Gardening for Wildlife: Creating a Backyard Habitat

Bfly    Spring and Summer in Your Backyard


Maintaining your Backyard Wildlife Habitat throughout the year, keeps you busy in your garden, while keeping your yard attractive to wildlife, and active!



Based on the necessary provisions required to create a suitable environment attractive to wildlife, here is a checklist for maintaining your Habitat during the growing season:




Provide Food Sources:


A natural choice is to choose plants that provide natural foods such as fruits, seeds, nuts, and nectar, for backyard wildlife throughout the year. Native perennials and annuals provide nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are attracted to tubular-shaped, red flowers like bee balm, wild columbine, and native honeysuckles. Butterflies tend to prefer flat or clustered flowers, like purple coneflower, phlox, and zinnias.


Bird feeders supplement natural food provided by native plants. Special feeders provide nectar for hummingbirds during the summer, and into the fall. Every few days, change the nectar in hummingbird feeders, frequently in hot weather. Every time you refill them, Wash them thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse completely. Pay special attention to the feeder ports, as you wash these feeders, as they can easily get black mold on them, especially in hot weather.


 A variety of seeds (such as sunflower,
niger, safflower, and millet) should be provided for other birds year-round. Feed only as much food as your birds will eat in a day. Bird seed should be kept dry. Always be sure to remove any seed or fruit that is molded or spoiled. 


It’s important to keep feeders clean, to keep avian diseases from spreading. Keep feeders clean by washing them thoroughly every few weeks, using hot water, a mild soap, and rinsing thoroughly. Allow feeders to dry before refilling.


If you provide suet, use rendered suet or heat-resilient suet blocks. Reduce amount of suet offered during the hot weather months, as heat can make it turn rancid, thus unhealthy for birds, and can also stick to their feathers.





Provide a Water Source:


Wildlife needs water for drinking, bathing, and for some species, also for reproduction. Water can be supplied in a birdbath, a small pond, a recirculating waterfall, or simply in a shallow dish. If you have a natural pond, stream, or wetland on your property, preserve or restore it as these are excellent aquatic habitats.


A small pond set into the ground provides water for drinking, bathing, cover, and breeding areas for small fish, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.


Keep a watch on your birdbaths, and be sure to keep them fresh, clean water in them. The water should be changed daily. Every few days, empty the birdbath, scrub it with water and white vinegar solution or hot soapy water, using a stiff-bristled brush, and rinse.





Provide Protective Cover:


Include some evergreen trees and shrubs in your backyard habitat, to provide protective cover from weather and predators year-round. Choices that provide food as well, include: juniper, hollies, and oaks.


Deciduous trees and shrubs offer effective summer cover for both nesting and protective cover.


Rock, log, and mulch piles offer cover. Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other small animals make homes in these structures.


Provide cover and a source of seeds, by leaving dead flower heads and grass stalks standing. Collect fallen branches and add to a brush pile.




Sustainable Gardening Practices ~ During the Growing Season:


By choosing native plants suited to the site conditions, little maintenance, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or additional watering will be necessary for the plants to thrive. This creates a healthy habitat for you, your family, and the wildlife your backyard habitat, while saving you money and maintenance time. Try to avoid, or at least minimize the use of chemicals; try natural and organic solutions.




Provide Places to Raise Young:


Understanding the habits of the backyard wildlife helps in providing a suitable habitat:


Evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs provide nesting areas for birds.


Dead and dying trees (“snags”) provide nesting places for owls, flying squirrels, and other cavity-nesters.


Rabbits, shrews, mice, snakes, and salamanders lay their eggs or raise young under the boughs of plants, as well as in rock, log, or mulch piles.


Nest boxes are preferred by bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, and purple martins.


Aquatic animals like frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies, and many insects, deposit their eggs in ponds, vernal pools, and wetlands.


Butterflies require “host” plants as food sources for butterflies during the larval (caterpillar) stage. Generally, butterflies lay their eggs on host plants preferred by the caterpillar.

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