butterfly in the garden
ECO gardener

Creating a wildlife-friendly garden offers a range of benefits, both for the environment and your enjoyment. A low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly garden is not only beneficial for local ecosystems but also reduces the time and effort required for garden upkeep. It helps to reduce water wastage and helps to protect local wildlife. Additionally, it can encourage biodiversity and provide a peaceful place to relax and unwind.

Is it worth building a sanctuary for plants and friendly garden critters? In this guide, let’s take a deep dive into wildlife-friendly gardens – their benefits, the kinds of plants to grow to attract pollinators, and how to maintain a wildlife-friendly garden:

Why Build a Wildlife-Friendly Garden?

bee pollination

Wildlife-friendly gardens can be incredibly beautiful and diverse. Native plants, in particular, can create stunning landscapes that change with the seasons, offering year-round visual interest. It supports wildlife and contributes to better soil health, water, and air quality. All these have broader positive impacts on the environment.

Wildlife-friendly gardens provide habitat and food sources for various species, from birds and butterflies to pollinators and small mammals. This, in turn, attracts pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These insects play a crucial role in fertilizing plants, which is essential for fruit and vegetable production. Supporting pollinators benefits your garden and local ecosystems.

Some wildlife, such as birds and beneficial insects, help control garden pests naturally. Encouraging these species can reduce the need for chemical pesticides, making your garden healthier and more eco-friendly.

Spending time in a garden teeming with wildlife can have a calming and therapeutic effect. It provides a sense of connection to the natural world, reduces stress, and promotes mental well-being. A wildlife-friendly garden can be an educational tool for children and adults alike. Observing wildlife in your garden can be a valuable learning experience and foster a deeper appreciation for nature.

Creating a wildlife-friendly garden can be a win-win! It benefits local ecosystems, enhances your quality of life, and provides an opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment right in your backyard.

7 Steps to Create a Low-Maintenance Wildlife-Friendly Garden

Creating a low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly garden is an excellent way to support local biodiversity while minimizing the effort and resources needed to keep your garden thriving. Below are ways to design a wildlife-friendly garden:

Native Plant Selection: One of the most fundamental aspects of a low-maintenance, wildlife-friendly garden is choosing native plants. Native plants are well-adapted to your local climate, soil conditions, and pests. They require less water and maintenance compared to non-native species. Research the native plants in your area, and select a variety that provides food and habitat for local wildlife. By doing so, you’ll encourage biodiversity and reduce the need for constant care and intervention in your garden.

Different types of raised beds in the garden

Layered Planting Design: Create a layered planting design with trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This mimics natural ecosystems and offers varied habitats for wildlife. Trees and shrubs shelter birds and small mammals, while perennials and groundcovers provide nectar and seeds for pollinators and other creatures. This diversity not only attracts wildlife but also creates a visually appealing garden that is less prone to weed growth. You can incorporate raised garden beds into this landscape design.

Mulching and Weed Control: Apply a thick layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded leaves, to your garden beds. Mulch suppresses weeds, retains soil moisture, and moderates soil temperatures. Fewer weeds mean less time weeding, freeing you from a labor-intensive garden chore. You can also use landscape fabric weed barrier as an alternative to mulch.

Smart Watering Techniques: To conserve water and reduce maintenance, employ smart watering techniques. Install a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses to deliver water directly to the base of plants. Group plants with similar water needs together to ensure efficient watering. Additionally, use rain barrels to collect rainwater for garden irrigation, reducing your reliance on municipal water sources.

Natural Pest Control: Embrace natural pest control methods to minimize the need for chemical pesticides. Encourage beneficial insects, like ladybugs and parasitic wasps, by planting their preferred host plants. Birds also play a crucial role in pest control; attract them with bird feeders and birdhouses. A healthy, diverse ecosystem can naturally balance pest populations.

