Back Yard Landscaping for Wildlife

April 26 , 2005

Part II

Tip II: Increase Vertical layering

Looking across your yard, do you see large trees, low grass, and nothing in between?
Increasing plant structure between the ground and the tree canopy is called “ vertical layering.” Planting bushes or ground covers below some of your trees would benefit wildlife. Planting a variety of vegetation in different sizes and heights provides more cover and feeding opportunities for wildlife. Clumps (or islands) of vegetation with plants of different heights are best. One example of vertical layering is a tree with medium-sized shrubs surrounding it and some ground covers planted around the shrubs. Use native plants whenever possible.

Tip III: Provide snags and bush piles

As trees become diseased or die, consider leaving them standing as “snags”. Many
wildlife species use snags for feeding and nesting. Some woodpeckers will only use cavities they excavated themselves. Thus, the need for snags. Many of the insects that occur in snags are food for woodpeckers and other birds.

If safety is a concern in leaving snags standing, ask a tree surgeon to cut the snag to about 15 feet tall. This will still be valuable to wildlife.

Tip IV; Provide water

Water is an essential part of productive wildlife habitats. Wildlife will benefit from any
water source you provide, such as a bird bath or small pond. Ponds are not only beautiful, but also attract a variety of species and enhance amphibian breeding. “Water for Wildlife” and “an introduction to aquascaping.”

Tip V: Plant native vegetation

Plant native plant species in your yard whenever possible. Landscaping with plants that
are native to Florida not only provides better food and cover for native wildlife than do non-native plants, but on average, requires less care and resources to maintain. As with all plants, newly planted native pants must be watered until they are established. But after they are established, Florida’s native plants require less water because most are adapted to natural soil conditions and generally so not require fertilizing. They are more resistant to natural pest and diseases, so do not require pesticides.

Even with native plants, be sure to plant them in the specific conditions for their optimal growth (full sun, part sun/part shade, full shade, wet soil, dry soil, acidic soil, dandy soil, etc.) it’s best to first take a look at the conditions in your yard: sunny and shady areas, wet areas, compare morning versus afternoon, etc. then go buy the appropriate plants for the conditions in your yard.

Native plants have evolved and adapted to local conditions over thousands of years. They are usually much more tolerant to climatic conditions at a given location. Once established, most species require little or no additional irrigation beyond normal rainfall. They typically grow more slowly, generating much less yard waste.
Next week I will continue with tip# VI