Issue 8
January, 2012
Links to Articles
Water Quiz!
Winter Orchard Chores
Best Seeds to Feed the Birds
Winter Water Conservation

Garden Tip



 If you have plants that need to be relocated to a different part of your landscape, we are smack dab in the middle of the dormant period, so move at will. You may want to pick a day that is not terribly cold.  Not only will it be easier on you, but also on your plants.  Pay particular attention to the roots.  The tops are acclimated to cold, but the root system has been protected by soil and mulch, and is not particularly cold hardy. It's a good idea to dig the transplant hole first so you can directly plant.  That way the rootball doesn't break. Wrap the root ball if the move is any distance, and get them replanted asap!  Subjecting the roots to extended cold or drying out can lead to damaged or even dead plants. 

Helpful Links

Garden Tip



If you had terrible insect problems in your vegetable garden this year, particularly grubs, squash vine borers, and other soil insects, tilling the garden in the winter can help control them.  Many of these insects burrow down in the ground and spend the winter in a larval stage.  Tilling can bring them closer to the surface and low temperatures can help kill them.  Don't do this if the ground is too wet, but if the soil is workable, this can help start the season off clean.  

Types of Bird Feeders

Hopper feeders
These feeders provide dry storage for several pounds of mixed seed, which tumbles forward on demand. Position hopper feeders on a pole about five feet off the ground. Hopper feeders attract all of the species tube feeders attract, as well as larger birds such as jays, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, and cardinals.

If you are going to put out just one bird feeder, this is the best choice. Be sure to select a model with metal ports around the seed dispensers to protect the feeder from nibbling squirrels and house sparrows. Hang the feeder at least five feet off the ground and position it near a window, where you can enjoy its visitors. These feeders are especially attractive to small birds such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, siskins, and house finches.

Suet Feeders

Suet is readily eaten by titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers. In addition to the regular suet-feeder visitors, wrens, creepers, and warblers occasionally pick at these mixes. You can hang suet chunks from a tree in an onion bag, in a half-inch hardware-cloth basket, or in a more durable cage feeder like the one shown here.

Finch (Thistle)

Especially designed to dispense niger seed, also known as thistle seed, these feeders typically have tiny holes that make the seed available only to small-beaked finches such as goldfinches, redpolls, and pine siskins. Thistle-seed-dispensing bags are not recommended, since squirrels can easily tear holes in them and waste this expensive seed. Hang your thistle feeder from a tree or place it on a five-foot pole near other feeders, taking care to protect it from squirrels with a special baffle.


This screen-bottomed tray sits several inches off the ground and is useful for helping to keep grain and bird excrement from coming in contact with each other. Some designs have covers to prevent snow from accumulating over the seed; others are surrounded by wire mesh to keep out squirrels and large birds such as crows and grackles. Place the feeder in an open location, at least 10 feet from the nearest shrub, to give birds a chance to flee in the event of a cat attack. Ground feeders are especially favored by doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, goldfinches, and cardinals.


Providing peanuts is a great addition to the choices you offer your backyard birds. Peanuts are a high-energy food and are enjoyed by a wide variety of birds such as woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and more. Many of their visits will be to carry peanuts off and cache them for a later meal.

Tray Feeders allow birds to easily locate seed. Try placing the tray feeder in your favorite viewing area and attract a diverse group of birds by offering different types of bird seed, peanuts, suet snacks or fruit.

This specially designed feeder has a red cover that is highly attractive to hummingbirds, a built-in ant moat that keeps bugs out, and feeding ports that prevent rain water from diluting the nectar solution.

Visit Wild Birds Unlimited and look for local distributors!

Water Quiz!

Test your water trivia knowledge!  The first person  to respond with the correct answer will receive a TYN canvas shopping bag!! 



If all the world's water were to fit into a gallon jug, the fresh water available for us to use would equal:


a. one pint

b. one tablespoon

c. one quart 


email answers to :

The correct answer and winner of this month's Water Quiz will be featured in next month's newsletter.

Garden Tip


Start seeds for perennials, geraniums, snapdragons and sweet peas.  Many other plants such as lobelia and verbena also need to be started indoors by the end of the month to be ready for spring. 

Stay in Touch!

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December Water Quiz Answer and Winner!
Congratulations to Jesse McCabe with the answer of wood!

