Flowerbeds can add great beauty to your yard and can be enjoyable to plan and care for, but it takes more than a few flowers for a flowerbed to be bird-friendly. By understanding how to design a safe, useful flowerbed from the soil up, it's easy for any backyard birder to enhance their bird-friendly landscape.
10 Steps for Designing a Flowerbed for Birds
From start to finish, it is important to keep birds' needs, safety and preferences in mind when planning a flowerbed, whether you are revitalizing an old garden or designing a completely new one.
- Location: Most flowerbeds are placed alongside a house, garage or shed, which will provide better shelter and security for the birds. Flowerbeds around a tree automatically give birds more natural shelter, or if the bed is to be in the middle of the yard, be sure it's not too far from other shelter so birds have more space to use. For beds next to a building, take steps to prevent collisions with nearby windows so birds are safe.
- Size: Narrow flowerbeds do not provide enough habitat for birds to feel comfortable. A deeper, wider bed will accommodate more layers of plants and a greater variety of blooms, plus will be spacious enough for mature plants without crowding. Smaller beds are easier to care for, however, and the overall size should be balanced so it is effective but can also be easily maintained to always be its best.
- Weed Control: Putting a layer of weed control on top of a flowerbed is an easy way to keep it low maintenance, but avoid using weed barrier fabric that birds may shred or tug on when foraging. The long stands that can come loose from that fabric are a tangle hazard for birds and could inadvertently end up in nests and endanger hatchlings. Instead, use a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard that will eventually decompose for healthy compost.
- Spacing: When choosing the plants and flowers for the bed, consider the overall spacing and leave some gaps or spaces between plants if desired. This will not only help air and sunlight circulate to keep plants healthier, but ground-foraging birds will take advantage of the space in their search for seeds and insects and birds will feel more comfortable flitting about the shelter in the bed.
- Flowers: Flowers are the heart of any flowerbed, and choosing blooms that benefit birds will ensure a bird-friendly flowerbed. Opt for seed-bearing flowers for birds as well as flowers that attract hummingbirds, and choose varieties with different bloom times and durations to keep a ready supply of food always available. Choosing flowers in colors that attract birds will also help them notice the bed sooner.
- Other Plants: A flowerbed doesn't have to be just flowers. Add a few ornamental grasses for birds, a small tree or berry-producing bushes and birds will appreciate the additional food sources and shelter. As with flowers, opt for plants that produce seeds or fruits at different times, and select varieties with different heights to create deep layers for good shelter. Avoid invasive species, however, and choose native plants birds will recognize more easily whenever possible.
- Ground Cover: Many gardeners prefer a neat flowerbed with a uniform cover on the ground and between plants. Opt for mulch, wood chips or grass clippings that birds will forage in rather than gravel or rock that will not provide any sustenance. Turning mulch periodically will help expose insects that birds will happily enjoy.
- Predator Control: While birds will enjoy the shelter of a carefully planned flowerbed, that same shelter can harbor predators such as feral cats, snakes or other animals. Take steps throughout the backyard to discourage feral cats, and consider putting a layer of chicken wire on top of the flowerbed so animals are not as comfortable lying on or walking across it. Choosing flowers and shrubs with thorns can also help protect birds.
- Accessories: Add a few backyard accessories to a flowerbed to truly make it bird-friendly. A ground bird bath or other water source, a pretty bird feeder or a bird house on a simple pole can all be great choices. Adding perches such as a log or boulder can also be useful and birds will enjoy the terrain.
- Care and Maintenance: A properly designed flowerbed won't take much care to keep it bird-friendly, but avoid using herbicides, insecticides or other chemicals that can contaminate birds or eliminate the food sources they crave. Use compost to keep plants healthy, and allow dead flowers to reseed themselves for future growth. Don't overprune plants which would remove birds' shelter, and instead enjoy a bit of a messy bed and the mess of birds who love it.
Whether you have a green thumb or not, it is always possible to create a bird-friendly flowerbed and attract more backyard birds to your yard. With the proper planning, good plant choices and thoughtful care, even a single flowerbed can become a sanctuary for backyard birds.
Photo – Flowerbed © BRF Klätterträdet