This section is about the various ways to attract wildlife
into the garden. There are a number of reasons to want wildlife in
The sights and sounds of wildlife in the garden delight
Their presence helps pest control.
The garden provides wildlife with the basic necessities
of life - food, water, shelter, cover and a place to raise
"The Naturalist's Garden" by John Feltwell says,
"If you want to attract wildlife into the garden, it is well
to encourage the insects - few of which are pests."
Section H.06 of this FAQ deals with the various ways
of keeping "problem" pests out of the garden by the use
of barriers or keeping them off the plants by the use of netting
Section J.01, which is mostly on the use of various
companion plants to attract wildlife into the garden also contains
material on the use of companion plants to repel
"problem" pests. There is a fine line that separates
those creatures which are often considered as "problem"
from those often considered as "beneficial."
This section covers:
That fine line between "problem" and
The use of companion plants in the garden to attract a
wide variety of wildlife, including insects.
The various ways to attract bees and other pollinators
into the garden.
The use of trees, shrubs, and brush as a source of food,
shelter and cover to attract and maintain wildlife.
The design, construction, and maintenance of water
features and other garden structures to attract and to
The effects of garden pesticide usage on wildlife.
Reasons and ways to garden neighboring rustic lands.
One of the resource horticulturist for this FAQ was asked for the
best way to attract wildlife into the garden. He answered, partly
in jest, "plant vegetables". Plants do attract wildlife.
Some wildlife comes into the garden to feed on the garden plants.
Most, however, come to the garden primarily to feed on the garden
Companion plants are often considered of value to the garden as a
result of their ability to repel garden pests. For the most part,
however, companion plants are of particular value because of their
ability to attract and to maintain populations of pest predators.
This sub-section is about the companion plants that seem to work
by attracting the "beneficials" who, in turn, feed on
"pests" as well as the companion plants that seem to
work by repelling pests directly. A major problem is that a lot of
the information about the use of companion plants has never been
documented. An effort will be made to spell out if the particular
use of a companion plant does or does not have supporting data.
"Trap crops" are substitute target plantings that
are used mostly in agriculture. Shasta daisies, for example, can
be used as a "trap crop" for strawberries because lygus
prefer to feed on the daisies. "Trap crops" are planted
around the outside perimeter of the field, orchard, or garden in
the hope of protecting the inner crop. There is very little data
supporting this practice.
Pollen is the male germ cell and pollination is when these
male germs cells are moved to the female parts of the flower. Self
pollination is when pollen is transferred from the male to the
female parts on the same flower. Cross-pollination is when pollen
from one plant is transferred to another plant of the same
species. The resulting offspring from cross-pollinated plants are
more vigorous and seemingly more disease resistant.
Plants produce nectar which attracts insects to them so that the
flowers can be pollinated. There are many insects that are
attracted to this nectar and in the process pollinate the flowers.
Bees, as a group however, are unique in that the nectar is their
base source for carbohydrates and the pollen is their base source
of fat and protein. Bees are the primary pollinators of many
plants. The honey bee population is down at the present time due
to traceal mites. It is impacting on gardens and agriculture.
The best way to attract these various pollinators to the garden is
through the use of nectar producing plants. This sub-section is
about the use of the major and minor "honey plants" to
attract bees and other pollinators to the garden; the use of water
and propolis as attractants; and a guide to the major references
and resources on bee keeping.
It varies with the region and with the season. "The
Complete Guide to Beekeeping" by Roger A. Morse lists the
"major honey plants" as: Alfalfa, Aster, Basswood,
Buckwheat, Clover, Goldenrod, Locust, Orange, Raspberry, Tulip
Tree, and Wild Thyme. Morse adds that there are two hundred or
more "minor honey plants" as well. A good bet is to talk
with your local agricultural agent to learn which plants do the
best job of attracting pollinators in your area.
Bees don't respect property lines and you can expect some of
them to visit your neighbors as they forage for food and water.
Bees are also territorial and can and will sting to defend the
area around the hive. Experienced beekeepers may be able to manage
their bees in congested areas without having major problems but it
is not something for a beginner. Be aware that many communities
have local ordinances prohibiting beekeeping.
Many of the books on gardening for wildlife give lists of the
various plants favored by the various creatures. The problem, in
many cases, is that those plants or those creatures listed simply
live someplace else. Sometimes the better option is to look closer
to home and to identify those local plants that seem favored by
the wildlife in your area. Plant material that is native or
particularly well adapted to your area is often the most
This sub-section is about the various ways to identify the most
appropriate herbaceous plant material to attract and to maintain
wildlife in the garden and the ways this plant material can be
Every garden ought to have a water feature even if it is no more
elaborate than a terra cotta pot with an aquatic plant or a simple
saucer as a bird bath. Every living creature needs water and water
attracts wildlife. It is particularly attractive if it gives the
sight or sound of moving water. Most aquatic plants and the
various creatures that live in the water do better if the water is
still. Most birds seem to like the water shallow. Some wildlife
prefer to drink moisture that has condensed on foliage and so on.
This sub-section is about the design, construction, and
maintenance of water features in the garden and the ways water can
be used to attract and to help maintain wildlife.
There is an adage that a "weed" is a plant that is
growing in the WRONG place, but a "weed" is also looked
at as a noxious plant that grows so vigorously that it threatens
to take over. Indeed, vigorously growing plants are said to be
growing "like a weed". For the most part, a garden
"pest" is a living organism that is also growing in the
WRONG place and also looked at as being noxious with the capacity
to take over.
"Common-Sense Pest Control" by Olkowski, Daar, and
Olkowski says, "Much of our garden wildlife falls into the
pest category, but only because of limited human tolerance for
minor plant damage and the visible presence of certain species. We
[simply] prefer to think of these organisms as potential pests.
Although some of them have the capacity of eating plants, their
presence does not necessarily mean they are causing damage worth
worrying about. Other organisms may not be causing any damage at
all; it's simply that the gardener finds them visually
There are, however, differences in the ways most "pests"
and most wildlife respond to garden pesticides. Wildlife is
usually more sensitive to the toxicity of pesticides than most
garden pests and wildlife falls victim more easily. Wildlife
usually has a more difficult time in recovering from toxic
exposure and it usually also has a greater problem in developing
effective tolerance. Part of the reason for this is
At the more obvious level, those creatures we tend to identify as
"pests" are identified by much of wildlife as morsel
treats. A garden with few morsel treats as a result of pesticide
usage isn't that inviting.
This sub-section is about the various ways toxic pesticides impact
on wildlife and their invitation into the garden.
Many people believe that nature is the best gardener and that the
best thing we can do for the woods or wetlands is to leave them
alone. They say, "The less man impacts on nature the
better!" The gardener knows by looking at his garden that
this is not necessarily so. Gardens usually don't start out as
places brimming over with vitality, they get that way because of
the joint efforts of gardeners working with nature. A classic
example is the increasing awareness of the importance of hedgerows
once many were removed to make more room for broader highways.
Hedgerows started out as planting put there by the hand of man.
Any gardening that improves the environment of rustic lands
neighboring the garden helps the environment of the garden as
well. The ecosystems of the two are very similar.
Henry David Thoreau once said, "The sun looks on our
cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without
distinction. . . Do [these beans] not grow for woodchucks
too?" Nature doesn't think much of property lines.
This sub-section is about the various ways to garden the
neighboring rustic lands. Michael Pollan calls it,