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How to Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat


Sustainability Gardening in Backyard Wildlife Habitats
Butterflies can be very picky about the company they keep so if you want them to stick around, try planting something enticing.
Butterflies can be very picky about the company they keep so if you want them to stick around, try planting something enticing.
Christopher Wilhelm/Stone/­Getty Images

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­In order to create enough food, water, shelter and space in your habitat to lure animals there, you'll w­ant to begin this endeavor with some careful planning. If you head down to the nursery without doing any research, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money on plants that won't attract the critters you crave. Dra­wing out a design can help you organize your thoughts and create a smart layout.

Plant selection can be tailored to certain species. It's a good idea to choose a diverse selection of hardy native plants that can provide food and shelter year-round. You may also want to choose species that are resistant to pests, although your new animal friends should help on that score.

When picking out plants, you'll want to consider all the ways that the native fauna interact with the local flora. Beyond food and shelter, plants also provide nesting material and places to lay eggs. For instance, different butterfly species need diverse host plants (and nectar plants) to thrive, so not including particular ones could be a deal breaker. Another important consideration to keep in mind is the habitat outside your yard. Is there a pond and a grassy plain nearby or just your noisy neighbors? You can use these pre-existing resources to gauge what your yard will need.

Sustainable gardening is another key feature of a backyard wildlife habitat -- especially if you plan on getting your garden certified. These gardening practices can include composting and mulching, reducing grassy areas while increasing other plant populations, choosing drought-resistant and native plants, and making use of rain barrels to collect water. You'll also want to heavily restrict your use of chemicals like pesticides. Many species have a very low tolerance for toxins, so using harmful chemicals could kill your newfound friends or have them heading for the hills. On a related note, birdbaths and feeders should be cleaned regularly so they don't make anyone sick.

The bees are buzzing and your garden is blooming -- looks like you're ready to get your certification.

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