How to Make Your Landscape Wildlife-Friendly

Welcoming Wildlife

Most of us would like more wildlife to visit our yards, and making your landscape attractive to birds, mammals and invertebrates doesn’t have to involve a lot of work. By maintaining your landscape in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way ensures that the soil, air, and water that we (and native wildlife) rely upon stay clean and healthy.

Plus, wildlife gardening gives you the chance to get to know many common Virginia species. Having regular wildlife visitors allows you to learn more about their behavior and observe the trials and tribulations of their daily lives. With that said, let’s dive into some easy tips for creating a wildlife haven in your very own backyard.

Wildlife Gardening Tips​

Let The Soil Settle

To increase populations of earthworms and beetle larvae, don’t dig your soil unless planting. Lay a layer of compost on top of the soil to provide habitat for invertebrates, foraging for birds, and other wildlife.

Create Corridors

Create “stepping stones” to connect formerly isolated areas with your landscape by adding native plants. Make small changes, one plant at a time. For the biggest impact, especially in suburban yards, select plants that support the greatest number of species.

Trees and shrubs sustain more species than perennials and are often the best place to start. Planting different species of plants will create cover and ensure a constant supply of habitat and food throughout the year.

Help Pollinators

Having a range of nectar-rich native plants will bring local butterflies to your garden, but you also need to think about providing habitat and food for the caterpillars that are likely to live there as well. It’s best to concentrate on species that already visit, perhaps the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or Monarch rather than trying to attract butterflies from further afield.
There are also species of wild bees that are more commonly found in back yards. A well-thought-out landscape can provide numerous nesting sites and an ample food supply for bees during their active period, which is March – October.

Feed the Birds

Regularly offering a diversity of food can attract a range of birds, such as the American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. To prevent grey squirrels from raiding your feeders and eating all of your bird’s food – place feeders at least 6-feet high and with a 12-foot radius to the nearest object.

Create Nesting Spaces for Birds

If suitable trees or hedges for birds to nest in are not present, or you would like to supplement them, put up nesting boxes for birds to use. There are many kinds of bird nesting boxes available commercially.

Each box contains different features and is targeted at a particular bird species. But not all nesting boxes are created equal. There are several features to consider when purchasing or building a nesting box.

Check that the box is well constructed and contains these basic features:
  • Constructed of natural untreated wood (pine, cedar or fir).

  • Lumber for walls that is at least ¾ of an inch thick to provide insulation.

  • An entrance hole of the appropriate size to allow desired birds to enter but keep larger birds out.

  • An entrance that is the correct distance from the floor to accommodate the nest.

  • An extended and sloped roof to keep the rain out.
  • A recessed floor and drainage holes to keep the interior dry.
  • Rough or grooved interior walls to help fledglings exit.
  • Ventilation holes to allow the interior to remain cool.
  • A side or top panel that opens to allow easy access for monitoring and cleaning.
  • No outside perches, which aid predators and other harassing birds.
Stack Your Sticks
Plenty of wildlife makes its home in deadwood, and other animals use it as a source of food. In woodlands, fallen wood occurs naturally and many species have adapted to use this habitat. But in our increasingly tidy countryside, fallen and dead wood is not so common.
A pile of logs (or sticks) simulates fallen trees and is considered essential in a wildlife garden. You can usually find somewhere to put a pile of logs, even in the smallest backyard. It is best placed in a shady spot so that it remains cool and damp.
Love Your Lawn
While a manicured lawn is something many people are very proud of, why not add value to your lawn by making parts of it more beneficial to pollinators and other wildlife while reducing water runoff.
Native plants, such as trees, shrubs, and wildflowers offer a rich food source for a wide range of wildlife and develop more extensive root systems which hold water much better than lawns. As an added bonus, they require less maintenance than the traditional lawn!
Build Ponds

Regardless of size, wildlife-friendly water features will attract animals that will keep your backyard landscape flourishing. It can also serve as a lovely centerpiece for your garden and a source of entertainment for all that visit.

Water features do not have to replicate a natural one but can be designed and shaped to look modern and contemporary. Most importantly, the water features should be built with an aim of attracting wildlife of all types, creating food sources, potential shelter, and protection for fauna.

Keep Things Varied
Avoid straight edges in your garden. This will create a range of temperatures and varying patches of sunshine throughout the day, and reduce the effects of wind.
Irregular outlines will enhance the overall diversity of your garden habitat for insects, allowing butterflies, such as Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly, to maintain a succession of territories throughout the day.
Think Small

It’s easy to encourage numerous invertebrate species to an area, and these will give endless enjoyment. Concentrate on invertebrates such as grasshoppers first – larger species will follow in time.

Certify Your Garden

Anyone can create a welcoming haven for local wildlife. Turning your yard, balcony container garden, schoolyard, work landscape, or roadside greenspace into a wildlife habitat is fun, easy, and can make a lasting difference for wildlife. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® program to learn how to certify your garden today!