How to plan a wildlife garden: Many of us are faced with planning a new wildlife garden for various reasons. Every time we move to a new home we must start our wildlife gardens anew. But sometimes we must begin our wildlife gardens again in places we’ve lived for years.
My friend Pat Sutton had to start her wildlife over again several years ago when her septic field had to be relocated.
Ursula Vernon was left with a mess of standing water in a spot in her wildlife garden that had to be clear cut for driveway repairs.
Susan J Tweit had the vision to look at an abandoned industrial site and know that she could restore health to this abused land. Now this garden has a wide variety of native wildflowers, even despite the severe drought in her area.
Kathy and Roger Horn bought a new house in Cape May, NJ which was surrounded by nothing but lawn. So they set out to transform this property into an oasis that was full of wildlife.
And I am in the process of ripping my whole wildlife garden out so that I can start over again because invasive plants have taken over and it’s easier to just start from a blank slate to clear away these invasive thugs. Last year was a difficult year and I was away for several months at a time, and during this time my wildlife garden was sadly neglected, allowing these invasive plants to gain an unrelenting foothold in my garden.
You may need to start over for any number of reasons:
- A fallen tree turns a formerly shaded site into a spot that now gets full sun
- Construction and repairs to your home
- You’re new to the concept of wildlife gardening and are eager to create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden
When faced with one of these opportunities, it’s important to make a plan before you start. Making a plan will ultimately save you a lot of time and even money as you ensure that you’re choosing the best plants for wildlife and placing them in the right place for the conditions in your garden.
How to Plan Your Wildlife Garden
- All of the invasive plants must be eradicated in my wildlife garden.
- Some of the native plants remaining in my wildlife garden are important wildlife habitat plants. I want to keep them, but some of them are vigorously reseeding in places where I don’t really want them.
- Other plants are happy where they are now that the invasive plants have been cut back.
In his book Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, Owen Dell said that the best garden tool is a lawn chair. Take the time to just sit and observe what is happening in your wildlife garden before you purchase new plants.
- Where does the water collect when it rains?
- Which beds get full sun all day?
- What areas remain in shade for most of the day?
- Where do the birds already visit?
- Which plants consistently attract butterflies and other pollinators?
Getting to know the real conditions in your garden before you start adding new plants is the best way to successfully create welcoming habitat for wildlife in your garden, and will help you follow these simple steps to attracting wildlife to your garden.
Visit Nearby Natural Areas
Take the time to visit your local wildlife refuges, state and national parks, nature centers, and also participate in field trips led by your local native plant society.
Seeing how Mother Nature arranges plants will give you an idea of what plants will work well together in your wildlife garden.
Join Your Local Native Plant Society
A simple google search will provide you with contact information for your local native plant society. Joining this organization and participating in field trips, workshops, and other events will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the native plants that will thrive best in the conditions in your wildlife garden, as well as the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife a given plant will attract.
You’ll meet other passionate wildlife gardeners who have similar conditions in their own gardens. From them you’ll gain so many ideas about which plants will provide the most bang for your buck in your wildlife garden. You’ll make friends who’ve already solved many of the questions you’ll have about how to create welcoming habitats for wildlife given the conditions you face.
And you’ll have fun!
Is Wildlife Gardening Too Hard to Learn?
Planning a wildlife garden may seem a little intimidating if you’re just getting started. You do need to do a bit of homework so that you will avoid mistakenly planting an invasive plant, and so that you’ll choose the best plants for wildlife for the conditions in your garden.
But this is not hard. If you follow the tips I’ve listed here you will soon have a garden that is full of life: the beautiful sounds of singing birds, the swirl of gorgeous butterflies, and a place of beauty for you.
So grab your lawn chair and start observing your garden!
Have you ever had to start your wildlife garden over from scratch? How did you plan your new wildlife garden? How did you choose your new native plants to support wildlife?
Update: Follow the make-over in my wildlife garden:
- Where’s My Wildlife Garden?
- Sometimes Starting Over is the Best Option
- Starting a Wildlife Garden From Scratch
- Starting Over: What Can Stay and What Must Go
- Birding View from my Office on the Deck
- New Wildlife Garden Update
- Progress in My Wildlife Garden
- The Demise of the Norway Maples (the story of some very scary and dangerous tree removal)
- Picking up the Pieces After the Tree Massacre
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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