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Yellow Warbler finding a nest site

Bee visiting a black-eye susan

Chipmunk dining on flower heads

American Lady butterfly

Robin eating crabapples

What is a "wildlife garden" anyway?

ONE OF THE MAIN OBJECTIVES of the FWG is to demonstrate "wildlife gardening" and encourage people to adopt this practice on their own properties and other open spaces. But what exactly do we mean by that term?

The Canadian Nature Federation has developed criteria for "wildlife friendly backyards," and we think that their checklist forms a good introduction to the basic principles. To qualify as wildlife friendly, your yard must meet at least one requirement in each of these categories.

Chemical free
  • no chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides used

Soil

  • active composter
  • use of natural fertilizers
  • use of rotational planting
  • use of nitrogen-fixing plants

Water

  • pond
  • bird bath
  • flowing water (e.g., creek, stream)
  • other permanent natural water source
Food
  • bird feeder
  • berry-producing shrubs
  • nut trees
  • fruit trees
  • nectar-providing flowers

Shelter

  • birdhouse
  • bat house
  • bee house
  • amphibian shelter
  • cedar hedge or other type of living fence
  • trees with cavities and/or snags (i.e., standing dead trees)
  • brush piles
  • tall grass patch

How does the Backyard Garden at the FWG measure up? Well, it's chemical free, we have several composters, and use decayed leaves and compost on the beds to hold moisture and reduce weed growth. Although we don't rotate plantings, we have great variety and several species are nitrogen-fixers (clover in the lawn; other pea relatives in the garden).

We provide water in both a pond and bird bath, and the garden is filled with food sources — summer and winter. The only shelter we're lacking is tall trees, although these grow nearby in the ravine. So I guess if we're keeping score, the garden would rate 16 out of a possible 22.

The CNF list is a guide; no one can have all of these elements in their backyard. But we hope you have a healthy number and are enjoying the wildlife in your own yard.

NOTE: The Canadian Wildlife Federation offers a Backyard Habitat Certification Program.


This page was revised 29 May 2017
Text: Sandy Garland
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