How to Make a Wildlife GardenBy Arlene Correll
The first light snow has set in and at this age it makes for careful walking and mostly staying indoors. It gives one time to view the garden and see all the things one forgot to do before this quiet time. Also time to think of the gone by days of this year as it ends. It also gives one pause to think about what one can do for next year. It is a gardener’s thing!I love all kinds of wildlife and watching their antics. However, there are some I just as not see in my garden such as deer, moles, squirrels, rabbits, white-footed mice, short-tailed shrews etc. However, they are there and we tolerate each other and I do nothing to deter them and I do nothing to encourage them.
|I try to plant perennial flowers that
they do not like and that seems to work.
My daughter-in-laws 3 cats who live on the edge of our garden and
who stalk the “jungles” of the garden seem to deter the smaller
critters. For me,
butterflies and birds are most welcome, along with the frogs.
||When we first moved to Kentucky and I started to make our garden, we put out 4 hummingbird feeders and they were always loaded up with hummingbirds. This past summer they did not seem to frequent them as much and I wondered why until I saw that they would rather have the real stuff. Our flower garden had flourished so well with the kind of flowers that they like, that they rarely needed to use the feeders|
|If you are trying to attract humming birds and
are not having any luck with your feeders, perhaps it could be because
they are not sparkling clean. Hummers will not feed from a feeder if the
nectar is moldy. Clean your feeders, and, refill with fresh nectar every
three days. It is also a good idea to have more than one feeder. These
little birds are very territorial and often will not let another bird
feed from “their” feeder. Hummingbirds
are beautiful and interesting to watch. Capable of very long migratory
flights, those spending summers in eastern North America fly all the way
to Mexico to winter there. Amazing!
I love it when someone on our patio has on a red shirt or
something with red in on it and a hummingbird will come right up and
hover with their wings going a mile a minute until
they realize there
is nothing there for them. They
are also quite acrobatic when they are mating. Hummingbirds feed almost
continuously all day. Their metabolism is higher than most warm-blooded
vertebrae animals. Besides flower nectar, they eat small insects and
spiders from flowers. Males are quick to establish feeding territories
and aggressively chase away other hummingbirds, both other males and
females. They may also be seen defending their territory against
bumblebees and hawk moths.
As they become
quite tame around you, and they will, remember they are protected by law
and one cannot capture and cage one without a permit.
The males are more brilliant than females and the females are
larger than the males. Some have straight bills and others curved bills,
all designed to get deep into the flower for the nectar.
We have two small ponds in the main part of the Cottage Garden, but on
the sides I keep small “artsy” type containers that I use as bird
baths. If the birds
aren’t bathing in whatever you use as a bird bath, check the location
of the birdbath. Birds like to have an elevated area close by that they
can fly to quickly. Clean, fresh water is also a must. Be careful not to
overfill the bath. Placing a rock in the middle of the birdbath will
encourage smaller birds to bathe.
We have a lovely
large clay fish that spurts water from one pond to the other and it is
such a pleasant sound. We
have it on a timer from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. We
also have an automatic water leveler that turns on once the water falls
below a certain level, thus keeping us from losing the water pump. Water pumps are costly and the automatic level purchase was
the result of having a pump burn out because the water got down during a
real hot spell and we were not paying attention.
Once winter is on
the way, I clean all leaves and other debris from the pond bottom
because decaying vegetation will consume precious oxygen. Remember
to replace from 1/2 to 2/3 of the water. If you have fish, snails,
tadpoles and other aquatic life then fill a 2 gallon bucket (new) with
water from the pond, and use this as a holding tank when you are
cleaning your pond. Pump out the old water using your pond
pump, and replace with fresh water. Don't forget to use a
de-chlorinator to remove chlorine. Replace the fish, etc. If
your potted plants are hardy it is alright to leave them in place during
this process. It is not necessary to remove the pots.
If you don't have a
heater, and your pond freezes solid on the surface, don't break the
ice! You can place a
saucepan containing boiling water on top of the ice until it melts
through. Keep hanging onto the pan. You do not want it to fall
into the pond. Repeat as necessary until you have an opening in
the ice. I just let my pond be as I have no fish in it and no water
plants. The frogs come back
as well as the
nectar they seek. Whenever I buy new seeds or plants I always try to buy
perennials that are nectar rich flowers. Often the modern hybrids are
beautiful, but have little or no nectar. If they have a wonderful scent
chances are they are rich in nectar. Bees and other nectar loving
insects will also appreciate your effort to provide nectar rich flowers
throughout the growing season by either choosing ones that bloom
progressively at certain times of the season or by planting them a few
weeks later than each other in stages.
When I made my
butterfly garden, I chose an area that received at least six hours of
full sunlight daily. This is generally listed as one of the requirements
for most annuals and perennials that butterflies prefer as a nectar
source. The butterflies also favor sunny locations. Please
don’t worry if your garden does not meet those requirements, you might
achieve some success with as little as two hours of direct sunlight a
day, but you will have to choose flowers with a nectar source they love,
such as native wildflowers, or cultivars of the native species that
don’t require a lot of special care if you have properly prepared your
soil. Seldom bothered by pests or diseases, wildflowers are an excellent
choice for your garden.
healthy plants and
I keep mine that way by picking up plant litter on a regular basis.
