While you can’t grow robins in the garden, you can make life easier for your local birds by growing plants that they enjoy.
The fall is the time when the light wanes and the weather gets colder. If you live in an area that has a cool winter season, you’ll notice that your backyard bird species begin to change in the fall.
Some bird species migrate and others change position locally, moving from the highlands into the lowlands. Still other birds tough out the winter where they are.
Fall Gardening: A Seedy Situation
Cool weather means that hungry birds are eager to eat from your garden. Good news for the seed-eaters: It’s also harvest time in the garden, time for all of the plant seeds to ripen and fall.
For seed-eating birds, fall planning begins much earlier in the year, when you plan and plant your crops.
Birds such as cardinals, goldfinches, nuthatches, sparrows, towhees, pine siskins, and chickadees love to eat seedy plants. While sunflower seeds are in many seed mixes, birds also enjoy eating less-conventional birdseed plants.
Choose plants that flower and go to seed at different times so that birds have a diverse fall menu. Plants with delicious seeds for birds include:
- Aster – Aster novae-angliae
- Coneflower – Echinacea
- Cosmos – Cosmos bipinnatus
- Globe thistle – Echinops spp
- Goldenrod – Solidago virgaurea
- Sedum varieties
- Teasel – Dipsacus fullonum
- Zinnia varieties
Birds also enjoy eating fall fruit. This fruit is often tough, so it can help sustain birds during the winter season as well. Fall fruits that attract birds include:
- Hawthorn Berries
- Rose hips
Mulch Makes Fall Birds Go Buggy With Glee
Some birds prefer to munch on bugs rather than seeds. Lucky them- fall is the time to introduce winter mulch to your garden. Once you’ve put your annual garden to bed for the winter, add fallen leaves or straw to your garden beds to keep them warmer in the winter and add nutrients to the garden.
Any sort of mulch material will tend to attract decomposers, the animals that make their living eating chunks of decomposing organic material and turning it into soil. In turn, these decomposers are tasty to birds.
Your local bug-munching birds love it when you add mulch to the garden, because it means that they can poke through it with their beaks and claws to see what’s hiding underneath.
Plants also provide overwintering habitats for insects. As you do your fall pruning, plan ahead for the winter season by leaving hollow, tubular sections of plants standing in the garden. Be a little neglectful in removing old vegetation around plants, and invertebrates will lay their eggs in the old plant material. You’ll not only promote healthy invertebrate populations in your garden, you’ll also support the animals that eat them.
Fall as Preparation for Winter
Fall is a time of feasting for the birds before a long, cold winter. Growing seeds and fruit, and cultivating bug populations in your garden, will help your local birds get ready for the winter months. Even after your garden plants provide a bounteous harvest for your family’s table, they continue to provide forage for overwintering birds – what will you do to support your garden’s ecology this autumn?