environment."

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Half-Day Spring River Walk at Sprewell Bluff State Park

On Saturday March 28, join a park ranger on this guided tour of the trails at Sprewell Bluff State Park. Meet at the main parking area near the river at 9:00 am. There is a $3.00 charge per person for the hike, and a $3.00 charge per vehicle for parking. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy back at the parking lot around 12:30 between trails. The morning guided walk will be on the Natural Dam Trail.

The afternoon hike will be on the Longleaf Trail, featuring the globally imperiled Longleaf Pine and Oak Woodland habitat. Both trails feature unique bottomland habitat, with species representing Coastal Plain, Piedmont and North Georgia Mountains all on one trail. Witness the splendor of blooming spring flowers like Atamasco Lily, Silver Bells, and Yellow Jasmine. Learn about the newest arriving spring birds, such as the Common Yellowthroat, the Northern Parula, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

Butterflies are out too, and we are sure to see Zebra Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, and Red-Banded Hairstreaks. Bring a pair of binoculars, good trail shoes, and portable bottled juice or water to enjoy on the walk. The total mileage of both trails is five miles.

To find out more information about these programs, or about Sprewell Bluff State Park, please call the park office at 706-746-6026 or talk to a park ranger at the park. For information on these or other programs happening at other parks, please visit www.gastateparks.org.

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“Give Wildlife a Chance” Poster Winner is Caroline Andrews


Peeples Elementary student Caroline Andrews will encourage the residents of Georgia to “Give Wildlife a Chance” with her artwork that is being published in a 2009-2010 calendar by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, State Botanical Garden of Georgia and The Environmental Resources Network, Inc. (T.E.R.N.).

Caroline is one of 12 elementary students selected as statewide winners of the “Give Wildlife a Chance” poster contest. She placed third in the first/second grade division with her artwork titled, “Nature’s Gifts: The Plants and Animals of Georgia.” More than 4,000 elementary students from 30 public schools, as well as private and home-school groups, participated in the 19th annual conservation art competition.

Caroline’s entry, along with the other state winners, will be on display at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Conference Center in Mansfield, Georgia March 21-April 4.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Learn How to “Go Green” in a Tough Economy with a Free Seminar from The Clean Air Campaign®

What:
On April 16, The Clean Air Campaign® will host a free Lunch and Learn training seminar for employers interested in learning how to create a sustainable work environment while balancing the needs of employees during tough economic times. The Clean Air Campaign’s panel of experts will offer practical ways to make operations environmentally-friendly, improve bottom lines and put money in employees’ pockets. Experts will discuss how strong commute options programs can be cost-effective and give employers advantages in recruitment, retention and sustainability even when times are tight.

Who:
The Clean Air Campaign and the region’s transportation management associations are providing this training seminar at no cost to all metro Atlanta employers interested in learning how to go green through affordable commute options programs.

When & Where:

Thursday, April 16
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
235 Andrew Young Blvd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30303

RSVP:
Sign up online at CleanAirCampaign.org or call 1-877-CLEANAIR (1-877-253-2624) to reserve a seat.

Web:
www.CleanAirCampaign.org/Our-Services/Employer-Services/Lunch-and-Learns
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Consumers Can Save Up to 70% on Their Water Bill With SYNLawn's Artificial Grass Systems

/PRNewswire/ -- In today's economy, every penny counts. That's why SYNLawn (www.SYNLawn.com), the definitive authority on synthetic grass, is now helping consumers save up to 70% on their water bill by offering the only total solution-based artificial grass systems in the market.

"Our synthetic grass systems transform a previously high maintenance, costly lawn into an easy to maintain, water-saving show piece," said George Neagle, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for SYNLawn. "People are enjoying a great looking lawn all year round. They're helping conserve water while eliminating the hassles of maintenance, grass stains, dirty paws and more.

Consumers eliminate additional expenses with mowing, fertilizing and sprinkler repair along with cost savings that can average hundreds of dollars monthly on watering. Customers typically recoup their investment within four years and tax credits are available in many markets in light of SYNLawn's significantly positive environmental impact.

"Being a vertically integrated company sets us apart," continued Neagle. "We are able to integrate product design with our installation expertise to develop solutions based systems for all landscape applications."

