Green Living: Attracting Wildlife to Your Green Garden

One "green living" approach to gardening is to create a habitat that attracts and supports wildlife. A green garden is a haven where wildlife can make homes, feed, and breed safely without danger from pesticides and other chemicals. You can help wildlife species to recover from the decimating effects of changes in farming methods and disappearing natural habitat.

What you plant in your garden affects the kinds of birds, insects, mammals, and amphibians that choose to live there. Think carefully about the species you want to see, and grow the appropriate plants to attract them. (Fuchsias and salvias, for example, encourage hummingbirds to visit). If you grow the wrong plants, you may attract unwanted species like ants, slugs, and moles that may make it impossible for other plants to survive.

Wildlife isn't limited to furry critters. You may think all insects are unwanted visitors to your garden, but that's not the case at all. A bug is your friend if it helps pollinate your plants or controls the population of bad bugs. For example, honeybees are nature's great pollinators; dragonflies eat mosquito larvae and adults; and ground beetles feed on root maggots, caterpillars, and slugs, among other things.

Make your garden as varied as possible to attract as many species as possible, by following these suggestions:

  • Plants, such asroses, honeysuckle, and lavender each attract different insects like bees and butterflies.
  • A woodpile encourages another set of garden dwellers. You may find frogs in the woodpile if it's damp; and if it's big enough to offer a safe place, a rabbit may move in.
  • A wildflower patch can encourage native insects (including butterflies) and birds to linger in your garden. Growing a wildflower patch can be as simple as planting a wildflower mix seed packet that's available at garden stores — just make sure that the packet notes the climate zone and area for which the flowers are intended so that you know the flowers are well-suited for your area. Garden center staff also can help you choose wildflower seeds and plants to get you started.
  • A water source created from an old bath or basin — or, on a larger scale, a pond — draws everything from dragonflies and frogs to birds and snails.
    Change the water in your basin or pond regularly to prevent it from becoming a mosquito-breeding ground, or use a mosquito dunk, which is a small tablet that you drop into the water to kill mosquito larvae. The biological control versions of the dunks contain bacteria that destroy the larvae and are much better for the environment than chemical versions.
  • Hedges are great for attracting birds and insects and providing protected space for small animals to make their homes. Grow as many different hedge plants as possible together in your hedge because each different plant attracts different species.
  • Trees and shrubs that produce fruit, berries, and seeds are sources of food for your furry and feathered friends.

Boxes and feeders attract birds, bats, and bugs galore.

Visit the National Wildlife Federation for a little inspiration and the exact steps you need to create a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

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