Q: My neighbor and I would like to plant some shrubs, trees and perennials to attract birds and butterflies. What advice do you have for us?
A: Well, first I want to congratulate you both on your cooperative efforts to share the land with our winged friends. I suspect once neighbors see your successes, you may have other confederates joining in on your enterprise.
There are a few important steps in attracting wildlife.
- Reduce the amount of lawn grass in your yard. Although grass is important, it is a monoculture and is seldom attractive to wildlife.
- Have a constant, clean water source such as a bird bath or fountain.
- Consider layering your plants so you have some ground cover, then perennials followed by shrubs and finishing with trees. Birds and butterflies need places to hide from predators and often seek shelter under leaves and tree limbs.
- Think about providing plants with leaves for the caterpillars to eat to each such as milkweed, parsley, dill and/or citrus.
- Have plenty of flowers for nectar and pollen. Maybe you both could grow your own sunflowers along a fence line to provide food for seed eaters. Wildflowers, such as thistle, might also be incorporated which attract finches and other small birds.
- Avoid or limit the use of pesticides in the landscape.
- If possible, allow dead trees to remain on the property as they can provide homes for many animals.
- Build or purchase bird houses available for nesting birds such as screech owls or bluebirds.