How To Transform Your Yard into a Wildlife Habitat

A garden of mixed flowers bring a variety of birds and pollinators.

A frittillary butterfly is attracted to the bright orange and pollen-rich tithonia in my summer garden.
A frittillary butterfly is attracted to the bright orange and pollen-rich tithonia in my summer garden. | Source

Berries, rosehips, and spent seed heads are delightful winter feasts for foraging birds:

Interesting Fact:

Sunflowers are allelopathic which means they can inhibit growth and bloom of nearby plants. Be careful about sprouts at bird feeders, composting, and turning spent plant parts back into the soil.

One of my greatest pleasures is waking up to the lovely sound of the birds. Their excited activity and chatter energizes me! The hummingbirds are already active at the feeder outside my kitchen window while I make my coffee, and I can't wait to enjoy it while watching the birds and squirrels foraging in my backyard! The canopy of trees and my birdbath attract many visitors, but it is the selection of plants with their fruits, seeds, berries, and insects that will keep them returning day after day and season to season.

A garden may be a small sensible plot or a grand display of majestic trees, sweeping lawns, and floral displays like a city's arboretum. Despite design and scale, they all have one thing in common: each is a complete eco-system. These spaces are teeming with life both visible and unseen.

We use these spaces to give our homes curb appeal, to grow our victory gardens, or to provide places of beauty and fragrance for relaxation and outdoor entertainment. Birds, insects, reptiles, and small mammals use them for food, shelter, and reproduction. Whether we notice or not, our gardens are sustaining a host of living things. Even our soil is alive with both beneficial microbes and fungi which help our plants grow vigorously and decomposers such as worms, ants, and pillbugs which break down organic waste. It is an active eco-system!

Consider the Wildlife: Next time you visit your nursery, look beyond the showiest blooms. In addition to making selections well- suited for your soil, light exposure, and zone, think of the wildlife that depends on your choices. If you like hummingbirds, for example, consider which plants attract them. These are often red and orange with fluted or bell-shaped flowers. Bees prefer golden yellow, but will frequent flowers in blues and purples along with many butterflies. Choose some berry-producing shrubs and seed-producing flowers for your songbirds. Globe thistle, arbutus, viburnum, service berry, toyon, sunflowers, and holly will keep them around through the seasons. Encourage pollinators such as butterflies, moths, and bees. Buddleia, hollyhock, verbena, yarrow, agastache, and milkweed are great choices for butterflies. Night-active moths like fragrant plants such as cestrum, honeysuckle, nicotiana, and cereus. Great bee attractors include herbs like thyme, rosemary, borage, and lavender as well as flowering coreopsis, tagetes, gallardia, and caryopteris.

http://www.butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm



A Southern Alligator Lizard needs rocks or walls for warmth and leaf litter or burrows for shelter. They are a great benefit for the pest control of grasshoppers.
A Southern Alligator Lizard needs rocks or walls for warmth and leaf litter or burrows for shelter. They are a great benefit for the pest control of grasshoppers. | Source

Add a birdbath, toad house, or lizard habitat to keep your areas naturally pest-free. Toads like to rehydrate in shallow pools and saucers then retreat under logs, rocks, and low leafy plants. Lizards and skinks prefer warm surfaces for lounging such as rocks, concrete, and terra cotta. Keep these things tucked into garden beds and along borders. Mulches of leaf-litter are perfect places for lizards to hide while feasting on the insects there. Take some time to research your native flora and fauna. Choose to attract your personal favorites.


Encourage your kids to create a cute and functional habitat for ladybugs, bees, and other beneficial insects:

Source

Native milkweeds give monarchs protection from predators.

Asclepias (milkweed) repels scrub jays and other birds who dislike the bitter smell and taste it imparts to the monarchs and other  butterflies which feed on it as larva. Look for local native varieties.
Asclepias (milkweed) repels scrub jays and other birds who dislike the bitter smell and taste it imparts to the monarchs and other butterflies which feed on it as larva. Look for local native varieties.

Monarch butterfly tip:

Choosing native species of milkweed for monarch butterflies is best. Although the tropical variety, Asclepias curassavica is one of the most commonly sold commercial varieties, it is now thought to throw off the migration time-table because of its longer bloom period. As a result, the butterflies' survival is jeopardized by rain, colder temperatures, and predatory mites. They should be cut to the ground at the end of summer.

Don't Be Too Tidy: Gardens are not meant to be flawless. They are places to witness the cycles of life. Be willing to sacrifice a bit of your personal Eden. Take off your glasses and step back. Do you really need to be concerned about perfect tidiness and stressed over chewed leaves and earwigs in your roses? Those caterpillars will soon become lovely butterflies, and the insects bring hungry birds who will linger in search of tasty tidbits. Fallen leaves create a natural mulch which conserves moisture and dissuades weeds from sprouting. It also provides shelter for small creatures. Instead of reaching for a pesticide, consider the balance of things and the natural food chain. Even organic insecticides which target some nuisance bugs will cause a proliferation of others, and, like chemical controls, should only be applied when bees are NOT active.

Always start with the least harmful deterrents such as water blasts, insecticidal soap, and sticky pheromone traps before moving on to harsher controls. Praying mantis, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and beneficial nematodes are all available for home delivery through tiptopbio.com.

Nature is very clever and resilient without human interference, and you will find that birds and lizards are very efficient forms of pest control. Organic fertilizers and mulches enrich the soil, keeping plants strong, healthy, and resistant to pests and disease.

Select Native Plants: Choosing native plants is clearly a wise approach to your landscape. They will attract and support native fauna and are most likely to thrive with little help which means good value and more free time to enjoy relaxing in the garden. Grab a local nature guide book and learn to identify the new visitors you've attracted to your backyard. Our family has seen nearly 50 different varieties of birds in our yard this past year, some of them migratory species that come in winter and early spring.

