By Candy Venning

June is the month we start really spending time outside, not just tapping a toe onto the deck but actually putting out a chair and drinking it all in, maybe…. even planning things out a bit. Beyond the basic needs of a patio and or a deck or a bit of one and some more of the other, I’d encourage you to make plans for some other visitors like birds and insects, build it and they will come! Last month I witnessed a Tree Swallow take up residence in our custom built birdbox. The sweet tweets and aerial acrobatics aside, creating the right conditions for birds is a fabulous teaching moment for young children, or everyone really. (I’m still excited that they chose our structure to nest in!) And if you aren’t ready this year – learn what species might be in the area with a free citizen science app like ‘Merlin’, knowing who’s who, just by their song, it’s the “Pokemon Go” for future bird nerds (myself included).

Not everyone has the space but if you have a yard and want to create some lovely memories for yourself and or with children; doing a little good for local insects, birds and adding fabulous plants to the garden – here are a few suggestions:

Plan for a birdbath – up on a pedestal with a gentle slope so butterflies and bees can take a sip. Place it within sight of your kitchen window so you can catch the Robins bathing while you brew coffee. Keeping it in sight will also remind you to regularly refresh the water.

Plan for less lawn and more native plants. It’s fascinating to see a hummingbird come for nectar on Wild Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis is very easy to grow from seed) or Cardinal flowers (a good native plant for wetter areas). Penstemon is adapted to a wide assortment of conditions as is Monarda or Obedient Plant – those trumpet shaped tubules are what hummingbirds are adapted for.

No garden but maybe a safe spot from cats or traffic? A simple hanging basket of Zinnia, Salvia, Fuchsia, Petunias and/ or Nasturtiums (very easily grown from seed) will bring Hummers and Butterflies galore!  Did you know? Hummingbirds use the delicate threads of spider webs for material to build nests. And hummingbirds often steal insects that are trapped in spider webs. So leave the webs and learn to appreciate all the good spiders can do as part of the ….web of life. (pun intended)

More than just pretty, remember that birds are doing a great service to gardeners by feasting on caterpillars, ticks and generally keeping things balanced so there’s no need for pesticides or traps. (Please never use glue traps  – they can kill birds and frogs as well as small mammals). Having a beautiful yard that’s literally humming with life is one of the greatest achievements any gardener could hope for.

* want to create the right dimensions and site a bird box specifically for Tree Swallows? – instructions here:

Interested in a bird house for other species – plans for all types here:

Want great information about native plants and pollinators specific to your region? Check out (a tremendous amount of well researched information)