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10 Tips to Start Building a Garden for Wildlife

Turn your Garden into a Wildlife Sanctuary with these Eco-friendly Tips.

With natural areas diminishing, we can no longer be satisfied with gorgeous gardens that are not also designed to support ecosystems.

Here are ten easy ways to fill your garden with biodiversity and beauty:

1. Plant an Oak tree

There are native oaks for just about every state in the U.S. These trees form the hub of a native garden, providing habitat and food. In most counties, oaks support more than 450 species of moths and butterflies. Moths and their caterpillars are important food for birds.

2. Add a Bird Bath

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Keep it shallow! Birds will not use a bath where the water is deeper than their legs. A bath 1 inch deep by 15 inches diameter will attract avian friends. If you have access to a large stone, you can carve a shallow bird bath into it for a natural look.

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3. Create a layered planting or border 

If you have the space (it can even be as small as 10 by 10 feet), build a multilayer planting: Add a row of canopy trees (maples, hollyleaf cherry); weave in medium-sized trees and tall shrubs (willows, toyon); tuck in shrubs (sweet pepperbush, manzanita); fill in with herbaceous plants (native grasses, salvias); carpet with groundcovers (spring ephemerals, checkerbloom).

4. Build a native arbor

Use branches of native trees to build organic allées and arbors that are nice to look at and good for wildlife. You can grow native Halesia diptera over an arbor for a formal look or a native vine for an informal feel.

5. Add groves or thickets

If you have an underutilized space, plant groves of native trees, berry bushes, or coyote brush to provide food for yourself and the birds. For a clean look, plant a single species.

6. Plant native fruit trees

Pawpaws, persimmons, black cherries, and serviceberries support birds, caterpillars, and butterflies-and supply delicious produce for you.


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7. Screen with native hedges

When creating a screen, plant native shrubs such as Alabama snow wreath or coffeeberry to provide habitat and food for wildlife. Don’t hesitate to use several species that work together, including an occasional red cedar or incense cedar for accent.

8. Encourage pools and ponds

Add a pool or pond in an area of your garden where water collects naturally. Even a small one can support several species of frogs as well as toads, spring peepers, turtles, and more. Line it with water lovers like willows, buttonbush, winterberries, sedges, and rushes.

9. Make a meadow

Even a small 5- by 10-foot meadow garden can supercharge a garden with wildlife. Adding a mix of native milkweeds and umbellifers can help fill a garden with activity from butterflies, bees, and birds.

10. Grow vines
Native vines are a secret weapon of wildlife gardening—especially in a small garden, where letting natives climb up arbors, over trellises, and along fences maximizes limited space. Hummingbirds will often visit trumpet honeysuckle and native clematis.

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