How To Attract Cardinals To Your Garden

Cardinals are beautiful birds that adorn many backyards and wild landscapes across the U.S. The males can be easily identified by their brilliant red feathered coat, and tufted crest atop their head, notes All About Birds. Female cardinals bear a smaller tuft and accents of the same bright red, but their feathers are primarily a much duller brown. Both male and female cardinals, however, have black feathers in the shape of a beard around their eyes and red beaks, providing sharp color contrast and making it clear that the two birds are of the same species.

© Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock

Cardinals are also lively songbirds, attracting attention for their singing in addition to their vibrant coloring. They communicate via a distinct, repetitive whistling, and male and female pairs may sing in a duet to strengthen their bond. The female will also call out from the nest to direct the male in his search for food. According to Bird Fact, Cardinals are primarily found in the southeastern United States, but their range extends as far north as Maine and Michigan, and as far west as Arizona. They are non-migratory, staying within the same place once they mark out their territory. Chances are, you are seeing the same cardinals make repeated visits to your backyard. If your garden or patio is missing this bright red beauty, check out these tips to attract more gardens to your outdoor space.

Offer Their Favorite Food Sources

Cardinals whistling and flitting around add a sense of enchantment to any backyard. If you happen to live in a colder climate, they are a welcome visual delight, contrasting against the dreary weather or snow-white backdrop. You’ll need, however, a few different strategies to draw them in.

Start by providing an accessible bird feeder. Tube feeders, mesh models, and platform feeders are all affordable and easy-to-install options that cardinals recognize and enjoy visiting, according to Birds and Blooms. If attracting other critters such as squirrels is a concern, you could also try one specifically designed to appeal to birds, but blocks other animals from gaining access to the food.

Speaking of food, you’ll have the most success attracting cardinals by filling your feeders with their favorite treats. Cardinals particularly enjoy mixes that include sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts, and corn — staples that are no match for their tough little beaks. According to Kaytee, cardinals will also be pleased if you provide a source of running water for them to drink or bathe in after a particularly messy meal at your bird feeder. This is especially helpful in the winter months when running water is hard to come by in the wild.

Plant Shrubs And Trees

Territorial by nature, cardinals seek out nesting areas that provide shelter from predators and other birds. While they can be found in semi-open areas, they are generally better protected in environments with thick bushes, tall brush, or towering pines. You can better mimic their wild habitats by adding to your garden dogwood or crabapple trees, or evergreen shrubs of varying heights to create a layered effect that will persist throughout the changing seasons, suggests Better Homes & Gardens. As mentioned earlier, cardinals will remain in the same area, so if you create a habitat that appeals to them, you will likely be rewarded with repeated sightings whether the birds are just visiting or decide to make your yard their permanent home. If you already have established landscaping you are hesitant to change, you can take less drastic steps to still provide adequate shelter for cardinals. While you may enjoy the look of a neatly tidied yard, the cardinals would prefer you leave things a bit on the messier side. According to Better Homes & Gardens, cardinals will make quick use of any sticks or fallen leaves littering your yard over the week or so it takes them to construct their nest. Less pruning also means more perches for cardinals and other bird species to use to seek out food or rest upon while they fill the air with their melodic whistling. Whichever strategy you choose, you won’t regret readying your backyard to attract these beautiful birds. 

By Julie Boehlke for House Digest

Source: How To Attract Cardinals To Your Garden (msn.com)

Pollinator-Friendly Container Plants Perfect for a Balcony

Want to support the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies but don’t have space for a full garden? Try these containers filled with pollinator-friendly plants.

Plant Tube-Shaped Blooming Perennials That Attract Hummingbirds

Planting a container with a vibrant mix of red, orange, and bright pink tube-shaped blooms is an easy way to attract hummingbirds. For ongoing color, consider filling the container with the hummingbirds’ favorite plants that last from spring to fall. Here, Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’, red and purple verbena (Verbena canadensis), and coral and raspberry autumn sage (Salvia greggii) are sure to lure hummingbirds as well as add a pop of inviting color to the landscape.

Choose Brightly Colored Container Plants for Butterflies

Bring butterflies close to you by planting a butterfly container garden filled with long-blooming, daisy-shaped flowers. Butterfly favorites such as delphinium, ‘Queen Victoria’ salvia, red verbena, and coreopsis provide food and respite for fluttering wings. In general, butterflies favor brightly colored flowers in red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and blue. They prefer flowers with “landing pads,” such as coreopsis, where they can perch while they eat.

