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While we are stewards of the land, we are also stewards of the native animals that call it home. And birds, with their declining population, need our help to keep them flying high in our shared environment. Our responsibility is to protect their home, provide them with food, and minimize the threats they face.

When I realized there was someone else who shares my deep passion for birds AND gardens, and that she wrote a whole book on making bird-friendly gardens, I knew I needed to meet and befriend her immediately. So in this episode, Jen McGuinness, aka Frau Zinnie, talks all about optimizing our gardens for our birds.

If you follow me on social media, you know that I'm a crazy bird lady. I think Frankie, my parakeet, knows that this episode is special because he’s especially loud behind the scenes.


In this episode, we learn:

  • [05:29] How Jen became a plant/bird lady
  • [08:08] What is Jen’s gateway bird?
  • [09:31] What does bird-friendly gardening mean (beyond the bird feeder)?
  • [13:17] How will a bird-friendly garden help you and your garden?
  • [14:12] What is a native plant?
  • [15:26] Bring the soothing sounds of summer to your loved ones with Wind River Chimes
  • [17:01] From balconies to backyards, grow your best garden yet with Gardener's Supply Company
  • [18:37] What do birds eat?
  • [23:07] What are the 4 major flight paths used by migratory birds?
  • [28:48] What can we put in our gardens to help birds build nests?
  • [31:41] Should you add a nesting box to your garden?
  • [33:28] Nourish your plants and attract birds with safe, organic Espoma products.
  • [35:27] How should you set up your bird baths?
  • [40:36] How should you create a bird-friendly feeder setup in your garden?
  • [45:02] How to choose bird-friendly native plants for your growing zone
  • [54:28] What are some easy DIY projects to attract birds to a small balcony/garden plot?
  • [57:53] Where can you find Jen and her book?



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Growing Joy: The Plant Lover's Guide to Cultivating Happiness (and Plants) by Maria Failla, Illustrated by Samantha Leung

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Why Bird-Friendly Gardens Matter

Bird populations are in trouble—we've lost 29% of birds in North America since 1970 and we're on track to lose another 50% in the next 50 years, according to Jen. That's a scary statistic.

But it’s not too late. There are a lot of ways we can prevent their decline. Small steps like giving them food, water, shelter, and nesting areas in our backyard can make a big difference.

Not only does this support the birds, but it gives many benefits for us too! Studies show that listening to birdsongs can actually lessen our stress. How cool is that?

Plus, birds are natural pest controllers, helping to keep insect populations in check. They’re just beneficial in so many ways.


Benefits of Native Plants

Growing native plants is crucial to our ecosystem. These are plants that have been growing naturally in your local area for centuries—without any changes.

They have formed some type of symbiotic relationship with the local birds, bugs, and wildlife over a long period of time. So the birds know that these plants will provide them food through the different seasons.

The thing is non-native plants from other parts of the world don't support local birds as well. Yes, they look pretty and aesthetic, but the birds can't really use them for food or shelter. If you fill your garden with natives, you’re basically rolling out a welcome mat for the birds.


What Birds Eat

You might be thinking that birds just eat birdseed from feeders, but their diets are actually way more diverse.

Different bird species munch on insects, berries, seeds, nuts, and even small mammals like squirrels or rabbits. Hummingbirds sip on nectar from flowering plants.

Jen recommends planting a variety of native flowers, shrubs, trees, and grasses to provide food for all your local birds. You can also leave some seed heads and berries on the plants through winter too. You can even grow plants like sunflowers and coneflowers specifically for harvesting seeds to refill your bird feeders.


Setting Up Homes for the Birds

You'll want to give birds some places to nest, bathe, and find shelter from predators or bad weather. You can install actual birdhouses or let some areas of your garden grow a little wild with thick shrubs and tall grasses. Birds love to find these cozy little spots to tuck their nests into.

Leaving piles of twigs, barks, ornamental grasses (like seagrass and big blue stem grass), and even your pet's shed fur out for birds to use as nesting material.

Note: Put up birdhouses with the right hole size for wrens, chickadees, or bluebirds. This helps prevent predators from entering their homes.

For birdbaths, get ones that are not too deep and not slippery. If they are deep, just simply add rocks to them. You can even add a solar-powered mister or fountain as they help create movement in the water and prevent insects from laying eggs in there. Besides, birds LOVE it.


Start Small to Bring the Birds

I love that we can create a healthy ecosystem for the birds while we’re gardening. You don’t have to make a huge contribution right away. You can start by adding some native plants that provide food and cover for birds. Put out a feeder and a simple birdbath. Before you know it, you'll have all kinds of birds flocking to your garden.




Mentioned in our conversation:


Thank you to our episode sponsors:

Wind River Chimes

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Gardener's Supply

From containers to raised beds, seeds to plant supports, Gardener's Supply has everything to create your dream garden oasis. They even sell edging and walkways! Gardener's is an employee-owned company run by passionate gardeners for over 40 years, and they are committed to catering to all kinds of gardeners. Whether you've got acres or just a balcony, you're sure to find everything you need for successful indoor and outdoor gardening.

Discover your garden favorites and exclusive innovations at and use code GROWINGJOY for free shipping.

Espoma Organic

If you want a thriving garden that offers an oasis for birds, set them up for success with high-quality soil, fertilizer, potting mixes and more! Espoma Organic is dedicated to making safe indoor and outdoor gardening products for people, pets, and the planet. They have an amazing variety of high-quality, organic potting mixes, garden soil, fertilizers, and pest control products that are organic and eco-friendly. To top it all off, they have a huge sustainability commitment with a 100% solar-powered plant, zero waste manufacturing, and eco-friendly packaging.

Visit to find your local Espoma dealer or check my Amazon storefront.




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