How to Make Your Own Wildlife Haven
You don’t need hundreds of acres to attract wildlife—just your backyard. These four tips will get you going.
In most cases, a do-it-yourself landscaping or gardening project may sound intimidating, but creating your own wildlife haven is just the opposite. It's as simple as making the most of your backyard and the native plants in your area. Not only can you attract an array of beautiful wildlife to watch, but your little piece of the world can also be an important part of conservation. So what are you waiting for? Head out your back door, roll up your sleeves, dig your hands in the dirt, and follow these simple steps for creating your own wildlife haven. Before you know it, you'll have wildlife, like colorful butterflies, buzzing bees, and beautiful hummingbirds, in your own yard.
Adding even one native plant to a garden can aid migrating butterflies and birds. A single oak, for example, hosts hundreds of caterpillars that feed songbirds. A few clumps of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) will add color and fine texture to a small border. Sow colorful yarrow, asters, goldenrod, and other wildflowers along a fence line; their seeds will feed birds. In late fall, mow them down so their decaying stems can enrich the soil.
Provide Food and Water
Ruby-throated hummingbirds can’t resist the nectar of colorful native trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), a smart substitute for the horribly invasive Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica). Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) nourish fruit-eating woodpeckers, thrushes, bluebirds, and mockingbirds. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) draws countless vibrant butterflies. Monarch butterflies can’t survive without the nectar and foliage of milkweeds (Asclepias sp.), which are lovely despite the name. Always include a source of shallow water nearby for birds, butterflies, and honeybees to drink.
Skip the Spray
Letting insects be–rather than trying to eradicate them with insecticide–leaves food for birds and can alleviate pest issues in the long run. Spraying aphids, for instance, can backfire because it also kills predatory insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises. Aphids hatch daily, but the bigger bugs don’t. When they’re gone, infestations worsen.
Create Visual Drama
Gardeners sometimes worry that native plants will look messy. If you’re planting tall grasses and wispy wildflowers, add interesting focal points. Large pots or sculptures, stepping-stones, and garden furniture guide the eye through luxuriant greenery and create the illusion of outdoor rooms. Intense strokes of color from dense plantings of blazing star (Liatris sp.) or asters (Symphyotrichum sp.) will add depth and drama to your backyard.