Learn how to create a habitat garden to attract birds, butterflies, and other neighborhood wildlife. It’s fun, makes a positive difference and easier than you might think.
May is my favorite gardening month, when the first flush of blooms appear and before the mercury and humidity collide to reach the ‘sweltering’ mark!
And as it’s an active month for nesting birds, May is also Garden for Wildlife Month. . . the perfect time to make your yard or garden more attractive to birds, butterflies and other local wildlife!
If you’re a gardener, want to save the bees, a bird enthusiast and / or love attracting butterflies, I thought you might enjoy learning how to certify your garden as a Wildlife Habitat! I recently certified our garden, which in turn helps support The National Wildlife Federation.
Every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife such as bees, butterflies, birds, and amphibians—both locally and along migratory corridors.
The Garden for Wildlife movement has recognized over 217,000 acres that support wildlife locally. Backyards, urban gardens, school grounds, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms, zoos, and community landscapes can all be recognized as wildlife habitats through the program.
Requirements for your Certified Wildlife Habitat® are:
🌱 Food: Native plants that provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage, pollen, and insects. Feeders can supplement natural food sources.
🌱 Water: All animals need water to survive, and some need it for bathing or breeding.
🌱 Cover: Wildlife need places to take shelter from bad weather and places to hide from predators or hunt for prey.
🌱 Places to Raise Young: Wildlife need resources to reproduce and to protect and nourish their young.
🌱 Sustainable Practices: Maintain your yard or garden in natural ways that incorporates native plants, conserves water and doesn’t rely on pesticides.
Food sources are a critical component for all living things. Native plants form the foundation of the food chain in the natural world, and should do the same in your wildlife-friendly garden or landscape. Plants provide food to wildlife in a wide variety of ways, from berries to nuts to nectar and even the insects they support that feed other animals.
Many species need different food at different stages in their life. Hummingbirds need nectar and regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders, thrips, gnats and other arthropods to round out their diet.
Bird feeders can supplement natural food sources offered by plant material, and be particularly helpful in winter months.
Wildlife needs clean drinking water to survive. Birds need to bathe in order to keep their feathers in good working order, while other species including some amphibians, insects and other wildlife actually live in water.
You can provide this habitat component in a variety of ways, from a birdbath or shallow dish of water to a water garden or pond.
Other water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, rivers, springs, oceans and wetlands.
Certified Wildlife Habitats not only provide water for wildlife, they use sustainable gardening practices that help ensure our human demands on water are kept to a minimum.
Wildlife needs to find shelter from extreme weather and many species need places to hide from predators, while predators themselves need cover in order to successfully catch prey.
Native vegetation is a perfect cover for wildlife. Shrubs, thickets, and brushpiles provide great hiding places within their bushy leaves and thorns. Even dead trees provide shelter as a home to lots of different animals, including some that use tree cavities and branches for nesting and perching.
Add a birdhouse for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat.
Creating a wildlife-friendly garden or landscape is all about helping wildlife survive.
Providing food, water and cover –> (read Squirreling Away in a Watering Can if you missed it) , will help individual animals continue to survive in your area.
In addition, some species such as amphibians or butterflies have totally different habitat needs in their juvenile phase than they do as adults, so it’s important to offer habitat in all phases of the lifecycle.
Wildlife needs a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs.
Providing the four components of habitat—food, water, cover, and places to raise young—will create a wonderful wildlife-friendly garden.
Maintaining your landscape in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way ensures that the soil, air, and water that native wildlife (and people) rely upon stay clean and healthy.
Ways to Conserve Water in Your Garden:
🌱 Mulch planting beds with newspaper, leaves, bark, or wood chips. Mulches retain soil moisture and improve soil quality.
🌱 Water your plantings with a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system. Less water evaporates this way than with a sprinkler, and you target your watering.
🌱 Use a timing device with any watering system.
🌱 Use “wasted” water for your plants. A rain barrel or cistern that captures rainfall from your roof is a great garden reservoir.
Non-chemical, organic gardening practices in your backyard are always the best option for wildlife.
By planting native plants you attract populations of insects such as ladybugs and other carnivorous beetles, dragonflies, parasitic wasps, and praying mantises that keep the balance in the garden by other harmful plant pests.
Birds, toads, spiders and bats are voracious predators of pests too.
You can download and print a checklist and requirements for your Wildlife Garden, HERE.
And certify your garden as a wildlife habitat, HERE.
The Hum of Bees is the Voice of the Garden
~ Elizabeth Lawrence
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Between Naps on the Porch
Your pictures are beautiful ! I love all animals ! They are just Gods gift to us to enjoy.!
