Monday, April 11, 2011

Wildlife Friendly

As a naturalist, I am always aghast when people ask me about the best way to kill a skunk in their garden. (As if skunks eat carrots anyway?!). The truth is, I only consider my veggie garden one element of gardening. A whole other world to explore is gardening for wildlife. They surprise me when I glance out a window, keep me company while I sit in my swing, and have yet to undo any of my hard work.

As a result of this hospitality, Reed and I have been rewarded with a plethora of colorful birds, relaxed butterflies, nervous bunnies, entertaining moles, and greedy squirrels. It's almost a challenge to see just how many you can attract. And with disappearing forests, wetlands, and habitats, these animals need all the refuge they can get!

Here are some ways you can actively make your yard and garden home to wildlife!

Build a brush pile. If your yard is big enough, leave a section around it unmowed. Brush piles and high grass make a great habitat for mice and snakes, which in turn, attract birds of prey. Little birds like Carolina Wrens also love to take refuge from the snow in a dark woodpile.

Unless it's threatening to fall on people or property, let that dead tree stand! Chickadees will excavate or use existing holes to nest there in the spring and rest there (in a state of periodic torpor) in the winter. It will be a favorite buffet for woodpeckers!

Compost. Compost will be home to many an earthworm, which in turn is many a meal for the American Robin!

Plant bird and butterfly plants. Zinnias, impatiens, butterfly bush, sumac, grapes, lilac, cosmos will attract winged buddies like sphinx moths, goldfinches, and butterflies as much as any feeder!

Put up bluebird boxes if you live near a field.

Feed the birds in the winter.

Feed the squirrels in the winter.

Give the moles a break. These animals are insectivores that subsist largely off grubs and earthworms. Not only will they leave your potatoes alone, they may aerate your soil!

Keep an indoor cat or supervise him out of doors.

As for the few animals like deer that you don't want snooping around the lettuce, I've found only two things that work. A fence, or dog - or both. The deer learn quickly that my dog Hank intends to take no prisoners - and Hank gets quite the self esteem boost on the rare occasion they venture forth!

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that putting human hair from a hair brush on a fence will keep deer out better than just a fence - they smell it and think the property is claimed. My god parents do this and it's always worked well! I've heard you have to be a meat eater for it to work, though.
    I wish I could get people to master the art of not letting their cats kill everything flying or crawling in their yard. Indoor cats for the win!