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Top 5 Tips for Wildlife Gardening

by Mary H. Dyer April 22, 2017

Top 5 Tips for Wildlife Gardening

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

While many gardeners choose not to have wildlife visiting their gardens, others enjoy catering to the needs of wild animals and birds. If you’re one of those people, here are our top 5 tips for wildlife gardening.

1. Provide a source of water. A dependable source of drinking water is the most important thing you can do if you want to attract wildlife to your yard. If you don’t have space for a pond, even a bowl of water or a birdbath will provide water for birds and small animals. For bigger wildlife, an old bathtub, livestock watering trough or child’s wading pool will suffice. However, if you want to attract frogs or toads, the pond must have shallow or sloped edges.

2. Grow native plants and remove invasive/exotic species. Native plants provide food and protective cover, and because they are adapted to the local climate, they are naturally pest resistant and require no fertilizer. Invasive plants, on the other hand, can crowd out those useful native plants, destroy wildlife habitat and upset entire ecosystems.

3. Encourage diversity in your landscape. Stagger height with plants such as small and large shrubs, groundcovers and vines. A landscape consisting of simply trees and grass is not as attractive to wildlife and provides little protection. Plant perennials in clumps of two or three to create “islands.” Include a few plants that produce seeds, nuts, berries and cones. Don’t forget evergreens, which retain protective foliage year round.

4. Limit lawn. A neatly mowed lawn provides no useful food or protection for wildlife and requires frequent use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides. Consider removing all or part of your lawn and replacing it with ground cover, shrubs, wildflowers or native grasses. The more diverse the plant life in your landscape, the more species of wildlife you can attract.

5. Control pets. Cats and dogs pose a tremendous danger to wildlife. Cats are natural hunters, able to catch and kill small animals and birds. Dogs frighten animals away, and may catch and kill them too. Sometimes, even the smell of a pet is enough to keep wildlife away. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a trained or well-fed pet won’t threaten wildlife.

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