Having a yard that will attract butterflies, birds, bees, deer and other wildlife involves certain techniques and approaches to lawn care, some of them unconventional. The perfectly-groomed, square-cornered lawn with the carpet-like grass that never gets above 2 inches tall is not, unfortunately, the ideal environment for wildlife. So you may need to re-think things a bit to make your yard attractive to butterflies, birds, bees, deer! Here are some tips
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What Kind of Wildlife?
First, identify what kind of wildlife you want in your yard. Butterflies? Bees? Deer? Birds? Making this decision early on will help you be able to be more focused in your yard care and design. Also, you’ll want to determine what kind of wildlife is available in your area. Then you can tailor your yard to fit the needs of local wildlife and birds.
Let It Go
It’s been said that mowing, trimming, weed-killing, and other typical yard care regimens may actually repel most wildlife. If possible, let a part of your yard simply go to weeds. You could fence it off and label it “For the Birds” or some such if you are worried about what the neighbors will think. But many sources say that simply leaving an area of your yard alone and letting nature re-claim it can make a nice area for attracting birds, bees, and small animals.
No matter what kind of wildlife you want to invite to your yard, water is important. Every living thing needs it and is attracted to it. Ground-dwelling animals like chipmunks enjoy water sources placed on the ground, whereas birds appreciate water sources a bit higher up (making it safer from predators).
Make sure the containers are heavy enough to accommodate an animal’s weight on the edge, and putting a rock in the center also helps to weight the container and to provide a safe “island” in case a small animal goes in too deep. Sources say water should be no more than about 2 inches deep, and that you should empty the water container daily and refill with fresh water.
There are several different ways to do this. You can hang out a traditional bird feeder, invest in deer feed, or plant fruiting shrubs or other plants that provide food for foraging animals.
Some plants to consider in general are:
Sunflowers (many birds like sunflower seeds)
Flowering and fruiting shrubs, like cranberries, blueberries, elderberry, and raspberries will attract birds and small animals. They may even attract bears and deer, depending on where you live.
Flowering and fruiting trees such as dogwood, hawthorn, and conventional fruit trees such as pear and cherry attract birds.
Flowers such as Echinacea (purple coneflower), thistle, and black-eyed Susan appeal to small, seed-eating birds like wild canaries and finches.
You might want to invest in a notebook to record what creatures visit your yard once you begin making it more wildlife-friendly.
Right now the U.S. is at a crisis point for growing fruits and vegetables and nuts because of the pesticides causing the mass deaths of bees and butterflies. For the future of our food supply, it’s important to plant things our pollinators eat. It’s also important to have things to feed butterflies from the caterpillar stage to adults, or there won’t be anymore butterflies.
To Attract Bees and Butterflies:
Don’t use pesticides.
Use local native plants that the bees and butterflies are accustomed to searching for in your area.
Plant in sunny spots, neither like the shade.
Plant flowers in big sections for each particular type to give a big enough area to attract the bees and butterflies.
Plant different sizes and shapes of flowers because different types of bees feed on different sizes and shapes.
Plant lots of different colors of flowers. Bees see color well and really like blue, purple, yellow and white flowers. Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.
Plant for all seasons if possible. Bees aren’t just around in the summer and they need to eat!
Place flat stones in the sun to give butterflies a safe place to rest and warm their wings.
To Attract Deer:
Plant plots that are things not already abundantly available down the road.
Plant large plots.
Plant peas, soybeans, turnips, alfalfa, sorghum, kale, corn, red clover, chicory, and orchard grass.
Deer especially love apples, so if you have the room, plant apple trees.
Deer also like salt or mineral blocks.
Plant tall grasses around the edge of your yard so they have a safe place to approach from.
Having a home that is a sanctuary is a joy to spend time in. Having your yard become a safe haven for butterflies, birds, bees, and deer is part of your stewardship of the earth. It’s another component of what gives us our ageless lifestyle after 50!