Wednesday, August 11, 2010

10 Tips for Creating a Wildlife Friendly Garden

It is hard to deny the magic that wildlife adds to a home landscape. Birds provide background music. Butterflies perform beautiful ballets as they dance from flower to flower. Squirrels and hummingbirds provide acrobatic displays that elicit both laughter and awe. Providing for these garden creatures allows you to help the environment while bringing a close-up view of nature that can restore a sense of wonder to you, your family and any visitors who are lucky enough to be invited to your private, peaceable kingdom.

Below are ten tips that you can use to create a backyard wildlife habitat:

1) Choose plants that provide food for birds and wildlife. Plants can be both host and larval foods for butterflies; can produce wildlife food sources such as acorns, nuts, berries and seeds; or can attract insects that are food for birds or reptiles.

2) Choose native plants. Native plants are, logically, often the best choice for native (local), wildlife. At the same time, native plants require less fertilizer, water and pest control, which helps to prevent groundwater pollution.

3) Provide supplemental feeders. Providing supplemental feeders often allows us to gain a better look at visiting wildlife. However, feeders need to be cleaned regularly to insure the health of visiting wildlife.

4) Provide a water supply. All wildlife needs a clean water supply for drinking. Others use water to bath, clean their food or even breed. A water supply such as a lake, pond or wetland can be the most exciting element in your garden because of the wildlife it will attract. Supplemental water supplies can be added with birdbaths or man-made ponds. Even shallow saucers of water placed on the ground or puddling areas will be welcome water supplies to low-level wildlife.

5) Provide shelter for wildlife. Dense trees and shrubs make excellent shelter for fleeing birds or small mammals. Add natural elements to your landscape to provide shelter. Rock piles, brush piles, and dense ground cover provide protection for reptiles, snakes and ground birds.

6) Avoid chemicals in your landscape! Chemicals can harm wildlife as well as the insects that they eat.

7) Garden with care. Many birds and other creatures raise their young in low bushes and shrubs. Butterflies raise their young (caterpillars) on some of our favorite garden plants. Mow, prune and trim with caution to avoid critter catastrophes.

8 ) Keep wandering pets out of wildlife areas. Scientists estimate that nationwide, hundreds of millions of birds and billions of small mammals are killed by dogs and cats each year.

9) Provide Places to Raise Young. Many of the items that provide shelter also provide places for wildlife to raise their young. Mature trees, dense shrubs, fallen logs, hollow trees and dens in the ground are perfect nesting locations for many animals. Larval host plants are considered places to raise young for a butterfly garden. Supplemental items such as nest boxes and bat boxes can also be added to a habitat.

10) Practice eco-friendly gardening. Everything you do in your landscape can have an effect on the overall health of the soil, air, water and habitat for native wildlife. Visit the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog often to learn how to create a landscape that is healthy for you and for local wildlife.

Once you have created your wildlife habitat, you can join the thousands of other enthusiasts who have been recognized for their efforts by applying for certification through the National Wildlife Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat Program.

Creating a wildlife habitat is definitely a wonderful way to help take care of your share of the planet.


  1. Thanks for including NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat program in your post, Betsy. Have a wonderful day!

  2. Have you read:
    Tallamy, D.W. (2007). Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens. Portland, OR: Timber Press? Makes the case for native plants, well worth a read.

  3. Hi Judy. I looked that book up on Amazon and it doesn't look like one I've read. I'll have to look for it! Thanks for the suggestion.


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