Sunday, May 12, 2013

Creating a Garden For Life

By Adriana Cappelli

It’s that time of the year again.  The flowers are blooming, the birds are returning to the northern cities and you are ready to have the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood.  However, have you ever thought about helping to preserve wildlife? Whether you live in an apartment or in a farm, you have the ability to create a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore their habitat. 

Creating a Garden for Life it is important because it helps the ecosystem, and as a result our future.  Animals are part of our world and if people don’t start doing their part to protect them some species could become extinct.  Since there are so many businesses and housing developments being built, animals are being forced to leave their habitat, resulting in them being unable to survive.  What kind of a future would you have without wildlife?

By providing food, water and a place for wildlife to live you will not only do your part in preserving the environment, but also your yard can become an official certified Wildlife Habitat. Keep in mind that the plants you use for food and cover will help determine the wildlife species attracted to your backyard.   “Having a healthy backyard is not only good for wildlife, it is good for our home,” Don Torino, president of Bergen Audubon Society, said.

Founded in 1941, Bergen County Audubon Society aims to promote and protect wildlife in its natural habitat by providing opportunities for observation and conservation.  “In our society we protect the environment, any kind of wildlife,” Torino said.

Keeping in mind the importance of maintaining a healthy backyard for wildlife with open space continuing to be lost in our state, backyard habitats are becoming even more important as places for birds and other wildlife to find food and shelter.  

“The best way to attract wildlife into your backyard is introducing native plants,” Torino said.  “Native plants are better for the soil and don’t need pesticides or chemicals.” For more information about native plants visit 

Before I explain how to create a Wildlife Habitat, lets first learn how to protect birds and other wildlife where you live.  According to these are the eight steps to follow. 

1. Reduce or eliminate pesticides and herbicide use.  By using fewer chemicals around your home you will keep birds, pets and your home healthy. 

2. Plant native plants.  Native flora provides birds with food in the form of fruit and seeds, and is home to tasty invertebrates like bugs and spiders.

3. Identify the non-native invasive plants in your region, and work to remove them from your yard.  And do not bring any new invasives into your habitat.  Invasives do not provide as much good food or habitat as native do, and can threaten healthy ecosystems.

4. Attract humming birds with sugar water, made by combining four parts of hot water to one part white sugar, boiled for one to two minutes.  Never use honey, artificial sweeteners, or food coloring.  Clean hummingbird feeders with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts once a week.

5. Make your windows visible to birds to prevent collisions.  Put up screens, close drapes and blinds when you leave the house, or stick multiple decals on the glass.

6. Let your yard get a little messy.  Leave snags for nesting places and stack downed limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for birds during bad weather.

7. Close your blinds at night and turn off lights you are not using.  Some birds use constellations to guide them on their annual migrations and bright lights from windows and skylights can disrupt their steering senses. 

8. Create or protect water sources in your yard.  Birds need water to drink and bathe in, just like we do.  Be sure to keep birdbaths clean and change the water three times a week when mosquitoes are breeding.

Now that you know the basics in order to maintain a healthy habitat for wildlife, it is time to get going and begin to plan how to create your own Wildlife-Friendly Garden.  According to the National Wildlife Federation these are the essentials to create a Garden for Life:

Provide Food for Wildlife

Planting native forbs, shrubs and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive.  You can also incorporate supplemental feeders and food sources.

Supply Water for Wildlife 

Wildlife needs clean water sources for many purposes, including drinking, bathing and
reproduction.  Water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, rivers, springs, oceans and wetlands; or human-made features such as birdbaths.

Create Cover for Wildlife 

Wildlife requires places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather.  Use native vegetation, shrubs, thickets and brush piles or even dead trees.

Give Wildlife a Place to Raise Their Young 

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, or cavers where bats roost and form colonies.

Ready to Get Certified

Once you have provided these essential elements to make a healthy and sustainable wildlife habitat, join the thousands of wildlife enthusiasts across the country that have earned the distinction of being part of NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat.  For more information about the Certified Wildlife Habitat, visit

Adriana Cappelli is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in journalism with a minor in Latin American studies. 

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