Most Technologically Advanced Systems

SYNLawn helps consumers achieve the greatest cost savings possible by delivering a uniquely customized solution for all of their lawn maintenance needs. They offer the most technologically advanced, efficient systems for landscape, pet, golf and playground applications. The company's state-of-the-art products, precision installation techniques, creative designs and position as the only vertically integrated manufacturer ensure customers receive the total landscape grass solution they need at the best price and a secure warranty. SYNLawn's systems include:

-- SYNLawn Landscape System - As the system most specified by landscape
architects, this provides a wide variety of selections that result in
a custom designed, beautifully manicured lawn that is environmentally
friendly and allergen-free. From saving water and money to adding time
back to customer's busy lives and enhancing lifestyle quality, this
system guarantees the most realistic appearance and unparalleled
performance for synthetic landscape grass.

-- SYNLawn Pet System - Providing pets with a safe, secure surface while
eliminating unsightly dead spots, SYNLawn Pet System users don't have
to worry about their lawns. Destructive animals can't dig, they won't
be exposed to bugs and rodents that inhabit natural grass and those
animals who suffer from outdoor allergies will find relief in their
synthetic grass backyard.

-- SYNLawn Playground System - Safety is the number one concern with
children. With SYNLawn's patented 100% recycled foam and fastener-free
installation techniques, customers receive peace of mind from the
highest quality, most advanced safety features for playground surfaces
available in the marketplace.

-- SYNLawn Golf System - Marking the first time comprehensive science and
research is being applied to synthetic putting green performance,
golfers at all skill levels will benefit as Dave Pelz, former NASA
physicist and renowned golf short game guru, elevates the SYNLawn Golf
System. The system has advanced nylon putting green technology
resulting in superior aesthetics and unparalleled golf performance.
The true ball roll and unique chipping properties will help improve
every aspect of a golfer's game.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

U.S. Team Helps to Plant Seeds for Afghan Farmers' Success

As the noon sun crept toward the mountains west of Janquadam, children ran from all corners of the village, greeting the group of soldiers from the 28th Forward Agribusiness Development Team.

On this warm, late-February day, the team was on a mission to help a blind farmer develop his fields so he eventually can build a new grape vineyard.

The ADT, a National Guard unit deployed from Nebraska, has come to Afghanistan to assist and educate farmers on better farming techniques, and to introduce them to grasses and alfalfa for better animal health.

No strangers to this village, soldiers of the 28th have visited several times before.

"On a previous mission, we assessed the farmer's fields," Army Sgt. 1st Class Eldon R. Kuntzelman said. "Then we got a letter of agreement from the land owner, and later presented our plan to him."

"Marking and measuring the field was our primary mission," Army 1st Lt. Eric Sattelberg, agricultural team chief, said. "Our goal on every mission is to improve relations with the [local residents]. In the long run, this type of mission will strengthen the bond between Afghanistan and the U.S., because they know that we are here to help grow this nation rather than destroy it."

The 28th has more plans for Janquadam, including installing grain storage bins, planting fruit and nut trees, working with animal health, water management, training and education in tractor maintenance, and setting up greenhouses and underground vegetable storage.

The future of ADT operations is simple -- grow this nation into a thriving country of different fruits and vegetables, Sattelberg said.

"The goal is a continuation of the projects from one ADT rotation to the next," he said. "Several teams are either on the ground or being identified for a potential rotation. We are here doing one field at a time through demonstration farms as well as with other projects."

The demonstration crops offer the farmers an opportunity to learn a variety of methods for growing crops, and then allow the local farmers to try different techniques for growing crops in their own fields.

About half of the unit has been deployed before, and all of the 52-member team volunteered for the deployment. The 28th works in four provinces -- Bamyan, Panjshir, Parwan and Kapisa. Four other ADTs operate across Afghanistan, with more on the way.

The farmers are becoming very familiar with the ADT soldiers and their mission, as the team has conducted numerous missions to the same locations, Sattelberg said. "We are respectful, ... and I think as long as we continue to respect them, they will continue to welcome us in their village."

(Author Army Capt. Michael Greenberger serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Peachtree City Recycling Center Accepting Plastic and Glass, Saving Money

Beginning March 14, the Peachtree City residents will again be able to take plastics and glass at the Recycling Center at Highway 74 South and Rockaway Road. Both the Recycling Center and the recycling station at Public Works on McIntosh Trail w will begin accepting #1 and #2 plastic containers again. The Recycling Center will also begin accepting separated glass bottles. An agreement with Keep Peachtree City Beautiful (KPTCB) has allowed the City to reinstate both these recycling options at a savings to Peachtree City residents.

