Friday, March 28, 2008

A Bird Habitat Garden—Plant Choices and Design Tips


Wild birds are my link to the natural world. In my city garden, I've created a small habitat for them, and they repay me with hours of "cheep" entertainment. Our wild bird populations are threatened by habitat loss, global warming, collisions with buildings, and much more. You too can help ease their plight by turning your garden, or a portion of it, into a pesticide-free bird sanctuary. You'll need to provide the birds with food, water, protective cover, and a safe place to nest. The key is to install a low-maintenance, multilayered habitat of bird-attracting plants—preferably native to your area—which offer year-round shelter and sustenance. Also install a birdbath and a feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds. (Note: These seeds may inhibit plant growth directly underneath feeder.) Last, place a birdhouse ten feet off the ground, facing east. Make sure the entry hole is 1 1/2 inches wide to exclude starlings, which plunder the eggs and fledglings of many native birds. The plants in the design above are native to woodlands in the eastern U.S. and appeal to humans as well as birds. Grow them in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in sun or partial shade, unless otherwise indicated. by Joan McDonald

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