There are many things you can do to provide habitat for wildlife in your yard. First, avoid pesticides in the garden, and limit the amount of mowed lawn in your yard. If you must mow, try using a mechanical mower that is not electric or gasoline powered. A mowed, manicured lawn provides very little food or shelter for wildlife. It is, in effect, a desert that separates animals from places where they can get food, nest or hide (Lavelle).
To encourage birds, provide a birdbath and bird feeder and trees and shrubs that produce seeds and berries. (www.nwf.org/backyard
) Also, plant or care for existing trees to provide homes for birds and squirrels. Birdhouses are a good idea for certain species of birds. Songbirds are currently experiencing a decline in population in the United States because of the lack of suitable habitat in back yards (NWF).
There must be a source of water for all animals, so a small pond or a fountain is a good idea. Make sure that there is a way to escape from drowning in a pond, such as a plant that grows out of the pond, lily pads for frogs, or a piece of wood that the animals can climb onto. For amphibians, it is important that the water does not contain chemicals and toxins. If you have frogs and salamaders living on your property, the water is good, because frogs and salamaders are sensitive to toxins because they breathe through their skin (Lavelle).
You do not need to keep a manicured garden. Wildlife often feed on insects that live under a layer of leaves or in a piece of rotting wood (Lavelle). Also, wildflowers provide a healthy source of pollen and nectar for butterflies and honeybees.
Honeybees are losing ground fast due to pesticides, parasites and lack of variety in their diet. It is important for those of us who own property to make up for what is happening to honeybees on large commercial farms that grow only one or two crops. Honeybees pollinate many flowering plants, and are needed to ensure the existence of about one third of the world's food supply for humans, according to a recent PBS show about beehives that have collapsed worldwide. Avoiding pesticides and providing a variety of wildflowers and clover on your property will help to ensure that the honeybee survives as a species (PBS).
What kind of wildlife lives in your area, and what are you doing to provide a place for it in your outdoor space?
Lavelle, Christine and Michael. The Organic Garden: A Practical Guide to Natural Gardens, From Planning and Planting to Harvesting and Maintenance
.London:Hermes House, 2003.pages 108-121.
National Wildlife Federation. www.nwf.org/backyard
PBS Nature. Silence of the Bees