Archive for the ‘Native Plants’ Category

Fall For Your Own Native Plant Meadow

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

 

To ensure you attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife in
monarch_butterfly+native_plants
Monarch Butterfly
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel
abundance to your yard, there is no better choice than planting a meadow with native plants. Not only is a mature meadow a stunningly beautiful sight of waving flowers with butterflies and birds darting in and out, but it’s virtually maintenance free, and provides the natural food and nourishment birds who are in and also migrating through the area need at the time.  And fall is the best time to get your meadow started as some of the seeds require cold or freezing temperatures before they will sprout.  Seeding before winter sets in will give you a head start on the growing season.

I have a native meadow which is nearing maturity and it is one of the best things I have ever done for wildlife and for myself — the increase in bird and butterfly activity once the plants started growing and flowering was immediate and far beyond what I had expected.  Full disclosure though, it’s not an overnight or completely simple thing to do. I hired The NJ Wildlife Gardener, Josh Nemeth, from the Cape May, NJ area to do mine as I have no competence whatsoever in landscaping or with plants in general. Josh selected a specific seed mix that was native to the area and which he knew would be irresistible to birds and butterflies. The area to be planted was covered in decades-old grass, so he covered the grass in plastic so it would die off and be easier to remove.  Then the area was seeded in the fall.   It needed some watering to get the seeds started, and then some during the late spring and dry summer months the following year.  But that was the end of the watering maintenance.  Josh also selected a number of shrubs and bushes to add both additional visual interest and variety, but also to ensure there would be food and shelter available year round for birds and wildlife.  

I was told it takes about 3 years for the meadow to take hold, and indeed that has been the case.  Honestly, it was a little depressing in year 2 as I was getting impatient and the plants really seemed to not be progressing as I thought they should! But this is the third year and the results have been stellar and well worth the wait. My meadow has everything from grasses, goldenrod, roses, iris, milkweed to cattails and chokeberry. As a result, I had all sorts of birds diving into my meadow for a respite during spring migration, new species of birds who took advantage of the extra food and safe haven to nest in my yard during the summer and now in fall, there are large flocks of birds and untold numbers of butterflies using my meadow for food and shelter as they pass through to parts farther south. The shrubs are ripe with berries, flowers are bursting out everywhere and the variety of butterflies flitting around is stunning!  Plus,  it looks so beautiful and my neighbors love watching what’s going on in my yard! 

flowers_in_native_plant_meadow
Native Plant Meadow
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

You don’t need much room to have your own native meadow. And whatever time it takes pays off big time once the meadow is up and running!  So, now’s the time to get started!  For most of us, It makes sense to have a professional native landscape designer and gardener help you get the design and the right seed mix, and get it all started. You may want to add a water feature or different sections or habitats if you have the space.  Someone who does native plant landscaping and gardening will know what to do and have the resources to get native seeds and plants for you.  If you are a do-it-youselfer, check out the how-to pages from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, get out your shovel and order those seeds!

Fall Backyard: Start Your Native Plant Meadow

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
Fall Backyard: Start Your Native Plant Meadow

If you have even a little bit of a yard, don’t wait goldfinch_thistle_native_plant

to plant a native plant meadow.
I planted a small meadow in the fall as an experiment a few years ago, and if I hadn’t seen for myself the magnetic attraction it has for birds and butterflies, I would not have believed it. Planting even a small meadow could quite possibly be the most beneficial thing you can do in your yard for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. And, it will reap great rewards for you too, as native wildflowers turn into an ocean of blooms, waving texture and color which you can enjoy while watching birds – residents and migrants – diving into the meadow, eating seeds, insects and finding a safe haven.

Planting the meadow takes some work, but patience is often the biggest challenge.  If you plant plugs or plants, the birds and butterflies may be on the plants as you put them in the ground!  But meadows rely on seed too, and this takes a few years to mature.  But once it is mature, it is low maintenance and pretty amazing.

While many people plant only in spring, fall is a terrific time to plant your meadow.  Planting before winter helps some of the seeds when they freeze, and you can take advantage of early germination.  This is, after all going to be a multi-year project, and any jump on the season you can get is going to help you!
The tiny meadow I planted a couple of years ago is still maturing, but in a random 30 minute period in October, I counted over 20 species of migratory birds diving in and out of the plantings. They included some really interesting warblers I hadn’t seen before here, and lots of sparrows and kinglets, flycatchers and yes, a hawk. Plus there are so many butterflies —  many which my more butterfly-savvy neighbors tell me they have never seen in the area before.
To get the low-down on how to start your own meadow, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlflower Center. You can also find a list of plants designed just for the birds in your area at the Audubon Native Plant Database. What could be easier?