Wildlife Features: Incorporate specific features to attract and support wildlife. Install bird feeders with seeds and suet to provide food for feathered friends. Bird baths or small ponds offer water for drinking and bathing. Leave some deadwood or brush piles as shelter for insects and small animals. Creating these designated areas for wildlife ensures that your garden remains a welcoming habitat without intensive management.

Year-Round Interest: Design your garden for year-round interest by selecting plants that bloom and provide food at different times of the year. By offering a consistent food source and shelter throughout the seasons, you’ll attract and support various wildlife year-round. Additionally, consider incorporating evergreen plants for winter interest and year-round cover.

What Flowers to Grow in a Wild Life-Friendly Garden

Here are five good wildlife-friendly flowers that can attract and support various types of wildlife in your garden:

Purple Coneflower: Purple coneflowers are not only visually appealing with their vibrant purple-pink petals and distinct cones but are also great for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies. They provide nectar and pollen and are a favorite of many garden-friendly insects.

red bee Balm

Bee Balm: Bee balm, also known as Monarda or wild bergamot, is a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its tubular, nectar-rich flowers come in various colors, making it an attractive addition to a wildlife garden.

Liatris: Liatris, also known as blazing star or gayfeather, produces tall spikes of purple or pink flowers that are particularly attractive to butterflies and bees. These flowers add vertical interest to your garden.

Zinnia: Zinnias are easy-to-grow annuals that come in a wide range of colors. They provide nectar for butterflies and are a delightful addition to your garden. Planting a variety of zinnia colors can attract different types of pollinators.

Sunflower: Sunflowers are not only iconic and beautiful but also a valuable food source for birds, especially when they go to seed. Their large, cheerful blooms also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.

These five flowers are just a starting point for creating a wildlife-friendly garden. Consider planting a mix of native and non-native species to provide a continuous source of nectar and food throughout the growing season. Remember to avoid using pesticides and herbicides to create a safe and healthy environment for wildlife in your garden.

Plants to Grow in a Wildlife-Friendly Garden

In addition to flowers, incorporating various plants, including shrubs, trees, and groundcovers, can further enhance the wildlife-friendliness of your garden by providing habitat, shelter, and food sources for different creatures. Here are five types of non-flowering plants to consider for a wildlife-friendly garden:

Native Grasses: Native grasses like switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) are excellent choices for wildlife gardens. They offer nesting material for birds, habitat for insects, and seeds that provide food for birds and small mammals.

Grasses add texture and create a natural look in your garden. Consider planting host plants for butterfly caterpillars. For instance, milkweed (Asclepias spp.) attracts monarch butterflies.

Ferns: Ferns, such as lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), thrive in shaded areas and provide cover for small animals like frogs and insects. They contribute to a lush, layered garden design while requiring minimal maintenance.

Berry Shrubs: Planting berry-producing shrubs like elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), and blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) not only adds structural diversity to your garden but also provides a valuable food source for birds and other wildlife. These shrubs can attract various bird species, particularly in the fall when berries ripen.

Evergreen Trees: Evergreen trees, such as pine (Pinus spp.) and spruce (Picea spp.), offer year-round cover and protection for birds and small mammals. Their dense foliage provides nesting sites and shelter from harsh weather conditions. Additionally, evergreens contribute to the overall aesthetic of your garden.

parsley herbs

Herbs: Dill (Anethum graveolens) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum) attract swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. These plants support the complete life cycle of butterflies, from egg to adult, enhancing your garden’s appeal to these beautiful insects.

Including a diverse selection of non-flowering plants in your wildlife-friendly garden helps create a balanced ecosystem that attracts a broader range of species. As with flowering plants, selecting native species is often the best choice because they are well-adapted to your local environment and the wildlife. Proper planning and maintenance will ensure that your garden provides essential resources for all types of garden critters throughout the year.

ECOgardener tools and gardening supplies can help you achieve a low-maintenance wildlife-friendly garden. Our raised beds, landscape fabric and staples, weed pullers, pruning shears as well as soil conditioners are few of the most important items you need to start building a wildlife garden from scratch.

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