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2 the Outdoors: Gardening for the birds

Creating a songbird friendly garden has many positive benefits.

FREDONIA, N.Y. — There are myriad ways to help our environment and many can be done on an individual level. One simple way is to cultivate a garden beneficial to birds. 

Priscilla Titus and her husband Jon have grown their Fredonia garden for almost two decades. By using plants native to the area, they not only get to enjoy a beautiful sanctuary, but they are helping to contribute to the health of the local ecology. 

"It's better for the groundwater, reduces erosion, filters groundwater. It supports our natural insect population, which in turn feed birds, small rodents, many other mammals, it works all the way up the food chain," said Priscilla Titus.

Credit: Terry Belke
The Fredonia couple have been tending their garden for almost two decades.

Titus explains that the gardens promote species diversity as opposed to the typical lawn, which is essentially a monoculture. 

"It's just one monoculture, of one species of grass and we keep it cut so low that it doesn't even produce seeds, so then you have to go buy seeds to keep the lawn regenerating itself," Titus said. "This is a self supporting system. So it's just really very different."

Credit: Priscilla Titus
Native plant gardens also attract insects which birds feed on.

A garden like this can also be maintained without the addition of harmful chemicals. 

"We don't use any chemicals here, and most of my plant material I've obtained locally, so we spend very little money on this yard," Titus said. "We do spend time because we enjoy it, but I don't think more time than people who mow 10 acres of land."

Credit: Priscilla Titus

Feeders can be added for the birds in the winter when it's needed most, and nesting boxes can attract migratory birds in the summer. A thoughtful combination of plants can attract a wide variety of birds throughout the year. 

"We have every layer and every season represented for what they need," Titus said.

The native plants benefit pollinating insects too, which are also declining in population. 

"They all have evolved with these plants in a very complex relationship," Titus said. " And if we break that, someone's going to suffer. "

Credit: Terry Belke
A native plant garden is not only good for local wildlife, but it brings great joy to it's stewards as well.

In addition to helping our Mother Earth, a garden like this brings much happiness to it's stewards.

"I just think it is full of joy, and I would invite anyone to join me," Titus said.

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