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Gardening For Wildlife
July 13, 2015

Is it possible?

Is summer finally here in Michigan?

For the first time this year, we have a whole week of 80 degree temps in the forecast.

Now we need some rain here.

I love nature, you never know what you may spot or discover.

This past week, it was this small toad tucked into the hollow stem of a ceramic mushroom (the top had fallen off).

How it got up there and why is part of what makes it so special.

This past week was a week of hard work and much joy.

Yolanda is settled in as we continue to work with her.

Building her strength and stamina is a drawn out process.

Still, she is at 'Hope Network' this week for the first time in a long time.

Starting out with three hours a day and next week we will see about increasing time.

A hospital bed is to be delivered for her today as well.

The bed makes things easier for everyone.

Gardening For Wildlife


(Cardinal feeding parasitic cowbird fledgling.)

As wilderness disappears and the human-dominated landscape expands, songbirds, butterflies, bees, and other creatures are left without places to live.

Already 54 percent of the lower 48 states has become cities and suburbs and 41 percent more into various forms of agriculture.

(Things fare better in Canada and Alaska.)

In other words, we humans have already taken 95 percent of the original native habitat.

New development continue to eat up 2 million acres of quality wildlife habitat each year.

Natural habitats are damaged further by invasive plants that commonly spread from our residential gardens and by the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides that pollute streams and water sources.

The overuse of herbicides and pesticides in agriculture and in our gardens, continues to make matters worse.

The good news is that residential landscapes can be home for both humans and wildlife.

We can share our landscapes with the plants and animals.

The Orioles are still feeding, and now they are bringing their fledglings.

I was forced to get this feeder to slow down the sparrows.

It slows them down, but doesn't stop them from getting some of the jelly.

Back to business.

The first step when gardening for wildlife is to determine the priority species (What lives in your area, and you might want to attract).

Then identify the food, water, shelter, and other resources each animal requires. Here are the essentials:


The best food source is often a diverse selection of native plants.

For the vast majority of native wildlife, most of the non-native plants you and I have favored in our landscapes for more than a century do not provide sufficient food.

That includes the insects on which 96 percent of all birds depend on.

But when you plant native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, you provide wildlife with the nectar, pollen, fruits, leaves, seeds, and nuts (and associated insects) that have nourished them for millennia.

Space is limited in the typical home garden, so it makes sense to plant the natives that are the champions at providing food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

I will say this.........

The more native I go, the more bird activity we get to enjoy on a regular basis.


Like all living things, wildlife needs water for drinking as well as bathing and cooling off. Water can be a scarce commodity in arid areas and in the inner cities.

Nature provides water to wildlife in a multitude of ways that the homeowner can replicate such as a shallow in-ground pool or pond, stream.

Be sure to offer a birdbath with fresh water.

Misters, drippers are almost a guarantee to attract birds.

Places to Hide, Rest and Nest:

Native Trees, Shrubs, Flowers, Native Grasses brush piles, and man-made wildlife houses serve as home and shelter.

For birds, all trees and shrubs provide cover, but none are better than evergreens, especially conifers.

And the seeds in their cones are an important source of food for some species.

As with other plants for wildlife, regionally native pines and spruce trees are best, since they are more likely to host the native insects upon which birds depend.

You should avoid the use of pesticides, which can harm birds and other wildlife directly or contaminate the flowers or vegetation that are their food source.

To provide maximum habitat for the widest array of wildlife, it helps to recreate the vertical layers of vegetation (trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses), found in nearby natural areas.

If you want to attract birds, think like a bird.

Copy nature.

All native plant communities consist of vertical layers, which are most obvious in forested regions.

The tallest layer of a forest is called the canopy and is composed of mature trees.

The highest canopy trees may be 100 feet or more, while the lowest grow to about 30 feet.

The next layer down is called the understory.

It is composed of saplings of canopy tree species as well as smaller flowering trees such as dogwoods and redbud.

The understory layer rises from about 12 to 30 feet above the ground.

The shrub layer is the lowest layer of woody vegetation.

It occupies the area between 3 and 12 feet.

The lowest aboveground layer of a forest, below 3 feet, is called the ground layer.

Here, wildflowers, ferns, grasses, and sedges grow in often spectacular combinations.

Plants in the ground layer also partition their environment vertically.

Spring ephemeral wildflowers bloom first, typically raising their foliage only a few inches above the leaf litter.

As they go dormant, taller ferns and wildflowers overtop them.

Even Prairies and other communities dominated by herbaceous plants also have distinct vertical layers.

The earliest plants to emerge in spring are low to the ground.

Each successive emerging plant overtops the next, culminating with the tallest grasses and late-blooming asters and other composites that end the growing season.

The layers also extend below the ground, from fibrous-rooted grasses to wildflowers with deep taproots.

Also below the surface is a complex community of good bacteria, insects and worms that break up leaf litter and fertilize your plants and habitats.

Insects, larvae, and worms also feed your birds and small mammals like shrews.

In general, the more vertical layers there are, the more complex the vegetative structure and therefore the more habitat created for a wider array of animal life.

(Third year in a row, we have otters.)

Last week I wrote on healing gardens, wildlife gardens fall into that category.

Some of you have asked (especially new readers) for me tell explain more on Yolanda.

Hopefully, next week I can do that.

It will also help you to learn more about us, and understand who we are and why.

You will also see how Gardening for Wildlife, and gardening in general are indeed Healing Gardens.

At the bottom is a one legged duck that has visited us for the past three years.

Now there is one tough girl, and a survivor.

Well <>, it is time to fly for now.

Before I fly, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless

"Too often we keep those lists (wrongs done to us), ruminate on them, nurse them like a wounded animal. We say we forgive--and we may even believe we have--but when the list presents itself again we entertain it with a sort of sick satisfaction"

Stacey Eldridge (Christian Author, and Speaker)

Forgive and forget.

Yeah right.

In our humanness, we do keep mental records.

We may forgive (or think we have).

But can't wait to pounce when things go wrong or something is said to open old wounds.

Here is what the word of God has to say on love.

(Note, it keeps no record of wrongs.)

"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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