Making a Native Habitat Garden

Seeing animals and plants in their native habitat is invaluable.  Hopefully every child gets to spend some time in nature, away from cities and asphalt.  But you can create a native habitat right in your own backyard, perhaps even on a balcony.  Making a native habitat garden is pretty easy.

First find out what plants grow in your area naturally.  This will require some Internet or library research.  Visit a nursery and purchase some native plants.  The people at the nursery should be able to help you determine which plants are native and which are introduced to your area as well.  Create a small garden filled with only native plants.

Next find out which animals, including birds, mammals, and insects, live nearby.  Decide how to best attract these native species to your garden.  Create habitats for a couple of these in your garden.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Put homemade toad houses into your garden.  Halfway bury a clay pot on its side in your garden for a shelter that will attract toads.  You can paint and decorate your pot before you bury it if you like.
  2. Make a pile of yard waste, sticks, leaves and grass clippings to attract rabbits, foxes, birds, and other small creatures.
  3. Buy a lady bug shelter and paint it anyway you like.  Hang it in a sunny spot off the ground.
  4. Put a butterfly house in your garden.  Plant bushes or flowers that butterflies feed or lay eggs on in your garden.
  5. Set up a bird feeder and a birdhouse.
  6. Make a bat house.

Finally record observations of activity in your garden.  Take note of the types of animals and what time of day they visit.  Do you have any regular visitors or permanent inhabitants?  Draw pictures in a nature notebook of some of the creatures or plants.

Additional Layers

  • Some of these projects, like building a bird feeder, would be great practice with woodworking skills.
  • Learn more about the animals you see in your garden by reading books or watching science videos from the library about them.
  • Make sure you research the kinds of conditions your garden needs to survive.  Should it be in a sunny or shady location?  How much water do you need?  Do you need fertilizer?  What do your plants need for pollination?
  • You probably planted mostly perennials in your garden.  Generally annuals are plants that are native to warmer, tropical climates and are planted for only the warm summer months and then dying when temperatures get too cold for them.  Learn more about the difference between perennial and annual plants.
  • Learning to draw plants and animals realistically is a great skill to develop.  even if you aren’t naturally artistic, you can improve a great deal by practicing.  Practice copying the lines and shapes you see in real objects to get a more realistic drawing.  It can help to take photos and then copy from the photo, especially for animals that don’t stay put long enough for you to draw them.
  • Get identification guides to help you learn what you are seeing in your garden.  Noticing the details of animals and plants takes practice.  Golden Guides
    are a favorite guide for kids.

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