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Small Changes Help Restore the Wild in This Back Yard

By Chuck Reed

Photos by Chuck Reed

With just over an acre of land on which our house sits, we can’t go big. We can, however, make a big difference. We garden for birds and pollinators. Our house is surrounded by “natural like” gardens we tend to. Paths are bordered with small diameter logs or even large tree limbs that we have gathered, some from our own trees. They rot slowly and the decaying wood is a great place for birds to find insects.

We plant to provide food and cover for wildlife. It’s amazing what we’ve learned and seen. We try to correct our previous planting mistakes so that what is growing is beneficial to critters rather than ornamental. And yes, we’ve made mistakes for sure. But our successes are on the move. We now see common and unusual migrating birds that we would never see without our gardens.

We had a female rufous hummingbird stay here a while this year. She showed up in late July and is now on record with the Augusta Bird Club as the earliest known rufous to visit Augusta County. We have lots of coral honeysuckle, which hummers like.

Brush piles dot around our house. I call them wren dens as wrens love them. Milkweed is allowed to grow as well as goldenrod and other things people often remove. We do use mulch to help us somewhat control unwanted things, about 30 yards of mulch each year. I’m less concerned about how humans perceive our gardens and more concerned how wildlife perceive it. We have sage that grows around 4’ tall and then droops down from its own weight. To the everyday human eye it may seem unkempt, but we’ve not received a single complaint from the multitudes of pollinators that visit it each summer!

Fresh shallow water is available throughout the garden year round. Small rock piles and large tree logs are also in the garden. For us, it’s like an experiment—if it works, we continue; if not, we try something else.

In the peak of summer I’ve often wondered how many living things (not plants but insects, birds and critters) are in our garden at any one time. It’s a lot! It’s cool that our passion is but a step outside of our door. Nothing flashy here. Just an ongoing attempt to give back. And what’s great is our giving back is rewarded with beautiful wildlife. The work (exercise) is good for us and the things we see and hear are good for our minds and souls.

It’s important to know that small doesn’t mean unimportant. If we can accomplish what we have with as little as we have then small is very important. I could live out my life like this and never be happier.

Chuck Reed
Spottswood, Virginia

  • January 25, 2022