Naturescaping is about creating a garden or ecosystem that resembles the local wild areas. It is a garden that encourages wild creatures as opposed to eliminating them. The landscape can be any size: a park, playground or a backyard.
When making a list of creatures to attract, keep the neighbours in mind. Most neighbours are happy to have native birds, butterflies and moths fly through their yard. Squirrels and bees may or may not be welcome. Moose and deer can be delightful to watch, but they can be very destructive in urban and rural areas. They tend to walk wherever and eat what is familiar. This could be the plants that people have been tending for months or, in the case of trees and shrubs, years.
Once the creature list has been established, do some research to find specifics for those creatures’ necessities of life: space, shelter, food and water. Manipulating these necessities can make a difference as to what creatures inhabit the yard.
Large areas will hold a larger variety of plants and larger plants without overwhelming the space. This in turn will encourage more wildlife to become part of the ecosystem.
Smaller areas are just as viable but they will usually contain a less diverse population of creatures and plants. Creatures might visit the smaller area on a regular basis but not make it their permanent home. Wild creatures do not understand property lines.
A garden that provides shelter will have more visitors than one with open expanses. Shelter for wildlife ranges from man-made houses to trees, shrubs, grasses or piles of old wood. Often the type of shelter is species specific, which allows the gardener to tailor their yard towards their favourite wild creatures.
Like shelter, food is often species specific. This can be addressed by feeding stations or by plantings. Remember that nature works on a food chain. Plantings might attract insects, which in turn attract birds. Insects such as butterflies and bees will gravitate to an area where there is a multitude of their favourite blooms available side by side. Bees will fly between flowers but butterflies, if given the chance, will walk across one bloom to the next.
Water is a necessity. Like everything else, the size and availability will influence the eco-community. Birds are drawn towards shallow water where they can drink and bathe. Honey bees are often seen gathering moisture on the edge of a pond.
Morning dew will provide enough moisture for small creatures but not large ones.
Moose, deer, coyotes and water fowl are attracted to larger bodies of water like ponds and streams.
Not all creatures need to be welcomed into the yard. Removing shelter, food and comfortable areas will help discourage them. Large open spaces are good for playing games and for seeing if enemies are in the vicinity. A well-placed tree or shrub will make some animals less comfortable.
Picking excess fruit, impenetrable garbage cans and keeping feeders out of reach are some simple steps to remove the food supply, which in turn will make the yard less attractive.
Spraying plant material with a mixture that makes it in edible will discourage browsing. It can be manufactured or home made. The following mixture has been used with some success: two egg yolks, two tablespoons baking soda, two dashes of Sriracha sauce and enough water to create a spray.
Living with wild creatures will become more of a norm as urban sprawl continues and wild creatures have less wild areas to roam.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at email@example.com.