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Creating a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Garden

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Habitat loss is the number one threat to wildlife today. 

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With conventional landscapes being dominated by lawns, ornamental plants, and dependence on chemicals and supplemental watering, we have disturbed the balance of the ecosystem and banished the wildlife from the land we once shared. 

As an alternative, we can, however, choose to create landscapes that help restore the ecological balance. We can choose to invite the wild plants and animals back into the land, and our lives, by restoring natural landscapes in our own front and back yards. This includes implementing sustainable landscaping principles including planting with climate-appropriate and California native plants, and practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It’s easy! Just be sure that you provide the four basic needs for local wildlife to survive. These include food, water, cover, and places to raise young.

FOOD: Unless you are prepared to clean your bird feeder regularly to prevent the transmission of bird diseases, it is my opinion that it is best to feed your backyard birds “naturally” by planting a wide variety of nectar and seed-producing plants (particularly Calif. natives). In my own garden, I have plants that I allow to go to seed to feed the birds and I have plenty of nectar plants for the hummingbirds.

The birds can also be part of your pest management program by keeping down the
insect population. Insects help provide a more balanced diet than bird feeders alone. I personally have a wonderful Black Phoebe that I love to watch feast on insects that hover around my back yard pond! Butterflies require both nectar plants for the adults
and host plants to lay their eggs and provide food for caterpillars. To attract monarch butterflies, plant milkweed (asclepias).

WATER: Whether in the form of a bird bath, fountain, or a backyard pond, the easiest way to attract birds to your garden is by providing water. Birds, in particular, need a clean source of water since they so often have become dependent on polluted run-off especially in times of drought. Bird baths and fountains require regular maintenance to keep the water fresh, control algae, and prevent mosquitos. But if you want a water source that requires more up front work and cost but less daily upkeep, consider a pond. A pond also provides a habitat and water for a greater variety of wildlife including fish and frogs (which also control the mosquitos) or maybe even a turtle.

COVER: Wildlife needs to feel safe to be attracted to your garden. This can be in the form of low-growing vegetation and rocks for lizards and small creatures or mature trees for birds.

PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG: Wildlife needs a safe place to raise their young. This can include nesting boxes or an urban forest of trees. My pond not only provides water for birds and fish, it is also a great habitat for Pacific tree frogs to breed. The frogs provide a wonderful chorus during the late winter and early spring months when they are breeding and it’s great fun for children to watch the tadpoles as they emerge.

CERTIFY YOUR WILDLIFE HABITAT TODAY!

The National Wildlife Federation has certified over 75,000 yards in the U.S.! Let’s join this worthwhile program by providing for the needs of our local birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and other creatures in our own yards, schools, and community spaces. Creating a wildlife habitat also serves as a great learning experience and fun for kids! If you feel that you already qualify, visit nwf.org to complete the certification form. Once certified, you can also order the above sign from the website to proudly display in your garden.

© Lisa Burton • Nature by Design 2016