If you’re an early riser like myself, you know that the pre-dawn morning air is softer and sweeter than any other time of day. There are fewer car sounds, and you can hear birds, bees, and rustling leaves. Somehow, standing outside in a quiet morning hour, I feel as though anything is possible. As the day progresses, it becomes more difficult to hear those natural sounds, partly because humanity is noisy and partly because I get busy and forget to listen for them.
Research has shown that natural sounds can reduce pain and improve mood. They even make us kinder and less likely to feel annoyed. So how can you create a soundscape? And how can we add natural sounds to homes? Let’s find out.
It’s no surprise that we plant gardens for fruits, herbs, or vegetables, colorful flowers, or fragrant aromas. We’ve already talked about sensory gardens and scent gardens, but you can create a garden for its sounds, too.
Barriers against noise
Add fencing, hedges, or a tree line to block the sounds of traffic and other distractions. There are other benefits to these noise barriers. Some hedges are fragrant, while others produce food. Ornamental Thuja plicata ‘Atrovirens’ smells like pineapple when crushed. Or you can harvest blueberries from a berry hedge. Just be careful with bamboo. While some varieties can grow very tall rather quickly, they can spread and become invasive. Keep in mind that sound can travel around barriers.
While adding bird feeders is often touted as a good way to attract our avian friends, research is beginning to show that these unnatural food sources are disrupting natural migration patterns and increasing the incidence of bird diseases. Rather than being part of that problem, reach out to your local native plant society. They can help you identify the best plants for attracting native birds and beneficial insects without creating problems. Those native plants often have the added advantage of requiring less effort on your part.
Annual honesty (Lunaria annua) provides lovely flowers in summer and bright fluttering sounds through autumn and winter. Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) provides beautiful flowers and fairy rattles that remain standing for quite some time.
Indoor soundscapes are trickier to create. Unless you open the window, there aren’t any breezes. And you probably don’t want any birds or buzzing insects flitting about in your kitchen. In fact, I was unable to find any advice online aside from adding yet another app to my daily life. No thanks.
As a child, I had a sequence of pet parakeets. I loved them and I like to think that I took good care of them. As an adult, however, I would never put a bird in a cage. Heck, even my chickens had tons of running around room. But now that I live in an apartment high-rise, things have changed. I could do what my upstairs neighbor does and feed the birds to get more bird sounds. Of course, that also means more bird poop on my balcony and it messes with the birds’ natural cycles. That being said, I do have a hummingbird feeder, which brings the sound of their wings to my daily life. I could add a native seed-producing plant to my balcony. I’ll have to check with my local native plant society for that one. Cats and dogs certainly add natural sounds (and love) to your home. A fish tank will add the sound of moving water to your home, but I don't know if fish can love people or not.
Probably the easiest way to add natural sounds to your home is with an indoor tabletop fountain or waterfall. There’s just something about the sound of trickling water that soothes us humans [and drives beavers into a dam-building frenzy]. Most of these tabletop water features are quite small and easy to care for, making them perfect for apartments. You may even be able to grow some watercress in one. I'm not sure if it would work, but it might be fun to try.
Add some natural sounds to your environment for a more relaxed, happy, and healthy day.
Did you know that plants can hear? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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