Basics of a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary
The following guidelines and suggestions are to help the residential homeowner make their property
more than the standard “grass” backyard. Many homeowners are trying to be more self-sufficient, supportive of sustainable agriculture, and lessen the impact or damage they cause to the environment. Anyone can transform their property into a wildlife sanctuary. And honey bees benefit from such
Plant Native Plants:
Select native plants that thrive in your local area and planting zone. Native plants require less water
as compared to other “specialty” plants, require less fertilizer, and are easier to care for and maintain.
Native plants are also many times more beneficial to the local wildlife habitat which has become a
ccustomed to these plants over time.
Select Beneficial Plants:
Many specialty hybrid and propagated plant varieties are sterile of beneficial pollen, nectar, and
seeds needed for a wide range of insects, native pollinators, and animals. Select flowering, fruit
bearing, seed, and nut producing varieties. Fruit and nut trees are some of the most spectacular
plants you can enjoy throughout the year. They benefit wildlife many times at key timeframes
that native insects and pollinators need for their lifecycle. And the season ending fruits and nuts
are enjoyed by a wide range of birds and wildlife.
Plant a Garden:
A growing number of homeowners are now planting gardens, keeping bees, chickens, and trying to
be more sustainable. These efforts also benefit wildlife in so many ways. Besides the occasional treat
for local wildlife that a garden may provide, some plantings are also very enjoyable and beautiful. A
simply herb garden is easy to maintain, provides summer long lasting blooms, and are used by many butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. Catnip, mints, thyme, chives, and a host of other herbs
can be easily grown almost anywhere. Bees and butterflies love them.
Provide Water Sources:
A bird bath may be visited by many bird species, but will also be used by native pollinators, and
other insects. A pond, stream, or water garden will also benefit wildlife in the area.
Specialized bird houses such as those for the eastern bluebird have helped this bird back to a more
healthy population. But they still need help due to the destruction of natural nesting cavities, and
increased competition from varieties of non-native birds. Bat houses providing locations for summer
nurseries are a huge benefit to any local area. Butterfly boxes also can be enjoyable and interesting
projects for young people. Whether its bats, honey bees, monarch butterflies, or other wildlife, many
can benefit from our local efforts.
Provide Natural Cover:
A simple brush pile, hedgerow, or thicket, provides a safety zone for birds and other wildlife.
Groupings of some plants such as butterfly bushes are not only beautiful and beneficial to insects,
but grow large enough to provide cover and additional nesting locations for birds.
Chemical Free Zone:
In today’s world of perfect lawns, homeowner pesticide use, farm applied chemicals, and other
chemicals that impact wildlife, your backyard chemical free zone can be a huge benefit to the
environment. Having a place for youngsters to run barefoot, and the family pet to enjoy without
walking on chemicals not only makes sense, but is healthier for all who use these areas. Lawn care
treatments are a huge problem when it comes to water runoff. If you spray it, it will end up
downstream. For almost every harsh chemical you can use around the home, there is a much s
afer non-chemical option. Use environmentally friendly products.
Learn to Love Weeds:
Many homeowners are fascinated with having the perfect yard. And the lawn care industry is bigger
than ever. The list of products that a homeowner can buy at the local hardware store seems endless.
But homeowners are starting to realize that those dandelions, clovers, and other weeds look pretty
good, when comparing the environmental damage in maintaining “manicured” lawns. Perfects lawns
not only cost financially, but harm the environment in many ways. Those simple yard plants such
as dandelions and clover, as well as other “weeds’ are used by many butterflies, honey bees and
other beneficial insects. And they can be a vital part of your wildlife sanctuary.
Anything you can provide for yourself, not only saves money for you, but lowers the impact on the environment in production, shipping, etc. Composting saves landfill space, while providing chemical
free compost. Using compost for plant bedding, and soil amending in the garden, are great ways to
lower the need of fertilizing.
Enjoy the Backyard.
Once you have your backyard wildlife sanctuary in place, use it! Let others see it. And help them
understand the importance of what you did. Good responsible stewardship of your backyard does
not make you a tree hugging fanatic. It helps you understand nature, your impact on the environment,
and hopefully a place for you to enjoy knowing you are doing the right thing.
Site dealing with plant identification, wildflowers, and meadow restoration: http://www.meadowsandmore.com
Native plants in Pennsylvania: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/wildplant/native.aspx