TX Organic Research Center



Attracting Birds To The Garden, Composting, Sprayers
March 01, 2002
By Howard Garrett

Q. I have been feeding the birds all winter and want some advice on how to draw more kinds than the hundreds of sparrows I get. We will occasionally get mourning doves and the large blackbirds, but only rarely. I have been using a mixed seed. Should I add a second feeder with a more species specific seed or just change over and let the sparrows go to my neighbor’s feeder? – D.M., Dallas

A. Besides using a blend of various high quality seed and more than one feeder, introduce as many plants as possible that will attract birds, butterflies and other pollenators and other beneficial insects. That and the organic program are the keys to biodiversity. Large masses of single species are much less effective in attracting wildlife than mixtures of plants with varying textures, colors, times of bloom, fragrances and overall size of plants. Variety in plants is directly related to variety in wildlife.

It’s also helpful to let at least one area of your garden grow up completely wild. Also water with sprays in the morning to put moisture on the foliage of plants from time to time. The birds love it.

Here are some of the best trees, shrubs, vines, annuals and perennials for attracting birds and other interesting and helpful animals to the garden:

Tulip tree, oaks, hackberry, service berry, hawthorn, persimmon, deciduous yaupon, crabapple, elderberry, Eastern red cedar, scarlet buckeye, flowering dogwood, arrowood viburnum, magnolia, mulberry, black cherry, rusty blackhaw viburnum, and figs.

American beautyberry, Rough leaf dogwood, abelia, winter honeysuckle, roses, flame bush – winged euonymus, Carolina buckthorn, elaeagnus, hollies, leather leaf mahonia, and Chinese photinia.

Cypress vine, coral vine, cross vine, coral honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, grapes, and Carolina snailseed.

Turk’s cap, salvias, lantana, monardas, and chili pequin.

Sunflowers, scarlet sage, polk salat, nasturtium, hibiscus, ixora, and blackberries.

Q. What is the best compost? Do I want to use composted manure, mushroom compost or what? This will be used in a veggie/her/flower garden and rose beds that I plan to till up over the next two weekends. – T.W., Dallas

A. The best compost is that you make yourself from plants and animals that grew on your property. The second best is an affordable compost made near your property. The point is to avoid shipping. Some composts come in bags and some don’t. There are excellent composts that are made from cotton burs, mushroom beds, sludge bio-solids, tree trimmings and animal manures. Try some of the different ones and see which works best in your soil.

Mushroom compost has one small flaw. It is made of all soft materials. There are no big pieces in it. Add a bulking agent of your own partially completed compost or just be careful watering. It holds water a long time.

Q. I am just getting started with organics in my garden. I have mixed up my first batch of Garrett Juice but realized that the last thing I had in my tank sprayer was Roundup. Can I rinse it out effectively or do I need to get a new one? – M.J., Dallas

A. Rinse the sprayer out with fine textured activated charcoal such as NORIT followed by orange oil or d-limonene and it should be fine to use. Otherwise get a new sprayer. Another good reason to only use organic products.

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