A widely used phrase for developing a bird-friendly yard is “habitat development.”  Plant a few trees, shrubs and flowers, add a water feature and you are done – habitat developed.

I prefer to think of my home, its two inhabitants and the surrounding yard, as a micro-ecosystem.   If a giant, and oddly shaped bell jar was placed over my home and small yard could I and the other creatures living there survive?  Obviously not, but I try to think along those lines.

To develop my micro-ecosystem I considered two things that work together.

1.  Use of safe, natural organic gardening products.  Avoid pesticides and harsh chemical fertilizers.
The most important part of my ecosystem starts underground.  Healthy soil is loaded with heaps of microbial life and critters like earthworms.  These underground denizens of my yard will do great things if I let them; as they feed on things like dead blades of grass and leaves.

And just as too much salt in the diet is not good for people, too much salt is not good for the those underground caretakers of the yard.  Chemical fertilizers act as a salt, either killing or driving beneficial underground life down deeper or away from where they can do the most good. Every good gardener knows good earth is the key to a good garden and that extends to the yard.

Pesticides are also a bad idea.  They kill good insects and have potentially bad effects on other wildlife.

I turn to Howard Garrett, AKA the Dirt Doctor for information on safe, organic gardening and yard management.  He has a great web site and his radio show is broadcast on over 200 stations across the country.

Howard Garrett the Dirt Doctor.

Howard Garrett the Dirt Doctor.

2. Native plants
For flowers, tress, shrubs etc I focus on the use of native plants.  I hired an expert on the native plants that do well in my north central Texas location.  He helped with the planning and selection of the plants and was able to supply many of the plantings.

Native species do well with less water and tend to be insect and disease resistant, helped along by the healthy soil in which they are grown.

Audubon has a great new web site for native plants.  Users enter their email address and zip code.  The results show  list of native plants for the area along with information on the birds attracted.

Audubon native plant database

Audubon native plant database

 

Audubon native plant database search results.

Audubon native plant database search results.

I am not where I want to be yet, but am always looking for ways to support my micro-ecosystem.  Composting is next on my list of things to do.

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