The Garden Enthusiast - Backyard Nature Station Update July 2013

Fellow Backyard Nature Lovers, 

Mrs. Fritillary at the Tucker Butterfly GardenMrs. Fritillary at the Tucker Butterfly Garden
The hot and sultry summer season is upon us. The long days, heat and humidity bring vigorous plant growth, lots of hummingbird sightings and, unfortunately, the height of "bug" season.  We have all the tools for making summer in your backyard productive, enjoyable and, even, less buggy. July is also the time to celebrate our Independence. In observance of Independence Day we will be closed on Thursday, July 4th. We wish you all a safe holiday!
If you would like to be notified of store specials, as they occur, just send an email to [email protected] and include your first and last name in the body of the email. As always, we keep your email private and only use it for communicating information you have requested.

We've started a Lost & Found in the store. We'll keep things for a couple of months to give people a chance to pair up with their lost items. Currently we have a cane, child's blanket, child's jacket, and a finger puppet.

Gardening in Paradise

If you'd like to learn more about Aquaponics, this is an ongoing blog series that discusses building an aquaponics system, geodesic dome greenhouse and gardening in Costa Rica. Click here to check it out.

July Specials
We have a selection of timely products such as Bloom Citronella Incense, Dr JB Hummingbird feeders and more on sale. See below for more.

We got in a great selection of fairy gardening products (check out "what's new in the store" section below) last month just in time for the class and to celebrate National Fairy Gardening Day on June 24th. We are now trying to get all of the products online. Miniature gardening has become quite the hobby whether it's described as fairy gardening, railroad gardening or something else. Perhaps the pull is because it brings back childhood memories, a simpler time, when we played with dolls or trains or Cowboys and Indians. All in small scale. We let our imaginations go. There was an interesting collection of miniature hosta available for sale during the week - again sparking the imagination - with names such as Blue Mouse Ears, Lemontini, Cheatn' Heart and Surfer Girl (all from Popo's Garden). Check out the pictures from the class to see some of the neat gardens they made. We already have 3 people signed up for another class. If you're interested, let me know, and we'll get it scheduled. Also, Joan Kidd shared pictures of the fairy garden she's created at her house. Thanks, Joan!

Are you interested in becoming a Master Gardener?  Information sessions for the 2014 class will be in September. You can e-mail [email protected] or g[email protected] with your contact info, and you will be added to their list. 

From Our Customers

"I love your newsletter.  Please add my e-mail address for the notification of specials in the store." Kate B

 "..  I am happy to hear you received great feedback.  I agree with all the great comments you received.  I especially appreciate the monthly newsletter/email letting us know what is going on in the store and community; keep up the good work!" Vanessa R

"Last year around the holidays, you offered some free bird feeders. My Mom was visiting (from Tennessee) so I brought her along and we both got free thistle feeders. I just wanted to tell you how much we are enjoying them, thank you! My mom has always loved "her" birds but she never had a thistle feeder before, so she is just thrilled with all the beautiful goldfinches she's seen this year. We also both bought a couple of Plant Nanny" terra cotta stakes and those things are great! Mom's coming for a visit sometime this summer and the first thing on her list of things to do is to come and visit your store again. Thank you" Lori B

"I love to read you newsletter!  It is always full of such great information." Michelle H

"Love your store, so many beautiful items, as a gardener & bird lover. I would like to be notified of your in-store specials please." 

What's New in the Store?

Birding: Squirrel Buster Standard (newest in their line of squirrel proof feeders); 12", 18" and 24" extension hooks; 36" shepherd's hook; nesting houses; hummingbird feeders
Garden Art: table fountains 
Children: hand garden tool set, night sky projection kit, folding binoculars, and critter cabin 
Miniatures: fairies (male and female and babies), Tea Pot house, furniture, Green Man Celtic Fountain, flagpole, martin house gourd pick, hummingbird \feeder on pole, birdbaths, frogs, Mushroom Outhouse, fairy ring, gnome, red wheelbarrow, watering cans, fairy castle and moat, wishing well, wooden boxes to "plant" you fairy garden in, Fairy gardening book
Tool Shed: Scoot Squirrel (back in); Molemax - repels moles, gophers, voles, chipmunks and other burrowing animals
Other: T-shirts, new jewelry by Ann O'Rourke

Classes & Events

Saturday, August 24th 10 -11am "Attracting Butterflies: What, Where and How to Garden" (Dawn Hines) 
This PowerPoint presentation includes many photographs about the life cycle of butterflies, caterpillars, and important elements of the best garden for attracting butterflies. Register (it's free) early, as this class is expected to fill up fast.

