Making the most of the time stuck at home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. As the weather warms, planting wildlife-friendly landscaping can make your home a habitat, too.
While there are many flowers and shrubs enjoyed by deer, most people don’t appreciate the damage they do to yards and landscaping. This spring, concentrate on wildlife-friendly landscaping for birds, butterflies, and bees. They are all easy animals to accommodate and many of their populations could use some help with friendlier backyard habitats.
While an even, green lawn looks good to many people, diversity is the name of the game for wildlife-friendly landscaping; critters love dandelions! Plant a variety of species and allow there to be different heights of plants, as well as clumps of different plants throughout your yard to attract a wide variety of animals. Consider planting shrubs with fruits or flowers, herbaceous flowering plants, and grasses. Whenever you can, use native plants. Many species of animals have spent hundreds or thousands of years adapting to native flora to thrive in a region and therefore need the local plants to thrive. A good example of this are monarch butterflies who depend on milkweed plants for their caterpillars. Good choices of plants that are relatively easy to find around Wyoming are serviceberry, juniper, chokecherry, red-osier dogwood, cinquefoil, wild rose, Oregon grape, phlox, sedum, lupine, coneflower, yarrow, beebalm, and penstemon. Check with your local wildlife agency or greenhouse for more specific recommendations for your area.
Once you have decided what to plant look up how to plant them before plopping them all in the ground at once. When sowing seeds, the seller should note whether they can be sown in the spring or whether they need a cold winter to allow them to germinate. Seeds can be started indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost or sown directly into the soil after the last danger of frost. When direct sowing, be sure to clear vegetation away from the top of the soil and slightly disturb the soil before sprinkling seeds. For seedlings and transplants, plant after the last danger of frost. Dig a hole that will allow you to bury the whole root system, gently remove the plant from its pot, and refill the hole. Avoid leaving air pockets that can cause plant roots to dry out.
No matter how you plant, make sure you water the area very well right after planting and regularly as the seedlings sprout or the plants become established. As your new landscape grows in, you should have the pleasure of observing new visitors and the added advantage of less maintenance in your wildscape.
To take your backyard to the next level, consider joining National Wildlife Federation’s Gardens for Wildlife program.
Andrea Barbknecht is the WWF education director, as well as our staff biologist. Since recently beginning to work from home during the COVID-19 situation, she’s making time to play with her kids in the yard and get her place ready for spring, which includes working on many of these landscaping tips.