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Gardening For Wildlife #51 Gardening For Wildlife
January 21, 2008

Welcome to the Arctic.

Okay, so I stretched the truth a little.

An Arctic blast has moved into the Great Lakes Region with single digit and sub-zero temperatures.

I understand much of the South and East as well is feeling the effects as well.

Arctic cold and a bit of wind means Lake effect snow.

Now anyone that lives or has lived in the Great Lakes Region knows what I am talking about.

For you that haven't a clue about lake effect, here is a short version.

Cold air moves over the warmer waters of the big lakes.

Moisture is pulled up and becomes snow.

Depending on how the winds are blowing will dictate where the snow falls and how much will fall.

The lake snow machines can run for days at a time and drop several feet of white.

Yes, I said "FEET" of snow.

Living in Michigan does have its advantages though.

The Great Lakes will keep us about 10 degrees warmer in the winter than temperatures to the West of us.

Most of the time that is.

Isn't life grand?

Thank you for all the hints and ideas on puppy chewing and training.

Training puppies isn't something new to us, but a chewing puppy is.

So we have taken heed to advice and we start making a little progress.

Keet and Ziggy are becoming more playful.

I really thought Akita would lay down the law, but so far it seems like the Ziglet at 4 months old is becoming the dominant pooch.

I thought the same about Keet and Pookie too, but Keet though 1/3 the size became the aggressor and more dominant dog.

Cold and nasty weather brings me instant birds.

Yup, just about every bird I can have this time of year is stopping by.

Even a few wretched Starlings are flying in for a quick feed.

Usually I stick with sunflower seed, but this time of year I do have some scratch feed I toss out.

Starlings manage to hang from my peanut feeder keeping the desirables away.

Starlings are not a true migrating bird. Some will migrate sort of and others just hang out looking for food.

Last week I mentioned that the turkeys haven't come around lately.

Well, the big birds have strutted in twice this past week.

Yolanda (our special needs daughter) enjoys the Cardinals the most.

Not only the feeders bring birds and wildlife into our yard, it is the natural gardening as well.

Yes, "Gardening For Wildlife."

You may wonder why I'm bringing up gardening, this time of year.

Why not?

You're busy thumbing through catalogs, maybe placing orders.

Itching to get out there and get your hands dirty.

Now, you need plans and ideas for planting and attracting your favorite wildlife.

Smart gardeners will plan ahead.

Besides, I have gardening on the brain this time of year so please bear with me and maybe pick-up a tip along the way.

Many birds are drawn into our yards year round because of what we plant.

These birds become aware of the surroundings and may even feel a bit comfortable hanging out in you country or suburban yard.

Many species can adapt to humans, but most cannot adapt to the lack of habitat.

Each region and location within a region, has native plants with value for native wildlife.

While most of us want the newest and latest exotic plant to add to our gardens, it is usually the native plants that add the most value for wildlife.

Now some introduced plants do offer a good source of food, they may also be very invasive.

Russian olive is some places is a valued food source for birds, but is also a very invasive small tree.

Considering the site

Each site has its own combinations of assets and limitations.

Even in the middle of some urban areas, some of the best wildlife drama unfolds.

An established garden has trees, understory plantings and a self-seeding core of plants.

You may have a grove of trees reaching maturity. This provides considerable value that even extends into its declining years when hollow trunks offer nest cavities.

Brush piles, decaying leaf litter and other organic materials enrich the soil and create feeding and shelter for many kinds of wildlife.

Physical features on the site can be equally important as well.

A natural water feature provides water for drinking and habitat.

Moderate slopes and varied terrain help to divide the garden into different habitat zones such as shade and sun.

Physical extremes can limit a garden's potential.

But you will learn what lives and grows in your area in those extremes and take advantage of it.

Even a very small lot has the ability to create habit variety. For example, a well planned window box can draw a host of visitors.

(The picture is one of my garden beds.)

Soils can limit what you can grow, but know what grows there or amend the soil.

Sandy or clay soils can limit plant growth.

The best type of soil is a combination of sand, silt and clay.

This is called loam (there goes the nurseryman in me).

You may need a soil test to determine the soil PH.

Some plants prefer acid soil.

Some plants prefer Alkaline soil.

While others like it more neutral

Neighborhood factors can also diminish a garden's potential.

Isolation from sources of wildlife immigration and migration is a serious concern, though less so in the case of particularly mobile animals like birds and butterflies.

A background of heavy urban noise constrains animals dependent on vocal communication and will deter the more weary from entering a site.

Well placed trees, shrubs and berms can help to alleviate noise pollution.

Pollination and Other Partnerships

The relationships between local animals and plants are a fascinating part of creation.

Do some planning and planting and you can encourage such partnerships in your gardens.

Cooperative relationships, such as hummingbird and butterfly pollination, in which all parties benefit is one kind of partnership.

But there is also natural predator-prey relationships in which the system, not the individual, benefits.

For example, Lady-bugs and their larvae will devour the Black aphids that appear on plants like sagebrush in the spring.

The absence of all pesticides allows insects to prey and pollinate unimpeded.

Yes organic insecticides can do more harm than good under certain conditions.

Without pollinators, where would we be?

God created a unique system, and now we must lend a helping hand.

Why not, we are Stewards of out planet aren't we?

Creating Successful Wildlife Habitat In the absence of nature:

Plant to suit the natural topography, low points are suited to moisture-loving plants or water features and a high, sloping bank is ideal for dry rockeries.

Shield the garden from winds, especially cold winter wind.

Introduce food plants favored by animals in your region and that you have targeted.

Strive for diverse plantings, follow nature's cue.

Coordinate habitat with water use.

Locate some food plants and feeders in more secluded areas of your property to attract the shyer, ground feeding and dwelling animals.

Eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides, they will unbalance the predator-prey relationships natural gardening helps to create.

Arrange plantings of trees, shrubs and ground covers to lead shy wildlife closer to your house for better viewing.

Supplement food plants with feeding stations. Offer water and boost nesting opportunities with nestboxes.


That about does it for this week.

With the cold weather, be sure to keep your feeders filled and offer fresh water.

You may want to go back to the feeding birds pages to freshen up on what is best to feed birds and why.

There is now a page on feeder pests as well.

It's time to fly for now.

It takes less effort to smile than to frown.

It takes less effort to share a smile than to ignore someone else.

Yet when we share a smile, we feel good and you may have made a stranger's day.

Why not share your smiles with a stranger.

If nothing else, you just might confuse them.

Until next time:

"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 feel free to forward them to friends and family or have them sign up for their own copy. Thank You.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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