Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Planting Can Be for the Birds, and Butterflies

Spring means that backyard gardeners and landscapers are hard at work beautifying their yards. But in all of the bustle and planning, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division recommends adding a place for wildlife, no matter the yard’s size.

Some tips:

** Plant fruit-producing shrubs like native crabapple, serviceberry, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, dogwoods and wax myrtle. To attract songbirds including cardinals, robins, bluebirds, orioles, brown thrashers and mockingbirds, plant in clumps, clusters or islands. Cover provides nesting areas for birds and small mammals, as well as shelter from predators and inclement weather.

** Always use caution when using pesticides. Overuse or misuse of lawn chemicals can harm wildlife. Contact a local Cooperative Extension Service with questions about amounts and types of pesticides to use.

** Create a pool as a birdbath and gathering place for wildlife. A pool can be as simple as a small pond or as elaborate as an in-ground reservoir with waterfalls. Also, shallow birdbaths make excellent landscaping focal points.

** Don’t forget the butterflies! Cultivate nectar-producing plants such as salvia, lantana, butterfly bush, milkweeds, blazing star, impatiens and verbena to provide butterfly-viewing opportunities and add an array of color to backyard habitats. Planting butterfly larval host plants like hollyhock, fennel, violets, pawpaw and asters will also encourage butterflies to come to your garden and help them complete their life cycles.

** Use native plants as much as possible. Native wildlife is adapted to the plants, and the plants are adapted to surviving under local conditions with little need for extra fertilizer or water.

** Remember the field guide and binoculars. Watching wildlife can be fun for the entire family, especially considering Georgia’s rich diversity of wild animals and plants. Close-focusing (6 feet or less) binoculars allow you to observe butterflies up close. Field guides featuring birds and butterflies are great resources in helping identify species.

With proper planning, any yard can feature trees, shrubs and other plants that will provide food, shelter and habitat for wildlife. For more information on spring planting for birds and butterflies, visit Wildlife Resources’ Web site, www.georgiawildlife.com, click “Conservation” and choose “Wildlife in Your Backyard.”

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