Recent decreases in the value of recyclables resulted in Public Works staff having to haul materials to the vendors for recycling. This cost an estimated $24,000 per year in labor and vehicles. Through an agreement negotiated by KPTCB, Jennings Trash Can Removal Company will deliver recycling bins at both the Rockaway Road center and the McIntosh Trail station and remove the recyclables at no charge. Any future revenue generated from the recyclables will be split with KPTCB. The City of Peachtree City will provide one part-time employee to work at the Recycling Center, and KPTC Beautiful will assist with staffing via volunteers in return for a $1,000 per year payment from the City.

City Manager Bernard McMullen said, “The arrangement with KPTCB is a perfect example of a public-private partnership allowing us to better serve our citizens.” McMullen continued, “We have had a lot of requests to reinstate plastics recycling at the center, and we have been able to accomplish that goal at a considerable savings to the taxpayers, thanks to KPTCB.”

In addition to the reintroduction of #1 and #2 plastics, as indicated inside the recycling symbol on the bottom of containers such as water bottles and milk cartons, the Recycling Center will also begin accepting separated clear, brown, and green glass for recycling. The center also accepts aluminum cans ONLY (no steel or tin cans at this time), mixed cardboard, newspapers and magazines, electronic waste, and yard trimmings. The Recycling Center is open on Wednesdays from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM and on Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

The recycling station at the Public Works, which is open 24 hours per day, will accept #1 and #2 plastics, aluminum cans (no steel or tin), mixed cardboard, newspapers, and magazines.
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Planting for Pollinators

Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and even bats and flies are all pollinators that feed off plants in your yard. So when you’re adding new flowers to your landscape, choose those that provide nectar and pollen for winged workers.

“Almost all native plants that rely on pollination rely on these limited numbers of insects,” said Paul Thomas, a horticulture professor at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Plants that attract pollinators provide food for the insects. But they’re not just helping the plants in your gardens. They are helping all native plants.”

Pollinators are vital to agriculture. They pollinate most fruit, vegetable and seed crops. Healthy pollinator populations can improve plant and fruit size and quality. By adding plants to your landscape that provide food and shelter for pollinators through their active seasons, you can help the pollinators and help maintain the biodiversity of native species.

Attracting pollinators

Whether you hope to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your home or provide a food source for honeybees, there are a few things to consider. Pollinators need consistent nectar sources, open roaming areas, tree-canopy cover nearby and a source of moisture and soil salts.
Select a sunny spot for a pollinator garden. “It is tough to plant a pollinator garden in the shade,” Thomas said. “To provide nectar and pollen, full-sun plants are the way to go.”

Salvia, lantana and trumpet vine will take the heat. Echinacea can tolerate drought conditions as well.

To extend the flower season, “plant the perennials you want, fill in with annuals and provide some full-summer blooming shrubs,” he said. “The more varied your garden the better.”

Thomas recommends hardy lantana, blue sage salvia, purple coneflower, verbena canadensis and thrift. A good native butterfly plant is Joe Pye weed, which provides fall blooms.

Pay attention to each plants' height, vigor and space accordingly. Miss Huff lantana and the butterfly bush Black Knight may look small the day you plant them. But each can grow into a 4-foot-wide bush.

Provide a variety of plant colors and shapes to attract multiple pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to red and blue flowers while bees tend to prefer white and yellow blooms. Butterflies are happy with pinks and purples.

Bees need rounded flowers where they can more easily reach the nectar and pollen. Butterflies can sip from tubular or cone shaped flowers.

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds look for flags or certain plants that signal an appropriate feeding and breeding site.

“If a male hummingbird sees a native horse chestnut, he knows the area is a suitable habitat,” Thomas said.

Males are also attracted to bright red flowers like those on native honeysuckle. Later in the summer, young hummingbirds prefer flowers such as blue sage. Other recommended plants for hummingbirds are red flowering chestnut, abelias, summer phlox, chaste tree, columbine, cardinal flower, bee balm, red hot poker, hibiscus and most salvias.

Butterflies

“For a successful butterfly garden, it’s vital to select nectar-producing plants with accessible flowers,” Thomas said.

He suggests lantana and purple coneflower because they produce nectar and attract butterflies continuously, even during the driest droughts. Choose plants that will bloom in sequence, providing nectar from March 1 to the first killing frost.

Homestead purple verbena will bloom in early spring through early summer and flower again in late fall. This provides nectar for early- and late-season butterflies such as Question Mark, Red Admiral and Zebra and Tiger Swallowtails.

