Thursday, April 23, 2009

Landscaping - Before

It seems like sweet coincidence that this is my 100th blog post, just over a year since I first began my project of converting the backyard to a bird sanctuary complete with dedicated feeding stations, appropriate landscaping, bird-friendly flora, and water features. In just a few more days, the first tremendous phase of that project will be completed as the foundation for the altered yard is completed. But just how drastic are the changes?

There were several things that I wanted to change about the yard, and I'm pleased to be able to have done them all. Before unveiling the exact nature of the changes, however, I'd like to give you the grand tour of the old backyard.

We start at the feeding station adjacent to the patio. The old hopper feeder - a smallish, jury-rigged design with a planter tray suspended for a makeshift platform feeder and seed catcher - was sprouting from a none-too-sturdy pole in the grass, one that we'd cemented into a buried tube for greater stability. The finch feeders were on a curved pole in the mulch, and a hanging feeder was suspended from the gutter above the edge of the patio. The small tree is the only one that was initially in the backyard, and there is a difficult pit next to it that makes mowing challenging.

Moving on, we find ourselves at the tree we planted when we first purchased the house. It is an October glory maple, and while it may not seem glorious quite yet, it has actually grown significantly and will eventually be a beautiful shade tree and a happy home for hanging feeders. For now, however, it sways if the birds land on it too quickly and it, too, is easily damaged by lawn care.

The next stop is the narrow cinderblock garden that parallels the back fence. While useful if one chooses to grow vegetables, it's an unattractive and blunt feature I've never cared for. It was a happy sunflower seed garden last summer, however, and that proves its usefulness for a bird-friendly landscape. Two concord grape vines took up residence in the soil there, one abundantly and the other with more of a struggle. The birds also like the fact that this is a dusty area, and over the summer little hollows develop where dozens of dust baths take place.

At a right angle to the garden was a meager flower bed heavily choked with grass and weeds. Lacking weed control fabric, this sunny spot was a haven for sprouting pests, and yet it is too narrow for serious planting. The mulch continued along the side of the driveway but was constantly spilling out onto the concrete, giving the area a grubby, ragged look, but still too narrow of a section for strong plantings. In fact, we'd ripped out overgrown hedges from the driveway bit when we first moved in.

Very shortly I will unveil the sweeping changes that have transformed this plain, urban backyard into a far more appealing layout for both birds and birders. Each day as I look out at the yard, I'm still astonished by the breadth of the changes, and I'm eagerly anticipating building on this foundation to create a paradise for my backyard visitors. It will take some time, of course, but what you're about to see is a very beautiful beginning.

You don't have to remake your backyard to attract more birds; just a few changes can make a huge difference
for your feathered friends if you follow the right techniques for bird-friendly landscaping!


Grace said...

Hi Melissa,

Congratulations on your 100th blog! And I look forward to seeing your transformed yard!

Also I chose "other" in bird food offerings and wanted to say we offered Safflower seeds as well as other things. We began to attract some rodents to our feeder in town using black oil sunflower seeds (in Indiana) so gradually switched over to safflower seeds and that helped to deter the four legged critters from joining in the feast.

The smaller birds seemed to enjoy eating the safflower and we used suet in the winter and seed cakes in the summer ( as well as other things) to attract the other birds to our feeders.

Melissa said...

Hi Grace,

Thanks for sharing your feeding tips! Safflower is also great to offer birds, but it can take them a bit of time to get used to it if they're used to sunflower seeds.

I'm almost ready to unveil the transformed backyard -- probably in about a week or so, once I can get more of the feeders up (waiting on some equipment). Stay tuned!

Happy birding,