Weekly home and garden rail, with items on attracting birds, creating unique seasonal accents, how to safely use a portable generator, and more.

Backyard Buddies: Attract colorful birds with feeders

The backyard can seem barren and bleak when the leaves fall off the trees and the last blooming plant retires until spring. But there's an easy way to brighten your backyard and fill it with color and song -- charm songbirds looking for an easy, reliable food source.

Don't wait until the snow flies to get feeders in place. Fall is a good time to choose a location visible from your favorite window, to secure feeders with sturdy brackets, poles or hangers and to arrange convenient storage for your seed and supplies.

To attract the greatest number of birds, choose feeders and foods that suit a variety of wild bird species.

Tube feeders

Tube feeders can be made of clear plastic or wire mesh. They're sized to hold peanut kernels, sunflower or nyger seed for finches. Experts recommend filling tubes with just one type of seed so birds don't rummage through the contents in search of their favorite treats.

Suet feeders

Suet is a high-energy fuel that helps birds survive cold winters. They attract the larger red-bellied and red-headed woodpeckers with support for their stiff tails, as well as the smaller and more common downy woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Pre-formed suet cakes sized to fit feeders can include seeds, fruit or nuts for extra energy and appeal.

Cool accessories

An accessory like a seed hoop is a mesh tray that attaches below feeders and catches 90 percent of spilled seed, keeping it off the ground and away from rodents. The hoop also serves as a platform feeder for cardinals, buntings and juncos.

Spiral feeders feature a continuous spiral perch that allows more birds to feed at once, a locking lid to foil squirrels and a twist-off bottom for easy cleaning. A squirrel-proof wire mesh model is ideal for shelled sunflower or peanut hearts.

Or check out feeders made for “clingers only.” Smaller birds like chickadees, small woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches and others will be attracted to these feeders.

-- ARA

Decorating Tip: Unique seasonal accents

- Use a gourd that will stand upright as a vase. Slice off the stem of the gourd, widen the opening if necessary, and add colorful fall flowers like mums.

- For a seasonal spin on a centerpiece, arrange gourds and flower blossoms symmetrically in a shallow bowl or tray.

- Use pumpkins as a flowerpot. Hollow out a pumpkin and slip small pots of fall flowers inside.

- Go glam with an arrangement of small gourds spray-painted shimmery gold. Use a glass cake plate for an elegant display.

-- BHG.com 100 Days of Holidays, www.bhg.com/holidays

Home-Selling Tip: Ensure smooth negotiations

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re negotiating the sale of your home: Start with a fair price, respect the buyer’s important issues, be prepared to compromise, and put minor issues aside.

-- www.forsalebyowner.com

How To: Safely use a portable generator

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous. Here are some tips for staying safe:

- Generators can produce high levels of carbon monoxide within minutes. Never use a generator inside a closed space, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation.

- Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Make it sure it is correctly sized for the purpose you have in mind.

- Operate the generator under an open, canopy-like structure on a dry surface where water cannot reach it or puddle or drain under it. Dry your hands, if wet, before touching the generator.

- Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet, known as “backfeeding.” This presents an electrocution risk.

-- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Did You Know …

About 9,000 foreclosed or abandoned properties recently went up for auction in Detroit, but less than one-fifth sold despite a minimum bid of $500.

Home Improvements: Outfit your exercise room

A home gym doesn’t have to be fancy, just appropriate for your needs. Here are some tips:

- Stick with what you like: Hate taking the stairs? Then a stair-stepper probably isn’t the smartest buy. Choose equipment based on activities you like or it will become the next great drying rack.

- Keep it simple: Unless you can afford a personal trainer at home, stick with equipment and exercises you already know how to do.

- Start small: Instead of purchasing a big-ticket item at first, start with the basics like balls, bands and exercise mats.

- Take it for a test drive: When buying major equipment, spend time trying it out in your exercise clothes and shoes.

-- Life Fitness, www.lifefitness.com

Garden Guide: How to stake a tree

If you have a tree in a windy site, it’s top-heavy, it’s a large evergreen or it’s bareroot, you need to stake it.

- Don’t put anything against a young tree's tender bark that would rub or otherwise damage it, inviting disease. Remove stakes after one or two years.

- Tight, hard materials constrict growth. Use 3-inch webbing or polyethylene strips twisted loosely at their midpoint once around the tree and then attached to the stake with staples.

- A tree with a trunk 3 inches or less in diameter needs just one stake, placed on the windward side. Larger trees should be staked in two or three directions.

- Drive the stakes deeply enough into the ground so that they will hold even in a high wind -- about 18 inches. Position their tops high enough so that no one will trip over the webbing and fall onto a stake.

-- www.homedepot.com

GateHouse News Service