Creating Wildlife Habitats

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Regardless the size of your garden, you can create a series of habitats suitable for local wildlife.  To create such habitats, simply focus on the basics — food, shelter and water.  While no one habitat will be suitable for every type of animals, it may suit the needs of several.

For instance, the selection of certain bee-attracting plants will also attract butterflies, and often hummingbirds.  Creating a small pond will not only provide a breeding ground for frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies, but will also provide a source of drinking water for birds and small mammals.

Here, we have no shortage of wildlife.  We have a mix of yard, flowers, shrubs and trees surrounding the house, a growing orchard and potager, several acres of pasture grasses for the sheep, all abutting 130 acres of woods and wetlands.  Over the course of a year we are visited by deer, fox, coyotes, rabbits, woodchucks, porcupines, opossums, skunks, wild turkeys (usually 20 or more at a time) and an assortment of other birds, as well as snakes, frogs, toads, and newts.  While the flowers and herbs attract various types of bees and butterflies.

I’ve found that the addition of  varied flowering plants, the placement of bird and bat houses  in appropriate locations, the addition of hedges and shrubs, and even something as simple as allowing the wildflowers that populate the woodland edge to spread with crazy abandon have all encouraged and attracted a greater diversity of wildlife.  More importantly, rather than using our property as a space through which to pass on their way to “greener pastures”, the wildlife remains with us throughout the season or year.

TIP: Climbing Plants — the more climbing plants you grow, the more varied and plentiful the habitats created for pollinators, other beneficial insects, and birds.  From an aesthetic viewpoint, climbers also add color and interest to shrubs, and otherwise drab fences and walls.   Some suggested favorites:

Clematis.  There are too many varieties of clematis to name here.  It is a versatile, generally easy to grow plant that will wind its way up any trellis, fence, wall or shrub given the chance.  The flowers provide food for pollinators, and the seedheads of certain clematis provide food for finches and nesting material for many other types of birds. (Jackmani below)

jackmani

Honeysuckle.  This is a hardy, wonderfully scented addition to the garden and the flowers are a favorite food supplier for hummingbirds and long-tongued bees and moths.

Climbing Roses.  Again there are many varieties of climbing roses.  However, in Zone 4, many lack the hardiness to survive our winters.  I’ve found the old-fashioned shrub roses or ramblers, which if grown and trained as climbers can still reach 8 feet or more in height, to be much more resilient. When selecting a variety that will provide food for pollinators, you should stick with the single-flowered roses which leave the center of the flower, where the pollen and nectar reside, easily assessable  to the bees.  The hybrids and varieties that have been bred for looks and frequency of bloom with their tightly packed layers of petals, although gorgeous, are not beneficial as a food source for bees.  Although I can attest to the fact that Japanese beetles love them!

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