Friday, December 27, 2013

Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden

This morning we visited my sister-in-law at her new home and soon-to-open B&B.   The M-T Nest is going to be geared to birders and naturalists.   In under an hour, we saw cardinals, green jays, banded kiskadees, a Harris hawk and, of course, Texas' state bird, mockingbirds.   She told tales of the hunting habits of their resident barn owls.    And that was just on our drive up the drive and from inside the house.   It kinda reminded me of Chevy Chase's movie, Animal Farm.  Remember it?   They're trying to sell their New England country home and have enlisted all the townsfolk to help   When the prospective buyers approach the house, someone releases deer to scamper across the law - what a pastoral scene - well, unless you have first-hand experience with deer in your yard

Anyhow, it got me thinking about what our landscapes need to include if we want to attract wildlife to our little piece of paradise.   Some good general guidelines are the requirements to certify a yard as a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.   It's a Texas Parks and Wildlife program.   You can find the application here 
Basically, you need food sources, water sources, cover from preditors, and nesting sites.  I had assumed that I'd have to have an almost completely native landscape but the certification only requires that at 50% of the planting a be native.    

Sometimes you will want to get more specific.   We've planted a pecan tree to appeal to the local parrots and leave our sabal and Washingtonia palms untrimmed so the orioles a nice nesting place.  We've left a gnarly old Ashe tree with lots of trunk rot for the Eastern screech owls   We plant fennel, dill, and parsley for the caterpillars to munch on.   And we have lots of red blooming plants to appeal to the hummingbirds.     Frogs find refuge in overturned clay pots and we definitely want some frogs around.  They are voracious mosquito eaters.   

In this new year, I challenge you to plant with a purpose.  Do a little research before you go to your local garden center.   Choose items both for their beauty and for what they will draw into your garden.  Happy gardening! 

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