May is Garden for Wildlife Month, which seems very appropriate since that’s the time when most of us are able to get out into our yards–or a nearby park–to observe nature around us.
But what does it really mean when we talk about “gardening for wildlife?” And how do we go about it?
One of the best ways to learn what’s involved, if this is something that’s completely new to you, is to check out the National Wildlife Federation’s site on Backyard Habitats. It will completely de-mystify the process (including what you need for a “backyard”–even an apartment balcony can qualify as a backyard habitat!)
But I can make it easy for you by repeating a phrase I heard at the Connecticut Horticultural Society’s Symposium this spring. One of the speakers was talking about habitats and he described them as places for “nesting and resting, and feeding and breeding.” It’s really just as simple as that.
Of course, since this is an organic garden blog, I’ll tell you that a habitat needs to be organic–or as organic as possible. Just as your family doesn’t want to live in a soup of toxic chemicals, neither does a bird’s family or a bat’s family or especially a butterfly’s family. Butterflies and moths are especially susceptible to chemicals–and since they are pollinators, try to dial down on your outdoor chemical use, including fertilizers and things like Preen.
Finally, what if you only want to attract the good wildlife and not things like bears, raccoons or deer (or fill in your detested wildlife of choice: groundhogs? Armadillos? Snakes?). There are certain things you can plant–flowers only, for example, and not fruit–that will help with that. But of course in certain instances (and those of you with severe wildlife issues will know what I mean) a fence is the only option.
On Friday I’ll talk a bit more about what I’ve done in the process of making my yard friendly to wildlife.