Your Summer Backyard

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
Your Summer Backyard
Your backyard in summer is different from the rest of the year. In each rose-breasted_grosbeak season,
birds have different needs, and summer can be extreme – both because of the heat and the additional pressure of feeding baby and juvenile birds. You may be providing a lot of food for birds – in feeders as well as from the native plants and flowers you planted earlier this year. You should also be providing regular access to clean fresh water to keep birds cool, maintain their feathers for flight and keep them hydrated.  But some of the birds you want to attract to your yard may be different during summer, as migratory birds like grosbeaks and hummingbirds may take up summer residence in your area. Here are some ideas to keep your summer backyard a busy and popular spot for birds.
During summer, fruit-eaters like orioles migrate in. You can put out orange halves, dark colored fruits like red grapes and cherries, and grape jelly for these birds who may then make your backyard a prime feeding spot and possible nesting area. Nothing beats a beautiful male Baltimore Oriole feeding on oranges for some great summer viewing!oriole_feeder
Hummingbirds also make an appearance. Check out our story in our last newsletter on making your yard attractive to hummingbirds.
Water is essential for any bird during the summer, so don’t skimp on clean water. You can buy attachments for your bird bath like a mister which will provide a fine spray that birds love in summer. There are many economical kinds, but if you want to make it a backyard feature, here’s a suggestion.
If goldfinches frequent your area, niger or thistle seed is essential for them to raise their families in July and August. Many other birds will find these small nutritious seeds attractive as well, so keeping niger seeds available will help attract and feed a variety of species.
Keep in mind that during summer you need to make sure the seed is kept dry so there is no chance of mould. So unless the birds empty your feeders every day, you may want to only fill them half way. And suet is difficult to keep fresh during summer, so you may want to hold off until cooler weather before putting it out.

There are lots of things you can do in summer to attract birds, and we always recommend to make sure you landscape with native plants to ensure your birds have food choices year round.  Couple native plantings with fresh water, and you have the basis for an ideal haven for wildlife.

Feeding Tips to Attract Birds To Your Backyard

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Feeding Tips to Attract Birds to Your Backyard  

If you want your backyard to attract as many birds

as possible, you are going to need to provide a variety of  different food sources, fresh water goldfinches+feeder and a safe spot to feed and live. It may sound like a tall order, but actually, it’s easier than you think. Let’s take a look at some simple ways to provide food for a variety of different birds.

 

Food sources can take many forms, and the most successful backyards involve a two-pronged approach of feeders and native plants. Overall, what food you make available will determine which birds will find your backyard appealing, so you want to provide variety in your feeders as well as plants and trees that naturally have the food birds want.

 

This year, try a few different kinds of feeders, such as sunflower, nyger, suet, mealworms or fruit. Your main feeders should always contain seed, suet and depending on where you live, fruit.  Only use mealworms later in the season very sparingly as a treat only – and they are only for specific birds like Bluebirds. To get a sense of which birds eat what food, check out our info from our Birding Resources page.

 

If you want to attract migrating birds that are either needing to rest and feed on their journey, or migrating songbirds that might stop and nest for the summer like Yellow warblers, then you have to think out of the feeder box. These birds eat insects, and the best way to make your yard a welcome stopover and possible nesting site is to plant native plants that attract the insects these birds eat. Native pine trees and other conifers are chock full of the right bugs, but there are many plants, shrubs, flowers and trees that are exactly right for your area and also attract the insects these birds need.

 

If you really want your backyard to be a haven for a diverse variety of beautiful birds, the foundation of your yard should consist of native plants. Planting late season seeding native flowers and grasses now will ensure a good crop of seeds at the end of the season, some through the winter and in coming years — as native plants are perennials and will continue to provide beauty for you and food for your favorite birds in the future. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a list of native plants by state, so if you are unsure what plants to buy….this is a great resource!

 

If you combine native planting with feeders, you have a winning combination with appeal for the most variety of birds. Get started planting and get those feeders ready for the spring rush! 

 

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