A garden is not only a place for growing plants; a garden can also be a home for wildlife. In fact, even the smallest of gardens can incorporate a wildlife habitat. Whether you have a wooded landscape, a large backyard, or only a few container plants, you can create a welcoming haven for wildlife to visit, especially during winter. Providing the basic elements essential to all animals such as food, water, and shelter will make this possible.
Trees, shrubs, and other garden plants are an essential part of the wildlife garden as they provide shelter from the elements, protection from predators, sources of food, and nesting materials. Try planting vegetation that is native to your area as well as that which requires little maintenance. Choose a variety of spring, summer, and autumn flowers. Popular choices include sunflower, primrose, poppy, daisy, coneflower and phlox. Those which provide plenty of nectar will encourage butterflies, hummingbirds, and even insects to the garden. Incorporating hedges, ivy, and other evergreen climbers will also provide winter shelter for hibernating butterflies. By surrounding the garden with dense or prickly hedges and shrubs, you can also provide safe nesting sites for birds.
Small mammals, such as squirrels, are often frequent visitors in the garden; and supplying food for them will encourage their presence. However, many of these animals prefer areas which offer plenty of cover so be sure to add tall plants if trees or shrubs are not an option. What is a wildlife garden without frogs, toads, lizards, or turtles? These creatures can often be seen throughout spring and summer but will hibernate once cooler weather sets in. Providing stones and logs with which these animals can hide beneath in winter is a good way to keep them in the garden year round. Place them near a pond or other water source, if possible.
Many birds will move into gardens during winter weather, especially when food is scarce. Birds are attracted to garden plants for seeds, berries, and shelter. Plants also host a variety of tasty insects with which birds can munch on. Numerous shrubs, climbers, and trees can be incorporated as well. Those which bear fruits or berries will attract thrushes, blackbirds, robins, and starlings. Depending on your particular area, include shrubs such as red chokeberry, elder, mistletoe, or holly. Ivy, firethorn, and honeysuckle climbers also provide berries. Birds are quite fond of crab apple, cherry, hawthorn, and yew trees as well. Providing trees with seed cones are also favorable to many birds.
Normally, insects are not noticeable during winter; nonetheless, they are around. You can easily spot them beneath stones or bark, within leafy debris, and in the soil. Insects are, believe it or not, an important part of the garden. In fact, insects are one of the major sources of food for birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. Water is an essential part of the garden as well and will attract an array of animals to your wildlife habitat. Whether it’s in the form of a pond, birdbath, or even a hollowed-out space in the ground with overhanging vegetation, animals will find it.
Throughout the seasons, a wildlife garden can provide endless enjoyment as animals scamper about within its welcoming arms. Maintaining this type of garden can also help many of these animals survive during the harsh, cold winters by providing them with much needed food, water, and shelter.