Article By Sheryl Geerts for BHG©

More ideas for container planting at link below.

Source: Containers for Pollinators | Better Homes & Gardens (bhg.com)

GROWING PINEAPPLE SAGE

Growing pineapple sage will attract hummingbirds and butterflies, plus make your yard look wonderful. Pineapple sage makes wonderful cut flowers, too.

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Named for the uncanny pineapple scent of its foliage, pineapple sage is worth the wait. It is a seasonal treat that gives gardeners a sense of anticipation. A small plant set out in spring after the danger of frost has passed will grow into a branching plant 3 to 4 feet tall and nearly as wide by the time it blooms. It will then sprout spires of cardinal-red blooms in late summer and fall, just in time to refuel hummingbirds and butterflies for their fall migration. If you live in an area that does not freeze, blooms will continue all winter and sometimes all year.

Although cold hardy to about 20 degrees, pineapple sage is worth planting each spring in areas where it fails to return for another season. Try growing pineapple sage in sandy or otherwise sharply drained soil, which may allow it to tolerate colder temperatures by going dormant and sprouting new growth in spring.

Quick Guide to Growing Pineapple Sage

  • Plant pineapple sage in spring once all chances of frost have passed.
  • Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart. Grow them in a spot that gets abundant sunshine and has sandy well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0.
  • Improve your native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or rich organic matter.
  • Water regularly for the first few weeks after planting, then only water during a dry spell. Good drainage is essential during the growing season.
  • Boost your harvest by feeding regularly with a continuous-release plant food.
  • Harvest leaves and flowers once they are large enough to use, or leave them to attract pollinators.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Pineapple sage requires a place in the sunshine where the soil is well drained but moist and rich enough to support its rapid growth. Improve existing soil by mixing in a few inches of Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics®All Purpose In-Ground Soil with the top layer. Space plants 24 to 36 inches apart, and be sure not to plant them in front of other, smaller plants, as pineapple sage will grow large enough to block them out. In addition to planting in great soil, fertilize regularly throughout the growing season with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition—which feeds the soil as well as your plants—for best results.

Sorce: How to Grow Pineapple Sage Plants | Planting & Growing Tips – Bonnie Plants

Why You Need to Put Away Your Bird Feeders and Baths Right Now

With bird flu on the rise, do your part to stop the spread.

Photo: Ancha Chiangmai (Shutterstock)

The idyllic start to any spring morning is waking up to the sun shining and the birds chirping. Unfortunately, this year you may have to compromise a bit on the latter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 30 million cases of the bird flu have been detected in aquatic birds, commercial poultry, and backyard flocks as of April 19, spanning across at least 31 states. Because of this, health officials across multiple states are asking people to take down their bird feeders and baths to do their part to stop the spread.

Dr. Victoria Hall of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota explains that, “not only will this action help to protect those beautiful feathered creatures that visit your yard, but will also help all wild bird species that are already having it hard this spring because of [the highly pathogenic avian influenza].”

This isn’t the United States’ first run in with avian influenza. From 2014 to 2015, an estimated 51 million birds were depopulated to control the spread of the disease. This flare up cost the poultry and egg industry an estimated $3 billion, and led to a congressional allotment of $1 billion in 2017 to combat future bird flu epidemics.

If you’re wondering what more you can do to help beyond taking down your bird feeders and baths, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommends the following:

  • Clean and rinse bird feeders and baths with a diluted bleach solution (nine parts water to one part bleach) and put away or clean weekly if they can’t be moved away from birds.
  • Remove any bird seed at the base of bird feeders to discourage large gatherings of birds or other wildlife.
  • Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.

So, how long does one have to wait until they can put their bird feeders back up? There’s no definitive answer yet, but experts are optimistic.

“We have it in our power to take a short-term action so we are not accidentally assisting in the virus’ spread,” Hall writes. “This outbreak won’t last forever and I, for one, am greatly looking forward to when I can safely hang my bird feeders back up.”

So while things may be quiet in the backyard this summer, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, consider this as an opportunity to finally go to that local bird sanctuary you’ve always talked about visiting.

