Many years ago, I was helping a friend landscape her new home here in Taos. Gretchen was an avid bird watcher, so we designed her one-acre lot to attract, feed and shelter birds. Aside from hanging hummingbird feeders and others filled with sunflower seeds and thistle, we planted perennials and over 30 native shrubs, and created a brush pile with scraps of tree trimmings. She strategically placed a few birdbaths around the garden.
Being a bird watcher myself, I have implemented a lot of her ideas in my yard over the years. My bird garden has fewer shrubs and more perennials, and is limited to the area right around the house. I have a couple of brush piles for shelter, and until I cleaned my yard to sell my house, I had a few dead trees (snags) standing. Most exciting, in my travels, I have become familiar with the plants in the wild.
I was out showing property the other day, and drove by a yard that looked a lot like Gretchen’s. The entire lot was planted with shrubs that would not naturally grow right there in the sagebrush. It was deliberately planted and beautiful with late summer, red berries gracing many of the plants.
There was a small sign by the road that I could not read, but on the way out, I stopped. It said ‘Certified Wildlife Habitat – National Wildlife Federation.’ Wow, I thought, I didn’t know you could get certification for feeding the birds!
When I got home, I went to the NWF website. For $20, you can apply for certification and receive other benefits, such as a membership, magazines, discounts and your name in the NWF National registry of certified habitats.
But even better, they tell you how to create a wildlife friendly yard! For free!
All you need to do is provide elements from each of the following areas:
> Food Sources – For example: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
> Water Sources – For example: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
> Places for Cover – For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
> Places to Raise Young – For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
> Sustainable Gardening – For example: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer
There are links to each of these categories, and there are a lot of details. They tell you how to create water features, build nesting boxes, garden organically, plant for birds and butterflies and much more. It’s very informative!
Whether you want to certify your yard or just create wildlife habitat, the National Wildlife Federation is a wonderful site to learn from.
And your wildlife will love you for it!
As an FYI, here is a list of habitat plants that Gretchen and I used in our Zone 5 southwest gardens. Be sure to use native plants or those that are adapted to your area.
> bee balm
> black-eyed susan
> cone flower (echinacea)
> trumpet vine
> silver buffaloberry
> four-wing saltbush
> wild plum
> western sand cherry
> blue spruce
> NM locust
And lots of sunflowers!