Old Town Tucker Update/Happenings

A belated Happy 121st Anniversary to Tucker, GA founded on June 25, 1892. 

Don't forget to order your custom patriotic cake or cookies for your 4th of July celebration from Sweet Dee's Bakeshop.  Pickups will be on Wednesday, July 3rd as we will be closed on July 4th.  Happy 4th everyone!

Saturday, July 13th, 5 pm Tucker Cruise-In

Thursdays from 4 - 8 PM Tucker Farmers Market at 2333 Main Street in the Freemasons Square and Bank of America parking lot. 

Community Events and Spirit

I'm sure that you've heard by now that the commissioners voted to locate the new animal shelter at the PDK site. John's Homestead will be left as green space. It took the community pulling together to make this happen. There will be a big celebration on Sunday, July 14th from 12 noon to 4pm at Johns Homestead Park. There will be tours of the inside of the old home and outbuildings and you can enjoy the newly blazed trails on the property. This win to save this green space is a very big win and we invite everyone to come out to celebrate with us! Check out Tucker Historical Society's website for more details.
Reminder - There's still time to get your application in: Attention Dekalb County Schools (Teachers and/or parents can call): The Dekalb County Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. has money for YOU! If your school has a project which beautifies its grounds, sets up and continues a garden of any kind, or does any sort of ecological or environmental education for its students, you may be eligible for $200 (the minimum) grant money through a Federation program called "The B.E.E. Grant" and all it takes is a phone call to learn more. Call Judy Lemoine, the Chair of the B.E.E. Committee, at her home: 770-934-8541. If you leave a message and your number, your call will be returned within a day. They want your school! Applications are being accepted now. The deadline is September. For Dekalb County public schools only! 

July 21st, 3-5 PM Tucker Civic Association's "Give An Hour", Fire Station 5, 4013 Lawrenceville Hwy.
For the July Give an Hour project the Tucker Civic Association is asking residents to show their appreciation for our local firemen by showering them with all sorts of goodies. Donations of food staples are welcome - everything from sugar, salad dressing, cereal, and snacks, to beverages such as tea, coffee, and sodas. They also love receiving homemade baked items. 
Children are welcome at this event and are invited to come look at the fire trucks. They are also asking residents to donate "five for five", i.e. donate five dollars toward improvements at Station 5. They hope to be able to raise enough money to buy new furniture for the firefighters! If you can't make the event, but would still like to make a donation, you may mail your check to TCA, Box 1916, Tucker, GA 30085. Please put "5 for 5" in the memo line.

Other Backyard Nature Events

Tuesday, July 9th Landscaping for Pollinators - Atlanta Botanical Garden's Day Hall. Presented by Dr. Jaret C. Daniels, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida.
Social hour: 6:45, Speaker: 7:30
Some 80% of the earth's flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, primarily insects (such as bees, ants, flies, beetles, and wasps), to ensure reproduction. This includes the vast majority of the fruit, vegetable, seed crops that humans consume, as well as many other plants that provide fiber, animal forage, medicine, and fuel. Beyond the direct economic value, insect pollination is essential for maintaining the structure and function of a wide range of natural communities. Alarmingly, managed and wild insect pollinators have suffered declines in recent years prompting calls for proactive strategies to help bolster their populations. Continued declines could adversely affect agricultural systems, result in increased vulnerability of some plant species to extinction, and increase overall ecosystem disruption. Habitat degradation and loss are leading factors driving the downward trend of pollinator populations. Fortunately, there are a number of relatively simple landscape measures that can be taken to help pollinators. An overview of the basic requirements necessary for enhancing pollinator habitat will be presented along with highlights of some ongoing initiatives.

Saturday, July 13 (10 - 3)- Sunday, July 14 (12 - 5) Flying Colors Butterfly Festival Chattahoochee Nature Center 
This family-friendly celebration will feature butterfly releases, entertainment, butterfly crafts & face painting, a butterfly costume parade, butterfly & insect scavenger hunt, exhibits, food trucks, & more! ! There is limited parking in the CNC parking lot. There will also be free shuttle bus service available from St. Francis School near the corner of Willeo/Azalea and Highway 120. Please note that pets are not allowed on the CNC grounds.

