The Welcome Mat

In restructuring our front yard, we spent many, many hours studying the impact our changes would have from the street. We still have a long way to go, but we've already established a greater sense of welcome for our Homo sapien friends.

Doing the same for the wildlife has been considerably more work. Our first step was doing a considerable amount of research to determine our new soil type, sunlight patterns and native plants. Then came some "restructuring" in the form of removal (invasive plants, unhappy plants, plants in the wrong zip code) and clean up. Clean up provides a lot of satisfaction, but you have to be careful not to overdo it.

Part of what our birds are missing these days are messy places. "Snags," or spots where shrubs, trees and vines all grow together, provide tremendous opportunities for both forage and cover. One of the easiest things you can do to provide habitat for birds is to designate a messy place in your yard. We've had the support of our western neighbor in the placement and construction of a brush pile (starting with an old Christmas tree) tucked into the back corner of the yard, up against a Norway spruce. The amount of activity around this area reaches epic proportions during the spring--and we rarely see exactly who it is hopping around back there until they venture further into the yard.

Another "messy," easy fix to create habitat is to throw down a couple of logs. A lot of our favorite songbirds are primarily insectivores, and old logs create places for insects to forage and hide--until they become dinner. We recently had a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers disassembling a couple of really old logs in the back yard--they made short work of the wood. One can only presume they did the same with the grubs within it!

Other logs have been placed either as boundaries between planting areas or as structural elements to create interest in the overall landscape plan. Most of the logs were scrounged from other people's massive pruning/maintenance jobs, but we did contribute a few of our own. Insects will start work on logs placed in contact with soil and mulch almost immediately--providing lunch for countless birds. Other wildlife such as toads need these old logs, too. By providing homes for toads you are helping to move in the slug assassins. Toads eat a number of garden pests, but are declining in many areas due to habitat loss and chemicals in the waterways where they breed. The toad pictured here is inside an old log, which the insects have turned into soil. You can still see "wood" at the top center of the picture. The toad is partially buried in soil.

Overlapping stones can also provide habitat--and they can be worked into stone pathways, raised beds made with stone and even just stone edging. Stones provide cool shelter between and under their faces--encouraging small critters like skinks that will also help to keep your garden clear of pests.

So add a brush pile. Or a pile of logs. It's the easiest housing project you'll ever participate in. Welcome life from the wild.

Thanks for reading--
Making Dirt

Making Dirt

New Addition!

New Addition!