Blue anise sage and purple coneflower will bloom in cycles if you pick off the spent flowers. Verbena bonariensis will stop flowering early, but you can cut it halfway back in early August to stimulate new flowers for fall.

Having a food source for caterpillars is vital, too. To accommodate this early butterfly stage, include an ornamental fennel, the favorite food of Eastern Black Swallowtails. Dill, fennel, carrot and parsley do well, too.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

April Sorrow is a news editor for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Termites Likely to Flourish in Warm Spring Weather

(BUSINESS WIRE)--After a long winter, warmer weather is being eagerly anticipated. However, there is an important reason to be cautious this spring, especially with the increased moisture experienced across the nation during the winter months - termites. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warns that as the temperature begins to increase so does the potential for termite swarms and infestations.

Once termites infest a home, these aggressive pests can quickly chew through floors, walls, carpeting and even wallpaper. With a termite colony's ability to chew 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and to number in the hundreds of thousands, the damage caused by termites can threaten the structural safety of a home. In fact, NPMA research has found that termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year.

“Although certainly prevalent in the South, termites live in almost every region of the United States,” says Greg Baumann, senior scientist for NPMA. “Every home is at risk for a termite infestation, even the most beautifully maintained property. This is why homeowners must be vigilant and regularly inspect their properties for termite damage, especially if a house does not have regularly scheduled termite inspections.” Baumann continued, “These pests have a keen ability to remain undetected until damage becomes visible.”

NPMA offers these proactive tips to help prevent termite infestations within homes this spring:

* Carefully inspect perimeter of home for rotting wood, mud tubes or a visible termite presence.
* Eliminate any sources of moisture, as water attracts termites.
* Divert water away from your property through properly functioning downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
* Do not stack firewood or lumber near home, and inspect it carefully before bringing indoors.
* If your home is newly constructed, remove old form boards and grade stakes, which may have been left behind.
* If you see signs of a termite infestation, contact a licensed pest professional promptly.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Take Recycling to the Next Level by Composting

When it comes to recycling, most people know the basics - sort out the plastic, paper and glass. This conventional method of recycling is used by most homeowners and is usually available through curbside programs across Georgia.

Why not take recycling one step further by sorting out organic matter? Removing things like apple skins and used coffee grounds from household trash can reduce the amount of refuse headed to landfills and create food for plants.

Organic waste like raw vegetables scraps and grass trimmings can be recycled through composting. Composting is the process in which plant materials decompose into an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is an excellent soil amendment.

Composting may sound intimidating, but University of Georgia experts say it’s as easy as separating your standard recyclable items. You will have to select a site for your compost bin and built a bin.

Your compost bin site should be in an out-of-the-way place, in full sun and on a well-drained site. A minimum size would be 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet. Large piles break down faster than smaller piles, but they are also more difficult to manage.

A compost bin can be built from a variety of materials including welded wire, fencing, pallets or blocks. Leave the bottom open to the ground and open spaces in the sides to allow air to circulate through the pile.

The key to a successful compost bin is adding the right combination of brown and green items. The microorganisms that do the composting work need an even mixture to survive.

Here are some tips from UGA Cooperative Extension specialists to help you start the process.

Brown compost materials include dry and dead plant materials, autumn leaves, grass clippings, shredded paper and wood chips. These items provide carbon.

Green compost materials include fresh plant products, like kitchen fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds and tea bags. They provide nitrogen.

UGA Extension specialists say the key is to have more brown items than green. The ratio should be 3:1.

Almost any organic plant material can be used for composting, including grass clippings, leaves, flowers, twigs, chopped brush, old vegetable plants and straw.

Knowing what not to put in your compost bin is important, too. Avoid diseased plants, weeds and seeds, or invasive weeds like morning glory and nut sedge. And don’t add meats, bones, grease or other animal-based food waste. They can smell bad and attract wild animals.

Don’t add cat or dog manure, either. It can smell bad and may introduce diseases (manures from horses, cows and chickens are OK, but don’t use too much).

Keep the pile moist but not too wet. To further speed up the decomposition process and prevent odors, mix the pile once a month using a shovel or spading fork.

The compost pile is a microbial farm, teeming with bacteria, fungi, insects and worms. These compost critters feed on the organic matter, breaking it down into fine-textured humus.

UGA horticulturists say although compost slowly releases a small amount of plant nutrients, it won't replace fertilizer.

