It seems that January is the time of year for making predictions about what this year’s trends will be in the gardening world. I am so thrilled that at least for some, creating welcoming habitat for wildlife in our gardens has made an appearance on these lists (Notice that this list also includes designing with native plants, and more use of edible native plants).
Instead of making the usual list, I’m going to make my wish list for trends I’d like to see a whole lot more of when it comes to wildlife gardens and making the world a better place for us all to live in.
Energy-Wise Landscape Design
Author Sue Reed says:
What is the point of gardening in support of pollinators, birds and wildlife habitat, when the natural world is on the verge of becoming strange and unfamiliar, if not unlivable, to so many species? We should intentionally design all gardens and grounds so that they – and we who create, maintain and inhabit them – consume less energy.
Learning to manage our landscapes so that we are conserving energy may be the biggest gift we can give to wildlife, and to ourselves, and a healthy planet.
I interviewed Sue Reed about her principles of saving energy in our landscape:
Adding More Native Plants
Why go native? You may be wondering what all the fuss about native plants is.
Native plants support local food webs and over the millennia have developed crucial interactions with local wildlife.
Our typical landscaping models have over 80% lawn, 16% non-native ornamental plants, and less than 4% (if any at all) native plants. Since our goal is to create welcoming habitat for wildlife, we need to turn this model on its head and start adding more native plants to our gardens.
Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants
Invasive plants do not support local food webs, outcompete existing native plants, and provide very little food and other resources for wildlife.
My team at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens has been compiling a great resource guide to discovering the best native alternatives to invasive plants, and we’ll be continuing to add to that growing list this year.
Pollinator Protection Becomes a Priority
While much attention has been paid to the decline of the honey bee (an introduced species used in agriculture) our native pollinators are also in deep trouble due to habitat destruction and the continued application of pesticides.
Even our garden clean up efforts may be harmful to native pollinators in our quest to have a tidy, neat, and “beautiful” garden.
But we can learn to care for native pollinators and protect them even through the coldest winter months in our wildlife gardens.
Native plants and native pollinators are intricately tied to the food on your dinner table, so now is the time to start protecting them in our wildlife gardens.
More Attention to Ecosystem Gardening Essentials
1. Provide Food for Wildlife
An Ecosystem Garden will provide food for all stages of life. Feeding wild animals meansgoing beyond bird feeders and learning about the native plants that support all the wildlife of your area. Your wildlife garden is an ecosystem that contributes to the inter-related food webs on which your local critters are dependent. Pollinators, butterflies, birds, mammals will find a welcoming home in your garden when you plan your garden to include the plants that will best provide for their needs.
2. Provide Water for Wildlife
Access to clean water is one of the most important elements in caring for wildlife in your Ecosystem Garden, especially in winter. Providing water in your wildlife garden is not limited to birdbaths, but can include rain gardens, wildlife ponds, saucers, fountains and more. Ecosystem Gardening also uses water sustainably and manages rainwater in a responsible way to protect our streams and watersheds.
3. Provide Shelter for Wildlife
Your Ecosystem Garden will provide safe places for wildlife to get out of the heat and cold and find respite from predators. Urban neighborhoods provide particular challenges as some species of wildlife have adapted very well to living near humans, for example raccoons, opossums, and introduced species such as starlings, house sparrows and domestic cats.
4. Provide Safe Places for Wildlife to Raise Young
Your Ecosystem Garden will include many places for wildlife to raise their young, including your garden pond for frogs, toads, dragonflies, and salamanders, tree snags with cavities for birds and crevices for butterflies, wood piles, brush piles, and rock piles. The more of these elements you add to your wildlife garden, the more wildlife will choose to raise their next generation in your habitat. You need to make sure that these places to raise their young are safe from predators.
Your Wildlife Garden Trends
These are my wishes for wildlife garden trends for the coming years, but this is just scratching the surface. What would you add to this list? What trends are you setting in YOUR wildlife garden?
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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