We came across this article by Lorena Romo on www.porch.com that provides some compelling reasons that gardening to support wildlife on one’s property is also good for humans.
As the article is written for American homeowners, we have adapted it to be more relevant to South African homeowners, and Lorena has kindly allowed us to share it with you. We hope you enjoy it!
From honeybees to beautiful birds, it’s easy to make changes to your backyard that will attract wildlife. Our guide explains how you can transform your backyard and turn it into your very own wildlife sanctuary.
Wildlife plays a vital role in securing a healthy environment, whether it’s insects, birds, or mammals. With more humans encroaching on the planet than ever before, it’s so important now to make sure that each one of us does our part to preserve the wildlife in our environment and our communities. A healthy wildlife population ensures healthier plants, cleaner air, and a better balance in nature overall. If you appreciate nature and want to encourage more wildlife activity in your own backyard, there are several things you can do to attract animals and insects alike. Read on for some helpful tips you can use to preserve and promote healthy wildlife right where you live.
Spending time outdoors can make you feel at ease, reduce stress, and give you time to clear your mind. When you create your own wildlife sanctuary, you’ll also get to enjoy the sights and sounds of mother nature in your own backyard. From singing birds to buzzing bees and lazy lizards, wildlife is fun to watch and also brings about feelings of harmony and calm. By making a few changes to your backyard, you can become a part of the nature that surrounds you. You’ll also feel good knowing that you’re contributing to a healthy environment while encouraging pollinators, birds, and other creatures to thrive.
Creating a DIY wildlife sanctuary in your backyard is also a wonderful way to educate your children. This hands-on learning experience will spark the imagination and encourage your kids to want to learn more about science, animals, and the environment as a whole. As you bring in more plants and flowers, you’re also contributing to cleaner air and a better world.
No matter where you live or the size of your backyard, it’s easy to attract specific species to your sanctuary. Remember to be patient when attempting to introduce new insects and animals to your backyard. It takes a little bit of patience and ingenuity, but eventually, your backyard will start to buzz with the activity of new creatures making it their home.
Bees are some of the world’s most important pollinators, so it’s always good to encourage them to thrive. Plant a few native (indigenous) wildflowers and other attractants that will lure bees to your garden or landscape. Look for flowers that will thrive in your specific region and plant them in the backyard to attract bees and promote healthy pollination.
• Bee Fountain: A bee fountain (or bee bath) is a wonderful way to encourage bees to thrive in your yard. This small fountain provides water to bees to keep them cool, feed their babies, dilute honey, and aid with healthy digestion. Take a shallow dish and place it on top of an inverted pot. Place river rocks at the bottom so the bees won’t drown, then fill it with fresh water somewhere in your garden.
• Bee Hotel: This “insect hotel” is designed to attract solitary bees so they have a place to lay their eggs. Bee hotels include several cavities or holes all placed inside a single structure. You can make a bee hotel yourself using a wooden frame with hollow stems or empty bamboo canes placed inside These bee hotels are also available at many garden stores.
The type of birds you attract to your backyard will depend on your region and climate. However, most birds respond favorably to anywhere they can enjoy a bath, a safe place to nest, and some food.
• Birdhouses and/or Nesting Boxes: A birdhouse or nesting box provides native birds with a safe place to rest, lay eggs, and raise their young. Most birds prefer their nests to be in a hidden area, so place your birdhouse on a tree among lots of branches. Extra foliage will give the birds the privacy they need and keep them safe from predators.
• Birdbath: It’s easy to attract birds by adding a simple birdbath to your backyard. This addition is especially helpful to birds during the hotter months of spring and summer. Make sure your birdbath is constantly full of clean water and change it often. Put gravel in the bottom of the birdbath so they can maintain their footing and place it near a shady area so the water doesn’t get too hot.
You can lure Sunbirds to your backyard by providing them with an extra boost of energy in the form of delicious nectar. It is most ideal to grow nectar-rich flowering plants which the Sunbirds can collect energy-providing nectar from, but if you find that you have a season of no nectar flowers, one can provide a nectar (Sunbird) feeder.
• Nectar (Sunbird feeders): Your sunbird feeder should be presented in bright colors that resemble a flower, such as yellow, red, purple, or pink. To feed your sunbirds, fill the reservoir with homemade nectar and avoid store-bought nectars, particularly the red-colored type since it’s actually dangerous to sunbirds. Mix one cup of white granulated sugar with four cups of water and stir it thoroughly till fully dissolved. Hang your feeder from a tree branch or on your back porch and enjoy watching these dainty little birds hover, “sing”, and feed.
Butterflies are some of nature’s most beautiful insects. Their colorful wings add beauty to your backyard, and they also serve an important purpose as pollinators for plants and flowers.
• Butterfly Garden: The best way to attract butterflies is to plant a variety of flowers they enjoy. Make sure you plant a diverse mixture of flowers to encourage several different types of butterflies to visit. Plant flowers in a myriad of colors, shapes, and sizes and rotate your flowers to grow throughout all four seasons. Use shrubs or trees to protect butterflies from the wind so they can pollinate your garden in peace.
• Caterpillars: You can also welcome caterpillars to your backyard, which are basically baby butterflies. These little crawling insects need a host plant where the larvae can feed. Research which caterpillar host plants will thrive in your area and include them in your butterfly garden so you can watch the metamorphosis take place.
Besides honeybees, butterflies and birds, you can do some things to attract other wildlife species, too. First, mimic or recreate the natural environment that animals are used to by minimizing excess clutter in your yard. Look for native (indigenous) plants and only use them in your garden or backyard. Wildlife knows which plants, trees, and flowers belong where they live and which ones do not. If you provide a source of water and food, it’s almost a guarantee that wildlife will come. Just make sure that you’re not encouraging animals to visit if you live in an area with a lot of traffic or where wildlife might not be welcomed by your neighbors. The key is to promote a healthy habitat by encouraging animals, birds, and insects to live here safely.
Do’s and Don’ts
As you plan your backyard wildlife sanctuary, there are a few important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
With a bit of patience and some creativity, you can start your very own private wildlife sanctuary at home. Remember to use native plants and flowers to entice pollinators like bees, butterflies, and sunbirds and other bird species. Clean feeders and baths regularly and watch your wildlife flourish as you contribute to a healthy population of these important insects, animals, and birds.
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