Monthly Archives: November 2014

Cleaning bird houses and feeders

Bird feeding devices, boxes, tables and water baths are essential for attracting our feathered friends into the garden, but it’s important to clean them regularly to prevent the spread of diseases among birds. Most infections are spread by droppings, which can easily contaminate food, water and bedding. To ensure good hygiene, check feeders for mouldy food and scrub them thoroughly once a month – bird tables also require regular attention; rinse baths daily and top up with fresh water. To avoid bringing bacteria into your house, swill items outdoors, making sure you wear a pair of rubber gloves. Remember to wash your hands with soap when you’re finished.

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Remove nesting material from inside the birdhouse - © GAP Photos

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Remove nesting material from inside the birdhouse – © GAP Photos

Remove nesting material
Birds are unlikely to nest in boxes containing old bedding – this material can also be harmful as it can harbour harmful bacteria or parasites. Remove loose debris and scrape off any hard matter.

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Leave the birdhouse to air dry before hanging back in place - © GAP Photos

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Leave the birdhouse to air dry before hanging back in place – © GAP Photos

Clean boxes
If boxes are relatively clean all you need to do is sterilise the inside with boiling water. Scrub dirty boxes with a weak solution of disinfectant or warm soapy water.

Leaving the birdhouse to dry before putting back on the wall - © Mark Winwood/GAP Photos

Leaving the birdhouse to dry before putting back on the wall – © Mark Winwood/GAP Photos

Remove suds
Rinse the box thoroughly to remove any traces of soap or disinfectant – birds are sensitive to cleaning products and the remains of scented cleaners may put them off nesting inside.

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Leave the birdhouse to air dry before hanging back in place - © GAP Photos

Cleaning a Birdhouse. Leave the birdhouse to air dry before hanging back in place – © GAP Photos

Leave to dry
Place the bird box in a sunny spot to dry. Leave for a few hours, so there are no damp corners or crevices where mildew or other fungal disease could grow.

Cleaning Bird Feeders. Using long armed brush to reach in and remove dirt - © GAP Photos

Cleaning Bird Feeders. Using long armed brush to reach in and remove dirt – © GAP Photos

Use brush in feeders
It can be difficult to remove bird food from the bottom of tubular feeders – a long reach cleaning brush makes the job easy. Allow to dry before refilling with a seed mix.

The hip parade

Collection of Rose hips from various Roses with labels. Rosa 'Francis E. Lester', Rosa 'Treasure Trove', Rosa 'Shropshire Lass', Rosa 'The Generous Gardener', Rosa 'Scabrosa' and Rosa polyantha 'Grandiflora' - © GAP Photos

Collection of Rose hips from various Roses with labels. Rosa ‘Francis E. Lester’, Rosa ‘Treasure Trove’, Rosa ‘Shropshire Lass’, Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’, Rosa ‘Scabrosa’ and Rosa polyantha ‘Grandiflora’ – © GAP Photos

Mention rose hips and you’re likely to conjure up an image of the oval, scarlet hips produced by the hedgerow dog rose, which are used for making Vitamin C-rich rosehip syrup.

Yet hips can be found in many colours, shapes and sizes. Shades of red and orange are most common, but there are yellow, green, dark purple or even black hips. Some are the size of tiny beads, others as large as a cherry tomato. There are spherical, oval and elongated fruit the shape of a hip flask – most are smooth skinned, while a few are armed with prickly spines.

Not all roses boast attractive hips, so make sure you pick the right varieties. Among the best are Rosa ‘Frances E Lester’ for its clusters of pea-sized, orange fruit, and Rosa polyantha ‘Grandiflora’, which carries bunches of marble-shaped yellow fruit. The long-lasting hips of Rosa moyesii are long, slender and elegant, while the massive, round scarlet hips of Rosa scabrosa stand out a mile.

For the best display, make sure roses are planted in a sheltered, sunny position where they will get at least six hours of sunlight a day. Resist the temptation to dead head flowers in summer or plants won’t set seed and produce hips.

Wonderful wreaths

Wreaths are generally associated with the festive period and it’s impossible to walk down a street at this time without seeing a circular structure decorated with holly, ivy or conifer branches attached to a front door. Yet, there’s no reason why wreaths have to be restricted to use at Christmas; there’s an abundance of fruit, berries, flowers, leaves and other natural materials to gather in autumn that can be used for making arrangements to display on doors or elsewhere in the garden.

Chilli peppers, rose hips, crab apples, sprigs of heather, pyracantha berries and many other autumnal treasures can be pushed into floral foam or wired to a ready-made frame. It’s even possible to recycle fallen leaves by threading them tightly onto a length of plastic coated wire that’s bound at the ends to form a ring – for maximum impact choose really colourful, large leaves, such as those from maples, liquidamber and red oaks.

Apart from wreaths made with plants from the garden, you could try making one using materials foraged from the local hedgerow. Crab apples, bunches of hawthorn berries, stems clad with blackberries or sloes, and old seed heads can be attached to a large ring of floral foam. Fill any gaps in your design with autumnal leaves.