Some gardens are completely devoted to attracting wildlife. They are usually filled with flowering plants, various types of berries and seeds, and native fruit-bearing trees. They often have cool features like small ponds, rock edges and stumperiesall of which make great habitats for all kinds of animals.
If we think about it, these “wildlife” gardens are quite similar to productive gardens for humans. fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetable plants bloom throughout the growing season. There are a lot native trees†crab applespersimmons, mulberries, pawpaws and more – which provide food for humans, and which are among the best to include in mixed orchards.
The obvious connection is that we vegetable gardens and backyard orchards to attract wildlife. But do these animals offer an advantage or disservice to our gardens? Wildlife can add a lot to the garden party.
1. Natural Fertility
It is quite well known that different types of farmyard manure – horse, cow, chicken, sheep, etc. – cause major soil changes. They add a huge boost of nutrients and bring in all sorts of life, such as earthworms. And of course we can easily buy bags of it from nurseries and garden centers. Unfortunately, this manure comes from the same feedlots and factory farms that destroy the environment.
But wildlife also produces manure. Birds and bats have extremely rich dung. Worm casts are great. All kinds of micro-organisms and insects and arachnids can contribute to fertility also. In other words, wildlife can help with that, and we can use things like bat houses, compost binsand bird perches can be good ways to collect this resource.
2. Pest Control
Far too often we summarize insects, birds, rodents and other animals as: garden pests† Crows steal grain. Aphids eating lettuce. Voles chew roots. Rabbits, deer, raccoons and so on. Animals undoubtedly like to eat just as humans do, and that sometimes causes conflict.
However, other animals are predators of these vermin† Dragonflies, ladybugs and praying mantises like to eat pest insects, as do frogs and lizards. Hawks and owls prey on voles and mice and things like that, just like snakes. In short, a good mix of wildlife balances the equation, with some crops being lost to pests but some predators feeding on pests. Then everyone eats.
3. Soil Treatment
In addition to adding nutrient-rich manure, many animals are also important for keep soil naturally aerated and healthy. All those burrowing animals, from earthworms and ants to moles and voles, create air pockets through the soil, and those air pockets provide oxygen for other underground organisms and roots.
Of course, giving these animals some space in the yard can save a gardener some of the work of loosening the soil and perhaps tilling. These animals open passageways for water to get below the surface and flush nutrients deeper into the soil, where roots have easier access.
4. Free pollination
Meanwhile, with the craze of saving honeybeesmost of us know that bees – and that applies to all wild bees, not just farmed honey bees – crucial for food production for people† Without them, all kinds of food would never exist, because the female flowers would not be pollinated.
But bees aren’t the only wildlife that offers this service. Several birds can aid in pollination, and butterflies and moths also play a part in the game. other pollinators include ants, wasps, hoverflies, bats, and more.
5. Local Biodiversity
More and more we realize that our local biodiversityand with it global biodiversity, is steadily declining. In a world of cornfields, soybeansand palm oil plantationsour wild areas are disappearing and the animals that depend on them are following suit.
In response, we realize that in our developed areas we need to create wildlife corridors and create habitats for wildlife. This one biodiversity is important to keep the planet spinning and flowing, and that includes keeping our gardens in good shape.
And it’s that simple: wildlife is good for the garden. Sometimes we may have to play games to protect this or that crop, but wiping out an animal will upset the natural balance of things and eventually become a problem – a missing piece – in the ecosystem.
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