You’ve taken the time to create a garden that is beautiful and full of all sorts of interesting plants and features — and you notice that all sorts of creatures love it just as much as the humans do. You’ve spotted a variety of birds, and a fair share of butterflies, bees, and other winged and furry friends. But did you know that your garden could be certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation?
It’s not that difficult, and you don’t have to have full acreage — school gardens, balconies, and regular urban properties all have enough space to provide havens for wildlife. Here’s the checklist of requirements — and I’m happy to report that, after years of good intentions, my garden is now a Certified Wildlife Habitat!
Food — Does your garden offer at least 3 source of food for wildlife? Think about native plants that have seeds, berries, or nectar, additional bird feeders, or a good amount of insects. On my one acre, I have a pollinator garden, a fig tree that we share with birds and squirrels, and oak trees that produce acorns.
Water — All you need is one water source on your property, and you probably already have it. Birdbaths, water dishes, water gardens, and ponds or other water features all offer animals life-giving water. On our property, we also have two automatic watering bowls for our dogs — they connect easily to your water spigot, but give other wildlife access to water as well.
Cover — All creatures need nooks and crannies to protect them, and to qualify for the certification, you’ll need to identify two sources of cover. Rock or brush piles, bat houses, roosting boxes, even dense plantings or vegetation offer animals places to hide out.
Places to Raise Young — When mamas give birth, those babies need a safe place to get their start in the world. A variety of trees and shrubs, birdhouses, host plants for caterpillars, and ponds for fish and other amphibians are all great examples. Create two different places for wildlife to safely raise their young and you’re good to go.
Sustainable Practices — Two of the following three sustainable practices are necessary for certification: soil and water conservation, controlling invasive exotic plant species, and organic practices. While we’ve always been organic gardeners and religiously practice soil and water conservation, our small herd of goats happily eats up the invasive plants along our fence line.