Master Gardener: May is Garden Month for Wildlife | Lifestyles


This year marks the National Wildlife Federation’s 10th annual Wildlife Garden Month.

It’s a way of reminding ourselves of how our gardens and landscapes can positively or negatively impact native wildlife.

The National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the National Gardening Association, did a survey and found that more and more people are gardening for wildlife. They buy native plants and landscaping to help pollinators like butterflies and bees and to help native birds.

not One in three American adults, or 34%, buys plants to help wildlife. This is an increase from 26% in 2020.

not One in four people, or 25%, specifically buy native plants. An increase from 17% in 2020.

not The number of people planning to turn part of their lawn into a native wildflower landscape has risen from 9% in 2019 to 19% in 2021.

not One in three respondents, or 32%, said they choose to buy mostly or all organic products. This is a step that can significantly help bees, butterflies and beneficial insects.

How can you garden to help our native birds, bees and butterflies?

Start by providing food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. Many native flowering plants, grasses, trees and shrubs can support a variety of wildlife and provide food, shelter and nesting space.

The monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% and could be listed as endangered. One of the most important steps you can take to support monarch populations is to provide nectar-rich flowers and milkweed host plants.

Adult monarchs depend on a variety of nectar sources for food during spring and summer breeding through fall migration and overwintering. Caterpillars, on the other hand, are completely dependent on milkweed plants.

Look for swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) for the garden. If you have an area where common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) can run, plant that as well.

Most milkweed flowers also provide nectar and pollen for butterflies, bees, and moths. Hummingbirds might even visit them.

Nearly 3 billion birds have been lost over the past 50 years. Ninety-four percent of birds use insects at some time of the year, either as food for themselves or to feed their young.

If you want to help birds, plant native plants.

Native plants are home to a wide variety of native caterpillars, which are the basis of many food webs. barnyard birds need thousands of caterpillars to raise their young.

Research has shown that birds need a minimum of 70% native trees in their nesting area for babies to successfully reach the fledgling stage. They need even more to reach adulthood.

Once you decide to incorporate native plants into your garden or landscape, do a little research first.

Not all native plants will be suitable for your garden. Success always requires the “right plant in the right place”.

Before you buy, you need to know what conditions the plant needs to thrive. winter hardiness, mature height, light (sun/shade), water requirements, pH and preferred soil types.

When adding a plant to the garden, also consider the time of year it blooms, as well as the color of the flowers and foliage. You want plants to add to your garden, not detract from it.

Limiting the use of insecticides ensures that the bees you have invited into your garden are not accidentally poisoned by pesticides.

Practicing integrated pest management is the best way to limit the use of insecticides. Expect some pest activity and accept it.

Caterpillars chew up plants and remember, that’s part of why you planted them.

If you must use a pesticide, choose one that is least toxic to non-pest species and does not persist on vegetation. Apply in the evening when most pollinators aren’t as active.

High doses of insecticides can kill foraging bees outright. Even low doses can have adverse effects on beneficial insects.

There are also other ways to help wildlife.

We are in the midst of spring migration for many native songbirds. Did you know that most fly at night?

As they pass over cities, they can be confused by bright lights and shine in the sky. This can cause them to collide with buildings or windows.

They can also waste a lot of energy flying around in confusion, leaving them exhausted and vulnerable.

Something as simple as turning off excessive lighting during migration can save their lives. Turning off exterior lights around your home can also help night-flying insects and reduce the negative impact on them.

Typical landscapes today have lots of lawn and foundation plantings that are usually plants not native to the area. Instead of just creating another pretty garden, plant with a purpose.

The more native plant species we can introduce into our gardens, the more native insects and birds will live there.

There is a native plant for just about any site, regardless of the conditions. Whether you have a large or small space, it is possible to have a positive impact for wildlife.

Plant it and they will come.

A gardening question?

Volunteer Master Gardeners are normally in the office from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays. You can stop by the CCE office at 420 E. Main St., Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or email [email protected]

Attend our Garden Talk on May 5 in person at the CCE office or on Zoom. “Kitchen Gardens” with Master Gardener Kathie W. will begin at noon.

Vegetable gardens have been around for as long as humans have lived in community. And no, these are not gardens in your kitchen.

Join us to discover a bit of history, a bit of design, what exactly is a vegetable garden, and what can be planted in yours.

The Spring Garden Gala will be held May 14 at the Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension in Batavia. This annual plant sale features a variety of perennials and a selection of indoor plants.

The plant sale begins at 10 a.m. sharp. People are asked to avoid arriving early.

Visit the auction of garden art baskets, gift certificates and a variety of themed baskets. Used garden books will also be on sale.

The basket auction drawing begins at 12:30 p.m. New this year is a garden garage sale that will feature gently used gardening tools, containers, decor and more.

Attend our June 2 Garden Talk, “Playing in the Dirt – Risks and Benefits,” in person or on Zoom at noon.

Gardening offers many health and life benefits for the gardener, but it also comes with risks. Some will surprise you.

Garden Talk classes are free, but you must register. For the Zoom option, register on the events page of our CCE website at To attend in person, register by calling Mandy at (585) 343-3040 ext. 101.

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