Department of Fish and Wildlife and University of Washington
Press have just published Landscaping
for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Homeowners,
property owners, professional wildlife managers, landscape
architects, and garden designers will all find it invaluable.
your yard for wildlife involves a bit more than adding plants with
berries. It means considering other aspects of the environment such
as water, soil, climate and sun.
be discouraged if you have never designed your own landscape, and
don’t worry if you don’t have a degree in wildlife science.
Landscaping can be fun, especially with a bit of planning.
Every good landscape
starts with a plan that will help you establish priorities and guide
the development of your yard over the years.
Many of us “plan”
by trial and error. In our living rooms, we move couches and chairs
about in an effort to find the right look. It isn’t easy,
though, to move trees around to find the best landscape arrangement.
That makes planning all the more important. Sketch out alternative
landscape arrangements before beginning any work. It will help prevent
costly mistakes and wasted time. Planning also helps you identify
ecological relationships in your yard that you may not have noticed.
Creating a landscape for wildlife involves four basic steps:
1. Outline needs
2. Inventory existing conditions
3. Evaluate conditions
4. Design a plan
Your needs: Think about how you like to use your backyard. Do you like
to eat or visit with family and friends in a shaded area? Do you
like to read in a quiet, secluded area? Do your children like
to play in a sandbox?
can accommodate these and other activities while providing for
the needs of wildlife. Wildlife enhancement doesn’t mean
giving up the activities you enjoy, but rather being sensitive
to the needs of wildlife.
separate your high-use areas, for example, from those for wildlife.
In defining your needs, make a list of the kinds of activities,
features, space, and qualities you want in your yard. Garden design
books are good sources of ideas and are available at your local
needs: Wildlife will only visit your backyard if it has the
proper combination of the four habitat needs
the requirements for varying wildlife species may seem overwhelming,
but don’t despair. Vegetation is the key to attracting most
species of wildlife. Providing an abundance of trees and shrubs
meets the survival requirements for most small wildlife in residential
areas of Washington.
second step in designing a landscape for wildlife is to inventory
and map the existing conditions in your yard.
obtained during the inventory must be put on a base map of your
property. Making a base map isn’t difficult, and it will
help you create an effective habitat. The purpose of the inventory
base map is to help you know what you already have in your yard
and what you need to add to make it better for wildlife. See Fig.
4 for an example of a base map.
map will be used in the last two steps: evaluating your yard and
designing a habitat site plan. You will be adding different ideas
and possibilities to your base map so either use tracing paper
over the map or make several photocopies of it.
Now that you
have made an inventory of your backyard, you can evaluate its
present and potential effectiveness as a habitat.
An easy tool
for evaluating your yard is the “bubble diagram.”
Bubble diagrams are preliminary sketches drawn on tracing paper
or photocopies of the base map. Sketch only broad areas of interest
and potential. Avoid details that will probably change later anyway.
Draw circles around areas as if they were “blobs”
of space, ignoring details of shapes. Use heavy arrows to show
views and heavy lines to show walls of vegetation or structures.
An example of a bubble diagram is shown in Fig. 5.
Designing with Bubble Diagrams
evaluation of existing conditions and future possiblities
is sketched in bubble diagrams to outline preliminary
ideas for the landscape.
the right habitat features is very important, the way in which you
put it all together could add to the success of your habitat. Wildlife
may not use the area you set aside for them if, for example, the
area is crisscrossed by busy paths. Little wildlife will venture
into your quiet viewing area if it is surrounded by a basketball
court and driveway.
Step 1: Determine the dimensions of your property. Then decide on a scale
for your map - how big you want the map to be and how much detail
you want to show. For example, a map drawn at a scale where 1 inch
on paper equals 4 feet on the property will be larger and show more
of the small features than a map drawn at a scale of 1” =16’.
For personal use, a sketch with estimated measurements is generally
Your base map
will be easier to make and read if you use a ruler or or other straight
edge, colored pencils, grid paper, and templates for drawing circles,
squares, and other shapes.
