The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s mission is to conserve and inspire the conservation of Canada’s wildlife and habitats for the use and enjoyment of all and we could not think of anyone better to talk to about How To Create An Eco-Friendly Garden To Attract Birds & Bees.
Creating a Beautiful and Beneficial Garden
One of their initiatives is to certify wildlife-friendly gardens across Canada to acknowledge the great work people are taking on in their yards at school & at home to help wildlife.
Photo/ Canadian Wildlife Federation
From the sweet song of birds to bright butterflies sailing by, there is so much beauty – and benefit – to enjoy in the natural world. Insects pollinate our plants, giving us chocolate, fruit and vegetables while many insects, birds, bats, toads and snakes keep our mosquito, cutworm and other potential pest species in check. But they need habitat to survive. That’s where our gardens come in. With our natural world diminishing at a rapid rate, many are pointing to gardens as a means of maintaining a life-line to countless wildlife species.
Food, Shelter and Water
Growing a variety of plant types will provide food and shelter – two important habitat needs of wildlife. From vines and perennials to trees and shrubs, they can provide nectar and pollen and then seeds or fruit. A diversity of plant types are also places to nest, rest and escape weather and predators. Even dead or dying tree trunks are imperative for cavity nesting birds like owls, woodpeckers and chickadees which keep insect and rodent populations in check.
Photo/ Canadian Wildlife Federation
Together these layers of vegetation increase the “space” of your habitat. It’s like adding rooms and furniture to a bare four-walled house.
In addition to shelter provided by plants you can add supplemental shelter and places to feed with leaving a log on the ground under a tree, adding a bird or bat house or making a stone pile for snakes. Leaving a small corner for grasses and other low plants to grow lush will help our fireflies, toads and other small animals. Our many native solitary bees need open areas of earth to nest. But don’t worry as they are very docile and those that still have stingers would only sting if hurt.
For water, you can keep it simple with a shallow bird bath. Clean the dish when it begins to look dirty and change the water at least twice a week. This helps eliminate both germs and mosquitoes. If you have the inclination, consider adding a recirculating stream. Even an open patch of sand, compost or earth invites some species of butterflies to mud puddle (drink water and nutrients) when wet.
When choosing plants, include a diversity of flower colours, shapes and sizes which can go a long way in helping our many pollinators who themselves are varied in size, ability and preference. Consider all four seasons to provide nectar, pollen, seeds and fruit for resident and migrating animals. As regionally native plants are important for the wildlife of that area, consider including them in your garden.
Early and late spring ideas include Bloodroot, Wild Plum, Wild Columbine and violets. Summer flowers include Echinacea, Yarrow, Joe-pye Weed and Liatris. Early and late autumn flowering plants include sunflowers, asters and Obedient Plant.
Many non-native favourites are also beneficial to our wildlife, including Apple trees and lilacs. Avoid plants that are known invasive species which tend to spread and harm local ecosystems such as some honeysuckles and Daylilies.
Some plants have had their nectar and pollen producing capacity bred out of them so check to make sure most of your plants still provide this important food for our pollinators. Also avoid plants grown with neonicotinoids which remain in the plant and harm insects that feed on their pollen and nectar. Ask your nursery for details before buying or check out CWF’s neonic-free plant packs.
Earth-friendly Gardening Practices
How you maintain your garden is just as important as what is in it. In fact, the choices you make will not only benefit you and your garden but have impacts on surrounding ecosystems. Avoid chemical pesticides, strengthen plants with natural fertilizers such as compost and use organic non-dyed mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture in dry weather. You can nourish your lawn by leaving grass clippings and conserve water by watering at the base of plants in the morning to prevent evaporation.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation wishes to recognize Canadians who have created wildlife-friendly habitat or left existing native habitat. If you think your property meets the needs of wildlife, they’d love to hear from you! If certified, you receive a certificate and decal and will be eligible to purchase a sign to put up in your garden to help spread the word. Some gardens, with permission, are featured in their Grow Wild e-newsletter or in the Canadian Wildlife magazine, serving as inspiration for others.
Here is an beautiful example of a certified home.
Photo/ Susan Biensch