I never set out to create a garden that would attract birds. I created a garden for my enjoyment and it turns out that birds have been flocking to it for years. Here is what I’ve learned about making a garden both people and bird friendly.
Plant diversity – A variety of plants attract a variety of birds. Many gardens are full and plentiful in the spring and summer but a garden with plants for all seasons is not only pleasing to people but a lifesaver for birds. Plenty of berries and seeds to eat through the year keep birds happily near your garden or dropping by regularly. Most winter blooming plants are very fragrant and entice people to stop by for a whiff. They also bring pollinating insects to the plants. Insects provide much needed winter food for many birds and when the ground is frozen, these birds will appreciate the fall berries that still persist on many shrubs. Winter bloomers also sustain hummingbirds that provide endless entertainment for people.
No chemicals – If you want to create a healthy ecosystem for yourself and family, leave the chemicals behind. A well designed garden will have very little problem with pests because you will be working with Mother Nature instead of struggling against her. Birds will be attracted to slugs and harmful insects and will keep the population in check without pesticides. Plants get the nutrients they need from regular mulching with compost and limited organic fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers produce rapid new growth which attracts an abundance of aphids. Birds do a great job of keeping a normal population of aphids from getting out of hand.
Shelter – A garden that is pleasing to the eye has many levels, from tall conifers to groundcovers. In between are small trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. These levels welcome many kinds of birds and provide them with shelter from the cold, protection from predators and places to look for food.
Water – Every garden, especially a diverse one, needs focal points to give the human eye something to focus on. Water features such as bird baths or rocks with depressions deep enough to collect water make a garden more interesting and provide needed water for birds and insects.
Low maintenance – Saving the best for last, a diverse, layered and organic garden requires less time and money to maintain. Be sure to put a bench in your garden so you can spend your free time enjoying your feathered friends.
Pat Reh is the General Manager of Northwest Botanicals Inc. Most of her colleagues enjoy attracting birds to their gardens with one dedicated birder reporting 51 species in his small Seattle garden.