Polk County Conservation

Landscaping for Wildlife

This podcast was produced by Polk County Conservation and funded by Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education program or REAP-CEP.

Hi, my name is Heidi Anderson. I am a naturalist with Polk County Conservation. Today I am in my backyard planting native flowers in my flower beds. One of my hobbies is gardening for wildlife.

You might ask “Why Garden for Wildlife?” Because it's fun! I love watching my children’s faces when they discover a caterpillar on my flowers or a cicada on one of our trees! Watching wildlife can be fun and relaxing for everyone. Your habitat may attract songbirds, butterflies, frogs, and other interesting wildlife for viewing from your very own window.

Why Garden for Wildlife? For the curb appeal! Replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees will increase the beauty of your property and provide a nurturing refuge for wildlife.

Why Garden for Wildlife? Restoring habitats where commercial and residential development have replaced natural ecosystems can be your way of providing a safe place for wildlife to exist.

Let’s get started. To create a habitat you should include a combination of food, water, shelter, and space arranged to fit the needs of wildlife. Even a small yard can be landscaped to attract birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and small animals.

Plant native plants to provide food for wildlife in your yard. Native plants are adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of that region. Native trees and shrubs provide foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many kinds of animals need to survive. Once native plants are established, they seldom need watering, mulching, protection from frost or continuous mowing.

A good source for native tree and shrub seedlings is from the State Forest Nursery managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Visit iowadnr.com for a listing of Iowa native trees and shrubs.

Clean, fresh water is as important to wildlife as it is for people. Water features in your habitat may be a saucer, bird bath, backyard pond, or stream. Be sure to change the water every few days to keep it fresh.

Wildlife needs places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators, and inclement weather. They also need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. The easiest way to provide shelter for wildlife is by using native vegetation, both dead and alive. Many shrubs, thickets, and brush piles provide great hiding places within their bushy leaves and thorns. Dead trees are homes for many different animals. They provide cavities and branches for nesting and perching, and food for woodpeckers and other species.

You can create hiding places for animals by using logs, brush or rocks, or by constructing a birdhouse made for the types of birds you would like to attract to your habitat. A roosting box for bats will give them a place to rest and raise their young in between their evening outings to catch insects.

Once you have completed your backyard habitat you can have it certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Follow the steps on nwf.org and you can display an attractive Certified Wildlife Habitat sign to convey your commitment to wildlife conservation and the environment, and help you spread the word to your neighbors.

This podcast was funded by REAP-CEP which is a program the State of Iowa invests in to enhance and protect the state's natural and cultural resources. REAP provides money for projects through state agency budgets or in the form of grants. For more information about REAP, visit www.iowareap.com

Contact Us

Administration Office
12130 NW 128th St
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

More Contacts