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    Attract Wildlife to Your Garden

    Bring bees, birds, and other beneficial critters into your backyard.

    Contributed byThe Old Farmer’s Almanac Staff

    Planting a wildlife-friendly garden helps to support a healthy environment. By mimicking nature, your garden can be a source of water, food, and refuge for native wildlife species.

    Why Want Wildlife?

    A backyard ecosystem that benefits wildlife encourages:

    • Pollination of flowering plants
    • Natural pest controls
    • Biodiversity
    • Conservation of natural resources

    . . . all of which result in more robust landscapes and food crops.

    Bring in the Bees, Bugs, and Beneficials

    • Plant early-blooming native trees, shrubs, and perennials to provide food for insects emerging from hibernation. Willow, hawthorn, cherry, plum, pear, apple, and other flowering fruit trees, as well as perennials with many clusters of small flowers (e.g. English lavender, heather, and rockcress), are good choices for attracting bumblebees, mason bees, solitary bees, beetles, butterflies, and dragonflies. Tip: Native plants attract native beneficial insects. 
    • Supply a steady food source by planting pollen-rich plants. Keep the flowers blooming throughout the growing season. Excellent summer bloomers include clover, calendula, borage, and eggplant. Toward the end of the year, make sure late-season flowers such as aster and echinacea are available.
    • Grow plants in blocks or swathes to maximize their effectiveness. Clumping together flowers of the same species will attract more pollinators than individual flowers dispersed throughout the garden. 
    • If you have a vegetable garden, incorporate flowering vegetables such as summer squash, asparagus, chives, and cabbage.
    • Cut your lawn less frequently to allow low-growing species like clover and daisies to flower—they offer foraging opportunities for bees.
    • Provide habitat. Beneficial insects nest in a range of locations, including ground holes left by animals, sheltered crevices in walls, and inside thick clumps of grass. Allow some corners of your garden to go a little wild and be sure to avoid disturbing nests or hibernation sites.
    • Put off cutting back perennials until early spring. Wildlife will enjoy the seed heads.
    • For additional habitat, add bee “hotels” to your garden.

    Calling All Birds

    • Plant flowering shrubs and vines against walls or fences. These “hard” features make ideal nesting spots. Rose, honeysuckle, and clematis are good choices.
    • Make nests by tying stems together and placing the bundles into the nook of a tree or a crack in a wall. 
    • Put up bird feeders and/or bird boxes. 
    • Avoid overmanicuring your landscape. Instead, emulate a natural landscape. (Healthy gardens are full of abundant growth and wildlife activity.)

    Beyond the Birds and the Bees

    Woodchucks, foxes, chipmunks, frogs, newts, salamanders, and box turtles are among the wild critters we should invite.

    • Plant hedgerows. They attract a great diversity of species.
    • Build a teepee-shape log pile to provide habitat for small mammals, amphibians, and all manner of insects.
    • Leave a pile of fallen leaves undisturbed in a damp, shady corner of the garden—frogs, toads, newts and slug-eating centipedes thrive on decay.
    • Allow dead wood to remain on some trees to encourage the arrival of mosquito-eating bats. 
    • Install a pond—possibly the single most useful element for attracting wildlife.

    If you adopt just a few of these practices, you are likely to see an uptick in wildlife activity—an indicator that your landscape is healthy and productive. So, this spring, put out the welcome mat for all of those crafty critters near you!