Gardening and winter. They seem to be opposing, incompatible notions. Yet the stormy days of winter provide the perfect opportunity for cultivating garden plans. By starting now, gardeners can devote more time and consideration to the development of refined and detailed garden blueprints, avoiding the mad rush of spring. And what pleasure to spend cold winter evenings dreaming of the spring to come.
In building your plans, start by spending some time gazing out at your garden. How does it look? Is your garden full of activity or do the birds shun your property? Picture the garden through the eyes of a bird. Is there any shelter available as protection from cold winter winds or hunting predators? How about food? Do any of the existing shrubs or trees still hold seeds or berries? The answers to these questions will help in putting together a garden plan for spring.
Examine what your garden currently holds and consider how it meets the needs of wildlife. All wildlife species require food, water, shelter, and space. Be sure to consider these factors when deciding what you will be adding come spring.
Suggestions for a wildlife friendly garden plan:
- Choose a diversity of plants to meet the needs of the greatest variety of wildlife, combining evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses.
- Increase available "space" by thinking vertically as well as horizontally - create multiple layers with plants of varying heights.
- Create a map of your yard plotting existing trees, shrubs, flower beds, and structures, determine what is missing, and use cut-outs to try different locations for items you would like to add.
- Keep in mind your family's use of the garden and allow areas for play.
- Consult local naturalist groups or field guides to determine what wildlife is found in your area and their preferred foods.
- Check our Native Plant Encyclopedia for suggestions of plants native to your province, the growing conditions they require, and what wildlife needs they meet.
Once you have developed your plan, start looking for reliable local sources for the plants you need. If growing plants from seed, you may want to give them a head start by beginning them inside.