Think Wildlife When Planting Your Garden

November 18, 2008

by Lesa Parham

When landscaping or planting gardens, don’t forget these basic strategies to attract and welcome wildlife to your yard. When you sit down with your morning coffee, the site of a bright blue jay or cardinal is a nice pick-me-up during the dead of winter.

1. When planting, make sure to include shrubs or trees that provide food sources for your feathered friends. Birds love anything with berries, seeds, fruit or nectar. You may be treated to a colorful migrating bird such as a tanager, oriole, or Cedar Waxwing if they stop for a snack along the way. Butterflies help to pollinate your garden and are attracted to flowers containing nectar such as the Aster, Jupiter’s-beard, red bee-balm (use the leaves to make Earl Grey tea), or purple anise hyssop. Trees with nuts and seeds are essential for squirrels and chipmunks.

2. Provide a variety of vegetation to provide not only a food source, but nesting area, and protection from predators or the elements. Have some groundcover, flower vines, trees and shrubs. Make sure there are lots of nooks and crannies for quick getaways.

3. Water can be in short supply during the winter months and it’s vital to keep a source of dripping water available. It should be low to the ground, but protected from

cats or other predators. There are drippers that can be added to birdbaths to help keep the water moving. Keep the water in your birdbath no deeper than 2 inches and change it often.

Don’t forget to clean the birdbaths from time to time to prevent the spread of disease and conjunctivitis.

4. Set aside an area with some nesting materials such as a burlap or net bags, small pieces of string (less than 2 inches long), or clean dryer lint.

5. Provide additional food in the form of suet balls, nuts and seeds or dried fruit in bird feeders. If you string popcorn or cranberries on your Christmas tree, place the strands on your outside trees after the holidays.

6. Set up perches for birds and butterflies using dead twigs. A thin pole made of bamboo, stuck in the ground is the perfect resting spot for dragon flies. A simple flowerpot overturned and propped up with a rock, provides a hiding spot for visiting toads or other critters.

7. Garden ponds make great little homes for frogs, but if you want fish in your pond, they tend to eat the frog eggs and tadpoles. Have plenty of camouflage and protection such as rocks, vegetation and perches for them to escape to. Layer flag stone to create shallow areas for visiting birds to bathe.

8. To attract Chimney Swifts, build a small wooden (fire-free) chimney as a nesting tower and bird house.

9. Don’t remove that old dead tree. Create a garden sculpture by hanging interesting bird houses or feeders from its branches. They also make perfect habitats for birds and small animals.

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