Planting for Wildlife
The one side that often is overlooked is the impact of this growth on the natural world: the destruction of natural habitat and the loss of species diversity. Habitat is many things: food, water, cover and protection, nesting sites. And, different animals need different habitats. When acres of former wildlife habitat are destroyed, it is important to consider what happens to all of the creatures that called those acres home.
There is so much individual homeowners can do to restore that lost habitat. And, as one backyard after another makes a few important additions to improve habitat, they begin to develop a network of "greenways" which are simple safe havens in which animals can safely live and move.
In our own yard, we have made a few additions that have both improved the beauty of our landscape and have created a safe and happy home for so many birds that call our backyard home. The first step was to provide plenty of food and water. We have a number of elevated bird bathes near shrubs and trees. In addition, we are blessed with a creek that runs through the front of our property. Just remember to keep your birdbath filled with fresh water, especially during the summer months. And, keep those feeders full. In addition to a variety of seeds and nuts, make sure to provide much needed suet in the cold winter months.
Last fall, we made the decision to continue ridding our yard of grass, and planted our front yard with a multitude of small trees and shrubs, mostly native varieties. Many wildlife species depend upon evergreen and deciduous berry-producing shrubs. They provide shelter, nesting sites and food. Bushes that provide good food sources and are wonderful landscape plants include: northern bayberry, dogwood, winterberry, serviceberry, clethra, inkberry and hollies.
It is essential for birds to have safe nesting sites, so consider investing in a few nesting boxes this spring... put them up quickly as the birds have begun their work. We have left a few trees in our woods that are somewhat unsightly, but we know that each year they provide nesting cavities for our feathered families.
A note of caution … the family cat. We have a much loved kitty, Peaches, who would like nothing more than hunting down those birds and small mammals that we work hard to protect. The domestic cat is among the most numerous pet in the country (nearly 30% of households have cats and it is estimated that there are 40 million feral cats as well). It is thought that birds make up approximately 20 – 30% of cats prey. That is enormous stress on an already compromised population. So, be mindful of the family kitty and either keep them inside (which we simply cannot do) or make sure that the birds hear him coming!
So, let’s all do our part to ensure that future generations will not be denied the pleasures of a natural world that we sometimes take for granted. They cannot afford lobbyists in Congress, nor can they petition for their survival. It is up to us to give them a voice, and a chance.
In 1985, Briscoe White opened The Growers Exchange in an abandoned Texaco station on a busy urban street corner in Richmond, Virginia. The facility has grown over the years, and is now 5 distinct growing environments with 5 acres under cover. Briscoe has over 25 years of gardening experience. For further information on gardening products or gardening tips please visit our gardening blog.
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