Tips of the Month
Start your seedlings now!
With spring approaching, it is time to prepare for early-season plantings. Many native plant seeds can be sown directly into the ground in spring or fall, depending on their germination needs. Some more highly cultivated vegetable plants, however, may be more sensitive to cold. You can sprout these indoors and plant the seedlings outside in your garden beds (or larger pots) when the threat of freeze has passed.
It is best to plant seeds in small individual containers or compartments so that the roots of the plants do not tangle. An egg container with small holes poked in the bottom of the compartments for drainage is an ideal, cheap, and easy option. You can cover your container with clear plastic in order to help retain moisture and heat, but be careful to allow some air circulation to avoid oversaturation or mold. Start seeds in compost or a commercial potting mixture labeled peat-free. Peat moss, a key ingredient in many commercial potting mixtures, is harvested from peatlands to the detriment of local ecosystems, reducing their carbon sequestering capacity and accelerating climate change. You can buy compost and backyard compost bins from the city. For details, see https://www.collegeparkmd.gov/compost.
After planting your seeds in their individual compartments and watering them, choose a place for your container(s) where they will receive light and will not be disturbed by children or pets. A south-facing window sill is ideal. Keep the seeds above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, do not allow the growing medium to dry out, and wait for your seeds to sprout. Note that different plants have different germination requirements. Some may need a cold dry or cold wet period before they will sprout. Others may require scarification to the outer hull with an acid or an abrasive. The above is a general guide for sprouting seeds indoors—be sure to follow the specific procedures appropriate to your plants.
From the City's Committee for a Better Environment
Check Your Backyard for Baby Bunnies!
Every year, there are at least a few calls for injured baby bunnies when the time comes for residents to cut their grass for the first time. It may be some time before we’re all warming up the lawnmower again, but it’s never too early to inform yourself on how to avoid disturbing a nest.
How do I identify a Rabbit nest?
Nests are made by our Native rabbit, the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Usually, they occur in tall grassy areas. The mother rabbit will scratch a shallow hole in the ground that she fills with her own fur and covers with dried vegetation. In your yard, this will look like a dead patch of grass. Mother rabbits only feed their babies once at dawn and once at dusk. So, if you don’t see her checking on the nest, this is totally normal. The Mother rabbit doesn’t want to give away the location of her nest to predators. Scan your yard for any patches of these dead grass areas before mowing!
How long will they be nesting?
Breeding season for Cottontail’s are around February to September. About 16 days after birth, the “kits” or baby bunnies will be old enough to wander around the yard and forage independently. At around 21 days of age, they are no longer nursing. Baby bunnies that are at least 4 inches long are old enough to be on their own.
What can you do if you’ve found a nest?
The first and most important thing to do is to leave the nest alone as much as possible. Baby bunnies are very delicate and are best cared for by their mother. If you need to cut your grass, mark the nest with a Cone, cover with a lawn chair, or any other item that marks the area to avoid mowing and doesn't prevent the mother from checking on the babies. It’s ok to cut your grass, the mom won’t abandon the nest if you cut the grass in your yard. Try to keep your pets away from the nests. You can cover the nest during bathroom time for your pets, and then remove the cover when finished.
I’ve accidentally disturbed a nest, what do I do?
If the bunnies aren’t injured, return them to the nest and cover them back up with the material the mother had placed on top of the nest. Your scent on the bunnies will not stop the mom from returning to the nest, and remember, that mom only visits the nest twice a day. It will be uncommon for you to see her visiting the nest at all.
If there are injured bunnies, call Animal Control or, MD Dept of Natural Resources at 1-877-463-6497.
The City of College Park’s Animal Control officer works 9am-5:30pm M-F. Call Officer Rebecca Bailey at (240)-375-3165.
For more information, visit Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.
From the City's Animal Control Officer
Pets and Poisonous Spring Flowers
With spring around the corner, we often celebrate with fresh flowers to brighten our homes. Our pet friends, however, sometimes see these plants as something to try and eat. With some plants this can cause an upset stomach, but some plants are truly toxic to cats or dogs and may require that you seek medical help from your veterinarian.
Many types of lily are very toxic, especially to cats. Toxic lilies include Day lilies, Easter lilies, Tiger lilies, Wood lilies, and Asiatic lilies. Cats that eat even a small number of petals or leaves from these lilies can develop serious kidney failure. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect you cat ate any of these lilies.
Tulips, hyacinths, irises, and daffodils can be toxic to dogs and cats and can cause vomiting, diarrhea or drooling. Any part of plant can cause a problem if eaten, but the bulb or root of these flowers is the most toxic part. Prevent your dogs from digging bulbs out of your garden and eating them.
If you would like to brighten someone’s day with some flowers this season, think about what flowers will be safe if they have pets at home. Some safer options include daisies, orchids, roses, snapdragons, zinnias, or sunflowers.
If you think that your pet has eaten a toxic plant, or a plant you are not sure is toxic, contact your veterinarian right away.
From the City's Animal Welfare Committee