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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Cleaning Birdhouses, Feeders and Baths

One of my favorite parts of being out in the garden is listening to the sounds of nature, especially the chirping of birds. The last thing I want to do is make them sick by not giving my feathered visitors clean birdhouses, feeders and watering holes.

The four common diseases that are easily spread from one bird to another are Avian Pox, Salmonellosis, Trichomoniasis, and Aspergillosis. Birds with these diseases are more likely to die from starvation, predation and severe weather. 

You can't count on the winter cold to kill off harmful bacteria. Proof of this is the fact that bird diseases peak in January and February according to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Follow these tips to keep your birdhouses, feeders, and baths clean and disease-free.

These are the birdhouses I have.  They are well built and have easy cleanouts.


Dirty birdhouses can spread disease to nesting birds and their hatchlings. Aside from the bacteria that builds up, leftovers from rodents or insects may be present. Make your birdhouse more attractive and safe for your feathery visitors with these cleaning tips.

And let's face it.  You can't go wrong by buying a birdhouse from Audubon

When to Clean and Sanitize Birdhouses

  • Each time a new family moves out.

  • Before winter sets in, clean and set out so they're ready to invite early spring birds.
  • For most species, one cleaning after the end of the breeding season is sufficient.

How to Clean and Sanitize Birdhouses

  • Take apart where possible and sweep out thoroughly, including the old nesting material.
  • Inspect the birdhouse for loose nails or any poking objects to harm birds or your hands.
  • Wearing rubber gloves, scrub the birdhouse inside and old with a stiff brush and a toothbrush and a solution of 90% water and 10% bleach.
  • Thoroughly rinse until there is only a faint smell of bleach.
  • If a strong bleach smell persists, lightly scrub with soap and water and rinse thoroughly again.
  • Let dry in the sun for several hours to prevent the growth of mildew and mold before rehanging.

Suet Feeder

Bird Feeders

When to Clean and Sanitize Bird Feeders

The three most important times to disinfect the bird feeders are the beginning of spring, the end of summer and the beginning of winter. If you have several feeders, you can create a rotation schedule so that one is cleaned, disinfected and dried every other week. If you have a garden calendar, add these items to your schedule as it is easy to forget during the busy garden season.

How to Clean and Sanitize Bird Feeders

  • Dispose of all seeds.
  • Take the feeder apart into as many pieces as possible.
  • For plastic, metal and ceramic feeders, rinse the feeder well with soapy water, then dunk it into a bleach-water solution in a nine-to-one water to bleach ratio.  
  • On wood feeder, a solution of diluted vinegar (three-to-one) or non-fragranced biodegradable soap will minimize fading.  
  • Dry out the feeder before hanging it back up. Double the frequency of cleaning if you suspect disease a-lurking.

  • Use a stiff brush to scrub both the inside and outside of the feeder, cleaning feeding ports, perches, lids, etc. An old toothbrush works well to get into the nooks and crannies.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • If a strong bleach smell persists, lightly scrub with soap and water and rinse thoroughly again.
  • Let dry in the sun for several hours to prevent the growth of mildew and mold. Reassemble and hang for the next set of visitors.


Other Tips

  • Clean up under feeding areas often so as not to attract unwanted rodents.
  • Move feeders periodically to reduce the accumulation of waste.
  • If you notice your birdhouse getting crowded with visitors, place another other next door or spread out the ones you have. Crowded birdhouses are a breeding ground for disease.
  • Purchase good quality birdhouses that are specially built for easy cleaning with slide-out or pull-out bottoms or hinges.
  • Store seed in a cool, dry place to keep fresh longer.
  • Supply only fresh food. Optimally only put out as much feed as you think the birds will eat in one or two days. Old seed, especially when wet, will promote the growth of bacteria.
  • Leave hanging during the winter for the shelter of non-migratory birds.

  • Purchase no-waste seed mixes that contain hulled seeds.



Cleaning and Sanitizing Birdbaths

We all know that stagnant water carry diseases that can spread quickly from one bird to the whole flock. Not only that, but it's also a great breeding ground for mosquitoes. Those stubborn stains in the birdbath are often caused by chemicals in the rain, tap water, and organic debris.

