Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
For Part I of this article, click here.
I would suggest you have a plan in place. Maybe start out with a cutout at the corner of your lawn.
That is what I did when I lived on 6th and Monroe. The small front lawn faced south; which was in full sun. It was also on a slope which made it tough to cut grass.
The full summer sun did its job. Plants thrived. Insects flocked to the flowers. Soon a pond was installed with a pump and running water and the birds came soon after. Within three years, the grass was gone. In its place was a beautiful garden with plants exploding all over.
Because my street had no sidewalk, I made a gravel path so commuters walking to the newly opened Metro, could come in to my garden and explore and enjoy. It was a magical little place for many years. When I sold my house, I found that years later a dead, grass zone was installed; where once life lived.
Change is tough. But knowledge and science and a willingness to not conform and be like everyone else can be freeing of one’s mind and heart. Not to mention one’s body when they do not have to mow the lawn every ten days.
My front yard in Silver Spring is Gorgeous Chaos. Even I do not know what is coming up. I do know that milkweed has taken over a large portion of the garden and someone (hopefully caterpillars) are eating the leaves.
Maybe not this year, but the next, the larvae will pupae and monarchs will roam my garden. Bees are definitely pollinating the tops of the milkweed. Goldfinches have visited my purple coneflowers. Ruby throated hummingbirds are darting in and out of the milkweed stands to drink at the red petals of the bee balm.
All in the chaos of my wild and gorgeous garden. It may not look like anyone else’s garden, but it is alive. It is safe. It is non-toxic.
When I was a little boy, growing up in the Roseland area of Chicago, every fourth block in the neighborhood had a 2 lot, corner wide, wild prairie. The insect and bird life, in this two-lot size prairie, was incredible. It was wild and untamed and brightly colored and bursting with life.
Lots, in our urban world, are too expensive to leave to nature to embrace. Yet each house could embrace nature and turn blocks into prairies. Prairies that vibrate with the life of living things. Those living things will call out to more living things in the form of birds, box turtles, bats and bugs, bugs and bugs.
I gladly open my windows and sensitive ears to the morning calls of cardinals and mourning doves and evening songs of cicada and crickets then to have my ears abused by the sound of angry engines grinding the dead grass to smithereens.
Walk around your neighborhood. Look for the color of gardens. Look at the life those gardens hold. Visualize what your garden could be on your lot. Embrace the thought of six months of freedom from sweating with lawnmower in hand. Freedom from poison flags saying beware — stay off. Freedom from noise and dirty air.
Freedom to sit in a field; your field; of flowers and insects and birds and color and life. There is “Glorious Chaos” waiting to be built in your yard. One dig is all you need to start.