Black-eyed Susans attract many different kinds of butterflies and bees.
Mr. Toad enjoys his little pool.
Checklist for Wildlife Habitat
When our son was 10 years old, we made the big move from small town life to country living. What a revelation! Regular visitors through our 2 acres were raccoons, opossums, deer, foxes and the occasional bobcat. However, we had the most fun observing the tiny critters around our home…..toads, salamanders, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. What fun we had watching the little toads wait patiently for a succulent bug to wander by. The toad would sit quietly as the insect came near only to flick out its sticky tongue and bye-bye buggie! We got quite the education in just how amazing was the Circle of Life and through the process of observation, my son learned to respect and revere the animals that inhabit our world.
Unfortunately, over the years, I noticed a significant decline in the ‘littles’. For whatever reason, they all but disappeared from our landscape. Luckily, I stumbled on the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Garden For Wildlife Program. The NWF gives step by step instructions in how to invite wildlife onto your property. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 acres or a patio garden, there are ways for everyone to help the animals. You can start by visiting the NWF’s page at https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife for an in-depth look at what you’ll need for starting your wildlife project. You will find a complete listing of wildlife, proper food, how to provide water and cover for the critters you want to attract. One of my favorite options is the native plant finder link, just put in your location and the program will pull up all plants that thrive in your particular area.
I highly recommend placing your garden in a place easily visible from your home especially if planning for smaller visitors plus, your kids will love seeing the results of their planting efforts. My garden is located is a small space next to the patio and it is especially enjoyable to see the butterflies flitting about the flowers.
I highly recommend visiting the NWF Garden for Wildlife page to see the checklist for planning a successful habitat. I decided to focus on toads, salamanders, butterflies and bees in my little garden. Their needs are simple…native plants, nectar, insects were the important food sources for my visitors. I picked up some native wildflowers at a local garden club sale (see photo). Bright yellow Black-eyed Susans grew madly, as did the bright orange Butterfly Weed and dandelions, quickly filling the garden space, much to the delight of the butterflies and bees. An added bonus were the smaller insects that were attracted, much to the appreciation of the toads and salamanders. Not forgetting the butterfly young, a huge pot of parsley was planted to feed Black Swallowtail caterpillars. You can find a complete list of plants that feed specific caterpillars at the NWF website.
Water is essential for the survival of all life. If space allows, a small water garden would be an excellent source. I chose to provide a toad pond (see photo), which the little critters really enjoyed. And for the bees and butterflies, a puddling pond provided all the water they needed. Simply take a shallow dish, place stones in the bottom and add a little water. The insects will perch on the rocks and drink to their hearts content without fear of drowning.
Cover came in the form of several flat stones from the local garden center and a piece of rotted wood from a friendly neighbor who was trimming trees. It was such fun creating the ‘toad abode’ by placing the stones in a loose pile so the littles could easily find cover and then placing the rotted wood artistically nearby for both toads and salamanders. The insects found cover in the dense plantings of the garden. I also placed some sticks as perches for the many butterflies that were daily visitors.
Along the way, the decision was made to forgo the use of chemical fertilizers and not use pesticides at all. A heavy layer of mulch eliminates the need to water except in a drought and a huge plus to using native plants are their hardiness to local weather conditions.
The checklist at left will give you a great start for planning the habitat. Your kids will love deciding which animals to provide for and they will be forming a lifelong relationship with the natural world. As an added bonus, once fulfilling the requirements, the NWF will designate your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat!
Let’s face it, land for wildlife is fast disappearing and they need our help to survive. For example, the Monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% in the past 20 years. And I suspect loss of habitat in our toad and bee decline. So we all do what we can to help our animal friends survive and, I think, are better for it!
Have fun with your gardening and be sure to post some photos on the Mindfulness Mothers Facebook page! I’d love to see them!
‘See’ you next month!
Jeanna Billings is an Animal Communicator serving an international clientele, a Reiki Master and a Certified Crystal Healer. She volunteered for many years with humane societies and animal rescues, serving as a Board Director, Adoption Counselor and Humane Educator. She currently teaches animal communication classes and provides private consultations. She lives in Indiana with her husband, three dachshunds, two cats and a very chatty parakeet. You can find her online at www.ShamansSpirit.net .