Back Yard Landscaping for Wildlife

April 16 , 2005

Part I: Do You Ever Wonder How Your Landscaping Affects Wildlife

There have been several inquires in the Master gardeners office about landscaping to attract wildlife. I researched the subject, and will share the with you information .

It is important to consider their basic habitat requirements for food, cover, and water. Listed below is information that will help you landscape with these elements in mind.

Wildlife are affected by how homeowners manage their yards and neighborhoods at both local and regional scales. For example, maintaining a habitat for wildlife in a yard increases bio- diversity in the neighborhood (Biodiversity is simply the number of different species occurring in a given area.) Residents can plant natural vegetation in their individual yards so it is near or connected to vegetation in the next yard, and so on. This creates a corridors that animals can use to travel from one natural area to another.

Neighborhoods can have a negative impact on both local and nearby wildlife habitat. People may plant invasive, exotic plants that invade nearby natural areas (for example, Chinese Tallow). The growth of these plants in natural areas destroys wildlife habitat. Also, pets may run loose in neighborhoods and nearby areas. Pets can disrupt wildlife populations through hunting and harassment of animals. What people do within their own yards does affect nearby wildlife populations.

Collectively and as individuals, homeowners can do many different things to provide wildlife habitat. Essentially, wildlife habitat consist of food, cover, water and space.

Ten tips for Landscaping for wildlife

1. Tip I Limit the amount of lawn:
Lawn is like concrete to most species of animals. It offers very little food or cover. In general, we recommend reducing the amount of moved lawn around your house, especially in areas of low traffic such as corners of the yard. By not mowing, you will be creating shelter and food many animal species. Over time, unmoved areas contain more plant species than mowed areas. This plant diversity attracts more wildlife species. For example, birds are attracted to areas that are structurally diverse. These areas provide shelter in which to hide from predators or build nests. Further, the diversity of plants provides more feeding opportunities. More importantly, diverse areas attract more insect and most birds eat insects.

Another option is to replace lawn with ground cover plants, which are more valuable to wildlife than lawn grass. Compared to ground cover plants, lawn grasses require a lot of maintenance .. Mowing, fertilizing and watering all of which have high energy cost in electricity, water, and other natural resources.

Islands of landscaped vegetation are also very helpful to wildlife. These can be planted with native ground cover, wildflowers , or other vegetation. If possible, locate the islands so they are near each other. Islands can also be located near unmowed areas of the yard. Animals are more likely to use an island if it is located near another. Small, ground -dwelling wildlife benefit greatly from islands of vegetation.

Next week I will continue with tip #II.