Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wildlife Gardening - A Few Decisions

"Purple Cone Flowers in Wildlife Garden"
(C) Allen Pearson, All Rights Reerved
Before you go gung-ho headfirst into creating a Wildlife Garden in your backyard, there are a few items you need to think about and make decisions before you spend one penny toward the project.

Attracts Wildlife!  A Wildlife Garden isn’t a garden where God creates wildlife because you have watered and fertilized everything as best as you can.  It is a place where wildlife will come to feed, get a drink of water, make nests, create families, feed their young and send off their young to the wilds of the world!  While not every garden will see everything stage of this with the native wildlife but it will be some or all or variations on a theme thereof.

Over the years, I have seen American Robins build nests, feed their young and teach them to fly and sometimes I think they are waving their young as they go off into the wild.  I have seen Northern Cardinals feeding their young on the railing of my deck.  I have seen bazillions of pollinators coming in for pollen and nectar and anything else they might want- saw a black Bumble Bee taking a sip of water in a birdbath. I’ve hand-fed a Hummingbird who realized I really am a good guy.  I have seen Carolina Wrens gathering food and rush it back to the nest. I've seen Song Sparrows feeding their youngs open mouths who are nestled in a bird house.  All of this is incredibly awesome to see. I have had two snakes come into the garden to do whatever it is they would want to do in a garden and no, I did not stay close to find out either!  Many mornings, rabbits come into the yard for breakfast and stop by later in the day for their evening salads. I have seen a Cooper’s Hawk come in for its meals which are usually smaller birds or critters. This can be heartbreaking when it’s a favorite bird but when it’s a snake- I found myself rooting for the hawk and asking him to come back for more.

Wildlife Garden
 "Black-Eyed Susan's in Wildlife Garden"
(C) Allen Pearson, All Rights Reserved
On the other side, the dark side- the night that is, the wildlife that comes out at night such as skunks, opossums, and other critters come into the garden for their salads and snacks.  I don’t see these for obvious reasons so I can’t be 100% positive who did what and when, but I have seen evidence of plenty of blooms, leaves, and branches chewed up.

I love seeing the wildlife activity in my wildlife garden. I have had some great ringside views of the beauty of nature and its critters.  The photography opportunities have been awesome as well.

Knowing these events happen in the garden can mean the native plants will get eaten, the blooms you’ve been waiting to see will be someone’s favorite snack and it could take a long time for the garden to “grow out” because of the critters eating and snacking.

First decision- Can you handle this? At first, I was very frustrated and thought about how I could get the critters to stop destroying my plants.  Then, my brain realized, “that’s the purpose of the wildlife garden- feed the critters!”

Do you have a dog? I do. And, he is a very important part of everything that I do. He is always around. He is a hound too.  Not all dogs are hounds- just hounds are hounds in the manner that they hunt and chase when they can. Sometimes capturing the critter of the chase. To keep my dog out of trouble with the local wildlife laws, I’ve paid attention to the habits of the critters which come into the yard such as the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. I pay attention to the times of day when they might be out and avoid letting my dog out. This isn’t a foolproof system so I have often knocked on the door or window near where I will let the dog out in an attempt to give the critters a head start!

Second decision- Can you work with this and keep your dog(s) out of trouble?

Native Plants. To me, native plants are absolutely beautiful. In my experience, they are beautiful because they belong in the environment in which you live. If you go hiking in the woods, you will see most of the plants you have in your garden at some point. However, sometimes the native plants look like weeds until they grow out or bloom.

Third decision- Can you handle that look or do you want the garden to be perfect all the time?

Not your polished formal garden. I enjoy taking long walks through the woods getting back to nature as often as I can. The woods, the trails, the plants, the weeds are all beautiful to me.  Often nature will take me from a stressed moment in life to a more relaxed feeling. A wildlife garden can offer these benefits in your own backyard!

When planting in the wildlife garden, you will want to stagger the plants to give a more natural look to the garden as opposed to creating straight lines which will create a more formal look. When the plants are grown, they will provide a look like of a woodsy area too.

Should you have trees in the garden which drop leaves in the season, these leaves can be raked into your wildlife garden to provide even more natural design and a compost for the coming season.

Fourth decision- Can you handle a garden looking like it belongs in the backwoods?

Do you have a wildlife garden? What do you like or dislike about it? Please share in the comments-