We can't all afford a country cottage or enjoy regular access to areas of remote wilderness. With some careful planning and thoughtful planting, however, we can make any sized yard a haven for nature and bring the great outdoors a little closer to home.
With just a little effort anyone can transform a corner of their own habitat into a place enlivened by the splashes of color and soothing sounds that many of our wild neighbors bring to our home environment.
The key to creating a successful and rewarding area for wildlife is in the plants that you choose, and making sure that shelter and food are available to your wild guests all year round.
If you want to attract a wide variety of creatures, from garden friendly insects to birds and squirrels, it is well worth spending considerable time planning your backyard refuge.
During spring and summer plenty of bright, scented flowers should attract dazzling butterflies and hummingbirds. Evergreen shrubbery and small trees will create safe feeding and roosting areas for a host of wild birds all year round.
Berry-bearing plants such as mountain ash and holly not only look attractive, but also provide a valuable food supply for hungry garden visitors in the harsh winter months.
Make sure that clean, fresh water is available in all weathers and the birds will be queuing up to have a drink or take a bath. If you have room, create a pond with a few well chosen water plants and you're sure to attract such fascinating creatures as frogs, newts and impressive dragonflies.
With a huge range of feeders and specially packaged foodstuffs available it is easy to bring many types of wild bird to your backyard sanctuary. Even the most modest of spaces should draw grateful feathered diners by the dozen.
Brightly colored seed-eating finches, juncos and towhees will jostle alongside the robins and chickadees while woodpeckers and nuthatches may be tempted by strategically placed suet feeders. Hang a hummingbird feeder in view of a window and enjoy the comings and goings of these stunning avian jewels as they return time and again to the high energy nectar you provide.
Try to place your feeders close to shelter so that the birds can quickly escape from predators when they need to, but make sure that they're far enough away from places where hungry cats or hawks can hide undetected.
Provide safe breeding sites by putting up a nest box or two, though never place these too close to the feeders as most nesting birds don't appreciate sharing their intimate space with others when trying to raise a new brood. Most garden birds need a constant supply of insects and caterpillars to feed their growing young, so by encouraging these natural pest controllers you will help reduce those pesky garden bugs in a natural, chemical-free way.
A bat box too may entice these delightful winged mammals into your garden and keep the number of irritating midges, mosquitoes and other nocturnal bugs to a minimum.
Check out your local bookstore or online forums for further information on how to attract these natural wonders into your yard. Soon, the whole family will be enjoying the wildlife that chooses to share your neck of the woods.
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