Creating a Wildlife Habitat In Your Backyard
A wildlife habitat can be as simple as a bird feeder filled with wild birdseed or as complex as a forest garden. By creating such a space you can help species in your neighborhood find a safe, secure and beautiful place to eat and live. Not only will you gain the benefit of being able to watch wildlife interact with their ecosystem, you will gain new helpers in the garden.
First off you may be asking yourself why you need to set aside space in your yard for wildlife- you may have a small backyard to work with or you may be concerned that this wildlife area will look ‘messy’. However, wildlife areas are very important to the health and vibrancy of the larger ecosystem- especially in cities where ‘green spaces’ are sadly lacking. These habitats need not look messy; they can double as a simple flower or herb patch. The biggest consideration to make when planning a habitat is the foot traffic it receives, from either your family or your pets.
Wildlife doesn’t like to be bothered and many species prefer to stay hidden in brush. Furthermore if you already know what local wildlife makes up your neck of the woods then you can skip the step of investigating just what hangs around where you live. If you don’t know it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local creatures, read some books on the subject or go for a nature hike and observe what creatures already visit your neighborhood. I know that in my area of Grand Rapids rabbits, all types of birds and insects are plentiful. Some people choose to make a wildlife habitat for specific species- like a butterfly garden. There are people who create the habitat close to an already existing garden to aid in more biological activity and free pest control in their garden. The options for this habitat are endless and limited only to your imagination and space. Make sure to provide your wildlife with adequate food, water and shelter year round. This could mean having a small pond and plenty of native wild food planted or it could be as simple as having a small bird bath and sunflowers bordering your yard.
Having a variety of plant types are the key to creating a viable habitat- use native perennials whenever possible as they are more attractive to local wildlife and are easier to care for than annuals. Shrubs and small trees provide a nice haven for small animals and insects alike- if you live in a cold climate consider planting an evergreen species or two as they still provide shelter for wildlife and food in the winter.Planning for next year’s garden got me thinking about the lack of pest control in my garden, I don’t spray any insecticide’s or herbicide’s on my plants- but a free and lazy way to control pests is to leave nature to the task. That’s why my wildlife habitat will encourage beneficial insects to live near my garden- I will plant flowers to attract bees, wasps, and ladybugs, bushes to encourage spiders and small animals to take up residence and herbs around my garden’s border to discourage certain insects from tasting too much from one plant. I also do not net my raspberries to encourage birds to visit my garden and perhaps eat some troublesome insects too.