As Christmas approaches, consider two things to add to your to-do list.

First, spray your greenery with a protective coating such as Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop. This will prevent the needles from drying out on trees, wreaths and swags. You'll have fewer needles to sweep up in January.

Second, remember the birds. Birds are an essential part of a healthy garden and healthy environment.

As cold weather closes in, birds need access to open water. They drink it, of course, but they also bathe in it. They need clean feathers to maintain warmth. A dirty bird is a cold bird.

If you already have a birdbath, you can easily add a low-voltage heater. If you don't have a birdbath, you can buy a portable one with a heating mechanism that can be fastened to a deck or patio.

Feeding birds is beneficial and fun. Like people, birds need carbs, protein and fat. Seeds--high in carbohydrates--are also tempting for squirrels.

Adding cayenne pepper to seed mixtures or buying cayenne-treated seeds will thwart the squirrels. Birds have no aversion to the "flaming hot feast" but squirrels hate it.

Suet cakes and balls provide essential proteins and fats for birds. Some feeders are designed to hold them securely. Suet balls can also be treated with pepper to prevent squirrels from hogging them.

During cold days you'll enjoy watching the wild birds enjoying the baths and meals you provide.