Creating a Critter Friendly Garden
Everybody loves to see butterflies and humming birds in their gardens. In fact, we try our darndest to attract them. Most people shun the other critters but they all make a contribution to the health of our gardens.
Here are a few ways to keep them all happy and in return we will be happier for it.
All living creatures need the basics. Food, water and shelter are the ones we can help with the most.
Most of us have a birdbath in the garden. Some of us even have ponds. A pond is a wonderful thing. It provides habitat for frogs, crayfish, dragonflies and a whole plethora of other critters. These in turn provide food for the birds we so love to have visit our birdbaths. You do not have to have a large pond to accomplish this, a simple tub sunk into the ground with a couple of water lilies and maybe a pot of bulrushes will suffice. A few large rocks on the bottom will provide added shelter. I always float a flat piece of bark in the water just in case something like a mouse falls in, the bark will give them a place to land so they don't drown. I also keep a birdbath on a flat rock beside the pond. The birds come to bathe and eat any mosquitoes that happen to hatch!!
This is one of the easiest. Try to plant a lot of native plants in your garden if possible, you'll have a better chance of attracting local wildlife. The flowers will provide nectar for humming birds and butterflies. In the fall, don't be in a hurry to cut down and haul away all of the seed heads. Leave them until spring. They will provide a source of food for a number of critters throughout the winter. Birdfeeders and suet bags fall into this category too and most of us already have these. Make sure to keep them well-stocked for the duration of the winter.
This is the area a lot of people fall short in. To many folks the things that provide shelter to wildlife are considered eyesores, not pretty enough to be in a well-tended garden. Good shelter can be as simple as a half-buried pot that can be used as a home to toads. A small wood pile tucked to the side can provide shelter to a number of critters. Create small areas of shelter, that way they are inconspicuous. Plant an evergreen tree to provide a place for birds to nest and roost. Set aside a small area of the garden for native grasses. They provide a safe haven for snakes, insects and frogs. Leave a small brush pile along the back fence or beside the mulch pile. It will provide shelter for birds, rabbits and mice. Leave the leaves in your garden for insects to over-winter in. I have a dead tree on the fence line that the man next door is always after me to have cut down. No way!! That old dead tree provides food for woodpeckers and chickadees. Insects galore live in the holes and the bark. Fill your yard with bird houses, maybe even build a bat house.
Now, I understand that in some areas of the world people have to deal with poisonous spiders and snakes. In these cases I realize that you really don't want to attract those critters. Understandable.
So much of the wilderness is being cut back and built on. We should be aware that in some areas our gardens are the only places for critters to find the means needed to survive, that includes year round inhabitants and migrating critters. The next time you're in your garden, look at it with an eye towards nature. Maybe we can make the world a better place, one yard at a time.
Many thanks to Victorgardener for his frog and chickadee, Repeat_Bloomer for the cute squirrel in a pot and Dinu for the dragonfly.
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