Many people think the best way to deal with pests in the garden is to go down to the local store, pick up a bottle of the lastest greatest bug-be-gone spray to rid their garden beds of all interlopers. This is a little over-kill in my opinion, not only have you blasted all the bugs that you want to get rid of, but you have also most likely just knocked out any beneficial insects as well.
One way of ending this destructive; and spendy, cycle is to bring in a more natural pest control system. Namely some feathered friends that are more than happy to help. But how do you get birds to set up shop in your garden? First off, they need a reason to be there;
They’ll just eat the bugs right? Yes, but you have to get the birds to your yard first. If you want carnivorous birds, ones that will take down your insects, setting up suet feeders is a good place to start. The best time to do this is in the fall so that they are kept happy throughout the winter. You can remove the suet feeders once you see insect activity increase in the spring. Now your new friends are more than happy to stay around and feed on a free buffet of tasty pests when the weather warms up. When the weather cools off in the fall and the insects begin to die off, start the suet again, rinse and repeat style.
Setting up housing for your new, hopefully permanent, tenants can be anything from birdhouses and shrubs to brush snags in your backyard. Evergreens are one of the best choices for birds, especially in the winter, when there is no other cover for small birds. Even grasses can be a source of cover and protection from the winter winds. Check your local extension office for a list of native grasses, shrubs and trees for your landscape.
Providing water for your feathered guests is a must, and there are numerous ways to do this. You can go with a birdbath, or go with something a little less traditional, like a water fountain, whose bubbling ambiance will attract birds for a quick dip and a drink, or try a shallow bowl-shaped rock you can leave out to collect rainwater. An interesting plant to try in a prairie-style garden is a cup plant, a tall native (around 8 ft) that attracts butterflies with its sunflower like blooms and its leaves will hold water after a rainstorm allowing small birds drink and bathe in them.
Some other plants that you might want try in your landscaping in the central states include;
Echinacea (aka purple cone flower), sunflowers, black-eyed susans, bee balm, service berry, bear berry, Viburnums, chokeberry (Aronia), crab apple, and winter berry.
Wherever you live, you can bring in birds of all kinds. From the smallest hummingbirds to larger woodpeckers, proper placement of housing, food and water can provide an oasis for all kinds of helpful, insect-eating friends.