Few people have gardens now. But they do have colony parks. And most people do nothing about their parks except blame the local Municipality for not looking after them. They use the parks as cricket grounds, dumping yards, no man’s land, a place for ayahs and children to sit in the evenings. Anything but the oxygen belt that it is supposed to be. When you design and look after a park, you are simply looking after your own life and the value of your property.
Among my most memorable moments of childhood are the discoveries of birds nesting in the garden. Nests captivate people of all ages and can stimulate a lifelong interest in nature. As people learn to enjoy the beauty of bird life around their home, they may wish to improve the “habitat” in their parks so that more birds will visit. You can attract birds by placing bird feeders, nest boxes, and bird baths in the park, and by planting a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers. These can provide good nesting sites, winter shelter, places to hide from predators, and natural food supplies that are available year-round.
So many benefits can be derived from landscaping to attract birds to your park: You can probably double the number of bird species with a good landscaping plan. Most birds in cities die because they have no nesting spots, no food and no water. You can populate your entire colony with birds. By arranging your trees, you can lower winter heating and summer cooling bills for all the houses around the park. Plants prevent soil erosion. You will have less dust flying around in the area. A good landscaping plan will contribute to a beautiful, natural setting around your home that is pleasing to people as well as birds. It will also increase property values. A fun hobby is to keep a list of all the birds seen in the park. I have over 20 species of birds in my garden. A habitat can stimulate young people to develop a lifelong interest in wildlife and conservation.
Some plants that attract wildlife are also appealing to people. Berries like shehtoot, jamun, kamrakh, amla can be shared by people and wildlife. Landscaping for birds involves nine basic principles: While it might be difficult to learn the food habits of the birds you wish to attract, the basic requirement would be fruit, berries, grain. Semal, pipal, neem are important. Shrubs and flowers can also provide nectar, seeds and berries. Different trees provide food at different times of the year. For instance ber in winter, semal in spring, mango in summer. You can probably double the number of bird species by providing a source of water. A frog pond, water garden, or bird bath will get lots of bird use, especially if the water is moving. Birds need places where they can hide from predators and escape from severe weather. Trees (including hollow ones), shrubs, tall grass, and bird houses provide excellent shelter. Don’t use any pesticides in the park and ask the Municipal gardeners not to do it either.
By arranging your trees, you can lower winter heating and summer cooling bills for all the houses around the park. Plants prevent soil erosion. You will have less dust flying around in the area. A good landscaping plan will contribute to a beautiful, natural setting around your home that is pleasing to people as well as birds. It will also increase property values.
Plants that are important to create a habitat are: Grasses that can provide cover for ground nesting birds – especially if the area is not mowed during the nesting season. Some grasses and legumes provide seeds as well. Leave a tiny area aside for grass and what you call weeds, but which are plants that are brought in by the birds themselves as they are of medicinal use.
Nectar-producing shrubs and vines are very popular for attracting hummingbirds and orioles. Flowers with tubular red corollas are especially attractive to hummingbirds. Hibiscus and hamelia are both pretty and attractive to birds
Planting in the park and maintaining it is not just fun but inexpensive. Even if every family around the park pays Rs 20 a month it can be done. No park needs round the clock maintenance. You can buy the trees at a nursery or plant the seeds of the fruit you eat in pots and then transplant them in the park when they become saplings. You can protect them by making circles of broken brick around them. You might be able to get the trees from the local council’s own nursery or a nursery might donate some plants in exchange for some publicity. If the children are involved and one plant is given to each for maintenance, with a yearly prize for the best plant, this becomes part of their learning experience. Talk to your colony association. Perhaps the parks in the colony can have a friendly competition on the species of birds they attract. If time is a problem, water the garden early in the morning or at dusk. In any case this is when evaporation is less so less water is needed. The earthenware bird baths scattered in various spots so some are in shade and others in the open can be assigned to the children as a regular chore of checking, cleaning them out and refilling them.
Draw a map of the park. Identify buildings, sidewalks, power lines, buried cables, fences, existing trees, shrubs. Consider how your plan relates to the houses (will the tree you plant shade out someone’s vegetable garden?) Map sunny or shady sites, low or wet sites, sandy sites. Identify areas for pets, benches, pond, playing and paths, also an area where a pit can be made where people throw their vegetable peels so that free organic manure is available. Ask the houses to keep a bucket near the kitchen sink and dump non-sudsy water in it (such as the fluid from canned goods or the water that a pan has been soaked with or the water that you wash fruit or vegetables before eating) – this water can be dumped on the garden along with all your food scraps.
Trees should be drawn to a scale that represents three-fourths of their mature width and shrubs at their full mature width. This will help you calculate how many trees and shrubs you need. There is a tendency to include so many trees that eventually your yard will be mostly shaded. Be sure to leave open sunny sites where flowers and shrubs can thrive. It’s easy to make and maintain a park. You will not only enjoy yourself but save the world as well.