critter friendly yards

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Soon I'll be moving, and while I will take a few of my smaller Japanese maples etc. and put them in part of the front yard, I am thinking I want most of my yard to be populated by critter-friendly plants--ones that provide food, nesting spots/shelter for birds and beasts. Currently the large back yard is rather barren, with pines at the back and toward the side, so I have a decent amount of open space to chip away at. Depending on where I plant, and the things I put in eventually providing shade, most of this will be in sun or partial sun. I don't think that area is arid or particularly moist. I am in the Boston area and like to allow for all contingencies, so I generally plant things that are for zone 4. Fairly carefree but not horribly invasive would be pluses.
I am starting a list of possible plants but wonder whether folks here have some recommendations. Sites and books would also be most welcome. Thanks!
--
Jean B.

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Jean B. wrote:

Oh, ps, I should add that I do not want to use pesticides and herbicides.
--
Jean B.

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You really ought to live there at least a year before doing any major planting. Spend your first season planting foundation shurubs, you're not likely going to want to move those. In your zone spruce trees are a safe bet, and spruce is deer proof. But I'd wait on shade trees until you get a feel for where the sun strikes, how the ground drains, and have a chance to think about any structural additions like fencing, sheds, and even adding a room... and you'll need time for planning in case you want a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and berry bushes, etc.
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wrote:

Super idea and I agree. Wait until you've lived in your new home to make sure the lay of the land sort of thing.
I would recommend raspberries if there's a variety for your Zone. Not only do you get fresh berry for jellies and pies, but come fall the stalks make a good place for small bird to gather and eat oatmeal, corn etc. Mine let me know about it if they go without breakfast!
Donna in WA
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Lelandite wrote:

yard. Good idea!
--
Jean B.

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brooklyn1 wrote:

Thanks for the reminder. I KNOW that is the reasonable approach, and it is what I have done before. I am just so eager.... And working on the level of privacy in some areas would be nice.
--
Jean B.

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In your zone right now is a good time to check the nurseries for sale items, especially the big box stores, where often plants are slashed 50% and more this late in the season... even if you aren't sure where to plant you can heel them in pot and all until spring.
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brooklyn1 wrote:

feeder. I was thinking it looked very barren, but I didn't venture up the side where they stash the trees. I will do so.
I have a few here that I haven't planted because I knew I'd be moving. Another few that I just put in mulch, again because I knew I was moving. Plus a few small ones that are planted--one inappropriately (they apparently didn't loosen the material around the root ball) and a few so near the walk that they will probably be ruined by the movers.
I guess I should deal with those first. But yes, this is a great time for sales on plants, so I will see what's around.
--
Jean B.

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Can't help with specific plants but here in Oz, the way to encourage wildlife is to think in layers like ground hugging, understorey, middle layer and tree canopy and some fallen material like logs where lizards can shelter. 'Course that's always dangerous if you don't want snakes, but it is good for lizards, small marsupials, birds and middle sized animals. The middle layer and canpoy should enclude a mix of open foliage for the bigger birds and close coverage where the little birds can hide from the bigger birds who like them for breakfast. Do you have a local birdwatching group that may have site information for those who want to encourage birds? The same things that many birds like is also what other fauna aften likes.
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FarmI wrote:

I have a friend who is an avid bird-watcher, so I can ask her for guidance. I have become somewhat aware of the layering, but I should put together a cohesive plan to achieve that.
Maybe you don't think I'd be crazy to start a brush pile!
--
Jean B.

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Without knowing the size of your property and it's terrain it's difficult to make specific suggestions as to type of plants, but you might consider spending this winter perusing the various on-line resources and make a list of those plants in each catagory that appeal to you and will fit within the constraints of your property (also a good idea to take notice of your neighbor's plantings with focus on what parts of your property they shade. For example you may like Norway spruce and sycamore but those are only suitable for very large areas, like at least 5 acres... even if they will fit on an acre they won't look very attractive all squished in... and I wouldn't plant any trees in a location that were they to fall they could hit your house... and think about plant roots, you don't want them invading your foundation/septic. Don't let those tiny nursery plants fool you, they grow. Also not knowing your age makes it difficult to suggest what age plants and their growth rates you should be considering... it makes little sense for someone say over fifty to be planting saplings and expect to sit in their shade. Then it may be best to purchase larger/older specimens and pay to have the nursery plant them... even those listed as fast growing trees don't really grow all that fast... a typical red maple sapling can take 30 years to become a shade tree... and you kinda hafta cut growth rate claims by half, they assume the most ideal conditions, they don't account for poor growth years; droughts, floods, wind/ice storms... an early hard frost can easily set a tree back 3-4 years growth. I'd leave the small saplings and tiny bare root trees for the cash strapped youngsters... you need to weigh the dollars saved against the years lost.
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brooklyn1 wrote:

