American programmer and consultant, Bern Williams once said, “The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”
This past Easter Sunday when many celebrated the resurrection of Christ, we also celebrated a certain renewal in the season. Already spring is rewarding us with wondrous and stirring activity in our own landscapes.
Soon the hummers – those thumb-sized little winged creatures that flit around in the air as if they are playing a Harry Potter game of Quidditch – are heading to southeast Texas. Are your feeders cleaned and filled, waiting for their arrival? Easily made nectar provides them the nutrients they need to maintain their vital energy. No red dye is necessary, and when you clean your feeder first, if you use bleach or soap, rinse several times before filling. Keeping some nectar in a jar in the refrigerator will allow it to always be on hand.
Hummingbirds also love the nectar from flowers. Some of the better plants that attract these long-beaked creatures are butterfly bush, red columbine, delphinium and hollyhock, rose of Sharon, trumpet vine, and lantana.
Fortunately we are not restricted to red flowers to attract the hummers although they are known to be attracted to red. Purple, orange, pink, and blue are colors to consider. Check the Texas A & M website for an excellent and very complete article: go to http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ and put hummingbirds in the search engine. The article is written by Candace Hawkinson from the Galveston County Master Gardeners.
Living out in the country or even in town, who hasn’t heard of a beloved pet getting bit by a snake? Well, this time of the year snakes are on the move, searching for cool, dark crevices and other areas to lay their eggs.
In southeast Texas there is the potential for four types of venomous snakes. They are the rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth or water moccasin, and coral snake. Again, Texas A & M has an excellent online guide that will help you identify these snakes: http://repository.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/87130/pdf_1585.pdf?sequence=1.
In addition to snakes you will learn about other venomous terrestrial “animals” such as bees, spiders, scorpions and centipedes.
As pet owners we must be mindful of our pets when they are outdoors. Dogs and cats love playing with moving objects; they think they are toys and engage them as a challenge. If you hear a loud yelp or meow and notice any swelling or extraordinary distress, call your vet immediately. There is a good chance your pet may have been bitten.
As for the human species, wear tall rubber boots while traipsing around outdoors especially in spring. Take a walking stick and tap the ground as you go along in order to, hopefully, frighten any snakes away.
Be wary when turning over rocks or other landscape artifacts, and be watchful of grass or plant movement. Wear gloves when digging in the dirt. This writer remembers pulling up a root in fresh tilled soil with her gloved hand only to find it to be a small snake. She never realized how far she could fling a snake until that day. Nor did she ever want to know!
Other movement in the landscape may be fun and relatively friendly, or may be ones more of a nuisance. Squirrels and birds are always fun to watch. And for some feeding them entices them to visit often. But more importantly than food, as the weather warms and there is less rain, keeping water available to them is very important.
Some of us live on lakes and the critters have that water amenity easily available to them. However, if there is no water feature nearby, keeping bird baths filled with fresh water is being a good steward of our wildlife. Remember that birds prefer a very low depth to their water. A gradual slope in the birdbath or rocks placed within for them to perch helps them to enjoy the water more easily.
Those sometimes cute critters that wreak havoc in the landscape are skunks, raccoons, armadillos and possums. They are for the most part nocturnal. Keeping pet food away from them is one way to help deter them from a porch or deck. Even drip pans in barbecue pits attract a raccoon. This writer found the evidence of raccoons with their oily yet distinctive tracks “walking” away from the pit.
An excellent article called “Predator Control as a Tool in Wildlife Management” can be found at: http://repository.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/87206/pdf_1871.pdf?sequence=1.
Now there is at least one other movement transpiring in the landscape these days. Though this rascal makes a huge noise, it should be considered a really good thing. The reason is that this noisy thing is often the very beginning of future good eats, and lovely flowers and shrubs to enjoy in the landscape.
By now you may realize that the “rascal” is a tiller. Of course, one might hear only the huffs and puffs of a gardener preparing the soil the old fashioned way. Either way, that kind of activity is a good thing!
Certainly our springtime of late is creating excitement in the landscape. Mark Twain once said, “In the spring I have counted one hundred and 36 different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”
Spring brings all kinds of weather: hot, cold or mild, and rainy, cloudy or sunny. So Twain’s statement may hold some truth. Nonetheless, the continued stirring and scurrying in the landscape will be a reminder that hope springs eternal!
For more information on the Walker County Master Gardeners, please call (936) 435-2426 or go to www.walkercountymastergardener.org/ The WCMG Web site is a bounty of useful gardening information and citizens are encouraged to peruse it often.
If you have any questions about the information in this article or any of the Extension programs, please contact the Walker County AgriLife Extension Office at (936)435-2426, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating. A member of the Texas A&M University System and its statewide agriculture program.