#7 Create and protect wildlife habitat
Creating a wildlife friendly garden is not achieved by leaving your garden unkempt with garden waste piles and standing water for less desirable creatures. You can, however, add appeal to your landscape by encouraging birds, butterflies, lizards, frogs and a host of other beneficial native animals and insects to visit or reside in your garden.
- By choosing to develop and maintain a garden that follows a few basic wildlife-friendly steps you can help contribute to a better local environment while reducing your water usage and maintenance costs, conserving local flora and fauna, and making our urban areas more ecologically sustainable.
- Some birds and insects help to seed and pollinate many of our garden trees, plants, and food crops. We rely on pollinators to pollinate 1/3 of the foods we consume. Our plants and trees benefit from this essential activity, and we can support the declining population of some pollinators by providing a food source for them.
- It is enjoyable to witness the activities of natural visitors in our gardens. They also have the added benefit of helping to naturally control garden pests.
- Read on to learn how to create a wildlife friendly garden and become an environmental volunteer in your own backyard!
Incorporate plants that provide foliage, nectar, berries, nuts, seeds, and pollen which will serve as a food source for wildlife. If you are interested in encouraging certain wildlife, such as hummingbirds or butterflies, plant food sources they feed on. You can make more room for wildlife-friendly plants by reducing or eliminating lawn areas. Turf grass does not provide any needs for wildlife, whereas, ornamental grasses or shrubs may provide seeds, berries, or other food sources. Additionally, California native plants will attract native wildlife, require less water, and have fewer pest problems.
Providing a water source for drinking, bathing, and reproduction is also an important step in creating a wildlife habitat. Water sources can be natural or man-made. Common man-made features are ponds, water fountains, bird baths, and rain gardens. Discourage mosquitoes by providing recirculating water, encouraging beneficial insects, and avoiding the use of chemicals that are harmful to wildlife.
Establishing a place of shelter in your garden for wildlife to take cover from bad weather, to be protected from predators or to nest will attract migrating or native wildlife. You can provide man-made products such as bat boxes, owl boxes, and bird houses or natural settings such as brush piles, thickets, or large natural shaped bushes and trees.
The use of loud garden equipment, such as lawn mowers, chain saws, or blowers disrupt the secure atmosphere wildlife needs to thrive. Avoid the use of broad spectrum pesticides which may harm bees, butterflies, birds and beneficial predatory insects. Identify your garden problems and use the least toxic solution. In many cases safer alternatives can be implemented instead of chemical means to control the pest problem. Avoid overwatering garden plants as it can create unwanted insects and divert pesticides to water sources.
After incorporating these practices into your garden, it may qualify to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat, a program administered through the National Wildlife Federation.
More information on creating a wildlife friendly garden:
Healthy Yards, National Audubon Society
Butterfly Garden and Habitat Program, North American Butterfly Association