I am torn between larger and smaller plants having read that sometimes the smaller ones will do better and thus catch up to some degree with the larger ones.
I will be 60 in January. I guess that is a factor to some degree. I'd like to have some nice views in my lifetime. OTOH, I also believe in planting for the future--even the distant future. I am reminded of this when I drive by the house I lived in when I was a kid. My dad planted some red maples, and they are now nice trees. The big oaks that were there have mostly come down, so it is very lucky he looked ahead.
--
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We have foudn that oaks grown from acorns grow like stink if watered in our hot summers. We also planted a windbreak last spring of tube stock (at least 500 plants) about a ft high for the biggest and this summer some of them are already about 4 ft high. They were all Oz natives though so that may not be a lot of help.

It sure is! We too think about how long trees will take to grow, but there is a Japanese poem of which I am fond which says it all (although I can't remeber the line splits so you'll just have to put them in yourself):
'A man truly understands the meaning of life when he plants a shade tree under which he knows he will not sit.'

He truly understood the meaning of life.
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FarmI wrote:

That's neat. I do have some baby oaks here and will try to snag some of them. Of course, without their leaves, they may be hard to identify!

Such a person does have to have a vision that extends past his/her lifespan!

In that regard.
--
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On Thu, 19 Nov 2009 14:26:10 -0500, brooklyn1

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brooklyn1 wrote:

I agree with that. Some for more-immediate enjoyment, and some for the future.
And so I decided to plant

That's diplomatic.... I won't be seeing them.

That is a very nice situation to be in! I spoke with woman in the new neighborhood yesterday and asked about critters. She said there were deer, hawks, a fisher.... So at least there is something beyond squirrels--and I gather the hawks like to dine on them!

Are the deer in the shadowy area?

Neat!
Oh yes, now I see it in the group photo.

I will cart some starter branches to the new yard! What is that in front of the deer--and to the left?

Again, I am soooooo envious! My yard isn't nearly as large as yours, and it is in a more urban setting, but I will do what I can with it. At least there are some critters--and where there are some known ones, I suspect there are/will be more.
--
Jean B.

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Well, I'm 66 so I don't have to be too diplomatic, at 66 I don't have time to pussy foot around issues. LOL And I've never been evasive or have been known to wear blinders, I'm a tell it how it is sorta guy. If you plant a baby tree ten years later it will still be pretty much a baby tree... at 60 years old you want to plant a teenage tree... a twelve year old tree is still pretty small but at least in ten years when it finally has some semblance to a tree one can barely recognize in its mature state you will already be 70.
Shade trees don't grow very quickly, even those touted as fast growing just creep along adding only a foot or less in height each year. I planted quite a few saplings when I first arrived here seven years ago, none are what I'd now call a shade tree. The beech trees seem to barely grow at all. The gingkos are doing a little better but their new growth is brittle and weak, even the weight of small birds break off pieces so that they lose about half what they put out each year. Crabapples do better but need enough pruning that I find myself removing about half of each years growth. My blue spruce are doing well but still add only about six inches in height a year. My sycamore are doing the best but in seven years went from three foot twigs to ten foot saplings, will probably be another ten years before they'd offer enough shade to sit in without constantly moving the chair as the sun travels across the sky, if I make 76 I'll get to do that. My apple and plum trees were seven years old when I bought them and are doing well but after two years I can see that they are really not much larger, but still much better than a three year old bareroot mail order twig or a skinny potted sapling from Lowes... at this age I don't recommend buying twiggy fruit trees, go to a grower and spring for something a bit older, I paid $60 each, the apple trees actually had a few fruit on them. I bought nine larger speciments from a grower and they delivered and planted them with a small excavator, even those after seven years are not a whole lot larger but at least they look like trees... those were expensive, to buy and to plant, but they were gauranteed, all made it; a linden, two flowering pear, a hawthorne, two beech, a Kentucky coffee tree, two dawn redwood... nine trees, $3,000.

