You can join bird lovers across the Americas by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count. Go to www.birdcount.org for tools to help in identification and to sign up.
Tips for February
From Women's Day Gardening and Deck Design, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, 2008:
"Check with your local nursery to see when they expect to get their early shipments of plants. The best time to get free gardening advice at garden centers is when the shelves are well-stocked and the crowds are sparse.
"Divide perennials as soon as they emerge or are big enough to handle. Dig up plants and separate into smaller clumps using your hands or a spade. Replant the divisions and water thoroughly.
"Prepare stakes or wire cages to support plants such as peonies, sedums, veronica, sea kale and gladiol[us]. Stake plants before they get too tall. The flush of growing leaves will hide the supports."
A personal note - I always forget to put my rings around the peonies until I get one of those "oops!" moments, and then I tenderly gather the heavy flower heads (usually just before they bloom) and put the rings around them; this year, I pledge to do this task earlier.
And here's the part the teenagers aren't allowed to read (because they will start complaining now about that deck that needs some attention):
"Mend your fences if they are wobbly. Is it time for a coat of paint or stain? Do it before plants leaf out and block access to the fence."
Kids, you didn't read that part yet, did you?
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and places to pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike." - John Muir
Sara Busse is a Charleston resident and master gardener. She may be contacted at sjbu...@gmail.com.