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Habitual Gardener

Promoting healthy garden habits and habitats

Waiting for wildlife

Waiting. Waiting to download. Waiting to upload. Waiting for the traffic light to change. Even waiting for the microwave to zap our meals in less time than finding a saucepan seems like too long to wait. Even though we do it every day, most of us possess little skill in doing it well. It’s especially hard waiting for someone else.

I apprehensively waited for the purple martins to return this year. I knew since purple martins are insect eaters they arrive late compared to many migratory birds. No need to arrive when it’s too cold to enjoy dinner. I also knew they did not know what awaited them. They did not know they would need a new home. After they migrated south last year their favorite corn crib along my country road had been demolished. As a matter of fact the whole farmstead was now a bump in the corn field with few clues to its existence. I thought maybe they would decide to take up residency in my barn. We purposefully left an entrance by keeping one of the barn windows open. But I’m still waiting.

This got me thinking about migrating wildlife and their return the next season. What do they do when their historic areas are demolished? Do they look at each other and think I know it was around here somewhere? I assume they wander til they find something comparable. I suspect sometimes there is nothing comparable, so they must travel and search for new homes. Back to the law of nature; move, adapt or die. I doubt the farmer considered the purple martin’s eviction or maybe he did and figured it was still a good business decision to remove the structures. Structures no longer needed by people.

Unintentional consequences. To be a “good” gardener what are the unintentional consequences to wildlife that we can manage? Here are just a few:

  • Leave stems over the winter as cover for insects and wildlife.
  • Add more diversity and height layers to landscapes with groundcovers, flowers, shrubs and trees. More diversity in plantings equals more homes for wildlife.
  • Use native plants whenever possible. Don’t plant invasive non-natives such as purple loosestrife and honeysuckle.
  • Plant a pollinator pocket in your lawn.
  • Ask your local University of Illinois Extension office for help in determining pest problems and least toxic solutions.

Our good intentions don’t save us from blame. What are your ideas for becoming an intentional gardener?




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