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Gardening with Laurie: Create wildlife-friendly landscape in your yard

Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:18 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

These hot, humid days of summer provide good opportunities for planning things to do in the yard.

Perhaps you've wanted to add a shade tree to the landscape, move your vegetable garden, or maybe you have thought about expanding an existing flowerbed. How about creating a wildlife habitat in your yard? Think about how enjoyable it could be watching hummingbirds dart around from flower to flower. Or how magical it is to watch a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. Creating your own wildlife-friendly landscape is a wonderful way to help care for your very own small part of our planet. Developing a habitat for garden creatures not only helps the environment, but also brings nature closer to you.

To establish a safe, friendly environment that will encourage wildlife, you will need three basic elements: water, shelter and a food source. The most important factor of all for the wildlife will be the need for an area that is free from harmful chemicals and wandering, domestic house pets. Think of your refuge as a safe spot for the wildlife to come to for rest, food and shelter from the elements.

Your water source can be anything from a shallow puddle to an elaborate pond. All wildlife needs clean water for drinking. Some wildlife also need water for breeding, some for bathing and some to clean their food.

Native wildlife will be more attracted to plants as a food source that are native to your area. Plants not only supply a food source, but also provide some shelter. Some plants can be larval foods for different types of butterflies. Certain trees will provide acorns, nuts, seeds or berries. There are different types of plants that can be incorporated into the area that will actually attract different types of insects that are food for lizards, frogs, bats and birds.

Shelter should come from as many natural elements as possible. Native shrubs and trees can make wonderful nesting sites for bird life and provide cover for small mammals. Native plants will also require less maintenance than non-native plants. Old hollow tree stumps, fallen logs and dens in the ground can easily become homes for many types of wildlife. To attract butterflies, you will need specific larval host plants, which can provide shelter for the caterpillars.

No matter the size of the yard, any area can contain some of each of the major elements that will attract wildlife. Maybe you only plant a tree to provide a nesting site, stop gardening with harmful chemicals, plant host plants to attract butterflies, or leave an area of your landscape with all native plants. Any and all of these can be small steps to preserving and protecting our environment. Your own wildlife habitat can add as much to your life as it does to the wildlife that it attracts.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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