What is "Habitat Gardening"? How to create a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife?

“Habitat Gardening,” also known as “Backyard Restoration,” refers to the process of converting traditional landscape plans in privately owned yards or public spaces to those that attract and support native birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife.

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Habitat gardening greatly benefits wildlife by providing food, shelter, water and nesting places and is typically characterized by a more natural, less formal feel, with more variety in plant choices and naturalistic placement and pruning of plants.

Who doesn’t enjoy the sight of a brightly colored bird, or a passing butterfly? These natural visitors add appeal to our landscapes, help control pests, and seed and pollinate our gardens. But we’re in danger of losing them through our own actions.

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According to the National Audubon Society, the 20 birds on the Common Birds in Decline list have lost at least half of their populations in just four decades due to residential and industrial development.

It’s not too late to coax fine flying friends into our yards, though. This summer—with skyrocketing fuel prices putting the squeeze on your vacation plans—instead of going to visit nature, why not bring nature to you?

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Encourage birds and butterflies to come to your place and stay awhile with these easy habitat gardening tips. And, don’t forget to keep your birdhouses and feeders out in the cold season, when native and migrating birds need your help most.

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A wild-life friendly habitat garden allows plants that attract native and migratory birds, butterflies, and other wildlife seeking food and cover. Habitat gardening essentially replicates pre-development land conditions.

"You have to ask yourself, ‘What is my ecological address? What plants were here before this house was built?’ Then try to replicate that. You can learn about your property’s natural history by visiting a local nature center or contacting your local native plant society.

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You should also eliminate the use of wildlife-harming chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and employ organic gardening solutions instead.

How to make your garden a habitat garden :

1. Get or buy some plants
Bring different variety of plants, trees, ferns, grasses etc. Plant organically, using no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

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These plants after growing will provide nesting sites, food and shelter for a wide range of birds. Taller trees may also provide a suitable roost for bats.

2. Plant trees and hedge plants for nesting
These are extremely important in providing food and shelter for birds, mammals, and a whole host of insects. Some of these provide important flight routes for bats too.

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A native mixed hedge and avenue tree is the best choice to encourage the greatest diversity of wildlife. Try planting a mix of Golden shower tree, Gulmohar, Bamboos, rose, fruit trees, etc.

3. Grow bushes nearby
If you want to make it fancy, create a pattern. For example, put trees in the middle, plant bushes around them in a circle and leave room for walking through.

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It will provide shelter for grasshoppers, lacewings and many other creatures, as well as producing seed as food for birds. You can also plant taller ornamental grasses in flower borders which will have the same effect.

4. Plant as great a variety of plants as you can
Birds love wildflowers, and they love a meadow or prairie. They use parts of the tall grasses in their nests. Some flowers which attract wildlife include asters, coneflowers, sunflowers, coreopsis, salvia, cup plant, cat mint, herbs and onions.

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Check which are native to your area. Birds and many other animals rely on the berries. Plant blueberries or blackberries or raspberries, for example.

5. Install a sprinkler or small pond for birds to bathe in and drink
if you can go all out and install a water feature—a trickling fountain, or fish pond—for you and the birds to enjoy, fantastic! If not, a good old-fashioned birdbath will do. There has been some controversy regarding birdbath heaters.

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Some bird experts suggest warm, open water in winter will encourage off-season bathing, leading to frozen feathers, grounded birds, and well, dead birds. Just remember, the bigger the water feature, the bigger the bird you might attract.

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With a little effort you can easily enhance your garden to provide some really useful habitats for mammals, insects, birds and amphibians.