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GardeningFor Wildlife
June 14, 2010

(Oenothera fruticosa)

Welcome all.

This is another long one, so give yourself some time.

Living on the western end of a Time Zone does have its advantages.

Right now the sun sets well after 9:15 PM and I love it.

I don't need a 5:00 AM sunrise, I'm not up then so I don't care.

However, a longer night side.............................

Oh yeah.

If the sun could set after 9:00 PM all the time, I would be in too good of a mood to live with.

Three feet of snow and 9:00 o'clock sunsets..........................

I think I could handle it.

The fur children went the the vet, I mean fur doctor this past week

Everything checked out fine and heartworm meds are set for the summer.

Keet had a Rabies, but Ziggy the toy poodle needs to go back for a teeth cleaning.

$$$$ flying out of the wallet.

Oh Well, what are you going to do?


Nice, Hot, Humid, Rainy, Sweaty Saturday.

Another Open house for a great nephew in Potterville, MI.

Potterville is a small town near Lansing, MI, a little more than an hour drive from here.

From there we made a pit stop home and off to Riverside Park on the north side of Grand Rapids to the 'Three Fires' or Three Tribes Pow wow.

An interesting albeit hot time.

We enjoy the American Indian ways and some of the culture.

Sunday was our church picnic.

It has to slow down some time, doesn't it?

Nature and life is every where.

I am blessed to have a few pair of cardinals bringing there juveniles to our yard.

It brings a smile to my face when I watch the youngdters beg for food.

My yard must be neutral ground this year as many adults arrive at the same time as well, without fighting or squables.

Looks like it might be another good year for the Red birds.

For the novice birder, Juvenile cardinals may look a bit like females, but upon a closer look, you will notice a charcoal gray bill and legs.

They will change to adult color in the fall when the go through their first molt.

Many other species of fledglings are visiting as well.

As I say all the time, nature is all around, we only have to open our eyes.

I was on one of my many walks in the field, when a slight movement caught my eyes.

Here is this Daddy long legs spider thinking it hit pay dirt.

I watched for a few minutes as it struggled with a prize catch.

A section of earth worm, high in protein that could possibly feed it for days to come.

Things like this little find always fascinate me.

Life all around us that we don't see or take for granted.

This week I'm touching on Gardening For Wildlife.

Why we need to and a few how to dos.


Why Gardening For Wildlife?

There are many good reasons to garden for wildlife.

You attract more birds, butterflies and other fascinating creatures like salamanders and toads.

You add extra interest and pleasure to your surroundings.

You help wildlife to survive in your garden – when it often struggles to thrive elsewhere.

You might also save yourself some hard work and money!

Besides all of that, you just might get a chipmunk or some other creature pose for a photo opp.

But also the way you garden affects the environment beyond your boundaries.

For example, water shortages can be serious problems for some of you and birds, and the wildlife garden can be used to conserve water, rather than running a hose to your gardens or running irrigation.

Avoiding or minimizing the use of peat helps ensure the survival of a habitat and nonrenewable resources.

Rather than carting off unwanted garden waste to landfill sites, the garden can be used as a natural recycling site.

Avoiding or minimizing the use of peat helps ensure the survival of a habitat and nonrenewable resources.

You just might rub off on, or encourage others into wildlife gardening (wouldn't that be wonderful).

The word spreads and neighbors may begin to keep cats inside where they should be.

Indoor cats are healthy cats.

A wildlife garden doesn’t have to be an overgrown, unkempt garden.

Far from it.

Nor does it have to be large.

A small wildlife garden can even be created in a window box to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds

What wildlife gardening does do however, is give you a different perspective.

No longer do you garden just for the way things look, you also enjoy gardens for their wildlife value.

Things that you might otherwise have regarded as weeds may now be tolerated because they are the food plant for a butterfly’s caterpillars or their seeds are favored by birds.

Especially meadow gardens.

That is part of 'Gardening For Wildlife'.

The Basics:

All the rules of wildlife gardening can be summarized in two bits of advice to bring the biggest range of wildlife into your garden.

Your house and garden obliterates a piece of landscape that would once have been wild countryside.

5, 10, 25, 50 and even 100 years ago..........................................

Where you now live was once natural habitat.

Native plants.

Native wildlife.

Now many of our plants and animals struggle to survive and struggle to exist as a species.

Butterflies like Karner's Blue require Native Blue Lupine for nectar and as a host.

That is all this little butterfly survives on.

