A garden can be a sanctuary for humans and animals alike. You can make your garden into a habitat for wildlife in your area, and enjoy viewing your animal visitors all year round.
Like all of us, animals need food, water, and shelter. If you provide these, animals will move in. Here are some tips for getting wildlife to make your garden the habitat of choice.
Depending on the kind of wildlife you want to attract, there are all kinds of foods you can put out. For birds, you can use a store-bought mix of seeds and/or peanuts. Squirrels and chipmunks also love peanuts and seeds, especially sunflower seeds. If you can’t get a mix of seeds, go with black oil sunflower seeds. They are economical and enjoyed by most birds and squirrels.
Deer enjoy corn, as do blue jays, some woodpeckers and crows (ask any corn farmer how much crows and blackbirds like corn!).
If you mix table scraps such as dried fruits, cooked vegetables, or bread crumbs with solid animal fat (you can purchase this as suet or just use the fat from chicken broth or bacon), it will attract birds, raccoons, opossums, and other interesting critters. If you don’t have animal fat, use peanut butter. Raccoons are particularly fond of peanut butter.
Some of the best food sources are natural ones – plant a blackberry or raspberry patch (it will grow faster than weeds!) or berry-bearing shrubs such as holly or shrub roses.
Animals are often homeless in these days of habitat destruction. Provide birdhouses for local birds. If you live in an area with wrens, they will happily move into a bucket that is hung from a tree or leaning against the house (placed on a high location first). Martins, which are birds that eat mosquitoes, like houses mounted on tall poles.
Construct rock piles to provide shelter for chipmunks, toads, and other rodents. Plant shrubbery that will attract and shelter animals. Dense, thorny shrubs may be an annoyance for us, but they are a protective sanctuary for small animals and birds.
Water is essential to survival. Just providing water alone can attract wildlife to your garden, especially if you live in an area with hot, dry summers or cold winters (when all the water’s frozen).
It does not have to be complicated; some people just set out random containers such as pie plates or take-out food containers, set a rock inside them to hold them down, and fill with water. You can get more elaborate, of course, and construct an entire water feature or pond for your garden. No matter how you do it, make sure it’s near a window so you can watch the wildlife partake.