The tips below are aimed at helping you as you plan your wildlife garden, select plants, and shape your yard's habitats. These tips are not aimed at any one type of garden and can be applied as easily to window boxes, balcony plantings, and city plots as they can to sprawling suburban yards or rambling rural lots.
1. Use native plant species in your garden.
The single most important thing you can do to attract wildlife to your backyard, no matter how big or small a plot you tend, is to incorporate native plant species into your garden. Native plant species are those plants that naturally occur in your region. They have evolved in your area and are therefore suited to the full spectrum of local conditions. Native plans are adapted to local soil conditions and weather extremes and as a result, they are easier to grow and maintain—they require less fertilizer, less pest control, and less watering to keep them healthy. Best of all, native plants attract native wildlife—birds, insects, and mammals.
To invite the unique ecology of your area into your backyard, use as many native plants as possible in your gardening endeavors. Of course, if you already have a well established garden that contains non-natives, you don't have to dig everything up. Instead, start by making a small patch for native plants, or as non-native plants throughout your garden die, replace them with natives.
There are two practical steps you must take in order to bringing native plants to your garden. The first is to identifying plants native to your area and the second is to find out where to buy those plants. Fortunately, there are many organizations available that can provide you with the information and plants you need:
- Native Plant and Wildlife Organizations
- North American Native Plant Society
- Recovering Vanishing Flora
- Native Plant Finder
- Native Plant Database
- Directory of Recommended Species, Special Collections, and Plant & Seed Sales
2. Avoid the use of harmful chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides).
It's discouraging to see the hard work and money that you invested in planting flowers and shrubs disappear when animals make a meal of a new plant or a rogue weed takes hold in your flowerbed. It may be tempting to combat these 'pest' species with herbicides or pestisides. But remember, all species are part of nature and the best way you can preserve the health of your garden is to use environmentally friendly means of protecting your plants. For more information, please see:
- Make Your Own Non-Toxic Pesticides
- Have a Healthy Garden Naturally
- Protect Your Roses Without Using Chemicals
- Have a Healthy Lawn Naturally
3. Provide a water source for animals that visit your garden.
Unless you're fortunate enough to have a natural pond in your backyard or a stream meandering through your lot, you'll need to provide a source of water for the wildlife that visits your garden. This can be as simple as a small dish that you fill each morning with fresh clean water each day. Or you can invest in a birdbath or build a small pond. The important thing is that the water source is kept fresh and clean. Also, you might consider placing several water sources, of various types, throughout the garden. You can place some in areas with more shelter so timid animals don't feel exposed to preditors by having to cross a vast expanse of lawn to get to water.
4. Plan various habitats to attract a wide range of animals.
Diversity of habitats in your garden often means diversity of animal visitors. Plan a variety of features if possible, such as a pond area, a grassy area, a wooded area, and so forth.
5. Get involved and continue to learn
There are a growing number of organizations and programs that encourage backyard conservation making it easier than ever before to access the information you need to plant a healthy garden and bring wildlife into your own outdoor space.