Last Sunday of the month, Sunday in the Garden, Woodlands Garden, 2-4 PM 932 Scott Blvd. Decatur, GA 30030
Put on your walking shoes and explore Decatur's seven-acre garden and Georgia Piedmont native plant habitat. Volunteers welcome you and provide helpful information. Musical surprises await. Free and open to the public. 
July 28, August 25, September 29

Newsletter Specials (good through 7/6/13)

Mosquito Bits 30oz. with Shaker Top
$17.99 $15.29
Add to cart
Attracting Butterflies: What, Where and How to Garden - Free - August 24th, 2013 Online Registration
Add to cart
Blooms Citronella Spiral Incense
$31.99 $27.19
Add to cart
Dipel Dust Biological Insecticide - 1 lb
$4.99 $4.24
Add to cart
Dr JB s 16 oz Clean Feeder All Red
$24.99 $21.24
Add to cart
Feeder Fresh 9 oz.
$9.99 $8.49
Add to cart
Hummer Helper Hummer Helmet
$27.99 $23.79
Add to cart
Microbe-Lift BMC
$13.99 $11.89
Add to cart
Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap - 32oz. RTU
$9.99 $8.49
Add to cart

This month we'll start a series on how organic active ingredients work. Organic products are more popular than ever, however, their active ingredients, and the way they work, may be different from the conventional products you may be used to. This month we'll focus on Insecticides and in the coming months discuss Fungicides, Herbicides and Fertilizers. This is adapted from an article from Today's Gardens Center.


Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring bacterial disease of insects. Bt attacks leaf- and needle-eating caterpillars through ingesting the bacterium. They may not die for a few days but they will stop eating within a few hours. Bt is considered safe to people and "nontarget" species such as wildlife. Some Bt products can be used on essentially all food crops. Unlike most insecticides, Bt doesn't have a broad spectrum of activity and therefore doesn't kill beneficial insects like honeybees. Examples of products with Bt are Mosquito Dunks (mosquitoes), Mosquito Bits, HY Thuricide (leaf eating caterpillars), and Dipel Dust (tent caterpillars, bagworms, armyworms). Have Tomato Hornworms? This should work!

Citrus Oil from citrus peels destroys the waxy coating in insects' respiratory systems. It can harm aquatic invertebrates and should not be used near ponds and streams. For fleas, ants, fire ants.

Diatomaceous Earth, or DE (Insect Dust), is a naturally occurring soft rock that easily crumbles into a fine abrasive powder that cuts the exoskeleton of crawling insects. Insects that ingest DE die within 48 hours from dehydration. It can also be used for bed bugs, house dust mites, fleas, roaches, and lice. It is completely harmless to humans, animals, and fish or in food. On an added note, it can be used as a growing medium in hydroponic gardens and for potted plants including Bonsai. It retains water and nutrients but drains freely.

Hot Pepper Wax contains cayenne pepper. It repels aphids, cabbage loopers, beet armyworms, spider mites and whiteflies. Use it to deter rabbits and squirrels from eating in your garden. It lasts up to 30 days and does not wash off easily. Do not use it on variegated African violets, basil, parsley, or fruit trees in bud. It is safe for use at any time on fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants. Some suggests that it also keeps cats and dogs away from your plants.

Insecticidal soaps such as Safer Insect Killing Soap are salts of fats and oils found in animals and plants. They work by dehydrating soft-bodied insects such as aphids, mealybugs, thrips, white flies, and spider mites. It can also be used for caterpillars and leafhoppers. Many pollinators and predatory insects such as Lady Beetles, bumble bees and syrphid flies are relatively unaffected.  Insecticidal soaps require application every seven to 10 days. It works only on direct contact with the pests. Soap sprays, alone or in combination with horticultural oils, are also valuable in the management of certain plant diseases, most notably powdery mildew. 

Horticultural oils and sprays coat insects' airways, as well as their eggs, and suffocate them. They are used for control of Adelgids, aphids, caterpillar eggs, leafhoppers, mealybug, mites, scale, spider mites, thrips and whiteflies. Horticultural oils are also effective against powdery mildew. Neem oil (Green Light Neem Concentrate) is a vegetable oil  pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree. These oils need to be sprayed directly on the pests to be effective. They are most effective on young, soft and slow-moving insects and less so on mature insects. They are safe for use around humans and pets. 

Other oils from extracts from plant material, including garlic, clove, cedar, lavender, peppermint and citronella should not be confused with horticultural oils. They work by both repelling and smothering insects. (Dr. T's Mosquito Repelling GranulesBite Lite candles, Organic Insect Repellent Soap & Spray)

Pyrethrins/pyrethrum, made of the ground up flower head of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium, attack the nervous systems of all insects. They are a wide-spectrum insecticide. A few minutes after application, the insect cannot move or fly away. When used in weaker concentrations, they are used as an insect repellent. They break down on exposure to light or oxygen. Toxicity following ingestion by pets is very low. However, pyrethrins are dangerous for cats and fish. These compounds are toxic to bees also. 

