One of the most important elements needed to attract wildlife to your property is vegetation. Plants are a major source of shelter and food for countless wild species. Don't forget: Plants are wildlife too. When making your site plan we recommend that you develop habitat with a variety of wildlife in mind, rather than just one or two species.
Plant Planning Checklist
Include plants in your plan that will provide nutritious food and effective cover for wild animals. If you think in terms of which plant species can provide the most benefit to wildlife, your plan is sure to succeed.
As with animals, plants have four basic needs: soil, water, sun, and space. Your plan should take these elements, as well as diversity and climate, into account. The following checklist will come in handy when planting:
Soil: Healthy soil means healthy plants. Consult your local department of agriculture or a nearby garden centre to learn about the soil in your area. Is it sandy, clayey, or loamy? Do a Simple Soil Test! Is it acidic or alkaline? Is it deficient in nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, or potassium? Will it require fertilization? Knowing your soil is crucial to the success of your plan. Learn as much as you can about soil preferences by studying the soil/plant relationships in nearby natural areas, by reading, or by consulting a local expert.
Water: Newly sown trees and plants must be watered to ensure that their roots grow into the soil around them. Periodic, heavy watering is better than shallow, frequent watering as it encourages plants to sink their roots further into the soil, where they can reach deeper levels of the water table. Examine the soil to see if it's dry. Sandy soil usually drains quickly and needs more water than clayey soil, which holds moisture for a longer time. Ensure that you don't situate trees and plants on low-lying areas that are very wet. Roots generally suffocate when submersed in water. Visit your nearest wetland to learn which species are exceptions to this rule.
Sun: Some plants need more sun than others, such as common elder, which provides nourishment for over 40 bird species. It prefers full sunlight and rich, moist soil. Its seedlings should be placed as far as possible from thick, high grass so they won't be in the shade. Plant trees strategically so they won't shade areas that need a lot of sunlight.
Space: Trees and other plants need room in the earth for their roots to reach down and soak up water and nutrients. As they grow, they need more and more space above ground as well. Leave enough space between each plant, and be sure not to plant young trees too close to buildings or power lines that could eventually get in the way.
Diversity: A wide diversity of plants is essential for a plan to benefit wildlife. Plants correctly combined can help protect each other from insect infestations and disease outbreaks and will attract a variety of wildlife. Different wildflowers blossom at different times of the year, so it’s important to include early and late bloomers.
Climate: All places on Earth have fairly regular weather patterns, though they may change slightly from year to year. Select plants that are right for the climate in your area. Choose hardy species that will live for years.
Use Native Plants
Use native plants and seeds. They're suited to local soil and weather conditions, and often survive longer than non-native species. They require little water and less care as they are hardier and more resistant to disease. Better still, native wildflowers, shrubs, vines, and trees attract wildlife with greater ease than non-native plants. A local nature club, nursery, botanist, or wildlife biologist can help you choose the best ones for your area and soil. Keep in mind that you should never take plants from the wild.