Of course the first question is do you want other wildlife? Not every one is keen on birds, squirrels, possums and other critters. The cats and I love bird watching, they seem to dislike the squirrels as much as I do. The possums, skunks and other things that find their way to here are cool to watch but leave the cats trembling. ( I have very wimpy cats. ) Fred being a tabby, does not look all that different from a skunk at night. One summer evening I went out to fetch him from under a shrub and found a skunk. We parted peacefully but it was a close call. So think before you decide you want to attract critters to your backyard.
A pond is a great attractor of wildlife. We had one up north stocked with goldfish. In the winter before and after the top froze a local sushi eating raccoon would come clean the pond out. We haven’t yet added a pond to this yard, but it is on the list of things to do in the garden.
You can create a Certified Backyard Habitat pretty easily. You need food, water, homes for critters, sustainable gardening, then finally you certify your home. Food sources include plants with seeds, fruits, nuts, and nectar. Providing water can be as simple as putting out a bird bath or as fancy as a built in pond. Cover and places to raise the young are thickets, piles of rocks, birdhouses etc. Sustainable gardening is using things wisely – mulch, compost, collect rain, skip the chemicals, etc.
You can Become a Certified Texas Naturalist Feb 15th is the application deadline. Classes are two Saturdays a month from March 1st until sometime in Oct. They also have several talks and events that are open to the public.
A little water can go a long way in attracting wildlife. Bog gardens can provide lizards, skinks and toads with water. Also give them some rocks to hide under or an over turned clay pot or two and they’ll move right in. ( I was reading about skinks in a flyer and I confirmed it with Google. I thought someone was pulling my leg, skinks? Who named those critters? )/
Some tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:
1) Food – native sources are best, you want native plants that have seeds, nectar, nuts, and berries. Feeders are good as a supplement but should not be the main source of food you provide.
2) Replicate what you see in the wild ( at least as far as the HOA will let you ). Use different height plants and group them in tiered arrangements with clusters of plants containing large, medium and small plants. Birds love the shrubs underneath tall trees.
3) Native species need less care and water and therefore less chemicals.
4) Shelter for critters is needed. Shrubs and hedges work well, you can add in bird houses or bat houses.
5) Dead wood; trees, logs etc provide homes. You can use old logs to line raised beds.
6) Insects are good, well most of them are. Lots of critters eat bugs and will move into your yard if you have their food.
7) Mulch provides shelter for worms, lizards, and toads.
8 ) For water ponds, bird feeders, bog or a swalw garden. Shallow water sources work just fine.
9 ) Keep it neat. You can have a wildscape that does not antagonize your neighbors or the HOA. Having a wildscape does not mean letting your yard run amok.
Other things you can do: