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When my husband and I moved our growing family to our present home back in 1997, I knew I wanted a garden with a pond.

At the time, I didn’t consider that most of my pleasant childhood memories revolved around the outdoors and waterways and I was subconsciously attempting to recreate those happy places. Neither did I anticipate the wildlife that would move in and call my garden home. What an added blessing this turned out to be.

One of the most rewarding aspects of creating an oasis filled with diverse plant life is that local wildlife become routine visitors – or even residents. How entertaining it is to watch an Anna’s hummingbird bathe in the bubbler or a robin carry off a berry on my Aronia bush. I also enjoy listening to the cacophony of frog song in spring.

Gardening with the critters in mind seems to be the current trend in gardening, and for good reason. Not only is it entertaining but it is gratifying to do our part in helping the environment, one garden at a time.

Both the internet and bookstores are filled with information on gardening with wildlife in mind and plant nurseries are making food plants for wildlife front and center on their displays.

All of this makes it easy to research ways to create a critter-friendly garden of your own. It’s important to point out that it’s not all that difficult.

Part of The National Wildlife Federation’s mission is to educate gardeners on the simple ways they can make their garden habitat friendly.

There are a few simple elements required and if they don’t occur naturally, they should be provided by the gardener. They are food, water, cover, places to raise their young and sustainable gardening practices.

Food: Nectar flowers for hummingbirds and bees; berries, nuts and seeds for birds, provided by bird feeder or by plants.

Water: Either by birdbath, fountain or pond.

Cover: A wooded area, bramble patch or evergreen bushes or trees.

Places to raise young: Birdhouses, bat houses, owl, toad abode, pond.

Sustainable gardening practices: Environmentally friendly gardening such as composting, growing native plants and reducing lawn areas.

Once you have these five elements in place, you can get creative.

For instance you can purchase a Water Wiggler — a battery-operated device that agitates birdbath water very slightly to attract birds. It also keeps the water fresher longer and discourages mosquitos from laying their eggs.

Misters are fun to have on hot summer afternoons. They’re easy to install and use very little water if used only during the hottest part of the day.

Taking photos of your wildlife visitors can be quite challenging since many of them are on the go. Setting up a tripod and being ready when they arrive can make for some prize-worthy accomplishments.

Finally, if you feel so inclined, your garden can be counted in The National Wildlife Federation’s Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Happily, the million mark was met in 2018, with over a million gardens certified as habitat friendly across Canada, the United States, Mexico, and around the world. The process is as simple as going to their website to certify your garden (nwf.org).

As a pleasant perk, you’ll be enrolled as a member and receive regular updates on wildlife goings on and you can purchase their products at a discount.

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