The littlest of the creatures among us pollinate our crops, aerate our soil, spread seeds that help prevent erosion and do so many more crucial things. If we take good care of them, they help take good care of us!
Unfortunately, in our world of steel and concrete, perfectly manicured lawns and fields full of pesticides and herbicides life has become increasingly difficult for many of these species. But it doesn't have to be that way! If you have as much space as a window ledge you can make a life-saving difference for them, and for all of us!
Creating a backyard wildlife sanctuary is easy and fun. Kids will love to get involved and the whole family will be rewarded by being able to see the beauty and playfulness of the wildlife that will be drawn to your space.
What you need to do:
First, consider what kind of animals you are going to focus on.
Many people instantly think of birds, but consider others as well. Lightning bugs, butterflies, bats, squirrels, reptiles - all of these and many more are crucial to a healthy ecosystem. Often their needs overlap and it's not hard to create a habitat that will benefit many species at the same time, even in a small space.
Next, be sure that there is water.
If you've got a pond or a river that's wonderful but many animals will be grateful for a pie-pan full of clean water set on a windowsill or doorstep. A little running fountain can add a pretty touch to any garden. A small wading pool can be great fun for some of the larger animals that may wander through your yard. Just keep in mind that water left to stand too long without freshening can attract mosquitoes. That may be one type of wildlife you don't especially want to bring into your space.
Provide a food source.
A food source can be something that you provide, like bird seed or corn cobs for squirrels, or it can be a seed-bearing plant, a pot full of flowers that will provide nectar or some leafy green foliage that animals and insects love to munch. We used a pair of old sneakers as feeders. Nailed to a tree and filled with seeds or peanuts, they are a draw to squirrels, birds and chipmunks alike!
Be sure there is shelter and a place for animals to raise their young.
Trees and shrubs can provide great shelter, but a pretty bird house can add a nice touch to your yard. A clay pot with a large chip out of the side will be a great place for frogs and toads to shelter. A small wooden crate may be a welcome space for rabbits or other small mammals, especially if it has a bit of camouflaging growth around it. Again, consider what type of animals you would most like to see in your yard.
Those steps alone will pretty certainly guarantee that wildlife will be drawn to your space. If you want to go a little further, consider these as well:
Many animals including those vitally important pollinators are drawn to tall grass and wildflowers. Consider sprinkling some native wildflower seeds in a corner of your yard and letting that space grow, unchecked. Even if it's only a few square feet it can be a massive draw for fireflies, butterflies, hummingbirds and more. Such a space can also provide ideal nesting space for many kinds of birds, mammals and reptiles.
Avoid using herbicides or chemical fertilizers. If you are spraying things on your lawn that are specifically designed to be poisonous and then animals are in that space, eating drinking and walking through the grass… well you can see how that could be counter productive to creating a refuge space. Pollinators are especially susceptible to these products. Choosing organic fertilizers or using home-made compost can make a big difference for little critters.
Whether your habitat is a potted butterfly bush on the patio, a bird feeder on the widow sill or a vast wildflower meadow on a large piece of land, the earth and all of its inhabitants will benefit from the care you are sharing with your neighborhood wildlife!
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Elizabeth Comiskey has a true passion to care for the planet, promote world peace and raise her children to be productive citizens. She's also a normal working mom - exhausted and constantly pressed for time - so she seeks out the most efficient possible ways to do these things. Her blog, Lazy Hippie Mama, was born of her certainty that she couldn't possibly be the only one who cares a great deal about improving the world around her and connecting with others in meaningful, inspiring ways but lacking in time and energy. Visit her blog, Lazy Hippie Mama or join her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.