Welcoming Wildlife Into Your Urban Garden

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Welcoming Wildlife Into Your Urban Garden

It can be a challenge to bring a little life into the “concrete jungle,” but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

No matter how urban the area is that you live in, there are things you can do to invite birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife onto your balcony, patio, rooftop, or wherever else it is that you happen to have a few containers. It’s as simple as providing the four things all animals and insects needs: food, water, shelter and places to raise young.

Food is perhaps the easiest thing to provide to your animal friends. Of course, you could put out some bird seed or a hummingbird feeder, but many plants can also serve as food for wildlife. Look for heirloom varieties of cottage garden flowers, as they’re often loaded with pollen that bees and butterflies love. Plants with berries provide food for birds, oftentimes during winter when other food sources are scarce.

Water, on the other hand, can be a challenge. The easiest way to provide water is by adding a small bird bath to your garden. Bird baths do more than provide a place for birds to wash their feathers, you’ll also find that bees, butterflies, and other wildlife will stop by for a drink. To help them out, be sure to place smooth stones in the bird bath so that smaller critters can get close enough for a sip without falling in, and can get back out if they do go for a dip.

Shelter is another thing that you can provide by both plants and non-plant material. For example, you could hang a bird or mason bee house, or you could grow shrubs that create a thicket where birds, animals, and insects can hide.

Similar to shelter, wildlife habitats also need a place to raise young. There is a lot of crossover between shelter and places to raise young, but my favorite addition to a wildlife garden are plants needed by particular butterflies. Monarchs, for example, will only lay their eggs on Milkweed (Asclepias) because that is what their caterpillars eat when they hatch. For Swallowtail butterflies, it’s dill, parsley, fennel, and carrots.

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Most importantly, to make your garden hospitable for wildlife, do not spray pesticides on your plants. Not only can the pesticides themselves harm wildlife, the pests you are trying to kill are oftentimes the food of birds and insects you would love to see in your garden. For example, ladybugs love to snack on aphids. If you kill all the aphids in your garden, ladybugs will be less likely to stop by for a visit.