Creating a Garden to Attract Wildlife



by Kathleen Norirs Brenzel (editor)

Making your garden attractive to wildlife-songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, toads, lizards, frogs, and other creatures-is primarily a matter of providing shelter, water, and food. It’s also important to avoid using pesticides. Try to emphasize native plants, since they’re familiar to the local wildlife and adapted to your climate. Also remember that a garden teeming with wildlife is not overly tidy; parts of it are left to grow naturally, providing safe havens for creatures of all sorts.



Tall Trees. Provide shelter, food (seeds or fruits), and nesting places; also protect the garden from strong winds.

Hummingbird Feeder. To prepare feeder solution, combine 1 part granulated sugar and 4 parts water and bring to a boil; let cool. Keep feeder clean; hummers can develop a deadly infection from dirty feeders.

Birdbath. To provide some protection from cats and other predators, place in an open area; a location 10 to 20 feet from shrubs offers a safety zone. In freezing weather, thaw water with boiling water or use a birdbath heater.

Hedgerow. Provides food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds. Plant a selection of small trees and low to medium-tall shrubs; include fruit-bearing types as well as kinds that feed butterfly larvae.

Brush pile. Instead of hauling away or shredding tree prunings and other brush, make piles to shelter birds and other wildlife.

Flower Borders. Include a wide selection of plants that provide nectar for butterflies, beneficial insects, and hummingbirds; also plant species whose foliage feeds butterfly larvae. Let plants go to seed to furnish food for songbirds.

Nesting Boxes. Install away from the activity around feeders and face away from prevailing weather. Mount on metal poles to keep cats and raccoons at bay.

Meadow. Plant native grasses, wildflowers, and low shrubs for food, shelter, and nest-building materials.

Pond. Provides water for birds and a habitat for frogs and turtles. Birds are especially attracted to the splashing water of a small fountain. Make a “beach” at one side to provide shallow water. An “island” (a large rock) in the center provides refuge for turtles and frogs. Water plants add more shelter.

Vines. Flower vines provide shelter, nesting sites, and nectar; many also bear berries and foliage that are sources of food for birds and butterfly larvae.

Rocky Area. Shelters lizards and toads.

Bird Feeders. Locate feeders near trees or shrubs so birds can fly to cover; keep them off the ground to protect the clientele from cats. Set up feeders in fall and maintain them through winter when natural foods are scarce. Keep feeders clean. Besides seeds (sunflower, millet, safflower, thistle, and so on), birds enjoy suet, offered in mesh bags or special feeders.


From Sunset Western Garden Book by Kathleen Norirs Brenzel (editor). Copyright © 2001 by Sunset Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by arrangement with Sunset Publishing Corporation. $32.95. Available in local bookstores or click here.