Creating a Safe Haven for the Birds, Bees, and Butterflies at Home
There are as many reasons to garden as there are gardeners digging in the soil. Our individual focus on the type of garden we grow may vary from food, foliage, and even flowers, but in all cases, we can make room for attracting wildlife. Creating a garden to welcome the birds, bees, and butterflies bring movement to the beds, even on a still summer day, and wildlife in the garden is life to the land.
You don’t need a lot of space to attract and sustain wildlife. ~ Helen Yoest Click to Tweet!
Your garden can be as small as a balcony to as large as an acre or more or any size in between. What’s important are the kinds of plants included in your design and sticking with sustainable gardening practices. Creating a wildlife habitat is easy–just provide food, water, cover, and places for creatures to raise their young.
To attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden, supply the necessary kinds of food—either naturally or with supplements. The food you provide will depend on the kinds of wildlife you want to attract. Bees are looking for pollen and nectar-rich plants such as Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and Lavender (Lavandula spp.). Of course, there are many other plants to the bee’s liking, such as bee balm (Monarda spp.), as the name implies. Hummingbirds, too, are looking for nectar-rich plants, but they are very specific about the shape of plants. Since hummingbirds sip nectar in flight, trumpet-shaped flower-heads make it easy for the birds to access the nectar.
To attract hummingbirds to your garden consider pincushion flower (Scabiosa), red-hot poker (Kniphofia), and beard tongue (Penstemon). Did you know the blooming of the native columbine (Aquilegia) is timed with the spring migration of the hummingbirds?
Consider, too, food needs at different stages of the life cycle. Butterfly larvae feed on specific host plants, yet adults will sip the nectar of most flowers with an umbel form, which makes a landing pad for easy feeding. If you want to sustain monarch butterflies in your garden, plant milkweed (Asclepias spp.). Milkweed is the only plant where a female monarch will lay her eggs since it’s the only plant the larvae will feed upon. Unlike the hummingbirds who drink in flight, butterflies stand to sip, so to attract them to your garden plant flowers that have a landing pad–a flat umbel shape, such as lantana (Lantana spp.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and verbena (Verbena spp.) like ‘Homestead Purple’. Monarchs will sip the nectar from the milkweed flower and any other nectar-rich bloom that is designed for them to access. To attract song birds, plant a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals to provide various seeds, nuts, cones, berries, foliage, and fruits, as well as nectar, sap, and pollen. You can also supplement the naturally occurring food with feeders that hold seed, suet, or hummingbird nectar.
Water is essential for drinking and bathing, and a clean, reliable water source is important to creating a good habitat. A wildlife garden must have a water source to sustain the birds, bees, and butterflies. Once you attract the wildlife to your garden, you also want to keep them there. Provide all their needs so they will stick around. The water source doesn’t have to be elaborate. Yes, it can be as large as a creek or pond, but even a simple birdbath will suffice. Add multiple locations, at varying heights, to attract a greater variety of wildlife. Don’t forget about your wildlife in the off-season. It is important to provide water year-round, even in the winter and especially during times of drought.
The birds, bees, and butterflies are looking for a place to quickly escape to for protection against the elements and predators. Adding a variety of plant life—ranging in size, height, and density of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, and ornamental grasses—will increase your chances of attracting more kinds of wildlife. The denser and lusher your garden, the more wildlife you will attract. Stone stacks and walls, wood piles, and other crevices are also places butterflies and bees will escape to when looking for a dry spot.
PLACE TO RAISE THEIR YOUNG
If you have adequate cover, you are more than halfway there in providing a safe place for reproduction and nurturing wildlife young. Adding nesting boxes will also aid in providing safe areas for birds to nest.
SUSTAINABLE GARDENING PRACTICES
Once the wildlife has made your garden their home, keep them safe. Practicing sustainable gardening practices is important to you and the wildlife. Make an effort to control non-native and invasive species, and eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Take comfort in providing a home for the wildlife. Remember you want to not only attract the birds, bees, and butterflies, but to sustain them as well. Once you’ve attracted them to your garden, provide for all their needs and they will make your garden their home, not just a gues