Article by Jonathan van Halem for lifehacker©

Source: Why You Need to Put Away Your Bird Feeders and Baths Right Now (lifehacker.com)

Large yard not required to support pollinators

Pollinators are responsible for an estimated one in every three bites of food that humans eat, so it’s no wonder they’re getting a lot of buzz these days. For those who want to support these hard-working environmental contributors, but don’t have a large yard or outdoor space, container gardens are the answer.

There are a few things to consider when creating a container garden that will attract and support pollinators throughout the growing season. Pick a location that has full sun, at least six hours of daylight, and fill it with plants that will thrive in that condition.

You will have the most success with plants that are drought-tolerant. That way, you will not have to water as much. Annuals are a good choice, but you can also select native perennial plants.

One combination may be a short variety of zinnia as a border and cosmos as a centerpiece. Another option is lantana as a border and a shorter variety of sunflower, 3- to 4-feet tall, as a centerpiece. Marigolds can work as a border plant for annual blue salvia.

I’ve had great success in attracting hummingbirds with ‘Black & Blue’ salvia. (Note: This salvia is like chocolate cake to hummers.)

Native perennials that perform well in containers include purple coneflower, prairie blazing star, bottle gentian, lanceleaf coreopsis, prairie smoke, and field pussytoes.

Herbs grow well in containers. Dill, fennel, and parsley are host plants for the black swallowtail butterfly. Other herbs with significant blooms include lavender, chive, nasturtium, thyme, basil, borage, and hyssop. Group herbs based on their size when fully grown and watering needs.

Lavender and thyme are both fairly drought tolerant, so that would be a good combination.

Borage and nasturtium also work well together with borage filling the bulk of the pot while a trailing variety of nasturtium will spill over the side of the container.

Choosing the appropriate container is important. It should be large enough to support plenty of plants and have drainage holes at the bottom.

Use a soilless potting mix that is peat or coir based and includes a mineral, such as perlite to allow for better drainage. Add fertilizer or use a potting mix that already contains it.

Water plants until it drips out of the bottom of the container. Smaller containers will need to be watered more often.

During hot months, daily watering is typical. Larger containers will not dry out as fast, so every other day watering may be enough.

Deadhead spent flowers to encourage reblooming and avoid unwanted reseeding. Monitor your perennials for stress levels and replace if they become unsightly or die.

Once the growing season is over, Kreith says containers can be brought indoors and overwintered in a garage, shed, or basement. If you’re going to leave them outside, group containers together in an area protected from wind, then water them and cover with a thermal blanket, straw, shredded leaves, or other mulch.

By Nancy Kreith, horticulture educator

Source: Gardeners Corner Summer 2021: University of Illinois Extension

The Basics of Pollinator Garden Design

Pollinators are an essential part of the complex ecosystems that make up our gardens. Even spartan gardens are teeming with life above and below the soil, including species of plants, fungi, insects and animals. You can strengthen your connection to that natural world — and better support it — through a solid pollinator garden design.

When I dig into a project, I ask myself the “five Ws” and one “H” learned in grade school: Who? Why? What? When? Where? How? The “who” is you! You can easily create a pollinator garden, and you may already be closer than you think. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed

Why Do I Need Pollinators in My Garden?

When you think of pollinators, you likely think of bees. But pollinators also include critters such as butterflies, moths, birds, flies and even bats. Each of these animals is on the hunt for pollen and/or nectar to sustain themselves.

In turn, each plant species has its own need for pollination. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 75% of all flowers require pollinators, including most fruits and vegetables. When you add pollinator-friendly plants to your garden, you help expand the pollinators’ food sources and breeding range. Many pollinators use plants’ flowers, stems and the soil around them for breeding and protection. Expanding your garden can create a refuge for these essential workers to continue to thrive outside of their shrinking native habitats.

What Plants Do Pollinators Like?

Pollinators have certain food preferences. If you’re looking to attract bees, you’ll want to design your garden to include plants that bees like: flat, bright-colored flowers that grow in full sun. If you’re looking to attract hummingbirds, you’ll want to include the tube-shaped red, orange or pink flowers that long-billed hummers favor. Plants such as moonflowers are night-blooming with large, white flowers that bats stick their heads into in search of nectar. To attract insects, you’ll want to focus on diverse plants that bloom throughout the growing season in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes.

When Are Pollinators Active?

