How to make your garden bird friendly – a Q&A with T&M!

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You can’t take the garden out of garden birds. The plants and lawn, the paths and boundaries; they are all part of an ecosystem that helps to shelter and feed many different birds.

To really help you, help birds, get the most out of your garden, we called our friend Graham, from Thompson and Morgan.

Graham is a horticultural writer, and also worked as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years, so he knows a thing or two! Unsurprisingly, we started off by asking him something about plants…

What should you plant if you want to attract birds to your garden?

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Shrubs with berries are perfect for garden birds
Image source: Thinkstock

Food and shelter really. First and foremost, a bird needs to feel safe in your garden and not exposed to predators. So shrubs to fly to if they feel threatened is a good start. If you combine that with a shrub that has berries then you’re onto a winner as far as our feathered friends are concerned.

Pyracanthus are great and look amazing too – although watch out for the thorns! Another good choice is mahonia, the yellow flowers look amazing during the winter and many birds love the berries too. It also make a very safe place to nest!

What plants should you avoid?

None really! The birds will avoid a plant if the berries are bad for them or if it doesn’t provide any shelter. But almost every plant you can buy or grow will have insects visiting it so there’s bound to be a bird that will make the most of that!

Can you plant certain things to attract specific birds?

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Don’t be so keen to pull down the wall crawlers!
Image source: Thinkstock

Birds like blackbirds and various types of thrush tend to like wall covering plants to nest in, so ivy, or clematis montana will do the trick nicely. Seed eating birds will love sunflowers or ornamental thistles like echinops and insect eaters will enjoy flitting around your garden catching flies and other bugs too, so attracting them in with wildflowers would be a good start.

Some of the conifer family make good roosting places as well (with the exception of the dwarf varieties which are the perfect height for an inquisitive cat) as their dense foliage provides lots of shelter and protection.

Is a “wild” garden better than a preened garden when it comes to attracting birds?

No, not really. A “wild” garden will also provide predators with plenty of places to hide too! Cats will wait in long grass to pounce on an unsuspecting bird so some “tidy” areas of lawn etc are good for ground feeders. It gives visiting birds such as robins plenty of space to see around them.

How can birds help your garden?

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You can feed birds dried mealworms too!
Image source: Thinkstock

Insect eaters are the best help in the garden! Blue tits eat seeds and bird peanuts, but love small bugs. Robins will forage for grubs that may well attack your plants and of course blackbirds will eat all sorts of slugs, snails and other creepy crawlies!

Of course, some of these creepy crawlies are good for your garden, but in general, a garden full of life, will breed yet more life, and birds are a big part of that.

Can you attract birds in a small garden or just a patio area?

Yes of course! Hanging up bird feeders will certainly attract birds in, and once they’re used to coming to you as a source of food then they’ll explore other parts of the garden. If you haven’t got room for large plants in your garden then there’s probably fences where they can perch and keep a lookout.

If you haven’t got space for flowers in your garden then encouraging birds will give you year round colour, movement and interest!

Any other tops tips?

  • Choose the plants you like for your garden, the birds will decide for themselves if they choose to use it or not.
  • Various height plants will suit different birds so if you have the space then mix it up a little.
  • Why not combine a bird bath with a water feature? Running water will stay fresher and the birds will still drink and bath in it.

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