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How We Can All Help the Earth Heal

This week, The Washington Post ran an article entitled: “You – yes, you! – can help the planet. Start in your backyard.”

We’re sharing some of these ideas today.

 

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

Creating Safe Habitats for Caterpillars

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning with simply offering pollinators, like the endangered Monarch butterfly, a place to stop, eat, and rest, e.g., on a flower pot on your balcony, or planting milkweed in your garden to lay their eggs, is doing much.

 

Hummingbirds

 

Put Out a Welcome Mat for Hummingbirds

Put Out a Welcome Mat for Hummingbirds

 

 

These beautiful birds are wonderful pollinators. Bright colored flowers encourage their long slender bills and tube-like tongues for take in nectar — fueling them for their busy work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing the Post piece emphasizes is using native plants to attract pollinators in general. We’re happy to say Butterfly milkweed, a favorite of Monarchs, is native to Long Island as well as the following plants:

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials, Black Eyed Susans, are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Easy to Maintain Pond Ecosystem:

Many coneflowers (Echinacea) are also native to Long Island which you can see on the right of this water feature system consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond, and it is the perfect spot for letting the day’s care’s melt away.

 

Don’t Forget About the Bees

Washington Post Feature Article on Bees

Washington Post Feature Article on Bees

Lastly, don’t forget about those other important pollinators — the bees. Speaking of the Washington Post, several weeks ago they had a wonderful article entitled “The consciousness of bees.” In it, a professor at Queen Mary University of London describes studies that indicate that bees have “surprisingly rich inner worlds.” 

It is a touching piece, which may leave you quite moved by these little creatures, if you weren’t so already.

As for plants that bees love, you’ll find that those listed above today will benefit them as well as butterflies and hummingbirds.

 

Note: The original Post article mentioned today offers other ideas for lawns and landscaping and Deck and Patio is happy to help our clients make adjustments in their yards to create havens for pollinators and make your yard more earth-friendly. And more beautiful! — if we say so ourselves. 

 

Birdsongs Are Actually Good For You

 

 

Note: We highly recommend opening the above video before reading further. That way you can experience the transforming effects of bird songs — while reading about the transforming effects of birds songs and how to entice more birds to your yard!

 

Birdsongs’ Restorative Effects

Birdsongs

City Birdsongs

Because of extensive sheltering-in-place, even city dwellers are hearing natural sounds these days that usually are muted by the normal drone of human activity.

Rebecca Franks wrote on Facebook that she used to think there weren’t really any birds in the city where she was living. She rarely saw them and never heard them. “I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”

And what better time to learn that hearing birdsongs is actually good for you. A recent study says that, depending on the particular birdsong and its type and frequency, the sound of birds can actually help one feel better and react more positively to life — offering restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue.

 

Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Bird Feeders

Bird Feeders

Before rushing out to put up more bird houses and feeders, remember attracting birds takes some planning.

Deck and Patio has been in the business of creating bird-friendly landscapes for over 25 years. And we’ve learned a thing or two.

For example. Birds aren’t as happy with your perfectly cut and edged expansive lawns as your neighbors might be. And while the odd bird house or feeder will help attract a few birds to a nicely manicured area, birds, prefer a bit of density.

“Songbirds love bushes and trees,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “Birds of all sorts drop by for the food, comfort and privacy such lush vegetation gives them. And in turn for access to some clean water and natural munchies, like berries, they’ll give you an opera of stress-reducing songs. Berries, by the way, have been known to tempt even timid birds out of hiding, like woodpeckers.”

Here’s an example of a modest natural sanctuary we designed/built for one of our clients.

 

Attracting Birds:

Attracting Birds:

Although the neighbors of these clients have a natural wooded area, we added bushes, trees and plenty of plantings to their own yard. This means birds and their songs will be closer by and easier to hear. The crepe myrtles, for example, contribute to an extended picture-perfect landscape season — they bloom from August through October, providing a haven for a variety of visiting birds.

 

Some April ‘To Do’s’

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are just one species that make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already back in our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, horticulturist Sandra Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

Some ‘Not To Do’s’

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” says Dave.

Extra Tips

If you’re not an avian expert and are not sure which bird is which, you’ll appreciate the Audubon Soceity’s app. Not only will it help you identify the birds you see, but you can keep track of them, share photos, etc. There’s a good tutorial on their app’s information page, just click here. 

So make your home’s outdoors as much of bird sanctuary as possible. If you help the birds…they’ll help you right back! In the meantime, if you need a little restorative birdsong uplift, try out  Bird Song Opera. It’s great.  

 

April Gardening is For the Birds: Some “To Do’s” and “Not To Do’s”

Today’s garden planning goes well beyond simply color and texture. Some of the delights of outdoor living are the amazing creatures our gardens and water features attract.

With that in mind, below are some “to do” and “not to do” lawn/garden ideas for the month of April that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

April “To Do’s”

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already en route to our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

 

Oriolefest feeder

Oriolefest feeder

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

 

 

“When it comes to bees, which have been on the decline in alarming numbers, some suggest that we leave dandelions in our lawns for them,” says Vultggio. For while hummingbirds, etc. are going after nectar, the bees are in search of pollen,” she says.

This means it’s a good idea to cultivate both pollen and nectar producing plants, adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Indeed, we recommend sufficient seasonal plantings so that the right blooms appear from early spring into late fall. We also suggest that you plant them in clusters to provide havens for birds and pollinators.”

Dave says that early April is also a great time to clean and repair any bird houses so they’ll be ready for birds to nest.

 

April “Not to Do’s” 

 

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” adds Dave Stockwell.


 

Finally, Vultaggio says that doing a few things — and not doing some others — will help attract all the beautiful creatures we want to enjoy when outdoors. In fact, right now, she is daily tracking the 2017 migration of hummingbirds to our area in the Northeast.

“I went to hummingbirds.net just this morning. And guess what? They were already in Virginia.”

 

 

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

This photo of a Baltimore Oriole was taken by Sandra Vultaggio last spring. Note: yellow/orange Helianthus and pink Zinnias in her garden make a perfect spot for her feeder. “The feeder is actually a hummingbird feeder,” says Vultaggio, “but Orioles will feed from it as well.”

 

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