Want wildlife in your garden? Follow these master gardener tips

By Jessica Weir, Guest Columnist

There are many benefits to attracting wildlife — birds, frogs, bats, pollinators and others — to your garden. They can control insect pest populations, pollinate your crop plants, improve soils and be a delight to observe basking or foraging about in your yard.

All wildlife requires food, water, shelter and space. There are simple things you can do to provide for these necessities and bring wildlife into your yard. Try to landscape with native plants, as our native wild animals recognize these and have been living in and with the native plants throughout history.

Provide plants that flower and fruit at different times of the year. Ideally there are food sources available year round, including winter. Leaving plants to go to seed provides these oil-rich food sources well into winter. Winter-berrying plants are priceless to wildlife in the cold of winter.

Evergreen shrubs and trees provide shelter and cover year round.

If you have room for a pond, even a small water feature, consider adding one as a source for drinking and bathing and as habitat for frogs and newts, some of whom will even dine upon slugs.

A rock pile provides a secure shelter for amphibians as well as a source of food from the insects that are also attracted to such areas. Warm rocks are a great place to bask in the sun!

Brush piles also provide cover for small mammals and birds. Brush piles are simply small piles of sticks, branches, leaves, etc. that allow an animal somewhere to hide, rest or retreat from harsh conditions. Leaving your garden clean-up until spring gives you roughly the same effect; by providing cover and forage throughout the winter.

Provide a variety of nest boxes around your yard. Toad houses can be as simple as an over turned garden pot with room to get under. Organizations such as Bat Conservation International and The Audubon Society can provide blueprints and recommendations on good locations to put boxes.

Don’t be discouraged if no one moves in initially; it can take a while for a critter to find your box. Providing increased number of essential habitat needs ups your chances of getting a tenant sooner. You can also try moving the box to a new location.

Some of the best nesting and feeding opportunities come when a tree is damaged or fails. Having a certified arborist ensure safety, but leaving a snag or stump, provides all manner of wildlife opportunities to find insects or nest within or on it.

Some animals can become a nuisance, especially once they become accustomed to your backyard garden paradise. Most will avoid areas if humans pester them; something as simple as mild harassment — banging on pots or sealing off hiding spots under decks — will keep many at bay.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website “Living With Wildlife” wdfw.wa.gov/living, has extensive resources on the common animals one might encounter in the area; how to live with them or kindly decline their wish to live in your yard.

Some animals can become a nuisance, especially once they become entitled to your backyard garden paradise. Most of the pesky critters will avoid areas if humans pester them, something as easy as mild harassment will keep many at bay.

Jessica Weir is a WSU Extension Clark County master gardener. If you would like to gain some hands-on experience building bird houses and bat boxes consider attend one of two ‘Gardening With Wildlife’ workshop with the WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardener program. The workshop is offered twice this summer, July 22 and August 12, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Bud van Cleve community room at the Luke Jensen sports complex. The event includes a presentation of practical approaches to attracting wildlife into your garden, followed by an opportunity to build bat and bird houses for installation at a nearby park. Bring gloves for the build; children ages 8 and older are welcome. Visit http://extension.wsu.edu/clark/gardening/workshops-events/ for more details or call 360-397-6060 ext. 5738. The workshops are free and no registration is required.

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