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Nurturing Nature at Home

Updated on April 2, 2013
Purple Coneflower from our habitat.
Purple Coneflower from our habitat. | Source

Modern progress is causing wildlife areas to become smaller. As this occurs, humans must give alternatives for animals and plants to thrive. One of the most obvious and convenient option is your own home and property. Any effort put forth can make a difference in the existence of wildlife. No gift to nature is too small.

My husband and I bought our first home in 1999; a small house on a half acre of land. From the start, we knew we wanted to have a property full of plants and trees that would attract wildlife. We set a goal to create a garden that could be certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat (BWH). The requirement for certification is creating a space that provides food, water, shelter and places for wildlife to raise their young. The program encourages organic gardening without pesticides. During the first year of home ownership, we established flowerbeds by tilling and adding organic matter, planting native, nectar and food producing plants and setting out birdfeeders, baths, and hummingbird feeders. Within one week of setting up a bluebird house, we had a pair to move in and produce a brood. We received certification in 2000 as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

A squirrel makes himself at home in our yard.
A squirrel makes himself at home in our yard. | Source

Creating a Quality Garden

You do not have to go to the extremes my husband, and I did to provide for wildlife. Simply gardening via pots and containers can attract creatures to your abode. Careful selection for plants can ensure that nectar and food will be provided for the wildlife you are inviting in. Remember to go with native and unimproved cultivars. Cultivated plants may have a distinct attributes that make them unusual and attractive, but, they have been changed from their original form and their characteristics have been altered. Cultivated plants usually have little scent, nectar and pollen. Quite frequently the plants are sterile and will not produce seeds; this will not attract seedeating birds to your home.

Of course, putting up bird feeders can give your property an enormous boost in the wildlife. In my experience, which is in the deep South, multiple feeders can attract a variety of birds that will delight and entertain you. We do not currently have any squirrel proof feeders but have had success with them in the past. We use only Black Oil Sunflower seeds and different varieties of suet. We have also found finches will not eat from the feeders but will feed directly off a mature sunflower. What a beautiful sight it is to see a yellow finch perched on a large sunflower head.

Suet is so vital for birds, as it provides the much needed fat which fuels the birds’ hectic lives. We keep suet out all year due to the incredible drought we are experiencing in Georgia. The drought is killing insects which supplement the diet of birds; suet takes the place of the insects. If you live in a particularly hot climate as we do, you can find the no-melt suet that works remarkably well.

Water is a critical element to a life supporting garden. Any home improvement store will have a limited choice of birdbaths for the garden. You can also find many artists online that create beautiful water features that can also serve as sources for wildlife. Many people have one birdbath in their garden but no source for ground feeders. My husband loves pottery, so when a piece gets broken, as some always do in our home; we place the pieces in the garden. The pottery can provide both a water source and shelter for ground bound creatures. If you live in a cold climate, you can add a heater to the water feature to keep the birds healthy all winter.

Wildlife needs places to raise their young. Due to encroachment into habitat by humans, many creatures have lost their natural places of abode. Bluebird numbers, for example, have been vastly diminished by destruction of habitat plus an introduction of competing non-native birds. Recent interests in bluebirds have helped their numbers to climb. Purchasing a nesting box made specifically for bluebirds will help in discouraging competing birds such as aggressive sparrows and starlings from taking over the home. Remember, thoroughly clean the nesting boxes after each brood leaves. This encourages many pairs to have a second round of little ones.

Do not be so anxious to remove debris during the fall months. Leave a pile of leaves for cover and warmth in a corner of your backyard to host creatures during winter months. Leave a tree limb in the same corner to encourage more wildlife to make it a habitat. Having an area where you do not weed and can let grow wild would even add to the attraction of more creatures. Animals are not attracted to well maintained lawns that have little to no benefit for them. Every little bit helps.

