How to Get Started
Think of this project as landscaping for birds.
Your goal will be to plant an assortment of trees, shrubs and flowers
that will attract birds. If you plan carefully it can be inexpensive
and fun for the whole family. The best way to get started is to follow
Set Your -Priorities
Decide what types of birds you wish to attract,
then build your plan around the needs of those species. Talk to
friends and neighbors to find out what kinds of birds frequent your
area. Attend a local bird club meeting and talk to local birdwatchers
about how they have attracted birds to their yards.
Use Native Plants When Possible
Check with the botany department of a nearby
college or university or with your state's natural heritage program
for lists of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers native to your area. Use
this list as a starting point for your landscape plan. These plants
are naturally adapted to the climate of your area and are a good
long-term investment. Many native plants are both beautiful for
landscaping purposes and excellent for birds. If you include normative
plant species in your plan, be sure they are not considered "invasive
pests" by plant experts. Check out the bird books in your local
Draw a Map of Your Property
Draw a map of your property to scale using graph
paper. Identify buildings, sidewalks, power lines, buried cables,
'fences, septic tank fields, trees, shrubs and patios. Consider how
your plan relates to your neighbor's property-will the tree you plant
shade out the neighbor's vegetable garden? Identify and map sunny or
shady sites, low or wet sites, sandy sites, and native plants that
will be left in place.
Get Your Soil Tested
Get your soil tested by your local garden
center, county extension agent or soil conservation service. Find out
what kinds of soil you have and then find out if your soils have
nutrient or organic deficiencies that fertilization or addition of
compost can correct. The soils you have will help determine the plants
which can be included in your landscaping plan.
Review the Seven Plant Habitat Components
Review the seven plant components described
previously. Which components are already present? Which ones are
missing? Remember that you are trying to provide food and cover
through all four seasons. Develop a list of plants that you think will
provide the missing habitat components.
Talk to Resource Experts
Review this plant list with landscaping resource
experts who can match your ideas with your soil types, soil drainage
and the plants available through state or private- nurseries. People
at the nearby arboretum can help with your selections. At an arboretum
you can also see what many plants look like. Talk with local bird
clubs, the members of which probably are knowledgeable about
landscaping for birds.
Develop Your Planting Plan
Sketch on your map the plants you wish to add.
Draw trees to a scale that represents three-fourths of their mature
width, and shrubs at their full mature width. This will help you
calculate how many trees and shrubs you need. There is a tendency to
include so many trees that eventually your yard will be mostly shaded.
Be sure to leave open sunny sites where flowers and shrubs can thrive.
Decide how much money you can spend and the time span of your project.
Don't try to do too much at once. You might try a five-year
Implement Your Plan
Finally, go to it! Begin your plantings and
include your entire family so the can all feel they are helping
wildlife. Document your plantings on paper and by photographs. Try
taking pictures of your yard from the same spots every year to
document the growth of your plants.
Maintain Your Plan
Keep your new trees, shrubs and flowers
adequately watered, and keep your planting areas weed-free by use of
landscaping film and wood chips or shredded bark mulch. This avoids
the use of herbicides for weed control. If problems develop with your
plants, consult a local nursery, garden center or county extension
And Finally ...
Make sure to take the time to enjoy the wildlife
that will eventually respond to your landscaping efforts.