• Bird Academy
      Bird Academy
      Was it challenging to map out your space and figure out what growing conditions you have? Where in your yard do you think you’ll start naturescaping, and why? Share your ideas in the discussion below.
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    • Renee
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      My hardiness zone has gone from 7b to 8a. Eastern Temperate Forest >SE US Plains >Piedmont >Southern Outer Piedmont. I have a wooded area behind my house with lawn and a veggie garden between the back deck and the house. I have containers of various sizes with flowers and veggies on the back deck. One side of the house is very wet with shade and poor drainage; the other side gets a lot of sun but there are buried utility lines. In front of the house there is a sunny area with some shade/trees toward the wetter side. The entire yard is on a slope with the house facing downhill. So far we have worked on naturescaping in the back at the edge of the wooded area and in the front around the trees.  We have removed some invasives and planted a few native plants but a lot of ivy and monkey grass still needs to come out.
    • Angela
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I found it interesting, but unfortunate and not surprising that my hardiness zone has changed in the last 10 years. It was 7a and now 8a. My current challenge is dealing with underground utilities. I want to remove grass and have garden space where there are underground utilies. Will make planting a bit more challenging than in areas where I don't have to worry about that.
    • Allison
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Eastern Temperate Forest; hardiness zone 7b; average annual minimum temperature 5-10 degrees F; mostly clay soils.   We have a front lawn with a wooded natural bed in the middle, a hilly bank along the road, and a wooded area along the side.  We have a small lawn in back with woods behind.  My efforts will concentrate on removing non-native invasives everywhere, identifying the natives that we already have, and adding more natives of all types.  I'll be concentrating on the border areas, gradually expanding the natural, wooded areas and slowly shrinking the lawn.  We have lots of mature trees, so the entire yard tends toward shade or partial shade.  The only areas that are truly sunny (6 or more hours) are right next to the driveway.  We have a few low spots that stay moist except in dry years (like this year!), but the yard has gentle slopes and tends to be dry.  I am thrilled to learn that natives require less care and less watering.  Our only exterior spigot is in the back corner of our house, so it takes three hoses together to reach my front plants.  I hate to waste water during drought years, so I feel like I have been watering enough to keep plants alive but not enough for them to thrive.  As I replace non-natives with natives, I hope to find plants that can thrive.  I've tinkered a little bit with gardening for years, and I have learned that it sometimes takes me more than one try to find the right spot for a plant.  I'll try to do more careful advance planning in the future.
    • Darlene
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      It was interesting to find out the specifics of my ecoregion, I'm located in the Eastern Temperate Forest, South Eastern, USA Plains, Piedmont< Southern Inner Piedmont. Commonly the area is referred to as the Upstate, Piedmont Mountain Region. Our area has a heavy clay soil consistency, in fact in dry periods the soil can be so hard that you need a pick ax or gas motor cultivator to break it up. Raised beds are popular around here for gardening flower or vegetable. There is also a lot of large granite in our area and apparently, we are on a granite that extends from one of the local mountains. We tend to have small earthquakes which generally are not noticeable. My home area is bounded by pine and deciduous forests, thus our cleared area has a number of these trees: pines, hickory, oak, dogwood, redbud and poplar (tulip) trees. Blueberries and Blackberries grow quite well in the acidic soil.  As a result of this course I am thinking of adding some winterberry for the birds and purchasing another beauty berry. We have kept the front lawn area as an open space. I have no idea what kind of grass I have but there are plenty of dandelions, violets and other wild flowers in the spring.
    • Mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Ecoregion North America Eastern Temperate Forests Central USA Plains Eastern Corn Belt Plains Loamy High Lime Till Plains Look up your hardiness zone by ZIP code or by municipality name. 6a Try a squeeze test of your soil to find out if it has a lot of clay, sand, or loam. Lots of clay ,limestone and stones. We are on the edge were the glaciers stopped. An old limestone quarry is on our north side. Create a map of the growing conditions of your space. Note where it’s very wet, or dry, or gets a lot of sun, or is mostly shady. I have found a blowup map from google helps with mapping the yard. The hard part is getting a most recent picture. With this information in mind, is there a place you might like to start your naturescape? Note it on your map!
