Our planet is home to an estimated 5 to 15 million species, including plants, animals, and micro-organisms — only a fraction of which have been identified. Unfortunately, the actions of humans have placed a number of these species in grave danger, and habitat loss is considered a primary factor for 85 percent of threatened or endangered species.
Land development, deforestation, agriculture, and pollution are resulting in the destruction of critical habitats, impacting food sources, and leaving wildlife with fewer places to live. And while the endangerment of species typically makes us think of marine animals or exotic animals living in the wild, the animals in our own backyard are in equal danger. Urbanization is slowly pushing animals out of their habitats, but there is something we can all do to help provide refuge for struggling wildlife.
By converting a portion of your outdoor space into a simple wildlife-friendly garden, you help protect species by providing food, water, shelter, and protection from predators. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be a gardening guru to make a difference. With these handy tips a visit to your local garden center, you can create a beautiful oasis that can be enjoyed by humans and animals alike.
Include Native Plants
Each ecosystem is different, so using native plants in your garden is the most sustainable way to help wildlife. Stay away from exotic plants, which can become invasive species if accidentally introduced to surrounding natural areas. Plus, native plants are better accustomed to your soil and climate, therefore requiring less water and upkeep. When you’re picking out plants, don’t forget to include native milkweed to help save our declining population of Monarch butterflies.
In addition to being beautiful, native plants, shrubs, and grasses provide a natural food source of seeds, nuts, and berries for birds and small animals. During colder months, you can supplement with fruit or a feeder with seeds to compensate for missing food sources.
Shelter provides protection from the elements and prey, as well as a safe place for animals to raise their young. Think from the ground up to help your garden. Including trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers of varying heights will help attract a variety of wildlife, including small mammals, birds, butterflies, and bees. Having a few evergreens will provide additional protection with year-round cover, which is helpful during the winter months. You can also use discarded wood and small piles of twigs to provide additional shelter for animals. Wood also harbors insects, which provide a food source for birds and amphibians.
Provide a Water Source
A water source, which provides birds and wildlife a place to drink and bathe, is an essential part of any wildlife garden. Birdbaths and shallow containers are the easiest and most cost-effective options, or you can install a small waterfall or pond with a cascading water feature. Either way, make sure you include a few rocks that stand above the water, giving frogs and butterflies a place to hang out. If you use a birdbath or container, make sure you switch out the water every few days to prevent the water from becoming stagnant.
Use Eco-friendly Methods to Care for Your Garden
Be a friend to the planet by using natural methods of gardening instead of chemical pesticides or fertilizers, which can harm wildlife and contaminate groundwater. If space allows, you can compost your kitchen waste, then use it to feed your garden. Ready-made mixes are available at garden stores for those who lack the space to produce their own compost. And finally, use a rain collection system to reduce your dependency on municipal water sources. You can purchase one at a store or find online resources to build your own.
Keeping Wildlife Safe
Household pets, especially cats, can pose a threat to wildlife. The purpose of a wildlife garden is to provide a place of refuge, so the very last thing you want is for animals to be intentionally placed in harm’s way. Keeping cats indoors helps keep wildlife safe, and is a healthier and safer option for your pet.
You don’t need to have a yard to make a difference. Apartment dwellers with outdoor space can place a few pots filled with native flowers to provide a food source for bees and butterflies, or you can help create a community garden that caters to wildlife.
- The National Wildlife Federation’s Garden For Wildlife’s guide will help you find the appropriate plants for your region if you live in the U.S.
- This UK-based organization has helpful factsheets on how to create and maintain a wildlife-friendly garden.
- New to gardening? Check out these other One Green Planet articles to find tons of handy tips that will lead you to gardening success.
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