As I’ve mentioned, I’m deep into my end-of-season garden assessment. This week I’m thinking about the critters in my garden!
Assessment, Part 3: Wildlife
One of my favorite things about gardening . . . is attracting wildlife to my space. Birds, bees, butterflies, insects, frogs, toads, even snakes . . . I love to see them in my garden. And, in fact, I garden specifically to attract them!
Many, many years ago, I “certified” my garden as a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat. (It’s a simple process. You can do it, too! Click the link above for how-to information.) What does that mean, exactly? It means I provide food, water, cover, and places to raise their young for all kinds of wildlife in my garden . . . and that I utilize sustainable gardening practices (I don’t use pesticides or herbicides in my garden beds, for example, and I follow recommended practices for cleaning and maintaining my garden spaces).
I do, of course, attract some wildlife I’m not particularly excited about (too many deer, for example) (and that nest of yellow jackets JoJo disturbed back in August; trust me . . . that was no fun). But, mostly, I’m really excited about seeing all the living creatures who visit my garden.
Here are a few of the critters who lived in my garden spaces this season . . .
Frogs and toads! I’m always happy to see the frogs in my pond. It took several years before the pond attacted them, but now we seem to host them every year. (I think the frogs might be my favorite garden critter, and I know they’re Tom’s.) And I find toads nearly every time I work in the beds. They are so well camouflaged that they always take me by surprise when they move.
Birds! We have so many birds in our garden! So many. And they bring us great joy all year long. We only have one bird feeder in the garden, but I garden “for the birds,” so they can find plenty to eat. I plant perennials and annuals and natives and trees and shrubs that produce food they like to eat, and I make sure there is plenty of “unmulched” ground and untreated lawn for insect-grubbing. This year, my pergola was “home” to several robin families and it was fun to watch them fledge all season. We also had nesting cardinals, mourning doves, and (somewhere in the garden) a family of flickers. We enjoy watching the hummingbirds every day as they gather nectar from my flowers (I don’t have a feeder). And we love capturing sound recordings on the Merlin app . . . where we know we’ve had many new-to-us bird visitors this year, including a great horned owl!
Pollinators! My garden brings ALL the bees all season long. And fewer butterflies than I’d like . . . but more this year than last year, so that’s a big plus. I do have quite a selection of milkweed plants throughout the garden, and I’m always thrilled when I find Monarch caterpillars (I found several this year; still haven’t found a chrysalis, though. . . )
Furry critters! This was certainly . . . the Summer of the Bunnies. Hoo boy . . . did we have bunnies! (One would think that with a dog, maybe we’d have fewer bunnies? But . . . not with ours. She’s too old now to care and too slow to chase, so the bunnies just taunt her from a distance. I think she’d like to be friends with them?) Anyway. I did enjoy watching (several) bunny families grow up in my garden this year. They mostly ate the clover in the grass (which is fine by me), but they also decimated my asters (I give up), my parsley (as in ALL of it), and for the first time ever, they munched my perennial salvia. But, for the most part, the bunnies and I enjoy a peaceful co-existence. We’ve also got chipmunks, squirrels, a neighborhood cat, possums, raccoons, and a woodchuck. (And, of course, deer. Lots and lots of deer.)
And there you have it: Assessment 3 in the books. Big takeaways?
- The deer stayed out of the back garden, thanks to Tom’s “fake double fence” approach (first, the car lot flags last winter, replaced this spring with solar patio lights). I’ve just resigned myself to having them munch my front garden beds, though. (Sigh.)
- The pollinators loved the annual verbena I planted around the garden this year, so more of that next year.
- Keep planting black-and-blue salvia for the hummingbirds!
- And milkweed varieties for the Monarchs!
- Try a bigger patch of dill next year for the Swallowtail caterpillars.
- Think about adding more seed-producing plants in the back garden (free from the deer) – elderberry? winterberry? even coneflower for the finches?
- Splurge on a Bird Buddy feeder to capture bird photos while they’re munching.
- And plant more parsley next year so maybe the bunnies will share?