Times are tough for the natural world. Pipelines, deforestation, oil spills, pollution, plummeting wildlife populations. . . It's enough to discourage any green-hearted guy or gal.
I don't like to stay down in the dumps - or compost - for too long, though. After reading about the dramatically increasing loss of biodiversity, I decided to do something about it. In addition to supporting groups that protect and restore open space, I rolled out the welcome mat in my own yard.
Wildlife Gardens for Lazy Gardeners
1) Swear Off Pesticides - Chemical pesticides and fertilizers suck! Big time. Their potent cocktail is responsible for much of the decline in pollinators and amphibians if not also birds and other wildlife. Further, run off from rain contaminates local water sources. Check out the many organic options available or get in touch wtih your zen self. Accept less than perfection. A few nibbled leaves does not an infestation make.
2) Let Fallen Leaves (and Dead Wood) Lie - You can skip cleaning up the leaves, twigs and other debris in your garden beds. Wildlife will do that for you. Insects will help the leaves decompose, enriching your soil. Birds will use the twigs for nests and dig up juicy bugs for food. You end up with healthy soil and a little bit of your own backyard carbon sequestration.
The same is true for dead trees and dead branches, both of which offer food and homes for birds, insects and small mammals. If you want to go the extra mile, you do not even need to haul away cuttings from pruned shrubs and trees or chopped down trees. Instead, make a brush pile for our feathered, furred and buggy friends. Lazy gardeners everywhere rejoice!
3) Skip the Dead-Heading - I've been known to snip the spent heads off of my annual flowers - especially mid-summer. By the time fall comes, though, I let the annuals do their thing. The flowers go to seed, provide food for the birds and often replant themselves, saving me the effort of doing it in the spring.
4) Go Green, Evergreen - I am a sucker for deciduous trees - awash in the fall with their bright leaves and bare in the winter like Halloween skeletons. As wonderful as deciduous trees are, though, you cannot underestimate the power of evergreens in a wildlife garden. In the midst of winter, when the garden is but a graveyard, birds still need protection from predators, a place to cozy up and trees and shrubs that keep their leaves are just the thing.
5) At the Watering Hole - Everyone needs a drink some time. And a bath, while you are at it. Bird baths are just the ticket. So are water gardens, trays filled with water, ponds, you name it - so long as it is filled with clean water and a place for birds and other wildlife to perch to drink. You can go as cheap or expensive as you like as long as you remember to refresh the water regularly and keep things clean.
Extra Credit: Finally, for you overachievers out there, think about making the switch to natives. It doesn't need to be a full makeover of a yard. I have quite a few natives but for the most part, I've added them a few at a time - either replacing a plant that died or filling up an empty space in the garden. When you are planting natives, just remember that one variety of many different plants does not a habitat make. Instead, think of adding 5-7 plants per variety so that the wildlife that come for one particular plant have several to feed on.
That is all it takes to welcome nature into your yard. So kick back, grab some binoculars to watch your new cohabitants, enjoy the abundance of a garden teeming with pollinators and revel in the rewards of your not so hard work.