Spinosad is derived from a bacteria species that affects the nervous system and kills insects within a day or two of ingestion. It's touted as a Bt replacement. It affects certain insect pests only in the adult stage, but can affect other pests at more than one life stage. It has a broad-spectrum of activity against many pets such as the Colorado potato beetle, diamondback moth, cabbage looper, imported cabbageworms, European corn borer, fall armyworm, corn earworm, hornworms, thrips, leafminers, flies, beetles and caterpillars. Spinosad spares most beneficials such as lady beetles, predacious fly larvae (hover flies and midges), most parasitic wasps, lacewings, spiders, predatory mites and bugs.  It is toxic to bees when wet, but is relatively safe for them once it dries, so it should be used when pollinators are not actively foraging. Spinosad can be used on sweet corn, fruiting vegetables, leafy greens, and tuberous vegetables. 

And, on a lighter note: Do you like Gnomes? Do you have them in your garden? Check out this "educational" video from researchers at Utah State on Gnome Management in the Garden. Link: 

Monarch Butterflies
  • Monarch Butterflies have been known to travel as much as 5,000 miles in a year. They're also one of the few insects that are capable of making a trans-Atlantic crossing.
  • Milkweed contains a chemical that tastes disgusting to birds. If birds didn't associate that taste with the Monarchs, the butterflies would be nearly defenseless against the.
  • During the larval stage of their lifetime, the Monarch Butterfly is completely dependent on milkweed.
  • It's believed that the Monarch Butterfly uses the Earth's magnetic field to find the town of Angangueo, Mexico where it spends the winter avoiding the cold.

Have you found a baby bird in your yard or some other animal that is injured? Contact Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (A.W.A.R.E.). AWARE is a non-profit organization of volunteers working to preserve and restore wildlife through education and wildlife rehabilitation. AWARE accepts injured and orphaned wildlife every day of the year.  The center is located at 4158 Klondike Road, Lithonia, GA 30038. Phone: (678) 418-1111

A source of water is a necessity for your birds. Keep your birdbath filled with clean, fresh water for their drinking and bathing needs. Pathogens can be deadly for our feathered friends. It's a good idea to change the water daily - just hose it out and refill it. If you notice algae starting to grow or, at least once a month, clean out with Birdhouse and Feeder cleaner/Birdfeeder cleaner or use a nine to one bleach solution and a scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly. You can keep your birdbaths clean and safe between cleanings by adding Microbe-Lift Birdbath Clear. This all-natural additive takes advantage of bio-enzymatic activity to keep water free of organic debris that can cloud the water. It also keeps the bowl free of stains, mineral deposits, and scum. Moving water attracts birds and keeps mosquito larvae from hatching. Try using a Water Wiggler or a Copper Dripper. 

Keep your feeders clean and free from mildew this summer. Discard the old seed and hulls: and rake or sweep up any uneaten hulls on the ground. The disease-causing Trichomonad protozoan, for example, can live for up to five days in food and several hours in water. Feeder Fresh is a bird-safe product that helps keep feeders mold-free and keeps seed fresh. Spread your feeders out to avoid overcrowding and to possibly cut down on the spread of disease.
Don't forget to keep your hummingbird feeders clean too and filled with fresh nectar. You don't need to fill the feeder all the way until your hummers are out in full force. We should start seeing them with more frequency in the next week or so. Putting up more than one feeder will draw more hummingbirds and cut down on their territorial fights! If you have bee problems, try using feeders without yellow flowers. They may be more prone to attracting the bees. You also might try changing your sugar mixture to 5 parts water, 1 cup sugar. Ant Traps are great for keeping the ants out of the hummingbird nectar and the little birds will come visit and drink from them giving you an added bird watching opportunity. When temperatures go over 85 degrees, change out the nectar (4 parts water to 1 part sugar) every 2-3 days. Don't top off the solution - clean the feeder between each refill. Using a red Hummer Helmet will help attract the hummingbirds, keep rain from diluting the solution, and keep the sunlight out which in turn may keep the nectar fresher so it lasts longer. Use brushes to clean out all the ports and to get to all parts of the feeder. Some feeders, such as Dr. J.B.'s, can be put into the dishwasher. You can clean your feeders by using a weak bleach solution (10 parts water to 1 part plain bleach). Rinse well. Hummingbird bottle feeders will sometimes leak if in direct sunlight because the air trapped in the top of the bottle expands and pushes the nectar out. Placing out of direct sun will help to prevent this and keep the solution from spoiling as quickly. 

