Archive for June 2, 2009

Gardening with Confidence – Creating a wildlife habitat at home

Creating a Wildlife Habitat at Home

Monarch on Buddleia

It’s summer-time, a great time to sit a spell and watch the world go by. As you relax on your deck or porch this summer, sip some tea with the wildlife.  Together you can listen to the birds sing or watch their comings and goings from the feeders.  After a pause, watch the butterflies flutter by or feel free to nod off to the melodic sound of a serenading frog.

Creating a wildlife habitat in your own backyard is simple to do and richly rewarding.  Your wildlife garden can be a container garden, window box, a corner carved out in a traditional landscape, or an entire suburban lot.

Engaging children in this activity helps create the next generation of gardeners and naturalists.

Providing food, water, cover and places to raise their young is all that is needed to create a wildlife habitat.    A walk through your property will reveal what you have already.  You may be surprised how little more you need.


To attract wildlife, provide the kinds of food wildlife need – either naturally or with supplements.  The more variety of food sources provided the greater variety of wildlife you’ll attract.  Various seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, nectar, sap, and pollen are all good food sources.   The use of regionally native plants is also recommended, providing 10 to 50 times more food to the wildlife’s likings.

Food can also be supplemented with feeders to hold seed, suet, and nectar.


A clean, reliable water source is a key part to creating a wildlife habitat.  Water is needed for drinking and bathing. Locating the water source within an easy view also makes it entertaining for the homeowner.  Providing water can be as simple as adding a birdbath.  Give multiple locations at varying heights to attract a variety of wildlife.  It is important to provide water year round, even in the winter and, of course, during times of drought.


Wildlife needs cover for protection against the elements and predators.  Having a place to escape the threat of pending danger attracts more to the garden.   A variety of plant life ranging in size, height and density with trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and ornamental grasses, will increase your chances of attracting more kinds of wildlife.


The cover provided also gives your wildlife a safe place for reproduction and nurturing wildlife young.  In a backyard, dense shrubbery or birdhouses provide safe areas for birds to nest.  Different animals have different needs, including certain wildlife requiring water to raise their young such as salamanders, frogs, toads, and dragonflies.

Sustainable gardening practices will also benefit your wildlife habitat such as controlling non-native and invasive species, eliminating or reducing the use of pesticides, use of mulch and reducing lawn size.

Share your summer; invite the wildlife.

Additional information

In 1973 the National Wildlife Federation, the nation’s leading conservation organization protecting wildlife and their habitats, began the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program.  This program provides a mechanism to certify backyard or community wildlife habitats.

For more information on the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program or to begin the easy to follow certification process, please contact NWF or 1-800-822-9919.

The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program is a wonderful resource, whether you choose to certify your backyard or to use this information as a tool to make your garden more wildlife friendly.

National Wildlife Federations Top 10 recommended native plants for the southeast:

Black Tupelo (black gum), Nyssa sylvatica

Willow Oak, Quercus phellos

Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana

American Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. Canadensis

Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria

Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata

Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens

Climbing Aster, Ampelaster carolinianus

Narrowleaf Sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius

Helen Yoest
Gardening With Confidence


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