Wildlife Gardening

Bee a Wildlife Action Hero, Garden for Wildlife

Plant Wildlife Gardens All Across America!

The term “wildlife” traditionally referred to non-domesticated animal species. Today, the definition for “wildlife” has come to include “all plants, fungi and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans."

As gardeners, we not only have the obligation to ourselves to have a beautiful yard and garden that our friends and neighbors love to visit, but we also have an obligation to our "wildlife" to protect their environment and increase their habitat so that they can thrive and prosper, as well! It is our duty to make informed decisions when tending to our gardens, and know and understand causes and effects.

We know that chemicals that we have used in our gardens alter how children develop and lead to life-long effects, cause our pets to be at twice the risk of developing malignant cancer, reduce the hatching success and cause birth defects in our birds, and harm our earthworms, beneficial insects, and pollinators. We know that runoff from rain and watering further contaminates our groundwater and watersheds. And, most importantly, we know that native habitats are decreasing at an alarming rate. When we garden with wildlife in mind, we are ultimately benefitting ourselves, as well.

For instance, we need pollinators, and pollinators need our help. Our pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees with help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators across the country.

Take action! To garden for wildlife, you only need to practice sustainable gardening and provide food, water, cover, and a place for our wildlife and pollinators to raise their young or complete their metamorphosis.

  • Food

    Native plants form the foundation of the food chain in the natural world, and should do the same in your wildlife garden. Many species need different food at different stages in their life. Hummingbirds, for example, need nectar and regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders, thrips, gnats, and other arthropods to round out their diet. Other birds eat only seeds or fruit. Strategically place fallen branches or logs in the backs of garden beds or behind shrubs to encourage grubs and insects that birds, salamander and other wildlife rely on. Of course, anything helps. If you only have room for a feeder, or a small container with some pollinator plants on your balcony, that's good, too!

  • Water

    Water is essential for wildlife survival. In addition to drinking water, birds need to bathe in order to keep their feathers in good working order, and other animals actually live in the water. Set out a birdbath or a small container of water to attract wildlife. If you have more space, consider adding water features like a pond or rain garden.

  • Cover

    Wildlife needs places to find shelter from extremes of weather--from heavy rain and snow to searing summer heat. Some species need cover to hide from predators, and predators need places to hide while they hunt their prey.

    Native vegetation like shrubs, thickets, brush piles, and even dead trees provide great hiding places within their bushy leaves and thorns. If natural options aren't available for you, consider constructing a birdhouse specifically for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat. Providing these places of cover not only helps wildlife, it can also help your overall garden if you "branch out" to attract other helpful pollinators, such as bats or bees.

  • Place to Raise Their Young

    Wildlife need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs, or caves where bats roost and form colonies.

  • Sustainability

    Providing food, water, cover, and a place for animals to raise their young is important, but to do so sustainably is crucial. Avoid depending on chemical fertilizers to achieve a thriving garden. Instead, use composted soil with organic materials that include micronutrients and minerals. Take time to research insecticides, as they can be extremely harmful to wildlife.

    For example, neonicotinoids are a class of chemical used as an insecticide on crops, in home and school gardens, by landscapers, and on public lands. They are commonly used in products that can be found in garden and agriculture supply stores. Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals, meaning that they are absorbed by the plant, protecting it from chewing and sap-sucking insects. They are absorbed by all parts of the plant, including the sap and pollen. Therefore, once neonicotinoids are applied, they cannot be washed off. They have a low toxicity level for humans making them one of the most widespread class of insecticides for plants in use today.

    The actual impact of neonicotinoids on pollinating insects is difficult to measure. However, recent studies have led researchers to believe that neonicotinoids not only affect targeted pest insects, but may also be harmful to non-target beneficial pollinating insects including bees and butterflies, as well as moths, wasps, flies, and beetles. A large concern is the high occurrence of neonicotinoids in home garden products.

    It's important that we, as responsible gardeners, pay special attention to cultivating healthy soil, practice water conservation, plant natives species, protect wildlife from our pets, and garden organically. We must continuously learn and teach others about sustainable practices. We are asking YOU to "Bee a Wildlife Action Hero, Garden for Wildlife."

    We are asking all garden club members, youth, friends, and junior gardeners to commit to Garden for Wildlife and show the way-- not only in your own backyards, but in public places, schools, parks, nursing homes, roadsides, government offices, and businesses. You will attract the pollinators, butterflies, amphibians, and other beautiful wildlife to these gardens so you, your families and others can enjoy them AND provide a safe haven where they can live and reproduce.

  • Awards

    In appreciation of your efforts, three annual awards will be available for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019.

    Award #1: $500 annually will be awarded to the garden club with the most notable project or projects educating the public on the benefits of gardening for wildlife. Extra points will be given for originality and new ideas. Club size will be taken into considering when judging, so please include the number of members in the club, the percentage of member participation (with names of member participants), AND the approximate number of people educated and how they were notified of the project. Certificates of Appreciation will be awarded to the participating club members.

    Award #2: $250 annually will be awarded to the garden club establishing a wildlife garden or gardens at a public place or places, to include signage to educate the public on how to garden for wildlife and the benefits of doing so. Extra points will be given for articles published in newspapers and periodicals on the project. Club size will be taken into considering when judging, so please include the number of members in the club, the percentage of member participation (with names of member participants), AND the approximate number of people educated and how they were notified of the project. Certificates of Appreciation will be awarded to the participating club members.

    Award #3: $250 annually will be awarded to a junior garden club with the most notable project or projects educating the public on the benefits of gardening for wildlife. Extra points will be given for originality and new ideas. Club size will be taken into consideration when judging, so please include the number of members in the club, the percentage of member participation of the junior garden club (with names of member participants), the percentage of member participation of the sponsoring garden club (with names of member participants) AND the approximate number of people educated and how they were notified of the project. Certificates of Appreciation will be awarded to the participating junior club members and the sponsoring garden club members.

    Please see the NGC Awards Section for the application form and additional requirements.

  • Partners

    National Wildlife Federation

    In recognition of NGC's commitment to habitat and our youth, and our widespread conservation efforts, National Wildlife Federation, well known for the dedication to protecting wildlife and habitat and inspiring the future generation of conservationists, has partnered with National Garden Clubs, Inc. to work together to create garden habitats for pollinators and other wildlife and inspire our members and our youth to get outdoors and connect with nature! Certifications are available for Backyard Wildlife Habitats, as well as Community Wildlife Habitats, helping to create new corridors for wildlife to thrive. To see what they are doing, please click on their logo and you will be directed to their website.

    National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) and The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC)

    Because of NGC’s prominent reputation along with the strength of our membership, we’ve been invited to be an Inaugural Network Garden Partner of the National Pollinator Garden Network and the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, whose goals are to inspire individuals and community groups, institutions and the garden industry to create more pollinator habitat through sustainable gardening practices and habitat conservation and provide these groups the tools to be successful. Please visit our NGC web page and The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge for more information. Click the logo to go directly to the MPGC site.

  • Resources
    • Fall Project to Help Monarchs! Collect and send Milkweed seeds
    • Xerxes Society Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists
    • NGC Pollinator Power Book
    • Youth Pollinator Gardens Grant
    • National Wildlife Federation
    • Commitment to Garden for Wildlife Form
    • National Pollinator Garden Network and The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
    • Pollinator Partnership: Selecting Plants for Pollinators

We would love to share your stories about how you are making a difference for our wildlife.

For more information, contact:
Becky Hassebroek, Chairman: Wildlife Gardening