As plants are removed for building and so on, it removes the only source of food and nectar for the butterfly.

I digress.

This countryside would have had its own natural vegetation and wildlife, adapted to the soil, climate and location.

Much of this natural wildlife will still survive in pockets of habitat somewhere near where you live, so the closer you can mimic the natural habitats that would once have existed, the more wildlife there is ready to easily move in.

All living things occupy a ‘niche’, which is the set of environmental conditions.

For example: some living things live in water, some where it is dry.

But niches can be very precise indeed.

Of those creatures that live in water, some live in shallow water, some live in deep; some live in shady water, some in sunny; some live in nutrient-rich waters, some in nutrient poor.

Some birds are open land and meadow birds.

Some birds are woodland birds.

While other birds prefer woods edge and will enjoy your gardens if you are close enough to a woods and so on.

The more variety you can create in your garden, the more creatures you will attract as you will be creating lots of ‘niches’.

The skill is then in design your natural habitat so that you have an attractive and workable garden using 'Nature's' Pallet.

It is likely that you will not be managing your whole garden exclusively for wildlife, I know I don't.

Your garden is probably as much a place for you to relax or a place for your kids to play.

You may want to still grow some exotic plants, or you may be using your garden to grow vegetables.

I still enjoy peonies, iris, astilbe and other non native plants, but they still provide nectar and shelter.

A Weigela bush is native to Eastern Asia, yet the hummingbirds enjoy the flowers and other birds will appreciate the protection and even nest in it.

Because I live near a pond, toads are plentiful (toads require a body of water to reproduce).

We all know toads are a good thing.

But most toads like a cool moist location to hang out in.

Ground cover plants and plants that grow low to the ground offer protection for toads and for young birds to hide.

Now this is where your skill as a gardener will come to the forefront:

A good wildlife garden is more than just a corner of a garden left to go wild (though it could be).

Whether you are creating a new wildlife garden, or have an established one, think of it as a nature preserve and you are the park ranger or manager.

Soil type, drainage and climatic conditions play a big part in what can grow in your garden.

The way it has been managed in the past also influences what lives there.

If it has been intensively managed, or has less green space and more concrete, it is likely to support less wildlife.

My grass area (lawn) has shrunk over the years as I look for ways to provide for wildlife and for us.

If you are creating a new garden, look at what grows locally in the wild and in other gardens for ideas.

Yes, a bit of research may be required on your part.

You cannot force plants to grow where they don’t want to, so look to see what flourishes where in your garden.

Don't plant shade lovers in the sun and visa versa.

Quit insisting on putting plants that requires wet ground in a spot that rarely sees water.

Plants that require the most water and attention should be planted closer to the house or hose.

It doesn't matter if it looks good here or it matches your theme.

Stop trying to put the square peg in the round hole.

Drought tolerant plants should be placed in the same location.

Remember this, drought tolerant doesn't mean drought proof.

All plants must be treated as new plantings the first year and that means food and water until they are established for the following year.

This holds true for drought tolerant as well.


If you find something growing naturally and wish to keep it, leave it where it is instead of trying to move it.

The dilemma of finding what will grow where will largely have been solved if you have an established garden.

Major changes are harmful and take time, so work with what you have.

If any major pruning or removal is necessary, undertake it over several winters to give wildlife time to adjust.

That's right, get out of the instant gratification mode.

Key habitats:

Provide as many habitats as possible, but avoid cramming too much in and focus on what can be done well in the space you have.

Meadow gardens and open spaces can even offer wild strawberries to feed birds and amall animals.

A lawn, trees and shrubs, flowers, grasses and water are key habitats.

Look to create smaller micro-habitats within these. Here are a few examples:

Leaf litter is an ideal spot for many insects to lay eggs and many will winter over and feed birds once again.

Different species of trees, shrubs and flowering plants provide nectar and other food sources through the year.

Native grasses offer protection and food as well.

Rotational shrub cutting creates different structures and ages of growth, benefiting different wildlife at different times.

A water feature with different depths is great for wildlife.

Shallow areas are used by bathing and drinking birds, emerging dragonflies and somewhere for amphibians to lay eggs.

Deeper areas help aquatic insects survive cold spells and are good places to watch for frogs and newts.

Trees are the high rise condominiums of 'Nature'.

Can you imagine the wildlife that live in and depends on trees to live?

Create an understory or habitats under the canopies of trees and large shrubs,

Develop a ground level community as well.

