Ask the Expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
An assortment of birds feeding at a  platform bird feeder during a snow storm.

Q: I've placed several bird feeders out but haven't seen a single bird lately. What might be wrong?

A: Birds are usually pretty quick to discover a new food source. Be sure you are providing high-quality feed and food choices. There may be plenty of food available at neighboring homes or in the wild. It is also possible that there may be a hawk or other predator in the area. Often, birds will temporarily avoid feeders where hawks hunt regularly. Cats can also be a deterrent. There are plenty of birds around, so be patient and you should soon see some colorful arrivals.

Q: With no snow cover in my area, is it too soon to plant wildflower seed?

A: Many types of wildflower seed can be sown in the garden now, with or without snow cover. Native such as purple coneflower, wild lupine, wild columbine, milkweed and others can be scattered directly on top of the snow or bare soil where you wish to plant them. The natural moisture and thawing cycle will aid seed germination in spring.

Q: How can I reduce the amount of suckers when I prune?

A: Pruning correctly and carefully is the best way to reduce or limit the amount of suckering or waterspouts that occur. Not knowing exactly what type of tree or shrub you are referring to, my general answer is to prune back to the main stem. Avoid leaving stubs when pruning. These stubs are what cause suckers to form. Pruning right back to the main stem or trunk will create a seamless, rapidly healing scar and fewer suckers.

Q: I'm overwintering dormant geraniums in my basement. When should I repot them?

A: You can repot them now and bring them up to a warm, sunny location if or under growing lights if you would like. They should begin to green up nicely and may even flower with enough light.