    • mary
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      It took a couple of years to determine the down hill flow of water and the various grasses in the yard. I have had to move some plants around the yard but eventually I found their happy place. I have nature scape in my front yard as it is flat and gets the most sun.
    • The Mass., zone is 6 a and 6 b . / I think that I may add some shrubs, like a Holly, or put potted plants, in the yards. I looked up the Holly, which is a cool looking shrub with berries, and it is very important for winter birds. Two or so are suggested, to plant, for only one style has berries, and the other not. And they may complement each other. As stated by source ? I am also going to change to a battery powered mower, only. Because I have made a lot of the changes, suggested in this course, to my yard. i.e. More grass allowed on the perimeter. Allowing messiness. Bird baths and a bird feeder. etc... However, a KOBALT/ECHO mower, is on my list for next year. For that would add an improvement to the mix, as to not have gasoline in the air, during mowing, or in the general air. / My lawn is fairly 'full,' so I know there is no sandiness, and most of the soil is not too dry, nor too swampy./ I have a weed garden, and have noticed that some sort of long stemmed dandelions are growing. /Leaving areas un-mowed, helps with the growth of natural wildflowers. I also leave areas around the trees mowed less./ I have noticed a lot of the common backyard birds. Especially wood-peckers and nuthatches./ I am going to add potted plants as needed, and install, perhaps a Holly, or a Blueberry shrub, as well as mtx. the garden I have made. bk/ ( I like the patterns, of leaving long grass, in areas that do not sacrifice the neatness of the lawn, the best. Around trees, and around  the perimeter.)  
    • Benjamin
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Since my space already has pre-established flower beds, it was easier for me to know where I wanted to create this habitat. Knowing how much sunlight hit these beds and for how long was something that took me awhile to be cognizant of, but after awhile, I have a better understanding of what sorts of plants might thrive in this area.
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      I live in the eastern part of the US in an area that is a border between Piedmont and Mountainous area, so at times, I need to straddle the hardiness zone of 6 and 7.  I have pretty much kept to plants that fit in both the Eastern Temperate Forest ecozone and these hardiness zones.  My big challenge is less finding native plants because they seem to be finding me as I slowly remove grassy turf and pull invasive, but more trying to keep the invasives at bay since so many of my neighbors insist on planting non-native species in their yards or they think my effort to leave native plant stems and seed pods up during the winter is being lazy. So I've set out on an education campaign by either buying premade yard signs or making my own.  Hopefully, some others might follow and convert their lawns too.
    • Anita
      Participant
      Chirps: 19
      My backyard has many mature trees in it and is mostly shade.  Also, I have a dog who spends a lot of time in the yard out back.  Birds, squirrels, and chipmunks can hang out in the trees, but I don't know that I want to try and bring in many species to the back.  However, my front yard receives a lot of sun and has soil from wet to dry conditions.  Unfortunately, I'm only going to be able to plant in a couple of sections this year, as there is a 500 square foot space that I am working to "kill" the lawn and it won't be ready until the fall.  I have never done any type of gardening before, so this is going to be an exciting new experience for me.  I also want to try a few containers and maybe have a rock garden (my area has a LOT of rocks).
    • Sandy
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      It has taken me several years to do this. My yard is shady for the most part. Every once in a while a big tree falls or has to be removed (always for a good reason). Then the area changes. A few years a go I began to concentrate on growing native plants. So I have several throughout my yard. I am slowly removing the non native and invasive plants. That has been a challenge. Rewarding, as I have "rescued" a few natives.
    • Donna
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Well, it was surprising to see the importance of ecoregions. I thought hardiness was the most important factor in selecting plants. Now I know in Ellensburg WA we live in hardiness 6B and Ecosystem 10E in the Columbia Plateau. I didn't know the Washington firefighting helicopters are based in Ellensburg. So interesting!   My efforts this year are in planting natives in front of the house. Last year I focused on a few wildflowers and several have survived - the prairie smoke and lupine in particular.  Our home is only a few years old and my efforts have been to get after the invasives once the soil was disrupted. Now it's time to add some beauty and larger shrubs. I am thinking about purchasing three oak trees to plant in the fall for the future we probably won't see but the birds will love.
