Water is a key element of a wildlife garden. I do have a creek running through the woods behind my backyard, but I was hoping for a water feature a little closer to the house. So, I built a rain garden as shown above. What is it?
It is a sunken area that collects rainwater from my gutters. See the black pipe near the top right? I connected two of my backyard gutter downspouts to pipes and then routed them to the rain garden. Now, when it rains, the garden slowly fills with water. Then, it infiltrates into the ground. I haven’t timed it yet, but from my rough observations it looks like the water sinks in to the ground at a rate of about 2 inches per hour. Not too bad.
Above is a view from one of the pipe outlets. I’ve planted mostly natives that respond well to being intermittently soaked. The bottom of the garden has grasses and a Marsh Marigold. The banks have a Vine Maple, Red-twig Dogwoods, native roses, and others.
My goal now is to let the plants fill the area in and self-seed to spread. Above is a Streambank Violet that I planted. Below is one of the grasses.
Very soon after I planted everything, insects and spiders moved in.
And then, as shown below, an epsiode of Backyard Wildlife Kingdom has ensued! Aphids moved into the garden and have taken up residence in the dogwoods. Ants have appeared and are tending to the aphids in order to harvest their honeydew. Spiders are building webs to catch stray insects. All of this is visible below.
Normally people view aphids as pests, and they certainly can be. But by allowing them to move in along with their natural enemies, the system is controlling itself.
Of course, yesterday there was a major intervention. Two deer came through our yard and ate off the top of this dogwood, aphids and all! Now if one of our coyotes could appear, we’d be able to see the entire food chain…
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