We have several varieties of no melt suet. Try using it in your suet feeders as our temperatures rise.

Make sure your birdhouses are properly ventilated. If your birdhouse isn't, take a drill and make a few air holes near the top of each side. Broods, during the heat of the summer, are not as successful due to the temperatures climbing in the houses.  

Bird of the Month:  Tufted Titmouse
  • The Tufted Titmouse is about 6" long and has a gray crest and upper parts, dark forehead, white chest and belly, and rusty flanks.
  • It prefers woodland and shrub habitats.
  • The Tufted Titmouse is one of the most common songbirds and a permanent resident of our area.
  • It eats insects such as caterpillars, beetles, ants, wasps; seed, nuts, suet and berries. It hangs upside down and sideways as it searches for food. You may see it fly to the feeder for one seed and fly back to cover to eat it. It hoards food in fall and winter taking only one seed at a time and usually shells the seed before hiding it.
  • The Tufted Titmouse nests in holes in trees (particularly old woodpecker holes) and nest boxes using leaves, grass and moss and then lining it with hair, cotton and fur. It is known for pulling hair from sleeping cats, dogs and squirrels for its nest.
  • The female lays between 5-7 eggs and has 1 brood per year. The eggs are white or cream colored with brownish or purplish spots. The incubation period is 12 to 14 days with a fledging period of 15-18 days.
  • The oldest known Tufted Titmouse lived to be 13 years 3 months old.

Audubon Field Trips
The Atlanta Audubon Society always has some great field trips check these out coming up through April (get in touch with them for more information at 678-973-2437).

Saturday, July 6 Piedmont Park - 8:00AM  
Birding Focus: Summer and breeding residents. All levels welcome. Red-headed woodpeckers are usually seen. Excellent for beginning birders or those desiring gentle terrain. Walk lasts ~ 3 hours with ~ 2.5 miles on foot.

Sunday, July 7 Noonday Creek Trail - 8:00AM 
Birding Focus: Wetland and woodland residents. Any level of skill is welcome; the walk will be 3+ miles along a paved route of easy terrain. 

Sunday, July 7 Hard Labor Creek State Park - 1:00PM  
Birding Focus: Hard Labor Creek boasts a variety of habitats and has a history of birds like Loggerhead Shrikes, American Kestrels, and a variety of waterfowl on Lake Rutledge. We'll look for woodland birds, waterfowl, raptors, and other residents. 

Thursday, July 18 Murphey Candler Park - 7:30AM 
Birding Focus: Three main habitats (lake, wetlands, mixed woods) provide good species diversity. The site is also reliable for turtles. This is a good site for beginners, but all are welcome. 

Sunday, July 21 Leone Hall Price Park - 8:00AM 
Birding Focus: We'll be looking for summer breeding/resident birds. Any level of skill is welcome.  Walk will be approx. 3 miles on natural paths, easy terrain. Habitats: meadow, wooded and creek edge paths. 

Sunday, July 21 Panola Mountain State Park - 8:00AM 
Birding Focus: Permanent wetland & forest residents, including warblers, vireos, flycatchers, sparrows, blackbirds, raptors, waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds. 

Saturday, July 27 Reynolds Nature Preserve - 8:00AM 
Birding Focus: Woodland birds such as Pileated Woodpecker, Barred Owl, Wood Thrush, and Acadian Flycatcher. Very wide, flat trail less than 2 miles round trip, through mature deciduous forest and along several ponds

Wednesday, July 31 Heritage Park - 8:30AM 
Birding Focus: We will look for summer breeding birds of the wetlands and woodlands. Heritage Park is a 105-acre nature preserve. The park's 1.7-mile walking trail has an elevated boardwalk over wetlands, travels through forests along Nickajack Creek, passes the ruins of Concord Woolen Mills, and is near the historic Concord Covered Bridge. Heritage Park is a soft surface walking trail, essentially flat with a short hilly area by the ruins. Note: this is a good site for novice or beginning birders; families and children are welcome on this walk.

Hope to see you soon,

Linda, Brittany, Jessica, Jeremy, Stephen & Greyson
The Garden Enthusiast - Backyard Nature Station
2316 D Main Street
Tucker, GA 30084
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10am - 6PM
Sunday: Closed
Contact us at 404-474-7072 or [email protected] - we love to get your feedback!