How do you attract wildlife to your garden?
Okay – I know some kinds of wildlife just aren’t welcome in our gardens. Nobody wants rabbits eating their lettuce and carrots or deer decimating the flowers from the rose bushes and the dahlias. I’ve had my share of deer damage – right down to eating all my tomatoes, including the foliage and decimating the daylily flowers night after night.
Snails in the lettuce make me gag, and I hate it when those pretty robins get to my ripe strawberries before I can.
But some kinds of wildlife are beneficial to gardens, and we should welcome those. Wildlife in the garden helps our eco-structure and certain insects, birds, butterflies, bees and bugs are all beneficial to our garden plants as well as garden life cycle.
Here are six tips on how to attract beneficial wildlife into the garden:
Feed the birds
Use apples, peanuts, seeds, and fat balls and watch the number of wild birds in your garden increase. Tack a couple of your seedy sunflower heads to the fence for the chickadees to find. Feeding the wild birds is even more important in the winter when food supplies are scarce. And don’t forget fresh water as birds do have a need to drink as well.
Encouraging birds to take up summer residence in your yard not only provides entertainment, it provides you with an ever vigilant flock of bug catchers. They will be on the prowl for all kinds of bugs that might be attacking your plants every day of the season.
Make a welcoming habitat
Make or put up habitats that attract wildlife to your garden. This includes birdhouses and shelters for birds as well as, butterflies, bees and other insects. You can find plenty of choices at the garden center or simply make your own with a little wood and a few other materials. Year after year, a pair of barn swallows made their nest right inside our semi-open garden shed, and they spent days swooping after pesky mosquitoes!
Leave some of the shrubby growth in the corners of your yard for birds to nest in and provide protection from predatory cats. Plant trees that provide food for birds – crabapple and mountain ash are a couple to consider.
I’ve always found installing a birdbath is a great attraction for birds to visit the yard. The small sparrows, bluebirds and finches seem to love this special ‘spa’. It also provides a source of water through the hot summer days.
Plant wild flowers
Meadow or wild flowers look lovely and natural in the garden but also serve to attract a large number of friendly insects, from butterflies to ladybugs to bees and even birds. Adding an area or bed of local wildflowers will really increase the abundance of beneficial wildlife in your garden.
You can order simple seed packets online or purchase them at your garden center. These are very easy to grow as they are used to growing under the most natural conditions. This also means that you won’t have to worry about watering a certain patch of your garden, which in turn helps the environment.
Build a wildlife pond
Attract wildlife to your garden by adding a water feature. Building a small pond doesn’t have to be difficult or a big task. Even a large sized plant pot or urn will do. Choose one without a hole in the bottom.
Make a hole in the ground roughly the size of the pot and insert the pot into the ground so only one inch or so of the pot is sticking out of the ground. Insert a few large rocks in the bottom of the pot (this will help frogs and other water animals have a place to support themselves on). Add the water, and a small circulating pump, to keep the water fresh.
Several water plants in the pot make it more beautiful and inviting – Mentha cervina and Nasturtium aquaticum are good choices, but your local garden center staff can easily help you choose appropriate ones too. Sit back and observe the aquatic wildlife flourish.
Remember to always use precautions if young children will be using the garden.
Plant a herb garden
Borage, chives, comfrey, fennel, hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, lovage, mint, rosemary and thyme all encourage beneficial insects as well as producing delicious ingredients for the kitchen. My thyme, lavender and rosemary literally ‘buzz’ all summer with the hordes of honey bees they attract.
Many of these herbs are also beautiful additions to the yard, providing varying shades of green, lovely blossoms and different textures to please the eye.
Don’t be a manicurist
The best way to attract wildlife to your garden is to leave it a bit “natural.” Let certain corners of the garden become a little woodsy or overgrown – wildlife thrives in these conditions. When your trees lose their leaves don’t pick them all up. Piles of leaves and the prunings from shrubs and tree are great habitats for birds and other nature creatures.
Our native wildlife is under pressure like never before – from erosion of habitats, climate changes, chemicals and diseases such as those affecting bees. But with a little effort we can all do our bit to help. We will also improve our own personal environment, by encouraging the birds, butterflies and bees we love to see.