Planting Edmonds: Yards are for the birds

Planting is a monthly column written by Edmonds’ members Edmonds Floretum Garden Club.

Birds deepen the enjoyment we take in our gardens, mesmerizing us with their feathers, songs and songs. But did you know they also help control insects in the garden? This is because over 95% of their diet consists of insects, mostly during the warmer months when they are feeding their young. During the colder months, they rely mainly on berries, seeds and nuts.

If you want to attract more bird visitors to your yard, there are many simple gardening measures you can take. First, include plants that will provide the food sources the birds need. To learn about and see additional bird-friendly experiences, visit Kruckeberg Botanical Garden on the Coastline, where more than 40 species of birds depend on a living tapestry of plants to find food, shelter, nesting sites and safe havens. raise your cubs.

Photos: Chris Walton

In partnership with the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club, the garden recently installed interpretive signs along its paths to explain special features designed to attract and benefit birds. At a recent Gardening for Birds educational event, hundreds of curious children learned how to make native seed bombs, fingered native plants that have adapted to the fuzzy and nasty climate at the sensory table, explored the nests of different bird species, watched baby worms squirm and followed scavenger hunt clues.

Clockwise from top left: Study of bird nests, various lichens and plants adapted to our climate.

A neighborhood barred owl made a timely visit before being chased away by Steller’s Jays very loudly and persistently.

Kruckeberg’s barred owl.

Consider these tips to enhance your yard for birds:

Leave the leaves

Rejoice! There is no need to bag fallen leaves or buy mulch. Instead, use leaves to insulate your flower and vegetable beds. Beneficial insects such as beetles, wasps and worms will overwinter in them and become food for birds. Watch the spotted toads rummage through the crunchy leaf litter, pushing aside leaves with their beaks to find seeds and insects to eat. The Xerces Society advises against chopping the leaves; just rake them up and place them in a 3- to 6-inch layer on top of the soil. You can put a thin layer on the grass. This natural mulch makes it difficult for weeds to grow, helps retain moisture, and enriches your soil as it decomposes. When you start to see green tips come out in the spring, carefully pull the leaves aside so they can easily grow back into the sunlight.

Winterize and Store Perennials

Do not remove perennials in late summer. Take nature’s cue and leave them in place over winter, allowing the stems and leaves to dry out and fall to the ground over the next few months. Native bees will lay eggs inside the stems, while sparrows and juncoes will heavily consume the seeds of the dried flower heads. As this plant matter breaks down, it builds firm, healthy garden soil for future plantings. Wait until late spring to remove any remaining plant parts so that overwintering bugs have time to emerge from the stems and leaves.

Brush pile

Instead of tossing sticks, small logs, and twigs into the yard trash, maximize their wildlife potential by creating a brush pile. Place crosswise layers with the heaviest and largest pieces on the base. You’ll see small songbirds like song sparrows and Bewick’s wrens hopping inside for protection from predators and extreme weather. While inside, they feast on the bugs and spiders that live there. Avoid incorporating lawn clippings, wet plant material, and compost, as they can block easy access.

Native Plants

Native plants, birds and insects have evolved in tandem over many years to thrive in our native soils and climate. Some birds and insects depend on native plants to survive, so plant as many as possible. At this time of year, look for cedar waxwings and robins eating the berries of Pacific madrones and a variety of food for acorns.

Non-native plants aren’t terrible, but before installing them, do your research to make sure they won’t be invasive or negatively impact native plants and wildlife.

Layered Vegetation

A bird-rich garden has plants of many different heights, called layers. The overlapping, interconnected layers allow the birds to move, find food, build nests, and raise their young (mostly) unseen by predators and humans. Ground covers and small shrubs such as oxalis and salal are shelters for juncos, towhees, and white-crowned sparrows that nest on or very close to the ground. Young birds of all species hide in these low plants when prey is lurking.

Obviously, this approach to planting requires planning and will evolve over the years. The fall months are the ideal time to install new plantings, so there’s still time to get started this month!

Loving Lichen

Lichen is a natural, healthy part of the landscape in Puget Sound, so there’s no need to remove it from your yard’s woody plants and trees. Songbirds like brown warblers and bustards forage there for insects and spiders to eat. Some species, such as the roaring Anna’s hummingbird, use lichen as an external nesting material; some researchers theorize that they do this as a form of camouflage.

Water source

The sound of running water attracts birds, so adding foam to the bird bath will help attract their attention. Make sure to change the water often to keep it clean and healthy.


Snag is dead wood left in place to provide food and habitat for beneficial organisms. A magnet is a magnet for insects that eat softwood and the birds that prey on them. You may be digging nest cavities in the sticks with the sturdy beaks of woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers, while chickadees, red-breasted chickadees and swallows move into available cavities from previous breeding seasons. It is always best to get the opinion of a certified arborist to make sure that a dead or dying tree will not pose a fall hazard.

If you want to learn more about how to invite birds into your garden, check out these online resources and click here to view a gallery of a recent Kruckeberg/Floretum event.

– by Clare McLean

Clare McLean is a local writer and recently earned a degree in horticulture from Edmonds College. He is an active citizen scientist with a special affinity for birds, fungi and native plants.

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