One of the great pleasures of a garden is watching the daily visits of birds, bees and butterflies. Pioneer Dad lives on the western flyway populated by birds flying south for the winter and back north for the summer. Children and most adults are fascinated watching the different birds each month. It’s one of those passive enjoyments of gardening, which doesn’t require additional digging, weeding or watering. A butterfly, bird and bee friendly garden is a fun project for the entire family.
The bees and butterflies help pollenate the plants. And the birds can make short work of garden pests.
One of the experimental changes we’ve made to the garden this year is to mix flowers and vegetables. We found this has helped discourage most of the garden pests.
1. Attracting butterflies
Butterflies look for a few simple things out of life: shelter from predators, sun for basking and flower nectar for sipping. All of which make them great pollinators.
Butterflies are attracted to clusters of vibrantly colored, fragrant flowers such as marigolds and zinnias. Both can be planted in butterfly gardens, existing vegetable gardens, window boxes, or in containers. The most irresistible backyard garden will include a diverse mix of vegetables, flowers and offer shelter from the wind and receive plenty of sun.
Other flowers to consider are: Astor, Butterfly Bush, Cosmo, Lilac, Sunflower, Sweet Pea and Verbena.
2. Attracting Birds
Birds need to feel safe. Consider planting low-growing shrubs, tall bushes, vines, trees and flowers, especially sunflowers. Feeders need to be visible. Choose from tube feeders, platform feeders and window feeders to attract many species of birds.
Water is a great attractor as well. Fountains, saucers, birdbaths and misters placed throughout your yard will help too.
3. Give Hummingbird a Sugar Fix
Hummingbirds have a voracious appetite, more than any other bird their size. Help them by putting up and maintaining a hummingbird feeder filled with fresh sugar water. (Recipe: 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, bring barely to a boil then simmer for about two minutes. Cool and fill the feeder.). Clean feeders and refill every two days when the temperature rises. Avoid using soap to clean the feeder it can make hummingbirds sick.
Hummingbirds like red nectar rich flowers. Several popular choices to plant are: Cardinal Flower, Lantana, Fuchsias, Impatiens, Hollyhocks, Petunia, Geranium and Begonia.
It’s easy to make the garden or patio area a haven for bees. The greater the plant diversity, the more bees the garden will attract and support. Consult with local nursery staff or other experts to find vegetation that will thrive in your specific climate.
And remember, the more bees you attract, the more your gardens will prosper, since vegetables and flowers require pollination.
Here is a partial list of popular bee attractors:
Asters, Calliopsis, Marigolds, Poppies, Sunflowers and Zinnias
Fruits & Veggies
Blackberries, Cantaloupe, Cucumbers, Gourds, Fruit Trees, Peppers, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Squash, Strawberries, Watermelons and Wild Garlic
Bee Balm, Borage, Catnip, Cilantro, Fennel, Lavender, Mint, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme
Buttercups, Clematis, Cosmos, Crocuses, Dahlias, Echinacea, English Ivy, Foxglove,
Geraniums, Germander, Globe Thistle, Hollyhock, Hyacinth, Roses, Sedum, Tansy and Yellow Hyssop
Choose plants that offer bloom and nectar during different season for all-year attraction
Mix flowers, vegetables and herbs in the same container, flower box or bed
For additional tips on attracting butterflies, birds and bees read: Pollinator Friendly Gardening by Rhonda Fleming Hayes.