Step 2: On the base map, indicate dimensions and show the location of your
house and other buildings, including outside doors and windows,
decks, patios, sidewalks, driveways, utilities, and other structures
listed on the checklist. See Checklist Show underground pipes, sprinklers, utilities, etc.
Step 3: Show locations and approximate spread of existing trees, shrubs,
lawn, and other vegetation features. Note any plants that affect
energy conservation and comfort in your home (summer shade, winter
sun, shelter from wind, etc.)
Step 4: Mark the locations of special wildlife features on your base map. These include tree cavities, nesting areas, popular perches, drinking
and feeding area, and travel corridors.
Step 5: Outline areas of full sun and full shade. Record drainage patterns
(where rainwater falls and collects), wet areas, ponds and streams,
slopes, and wind patterns.
Step 6: Show neighboring trees, buildings, roads, and other things on adjacent
property that affects your yard.
Step 7: Examine your soil and note areas where soils may be different. Is
it rocky, sandy, clay, or organic? If you want, you can test the
soils in each of these areas for soil composition, acidity, and
nutrients. Test kits can be purchased at garden supply stores, or
you can obtain a soils test kit from your local WSU Cooperative
Extension Office. The Extension Office will provide instructions
and the address of a soils laboratory where your soil can be scientifically
tested for a modest fee.
hard surfaces and people areas
Consider your space requirements for access, entertainment, outdoor
play, and security. Screen and buffer busy driveways and play areas.
Where might tree roots interfere with septic or sewer systems? Screen
bare fences with dense shrubs.
Does your present landscape provide much food, cover, and safe
travel corridors for wildlife? How many of your plants are native
to the Washington? Are there unused lawn areas that could be replanted
with native trees and shrubs? What areas have low diversity and
need a better mix of plants? Where can edges be increased by modifying
planting borders? Are there solitary trees that could have shrubs
and groundcover put under them? Where would a screen of plantings
improve outdoor privacy? Could a portion of a vegetable garden be
“given” to wildlife? Where are the most important wildlife
trees? Where could you plant specialty gardens for hummingbirds
Where does wildlife concentrate now? How could these areas be
preserved? Are there dead trees or limbs that can be safely preserved
for perching or nesting? If a tree has to be removed, could you
leave a 6-foot to 10-foot stump for a nest cavity? Where would be
a good spot for a feeder, birdhouse, or birdbath? Do you have a
corner where you could build a brush or rock pile for wildlife?
Where are the sun and shade areas? Do you need shade from the hot
summer sun, and do you need to preserve valuable winter solar radiation?
Where do cool summer breezes come from and where might you want
buffers from cold winter winds? Would a low, wet area be a good
place for wetland plants? Does an existing stream or pond have adequate
Will a neighboring building shade out your planned vegetable garden?
Will a busy road pose a danger to any animals you want to attract?
Will your new pond kill the roots of a valuable neighboring tree?
Will your neighbors cooperate in your landscaping efforts or do
they plan to clear vegetation? Will your habitat cause any problems
for a neighbor?
Are there “problem” soils (e.g. poor nutrients, water-logged)?
Could you use those problem conditions to create special habitats
with plants? Where do you need to improve the soil? (Consult with
a nursery or landscape specialist, county extension agent, the US
Soil Conservation Service, or other plant and soil experts.
Where are the desirable and undesirable views from different parts
of the yard, deck, or windows? How can these be saved or changed
with plantings? What are your outdoor spaces like: open/enclosed,
small/large, varied/uniform, formal/natural, smooth/rough, colorful/plain,
comfortable/uncomfortable? What feelings do you want? How could
different plantings enhance these feelings?
How much yard work do you want to do? Where are good areas for outdoor
play, entertainment, and relaxation? What are the best pathways
for moving around in the yard? Where do you want outdoor privacy?
Is there a bare, noisy area that would be better for a driveway,
swimming pool, or entertainment area than for wildlife plantings?