Yep, that's right wood!
Giant logs were hollowed out or fire charred to create piping systems.

Check out more water trivia here:

EPA water facts

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a great holiday!  We here at TYN are excited to kick off this new year with our January newsletter! Starting off this issue we have a wonderful article by David Lockwood, UT Extension Fruit & Nut Crops Specialist, that gives information on what we can do during these wintry months for healthy and happy fruit trees in the spring.  Also, rounding out our articles this month is our always entertaining and educational Lyn Bales with an article about the best seeds for your backyard birds.  Lyn gives us the low-down on how to keep birds plump and happy during the cold of winter and into the spring. Finally, the TYN staff gathered some easy tips on how we can continue to conserve water indoors during the winter.  We may not be watering our lawns and gardens, but there are plenty of ways to conserve our water resources inside our homes!  Also, be sure to check out our water quiz this month and see what the winning answer was last month!!


The TYN State Management Team

Winter Orchard Chores

by David Lockwood





Harvest is over and the trees are dormant. Now it is time to sit back in the recliner, look at some nursery catalogs and think about next summer - right? Well, maybe not. Successful fruit production is a 12-month a year deal. While things have slowed down, there are several things that can be done in the orchard in advance of the coming growing season. Here are a few things to consider:


Soil testing - If it has been a while since you have had the soil tested in your orchard, now is the time to remedy that. Soil testing is especially valuable as a preplant practice. With it, you can make needed modifications to soil pH or nutritional levels and create a favorable environment for root growth. Routine sampling every few years after planting is a good way to know whether lime or certain fertilizer materials are needed for production of quality fruit crops.


Planning - Fruit trees and vines can be valuable additions to the

home landscape. Not only are they attractive when properly cared for, they can also be a source of delicious, healthy fruit crops. Do you want dwarf, semi-dwarf or large apple trees? Are you interested in border plantings, raised beds, espaliers or other techniques to integrate fruit crops into the home landscape? Selection of the proper plant materials and good planning can make the end result easier to establish and maintain.


Check with your local Extension office, talk to fruit growers in the neighborhood and with garden center employees to see what types and varieties of fruits grow best in your areas. Do spend some time checking out nursery catalogs for ideas. Many of these catalogs contain a lot of valuable information on planting and maintaining the orchard. Consider types of fruits and varieties that may possess resistance to diseases or other pests common to your area.


Planting - Late winter is a good time to plant fruit trees and vines. When planting, be sure to keep the roots moist and don't expose the root systems to sub-freezing temperatures as root death could occur. As the planting hole is backfilled, be sure to work soil in among the roots to limit air pockets in the soil. Most fruit trees are grafted. The graft union on the trunk should always be aboveground by about 2 inches. Planting about the same depth that the trees or vines were in the nursery will be a good guide.


Pruning - Pruning is something that should be done every year

beginning with the year of planting up to the final year of tree or vine life. Pruning is used to help build a desirable shape for the plant, to encourage early fruiting, to remove old, unproductive or marginally productive wood thus encouraging the growth of new shoots that will bear future crops and to remove dead, broken or diseased wood in the plant canopy. When pruning, keep in mind that light is the key to successful fruit growing. By opening the canopy of the plant up to sunlight and air movement, fruit bud formation within the canopy will be encouraged and pest pressure will be reduced.


Dormant sprays - Certain pests are best controlled by sprays applied during the dormant period. Scale insects as well as certain other insect pests that overwinter in the tree can be controlled by a thorough, timely application of dormant oil. Some diseases such as leaf curl in peach trees are best controlled while trees are dormant. Contact your local Extension office for information on pest control.


Fertilizing trees and vines - While it used to be recommended that fruit trees and vines be fertilized while dormant, about a month before bud break, this is no longer the case. Instead, nitrogen fertilizers are more effective if applied in spring after bloom.


Time spent in the orchard during the winter months getting ready for the upcoming growing season will pay big dividends in the form of healthier trees and vines and better crops of fruit.


David Lockwood is a professor in the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Tennessee and currently works as an Extension Fruit & Nut Crops Specialist. 



Stephen Lyn BalesWhat are the best seeds to feed the birds?

