Providing food in our habitat garden

Kinglet eating gray dogwood berry ©Janet AllenRuby-crowned kinglet swallowing a gray dogwood berry

Food is the most obvious of the "habitat basics." As obvious as it is, though, our former ornamental gardens with all of those pretty flowers weren't providing much food for wildlife—just "eye candy" for people.

When we first starting creating our habitat garden, we started growing flowers that provided nectar. We even stopped deadheading everything so that there were seeds for the birds.

Then we heard about the advantages of native plants, which are best-suited to the region.

I realize now that we didn't have a clear understanding of WHY native plants were best. It just seemed that natives were obviously the most appropriate plants.

Bringing Nature Home

The biggest change came when we read Douglas Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. He explains that native plants are especially important because insects—the backbone of the food web—can eat mostly just native plants, whose chemistry they had evolved with.

Along the way, we had planted some native shrubs and a few trees, which provide nectar for insects when they flower, but which also often have bountiful crops of berries, nuts, or seeds for wildlife.

Finally, though, we now understand that our Central New York area was meant to be primarily woodlands, so we're focusing on providing as many shrubs and trees that we can in our limited space in the suburbs.

Here are some specific examples of how we provide food for the creatures in our yard: