Support Wildlife

This Simple DIY Bird Feeding Hack Will Attract Birds to Your Garden

Bird feeders are great. I have plenty of different types of bird feeders on a multi-hook feeding station right outside my living room window. Winter is hard in my area so I do what I can to provide food for birds in my community. Attracting more birds to my yard helps me as a gardener with insect control. During warmer weather, I have found an easier way to feed the birds.

August and early September is a great time to let specific varieties of flowers go to seed to attract more birds to my yard. Traditionally, gardeners are encouraged to “dead head” or trim dying blooms off the flowers to encourage more blooming. That advice is true but not “dead heading” spent blooms also has great benefits. I don’t know about you but I am way too busy to be hovering over my flower garden snipping the dying flower heads. And for some varieties like Cosmos, that piece of advice doesn’t even matter because they bloom like crazy whether or not I trim the dead flowers.

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Every year, I plant this mixed variety of Cosmos on the side of my yard which is a great vantage point when you look out the powder room window. I see Chickadees and Goldfinches feeding on the seeds.

Cosmos are out of this world with their popularity

I love this plant for so many reasons. It’s low maintenance, dramatic in a good way and attracts a lot of pollinators to my garden. Actually, that last reason is why I started growing it in the first place. I wanted to attract more bees and beneficial insects to my garden. In my area (Zone 6), Cosmos are an annual. I used to collect as many seeds as I could and dry them to plant for the next year. That is, until I noticed that Goldfinches and Chickadees were landing on the plants and eating the seeds. I hadn’t realized this was also a food source for them. I learned to only harvest seeds I needed for the next year instead of extra and leave the rest for the birds. I didn’t need a huge amount of seeds anyway. Previously, I gave extra seed packets to friends and coworkers. Not collecting and drying as many seeds and leaving the rest of the seed heads for the birds save me so much time.

Cosmos also come in muted colors too like this “Sonata White.”

What makes Comos an ideal DIY bird feeding station is that smaller birds like Goldfinches land on the stem, bounced around and begin eating. Who doesn’t love seeing the striking yellow feathers of a Goldfinch? When there are a lot of Cosmos planted in one area, it creates some camouflage for them. I think they enjoy gently swaying on the stems. I also love the distinctive song that the Chickadees sing so I am thrilled that Cosmos attract them to my garden.

This photo shows you the beginning stages of a Cosmos plant producing seeds.
The petals eventually fall off exposing the center.

Cosmos ideal growing conditions are full sun, part sun and dappled sun. They like well drained light soil that is more alkaline. If you have clay soil, then it’s worth adding compost and some peat to make your ground less hard and allow water to reach the roots. Depending if you are starting from scratch, it make take a year or two of amending your clay soil to get the texture needed for Comos to thrive. I directly add Cosmo seeds to my soil because I don’t have the room to grow a bunch of seedlings indoors. In my Zone, I wait until mid-May to plant and water them. As my Cosmo seedlings grow the same rate as the weeds, I will spend 2-3 times weeding that garden but it doesn’t take long before the Comos surpass the weeds in height and suppress the weeds by themselves. Cosmos are not considered an invasive species and they aren’t poisonous which is ideal for a pet friendly garden.

Echinacea popularity helps nature

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is pretty well known among gardeners and people who don’t garden as a booster of our immune system when we have a cold and the flu. It’s popular among gardeners because it’s low maintenance and a friendly neighbor. It doesn’t spread like crazy and take up as much room as some other perennials. It can tolerate drier summers and is hardy when planted in ideal conditions.

Butterflies can’t resist coneflowers vibrant color and circular shape.

Butterflies like Monarchs, Swallowtails and Painted Ladies love Coneflowers because the color and shape is attractive to them. There have been many studies about color, shape, size and scents of flowers that pollinators find the most attractive. Click on the link above to learn more about it.

The round shape and vibrant purplish color is what butterflies and bees are looking for.

Cutting spent blooms encourages more blooming with Coneflowers too but if you want to make the birds happy letting coneflowers go to seed like the photo below. The types of birds that love coneflower seeds are Blue Jays, Cardinals and Goldfinches. At the end of the growing season, I simply cut everything back at the same time and compost it. If you haven’t added this perennial to your garden and would like to know more about growing it, click here.

The front flower has gone to seed and the flower in the background is just dying back. This shows you the stages of how coneflowers go to seed. The light green foliage is from my sage plant which I love how the light green of the sage plant enhances the brightness of my coneflowers.

This perennial showcases multi-tasking at it’s finest

The lesser known Agastache, also called Giant Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint, and blue licorice is also a good perennial choice if you want to attract more pollinators to your garden. It is also known as a culinary herb where the leaves are used to brew a tea but I haven’t personally used it in my kitchen. Agastache needs full sun and soil that drains. Just like the Cosmos, you’ll want to work in compost and peat to break up clay soil. Try to avoid using sand in gardens. Over time, it can harden like concrete which defeats the purpose of having workable soil. If you want to know more about how to grow Agastache, click here.

Monarch butterfly feeding from this Agastache Blue Boa.

It was one of the few perennials who could tolerate drought and being planted among dark red decorative stones. It didn’t flourish there but it didn’t die either. Agastache is a vigorous grower and will spread in the garden. This was also true when growing among the decorative stones. Also, I should’ve planted it among other perennials to make it look nicer in my garden. What I did come to learn is that Chickadees loved it. This variety wasn’t far from my multi-station bird feeder either.

This variety I grew in my last house was called Agastache Golden Jubilee. I just loved the bright leaves.

Be strategic when starting out for maximum success

If you’ve had an established bird feeder in your garden. you can probably be able to get away with spreading out these varieties of flowers in your yard and the birds will find them. If you haven’t had an active bird feeder, then starting a new garden in full to partial sun might be a better way to approach a DIY bird feeding garden. Getting plants that attract birds within the same space can increase your chances of them finding you. Add a birdbath in this garden so they can drink and bathe themselves. If you don’t have a tree in a bird feeding garden, it would be a good idea to plant one. This can help them feel safe so they aren’t spotted by birds of prey or other predators. Birds love trees closer together so they have a short flight from one tree to another.

Summary

Birds are an important part of our ecosystem and a friend to gardeners who want to keep pests under better control. Having a dual purpose garden that attracts pollinators and birds when the flowers go to seed can be really helpful when you are growing vegetables. Even if you don’t plan on growing food, this type of garden can be useful if you love listening to bird songs and/or don’t want as many bug bites when you are trying to relax on your patio/porch. Listening to birds singing is a wonderful way to raise your happiness level.

Coneflowers and Agastache are dual purpose perennials that attract beneficial bugs but also feed birds later in the summer/ early fall. Cosmos are great if you want something more temporary and are easy to grow as a dual purpose plant. These plants are a good choice if you want a pet friendly garden. Spread them out or grow them together. Cosmos are very tall and just like sunflowers, they will lean towards the sun if the space isn’t bright enough for them. Keep this in mind when planting them in partial sun. Coneflowers and Agastache are shorter than Cosmos but closer together in size.

Hopefully, this helps you in planning your garden for the next growing season.