Gardening For Wildlife
Wildlife gardens create a sustainable haven for resident wild creatures. These gardens can contain a variety of habitats that cater to plants, birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals. Creating a wildlife garden can play an essential role in biological pest control, a method of controlling pests, such as insects, mites, weeds, and plant diseases, using When natures plants, pests, and their natural predators are in balance, it greatly reduces the need for pesticides. A wildlife garden also promotes biodiversity.
Fortunately, the entire yard does not need to be transformed to increase biodiversity in your space. Choose plants and ornaments with a purpose and help feed, shelter, protect, and provide a place to raise young for native species.
Attract a larger variety of wildlife by providing multiple layers of vegetation. Use a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs with perennials and annuals.
Adding native plants can make a visible difference. Many plants use an array of poisonous or nasty tasting chemical defenses to avoid being consumed. Many insects have evolved with specialized relationships with specific plants, tolerating or even benefiting from those chemicals. One example of this is the Monarch butterfly and Milkweed. The toxins in the sap of the plant make the Monarch toxic to would-be predators.  Plants that are not native, do not bring much to the food web. They have been bred for their appearance, more than for their nectar, pollen, or fruit.
Be sure to add plants that provide nectar, as well as host plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Besides growing milkweed, I always grow dill to host Swallowtail butterflies in my garden. Butterflies prefer flowers with clustered blooms that face upwards for a landing pad, such as Coneflower, Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Allium, and Zinnia. Hummingbirds prefer tubular, bell, and funnel shaped flowers such as Coral Bells, Honeysuckle, Trumpet Vine, and Penstemon.
Trees can offer nectar in the spring, a nesting place in the summer, and berries or nuts in the fall and winter.
Provide a clean water source. A shallow birdbath, small pond, or puddling dish will provide refreshment. To make a puddling dish for butterflies, mix sand and soil in a shallow pan or dish. Add water and place in a sunny location. Butterflies will gather and lap up the liquid that is full of minerals. Be sure to keep the water clean and change frequently to discourage mosquitoes.
I like to hide brush piles, logs, and rock piles behind taller plants to provide a sanctuary for insects, amphibians, reptiles, and spiders. The structures provide shelter from the elements and predators, and act as breeding grounds.
Cultivate a wildflower meadow. These can be as small as a 5’x10’ area, or over several acres. Wildflower meadows are virtually maintenance-free once established. For success, it is very important that time is invested in planning and preparation. Expect to provide management for the first 2-3 years.
Reduce or eliminate chemical pesticides and herbicides.
I love designing and installing gardens to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. This year we have installed several gardens with a focus on attracting wildlife.