By Stephen Lyn Bales

At this time of the year, many of us find ourselves indoors watching the birds come and go from the feeders outdoors. As a general rule, the more feeders you maintain, the wider variety of birds you will attract.  


If you were standing at the Shoney's salad bar, what would you choose: whole kernel corn or sweet baby limas? And if you were a bird, would you pick white millet or milo?  


For their 1982 publication, "Feeding Wild Birds," co-authors Peter Bromley and Aelrod Geis tested the bird-attracting power of 21 kinds of seeds. Their "attractiveness" rating was based on an incredible 710,450 observations of various birds choosing between two or more seeds at experimental feeders set up like buffet lines.


Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
A Bird Favorite!!

Hands down, the most preferred seeds were types of sunflowers.  Black-oil sunflower scored 94 out of a possible 100. Of the 16 bird species tested, it was highly prized by 13 of them. Striped black sunflower scored a 90 and striped gray sunflower scored 81. Next on the list was sunflower kernels. But the pre-shelled pulps only scored 73, which is interesting because it indicates that birds prefer to remove the shells themselves, and a bag of sunflower kernels is more expensive than the other, so why go to the extra expense?


White proso millet and peanut kernels both earned a score of 63, but the shelled peanuts strongly attract European starlings and squirrels, so avoid them. Ground feeding birds, including the white-throated sparrows, juncos, towhees and mourning doves, actually favor the white millet over sunflower seeds.


Cracked corn received a rating of 52 and was highly prized by sparrows and grackles, while Niger or "thistle seeds" got a rating of only 50, a low score but it's a cherished food for goldfinches. But in truth, the golden finches will eat sunflower seeds as well, so why bother?  


Safflower only received a rating of 42; cardinals, doves, chickadees and titmice seem to enjoy it, but squirrels and starlings generally shun the chunky white morsels. Safflower costs a little more, but it's a good choice for a feeder that you're protecting from squirrels.


Milo Seeds
Not a Bird Favorite

One of the lowest rated seeds is milo. It's often used as filler in mixes and is actually consumed by practically no birds. None. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Doves will eat it, but that's about it. Most of the milo ends up on the ground, tossed aside by birds searching for one of their buffet favorites.  


As for me? I usually pass over the baby corncobs (they don't seem natural) and go straight for the cucumbers.   



In summary:

* With birds, you cannot go wrong with sunflower seeds.

* Safflower generally will keep the squirrels away.

* Avoid mixes with high contents of milo.


Stephen Lyn Bales is a senior naturalist at Ijams Nature Center and is author of "Natural Histories" and "Ghost Birds" by UT Press. Visit his nature blog: http://stephenlynbales.blogspot.com


Winter Water Conservation 


An American family of four can use 400 gallons of water per day, and, on average, about 70% of that water is used indoors [1]. During these winter months when the lawn sprinklers are turned off, how are we using our water, and what can we do to continue to conserve?



Despite the lack of outdoor water-consuming activities like watering lawns and gardens, during the winter we are still using water on a regular a basis. In fact, during the holidays with family gatherings, parties, and other festivities, we are likely increasing our water use and using much more than we think. For example, running your tap continuously while preparing food or washing dishes uses more than two gallons of water every minute! Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to conserve water during these busy holiday and winter months:


Preparing for meals and parties?

  • Scrape dirty dishes clean, instead of using water to rinse them before you put them in the dishwasher. Not rinsing dishes before you put them into the dishwasher can save up to 10 gallons per load!
  • Use a dishwasher if you have one because using a dishwasher on average uses 9.3 gallons/load [5] of water compared to hand washing which reigns in at a whopping 20 gallons/load [1].
  • If you don't have a dishwasher, fill the sink with a few gallons of soapy wash water, clean your dishes and put them aside. Then rinse them all together afterward. Washing dishes with an open tap can use up to 20 gallons of water. You can save 10 of those gallons by filling the sink and closing the tap [1].
  • Only run dishwashers and clothes washers when they are fully loaded.
  • Use the garbage disposal less often to conserve water. We usually let the water run while we dispose of food down the garbage disposal so use it only when necessary.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the fridge so you don't have to run the water until it is cold.

Getting ready for a party or get together?