Hollyhocks are great honeybee magnets.
Hollyhocks are great honeybee magnets. | Source

Choosing the Right Plants

You first need to find out which plants will and will not thrive in your area. Consult a local nursery to find out what plants they recommend for your climate zone. Here, are a few trees that will support wildlife:

Juniper-This prickly evergreen is ideal for nesting birds. The berries are tremendously popular with birds. A two for one, food and housing!

Crap Apple-Although humans do not like the taste of the fruit from this tree, birds love it. The flower blooms attract many honey bees too. It is a small tree that can work in urban yards.

Pecan-Humans and wildlife alike can benefit from this tree! A mature tree will produce enough pecans to feed your family and the neighborhood squirrels. Squirrels love pecan trees to raise their young because of their sturdy limbs and access to food.

Shrubs are another way to add beauty and value to your property while providing nectar and food for animals. Here, are a couple of suggestions:

Butterfly Bush-The name says it all, it attracts butterflies but also honeybees and hummingbirds. If I had to pick a bush for a person who wanted low maintenance plus beauty, this would make the cut.

Rosemary-Is another low maintenance shrub with tremendous results. Rosemary attracts honeybees, ladybugs and is used in cooking. We have several bushes and have used it in decorating many times, especially during the holidays. It has survived our heated summers and a few snow storms. I cannot recommend this plant enough!

I hope the tips included in this Hub helps you to see that small additions and changes to your yard can make a monumental difference to wildlife. Bird and squirrel watching can be fun and relaxing at the end of a hard day. Enjoy nurturing nature in your own way!

Certified Backyard Habitat

About the Author

Catherine Dean is a freelance writer, gardener, quilter, and blogger. Her professional background includes nonprofit program development, grant writing, and volunteer management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from Georgia College & State University.

Her blog, Sowing A Simple Harvest, chronicles a modern couple trying to live a simplistic, sustainable life. To explore her professional credentials, visit her website. She can also be followed on Google+.


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    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 4 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks for commenting! At this moment I am looking out my window at the beautiful yellow finches at my feeders. Hope your spring is going well!

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 4 years ago from Canada

      Your yard sounds like heaven. Another wonderful hub, I long for the day when perfectly mown, chemical lawns are a thing of the past. This hub was a pleasure to read and has given me some great ideas for my own garden.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      I love the idea of a wildlife category. Thanks!

    • Letitialicious profile image

      Letitialicious 5 years ago from Paris via San Diego

      This is terrific. A while back I suggested HubPages create a backyard wildlife category, but nothing came of it. I think this is a field of its own, and your hub exemplifies it! If only a bug (computer, not backyard) hadn't eaten my share button, I would so gladly share it!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      It is bouncing back after a horrible summer last year. We have got a decent amount of rain this summer that has let the plants recover. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • jennzie profile image

      jennzie 5 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

      These are great ideas! It sounds like your backyard must be full of interesting and beautiful creatures.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks so much frogyfish! Yes, suet is vital in the summer too during a severe drought like we are experiencing. I love gardening for nature, it does help keep me positive. Thanks for stopping by.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      "No gift to Nature is too small." What a positive outlook!

      I will have to put out suet now, as I did not know it was so helpful in the heat/drought. Thank you for sharing your lovely garden and the pertinent information to assist those small creatures around us.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia


    • Joseph Dean profile image

      Joseph Dean 5 years ago from Macon, Georgia

      Catherine failed to mention that she also helped to establish a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat at the Georgia War Veterans Home located in Milledgeville, Georgia.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      It sounds like you are nuturing nature too! Oh, how I love owls. We live a couple of blocks away from a major river which attracts a lot of wildlife. One cold night I went outside with the dogs and a huge owl was perched up in a tree. It had to be two feet tall. It was one of the most amazing sites I had ever seen. Thanks for dropping in and commenting!