Many popular pollinator plants such as echinacea (aka coneflower), liatris, asclepias (aka milkweed), rudbeckia and annuals such as zinnias or cosmos don’t begin to bloom until June, then continue through late summer. Pollinators, however, often appear much earlier in the spring and well into fall after many plants have ceased blooming. To attract pollinators during these times, consider planting early-blooming bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus, creeping phlox, species tulips and anemones, and late blooming plants such as asters, sedum and goldenrod.

Where Is My Garden Located?

What’s your growing zone? Make sure the plants you choose for your native pollinator garden are well-adapted to your climate and the pollinators in your area. The Xerces Society lists recommended native pollinator plants by state or region to help you make this decision.

After you’ve pinpointed your region, pay close attention to where the sun hits the areas you’d like to plant. If there’s shade in the morning but blazing sun in the afternoon, focus on full-sun plants. If there’s full sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon, focus on shade plants. Don’t worry, even shady spots can attract plenty of pollinators.

How Do I Approach My Pollinator Garden Design?

Each year in late spring before you cut back last year’s growth, identify spots in the garden that aren’t currently filled with evergreen perennials or dead stems. These spots should be your go-to fillers for the upcoming season. Take note of how you can fill those gaps from all viewpoints in the garden and across the growing season.

Sketch out your space and create a list of pollinator-friendly plants you’d like to feature. It’s easy to underestimate how many plants comfortably fit into a well-grown garden — and for pollinators, the more the better. However, be sure to space plants out according to their needs. While some plants may thrive living close to each other, letting you create a “living mulch” that blocks weedy species, others might get overcrowded, which could reduce their bloom. Focus on varying plant heights, with taller plants toward the back of your garden and shorter plants in the front. Layering is pleasing to the eye and provides ample space for pollinators to access their preferred flowers. Also, be mindful of leaf textures, shapes and sizes. Mix up clumps of large-leaved plants with grasses and fuzzy-leaved plants with smooth forms. Create textures in your yard for visual appeal even when your plants aren’t at peak bloom.

Here’s an example of a plant combo that attracts pollinators from spring through fall: ‘Blue Fortune’ agastache and red ‘Solar Flare’ echinacea grow throughout the summer, and birds favor them for their post-flower seed heads. These plants can add height to your garden. For texture, planting annual fernleaf dill creates a compact habitat for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and the prairie native orange ‘Butterfly Weed’ asclepias is a magnet for monarchs. ‘Purple Dome’ aster will bring cool autumn color to the mix and is an excellent late-season food source. Finally, add a crocus mix along the front edge for early spring flowers.

Avoid any potentially harmful chemicals in your pollinator garden as they could hurt the creatures you’re trying to attract; even some organic pesticides can be risky. With a diverse selection of hardy, disease-resistant plants and a multitude of beneficial creatures heading your way, you’ll be one step closer to creating a sustainable ecosystem that takes care of itself.

Source: The Basics of Pollinator Garden Design – Burpee

ATTRACT THOUSANDS OF LADYBUGS TO YOUR GARDEN

Not only are they cute, but ladybugs are counted as the number one beneficial insect in the garden.

They help with biological control of aphids and other garden pests. A welcome sight in any garden, their presence is an obvious indicator of its organic status.

Welcome them into your garden for pest control, and say goodbye to chemical pesticides.

HOW LADYBUGS HELP THE GARDEN

Except for a few herbivorous species that are known to cause damage to crops such as maize, spinach, and soybeans, ladybugs are generally harmless, feeding on small insects that infest the garden plants.

Aphids are their favorite meal, and that is what makes them beneficial to gardeners. These soft-bodied bugs suck the plant juices, especially from the tenderest parts of the plant such as the growing tips and developing buds, stunting growth and affecting fruit set.

Ladybugs are voracious feeders, gobbling up 40-50 aphids a day. A single adult bug probably eats about 5,000 insects and insect larvae in its lifetime. Each female produces around 1,000 eggs a season, which it lays close to food sources in batches of 10’s, 50’s, or even 100’s at a time.

HOW TO ATTRACT LADYBUGS TO YOUR GARDEN

The pest control potential of ladybugs makes them an asset in any garden. They are found almost all over the country in small and large numbers; however, they come and stay in your garden only if the conditions are right.

The following measures may help attract them into your garden and entice them to make it their home.