I water my garden
only when flowers and plants are showing signs of stress. Over watering
causes many plant diseases, and it is not good for the plant’s root
system. I leave it to the birds and beneficial insects to rid my garden
of unwanted pests.
addition of that and a birdbath are both useful and pleasing to the eye.
Butterflies need water, especially on hot summer days. I place a flat
rock placed in the middle of a birdbath to give butterflies a place to
drink. Hibernation boxes provide some shelter from the elements even
though very few species of butterflies actually hibernate. Butterflies
also love large, dark, flat rocks placed about the garden for sunning.
Here are some
flowers that will attract hordes of butterflies to your garden.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias) is a tall orange perennial that is a good
host* plant with nectar.
|Medium and tall, pink, purple and blue asters are good host* nectar perennial to attract butterflies||
||Thistle (Cirsium) pink, purple, and yellow are good tall host*
nectar perennials that do well in attracting butterflies.
Of course, no garden should be without one or two Butterfly Bushes. (Buddleia) Pink, purple, yellow or red. Put them where they can spread out as they grow quite tall and wide.
|They are good nectar perennials, but
not a host* perennial.
The common white daisy (Chrysanthemum)
is a good hardy perennial that is a nectar, but not a host*
plant. Again these will spread though-out your garden if you do not
mind. But they are glorious and the butterflies love them.
Plus they are always perky on your kitchen or dining room table.
|Don’t forget Yarrow, (Achillea) Yellow is a good nectar, but not a host* perennial. Other nectar, but not host* perennials are Phlox, Black Eyed Susans, Blazing Star (Laitris), Bee Balm, and Violets||
Another must for the butterfly garden is the wonderful Butterfly Weed that is both a host* and nectar perennial.
Some great annuals are
Marigolds and Zinnia. My word, I do not know who
|loves zinnia more, me or the butterflies. Both are nectar, but not host flowers|
|Last, but not least, a true butterfly garden cannot be with out the queen of the butterfly gardens, the perennial Purple Cornflower. (Echinacea) Pink or Purple, medium or tall are all nectar, but not host* flowers.||
host plant is one upon which a caterpillar feeds. For instance,
host plant for the Monarch Butterfly would be milkweed. When you
provide host plants for butterfly caterpillars, you increase your
chances to see the butterfly emerging from the cocoon.
Whenever I am
outside in my yard picking up sticks after a storm, I start a small
brush pile. Small mammals and a variety of birds enjoy the features this
element provides, including cover and a good place for them to find
I try not to use
marble chips, lava rock, or any other type of inorganic mulch in my
flowerbeds and borders, and underneath my shrubs simply because insect
eating birds depend a great deal on large areas of leaf litter or
decomposing bark mulch, rich with insects and their larva. Wrens and
Song Sparrows especially enjoy this type of area. Any type of organic
mulch is very good for your plants and helps to enrich the soil.
||that is if you live in the
north. The ones that
remain, will depend on you greatly, especially if you have been feeding
them all summer. Our
goldfinches remain with us all year long. The males are brilliantly
colored in the summer, but become a little
drab in the winter and the females are more drab than usual. We indulge
ourselves with the goldfinches and have several special thistle feeders
just for them. It seems
thistle seed becomes more expensive each year.
sure your feeders are clean. Submerge
your feeders in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts tepid
water for two to three minutes. Scrub them with a stiff bristled
brush, and rinse thoroughly. Dry well
before refilling with birdseed. Warm, sunny, fall days are ideal
for this chore. Clean
up the area around your feeders. Clear away old seed and droppings
with a broom or shovel. Check feeders for wear and tear being careful to
notice sharp or rough edges. Repair any damaged areas.
feeding has different requirements. Warming
sunny days can mean moldy and decaying seed in your feeders. Birds
eating spoiled seed may become sick or die, or they may avoid your
feeders entirely. Inspect your feeders frequently and discard (don't
compost) spoiled seed. Raw suet (the type purchased at grocery meat
counters) will become rancid in warmer weather, so replace it with suet
"pudding" blocks that you find at feed and other stores. These
will remain fresh provided they are hung in the shade.
For those of you
with bird baths, scrub bird
baths with a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts tepid water.
If the bath is made of a material other than plastic, store for the
winter inside a garage or basement. Freezing water may break the
bird bath. One may want to consider purchasing a heated bird bath,
or invest in a heater.
I keep my birdseed in the garage, I like to store it in tightly sealed
containers because it keeps both moisture and rodents out.
Moisture will cause seed to mold and render it useless.
have a hard time with my daughter-in-laws 3 cats that roam free in my
garden. They are always
stalking something. Either birds or frogs! We have learned to put the
feeders up high enough that these guys can not get at the birds.
So if you have cats, you may want to consider them to be inside
pets if you are indeed a bird lover.
is never too late to start a wildlife garden. You may have one all ready
and may not even realize it. These
gardens are not only a joy, especially for me in my old age, but are a
great living, learning center for young children.
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