Dave's Garden Book Review: Gardening for the Birds
Gardening for the Birds by Thomas G. Barnes
Gardens and birds seem to go together and it is rare indeed to find a gardener who doesn't enjoy our feathered friends. In Gardening for the Birds, Thomas G. Barnes combines the number one and number two hobbies (gardening and birdwatching) in an informative and educational format.
Even though Mr. Barnes has written this with the assistance of the Kentucky Co-operative Extension Service, the principles apply to gardens and situations around the world. Kentucky's diversity of climate, makes it the perfect example for this publication. This book is also written with the urban gardener in mind. As he points out, far more people are in urban or suburban areas than live at rural addresses.
He stresses good garden design and the use of specific plants to attract the species you want. The design section offers a number of potential gardens with suggestions for incorporating a family's need for parking, storage and pets into a garden that also welcomes birds, butterflies and wildlife.
Once the garden structure is decided upon, he offers menus consisting of native plants designed to attract specific species of birds and host plants for certian butterflies. Mr Barnes encourages using native plants and includes an extensive section on which plants attract individual species. He also discusses commercially purchased foods and lists what species prefer each one. His large glossary of native wildflowers, grasses and ferns lists habitat, soil, mature height, flower color, season of bloom and other values, such as drought tolerance, unique foliage, cut flowers or fruit bearing.
As most of us have discovered, when we feed birds, we tend to feed other wildlife (and undesireable birds) as well. He suggests techniques and tips to discourage everything from squirrels to deer. He also includes a page concerning Federal laws and regulations for regulating wildlife, although he prefers exclusion and pest-proofing to more extreme measures.
Even though this book is written to educate gardeners about bird feeding and habitats, Mr. Barnes includes a great chapter about butterflies and their habitat. Butterflies need native plants for the caterpillars to survive and although they may not be as showy as commercially available hybrids, natives are vital to their survival. He also advises folks not to be neat freaks when it comes to butterfly habitat. Butterfly eggs and caterpillars are simply dinner to many birds, lizards, wasps and flies. Plan for some cover in the form of native grasses and perennials, so the predators have to search for their meal instead of having it served up on a silver platter.
Gardening for the Birds is a helpful guide for transforming an urban yard into a welcoming habitat for our feathered friends. It is in an easy-to-read format and is a great place to start if you're considering attracting wildlife.
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