How to Clean and Sanitize Birdbaths

  • Dump out the old water.
  • Unless your birdbath has delicate features, you can pressure rinse it to remove all the loose debris.
  • For a standard size birdbath, add a cup or so of bleach to the water and mix it in to kill any algae.
  • Cover the birdbath with plastic to keep the birds out of it while the solution does its job. Let the solution soak for a minimum of ten minutes to half an hour, depending on the number of stains.
  • Check the cleanliness after that time and continue to soak if the stains remain.
  • For the stubborn parts, scrub with a stiff brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly for 2-3 minutes with as much water pressure as your birdbath can safely take.
  • Take extra care to rinse the nooks and crannies.
  • You'll know when the birdbath is well rinsed if there is only a slight odor of the bleach.
  • Empty the solution and allow the birdbath to dry completely in the sun to sterilize the surface against bacteria.
  • Refill with fresh, clean water and watch the birds enjoy a drink or a bath.


Following these tips you'll keep your feathered friends fed, happy and healthy!


Where to go next!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Growing Dill

Part of our Culinary Herb Series

Dill is a warm-season annual herb that has feathery leaves on fronds that add a pleasant anise-like flavor to kinds of seafood, soups, salads, and sauces.  Its subtle taste complements fish and shellfish. In addition to providing aromatic seeds and foliage, Dill will brighten your garden with its yellow-green flowers in the spring and fall.

Types of Dill

Bouquet is the most popular Dill grown for its fragrance of leaves and seeds.  Used for both pickling and cooking.
Taller Varieties include Mammoth and Long Island and may need to be staked.
Fernleaf Dill Weed (aka the Fish Dill) is popular for its use in fish.

Starting Dill from Seed

Seed Longevity:                                     3 years.
Seed Dowing Depth:                              ¼”.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:            60-70 degrees.
Days to Germination:                             7-10 days.
Spring Sowing:                                       Direct sow after last frost.

Sow Indoors - Not recommended; does not transplant easily.

Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of clear milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until they germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.

Herb Scissors

Herb Mincer

Growing Dill

Plant size:                                          Generally grows 2-3’.
Growing Soil Temperature:                60– 70 degrees.
Spacing:                                             12-15”.
Container Size:                                  20 seeds per 18” pot.
Soil:                                                    Well-drained, moderately rich and loose.
Watering:                                            Loves moist soil.
Light/Sun:                                           Full sun  6-8 hours.
Fertilizer:                                            Light to none.
Good Companions:                            Cabbage, onions.
Bad Companions:                              Carrots.

Other Care Tips                   

  • Shelter from strong winds.
  • It doesn’t transplant well.
  • Successive planting every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply.
  • Attracts beneficial insects such as wasps and other predatory insects.
  • Attracts bees and butterflies.
  • Tall Dill plants may need staking.
  • Create a permanent Dill weed patch by allowing seeds to fall and self sow the next season.

Dill Cuttings

By placing Dill cuttings of 4-5” in length into water, the cuttings will grow roots in 3-4 weeks.

Harvesting Dill Leaves

As soon as the plant has 4-5 leaves, you can start to harvest.  Pick off remaining leaves just before the flowers open or let seeds develop for harvesting.   You can always pinch off leaves as needed.

Harvesting Dill Seeds

After the Dill plant flowers, allow the seed heads to dry on the plant.  Cut the entire seed head when seeds are a pale brown.  Thoroughly dry seeds and store in an airtight container.

Storing Dill

Bouquet Storage

This method works well for tender herbs with soft stems and leaves.
Clean and thoroughly dry the Dill.  Trim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  Place the Dill into a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers.  Loosely cover with a plastic bag or cling wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.

Dill will stay fresh in the fridge with this method for up to 3 weeks.


For best results, use frozen Dill within 1-2 years.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.
Here are some suggestions for freezing Dill.

Tray Freeze

Spread the Dill onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then transfer the herbs into a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.

Ice Cube Trays

Clean and thoroughly dry the Dill.  Mince and firmly pack herbs into ice cube trays 3/4 full.  Add water to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.

Flat Freezer Bag

Clean and thoroughly dry the Dill.  Chop herb into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.


Dill does not dry well.

Using Dill

  • Brings a great tang to potato recipes.
  • A small amount can go a long way, so use sparingly at first.
  • Use in salads and salad dressings and of course to pickle cucumbers.
  • Delicious accent to eggs, cheese, vegetables, and fish.

Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.

To view other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

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