Sometimes our busy lives overshadow our attention to the abundance of natural life around us. The PNW is awash in numerous animal species that also call our urban spaces home. You’ll be amazed by the wildlife activity you can welcome and encourage in your own backyard by providing these easy to incorporate elements.
Element 1: Food
All things need food to live. Plants native to our unique climate are entrenched within the food chain for many species who call the PNW home. Shrubs like Pacific Wax Myrtle, Evergreen Huckleberry, or King Edward VII Flowering Currant provide food for numerous species at various times of the year. You can also supplement natural food sources with feeders, just choose a non-sprouting seed mix right for the types of birds in your area.
Element 2: Water
Wildlife needs clean drinking water to survive just like us! Birds need to bathe in order to keep their feathers in good working order while other species like frogs and some turtles live in the water.
Consider adding a bird bath or a container water garden to your space. A container water garden is a small above ground pond that can provide a permanent source of water. For larger areas, consider installing a rain garden, pond, or stream. Rain gardens are excellent solutions to drainage problems and can provide an esthetically pleasing function to your yard.
Element 3: Cover
Although they love being outside, providing shelter will help keep them safe during inclement weather or from predators and provide places for them to hunt for prey.
Native shrubs provide the perfect cover for terrestrial wildlife. Thinking of finally picking up the brush pile at the edge of your yard or removing that stubborn bramble of Himalayan Blackberries? Before you do, know that those spaces actually provide great hiding places for wildlife within the bushy leaves and thorns.
Have any dead trees on your property? As long as there is no danger of it falling, dead trees provide a number of beneficial elements to wildlife. Also known as snags, dead trees left upright to decompose naturally can serve as a home for many different types of animals by providing cavities and branches for nesting and perching.
Birdhouses or roosting boxes specifically made for the types of animals you would like to attract are an easy to add sheltered area. Consider supporting other helpful pollinators like bats and bees with the cover you provide.
Water gardens or natural ponds provide shelter for aquatic wildlife like fish and amphibians. It’s incredibly important not to disturb wetland areas on your property. If you need to do any kind of work in a wetland area, it’s best to contact a professional to help you through the design and permitting process.
Element 4: Places to Raise young
Providing the previous 3 elements in your yard will help individual animals to survive. But to make sure that species as a whole can thrive, you must also provide a place for them to reproduce and raise their young. Some species such as frogs or butterflies have totally different habitat needs from the juvenile stage to their adult phases. That is why its important to provide habitat for all phases of a species lifecycle.
Many places that act as cover can also double as locations where animals can raise young. Examples include but are not limited to mature trees, nesting boxes, host plants for caterpillars, snags, water gardens, dense shrubs, or brambles.
Element 5: Sustainable Gardening Practices
Lastly, to ensure you are promoting a healthy ecosystem in the habitat you are creating, it is essential to use sustainable gardening practices. That means no chemical fertilizers for the lawn or planting beds and no chemical weed killers. Rather than using chemical pesticides on your garden, control unwanted pests by practicing Integrated Pest Management.
Try capturing rainwater from the roof and using it to water the garden or fill up the pond. Maintaining your landscape in a balanced and environmentally-sustainable way ensures that the soil, air, and water that native wildlife rely upon stay clean and healthy.
Want to take your wildlife garden to the next level?
Work towards getting your space certified by one of the many programs out there that focus on Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship. Some examples include:
National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat Program
What’s great about this program is that no matter the size of your space, you can certify it as an official Wildlife Habitat. By completing the application and posting the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign, you can share with your neighborhood your accomplishment and commitment to helping wildlife thrive.
The Sustainable SITES Initiative
SITES-certified landscapes help reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), SITES offers a comprehensive rating system designed to distinguish sustainable landscapes, measure their performance, and elevate their value. By providing performance measures rather than prescribing practices, SITES supports the unique conditions of each site, encouraging project teams to be flexible and creative as they develop beautiful, functional, and regenerative landscapes.
Check with your city or county to see if they have any wildlife programs as well as there are occasionally rebate programs and things like that to help setup your garden to be more environmentally friendly.
If you would like more information on designing for wildlife and implementing any of the 5 elements above, please feel free to contact us as we still have a few spots open this summer.
Let us know your favorite way to attract wildlife to your garden, we’d love to hear from you!