There comes a time when you realize that perhaps trying to maintain a pristine expanse of green turf might not be the best thing for the environment, or your sanity. Instead of trying to fight nature, consider embracing the flora and fauna and making some changes to your landscaping to bring wildlife — and balance–back to your garden.
All creatures need three basic necessities in order to thrive in an environment: food, water, and shelter. Unfortunately, a traditional urban garden — consisting of designated lawn areas and planting areas — often lacks one or more of these elements.
As you transition from a “traditional” urban garden to a wildlife garden, you need to keep the specific needs of the desired animals, birds, and insects in mind.
Living creatures won’t stay in a place where they cannot locate food. In order to attract wildlife to your garden, make sure to provide plenty of food options for them. For instance, rabbits are quite fond of parsley and greens. Squirrels are attracted to nuts and seeds. Butterflies frequent gardens with nectar rich flowers. Research plants and garden accessories before you invest in them to confirm which critters they are likely to attract.
Wildlife also requires water and tends to make their homes in habitats that provide this much needed resource. Whether you invest in a fountain, install a man-made pond, or take advantage of naturally occurring ponds, streams, or creeks, make sure that the water is clean and plentiful.
If you choose to purchase a fountain or install a man-made pond, you will need to invest in an adequate pump in order to make sure that the water does not get stagnant. In the hot summer months, you will need to check the water supply to ensure that it does not dry up in the sweltering heat. Likewise, in the dead of winter, you will need to make sure that the available water source does not freeze solid.
Animals have their own ideas of what constitutes good shelter. Some animals prefer to burrow in wooded areas, some make their homes in trees, and others like rocky crevices. Make sure to provide plenty of nooks and crannies, such as limbs, rocks, and low-lying plantings so that animals can find a space that fits their needs. You should plan on planting deciduous trees and shrubs as well as evergreen varieties, as well.
Consider working natural elements into your landscape, such as re-purposing your live Christmas tree as a source of shelter after the holidays. Simply take the tree and position it near the perimeter of the garden, making sure to remove any tinsel since birds might be tempted to eat it.
Budget Saving Ideas
Gardening can get expensive, but there are many ways to make your wildlife garden kind to critters – and to your budget. Many trees and shrubs can serve as both food and shelter to various animals. For instance, if you choose to re-purpose your Christmas tree to provide shelter, it can also serve double duty as a feeding spot — simply attach suet cakes, pine cones covered with peanut butter and a sprinkling of sunflower or thistle seeds.
Fruit bearing trees and shrubs also provide shelter and food options for wildlife; as an added bonus, they also provide a delectable treat for weary gardeners. Use the tree’s fallen limbs as shelter sources for the animals that call your garden home.
Not only will your wildlife garden provide a home and sustenance to a menagerie of critters but, by gardening in a way that embraces nature rather than riles against it, you can easily save time, money, and – perhaps – even your peace of mind.
About Terri Wallace: Terri L. Wallace can be found hunkered down with her keyboard pecking out a living as a freelance writer and blogger. She is passionate about vegan chocolate, her often-untamed garden, and her menagerie of cats. She spends much of her time exploring her family’s three acres devoted to wildlife gardening in Oklahoma.