If you provide a haven, wildlife will come. In these times of disappearing bee colonies, it is more important than ever that each us do our part in attracting pollinators to our gardens and open spaces. Share time outdoors with your family, take pictures and learn new facts. Kids who observe creatures in their natural habitats often develop a life-long appreciation of nature. It's nice to relax in the knowledge that your efforts make the world a better place and that your beautiful garden is sustaining a lot more than just you!

Good plant choices for bees:

Garden tip:

In the hot weather of late summer, bees may begin to accumulate at hummingbird feeders. This is a good time to place shallow saucers of gravel and water in areas of pollen-rich flowers like alyssum, gaillardia, goldenrod, salvia, and sedum. If the bees still clog the feeders and keep the birds away, simply take them down for a couple of weeks.

© 2011 Catherine Tally

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Comments 27 comments

Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

As someone who loves to garden, thank you for this informative hub!


gajanis786 profile image

gajanis786 5 years ago

Good informative hub.....keep it up and welcome to the hubpages community.Thanks.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thank you, followers, for the encouragement!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Hi Catherine,

sorry to have only just found this great hub and all your advise to gardeners is spot on. two years after you have written this hub, the RSPB here in England have just started " Give nature a Home" project which incorporates most of your suggestions. Your a head of your time. lol.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Dave,

I'm delighted to hear of a program that encourages the preservation of local habitats and the creatures within. I will continue to edit this hub as new thoughts and experiences apply. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

My best,

Cat :)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

You have me so eager for spring and making a garden and little ecosystem. This is a good guide to use with helpful hints. I love lots of birds too, I think I will add sunflowers. Thanks!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Rebecca,

Thank you! I'm so glad you've been inspired by this and are looking forward to your Spring garden. I appreciate your stopping by.

All the best,

Cat:)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

I love beautiful wild gardens--your pictures are wonderful and give me a sense of your love of flowers!


AnnaCia profile image

AnnaCia 2 years ago

Love it, love it!!!!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Audrey,

Glad you enjoyed this! Thank you for the thoughtful comments.

My best,

Cat :)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Anna,

Thank you for the positive response! I'm so happy that you loved the content. I appreciate your stopping by to read and comment.

All the best,

Cat:)


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

I love wild garden and I have one in my home country where I enjoy a few months of being there. Thanks for the tips and for the video you have posted. Have a nice day!


Nancy Owens profile image

Nancy Owens 2 years ago from USA

What a beautiful photo. I love watching the birds and squirrels.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Thelma,

There are few things as satisfying as a summer evening in the garden watching the bird activity and feeling the cool breeze from the trees. How nice that you can spend time each year in the wild garden of your country home! Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Take care,

Cat:)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Nancy,

Thank you! I appreciate the kind comments.

I hope you are enjoying a beautiful Spring.

Cat:)


Nancy Owens profile image

Nancy Owens 2 years ago from USA

Hello, Cat! I love the beautiful photos here. I left my sunflowers out all winter last year for the birds to feed on and now I have them coming up everywhere! Pulling them out as I go along. Always so much to do in the garden, but I look at it as my exercise routine, my serenity time, and my grocery bill reducer. P.S... I like Burt's Bees, too!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Nancy,

I know what you mean about those bird seed sprouts! It does take a bit more effort but is well worth it for the company of birds in the garden and their cheerful songs and chatter. Spending time in the garden and seeing nature at work gives me a healthier perspective overall. Thanks for stopping by!

Cat:)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

I thought I would revisit this one--I see bees by the lavender every time I am out there watering or hanging around--it is a wonderful thing


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 2 years ago from India

Enjoyed reading the hub. You have some beautiful photos as well.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Catherine, this is a beautiful and very informative hub. I do not have a yard, but my small patio allows me to grow flowers and herbs that attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. I love gardening.


mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

My eye was immediately drawn to your photo of the Monarch butterfly on a Milkweed plant. One of my hobbies is planting milkweed, and then watching the Monarchs lay their eggs then hatch out!

I would much rather have a beautiful yard like this than a lawn! I don't have a large yard now that I downsized, but I do grow plants in pots.

Beautiful Hub. Voted up, etc and Pinned to my gardening board.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Audrey,

Isn't it wonderful to see the bees on our flowers? I just get so excited!

Many thanks to you for the thoughtful comments and your ongoing kindness in sharing my hubs. I appreciate you so much! Bless you,

Cat:)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello thumbi7, Thank you! I appreciate your stopping by to read and hope that you are also enjoying some time in your garden :)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Phyllis,

Container gardens on a patio make so much sense because it's easier to control watering, and they can be planted up in so many creative ways to attract wildlife. It's great to heat that yours draw the birds, bees, & butterflies! Thanks for the thoughtful comments:)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hello Mary, Isn't it fun to watch the Monarchs colorfully flit around the garden and to have them lay eggs for the next generation on your milkweed? We are awaiting the next pupae stage as the latest caterpillars grow fatter and are amazed that the milkweed can recover so quickly after being stripped bare! Thank you for the nice comments and for sharing my hub. I wish you happy days in your garden!

All the best,

Cat :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Always amazed at the beauty here. We are in drought in CA right now, so am using a gray water system to keep my plants happy!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 2 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Gray water usage makes SO much sense! It is challenging to keep a garden going in drought esp. since lawns and lush flower beds are ever popular. I am a big believer in reseeding perennials, native plants, bulbs and tubers, container gardens, deep less frequent watering, and lots of mulch!

Thank you for the kind comments.

Cat:)

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