Creating Wildlife Habitat in your Backyard can be Simple!

Planting native plants and nectar-rich flowers, supplying food and water sources, and avoiding pesticides are some of the keystones for attracting wildlife to your garden. Different species of pollinator prefer different shapes of flowers. Some like flat clusters of tiny flowers, and others seek out trumpet-shaped blossoms. Native plants such as coneflower, New England aster, and butterfly weed offer a variety of flower shapes to attract a variety of wildlife. Planting indigenous flowers and grasses among native trees and shrubs creates a self-sustaining environment. Plus, native plants require less maintenance than non-native species because they are better suited to the soil and climate. 

Photo Credit: Bryan E. McCay

Keep an eye out for invasive plants that may try to sneak into your garden. These include purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, crown vetch, and multiflora rose, all of which can spread rampantly. There are free apps you can download to help you identify plant species. A pond can provide refreshing drinks for wildlife and habitat for fish, frogs, and other water-loving creatures. Thoughtfully placed plants, including hardy water lilies and arrowhead in and around the water are key ingredients for a healthy ecosystem.

Bird baths are a simple way to attract wildlife, especially feathered friends who appreciate a place to safely drink and bathe.Birds prefer shallow basins no more than 2 inches deep with a rough surface for good gripping. For protection against lurking cats and other predators, place a bird bath a few feet from a tree or shrub so that the area immediately surrounding it is open yet close enough to sheltered perches for quick getaways. 

While adult butterflies fly from flower to flower sipping sweet nectar, their wriggly offspring are content to feast on a single host plant. Parental instinct guides each species to lay eggs on the plants their offspring favor. Favorite caterpillar cuisine includes parsley, dill, fennel, milkweed, willow, Queen Anne's lace, spicebush, and white clover. Pesticides can cause harm to the butterflies and bees you're trying to support. If you plant a diverse mix of plants, especially natives, pests are unlikely to do much damage to your garden so it's best to accept a little imperfection just let nature take its course.

Birds such as robins, brown thrashers, and cedar waxwings flock to landscapes that feature fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. Native species that fit into yards large and small include serviceberry, crabapple, and hawthorn. Don't try to do all this at once! Pick one project this summer and add it to your yard. You'll notice the change immediately. As time goes on; you can keep modifying and make changes as you go. Enjoy! Learn more from the source article or contact Becky Wozney, Wetland Specialist, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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Get a Little Wild in Your Yard

I noticed my neighbors doing this in their backyard. At first, I thought it was odd and might attract unsavory characters to the neighborhood and bring down property values. Now, I'm a card carrying member of the Rewild Club. It's best to explain.

I took a hard look at my yard and ask myself…What do I want from this space?

  • A peaceful shady retreat?
  • Home grown food?
  • Entertainment central?
  • Ruckus area for kids and pets?

What do I need to make that happen? A patio, a water feature, play area, shade trees, garden plot, privacy screening, a lawn area for recreation, disco ball and dance floor, an amphitheater for Shakespeare in the Park night?

I realized that my yard was mostly seldom-used lawn and none of the other fun stuff.

Amphitheater and disco balls aside, I started to pull together a plan. The biggest surprise was how much better my yard would be if I did less work. I opted to rewild unused space. Along the perimeter of my yard I stopped mowing, I stopped raking, I stopped fertilizing, I stopped weeding, and I stopped watering. In other words, I released by inner teenager. I let trees and shrubs that popped up keep growing, and planted a few for fall color, nesting, fruit and flowers. In a few years, instead of staring at a fence that needed maintenance, I had a living screen of trees and shrubs. Birds and butterflies came back to enjoy the flowers and fruits of my lack of labor, and they turned out not to be the unsavory characters I had imagined. The shade makes hot summer days in the yard enjoyable and cuts my lawn watering in half. There still plenty of lawn for kids and pets, but now the space is a haven for the family and a little wildlife.

Tips for the would-be rewilder.

  1. Just mow less.
  2. Baby steps. Pick a small area to try first. Consider it a journey of many years, not a mountain to climb on a single trek.
  3. Forget tidy. Wild areas can be messy. You can keep the edges formal if you want.
  4. Pick up ID books for birds, flowers, and trees so you can get to know your new neighbors. Books? Did he say books? I think he meant App.
  5. Avoid using chemicals where the wild things are.
  6. Think vertically if you have a small space. Tall trees, medium sized trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses can call have a place in a very small area.
  7. Add a water feature to ramp up the wildlife appeal.
  8. Plant diversity is good. Variety will make the space more interesting and resistant to stressors like disease and drought.
  9. Speed up the process with affordable bare root trees and shrubs from your local conservation district annual tree sale.
  10. Avoid invaders. Learn a few of the invasive plants in your area and try to keep them out of your wild space.
  11. Let your neighbors know why you would do such zaniness.
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