I love feeding the birds and get a kick out of their antics.
The house finches are aggressive and push others away from the feeders.
I like knowing that the seeds, water and shelter I provide are giving the smallest birds a fighting chance to survive when winter gets particularly harsh.
That's just one bird family in this garden. When you consider that 96% of terrestrial birds in North America rear their young on insects, you can see how important it is that our gardens be hospitable to those insects.
|Juniperus virginiana and Cornus drummondii have good wildlife value|
1. Make sure native trees play a major role in your garden.Why is that so important? Desiree Narango, a doctoral student with the University of Delaware and who is conducting a three-year study to learn how nonnative, or exotic, trees in cities and suburbs affect the availability of food birds need during the breeding season explains that “Nonnative trees may support insects, but they do not support the insects that birds want and need to feed their young." (from Why birds need native trees National Wildlife)
2. Do your native trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals out number the non-natives? Need to add more natives? Be sure to plant pollen and nectar rich perennials, herbs and annuals to attract beneficials, bees and other insects. Avoid hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”. (Native annuals)
3. Does a messy garden get to you? Work on tolerating leaves and decaying plants. Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves and so do some species of insect eating bats!
4. Have you invited toads into your garden? They like a cool, wet spot. How about under the birdbath?
5. Do you have room for a pond? Be sure you have a muddy edge for damsel flies and dragonflies. They will eat mosquitoes which make gardening in the summer a nightmare. Birds will appreciate the water and the flying snacks.
6. Do you have a brush pile? Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs". They're also good bird, toad and small critter food.
7. Weirded out by spiders, aphids, strange caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and the odd larva of beneficials! Rethink what you consider icky or a pest. Bluebirds eat crickets and grasshoppers. Spiders are important predators and a very important bird food! Snakes keep the rodent population in check.
8. Can you embrace imperfection in the garden? Learn to tolerate damaged plants because insects can ugly up their favorite plant foods.
9. Do you know which local or online nurseries sell plants that are neonicotinoid free? Frequent them, their plants may cost more but, your garden will be healthier for pollinators, insects and birds.
10. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides....They're deadly in a wildlife friendly garden.
Now go enjoy those birds, before long you'll be planting and planning for all the critters in your garden.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.