If You Build It... Backyard Wildlife Habitats

As the summer heat sets in you may be tempted to go in the house with plans to never come out again until fall. Let me urge you to take refuge in your garden sanctuary in the cool of the evenings, letting the blooms, graceful trees, backyard wildlife, and little creatures beckon you to return to the outdoors. Trust me, there will be other wondrous critter friends enjoying your space too. Through the years I have seen some of the neatest wildlife visit my garden teaching me that that famous phrase really is true, “If you build it, they will come.”

Last time we talked about plants that attract butterflies to the garden. Let’s look at some other little creatures who may take up residence in our gardens and how to help attract them.

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A little green tree frog who lives amongnst the undergrowth in my yard

Backyard Visitors

The garden addition that has brought the most variety of wildlife to my yard is most certainly my pond. Immediately after adding it, I began to notice new friends in the garden. The birds found it first. Mourning doves, cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers are now regulars. However, my greatest, most exciting visit from a bird was the day I looked out the window to see a great blue heron. This one stood about five feet tall with an elegance that was captivating. For minutes I just stood there watching this regal creature. However, it wasn’t long before I realized why it was there. It was after my goldfish! Although I ended up shooing this visitor away, I still consider it a privilege that it chose my garden for a potential hunting ground.

A solid population of green tree frogs have also taken up residence in the back yard now that there is a water source for them. One has even made its home in the hole for the lock on the gate. Dragon flies can often be seen darting about in an assortment of vivid colors. Spring often brings a rush of toads ready to mate. A water feature is number one on my list for the addition of wildlife. If you are worried about mosquitoes, add a few gambusia, mosquito fish to your water feature. These tiny fish feed on mosquito larvae controlling the population.

Plants that Beckon

Four o’clocks were already established in the backyard when I moved into my home and they continue to delight me with their heavenly scent in the evenings. Hummingbirds love them and so do the elusive hummingbird moth. This moth is fairly rare. It gets its name from the fact that it looks and flies like a hummingbird, but is not quite as large or vibrantly colored and is actually a moth. Hummingbird moths are night dwellers, so plant some four o’clocks and look for this little guy right around dusk. Four o’clocks are easy to grow, requiring no special care. They readily reseed with a seed that looks like peppercorns, so make sure to leave the seeds on the ground in the fall for fresh plants in spring. I’ve also noticed these moths buzzing around the lantana also, so plant a few of these to attract this elusive creature too.

Little Hiding Spots

This year a dense patch of plants in the middle bed of my yard has provided a home to a bunny. Small mammals, such as rabbits require areas where they can easily hide from predators. Make sure to group some of your favorite plants closely together in an area that goes relatively undisturbed so some little furry friends can find refuge.

Beauty Berry

My new varieagated beautyberry purchased to attract more birds

Backyard Buffet

A procession of butterflies and hummingbirds make their way through the garden to feed on the betterfly weed, lantana, passion vine, Mexican butterfly vine, four o’clocks, yellow bells, and salvias.

Earlier this spring I planted a beauty berry shrub, which I hope will attract even more birds. If birds are what you want to watch for, beauty berry is a must! The gorgeous purple berries provide extra color in during cooler months. I can’t wait to see what other types of birds this beauty will bring. To make things even more exciting, my plant is a variegated version that is spectacular even without the berries. Check it out here in all its glory!

To sum it all up, here are the big three things to add to the garden to attract wildlife:

  • A water source
  • Plants wildlife consider a food source
  • Cover plants for small mammals

Now that you’ve built it, sit back with a glass of lemonade to see who comes.

JaniceBrownOn the Grow is a garden coaching service launched by Janice Brown to teach people how to be successful gardeners in the sometimes difficult, Gulf Coast climate. On the Grow provides garden education for the home gardener, children in outdoor classrooms, neighbors in community gardens, and employees in workplace gardens. Whether you want a new idea for a girls’ night out, a new way to engage children in nature, or want to implement a fresh wellness program in your company, On the Grow is here for you. Your coach will take you step by step teaching you the basics, while presenting you with a fresh perspective by helping you experience the healing benefits of gardening. Our mission at On the Grow is to help everyone experience the joy of a garden and build a greater connection to Mother Earth. Connect with One The Grow on Facebook and Twitter!

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