Working with your environment, and the animals in it, is a crucial part of being a responsible gardener or landscaper . Planting in ways that help sustain the landscape, and encouraging local animals to live there, is key to preserving nature and the benefits it brings us. Whether in the form of birds, bugs, mammals, or butterflies; all of these friendly neighbors can benefit your space in more ways than one. Aside from sustainability, there is the simple joy of watching nature come alive around you. This post will discuss a few ways to entice these critters to your space.
Eliminate Your Lawn
Did you know that before the 19th century, wildflower meadow lawns were much more popular with mostly every social class? It has only been in the more recent history that a campaign, launched by many associations, has made the american lawn much more prevalent. In the past, grasses were seen as weeds, and certain people’s job was to simply remove the sprigs from a landscape. The invention of the lawn mower certainly helped to make everyone feel like they could have the lawns of the aristocracy. This has led to the incorrect assumption that large, bare, green lawns are better than natural landscapes. There are even “weed laws” around the country that insure this stays the norm.
Encouraging natural landscapes (wherever you are located) not only brings wildlife back to the scene, it has many practical benefits as well. Reduced cost of maintenance, less work in general, and the elimination of many pesticides are just a few of the positives. Landscapes that are natural require less and infrequent watering, no mowing, and no commercial lawn maintenance to upkeep. As the seasons change, a natural landscape will provide food resources for animals big and small. In the Spring and Summer, blooms abound for hungry pollinators; and in the Fall and Winter, spent seedheads and leaf litter provide food for birds and bugs alike. This also provides shelter for nesting birds and insects to make their home in your space. Overall, the pros of reducing your lawn are overwhelming, and in the best interests of wildlife, and your wallet.
Build a Habitat
There are a few key things that wildlife need to make a home.
- Food- Providing food sources throughout the season is a sure way to entice animals to your space. No matter if you want to encourage pollinators, or mammals as well, this is a crucial step to giving them incentive to visit you. Being wild, animals forage for different food throughout the year, and they need space to do so. Planting trees or shrubs that bear fruit, nuts, or seeds is a perfect way to do this. Trees also double as nesting for birds and homes for other wildlife. Certain bugs, such as newts and centipedes, thrive on decaying material. An undisturbed damp, shady corner of the garden will encourage frogs, toads, and salamanders alike.
- Water- All living things need access to clean water to survive. Filling this need is vitally important to thriving wildlife. Install and maintain a pond on your property. To add water to your landscape in smaller ways, add bird baths and butterfly dishes. With your lawn being eliminated, this will keep the water supply clean and healthy.
- Shelter- Animals need a home to nest, roost, breed, and live. Preserve old walls and
sheds. These old structures are perfect for nesting bees, and other solitary bee species. Add bird houses to your property. Build a log pile to encourage bugs for composting. Compost! (That simply can’t be overstated.) Don’t keep things so tidy. Gardens can be natural and that will provide homes for various creatures in leaf litter, fallen trees and shrubs, or wooded areas.
While important, native planting doesn’t have to be the only type of planting that you do. It is, however, often overlooked in the pursuit of beauty and aesthetics. Just because a palm or magnolia may look visually pleasing in your space, doesn’t mean it mixes into your maple-beech/hickory habitat. Research may be required to find plants and trees that are suitable to your environment. The goal is take your space back to how it would have been before your home, or business, was built. This will give animals shelter and foraging space, which they need to stick around. You may sacrifice the pristine perfection of a completely controlled garden, but you will be rewarded with furry friends, and lower maintenance costs. Planting native also ensures pollinators of all types will visit your space searching for food sources. Make sure to research which plants provide the most nectar all year around to allow your pollen-dusted friends to stay. Maintain mature trees, as this will encourage
communities of animals to move in.
Changing your landscape to match the needs of the wildlife around you can seem like a huge task. This is simply not the case. Take the time and energy to research your area, and the benefits will emerge almost immediately. Then, simply sit one day, and enjoy the sights and sounds nature has to offer.