    • Beth
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      One of the unexpected benefits of planting native species is that they thrive on neglect. With the tough drought summers that we've been having in the Midwest recently, the native plants are doing much better than the introduced ornamental plants in the yard. I'm no gardener, but the sad forgotten swamp milkweed that we planted in September of last year grew five feet tall this year, and I basically didn't water it at all. Meanwhile, the astillby wilted as soon as the sun came out. Native plants are great for lazy/neglectful gardeners as well as being good for the environment and birds and such.
    • Robin
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Last spring I tried sprouting some sunflowers from the seeds in our bird food.  Though they sprouted fine my set up wasn't very good and I lost them.  I decided to sow some seeds directly in a flower bed on the side of the house and though a few sprouted, but they didn't grow very much.  What was super interesting is that two random sunflowers popped up in the veggie garden, most likely from all the seeds the chickadees cached in the area.  I let them be and hoped they would blossom and seed in time before winter, but the growing season wasn't quite long enough.  I would have loved for our chickadees to get to eat directly from a flower they had planted themselves, these little guys successfully bred in our nest box so they are extra special to us:)  I'll try again next spring with indoor germinating so they have a better chance:)
      • Donna
        Participant
        Chirps: 7
        What a wonderful sweet story! Thank you for sharing!
      • Mary Lou
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        I have a small condo fenced patio in PA. Last year I had an over abundance of milkweed that took over to I need to be more selective this year. I also have had sunflowers grow in the cracks of my patio concrete. The birds have loved that and it especially attracts the goldfinches. We shall see what happens this year as I focus on natives!
      • Penelope
        Participant
        Chirps: 38
        Love this! Chickadees are my favorite bird, by the way. 😊
    • Nancy
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      The biggest challenge are the terraced beds on the north side of the house.  They receive morning sun, but are in shade most of the day.  I would like to try planting ferns, hostas and some flowering annuals in the most shady parts.  The lowest bed gets the most sun, and I plan to plant some sun-loving flowering plants (salvia, lantana, etc.) around a low birdbath.  I also need to identify some good ground covers for this bed, as it's quite large.  Another idea is to put up some trellises along the south edge of the lowest bed, which abuts the patio.  That would provide a place for climbing plans as well as some privacy.
    • JadeJean
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      *For some reason the first part of my post submitted, but not the rest.
      • Ecoregion: https://bplant.org/ecoregion_locator.php
        • North America
          • Great Plains I
          • South Central Semi-Arid Prairies II
          • Texas Blackland Prairies III:
            • https://bplant.org/region/89
            • https://bplant.org/search.php?region_id=89&status_type_id=1
          • Northern Blackland Prairie IV:
            • https://bplant.org/region/525
      • Hardiness Zone: 15-20 (20-25 zone also touches at a bulge, so I need to pay attention to this) Blackland Prairies
      • I will summarize what I had originally posted. I have joined the Dallas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, so I can learn significantly more about my region due to how specific the rich, moisture-retaining black clay soil is here. I have quite the vertical diversity here already, so I definitely want to keep in mind the wetter and shadier areas versus my very open pasture region which already has a few native wildflower species that I let grow as they please, but I would like to add more native species. I have joined this program and plan to get certified with their Native Landscape Certification Program (NLCP). I also hope to be able to take their Companion Class – Native Landscapes for Birds, because Aves are the main reason that I have been doing all of this!
      • Within the Northern Blackland Prairie 32a, my region also touches Floodplains and Low Terraces 32c. With my work with the Wetland Center, 32c will be more prevalent, while my specific home area will be mostly 32a except for the natural spring pond area. I am about eight miles from the Wetland Center which makes this a funky area with the Trinity and its runoffs nearby, as well.
