Plants for bird-friendly gardens

Plants for bird-friendly gardens

If you lament the lack of birdsong in your garden, well, there's a lot you can do to make your garden appealing to birds

birds in the garden are wonderful

Our domestic gardens should be sanctuaries for birds, so they can survive cold winters and long hot summers. The right plants, as well as things like bird baths and nesting boxes, are crucial, says the RSPB

Keep the grass trimmed
 
During spring and summer, one of the best things you can do in your garden is to keep the grass neatly cut. Birds love fresh cut grass because it causes insects to scramble for cover, making it easier for birds to spot their next meal. Cuttings will also contain grass seed. Most importantly low level grass means their beaks can reach the soil much more easily, therefore helping them retrieve worms without much effort. Over the winter, let the grass grow but keep parts of it trimmed to help birds feed. If you care about wildlife you'll pass on having artificial grass in your garden - it’s probably the worst thing you can do for wildlife, and of course it stops birds foraging for worms.
 
Plant seed-bearing flowers
 
Who doesn’t love a bright flowering garden? We do, and so do birds. Planting seed-bearing flowers will attract more birds to your backyard - meaning you won't have to buy so much birdseed. Asters, cornflowers, daisies, evening primroses, poppies, goldenroods and zinnias are all ideal and they'll look lovely in a border. Coneflowers, part of the daisy family, are also a good choice, particularly if you want to create a wildflower meadow area. Often overlooked, columbine, which flowers every two years, is thought to attract finches.
 
Two summer favourites
 
Two summer flowers which attract birds are honeysuckle and sunflowers. It's surprisingly easy to grow sunflowers, although they do need direct sunlight. With rising temperatures and longer, hotter summers, these are sure to be a hit. Honeysuckle is a lovely climbing plant which will attach itself to anything around it, including your fence. It's easy to grow in the right spot, with roots in the shade and but flowers in the sun.
 
Three berries for the birds
 
Many people have a patch of the garden that perhaps doesn’t do so well with grass or plants. Why make it a space where birds can find cover from predators and at bring forth sweet treats for birds and your family too. Blackberry and raspberry plants are probably the easiest addition to let grow a little wild.
Alternatively, try holly bushes. Holly berries provide that splash of red in a winter garden and are eagerly devoured by birds. Holly, as we all know, has male and female plants and only the female produce berries, so make sure you buy the correct plant if you want berries. Sometimes it is better to hire garden maintenance professionals who can advise on ways to make your garden more bird and wildlife friendly.
 
Shrubs and hedging
 
Several shrubs are decorative on their own and even more effective as hedging, which will provide shelter and nesting places for birds. One of the most popular is the hawthorn, whose sharp thorns make a fantastic intruder deterrent. Another thorny variety of shrub which provides spring nectar for insects and berries throughout autumn is the Berberis (barberry) family, which comes is a variety of colours and sizes. Conifers are a must have for birds during poor weather as they offer shelter. Juniper, which has a lovely scent, and yews, will provide food for sparrows, robins and small birds. Dwarf conifers not only make a great structural accent, many spruces, firs and pines will attract finches and other seed-eating birds.
 
Feed the birds - and give them a home
 
If you want to hear birdsong in your garden, make it an inviting place for birds. Put in a squirrel-proof bird feeder, a bird bath, so they can keep clean and keep hydrated and in spring, put out protein-rich foods such as fat balls. Over the winter months put out birdseed, and why not install a bird box to help small birds find safe nesting places. They need to be high off the ground and in a sheltered site. Making a few small changes to your garden can make all the difference to giving birds and other wildlife a safe place to shelter, and find food. It’s a small price to pay for the magic of the dawn chorus.
 
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