Gardening for Wildlife: Attracting Butterflies, Birds and Bees

What is gardening for wildlife, and how do you do it? In a nutshell, it’s planting flowers and shrubs that attract and feed bees, butterflies and birds.

Butterfly on butterfly weed blossom

It’s a very sustainable practice that’s good for the earth and its pollinators.

The Purpose of Gardening for Wildlife

Gardening for wildlife involves designing and maintaining your garden in a way that attracts and supports a diverse range of animal species.

By doing so, you can play an important role in preserving biodiversity and creating a sustainable ecosystem right in your own backyard.

Choosing the Right Plants

Selecting the right plants is essential for creating an inviting environment for wildlife.

Native Plants

Choose native plants that are well-adapted to your region, as they provide the most suitable food and shelter for local wildlife.

Native plants are also low-maintenance and require less water and fertilizer, making them an eco-friendly choice for your garden.

No Invasive Species

Instead of picking up whatever looks good at the nursery, do a little research and find out if some of the plants they’re selling or actually invasive species.

Invasive species are plants from somewhere else that thrive too well in your area and push native plants and wildlife out of their way. That’s why you’ll find them for sale, but stick with plants that evolved for your region.

Doing Your Research

Two ways to find out what’s native to your region are:

  • Look it up on internet search
  • Ask local gardeners and nurseries. I find they’re sometimes a better source than the internet.

Creating a Variety of Habitats

To attract a wide range of wildlife, it’s important to provide different types of habitats within your garden. In other words, try to give your yard or garden a little of everything.

Water Feature: Install a water feature, or at least a bird bath, to attract wildlife that needs to bathe or drink.

Flowers: include wildflowers in your plans. Plant them all in a bed or scatter them around in mulched soil.

Shrubs: plant shrubs which provide shade to critters who need it. Shrubs are a popular place for birds that like being near the ground. Some shrubs grow berries that certain birds love.

Trees: trees provide shade and nesting areas for birds and insects.

Providing Food and Water Sources

To encourage wildlife to visit and stay in your garden, it’s crucial to provide them with a consistent supply of food and water.

By simply planting botanicals that birds, bees and butterflies feed on, you’ve already provided the food. And this is better than feeders because it’s the way they naturally eat.

A bird bath or water feature is a great way to make sure there’s water for them. Be aware you’ll need to change the water at least every 2-3 days. Every day is best.

A dirty water source could spread disease to the critters you’re trying to feed. If you can’t change the water regularly, look for a water feature that changes itself, such as a waterfall style feature.

Creating Shelter and Nesting Opportunities

Birds and pollinators need shelter and safe spaces for breeding, nesting, and raising their young. You can also install birdhouses, bat boxes, and insect hotels into your garden for them.

But it may not be necessary. Dense shrubs and trees also offer excellent cover and nesting sites for birds, while rock piles and fallen logs provide hiding spots for small mammals and reptiles.

Avoiding Pesticides and Chemicals

Using pesticides and chemical fertilizers can have detrimental effects on wildlife. These substances may harm not only the targeted pests but also beneficial insects, birds, and other animals.

Opt for organic gardening methods instead, such as companion planting and using natural pest control methods. This will help maintain a healthy balance in your garden and protect the well-being of wildlife.

Creating a Year-Round Garden

To support wildlife throughout the year, aim to create a garden that provides resources in all seasons. Go for plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure a continuous source of nectar for bees and butterflies.

Consider planting evergreen trees and shrubs to provide year-round shelter and food for birds and other small animals.

Observing and Documenting Wildlife

As your garden transforms into a haven for wildlife, take the time to observe and document the different species that visit. Keep a journal or use a wildlife identification app to record your observations.

This not only allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature but also contributes to citizen science initiatives and helps monitor local biodiversity.

Getting Involved in Conservation Efforts

Gardening for wildlife is just the beginning of your journey towards conservation. Consider getting involved in local conservation initiatives or joining wildlife organizations.

By sharing your experiences and knowledge, you can inspire others to create wildlife-friendly gardens and contribute to the preservation of our natural world.