      • Blackland Prairies 32a and 32c
    • JadeJean
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      • Ecoregion: https://bplant.org/ecoregion_locator.php
        • North America
          • Great Plains I
          • South Central Semi-Arid Prairies II
          • Texas Blackland Prairies III:
            • https://bplant.org/region/89
            • https://bplant.org/search.php?region_id=89&status_type_id=1
          • Northern Blackland Prairie IV:
            • https://bplant.org/region/525
      • Hardiness Zone:
        • 15-20 (20-25 zone also touches at a bulge, so I need to pay attention to this).
    • Susan
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      I have a small garden area on the edge of my back patio where I have a butterfly bush and plant annuals. This year I am going native with this area as my first attempt at native plant gardening. I still have to pull up the butterfly bush. I am looking for perennials that will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and benefit our birds that also visit our many backyard feeders. I bought my first two native plants yesterday at a native plant society event and realized I have to pay attention to the info about height, one I bought might grow to 5 ft which is taller than I want for the patio area. I may put it in another area of my yard where I also plan to do some native plants, or just plant it at the far end of the patio garden with a replacement native shrub for the butterfly bush can give it some background or support if needed if it grows tall. The native plants are more expensive than non-native as I expected. I am giving myself some slack to live and learn, I will make some "mistakes" but will learn from them. Actually nothing is a mistake, it is all a learning experience.
    • Nina J
      Participant
      Chirps: 3
      This has been a thorn in my side for years now. My husband, who loves his grass, has finally agreed to give me the back yard and he can keep the manicured front yard. I am what you call a "plopper." I buy native plants and receive some from friends but just plop them in the ground without designing the space. However, I am aware of the different elements and "plop" accordingly. Money is also an obstacle. The birds I get are great but my plantings are pitiful looking. I don't do "redos" very well. Backyard IMG_4168Front bed along path IMG_4880Front path IMG_4882
      • Lisa
        Participant
        Chirps: 1
        That looks absolutely lovely! I think you “plop” very well!
      • Mary
        Participant
        Chirps: 1

        @Lisa I agree!!!

      • Darlene
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        My assessment is that you have provided a refuge in the sea of planted grass. The backyard looks great to me. I see that you have a water source, homemade or store purchased? Either way your garden looks inviting for butterflies and birds.
    • Pamela
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      Last year I planted a number of new native plants and they did not do as well as I had hoped.  There are some areas of my yard where I have trouble finding just the right plant for the conditions. So last summer I made a map of the yard and went outside on the hour, every hour from arising to sunset to observe which areas were sunny, shady or partly sunny.  As a result, I was able to map how many hours of sun each area received.  Some areas gave me a surprise, since trees had grown up and blocked areas that I assumed to be sunny. Armed with this data, I hope to make better choices this year. The most challenging areas are around the bird feeders - because I need to be able to clean up around the feeders, yet provide protection for the birds.
    • Madalyn
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I'm in an Eastern Temperate Forest and am in Hardiness Zone 7.  I think my yard gets quite a lot of sun, but it's tricky to tell since it's March, and I'm afraid when the trees have leaves it will become shadier?  How do I plan for this?  I feel very intimidated about choosing spaces for new beds.  Ideally, my whole front yard would no longer be grass, but we're brand new homeowners so I think I'll have to settle for a smaller patch this first year and expand, due to not being able to spend a ton of money and also learning the ropes.  It's intimidating to know where to start in the yard.  I might make kind of a random bean-shaped bed of natives in the front yard to start.  Then, I have a very damp and shady patch in the back that I'd like to add some ground cover to.  I was thinking wild ginger and heartless foamflower.
      • Pamela
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        Hi Madalyn - I get intimidated too - but remember you don't have to do everything at once. You can phase it in as you get to know the property.
      • Nina J
        Participant
        Chirps: 3
        Yes! I too feel intimidated to design new beds and where to place them. I have the mindset of once planted, it's permanent, which is ridiculous.
