I love the outdoors. I love hiking, backpacking, biking, fishing, skiing, and snowshoeing. One reason I garden is to be outdoors. I started by creating cottage gardens and a kitchen garden. As I weeded or sat on the front porch with a cup of coffee, I noticed the wildlife visiting my gardens. Bees and butterflies. Birds and bats. Deer, rabbits, groundhogs, frogs, turtles, and snakes. I found I was more fascinated by the wildlife in my garden than by the plants I grew. I wanted my garden, my property, to be home for the local wildlife.
My travels introduced me to many different kinds of landscapes and ecosystems and I gained an appreciation for native plants. As I read up on wildlife gardening and native plants, I became fascinated with insects and their roles in the ecosystem. Having bugs in the garden is a good thing, a necessary thing if we want healthy ecosystems and plentiful food. Insects love wildlife gardens.
I am lucky that our 2.5 acres has a variety of natural habitats—open areas, wetlands, and woodlands. All three areas attract all sorts of wildlife, especially the wetland. I could have turned one wetland area into a pond but that would have destroyed a valuable ecosystem. We have a lake across the street so there is open water readily available for local wildlife. Also, a pond requires maintenance and I want low-maintenance gardens. I want to spend my time enjoying the outdoors, not weeding, fertilizing, and deadheading. Since I am just starting on this journey of creating wild gardens, here are the few small steps I took this summer:
- Planted more native plants. Native plants survive winter cold and summer heat and can flourish without watering or fertilizing. They require no soil amendments, pesticides, or herbicides saving me money and creating a much healthier environment. They also attract local wildlife making for a more diverse ecosystem.
- Reduced the size of our lawn. We let a portion of the lawn become overgrown and it is now a field. We mow the remaining lawn to three inches and do not use any weed killers.
- Kept rakes and saws away from the woodland. The woodland floor is covered with leaves and fallen limbs. We let the insects and fungi take care of returning them to the soil. We leave some dead trees standing to provide homes to native bees and birds.
- Enjoyed the wetland. I created a few paths to the wetlands so we can get an up-close view of the habitat. I see something new every time I pay a visit.
I have many ideas on how to enhance my wildlife gardens, but for now, I am simply enjoying being part of the natural world around me.