Written by Karen @ To Work With My Hands, Contributing Writer
I love spring! It’s my favorite season of all.
When the dull gold-green grass brightens to vibrant, fresh green and the tender leaves begin sprouting on trees and bushes, I get eager to turn my attention outdoors.
The garden calls, and I’m ready to clean out dead leaves that have littered the beds, repot plants that need larger homes, and bring some fresh new color to the garden and yard.
And on the days I spend many hours outdoors getting the garden and yard spruced up for spring, I’m not alone. The birds are excitedly chirping and singing, arriving from their winter homes, either by flight or simply by coming from the brush and woods to celebrate the warmer and brighter days.
Having butterflies and birds in the backyard is just as welcome as the tender green shoots coming up in the garden, and if you don’t have a large population of them each year, there are ways you can attract them to add even more interest and beauty to your surroundings.
The most attractive element that you can supply for butterflies is the right kinds of flowering plants. Butterflies are drawn by scents, and when you have plenty of fragrant blooms in your garden, they are naturally attracted.
Here are some of their favorites:
- butterfly bush
- German chamomile
- dianthus (sweet william)
- echinacea (coneflower)
- bee balm (lemon mint)
- black-eyed susan
Try adding just a few to your garden or yard, and add more each season, as you are able. It won’t take long for your yard to become a favorite haunt of these gorgeous insects.
Also, remember to consider the life cycle of butterflies. Not only should you provide for the adults, but also consider the egg, larvae, and pupa stages:
Milkweed is the nursery of choice for the monarch butterfly.
Parsley, dill, and fennel are all favorites of black swallowtails.
To make sure butterflies feel totally at home in your garden, be sure to provide water, basking areas, and a selection of overripe fruit.
If you’d like to make your very own butterfly feeder, these instructions are simple and a great project to include your children in. (I recommend skipping the red dye for both butterflies and hummingbirds.)
While birds in general (with the exception of hummingbirds) aren’t as attracted by flowers am much as butterflies, there are still some that they are attracted to, especially those that produce abundant seeds or berries.
In addition to natural food sources, you can also provide for birds with feeders. Commercial feeders are available in a large range of designs and even specific for the type of birds you want to attract.
Or, if you are ambitious, you can make your own. When my children saw me getting the feeders ready for spring, they were inspired to make a few of their own using empty water bottles and coffee canisters. I think the birds will be just as happy.
Hummingbird feeders are a sure way to attract these gorgeous birds to your yard, and making your own nectar is easy. Simply mix one part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil. Allow to cool, and fill your feeder.
Make sure your feeder has a red element (which hummers are highly attracted to) and skip the red dye in your nectar.
A nesting box buffet is also a great way to encourage birds to visit your yard. Birds are preparing nests this time of year, and supplying them with a basket of building materials that they can choose from is sure to entice them near.
Simply fill a suet feeder with colorful strips of material, string, yarn, or sturdy dried grasses. In the cooler times of the year, you can use the feeder to hold your homemade suet mixture which will be a great boost of energy for the birds in the leaner times when food is not as plentiful.
As with butterflies, make sure you have a water source available for the birds. And, if you have an overgrown hedge or brush area, consider leaving it in place. Birds love these areas for nesting, and escaping the weather or predators.
Make sure you get your children involved in attracting wildlife to your backyard! Not only is it a great way to enjoy the fresh spring weather, but it’s also an excellent way to teach an appreciation for nature and an opportunity to spark an interest that just might become a life-long journey.
Above all, start small, and have fun. Attracting wildlife to your property takes time, and although you may be surprised by how quickly you get visitors, you’ll be amazed over time by just how popular your space becomes. And if you watch carefully, you may just find that you have some repeat visitors year after year.