Wildlife garden

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Joe-Pye weed in flower

A wildlife garden (or wild garden) is an environment created by a gardener that serves as a sustainable haven for surrounding wildlife. Wildlife gardens contain a variety of habitats that cater to native and local plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals and so on. Establishing a garden environment that mimics surrounding wildlife allows for natural systems to interact and establish an equilibrium, ultimately minimizing the need for gardener maintenance and intervention. Wildlife gardens can also play an essential role in biological pest control, and also promote biodiversity, native plantings, and generally benefit the wider environment.

Habitats[edit]

Building a successful garden suitable for local wildlife is best accomplished through the use of multiple three-dimensional habitats with diverse structures that provide places for animals to nest and hide. Wildlife gardens may contain a range of habitats, including:

Log piles – Preferably located in a shady area, a pile of logs is a sanctuary for insects and amphibians. The organic structure is a shelter for both protection and breeding. In addition to logs, garden debris may also be added around the garden to be used as a natural mulch, fertilizer, weed control, soil amendment, and habitat for arthropod predators.[1]

Bird feeding stations and bird houses – A place for birds to eat and take shelter will increase the amount of birds in the garden, which play a key role in biological pest control. Not only will food and shelter increase the survival rate of birds, but it will also ensure that they are healthy enough for a successful breeding season.[2]

Bug boxes – Offcuts of wood placed in a structure above ground provides an alternate place of shelter for beneficial insects, such as the robber fly, which help keep natural ecosystem predators in check.[3]

Sources of water – A water feature, such as a pond, has the potential to support a large biodiversity of wildlife. To maximize the amount of wildlife attracted to the water feature, it should consist of ranging depths. Shallow areas are used by birds to drink and by insects and amphibians to lay eggs. Deeper areas provide habitat for aquatic insects and a place for amphibians, or even fish to swim.[4]

Pollinating flowers – Flowers rich in nectar will attract bees and butterflies into the garden.[5] Wildflower meadows are an alternative option for lawns in the garden and will serve as a sanctuary for pollinators. However, pollinating plants should not be confused with plants suitable for butterfly breeding.[6]

Plant diversity – The garden should include a range of plant types to serve different specie habitats. A balance between ground cover, shrub, understory, and canopy species will allow different sized wildlife shelters that fit their individual needs.

Choice of plants[edit]

Although some exotics may also be included, wild gardens usually mostly feature a variety of native species. Generally, these will be a part of the pre-existing natural ecology of an area, making them easier to grow than most exotic species. Choosing native plants comes with an array of benefits for both plant and animal diversity, especially the ability to support native insect and mushroom populations that have established balanced evolutionary relationships over thousands of years.[7]

Ornamental plants on the market tend to lean toward “pest-free” plants,[8] making it hard for native insects to adapt, and ultimately reducing their food supply. Decreases in insect populations due to excessive ornamental planting will discourage bird populations from inhabiting the area.

Invasive species can always prove problematic in the garden due to the absence of natural predators and their ability to reproduce rapidly. Without any measures of control, invasive species can easily overtake native species in the garden. Addressing invasive plants can be done a variety of ways; however, to ensure the least amount of damage to the surrounding ecosystem, this is best done by cutting down the plant, followed by painting its stem with an herbicide, such as Roundup.[9] The debris from the invasive species can be piled and used as a home for smaller critters.


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tallamy, Douglas (2007). Bringing Nature Home. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-88192-992-8. 
  2. ^ "Gardening for Wildlife". www.bbowt.org. 2016. Retrieved April 2016. 
  3. ^ Marinelli, Janet (2010). "Enticing Predators to Patrol Your Garden". www.nwf.org. National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved May 2016. 
  4. ^ "Gardening for Wildlife". www.bbowt.org. 2016. Retrieved April 2016. 
  5. ^ Marinelli, Janet (2010). "Enticing Predators to Patrol Your Garden". www.nwf.org. National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved May 2016. 
  6. ^ Tallamy, Douglas (2007). Bringing Nature Home. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-88192-992-8. 
  7. ^ Lancaster, Roy. "Gardening With Natives for Wildlife". www.cnps-yerbabuena.org. Retrieved May 2016. 
  8. ^ Tallamy, Douglas (2007). Bringing Nature Home. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-88192-992-8. 
  9. ^ Tallamy, Douglas (2007). Bringing Nature Home. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-88192-992-8. 

External links[edit]