The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Weedy edges for wildlife

Goldfinch on primrose

GoldfinchOn our farm, it doesn't take any work at all to attract wildlife, but city gardens are very different.  Without acres of woodland and hayfields to make them feel at home, you need to leave some weedy patches to give wild animals hiding places and food.

Mom is a master of the art of blending in well enough with the neighborhood aesthetic while still attracting birds, butterflies, and more to her small urban lot.  She likes to let wild goldenrod and asters bloom here and there to feed all kinds of beneficial pollinators and will often allow flowers to go to seed rather than deadheading.  I think the goldfinch who showed up on these evening primrose pods is even prettier than the flowers that once graced the plants.

Other ideas for attracting wildlife to an urban yard include:

Of course, there's always some wildlife you might prefer not to attract --- like this squirrel that eats up all the bird feed --- but, overall, your garden will be more resilient if it's more diverse.  So leave some weedy edges and give the earth room to breath!

My 99 cent ebook introduces two different ways to eat fresh produce deep into the cold months --- plucking winter squash and sweet potatoes right off the shelf and harvesting leafy greens from under quick hoops.

This post is part of our Tips from the Urban Homestead lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Weedy edges to attract wildlife, that's what I'm going to start calling those areas that I don't feel like cutting. hehe

Another thing to help attract birds is to provide nesting areas. But it needs to be targeted. Last year I put up Eastern bluebird boxes. They were immediately filled with sparrows. This year, I did a little research and found that the likely problem was the boxes weren't out in the open. The bluebirds prefer to have a box in the middle of a field. I cut the bushes and vines that were climbing up the fence post. This removed the cover that the sparrows liked but gave the bluebirds their preferred nesting spot. This year, 2 of those boxes had bluebirds.

Also, know what you want to attract. For me, those bluebirds were attracted because they are voracious predators of insects. They helped me keep the insect population down. A shame they don't seem to like Mexican bean beetles.

Comment by Fritz Thu Oct 20 08:17:05 2011
Great tips! You're totally right that you can get a lot more bang for your buck by targeting specific species you want. (Bluebirds are an especially good one to target because their populations have declined a lot.) I've always wanted to target bats, not just for their services (which we get for free above our farm) but because I want their guano! Unfortunately, bat houses are a lot harder to make work than bluebird houses.
Comment by anna Thu Oct 20 08:48:06 2011
Did you go there and take those shots? If Mom took them I am really impressed! Either way they are wonderful.
Comment by Maggie Thu Oct 20 09:03:43 2011
Maggie --- You might want to read the post that introduced the lunchtime series. Mom has turned into quite a photographer lately!
Comment by anna Thu Oct 20 10:58:29 2011

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