Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter Garden Clean-Up Is For The Birds

I'd be hard-pressed to find a gardener whose love for plants doesn't extend to feathered friends. As the days grow longer and the air cooler, there's a temptation to hack away at dead branches, remove dried buds, and blow debris off the ground. While it's important to be neat, leaving a few stems and dried seedheads adds to winter attraction, and more importantly, provides shelter and food for birds. While migrating birds are fattening up for their long journey, year-round residents are keeping an eye out for a cozy place to spend the Winter.

When the ground is hard and barren, a blanket of leaves raked against a fence makes a fine bed for crickets, grubs, and other creepy-crawleys much loved by towhees and thrashers. Fallen apples, berries, and drupes harbor insects that wrens and warblers find delectable; that is, if the fruits aren't gobbled up by robins, jays, and orioles first. Seedheads from coneflowers and black-eyed susans see a second-wave of beauty when hungry goldfinches perch like blooms atop their faded stalks. Tangly clematis and creeper may no longer hold attraction for us when their blooms fade, but hungry birds may find one last berry hidden in their branches.  A clump of uncut grass or an unpruned thicket also provides important shelter for birds hiding from predators.

Birds visit areas that provide food, water, and shelter. A bird bath with a heated coil to prevent freezing will extend their stay, as well as our enjoyment. Planting a variety of Native plants, evergreen shrubs and trees, and plants with different bloom times ensures that birds have a healthy, safe haven year-round. A diverse habitat can only enhance our garden's appeal, both for us and for creatures we  hope to attract.

1 comment:

  1. As a birder myself, I find this kind of information fascinating and very useful. Keep it up!