Apr 30, 2013

Enchanted Forest Garden Series: Best Ideals to Add Wildlife to Your Garden

jeffreyw / Flickr via Earth Share

This is the second post in our enchanted garden series that is my garden inspiration this season. Check out our first post in this series: How to Add Bright Greens and Pops of Color all Season Long Here.

An Enchanted garden just wouldn't be right without lots of wildlife in your garden.  It's a lot more fun to hang out in and to watch your garden too.  I learned about how entertaining wildlife can be when I visited what was my grandparents (have since passed away) favourite restaurant Whiskey River in St Peter, MN.  I was amazed at the beautiful view of their stream from a four seasoned patio that was full of wild life.  Of course their was the usual animals like squirrels, rabbits, and birds but we also saw turkey's, deer, and a wood pecker.  The reason for all the wildlife was that they had various different types of feeders all over as well as having a stream that runs from the river (I.E.the perfect location for wildlife).
      Here is a video someone shot of the wildlife at the restaurant Whiskey River

 I was surprised to find myself so entertained at watching all the animals there and decided I wanted to try to add some of that fun to my yard and garden too.  If nothing else I figured it would be great entertainment for our cat.  So I went home inspired and decided to make my own bird feeder seed cake.  Unfortunately after 3 tries I discovered I was only feeding the squirrels as the whole cake mysteriously disappeared shortly after putting outside.   Since then I have not done anything to try to add wildlife to our garden, but we have attracted lots of birds (they love to perch on our wooden trellises we made and our catnip) and bees just by having a garden.   I plan to attempt to add some wildlife to our garden this year.  Here are some of the best ideals I've found. 

Provide Food

a wire cage over the feeder seems like a good option 
Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders
As I said before I tried to make a bird seed cake  feeder only to find the squirrels take the whole thing.  So obviously you want to make sure you find a squirrel proof feeder (apparently you only want metal as they can chew through wood and plastic) and also employ a few squirrel proof tricks on top of that just in case.   A few tips I found are to keep the feeder well away from trees, roofs, bushes -- or anything that allows the squirrel to leap onto the feeder platform. Another  easy way to squirrel proof is to simply sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes on the tray and seeds. Squirrels are suppose to hate this stuff and are driven away from it! Birds, on the other hand, don’t care much for these and are unaffected by it.  Has anyone ever tried this?  I plan to try this for sure!

Plants that Feed Wild Life

Nasturiums are edible!  Spring Rolls at The Gardener's Pantry
I love the ideal of attracting butterflies to our garden but we need to use the space we have that gets sun for veggies, so we either need to put it in a container or have it be a highly productive plant.

My favorites are fennel, catnip, and nasturiums, because they're real double duty plants.  Nasturiums are great because they're edible, help attract butterflies, and keep pests out of your garden by attracting them away from your veggies.  They can be grown in pots too.  We haven't tried this yet but maybe we will this season.  We already grow fennel in our garden.  It did ok last year, but would have done better if we had given it enough space.  I never new this but according to BHG fennel is a host plant to swallow tail butterflies.

We have been growing catnip for a few years now (for Mr Cat of course) and one pleasant surprise is that not only does it attract cats for Mr Cat's entertainment but it also attracts bees and pretty yellow finches (late in the season when it has seeds).  You can see a video of the finches eating our catnip seeds here.  One word of caution though is that catnip is pre-annual and grows like weeds.  So on the plus side it's easy as can be to grow, but it will take over your garden, so make sure to plant in an area that it's okay if it takes over.  I plan to actually pull our out and replace it with a low variety, since we are getting more catnip than our cat and our cat's can eat.  Also we end up having to cut it back a few times a seasons just to see out our front window, which is hard to do because it attracts bees.....  So I like having it just with less maintenance.  I'm crossing my fingers I can find the plants or seeds I want this season.  
Mr cat's fe-enemy eating our catnip (learn about his adventures with his fr-enemy on our facebook page) I'm sure there will be new ones soon!
Another great way to attract butterflies and bees is wildflowers, but they do take up space and need a lot of sun.  Since we're short on both, I think the only kind of wildflower garden we will have is a container one.  The photo below is just one of many wildlife attracting container garden plans I found at BHG.

