How to Build a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary - Eshelman Mill Gardens
Build a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

Winter is coming. To help our furry and feathered friends through the winter, it’s a great idea to build a backyard wildlife sanctuary. You can create a place in your yard that’s welcoming and nourishing to a variety of local Lancaster County wildlife.

Whether you enjoy bird watching or you simply want a more naturalized backyard, complete with wildlife, attracting more birds and animals to your garden can be an entertaining experience. Birds are great for the environment because they help pollinate and they distribute seeds, which encourages diversification in plant life. And attracting more birds to your garden is easier than you might think.

Let’s take a look at how to build a backyard wildlife sanctuary.

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How to Build a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

Who Lives around You?

First, do a little research to find out which birds live in Lancaster County. Owlcation has a great list of common birds you’ll find in Pennsylvania. Also, if you enjoy bird watching, consider the birds that you feel are special. Think about the breeds that you enjoy watching. Then you can create settings that attract the birds that live in your areas.

Make Them Feel Safe

Birds and wild animals can be skittish creatures. Many birds will not visit your yard if you don’t have trees, shrubs, and areas where they can perch and feel safe. Take a look at your environment. Is it bird friendly? Can wild animals find shelter? Are there trees to hide in and shrubs to protect them? If not, consider adding some to your landscaping.

Feed the Birds

Position bird feeders in the safe areas of your yard. For example, a dangling feeder in the middle of your yard will most likely attract rodents, squirrels, but not birds. However, a feeder positioned in or near a tree will get more feathered visitors because they have somewhere safe to fly to. Make sure that you’re choosing the right type of food and feeder for the birds you want to attract. The Penn State gardening extension has a list of birds and their seed preferences.

Plant Trees, Hedges and Shrubs

Planting a variety of trees and shrubs in many different sizes and types will provide food for birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife that are beneficial for your garden. Providing nesting sites for many different types of animals is good for the ecology of your garden.

Keep the Deadwood

This advice goes against that natural tendencies of lots of homeowners in Lancaster County. However, dying trees or parts of a dying tree can play an important role in gardening for wildlife. They are habitats for organisms that keep your garden ecosystem healthy. Fungi, mosses and insects will attract birds to them who will eat them. They are also habitats for snakes and other animals, so locate them strategically.

Create Water Features

Creating water features can also bring wildlife to your garden, like toads and frogs. You could build your own waterfall and pond or buy and install a self-contained water feature.

Keep Some Grass Long

Plant longer grasses in some areas of your lawn. It provides cover for small animals, reptiles and caterpillars. If you leave some of your grass uncut throughout the year, alternating the areas every couple of years to avoid the grass from becoming too coarse, you’ll create plenty of places for these animals to be where they help not harm your garden. You can also plant tall, ornamental grasses in your landscaped beds.

Plant Variety

It’s important to plant a diversity of plants that are native to Lancaster County. You can find many varieties at local garden centers, like Stauffers. You can also see a list of plants that are native to Lancaster on the Pennsylvania Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources. Doing so will help cut down on pests and will attract a diversity of wildlife.

Encourage Wildflowers

Here’s more advice that rubs Lancaster County residents the wrong way: Don’t automatically get rid of all wildflowers as “weeds.” Some of them are beautiful and they can be very valuable to improve the ecology of your garden. They also provide food for insects and butterflies which can encourage pollination of your plants but less eating of your plants. Nettles are especially helpful for providing a breeding area for butterflies. You can also create an area that’s specifically for native wildflowers.

Put Up Bird Houses and Nesting Boxes

If you’d like more birds and bats in your garden, you can put up nesting boxes on walls, in fences and in trees. Put them up at least six to seven feet off the ground to keep them protected. Be sure to clean these boxes each year when the birds have left the boxes to cut down on parasites. Keep an eye on bat houses to make sure they don’t get too filthy every season.

All of these strategies will help you build a backyard wildlife sanctuary that will entertain you and your family year-round. If you’d like help in designing your backyard wildlife sanctuary, call us at (717) 951-5950 for a free, no-strings-attached estimate.

How to Build a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

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