    • Mike
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I live in North West Nevada almost in California. Our Ecoregion is: Cold Desert, Central Basins and range, Sierra Nevada influenced semi arid hills and basin. Quite a mouth full. In short: cold in the winter hot and dry in the summer, with little moisture. I believe we get about 8 inches of rain on average per year.  I have clay soil with pockets of sand. I have grown vegetables for a long time with some success. Last summer we had very bad smoke from the California fires, so even the vegi's didn't get enough sun light. This has become a summer problem. O' and we only have 4 months between frosts to grow. I have counted birds in the Cornell bird count for 12 seasons now, but it finally dawned on me that I could get new and different birds if I planted more native plants. As you can see I am a slow learner. I have Jeffery pines in part of my yard but they all suffer with bug damage. I have a number of Buffalo Berry bushes which the birds love but they only have berries several months of the year. I leave my vegi's to go to seed and don't clean up the yard which helps ground feeder, but I want to expand the native ornamental's. The problem here is where to find plants that will survive this climate. The local nursery's don't carry much native plants. They seem to like Southern California types. I finally found a local nursery in Truckee California about 60 miles from me. So I will have to travel some to purchase locally. The picture is my front yard view.P1000223
    • Margo
      Participant
      Chirps: 10
      My ecoregion is Marine West Coast Forest, which is very true for my yard just south of Seattle, WA.  I'm in zone 8a-b.  Most of the lawn here was removed before we moved in five years ago, and I removed the rest.  We have a heavily wooded lot, lots of pine cones for birds feeding.  The soil is more sandy than anything else, very poor quality due to the yard being covered by black plastic and fabric years ago.  I am spending a lot of time working to improve the soil with mulch.  I've added vertical features for birds to sit on and turned the front yard into a park like environment - dry pond, two park benches, two birdbaths grasses.  This is the first year I've seen birds actually bathing, not just drinking out of the birdbaths!  I even had an immature Cooper's Hawk sit down in the birdbath and bathe. I'm focusing on native plants to add to the yard.  I have two new Mahonia plants, and I've read that birds eat the berries.  I haven't seen any evidence of that so far.  Coneflower and hypericum are attracting birds, and my bee balm was a hummingbird favorite along with my hardy fuchsia.  Adding to my non-plan, I want to include a blueberry bush and maybe a crabapple tree. My backyard is really shaded about 90%+ of the time.  I am struggling to create a bird friendly environment there.  I do have a popular birdbath there, plus a suet feeder that is beloved by Northern Flickers.  I need to identify more shade loving native plants.
    • Anne
      Participant
      Chirps: 1
      I had an area that was completely weeds from previous owners.  Last summer I started attacking the weeds and planting beneficials.  I wanted to create a multiple purpose garden including a "Mary garden" and a cottage garden.  But I soon modified my garden to a bird and pollinator garden.  I have many plants with trumpet flowers such as Agastache. for my hummingbirds.  I used tube feeders and have had 2 male goldfinches all summer long along with a variety of doves, finches sparrows.  I think the miserable neighborhood cat killed my sole woodpecker.  I also have four California quail.  I did not start off with a plan.  I just started planting, planting all over.  I still do not use a plan.  I see an empty space and I just try to fill it.  Today I purchased a high growing blueberry bush.  At 6'x6' I really am a little stumped where I will try to place that!   but the thought of all of those berries for my birds plus the cover was just too tempting.  I think it is the first lesson where the writer speaks of gardening as a type of art.  I view gardening this way and although I do not remember all of my plant names or spacings, I really do feel passionate about developing such beautiful life=giving space around me.  I plant native plants and others.
      • Margo
        Participant
        Chirps: 10
        I loved your comment about the 6' x 6' blueberry bush.  I also don't have a plan, although I think I have been trial and error planning for the past four years.  I want to add a blueberry bush (smaller than 6'!) and a crab apple tree.  I have been paying much more attention to native plants and plants that attract birds.  I liked the idea from the previous lesson - 2/3 for the birds.
      • Colleen
        Participant
        Chirps: 3

        @Margo I don't have much of a plan -- I see or read about a native I decide I want, and just kind of find a place for it as I go. I have tried planning but things never really end up that way -- something I want isn't available, I run across somethong I like better, etc... My only plan is, is it native and beneficial to birds or pollinators? I am afraid my yard will probably end up being a mishmash, but at least it will be a beneficial mishmash!! Nature isn't perfect at planning either, so I think I'm ok.