Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2015

Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat in Your Garden

By Jacquie Bokow

I’ve written in the past about the importance of planting native species.  When you do, you create a garden that both attracts wildlife and helps restore habitat.  By providing food, water, cover, and a place for wildlife to raise their young, you not only help wildlife, but you also qualify to have your yard become an official Certified Wildlife Habitat, a designation from the National Wildlife Federation.  Here’s some information on creating a wildlife-friendly garden from the NWF website.

Provide Food for Wildlife

Planting native “forbs” (which means a herbaceous flowering plant other than a grass), shrubs, and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds, and nuts that many species of wildlife need to survive and thrive.  You can also incorporate supplemental feeders and food sources.  [See Gardening Resources for Natives for more information.]

Plants that are native to our area thrive with little care.  Choose perennials and they’ll return year after year.

Native plants are well adapted to survive in a particular geographic area according to the climate, soils, rainfall, and availability of pollinators and seed dispersers.  And because they are indigenous to a specific region, native plants usually require little maintenance and are welcomed by wildlife, serving an important role in the local ecosystem.

Replacing lawns with native plants may seem unconventional, but it can pay off, both for homeowners and for wildlife.  According to the National Association of Realtors, planting native species can improve the curb appeal of a home, boost its resale value, and decrease its time on the market.

In times when natural food sources are not as available, it is important to also provide bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, squirrel feeders, and butterfly feeders to add to the native food sources for resident and migrating wildlife.

Your habitat needs three of the following types of plants or supplemental feeders:  Seeds from a Plant • Berries • Nectar • Foliage/Twigs • Nuts • Fruits • Sap • Pollen • Suet • Bird Feeder • Squirrel Feeder • Hummingbird Feeder • Butterfly Feeder

Supply Water for Wildlife

Wildlife need 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 bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds, or rain gardens.

The easiest water source to install in your garden is a bird bath.  Be sure to change the water at least weekly during warm weather when mosquitoes are breeding, so that any eggs laid in the water don’t have time to hatch (which takes seven days).  Consider buying a small heater available at wild bird feeding stores to keep the water from freezing during the winter.

Your habitat needs one of the following sources to provide clean water for wildlife to drink and bathe:  Birdbath • Lake • Stream • Seasonal Pool • Ocean • Water Garden/Pond • River • Butterfly Puddling Area • Rain Garden • Spring

Create Cover for Wildlife

Wildlife need places to hide to feel safe from people, predators, and inclement weather.  Native vegetation is a perfect cover for terrestrial wildlife.  Shrubs, thickets, and brush piles provide great hiding places within their bushy leaves and thorns.

Even dead trees work, as they are home to lots of different animals, including some that use tree cavities and branches for nesting and perching.  If natural options aren’t available for you, consider constructing a birdhouse specifically for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat.

Providing these places of cover not only helps wildlife, it can also help your overall garden if you “branch out” to attract other helpful pollinators, such as bats or bees.

Taffy Turner’s welcoming garden on Lorain Avenue is not only a Certified Wildlife Habitat, but also has received Master Gardener BayWise certification.  For the latter, an inspection was done by two Master Gardeners on the BayWise committee, who toured her garden with a checklist and then interviewed her.  Their focus was on sustainable gardening practices that ultimately contribute to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.  Unfortunately, the program was discontinued in Montgomery County in 2008 due to lack of resources.

Ponds provide cover for aquatic wildlife, such as fish and amphibians.  A “toad abode” can be constructed to provide shelter for amphibians on land.

Wildlife need at least two places to find shelter from the weather and predators:  Wooded Area • Bramble Patch • Ground Cover • Rock Pile or Wall • Cave • Roosting Box • Dense Shrubs or Thicket • Evergreens • Brush or Log Pile • Burrow • Meadow or Prairie • Water Garden or Pond

Give Wildlife a Place to Raise Their Young

Wildlife need places to reproduce, bear and raise their young, and see their young survive to adulthood, all safe from predators, bad weather, and human intervention.

Creating a wildlife habitat is about creating a place for the entire life-cycle of a species to occur, from tadpole to frog, from caterpillar to butterfly.

Many habitat features that serve as cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise their young:  from wildflower patches where butterflies and moths lay their eggs and small mammals burrow into the undergrowth, to constructed birdhouses, ponds for amphibians and fish, or caves where bats roost and form colonies.

You need at least two places for wildlife to engage in courtship behavior, mate, and then bear and raise their young:  Mature Trees • Meadow or Prairie • Nesting Box • Wetland • Cave • Host Plants for Caterpillars • Dead Trees or Snags • Dense Shrubs or a Thicket • Water Garden or Pond • Burrow

Help Wildlife Thrive with Healthy Habitat

Wildlife thrives in a healthy habitat with the food sources appropriate to their ecosystem, clean water, and plants free from harmful chemicals.  Practicing sustainable gardening with the use of native plants, water conservation, and not using pesticides or herbicides ensures wildlife abundance.

You’re Ready to Get Certified

Once you have provided these essential elements to make a healthy and sustainable wildlife habitat, you are eligible to become part of NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® program.  Visit their website at  There is a fee involved, and you pay for the official sign, if you want one.   ■

   © 2015 NFCCA  [Source:]