1. AVOID CHEMICAL SPRAYING

Ladybug beetles are not unduly affected by mild insecticides, but they may want to stay clear of sprayed areas as a matter of preference. If you stop all chemical control measures, including herbicides and organic pesticides, for at least 5-6 weeks, you might find some coming into your garden on their own.

This is more probable in spring when they come out of their hibernation looking for new feeding grounds.

2. PLANT SOME APHID-PRONE PLANTS

Roses are well known for being aphid-prone. Nasturtium and pot marigold are two other ornamentals that are prone to heavy infestation.

In the vegetable garden, cabbage, lettuce, radish, tomatoes and potatoes attract aphids; so do fruit trees. Plant some of these in your garden to provide a ready source of food for the ladybugs.

3. PLANT SUITABLE POLLEN AND NECTAR PLANTS

The beneficial ladybugs may be carnivorous, but they do like to have some pollen and nectar too, especially during their growth phase.

Flowers of the Umbelliferae family of plants seem to be ladybug magnets. They include dill, fennel, wild carrot, caraway and cilantro. The Aster family plants tansy and yarrow with their flat flower heads packed with tiny flowers full of pollen also seem to attract these beetles.

HOW TO BUY & RELEASE LADYBUGS IN THE GARDEN

Buying ladybugs is an inexpensive option for gardeners. While it is possible to breed ladybugs in bug farms, they often fail to follow the natural feeding patterns when released into the garden.

As soon as you receive the beetles, spray a little water into the bags and put them in the refrigerator. This helps to relieve the dehydration and overexcitement caused during shipping. The cool environment helps them to settle down as it gives a false sense of hibernation.

Ladybugs can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 months. They may become so inactive that it may seem as if they have perished. Some loss is to be expected, but most of them quickly recover on being introduced into the garden.

As in the case of attracting local populations, you should make sure that there are at least a few aphid-infested plants to release the ladybugs into. It is a good idea to water down the plants, knocking down some aphids from their perch, so that they can feed them on the ground. They appreciate the extra moisture too.

Late evening and early dawn are the best times to release ladybugs. The darkness and the cool temperature may keep them from flying away as soon as they are released.

On the other hand, sunlight prompts them to take flight immediately. If you release them in the evening, it gives them a whole night to settle down.

LADYBUGS ARE A GARDENERS BEST FRIEND 

Once you see the work that these little beetles can do, you will be amazed and want to make the conditions just right in your garden to keep them around for a very long time!

By Susan Patterson for How To Attract Thousands Of Ladybugs To Your Garden & Keep Them There (naturallivingideas.com)

These Plants Attract Dragonflies!

Dragonflies and mosquito control

Dragonflies are really important when it comes to controlling mosquito populations. They eat both mosquitoes and their larvae. So, it’s time to get those dragonflies near your home!

10 plants that attract dragonflies

You will need trees, shrubs and other types of plants. Young dragonflies will need somewhere to hide. Dragonflies also like to prey on pollinators such as butterflies, beetles, wasps, moths and other tiny insects. In other words, you will have to plant blooming plants, too. Water plants that grow near and within ponds are also beneficial.

Land plants

Dragonflies mate and lay their eggs in water, so you will have to consider building a pond in your backyard. There are other ways to attract dragonflies. Use the following plants to increase the number of dragonflies in your backyard

1. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hitra)

It attracts butterflies and pollinators. The wildflowers thrive for a couple of years in warm areas, and die off in winter. Black-eyed Susan adapts to every type of soil, and likes full sunlight and regular watering.

2. Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

It’s a close relative to common milkweed. Swamp milkweed has white and pink flowers that grow back every year. The perennial plant attracts dragonfly prey and grows well in moist and sunny areas.

3. Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

It’s pale pink-purple flowers grow in mid-summer and fall. Joe-Pye Weed attracts prey, and can grow 3-12 feet high. The flowers release mild vanilla fragrance that gets more intense when crushed. The plant likes full/partial sunlight and grows in moist woods and meadows. Use dried roots and flowers to make diuretic tea.

4. Meadow sage (Salvia marcus)

It’s a perennial plant with gorgeous purple flowers. It likes full sun but also grows well in partial shade. Pick spots that offer morning sun and afternoon shade. Once fully grown, the plant doesn’t need too much water, and thrives well in drought. However, the lack of water may cause problems.

5. White yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

The perennial wildflower has big clusters with 20-25 flowers. It’s disease resistant and attracts butterflies and parasitic wasps. White yarrow likes full sun, dry to medium moisture and well-drained soil.

