We have been working on a large-scale project for the past year. Last year our two bird-watching boys were devastated when a builder destroyed the woods beside our home to make room for a new house. They were very concerned about the birds’ loss of habitat.
They decided to remedy the situation by putting in a bird garden. Their vision was to plant shrubs and trees which would restore lost habitat, giving the birds food and shelter. They also wanted to have a water feature, some seed and nectar feeders and a place to sit so they could enjoy watching their feathered friends once again.
We agreed to help them turn their vision into reality. When we began this project last March, our four boys ranged in age from 3 to 11 years old. After a few days of laborious digging just to plant some small flowers, I hired someone with a power auger to dig holes in our hard, rocky Georgia clay. They did in 5 hours what would have taken us 5 years: they dug 40 holes, many large enough for trees.
After the holes were dug, we never needed to hire another professional. This was a project the boys wanted to do, and my desire was to help them run with it. They had ownership over the project, and they were the driving force behind everything we did.
Here you can see the woods beside our home as it looked two years ago, before it was destroyed to make room for a new house.
This is our side yard today, with much habitat restored.
We began researching trees and shrubs that are attractive to birds. We wanted every plant to be attractive to songbirds for food, shelter, or both. Little by little over the course of the past year we worked to fill those 40 holes. The boys had lots of practice preparing root bound plants, mixing enriched soil and manure with our Georgia clay, and learning how to plant trees and shrubs. Having never done much gardening before, I learned right along with them.
We are finally almost finished with the Songbird Garden. Last week we dug up one more area ourselves and planted butterfly bushes, bridal wreath and lantana to make Hummingbird Hollow.
The boys enjoy watching the birds at the feeding station from this bench. Hummingbird Hollow is in the foreground. Several of the butterfly bushes were transplanted from another part of our yard.
We have two feeding stations in the garden: a seed station for songbirds (which a kind neighbor built for us) and a nectar station for hummingbirds.
The boys have spent hours upon hours digging up large rocks in our woodsy backyard and carrying them to the garden, one by one or in heavy wagon-loads, to use as edging around all the shrub and flower beds. This hard work was one of our favorite projects. They love the natural look that it gives to the garden, and I love the fact that it was all free!
We worked together as a family to lay 124 cubic feet of mulch, creating garden paths around the plantings. My oldest son taught me how to lay weed block and spread the mulch, as he has helped my husband do it in other areas around the house.
I don’t think we could have pulled this project off without the help of our oldest son. Now aged 12, he provided a lot of the brawn that was needed for this undertaking. He proved himself very capable at many of the jobs I find tedious. For example, this week he proudly assembled two bird baths.
He also hung a tree face that we received as a gift. I love it!
The younger boys wanted to provide the birds with a dust bath for cleaning their feathers, and with rock and brush piles for foraging.
Working together, the 3 youngest boys dug a large pit for the dust bath and mixed sifted ash, sand and dirt together in the hole. They lined it with stones and we’ve already seen doves enjoying it. The rock pile and brush pile have also taken shape.
Each boy worked with his grandfather to build a birdhouse suited to a particular species.
They have also hung out nesting materials, including a feather duster and a cage with natural unprocessed cotton fibers. A clipped string mop head, meant to attract orioles, adorns one of the trees.
We recently learned about worms in our science lessons and the boys decided to begin a worm farm in order to have rich compost for the bird garden. They have been enjoying that ongoing project very much!
We have seen our bird population grow over the past year, and it has been a delight to see new species coming to our yard. We were thrilled a couple of months ago to see our first pair of Rose Breasted Grosbeaks in the yard, and this week we have been serenaded regularly by an Eastern Meadowlark.
Even more beneficial has been the time spent working together to accomplish a common goal. The boys have learned a lot about gardening, and we all feel the satisfaction of a job well done. Each boy, regardless of his age, was a valued member of the team, and each one feels the thrill of taking dominion over one little corner of the earth. The two middle boys feel encouraged and uplifted that the family helped them run with their idea. They feel loved, and excited about their next big idea!
I asked one of our sons this week if he would remember this special project for the rest of his life. He is the bird-lover, and it had been his idea in the first place. He shared with me that when he had conceived the idea for a bird garden, he imagined a hummingbird feeder, a few plants and a rock bench. The final product was beyond his wildest imagination. He said that he never could forget it, as this has been the biggest undertaking of his young life.
For more specific information about what we planted and how we did this project, please refer to my Birding Blog. Here are links to the posts about our Bird Garden project.
The first post about Phase one of this project can be found at this link:
Our Bird Garden
This post is about some of the birds we began seeing about half way through this project:
Fruits of the Bird Garden
This is the most recent post that gives specifics about some of the things we planted, construction of the dust bath, and instructions for how we did the paths:
Finishing the Bird Garden
UPDATE: The children were thrilled when this project won first place in the Keep Our County Beautiful competition. And we were all completely stunned when it also won second place for the state of Georgia in the Keep Georgia Beautiful competition!! You can read details about it here!