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Creating Beautiful and Beneficial Wildlife Habitats

By Painters Co-Owner Dana Owen, featuring advice and photos by Angela Esmond


Let’s “relate people to plants - a wildlife garden can be just as attractive to people as it is to wildlife!” (A quote from the National Wildlife Federation that we wholeheartedly agree with!)


First, you do of course need to do your research to determine what type of environment you have for each of your garden spaces - maybe you have a forest environment with almost full shade and rich mulchy soil, as well as a full sun area with sandy soil, and possibly also a wet, clay dense area with poor drainage. You want to reduce your frustration, time and expenses by determining this first so that you are planting the right plants for the right location. You may have limited space with all of the same sun exposure and soil type, but most yards contain several different microhabitats and you therefore need to plan several different gardens accordingly. If you’re new to this, just choose one space to start with… it’s easy to get overwhelmed and be unrealistic about the amount of work each garden can involve, especially if you need to amend your soil, remove a lot of rock, or remove a lot of invasives!

A well-designed wildlife garden can enhance your wildlife habitat, benefit pollinators and also improve ground water quality through natural filtration. When planned according to your naturally occurring conditions and using mostly natives, it can be relatively low maintenance, being more likely to flourish with less amendments or irrigation - for instance, we have a lot of beautiful native plants that do great in our native clay-rich soils without any amendment. (Don’t do what I did and try for years to convert a field of blue clay into a rich, crumbly soil - be smart about it and instead plan for a beneficial wetland/rain garden!) Identify and work with what you have and use the appropriate natives for those circumstances, and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation, money and wasted resources! Do a soil test, perform a basic test on how long your soil holds water, observe how many hours of direct sun you get in the location, and take the time to do your homework up front - trust me, it pays off!