Wildscapes: Design Tips

Wildscape next to a parking lot

Inventory your yard. Drought tolerant plants attractive to a variety of wildlife may already exist in your yard. Don't remove plants that require little maintenance or watering unless they detract from the design.

  • Know where possible gardening hazards exist before digging. Note buried utility lines or cables.
  • Reduce turf areas with wildscape or xeriscape plants, and replace St. Augustine grass (in full sun locations) with grasses such as Buffalo.
  • Before installing plants, know their height at maturity. A four-inch potted plant may turn into a ten-foot shrub! This will avoid planting in the wrong locations.
  • Plant to create a multilayered effect. Offering tall, medium, and short plants grouped together in a tiered arrangement is very appealing to wildlife.
  • Include evergreen plants in your design. They keep their leaves year-round offering cover for wildlife throughout the year.
  • Choose a selection of plants that bloom or fruit at various times of the year, so there is always food for wildlife. Supplement with clean bird feeders if natural food sources are lacking or becoming established.
  • Add a water source to your landscape. It's important to offer clean water to wildlife year-round. Water can be provided easily in the form of a simple pan, birdbath, or shallow pool.
  • Snags, which are dead or dying trees, can be left standing to provide cavity nesting sites. Supplement with nest boxes when natural tree cavities are lacking.
  • Install berms or mounds, and use curved lines to add interest. Rock walls and logs can be attractive features while providing homes for butterflies, lizards, and other small wildlife.
  • Planting in the cool season (late fall or early spring ) will allow trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials to establish before the hot and dry summer. Nurseries often offer plant sales during the fall.
  • Use organic gardening techniques, including compost and organic sources of fertilizer, to supply nutrients to plants. Try spraying insect infestations with a forceful spray of water before resorting to pesticides.
  • Use two-four inches of mulch to reduce weeds and the need to water. Recycle leaves and grass clippings by composting or using as mulch.