This year as I plan for gardening season, I am taking on an additional challenge: attracting birds to help manage my insects and bring the sounds of spring to roost.
Here are a few simple tips for attracting birds.
First, plan a visit to a local nature area. Bunker Hills Activity Center is surrounded by many different habitats that provide great examples of bird happy sanctuaries. Wander around the area and take note of the multiple layers of plant growth. Your goal is to recreate, as best as possible, these different levels.
For example, the canopy of trees gives way to tall shrubs and grasses, blending into the medium perennials, finally giving way to the smaller plants and ground cover.
All these layers are intertwined. Birds make use of these different layers, building nests in the trees but foraging for nest material in the lower areas and hunting for seeds and insects through all levels. Think about nooks and crannies for birds to hide. A great plant to facilitate this is a vine, such as grapevine or clematis. In addition, planting a conifer will help birds weather strong winds and heavy rainfall.
The next step as you design a new space is to think about the nutrition you can provide birds throughout the different seasons. I recently planted a serviceberry tree and the number of birds that flocked to this tree was amazing. Serviceberry also comes in a bush variety that is just as pretty.
Even in winter, plants such as conifers, bayberries or hawthorns can help supply food in freezing temperatures. I also have feeders and nest boxes scattered throughout to help provide a stable food source and shelter, as well as provide me opportunities to catch a sneak peek at the cardinals, finches or chickadees living nearby.
Another tip is to grow plants in clumps; not only do multiples of a certain plant please the eye and make your garden look more polished, but in several species of plants it can promote higher fruit yields.
The final recommendation after shelter and food is, of course, water! The sound of water attracts birds but also gives them the final element that makes your landscape the perfect place to roost. There are heated bird baths you can purchase to use during winter. Birds only need a few inches of water, and hummingbirds even less.
A word of caution however: as you create the perfect habitat, don’t be surprised if other animals find it just as tempting. The two most likely culprits are squirrels and mice that may covet the food and shelter you spent so much time designing. If that is the case, take heart and be mindful of the many traps and other deterrents that are available at garden centers.
Kari Martin is an Anoka County Master Gardener.