Have a wonderful day in that pretty garden of yours.
This is super cool! I know it is many hours that it must take to prepare your backyard to be the perfect oasis for ALL the birds and butterflies. I love it.🦋🐛🐝🐣🦆🌸🌼
What BEAUTIFUL grounds you have, Mary! I can only imagine the work and time that goes into keeping it that way! It’s wonderful – and fitting – that you have a certified Wildlife Habitat there in your own back yard. Thank you for the “tour”.
How wonderful to have your garden certified as a Wildlife Habitat. I loved reading and seeing through your photos how you care for the birds, butterflies, insects, and other critters in your lovely surroundings. Just last evening, I watched a little bird bathing in my waterfall. It made me smile!
I’m a newbie and have plans to create a wildlife garden. So I appreciate this post. Lots of good information and beautiful pictures. Thank you!
Mary, congrats on your gardens being certified as wildlife habitat. My hubby may need to check into this. We put down new pine straw, and the deer are loving it!
Mary what a wonderful post. I think my husband and I are finally going to get to move to the lake in Southeast Texas and I am going to work to incorporate all of these beautiful ideas you share in our new and final home! I have always wanted to do a wildlife garden and where we are moving, I think it is a real possibility. Thank you for always brightening my day. I LOVE your beautiful posts.
It is so enjoyable and inspirational to view your beautiful garden. Thank you
THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!!!
Mary, your garden is beautiful and so are all the pictures. Thank you for your thoughtful planning and caring for God’s small creatures and of course for all the gorgeous flowers and plants in your garden. Your posts always brighten my day.
Perfection! I love your emphasis on wildlife.
You truly are an inspiration to me. Thank you for the time and energy you put into this website . . . and your beautiful garden. Blessings on your sweet head.
I want to live in your garden! It is so beautiful and you have the nicest bird houses for your feathered friends. It must lift your spirit every time you catch sight of wildlife in your yard. We love to watch the animals that come to visit our yard too. Turkeys and deer have come by for some birdseed this Spring!
Wow! Who knew?! Thanks for this educational, beautiful and inspiring post!!!
Thank you for all this very important information, I have been reading a lot of articles lately about the danger our eco system is in and it is vital that we start helping and making changes. You are so knowledgeable and passionate about this subject, you are providing a huge help to this movement by educating your many followers. Your photos are simply breathtaking, thank you Mary!
Your garden is such a beautiful place. I really appreciate you sharing it with all of us. You have set the bar very high as a goal to us all for making a peaceful and environmentally friendly place.
I have worked a long time to achieve this wildlife certification and I am so glad you posted it! I have you to thank for my “DEB”S SHE SHED” which is almost completed with a loft and all! My Cherubs and I are loving it!!! Thank you for your inspirational posts. I have all of the posts saved and love going back for past recipes and flowers I remember seeing.I think you need to do a retreat for all your followers and let us meet you and see the shed!
Your photos are beautiful as always! Thank You for sharing this with us!
Thank you so much for your pictures. Love all of them & enjoy those of the squirrels too! Only have a deck now but have my pots prepared & am looking for a new bird house (or old) as mine finally fell apart. Looking forward to planting now that Mother’s Day is coming.
I’d love to know your secrets for fertilizer you use to make your plants thrive so beautifully. Also what about eco friendly weed control?
Hi Debbie, We’ve used landscape fabric as a weed barrier under our mulched areas when creating a new bed or you can use layers of newspaper. The mulch helps keep the weeds down somewhat too in addition to saving water. We also use the good old-fashioned ‘pulling’ method daily. ;) I use Pennington UltraGreen Azalea, Camellia & Rhododendron Plant Food on the hydrangeas, viburnums and azaleas: https://homeiswheretheboatis.net/2018/07/16/july-garden-updates-surprises-volunteers-and-bicycle-planter/
I was certified as a wildlife sanctuary by national wildlife when we were living in Virginia but have not sent in my application since I moved to N. C.. Thanks for the reminder .Protecting all God’s creatures is our responsibility as well as an introduction to a wonderful world. I get such pleasure from watching the birds and identifying new species. Just this morning I was at the garden center buying plants for my butterfly and pollinator garden. I am trying to buy more native plants and shrubs and have not used pesticides since I read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.As you have shown ,our gardens can be beautiful as well as wildlife friendly.
Oh Mary your garden is just BEAUTIFUL. I’m so glad you got your Wildlife certificate.
Absolutely beautiful post, Mary. Your wildlife sanctuary is sublime. I have been considering applying for a while now and this is a good reminder. I think the one stopping point I may have is lack of birdhouses. I would love to have them but they just become wasp nests here. But I will check out the requirements and move forward with a plan to apply.