Deer like to dine on most any plant... you'll need to fence any small trees.

One is clearly out in the meadow, others are just inside the tree line, difficult to see in a photo.

Be wary about what brush you bring from elsewhere, could be polluted (toxic), diseased and harbor pests, I'd not.

Not sure what you mean... there's a big brush pile to the left just inside the entrance to that path, then all along are stacks of logs wedged between standing trees from trees I cut to open the path so that sun could get in to dry up the water from rain and run off, otherwise it was mud all summer. There are a couple of deer and a Canada goose there too. That picture was taken with telephoto from my rear deck, nearly a thousand feet away, so it's pretty distorted, compresses the length of the path, which is also about 1,000' long but looks much less in that picture.

I still suggest that you don't do anything major right away. Live there a year, be watchful and make notes and sketches depicting shaded areas in summer, areas with poor soil that seem to remain dry and don't support lush ground cover, and areas of standing water that don't drain well. This will help you eliminate areas where you won't have success planting and help you focus on the areas where you will have success. Also note areas where snow is piled from shoveling/plowing, especially areas where road salt accumulates, you really don't want to consider planting in those areas and you don't want to obviate areas you will need for piling snow. When I first moved here I din't know anything about this land, now I know where every rock is to avoid when mowing. I keep a file where I keep all the documentation for everything I planted, when, and where (with diagrams). Also, take lots of pictures. We're practically neighbors.
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brooklyn1 wrote:

I have noticed that for many years--probably ever since I got on NGs!

I will go prowling. I THINK the nurseries are done with tree work until spring, but I could be wrong. More's the pity, since fall is a good time to plant, and the ground here near Boston is not frozen.

Also, I have gleaned the knowledge that fast-growing trees tend not to be very long-lived. One strategy I have seen is to plant some of those junkier trees that give privacy while the better ones grow a bit. I

SEVEN years! Gee, how time flies. I wouldn't have guess you moved that long ago.
The beech trees seem to

I am leery of gingkos. In fact I was reminded of my reason when I visited Boston's Chinatown a few weeks ago. Egad! Now my daughter understands my comments about them.

I have a dwarf crab, which I have had in mulch for a few years. That is one thing I will plant next week. There are actually two larger crabapple trees in the yard.
My blue spruce are doing

Not too bad. Yes, I want fruit trees. I don't know whether they would be for man or for beast--I suspect the latter, although *I* will enjoy the blossoms--and seeing the critters.

Mmmm. The pros and the cons. Yes. Also deer ticks. Still, I want to see them and to encourage them in my small way.

I will look again.

Hmmm. Not even from this yard?

I thought I saw a critter with a bushy tail--much like that of the coyote that crossed the street in front of my car tonight.

Well, I think you are pretty far away. I'll get a camera with a better telephoto lens.
I will try to confine myself to minor projects this coming year and leave the larger areas until I know the lay of the land (both literally and figuratively). I do need some more privacy though, and I do have my little babies to plant.
--
Jean B.

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The observation seems to be universal.
A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit. -- Elton Trueblood (1900-1994
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. -- Nelson Henderson
He that plants a tree loves other besides himself. -- Thomas Fuller
To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world. -- Russell Page
What does he plant who plants a tree? He plants the friend of sun and sky; He plants the flag of breezes free; The shaft of beauty, towering high, he plants a home to heaven anigh. For song and mother-croon of bird, in hushed and happy twilight heard - The treble of heaven's harmony. These things he plants who plants a tree. -- Henry Cuyler Bunner, the Heart of the Tree
The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
--
When you give food to the poor, they call you a saint. When you ask why the
poor have no food, they call you a communist.
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You too :-)) I noted your name but didn't know if you chose to acknowledge our aquaintance out of context.

Do a hunt on terms like permaculture, layering and wildlife in google on US sites and that may give you some ideas. If that doesn't work I know I have a seen a number of Oz ones which explain the concept as it applies to farms (for biodiversity reasons) and, although the plants would be different, and the concept applicable to broad acreage, there is no reason why the same hting couldn't be applied to a yard - let me kno wif you'd like me to do a hunt for you and provide cites.

Nope, not at all. Even I have a brush pile which given our snake problem, I know I probably shouldn't.
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