Somewhere to breed and shelter:

Wildlife requires four fundamental things:

Somewhere safe to breed and shelter, somewhere to forage throughout the year and a source of fresh water.

Grow native climbers against walls and arbors to provide shelter and roosting and breeding sites for birds.

A thick, well-developed, thorny shrub bed or hedge row provides nest sites and shelter for wildlife.

Add some nesting boxes (bird house).

A bat box provides roosting sites for bats and you should know the benefits of insect eating bats.

A pile of leaves may be used by a hibernating insects which in turn, feed birds and the leaves can be scattered over the garden later on and used to build nests by some birds.

Leave tidying of borders and shrubs until late winter or early spring, again to provide shelter for insects through winter.

Leave some litter for insects and other wildlife.

Milkweeds offer host plants for Monarch butterflies and nectar for monarchs, other butterflies as well as bees.

Short lengths of drinking straws, hollow canes or plant stems, tied in bundles are excellent nesting sites for beneficial lacewings and orchard bees.

Dead wood is good for beetles and other specialist beneficial insects, fungi and mosses.

If you have room, a brush pile is ideal for many of god's creatures.

Snags (dead trees) are invaluable as long as they are out of harms way.

Somewhere to forage and feed:

Many of you want to attract certain types of wildlife.

Think like a bird if you want birds.

Plan an plant what certain birds like or prefer.

Offer thick shrubs or hedge rows.

Native trees that offer fruits and nuts (mast) as well as a place to nest and offer protection.

Plant flowers in bunches to attract hummer and butterflies.

Hummingbirds have keen eyesight, yet enjoy a buffet without having to search for it.

Butterflies are near sighted, so a group of butterfly flowers will help them to find the garden cafeteria you offer.

Butterflies hunt more by smell than sight.

Butterflies have a very well-developed sense of smell, but it's not in their nose (since they don't have one).

Sense receptors located in their antennae, feet, and many other parts of the body help butterflies find food (usually flower nectar), and mates (the female smells the male's pheromones).

Learn More About Butterflies.

Creating a range of habitat niches provides different areas and opportunities for wildlife to feed at different times of year.

Early and late flowering plants provide nectar for insects at critical times - just after emergence or prior to hibernation.

Stop with all the pesticides.

A balanced garden takes care of itself.

Good bugs eat bad bugs.

I can live with a few holes in the foliage, can't you?

Every Time you or I spray for insects, we kill off good and bad bugs.

Butterflies, bees, hoverflies, lady beetles, assassin bugs and more.

They get the toxins in their systems and die off too.

Hummingbirds lick up tainted nectar and poisoned insects.

Song birds feed on tainted insects and feed them to their young.

By doing a broad kill off, this allows for bad bugs to become rampant and take over a garden.

Insects develop immunities to chemicals which in turn calls for more and different man made toxins.

Tidy borders and cut shrubs in late winter and early spring to help retain seeds and fruit for birds and small mammals throughout winter.

Fruiting bushes are a good source of food for birds and mammals from late spring through winter.

Annual plants that produce many seeds in late summer are a good source of seed for birds through autumn into winter.

Many baby birds need insects - a good source of protein - if they are to grow strong and healthy and survive the winter. A variety of garden plants encourages these insects.

Many adult birds need insects too.

Sustainable gardening:

Many of our actions have an impact on wildlife beyond our gardens.

Consider this when choosing or using your materials when creating your wildlife garden.

When planting native plants, ensure they are of genuine native stock.

Ensure ‘wild flowers’ have been cultivated from legally collected seed and not dug-up from the wild.

If you remove flowers, shrubs or trees from the wild, make sure it is your property or you have the land owner's permission.

Remember, in most locations it is unlawful to remove nature from 'Nature'.

Plan your work and work your plan.

You will discover that Gardening for Wildlife is less work for you, more enjoyable for you and your wildlife.

Now if you can learn to keep the rake and pruners in the shed more often, all will smile.

(Most of the wildflower images are actually weeds (taken last week) that you can find growing in most locations.)

They can be quite attractive in the right environment don't you think

Well Rosco, it is time to fly for now.

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

Principle -- particularly moral principle -- can never be a weathervane, spinning around this way and that with the shifting winds of expediency. Moral principle is a compass forever fixed and forever true.

Edward R. Lyman

Read it again my friend.

This is something we all need to live by.

A good test...................

How will you act and what will you do when no one is looking?

That is a true test for any person.

Besides, someone is always watching.

Smile and be true to your self.

Until next time.

God Bless.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.

Psalms 97:6

"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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