How to Get Started

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 these guidelines:

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 library

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 development plan.

Implement Your Plan

     Finally, go to it! Begin your plantings and include your entire family so they 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 agent.

And Finally …

     Make sure to take the time to enjoy the wildlife that will eventually respond to your landscaping efforts.

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