by Scott Jenkins – Supporting wildlife doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, you can help support threatened or endangered species in your own backyard. Here are ten ways you can help support threatened species in your garden and your local community.
10 Ways To Invite Endangered Species Into Your Garden
1. Learn About Endangered Species in Your Area
Do you know which species are endangered where you live? Most people don’t really know about the individual species of wildlife that are endangered where they live. Fortunately, it’s easy to find out more about these animals and get tips on how to help them.
Visit the US Fish & Wildlife website to search for species of plants and animals that are endangered in your area. From there, you can seen how the Fish & Wildlife services are working to protect these species in your area and find ways you can help. Whether you choose to volunteer for organizations that protect these local species, make a donation to their cause, or just inform others about the problem with endangered local species, you’ll be making a positive difference to your environment.
2. Visit A Wildlife Refuge or National Park
Wildlife refuges and parks provide resources and information to help local communities protect threatened and endangered species, so when you support them, you support nature. Even your local parks offer refuge for wildlife, some of which may be endangered species. Protecting our green spaces helps protect the spaces where these plants and animals live and thrive.
Getting outside and enjoying nature not only helps the wildlife, it will make you feel better, too. Studies have shown that being outdoors helps reduce stress and anxiety. Add in a little light exercise like walking or hiking, or practice forest bathing, and you’ll be improving your life while you help the threatened species, too.
3. Recycle & Buy Sustainable Products
Going green is more than just a catchy slogan or a trendy way of life–it’s a vital necessity if you want to help the planet and the creatures who inhabit it alongside us. If you don’t already practice green living, try making some simple changes that will help reduce your carbon footprint and help plants and animals.
Recycle when you can. Collect your plastics, cardboard, and waste paper and have it recycled instead of dumped in a landfill. Switch to reusable drink bottles instead of disposable ones and swap reusable container for disposable plastic baggies for food storage. These small changes may not seem like much, but they’ll keep dangerous plastics out landfills where they can harm plants and animals.
Look for products made from recycled items or produced in a sustainable way. There are many great eco-friendly alternatives for most items you likely already buy so making the switch should be easy.
4. Keep Herbicides & Pesticides Out of the Garden
It can be tempting to break out the pesticides and herbicides in your family’s garden, especially if all your hard work seems to be going to the birds. Unfortunately, these common chemicals can do much more harm than good. The chemicals in many herbicides and pesticides can degrade and affect local water sources, potentially poisoning animals who live in and drink from them.
Before you turn to harmful chemicals to deter pests, consider natural alternatives. Biological pest control methods such as releasing ‘garden friendly’ insects to eat the ‘bad’ ones and using trap crops to lure pests away from your food crops are two common methods of organic pest control. Diatomaceous earth and other similar substances can prove to be a huge deterrent to pests without harming any of the wildlife in your garden.
5. Plant Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens
Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are more than just a pretty addition to your home garden. These garden pollinators help play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plants. Encouraging these flying creatures to visit your garden will help propagate plant species all throughout your local area, providing food to many animals and helping keep some species of plants from becoming threatened or endangered.
You can encourage bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to come to your garden by planting things that the creatures like. Nectar and pollen-rich flowers will attract them and you don’t have to fill your entire garden with these. A simple window box filled with flowers can sustain bees for long periods of time.
Butterflies can be attracted by planting things like lavender, oregano, and the ubiquitous butterfly bush, which is a pretty addition to any garden. Hummingbirds are attracted to sage, Columbine, and Sweet William. You can also place a feeder filled with sugar water to provide the lively little birds with the energy they need to pollinate your plants.
6. Build Bat, Bird & Bee Houses
That birdhouse in the backyard is more than just a cute lawn decoration. It could be the home to one of many endangered species of birds in your area. Providing rent-free living space to birds, bats, and bees is easier than you might think. It’s also a rewarding way to help a variety of species that may be threatened in your local area.
Bats are natural pest killers and pollinators. They’ll gladly gobble up the mosquitoes that plaque your backyard, and all you have to do is give them a place to sleep. You can buy pre-constructed bat houses or build your own and hang them on your house or a nearby post.
Bees don’t just live in beehives–some solitary bees live wherever they can find a place to rest their weary wings. You can build or buy a small bee house for these bees and encourage them to stay in your garden, pollinating your plants while they enjoy their new abode.
7. Dig a Wildlife Pond
If you’ve ever wanted the beauty of a water feature in your backyard (but hated the idea of all the maintenance required) build a wildlife pond. Not only are well-balanced wildlife ponds maintenance-free, but they encourage a whole host of wildlife and endangered species to flourish in your very own backyard.
Depending upon where you live, the pond won’t have to be very deep. If you don’t get a lot of freezing temperatures, you can have a fairly shallow pond. If you do get lots of freezing temperatures, you may want a deeper pond so that it doesn’t freeze solid, potentially killing any plants and wildlife living in it.
You can make a pond by using a preformed liner or a flexible rubber one to make it easier to shape. You may want to consider using a dechlorinator to remove the chlorine from the water you put in to help encourage natural bacteria to grow. If you can, add a bucket of pond water from a local pond to help start off your new wildlife refuge. If you’re worried about mosquitoes infesting the pond, know that once the pond is well-balanced, this is very unlikely. Frogs, birds, and other creatures should keep the mosquito problem well under control for you.
8. Keep Your Garden Native
Exotic plants may be pretty, but don’t overlook the plants that are native to your local area. Not only will these be likely to thrive better than non-local varieties, but you’ll help keep the natural ecosystem in balance and encourage native wildlife to visit your garden. Birds, bees, and butterflies will be drawn to these native plants (and help you pollinate them).
You can find out which plants are native to your local area by visiting the National Wildlife Federation website. You can also speak to your local plant nursery to get tips on choosing native plants that will thrive in your garden.
9. Make Your Own Mulch & Compost
Making your own mulch and compost isn’t just about saving money. It’s an easy way to garden without chemicals while providing a place for small animals like frogs, lizards, and insects to live. Making mulch is as easy as raking up a pile of leaves and leaving it in an unused corner of your yard. It will break down into rich organic matter than can then be used to protect your other vulnerable plants throughout the year.
Composting turns vegetable scraps and grass clippings into a rich, nutrient-dense food for your garden. You can buy or build a composting bin and toss in food scraps, strips of newspaper, used tea bags, grass clippings, etc. Add layers of soil between layers of scrap and make sure that moisture can get to the compost. Turn the materials occasionally (a pitchfork or shovel works for most compost pits and bins), and reap the benefits when it all breaks down into a rich soil amendment.
10. Keep Domestic Cats Indoors
It may seem cruel to keep your kitty locked up, but it’s for the good of the wildlife in your garden. There may be species of birds and lizards nearby that are threatened or endangered. Cats are keen predators and love to hunt for sport, if not for food. It’s an instinct that’s great for wild cats who have to hunt to eat, but domestic cats shouldn’t be allowed to hunt for fun.
If you want your cat to enjoy the great outdoors, invest in a ‘cattery’. You can buy or build kennel-type cages to put your cat in for short periods each day. These kitty kennels allow your pet to get some fresh air and exposure to the elements in a way that’s safe for them and the wildlife around them.
There are many more than just ten things you can do to help threatened species where you live. Write to your politicians and ask them to support legislation that helps protect the plants and animals that are threatened, and vote for politicians who support these measures. Small steps can have a big impact, so do a little every day and you can help keep these species from disappearing forever.
Scott Jenkins is a fervent gardener that writes for Architypes.net. You can read his latest article on Architypes titled: How To Get Your Kids Excited About Gardening With You. You can also follow him on Twitter @scottjenkins