Help Wildlife by Gardening

May is Garden for Wildlife Month! Now is the perfect time to take a look at how your garden fits into the natural ecosystem and whether or not it's helping out the local wildlife.

Just because a garden is green, doesn't mean that it's "green." Asking yourself some simple questions will help you decide what you can do to make your garden more in tune with nature. It's all about providing the basic elements of habitat: food, water, cover and places to raise young.

Does your garden have native plants that provide berries, nectar and seeds as food sources for local wildlife? Do you have a water garden or birdbath to give the critters a place to drink and bathe? How about dense shrubbery, a meadow or even a brush pile to give animals a place to take cover from the elements or hide from predators? What about nesting boxes for birds or caterpillar host plants for butterflies to use as places to raise young?

Beyond these four components of habitat, look at your gardening practices. Are you spraying toxic chemicals everywhere, planting exotic species that escape the garden and invade wild areas, or simply wasting water on fussy ornamentals?

A quick assessment like this will give you some fast ideas on improvements that you can accomplish during Garden for Wildlife Month. And once you have those basic elements in place, you can submit your garden to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation.

When you get certified you'll be entered into NWF's National Habitat Registry, get a personalized certificate, a one-year membership to NWF, and the option to post a yard sign bragging to your neighbors of your accomplishment. If you do it during the month of May, NWF will also plant a tree in your name, extending the benefit to wildlife. But most people certify their gardens because it feels good to do something so simple that helps out wildlife and the planet.

Here's a new video that will give you some more great ideas on how to garden for wildlife.

Here are some additional resources from the National Wildlife Federation: