As the snow piles up, you gaze out the window from a cozy armchair. You observe the behaviours of winter birds as they indulge in the dried seed heads you’ve left for them in your garden. Cardinals, blue jays and cedar waxwings visit your yard, and you delight in their vibrant plumage. Although at times you may not see any wild activity, you know that other creatures are braving the winter from the plentiful signs they leave us. Nibbled branches from deer browse on eastern white cedar, dark pellets in the white snow from a snowshoe hare, the meandering tracks of a short-tailed weasel, evidence of subnivean tunnels created by small mammals or the three-pronged prints from a ruffed grouse all remind you of the worth of planning with wild species in mind. The dried seed heads in your gardens now look elegant covered in snow and add character to an otherwise white backdrop. You’re enjoying the winter, maybe snowshoeing or relaxing with a mug of your favorite warm drink, all the while planning for the next gardening season. Here are a few things to do when it’s snowy out:
- Keep bird feeders full and clean them off after storms.
- Build bird houses for the spring.
- Walk around your property to see if any egg masses from damaging tent caterpillars or gypsy moths can be removed.
- When you take down the Christmas tree, place it in your backyard as a winter shelter for birds.
- Put out suet and fat mixes to keep birds warm and give them lots of energy.
- Make spring clean-up easier by spreading a water-permeable "drop cloth," such as landscape fabric, under your bird feeder to catch sunflower hulls.
- Decorate outside trees with strings of unsweetened cranberries, apple slices and orange bits—birds will enjoy this!
- Take advantage of time indoors to research local wildlife and its needs.
- Keep track of birds that visit your feeders.
- Participate in the Christmas bird count.
General Gardening Chores
- Plan and prepare. Write yourself a list of anything you might need for spring and design any new beds you’re planning to add.