A Backyard in Queens: Design Challenge

Photo © Strictly Amateur Scott

Design Challenge takes photos of tricky spots in people’s yards and puts them out there for advice from the professionals at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and from our broad audience of participants, some of whom have some serious wildlife gardening credentials (just check out our Featured Sites for proof).

The Details

Location: Queens, New York
Eco-Region: Eastern Broadleaf Forest Oceanic Province
Planting Zone: 7b
Learn more about this place by reading it’s Local Resources Page.

This typical suburban backyard in Queens, New York is interested in upgrading to a more diverse urban habitat that can support a greater variety of bird species and have the power to attract and sustain a robust selection of pollinators. The backyard receives about 8 hours of sun and is usually pretty dry, except the area under the trees where it is shaded. The owners feed the birds regularly with seed and suet, but would like more than the regular group of pigeons to visit.

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Photo ©

Cornell Says:
I see this common condition a lot in suburban yards. A fenced in square lawn with a couple of bushes or trees can be as boring to the homeowner as it is for wildlife. It is great to have the space and the determination to improve it for your own benefit and enjoyment as well as for the birds’. Begin by adding garden beds along the edges and rounding out the corners of the fenced in area, leaving a patch of lawn in the center for open space and recreation. In this particular lawn, the owner could incorporate the tree stump, in the bottom left corner, into the garden bed and add a birdbath to it. Line the sunny left edge with a hearty selection of sun loving, seed producing wildflowers like Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) to attract American Goldfinch and other seed loving birds. Some Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and a few Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) will bring in hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. To liven up the back shaded area you might put in a chipped path through a selection of shade tolerant wildflowers. Some Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis) would add color and brighten it up, making it more appealing to all.

To our readers: What other native wildflowers or small shrubs would you suggest adding into a suburban backyard to encourage wildlife visitors?

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