Friday, July 10, 2015

Ideas for the Home Garden - Bees, Birds, and Butterflies



Since today is "Don't Step on a Bee Day" it seemed only fitting that this week's mini infographic garden idea sheet be about planning a garden for bees, butterflies, and birds. This is a big part of what we want to do with our garden and there are plenty of associated scribbles in my planning notes. You can also find my ever growing collection of green and gardening pins on the new Green in Real Life pinterest page, including a board all about gardening for bees, birds and butterflies.  No matter how big or small you garden may be, if you are growing fruits or veggies, supporting the pollinators will help you while you help them. Win win!

One of the simplest things that you can do to create a friendlier habitat is to include food sources for bees, birds, and butterflies. I have included some of the most popular options in my idea sheet below, but native plants to your area are also a great option - especially ones with nectar bearing flowers, fruits, and seeds that will help to bring local bird species into your garden. Before selecting, double check for any plants that may be prohibited by your local council or other authority's weed-buster programs for invasive species. Many invasives owe their prolific spread to being very attractive to pollinators and carriers as food sources.  One region's bee, bird, and butterfly garden gem may be another region's pest plant.  It's a common issue for us here in NZ were our temperate weather and great growing conditions allow introduced garden varieties that are great options elsewhere to spread, naturalise, and flourish to the detriment of our native flora.


When planning your plantings, don't forget about food sources through the changing seasons, which can be feast-and-famine for wildlife. Our winters are temperate, so we can grow all year round with good plant selection. For over wintering birds in colder climates, you can leave some fruit and seeds in situ during your autumn clean up and some leaf litter on the ground for insect foraging. If you have bird feeders, position them safely, use good quality food that is appropriate for your local species, and always keep them clean.  Bird feeders can be a spreading point for disease, so feeder hygiene is essential.

Multiple sources of clean water are also beneficial. Avoid using chemicals in and around your water sources and if there is any chance that the water has been accidentally contaminated by nearby activities, change it out straight away.  Birds are attracted to the sound and noise of moving water so if you aren't lucky enough to have a pond or stream in you garden, misters and fountains are options. If you are using a bird bath, you might consider adding an agitator.  We have a static bird bath, and it still gets plenty of preening visitors. Our temperatures don't drop low enough in the winter to freeze the water, so our basic bird bath is good-to-go year round; however, there are heated bird bath options for colder climates. Melting snow takes a lot of energy, so fresh water is very attractive for over wintering birds.  Bees need safe access for drinking, such as a shallow sloping non-slip edge, stable floating landing pads, or stones. If you can, have any perching islands extend over/past the lip of water containers so that the source remains safely accessible even if you've had a heavy rainfall. Butterflies get their drinking water via their nectar, but enjoy puddling so areas that collect little pools of shallow water are their preference.

Birds in particular will benefit from layering in your garden, especially where it helps to create safe places for them to perch, feed, or perhaps even nest out of the reach of predators...including your pets!  If you are keen to go the extra mile, you can include customised safe nesting options or perhaps even open your own insect hotel (Air Bee and Bee, anyone?).  These can be as simple or as elaborate as you like - see our bee-friendly environment posts for ideas.  When you are doing garden chores like pruning, end-of-season plant removals, and general clean-up, be mindful of nests, larvae, etc.

Another friendly choice is limiting (or better yet eliminating) your use of pesticides, especially neonics, which are a controversial family of pesticides that many researchers believe is linked to the decline of bee populations and colony collapse disorders. We definitely have a few dubious items lurking around our place, including some mystery materials left by the previous owners.  If you are disposing of unused chemicals, please follow you local council guidelines - most have free drop-off services for safe disposal. While doing my research on friendly plants, I was surprised (although on reflection I shouldn't have been) by several articles warning gardeners that we might be killing friendly insects with our kindness. Some seeds are pre-treated, and garden centers and nurseries still use systemic pesticides that can make our new "bee friendly" plants not so friendly.  Worth keeping in mind for informed shopping choices.

How are you attracting and supporting bees, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife in your garden? We'd love to heard from you and share garden ideas together.  Comments are always welcome here.  

Check out our follow-on post for more detail on bee-friendly gardening, including some of our successes and failures to date:  Bee Friendly Gardening: "BeeGinners" Garden Tips and Lessons Learned


Looking for more wildlife-friendly planning ideas and inspiration?  Want to go deeper on your favourite plants, animals, or insects? Want regional advice for your part of the world? Check out these ideas (and more) from Amazon:


1 comment:

  1. As promised, we just shared a pet garden post at Ideas for the Home Garden - Gardening with Pets My canine helpers are keen to get the planting started, even it it means that they have to do some of the dirty work. They are always happy to lend a hand with the digging!

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