Compost is ready when it looks like rich, crumbly earth and you can no longer recognize the original plant material. Each time you mix the pile, some ready-to-use compost should be available.

Use your compost by adding it to the soil before you plant vegetables, trees, shrubs or flowers. This will help the soil hold nutrients and water. Compost can also be used as mulch on the soil surface, or as a potting soil for container plants.

By Geoffrey Brown
University of Georgia

Geoffrey Brown is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lawn Doctor Offers Top Five Tips for Do-It-Yourself Spring Lawn Care

/24-7/ -- Last year, 33 million American households took care of their own lawns rather than hiring a service. This year, according to a January poll conducted by the National Gardening Association, home gardening is expected to increase by 20 percent. Lawn Doctor, the nation's leading expert in lawn care since 1967, has compiled a Top Five list help new do-it-yourselfers achieve beautiful results.

"Many homeowners try to save money and tend to lawn care themselves, but end up skipping crucial steps that are routine for us to keep a lawn lush and healthy," said Lawn Doctor Director of Technical Services, John Buechner. "Spring lawns require extra care following harsh winter temperatures and dormant growth." Here are the Top Five Little Known Spring Lawn Maintenance Tips:

1. Grass-cycle: Simply allow grass clippings to remain on the lawn after mowing. It saves time on clean-up and allows for nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to return to the soil as clippings decompose. This can be done easily by removing the lawn mower bag and is the ultimate organic solution in lawn care.
2. Check thatch levels: This is the layer of dead plant material tightly interwoven between the roots and the tops of living grass. Excessive thatch is caused by too much fertilization and over-watering. Use a soil probe or hand shovel to loosen and remove any thatch more than one-half inch thick.
3. Apply pre-emergents: Spring is the ideal time to control undesirable grasses like crabgrass, goosegrass and foxtail before they start to grow and cause problems. Common pre-emergents are available at home repair and hardware stores; be careful to apply as instructed.
4. Optimize pH levels in soil: Soil pH levels reflect nutrients available in the soil to promote healthy lawn growth. A pH level of 6.5 is ideal for most turfgrasses, where readings under 6.0 indicate additional lime is needed and a reading above 7.0 indicates the soil lacks sulfur. Tests can be conducted by services like Lawn Doctor or by homeowners using kits available at most garden centers.
5. Check for diseases and bugs: Following a winter thaw, a grub-damaged lawn will show large, irregular sections of brown turf that will easily detach from the soil. Replace and re-establish the turf in those areas and then treat with a grub prevention product. Disease can be more difficult to diagnose; professionals should evaluate questionable areas to determine proper treatment.

Prevention is always less expensive than treatment when it comes to lawn care. For homeowners not comfortable or familiar with DIY lawn projects, professionals like Lawn Doctor can treat and maintain a lush green lawn for about the cost of a monthly cable bill.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Free Advice for Home Gardeners

As families tighten their economic belts and search for ways to cut household budgets, one of the expenses some are choosing to cut is landscape service. Keeping a home landscape healthy and vibrant isn’t easy, but it is vital to maintaining home values.

Fear not. Help is available, and it’s free.

“All Georgiana have access to free information on home landscape management, lawn care and better management of household funds through their local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office,” said Tony Tyson, director of county operations for UGA Extension. “We have offices in 157 of Georgia’s 159 counties, but we offer services and free advice to everyone.”

Online, information is available at www.ugaextension.com. The site offers publications on a vast array of topics related to home landscaping.

By calling 1-800-ASK-UGA1, Georgians can reach their county UGA Extension agent for advice, workshops, soil testing, water testing and a variety of other services.

“One of the most valuable tools most counties have is our digital distance diagnostics service,” Tyson said. “You can take in a bug or a diseased plant sample and in short order the county agent can send digital images of it to specialists who can help diagnose the problem and suggest ways to treat it.”

UGA Extension offers Master Gardener classes for those who really want to learn the ins and outs of home gardening. You can find out when the next class is available in your area by calling the county UGA Extension office.

UGA Extension is the outreach division of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in partnership with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. They offer educational programs and materials related to agriculture, horticulture, families and consumer-related issues. They also offer education on youth development through the Georgia 4-H program.

“Our mission is to take the educational information generated through research at the university and deliver it to the people of Georgia who need it most,” Tyson said. “We aim to help Georgians live healthier, wealthier, more productive lives.”

Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

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