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Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.
Blue Jay bathing
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Attracting Wildlife by adding water to the landscape


Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup suggests incorporate water features to encourage wildlife to your garden.

During last year's drought of 2012, we learned water's most important role in our gardens and landscapes. Vegetable gardens required daily irrigation to get maximum amount of produce. Existing landscape trees and shrubs suffered from lack of soil moisture and high transpiration rates driven by soaring temperatures. Annuals and perennials wilted all over Bloomington-Normal and throughout the state. Water is crucial for seed germination, cell turgidity, nutrient uptake, chemical processes like photosynthesis and buffers stresses like freeze or disease. One does not need to be a horticulturist to understand how crucial water is for landscapes and gardens.

However one must be a naturalist to contemplate, how important water is to the wildlife in your back yard? How does the abundance of water in your garden affect butterflies, hummingbirds, cardinals, bumblebees, frogs, lizards or small mammals? The availability of water is just as important in attracting wildlife as planting plants and flowers for pollen, nectar and habitat. Your backyard is part of a greater ecosystem struggling with the drought. To entice these beloved Illinois creatures add water to your landscape.

Homeowners can be as simple or elaborate as they would like from bird baths and fountains to waterfalls and ponds with fish. University of Illinois Master Naturalist, Deanna Frautshci, incorporated water into her garden in order to allow for wildlife photo opportunities. She said water was the most important step in order to attract her usual menagerie of song birds, hawks, deer, squirrels, frogs, toads, butterflies and dragon flies which have been the subjects of some stunning wildlife photographs. Frautcshi has incorporated ground ponds, two resin deck-mounted bird baths with heating features and freestanding bird baths. A helpful tip Frautschi give is song birds do not like more than 2 inches deep and prefer to stand on rocks to perch. She has also incorporated shelves in her ground ponds that allow the song birds to bath, drink and feel safe. One could say, Frautschi owes her experiences of catching the right moment in a picture to the water features in her yard.

Lastly, Frautchi would like to share a story about how water has given her impressive wildlife pictures that say a 1000 words. She had a young Cooper's hawk decide to bath in her dog's kiddy pool and was interrupted by a squirrel. Luck for the squirrel, the hawk was drenched and caught off guard and flew away.

While planning for next year's garden be sure to incorporate a water feature to attract wildlife and insects. Watching wildlife in the backyard can provide a sanctuary of inspiration for the adults or an outdoor adventure for the kids, or vice



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