BHG Butterfly container garden.  White zinnia and fragrant heliotrope is easy to grow and the butterflies love it.
A. Zinnia angustifolia 'Crystal White'
B. Heliotrope (Heliotropium 'Marine')
C. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Brilliancy') 
Check out free wildlife garden plans from Better Homes and Gardens for more ideals.

Provide Water
Check out more ideals for attracting wild life with water at Learn 2 Grow

If you don't live by a creek or pond you can add a fountain, pond or simply add a bird bath to your yard.  Since adding a pond or major water feature can be pretty expensive and daunting of a task, I would suggest looking at adding a simple birdbath, a solar fountain (no wiring to install and no operating costs), or even a canoe pond (pictured below). 

Floating candles in a bird bath via Truly Devine Design
Our house actually came with a bird bath when we bought it.  We do get the occasional bird or squirrel hanging out on it.  I often dump out the water because I'm worried that it will bred mosquitoes.  I'm tempted to try to get a solar pump to circulate the water (essentially turning it into a solar fountain) so that I can keep water in it more frequently. One great thing about a bird bath is you can also use it as a dramatic planter instead or add floating candles to it for a party.  So if the birds don't end up using your bird bath, you can still use it to add beauty to your yard or garden.
Solar fountain at Home Depot online for $249

Another great easy option is to use a solar fountain.  Someday I plan to get one but not this year.  I like this one pictured at right for a classic garden, or the one pictured below for a natural garden.

I'm surprised that  solar fountains haven't been as popular as solar landscaping.  They're inexpensive and available through most big box stores (although you often need to buy it online and have it shipped to your house or the store).
Amazon has this stone tiered solar fountain for $211
If you happen to have an old canoe you can actually use it as a pond or water fountain (with a solar pump).  I would make sure it's painted and aluminum so that it doesn't rust out and personally I'd add a solar water pump to it to keep your yard from turning into a mosquito filled swamp.

picture found via Home talk


Give Shelter
I love the ideal from Empress of Dirt of covering up your bird house with stones.
They're are lots of ways you can give shelter to a variety of animals with landscaping but since I live in an urban area, have a large veggie garden, and compost pile I'm worried that many of those suggestions I've seen will just provide homes for mice, raccoons and other pest that live in my neighbour hood.
But there is one creature that I would like to attract that's easy to house.  You guessed it birds!  We have one that came with our house (I think a woodpecker lives in it).  Luckily our next door neighbour has a ton of cute birdhouses he built himself.   One cool thing about bird houses is that not only can it add birds to your garden but it can also add whimsy to your garden. Below are my favourites. 
I love Rebecca's Bird Gardens ideal of using repurposed materials to create bird houses that are planters too!  Check out her roof top garden bird house below too!
Love the dual purpose of this bird feeder from Rebecca's Bird Gardens
If you have a tree you need to get rid of you can actually use the stump for bird houses.  Here are a few examples I like. 
How cute is this use of an old stump in Joy Hale's garden (which is beautiful by the way)
I love how this stump  from Dave's Garden is covered by ivy, but would have as a higher stump (see below for why).
Make sure to keep bird houses so cats and other predators of birds are not able to easily kill them.  My neighbour has the cutest bird house condo that he built on super high poles.  Mr cat loves to watch them but could never get anywhere near them.  If we ever add any birdhouses to our house I plan to have it at a similar height.  I hope this post gave you some great ideals.  Check out our other posts below in this series for even more great ideals on planning your garden.

Enchanted Forest Series Part 1: Best Ideals to add Bright Green and Colour to Your Garden

2013 A Minneapolis Homestead All rights reserved. Photos and content cannot be reproduced

2 comments:

  1. I love this post. I've done a lot to attract wildlife to my Southern California backyard. The best birdbaths, in my opinion, are clay plant saucers. I tried these after a bird drowned in the expensive birdbath I bought in a nursery. The birdbath was just too deep and slick to be safe for small birds. Shallow clay plant saucers work much better. I love watching my backyard birds splash about in them and drink from them.

    Like birds, bees can drown in birdbaths. So I add at least one flattish, partially submerged stone. This allows the bees to perch safely while drinking, instead of clinging perilously to the slippery edge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing ideals on how to keep birdbaths safe for birds and bees Dormilona. I never even knew birds could drown in them! I also never knew bees even used them. Clay plant saucers sound like a good ideal and easy to find too! I'll have to add a stone to mine thanks for the tips Dormilona!

      Delete