Ask the Expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
Moderate temperatures have enticed some robins to remain in the ares, with plenty of food still available.

Q: I saw a robin in my garden this week. Is there a way to help him?

A: Generally, robins do not need our help. The weather has been warm enough to allow them to remain and find plenty of food and water. To try to coax them to your feeders, provide suet containing berries, as well as grapes, fruit slices, oranges, melons, and mealworms.

Q: What's the difference between a red headed woodpecker and red bellied woodpecker?

A: The red headed woodpecker has a much deeper, ruby red head with a largely black body and blocky white patches. The red bellied woodpecker or has only a stripe of bright, reddish orange across the crown of the head and a tan body with black and white ladder stripes up and down the back.

Q: Do you have ideas for children to do in winter?

A: To keep children busy and interested in gardening and nature all winter, there are many fun ideas. Let them create birdfeeders using pinecones smothered in peanut butter then rolled in bird seed. Hang these from trees and shrubs and watch the birds enjoy them. Look for wildlife tracks and sign in your backyard or on nature hikes. Starting seeds and growing fresh herbs and other plants indoors is a great way to keep them interested. You can also grow new plants from kitchen scraps such as carrot tops, potatoes, celery crowns and more. These are just a few ideas to keep the kids interested in gardening and nature all winter.

Q: Is it too early to cut branches for forcing indoors?

A: It depends what you are cutting. A friend has told me that each winter for the past 25 years, he has cut lilac branches and placed them in the Christmas tree, where they bloom a week or two later. With the warm November we experienced, some spring flowering shrubs are already producing leaf buds. In fact, I discovered multiple forsythia shrubs in bloom!

Q: I found tulips on clearance, can I still plant them?

A: As long as you can work the ground, there is still time to plant spring flowering bulbs. In fact, I've planted them after New Year's Day in some years.