Pond plants

Building a pond in your backyard isn’t a bad idea after all. Dragonflies spend at least two months underwater, and return to waters over and over again. Ponds help dragonflies hunt, reproduce, perch and play.

You will also have to get some rocks and place them around the pond. Dragonfly larvae need rocks to hide and grow underwater. Place sticks around the pond to give dragonflies a place to land on.

6. Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia)

Arrowhead, also known as duck-potato, is an aquatic perennial that grows above water level. Adult dragonflies land on the plant or lay eggs. Use the tuber of the plant and push it into the underwater soil in spring. Weigh it down, and don’t worry about any submerged leaves. They will grow really fast.

7. Wild celery (Vallisneria americana)

It provides an excellent aquatic habitat for dragonflies. Wild celery grows to the water surface, and adult dragonflies deposit eggs on it. consider planting it in spots that get at least 18 inches of water all the time.

Put wild celery tubes in a cheesecloth filled with mud or stones, and put them at the base of your pond. Keep in mind that if you break the sprouts, the tubes won’t re-grow new ones.

8. Water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile)

It has a submerged and floating part. Grow it from nursery plants and not seeds. Plant the rhizomes two inches below the soil at the edge of your pond. Once established, the plant can survive short period of dry weather. Water horsetail thrives in part shade or full sun.

9. Cattail (Typha latifolia)

Cattail is also known as bull rushes. It grows in moist soil in swampy areas. Avoid planting cattails in shady spots, and grow them from rhizomes. You can easily translocate the plant.

10. Water lily

Water lilies are the perfect spot for laying eggs. Grow them from tubers planted in pots right under the water’s surface. Add rocks to keep your water lilies submerged. The leaves and blossoms float on the surface of your pond.

This article by Linda Parker for Gardening Soul

Source: One Dragonfly Can Eat 100s of Mosquitoes per Day: Keep These Plants in Your Yard to Attract Dragonflies! (gardeningsoul.com)

Wildlife-Friendly Gardens

Do you enjoy watching bees buzzing around your flowers, butterflies resting in the sun, or a fat toad sitting in a shady spot? Making your garden wildlife-friendly starts with knowing what will attract birds, insects, and animals to your yard. Wildlife needs water, a food source, shelter, and space. Small changes in your garden habitat can make a big difference to the wildlife you wish to attract.

One way to attract wildlife to your garden is to add a water source, like a birdbath. To maintain a healthy environment for your wildlife, be sure to clean your birdbath two to three times per week. It’s important to thoroughly rinse away all cleaning products from the birdbath before refilling it with clean water and allowing animals to use it again. Birdbaths are not the only option, though. A water source can be as simple as a rock with a depression that holds water.

Another thing to consider for a wildlife-friendly garden is a food source. When it is time for fall clean up, consider leaving seed heads on perennial plants, which can be a food source for birds. Leaf litter and hollow stems can provide overwintering sites for many beneficial insects and pollinators. Plants that flower early offer a food source for those insects as they become active in the spring. Make sure that your garden includes a variety of plants, so that there are blooms from early spring to late fall. Increase the variety of butterflies by providing food for their larvae. Plants from the carrot and aster families are great options. Plant extra dill or parsley, and you may see more swallowtail butterflies in your garden. 

It’s important to remember that as you provide an attractive habitat for wildlife, pests may also find your garden. Not to fear, though! Insect predators and parasites, attracted to the variety you’ve created, will move in and help control those pests. Insect-eating birds will find their way to your garden if their preferred food becomes more abundant. Some organic farms even include birds as part of their pest management plan. Keep in mind that there will be a lag time between the pests showing up and the beneficial creatures doing their job to decrease the population. Just be patient and trust that they will take care of those pests for you in due time. 

Shelter is the third important component of a wildlife-friendly garden. Provide shrubs and trees that vary in height for housing all types of animals. Consider creating a toad house by turning over a terra cotta pot and propping up one side to create an entrance. Toads are another creature that will help control insect pests.

Finally, sit back and enjoy the wildlife that is visiting your garden. Recording your observations in a nature journal is a fun way to spend time in your garden with the added bonus of helping you track how your garden and its wildlife inhabitants change from year to year.

by Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle, Extension Educator – Horticulture

Source: Gardener’s Corner Spring 2020: University of Illinois Extension