As spring arrives, backyard gardeners and landscapers begin the yearly task of beautifying their outdoor environments. The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division recommends that amateur and professional gardeners, regardless of their yard’s size, consider building a place for wildlife while planning for spring gardens.
"When planting or landscaping for spring, utilize plants beneficial to wildlife and keep in mind the following tips,” said Jim Ozier, a program manager with the division’s Nongame Conservation Section. “These helpful hints are sure to enhance the beauty of yards and gardens and attract a variety of wildlife for viewing enjoyment.”
** Plant fruit-producing shrubs like native crabapple, serviceberry, blueberries, blackberries, dogwoods and wax myrtle. To attract songbirds including cardinals, robins, bluebirds, orioles, brown thrashers and mockingbirds, plant in clumps, clusters or islands. Cover provides nesting areas for birds and small mammals, as well as shelter from predators and inclement weather.
** Use primarily native plants. These are adapted to surviving under local conditions with little need for extra fertilizer or water, and native wildlife species are adapted to using them for food and cover.
** Create a pool as a birdbath and gathering place for wildlife. A pool can vary from a small pond to an elaborate reservoir with waterfalls. Shallow birdbaths also make excellent landscaping focal points.
** Use caution when applying pesticides and fertilizers. Overuse or misuse can harm wildlife. Contact a local Cooperative Extension Service with questions about amounts and types of chemicals to use.
** Don’t forget the butterflies! Cultivate nectar-producing plants such as salvia, milkweeds, blazing star, impatiens and verbena to provide butterfly-viewing opportunities and add color to backyard habitats. Non-invasive exotic plants such as lantana and butterfly bush are also attractive nectar sources. Butterfly larval host plants like hollyhock, fennel, violets, pawpaw and asters will also encourage butterflies to visit.
** Remember the field guide and binoculars. Watching wildlife can be fun for the entire family, especially considering Georgia’s rich diversity of wild animals and plants. Close-focusing (6 feet or less) binoculars allow you to observe butterflies up close. Field guides are great resources in helping identify species.
With proper planning any yard can feature trees, shrubs and other plants that will provide food, shelter and habitat for wildlife. For more information on spring planting for birds and butterflies, visit Wildlife Resources’ Web site, www.georgiawildlife.com, click “Conservation,” then “GA Animals & Plants.”
Georgians who contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund state income tax checkoff or buy a bald eagle or hummingbird license plate help support conservation of nongame wildlife throughout the state. These fundraisers benefit the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state money for conserving wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.