    • editsvcs profile image

      editsvcs 5 years ago

      Congrats on the BWH certification - that's tougher than it seems at first glance! We have an old tree in the far backyard that is dead at the top and should probably be taken down, but I've been reluctant since I've seen the most beautiful barn owl scoping the area for hunting from the top at night. Our butterfly bush hosts a family of cat-sized rabbits (really, they're huge!) and I think they're on Mr. Owl's menu.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      It is only a half of an acre. They also have programs for urban habitats as well. Thanks for sharing and commenting!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Interesting hub! How big is your yard? I assume to make it a place for a wildlife it should be big enough? Shared!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 5 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you olde cashmere for voting up and the kind words. We all need a nature sanctuary these days. It benefits nature and us all at the same time.

    • Olde Cashmere profile image

      Olde Cashmere 5 years ago from Michigan, United States

      This is such a great hub, I love this idea of creating a nature sanctuary in the backyard. Beautiful message as well mvillecat. Voted up, shared, awesome, useful, interesting, and beautiful :)

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you NP.Queen! Sorry for the late response. I've been out of pocket for a while. I am so glad this Hub helped.

    • NP.QUEEN profile image

      NP.QUEEN 6 years ago from Dubai


      Now i understood what is the secrete of gardening.I will try these ideas in my garden.Now i am following you.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thanks for commenting anglnwu. Yes we can all attract nature into our lives with very little effort!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 6 years ago

      I love nature and it's good to know there are plants we can plant to attract wild life. Rated up.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you for leaving a comment Nell. We lived in a second floor apartment with a balcony for several years too. We always kept pots with herbs and flowers. We also had a hummingbird feeder which attracted many birds at that level. Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, lovely ideas in a lovely hub! I never knew that about suet for the birds, that has gone on my 'tick list for winter'! lol I am lucky where I live because even though I only have a balcony, in front of my place there is a large field with Kites living in the tree about 20ft away from me! these birds are huge and red colored, beautiful, great hub, cheers nell

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you for commenting Deborah! It is great when you see a new species. I love woodpeckers and one year we had three different species and it was very exciting. It sounds like you indeed are nurturing nature. Thanks!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 6 years ago from Iowa

      Great hub. We also try to attract birds to the backyard, and end up buying tons of birdfood during the winter to keep our feathered friends happy. We also have a heated bird bath. It's always great to see a new bird species show up.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you Movie Master! Everyone has been so welcoming! Watching and caring for wildlife can be so rewarding. It is a great family activity while also providing a peaceful solitary experience. Thanks so much for voting up!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Congratulations on your achivements, and that's wonderful to hear you are still active in the program.

      That must have been so rewarding for you in the early days when the bluebirds moved in.

      I am very fortunate to have a wide abundance of bird visitors to my garden and I encourage them as much as possible, I get so much pleasure from watching them.

      Thank you for sharing a wonderful hub, welcome to HubPages and voting up.

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you Seeker7 for commenting on my Hub and the vote up!! Yes, if everyone did one or two things for wildlife, their condition in this world would improve greatly. Thank you so much!

      Thank you Linda for leaving such a wonderful description of your efforts to help wildlife. You are definitely making a huge difference in the life of many creatures. What an inspiration you are! Thanks so much!

    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 6 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      Thank you Seeker7 for leaving a comment and thank you for your compliments! Yes, if everyone could just do one or two things positive for nature, this world would improve overall. Thank you so much for your vote!!

    • profile image

      Linda 6 years ago

      Loved you Hub! I have a great back yard there are many animals that frequent, all sorts of birds, small ones right up to Hawks and Eagles. We have deer, chipmunks, squirrels, groundhogs, stray cats from time to time. Had a whole family of kittens, I was feeding them but they moved on. Was trying to socialize them in order to find homes. Been adding many beds and will be planting a bunch of butterfly bush as well. I thoroughly enjoy my yard, it's my favorite place to be. The squirrel baffles work great to keep the squirrels from getting into the bird feeders. The squirrels get to eat the seed the birds knock over.

      I look forward to your next hub!


    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Wonderful hub. I have to admit that one of favourite shrubs is the butterfly bush. And if we could all turn one small corner even of our garden over to wildlife, what a difference this would make to the world as a whole. Great hub + voted up!