Baking bird food will keep it from growing weeds under your feeder
Q. We put some bird feeders in the garden to attract the birds and supplement their diet in winter. Now we have lots of birds but we also have weeds that grew from the fallen seeds. I remember that you have told readers how to treat the seed so it won’t sprout, but I’ve forgotten how to do it.
A. Fallen birdseed can present a problem. Sometimes you can find birdseed that is already treated to prevent sprouting, but if you can’t find it, you can treat it yourself.
Just spread the birdseed in a shallow pan and bake it in your oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 150 degrees. After the seed cools, fill your feeder. The birds seem to enjoy the treated seed just as much, and the fallen seed won’t sprout. In time, perhaps some ground-feeding birds such as doves will find your garden and help with the spilled seed.
Q. I have an Owari Satsuma Mandarin orange tree that was covered with blossoms in spring, but we have no fruit this year. What happened? It has produced in previous years.
A. For those readers not familiar with it, the Owari Satsuma is a sweet, seedless Mandarin that usually matures around the end of the year. The tree tends to be on the smaller side, making it a desirable citrus tree for home gardens. It is more tolerant of cold weather than most other citrus trees, but it does not do as well in the heat of our deserts. The fruit is very easy to peel and has often been referred to as the zipper-skin fruit. This old-time variety is self-fertile, so no cross-pollination is necessary.
Since your Satsuma is self-fertile, we can eliminate pollination issues as the reason for its lack of crop. That leaves us with two other possible causes for the phenomenon you are observing. The first is that your tree was water-stressed sometime between the time it flowered and the time the fruits reached the size of large grapes. During this period, if a citrus tree does not receive adequate water, the tree will abort any fruit it has set in order to conserve its resources.
The second potential explanation can occur with many varieties of citrus but is especially common in mandarins and their relatives, including your Satsuma. The condition is referred to as “alternate-bearing” and describes the production of many fruits one year followed by the production of a small number of fruits, or even no fruit, the next year. Typically, the individual fruits of the heavy fruit-set year are quite small in size, and the individual fruits of the light fruit-set year are larger in size. Efforts to minimize this behavior focus on thinning fruit on the heavy crop years and making sure all the old fruit is removed from the tree by summer. Alternate-bearing is a problem to commercial citrus growers too, not just home gardeners, and citrus breeders always strive to produce varieties that are not alternate-bearing.
As long as your tree is receiving good basic garden care and you try to address the two possible causes that I’ve described, you are likely to have a good crop next year and in years to come.
Birdseed And Weeds | Earth Wise
Researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia Missouri investigated the content of 98 commercially available bird feed mixes. They uncovered several significant things.
The various mixes contained seeds from 29 weed species and almost all of the mixes contained seeds for pigweed, which can be a significant threat to agriculture. One in ten of the mixes contained Palmer amaranth or waterhemp seeds that demonstrated a resistance to glyphosphate. Other common weed species found in many of the mixes were kochia, common ragweed, foxtail species, and wild buckweed.
The overall collection of seed mixes contained an average of 363 amaranthus seeds in each kilogram of bird feed. Based on this, it is possible that 105 million amaranthus seeds are transported in bird feed mixes each year.
According to the researchers, it is difficult to estimate the exact role that commercial bird seed plays in spreading troublesome weed species into new regions, but it is clear that the widespread use of these seed mixes is a contributing factor to the spread of weeds.
The researchers recommend careful weed management in crop fields designated for bird feed, as well as sieving during packaging to reduce weed seed contamination. They also noted that regulatory measures adopted in Europe to limit weed seed content in bird seed have proven to be effective.