Inviting birds into your life can only bring good things. Instead of putting up any old birdhouse, give your winged friends an eco-retreat with a green-roofed garden shelter. Store-bought birdhouses can be modified to host a living roof or you can devise your own. Tiny succulents, which thrive with minimal soil or water, are a natural choice of plant materials.
There are almost as many styles of birdhouses as there are bird species. The only prerequisite for adding plants is that the roof has at least a slight pitch for drainage. If a birdhouse roof had drain holes on the bottom like a pot, the birds would be wet, unhappy campers. Instead, the water needs to trickle out from drain holes on the edges, which is only possible if the roof is sloped.
The simplest way to contain soil on the roof of a birdhouse is to add a frame of sides made of 1-by-2 lumber. You will need 1 of these frames for a shed style roof and 2 for a peaked roof.
- Cut the wood to match the dimensions of the birdhouse roof and glue the pieces together into a frame using epoxy.
- Glue the 1-by-2 frame(s) to the roof with the same epoxy.
- Paint or stain the wood to match the rest of the birdhouse.
- Drill 3/8-inch drain holes every 2 inches along the base of the 1-by-2s at the bottom edges of the roof.
- Fill each frame with a lightweight potting mix.
- Select succulents in the tiniest possible pots, so their root systems can fit into the shallow soil. Plant them into the potting mix, patting the soil firmly around the roots.
- Spread a thick, fluffy layer of sphagnum moss around the base of the plants as mulch.
- Cutting angles on the ends of the 1-by-2s so they meet evenly at the peak of the roof can be bit tricky. For this reason, birdhouses with a 'shed-style' roof (a single sloped plane) are easiest to work with if your carpentry skills aren't up to par.
- If the pitch of the roof is more than 20% (a 1 to 5 ratio of rise over run), cut chicken wire to the dimensions of the roof and attach it to the 1-by-2s with heavy-duty staples to help hold the soil in place. Plant the rooted stems of the succulents through the holes in the wire and cover with moss to conceal it.