Congratulations and what a lovely sanctuary you have created. It is like the Garden of Eden. Beautiful pictures! I know the hard work that goes into weeding daily, bless you for taking such loving care. Great information also. Thanks Mary. 🥀🌾⚘🐇🐿🐦🐝
What a perfect post for spring. Love all your photos and the message was something we should all do–whether we have massive gardens, or just a little plot to work with. I didn’t pull my dill stems last year, and low and behold I had caterpillars on them in fall, chomping away. Hopefully they cocooned somewhere and will be butterflies. Great information!
Hi Mary! Beautiful habitat that you have created. I did not know about certifying a property. I just went and certified ours. Thanks for sharing your photos.
But of course your beautiful gardens would be a Certified Wildlife Habitat…It is such joy to see your ever so charming and breathtaking gardens and the cuties who habitat them…..Congrats Mary!!!
Oh how amazingly beautiful! That bee and butterfly shot had me saying out loud… “I can’t believe it!” 😊
You worked very hard to get your gardens not only beautiful but also certified! I applaud you!
Mary, Your garden is thriving & the animals are so happy! The rescued baby squirrels have really grown & will soon be wreaking havoc with their antics. The plaque is so attractive. This was a wonderful post after a hectic day! Thanks! Clara
Absolutely beautiful in every way!
CONGRATS! Beautiful grounds with special consideration to all the wonderful wild life.
You both are so deserving. Lots of work but your reward is far greater.
As always, you are an inspiration. You have given Mother Earth the most beautiful Mother’s Day gift. Congratulations on becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat. My 5 year old grandson, Benjamin, loves your phenomenal photos and I can not wait to share this post with him. He loved the squirrels in the watering can when you first posted it. We have made many of the seed wreaths and other projects too. Thank-you!
Wow, the garden is a heaven for all. The fat bumble bees are so precious and you capture every living thing in such an idealistic moment. Aren’t we blessed to be able to experience it by your talent?
Very nice Mary! Great pics, enjoy the nice weather:@)
It took me just a few minutes to sign up to be certified! Thanks for the info!
I ordered a few new birdhouses to add to my certified garden. Taking care of God’s critters!❤️
Fun Ruth! Thanks for letting me know and enjoy your new bird houses❣️ 🌺🌸🌱🐦🐿🐰
I would love to visit your garden if I lived in North Carolina!! Even more special with your love for wildlife; you are an incredible photographer. Always enjoy your pictures and of course Lola too!
Thank you for sharing such beautiful photos with your readers and thank you for taking such good care of this earth and God’s creatures!
I did not know about this!! I will apply to see if I qualify!! Thank you!!!! 🌺🌼🐰🐌🦋🐞🐛🐓🦃🕊🌹💐🍄🐚
Beautiful and inspiring post!!
I have signed up and looked on NWF website for your lovely green wrought iron sign indicating certification but don’t see it; can only find the metal individual state signs that are 9″ by 12″ and not a “staked” sign. Too early to call 800 # or chat w customer service. Maybe your sign came out of their catalog”.
Thanks for your wonderfully beautiful and inspiring posts!
Hi Cyndy, The sign is available on the NWF website’s shop here: https://www.shopnwf.org/2780-NWF845-Certified-Wildlife-Habitat-Sign.pro
Make sure you use the promo code GARDEN19 to save 20%! :)
Such a beautiful and informative post! Had not seen your bunny shots before, so sweet! It’s starting to feel like home in my new garden, yesterday I watched butterflies and bees flit about, a deer raced across my field, ducks are nesting in the canal and the birds are busy nesting, it is suddenly transforming into a new home with color dotting the landscape.
A bit late to discover this wonderful blog, but oh, what a treat.
This is how I imagine heaven to be.
Questions about bird houses. Do you clean them out periodically? If so, how often? Do they have backs or roofs that come off or doors that open to make it easier? Do you usually have them freestanding, or against trees or other structures, grouped together or no? What’s the scoop on bird houses?
Hi, Birdhouses should be cleaned out at least once a year, late winter or very early spring. You want one with access to clean it out, either with a hinged door, flap or access via the roof. They should be mounted on a pole or post, not attached to a tree as predators have better access to them that way.
Love this post! I keep water out for the critters and birds year round and I’ve been rewarded with some amazing birds varieties passing through. And then our squirrels are about the size of groundhogs! haha. well almost. Happy almost Spring!
Hi Debra, We have the best fed and fattest squirrels in a 3 mile radius. :) Happy almost Spring to you. ♥