Gardening with Natives for Wildlife

It is possible to transform any small garden space into a refuge that many species can use. The garden can be a place of healing both for the gardener and for the earth. The gardener can use practices that encourage the balance of nature and can begin eliminating practices that upset the balance of nature. As a wildlife garden matures it becomes more interesting to watch, complete with its mushrooms andmosses, and less trouble to take care of. A wildlife garden can also be a place for human beings to reflect on their relationship withnature.

Think diversity
Choose species that flower and fruit at different times. With carefully chosen plantings, pollen,nectar, seeds, and fruit of one sort or another will always be available.

Think deciduous
Be sure to include a good number of deciduous plants; their yearly abundance of tender new growth and decaying plant parts provide sustenance for many creatures. Many fast growers and abundant fruit-bearers fit in this class. Include perennial grasses; they provide shelter and hunting ground for insects and seeds for birds.

Think insects
Many interesting backyard wildlife species rely heavily or exclusively on insects for food. Begin taking more careful note of them and you will find that insects and other invertebrates themselves can be among the chief delights in the garden. Their beauty and diversity is a never-ending source of wonder and amusement. One eastern entomologist recorded more than 1,400 species of insects in his suburban yard! Try using a magnifyingglass.

Think insects again
Insects are the balance in the balance of nature. Predators such as spiders and ladybugs need a supply of food. Pesticides destroy the food chain in the garden balance, making pest outbreaks, and thus more pesticides, inevitable.

Think natives
Local native plants are best adapted to our climate. Most are drought tolerant and fit best into a wildlife garden because they support local native insect and mushroom populations that have had thousands of yearsto strike a balance. And remember, it is not only in the tropics that native plants and animals are going extinct.They need your help right in your own backyard.

Improve carrying capacity
For deeper satisfaction and fewer problems keep artificial feeding of wildlife to a minimum. Instead, concentrateon working to improve the “carrying capacity” of your domain.

Water features
These are invaluable in wildlife gardens. Also needed are “pioneers” to work with aquatic-habitat gardening. Many fascinating semi-aquatic and aquatic native plants and animals are becoming locally extinct; little is known about them or their culture.

Monitor Plants
Monitor existing plantings if you decide to change them; they may have been food or shelter for some permanentor migratory species that now rely on them. Get substitutes growing first. Taking notes and making species lists may add to your pleasure and facilitate the sharing of your observations.