  • Take a shower instead of a bath. Baths use more water than a typical shower.
  • If your shower has a single hand control or shut off valve, turn off the flow while soaping or shampooing. If you can work this one into your routine, you are truly a water conservationist!
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving. Leaving the water on can translate to 2 gallons or more going down the sink.
  • Don't use your toilet as a trash bin. We all tend to see the toilet as a place to throw tissues, napkins and other small pieces of paper but if we instead throw them into the waste basket, we will eliminate excess flushing. Depending on when your toilet was manufactured can make a huge difference in how much water is used for flushing. For example, toilets manufactured before 1980 typically require 5 to 7 to gallons of water per flush (gpf) while toilets made in the 1980s generally use 3.5 gpf. In 1992, the U.S. government mandated that toilets use no more than 1.6 gpf [9].

With just a few simple behavior changes, you can see how easy it would be for all of us to play a part in water conservation. In fact, if every US household reduced their water use by only 10 gallons a day, we could collectively rack up a savings of more than 365 billion gallons of water a year, not to mention the energy savings by not having to treat all this water [6]!


Other major water wasting offenders-- Be on the lookout for leaks!

  • Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, hose connections, and faucets. Even a tiny leak can translate into thousands of gallons of waste water over a short period of time. Repair or replace any equipment leaking water immediately.
  • Check for toilet leaks which can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day! A trick to check for leaks is to drop a couple of drops of food coloring into the tank. If you see the coloring in the bowl a few minutes later, you have a leak [7].
  • For an older water-guzzling toilet, consider following this tip by the American Water Works Association [2] to reduce its consumption. Fill a plastic jug with water and weigh it down with a few stones. Place it inside the tank in an area that does not interfere with the operation of the moving parts. Each time you flush, you will save as much water as is displaced by the jug. Caution:  Never use bricks as a displacement device. They will erode and the particles will clog your drainage system [4].
  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Detaching the hose allows water to drain from the pipe so an overnight freeze won't burst the connecting faucet or the pipe.
  • Locate your master water shut off valve. Mark it for quick identification because if a water pipe were to break, it could cause flooding and tremendous water loss. This is particularly important during winter months when pipes are more susceptible to freezing and breaking.
 With toilets making up a hefty 26.7% of our daily water use, this chart illustrates just how important it is to look for toilet leaks and other ways to reduce the consumption of this porcelain fixture.

Small investments can save big-time on water usage and bills too!!

  • Insulate! Insulating hot water pipes reduces the amount of water that must be run in order to get hot water to the faucet.
  • Install low flow showerheads and faucet aerators. For shower heads, look for ones that use no more than 2.5 gpm at maximum flow and for faucets, 2.2 gpm  [8].
  • Investing in high efficiency washing machines can conserve large amounts of water. Traditional models can use up to 50 gallons per load but newer energy and water-conserving models use less than 27 gallons per load [1]!
  • Consider installing "heat tape" or similar materials on all exposed water pipe (i.e. exterior pipe, or pipe located where the temperature might drop below freezing). It is relatively easy to install and can be found at your local hardware or building supply store. Be sure that you use only UL-listed products and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

So by now you are probably thinking, "Whoa, there is a lot to do!" but just take it one step at a time. Incorporating just one or two practices into your daily routine can make a big difference in your water usage. After you've mastered a few tricks, add a few more, and then before you know it you are well on your way to becoming a great water conservationist! Along the way, you will ease your impact on this precious resource, and, equally important, you will demonstrate to others how they can follow suit! 



  1. EPA Indoor Water Use 
  2. American Water Works Association 
  3. Tour a virtual home and see where you can make changes www.h2ouse.org 
  4. American Water Works Association, Conservation Communications Guide, Resources for Residential Programs, Pg 62 downloadable [pdf] file.  
  5. Dishwasher Savings www.h2house.org 
  6. EPA winter tips 
  7. Toilet Leak Detection www.h2ouse.org   
  8. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Winter Water Tips 
  9. Toilet Basics  

See Ya' Next Month!

Thanks so much for reading!

Check back with us next month for details on our new projects and more tips on achieving a healthy home landscape. Until then, follow us on Facebook!

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Contact Info
Ruth Anne Hanahan and Dr. Andrea Ludwig
TYN Statewide Co-Directors
Tennessee Water Resources Research Center
University of Tennessee
311 Conference Center
Knoxville, TN 37996