If you’re like me, you love listening to the sweet song of birds or catching a glimpse of a brightly coloured butterfly fluttering by. There is so much beauty to enjoy in the natural world – and so much to benefit from, too. For instance, insects such as bees and butterflies are important worldwide for their pollinating abilities. Thanks to pollinators we enjoy chocolate, fruit, cotton pyjamas and more!
With the continuous loss of our wild spaces, Canadian wildlife rely more and more on gardens for their survival. To make your property inviting, incorporate as many of the following elements as possible:
Meet the four needs – food, water, shelter, space:
Food – Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, vines and herbaceous perennials. Together they will provide nectar, pollen, seeds and fruit. Consider the four seasons as you plan your garden, with early-spring flowers for returning and awakening animals
right through to seeds and berries that remain on flowering plants and shrubs during the winter months.
Water – If you don’t have a natural source of water and your budget is tight, don’t worry; even a simple dish of water will work. Clean the dish when it begins to look dirty and change the water at least twice a week. This helps eliminate both germs and mosquitoes.
Shelter – By growing a variety of plants, you give animals the chance to rest, nest and escape both predators and inclement weather. Evergreen trees (that keep their needles) are helpful to keep off cold winter winds while deciduous trees (that shed their leaves) are great for many creatures in the summer months.
The trunks of both are useful for cavity-nesting birds, as are snags (dead standing trees). To keep your snag safe for humans, trim the top back to approximately two metres and remove any branches that are a cause for concern.
Make or leave existing rock and brush piles, put up a bat house and leave fallen trees on your property.
Space – Birds and other creatures view your property in three-dimensional terms. Including diverse layers of vegetation with varying heights and textures increases the “space” of your habitat. It’s like adding rooms and furniture to a bare, four-walled house.
Garden earth friendly
The key to earth-friendly gardening is the avoidance of chemical pesticides – both insecticides and herbicides. While spraying pesticides on weeds or pesky insects, you’re also harming other organisms and wildlife. Moreover, they can also be harmful to human health and enter our waterways affecting environments far beyond your garden.
Other ways to be a green gardener is to use natural fertilizers, such as compost or manure. When you mow your lawn, leave the blades at three inches high to protect grass roots from the sun and reduce the chance of weed seeds germinating. Grasscycling – leaving your grass clippings where they fall – is another great way to return nutrients to your soil and save you time as well.
Naturalize your habitat Regionally native plants
(those that have grown wild in your area for many centuries) generally require less maintenance and are better able to meet the needs of local wildlife than exotic flora. Many wildlife species are dependent on the presence of native vegetation for their survival. Some cultivated plants have blooms that make it harder for pollinators to find their food while others have lost their pollen-producing capacity entirely.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program proudly acknowledges the efforts of Canadians in welcoming wildlife to their outdoor space.
If you think your property meets the habitat needs of wildlife, we’d love to hear from you! If certified, you receive a colourful certificate and decal. To date we have certified well over 400 properties and are hoping to pass the 500 mark this summer. Perhaps it will be yours! Visit WildAboutGardening.orgtoday to learn how to register.