October is the perfect month for homeowners to add plants to the landscape. While you are designing an attractive landscape for your enjoyment, take some time to think about including plants and other items that will attract wildlife to your yard. Keep in mind that what you include in your design, such as plants, feeders, water features, etc. and where you place these items, will have a great effect on the kinds of animals and other wildlife, like butterflies, that will be attracted to your yard.
First, develop an overall landscape plan for your property. Be sure that your plan includes all of the areas of your yard that you want to develop. Keep in mind the principles of design, which include: scale or proportion, balance or symmetry, unity, accent and repetition. Keep your plan simple and try to avoid a cluttered look. In the beginning, don’t worry about selecting specific plants, but concentrate more on grouping plants. You should decide during the initial planning stages where such items as an ornamental pond or bird feeder will be located. Think about the views that you will have from inside your house.
When deciding what to include in your design, remember the three basic needs of wildlife: food, cover and water. The needs are the same whether in the forest or in your backyard.
FOOD: This is one of the easiest needs that you can provide. Greater variety of food leads to a greater diversity of wildlife that you are likely to attract. Food can be provided naturally by the planting of grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees. You can supplement naturally grown food with a variety of products that will attract both birds and animals. Food is one of the greatest enticements for attracting wildlife onto your property. Many homeowners who don’t have enough land to provide water and cover can enjoy some wildlife through feeding alone. Section off an area of your landscape and order a wildlife wildflower mix from a place like WildseedFarms.com. Just looking at the pictures of the flowers on the website is worth a visit to their site.
WATER: Most homeowners are not fortunate enough to have a natural source of water in their yard. In most cases, it must be provided. This can be accomplished with something as simple as a birdbath or as elaborate as an ornamental pool or pond. In addition to its wildlife value, a water feature can be a focal point in the yard. Locate it so that it can be easily viewed from both outside and inside the house. If you can only have a birdbath, clean fresh water will bring the birds flocking. If you have an irrigation system, run a drip line off an irrigation head into the birdbath and you will have water every time you turn on the sprinklers.
COVER: Protection from the weather and places to rest and raise young are essential components of any wildlife sanctuary. Different animals have different cover requirements; rock piles or stonewalls for chipmunks and lizards … dense shrubs for cottontails and towhees … water for frogs and turtles. Try to locate cover close to the food and water, and remember, many cover plants can also be food plants. Arrange plants so that they are aesthetically pleasing, as well as fitting in with your overall landscape plan. Add bat houses and bluebird boxes so these critters will get used the structures being around over the winter and can utilize them come spring nesting.
As your landscape matures and the wildlife habitat develops, it will become increasingly exciting. Your yard can become a stage where different species of wildlife are the stars and the people are the audience.
Reach Campbell Vaughn, the UGA Agriculture and Natural Resource agent for Richmond County, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.