September is a great month to make plans and tackle those outdoor projects we set aside during August. For me, that means a lot of weeding. This also is when I enjoy walking around the yard while making plans to improve our backyard wildlife sanctuary.
Mother Nature does most of her planting in the fall and I like to copy her. Creating or maintaining a sanctuary that attracts and supports wildlife has four major requirements: food, water, shelter and nesting habitat. Since most of the wildlife we enjoy in our yards is made up of birds, we can easily provide some of these requirements, but feeders, bird baths and bird houses are just a start.
Food for the birds involves more than feeders. Right now, the hummingbirds are active throughout the yard and they sometimes come to the feeders. Most of the time, they are feeding on plants we provided for them. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers and they can’t resist those with tubular-shaped blossoms.
Fuchsia plants, both in hanging baskets and the hardy upright varieties you plant in the ground, are favorites. Perennial plants in the salvia and penstemon families are magnets for hummingbirds. Nurseries try to flag those plants that “attract birds.” It’s a great service. When planning to add some new plants to your yard, check out the information available.
Make sure that at least one of the yard’s new additions is an elderberry plant. Birds love their fruit. Our native elderberry is excellent but don’t ignore cultivated varieties like, “Black Beauty” and “Black Lace.” Their burgundy foliage, pink blossoms and purple berries will become a garden focal point, especially if you let them reach their maximum heights.
A source of water is important for every season and it isn’t difficult to provide. Bird baths are the easiest way. These can range from expensive showy ones with a spraying fountain to a saucer that has been placed in a safe place. The location for a bird bathing area requires some planning. We want to be able to see and enjoy the bathing birds, but we don’t want them susceptible to predators. A bird bath near a tree works well. The tree’s canopy is protection from diving hawks. Birds can perch among its branches to preen their feathers after bathing and cats can’t surprise them. It’s important to keep the water in the bird bath clean and “drippers” are good for this. These bent tubes sit on small pedestals and drip fresh water into the bath and allow the birds to drink right out of the tube. When you do clean a bird bath, use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water. Scrub with a strong, stiff brush and rinse thoroughly.
Shelter and nesting habitat can be combined when considering making your yard a sanctuary. Birds and small animals take shelter in dense thickets, tree cavities and in or near buildings. A safe, dry corner in a garage, carport or gardening shed works well when you are a winter wren or other small bird looking for cover from a storm, or when wanting a safe night’s sleep.
When creating thickets that will shelter birds and provide nesting habitat, consider what you might want in the way of privacy for your yard. Corners and borders wrapped in sheltering thickets can become attractive gardens. When I told my daughter that our yard was beginning to resemble a jungle, she agreed. She also remarked, “A jungle look is good.” If you cherish your privacy, and most of us do, I guess it is.
Backyard sanctuaries grow better with every season. More and more birds and other wildlife are drawn to them as they mature. Anytime is a good time to get started but this time of the year is perfect.Write to Joan Carson, P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.