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IN THE GARDEN: Making bird guests comfortable; winter damage wait-and-see

A mountain bluebird makes its way to a birdhouse with a grasshopper meal. Birds are great at controlling pest populations in gardens. Invite them into your yard with the tips below. iStock image

Many birds can be extremely helpful when it comes to controlling unwanted guests, aka damaging insects, in our gardens. Bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees, house finches, hummingbirds, purple martins, nuthatches, oriole, tanagers, titmice, woodpeckers, and wrens are several of these beneficial avian friends.

There are several requirements when inviting birds into your garden. Just like humans, they will want food, water, and shelter. Most birds eat differently, depending on the season. For instance, some will eat seed in the winter, bugs in the spring and summer, and berries in the summer and fall. Circulating water, water features, or a bird bath will provide water for all.

Regarding shelter, trees and bushes provide protection and roosting. However, housing requirements will differ for each species. For example, a purple martin and the largest sparrow will not fit in the opening of a birdhouse designed for a chickadee. Choose which friends you would like to invite and provide appropriate accommodations.


  • Bluebirds: beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, larvae, moths
  • Cardinals: large insects, beetles, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, snails, stink bugs
  • Chickadees: caterpillars, grubs, worms
  • House finches: aphids, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, leaf hoppers, leaf miners
  • Hummingbirds: aphids, mites, mosquitoes
  • Nuthatches: ants, borers, caterpillars, earwigs
  • Oriole: beetles, caterpillars, flies, grasshoppers, insect larvae, moths
  • Purple martins: large flying insects, beetles, dragonflies, flies, grasshoppers, moths, wasps
  • Tanagers: spiders, wasp larvae, wasps
  • Titmice: aphids, beetles, caterpillars, leafhoppers
  • Woodpeckers: aphids, beetles, caterpillars, worms
  • Wrens: ants, beetles, caterpillars, grubs, snails


Many have been asking what to do with their trees since the hard freeze. If a branch was broken, yes, cut it off. Other than broken limbs, we would advise leaving your trees alone for a moment. Give them an opportunity to recuperate. Trees only have so much energy. If you cut while one is trying to heal, it will direct more energy to healing its wound, thus depleting the amount that it needs to recover as a whole.

If your lawn is “greening up,” we advise a high cut.

If your plant has gone soft and mushy, dig it up. It will start to stink soon and attract insects that you don’t want close to your home.

Generally, No. 1 on the to-do list for this time of year would be to aerate and fertilize lawns. Let’s hold off for another week.

The timing and duration of our hard freeze has placed us in a wait-and-see limbo.

Till next time, Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

"In the Garden" is written by father-daughter gardening duo Bill and Martelle Luedecke. Contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or or Bill at 512-577-1463 or

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