Help Backyard Wildlife Prepare for Cold Weather

November 29, 2012 – 10:08 am

From a wild animal's point of view, our annual autumn rituals of raking leaves and cleaning up yards and gardens are a major blow: Just when the going gets tough, we're removing prime sources of food and shelter.

So do the animals (and yourself) a favor and skip the raking, bagging, trimming, and other yard chores this fall—it might just help your neighborhood wildlife survive the coming cold weather. Here's what to do (or not do).

Put down the rake

Fallen leaves make a great mulch for your yard and garden. Leave them where they fall, or, better yet, shred and spread them in your garden. This easy (and totally free) mulch will help conserve water and improve soil fertility. (For best results, make your mulch layer about two to three inches deep.) You can also add leaves to your compost pile.

Leave dead flowers and plants in the garden

Hold off on nipping and tucking your garden beds or patio container plantings until springtime: those dead stalks, leaves, and seedheads provide food and protection to wildlife. Critters will go especially wild for large flowers like black-eyed Susans, sedums, purple coneflowers, joe-pyeweed, and sunflowers, as well as zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, phlox, and dianthus. The same goes for hardy ferns, which often remain green well into winter.

bird bathKeep birds happy with plants like bayberries, junipers, and cotoneasters that produce berries all year. Animals will also forage the seeds of dead grasses, and next spring, birds will use old stalks and foliage for nest-building material.

Build a brush pile

Want an easy (and cheap) way to clear your yard of stray branches and twigs? to provide a safe spot for ground-nesting birds, chipmunks, rabbits, and hibernating reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Put it in an out-of-the-way corner of your property, preferably close to food sources and away from buildings. Start with a layer of larger limbs and stack branches loosely, adding grasses and leaves to create nooks and crannies.

Your firewood pile can also make a good shelter for wildlife, even if you'll be disturbing it occasionally throughout the winter. Pile your logs crisscross fashion in order to create internal spaces that offer small animals a little relief from the cold.

Provide water that won't freeze

As reliable watering holes dry up or ice over, water is one of the most important elements you can provide for wildlife. (Bonus: Anyone anywhere can do this, whether you have a big yard, a small patio, or even an apartment balcony.) Providing water close to home can save animals from wasting valuable energy, which may mean the difference between life and death on the coldest days. Invest in a quality heater for your birdbath or artificial pond to keep water ice-free.


5 YELLOW CANNA LILY Indian Shot Canna Indica Flower Seeds *Comb S/H
Lawn & Patio ()
  • BLOOM TIME: Late Spring - Mid Fall (Repeat bloomer)
  • HARDINESS ZONE: 7 - 11
  • PLANT HEIGHT: 4 - 6. . . PLANT SPACING: 9 - 12
  • LIGHT REQUIREMENTS: Sun . . . SOIL / WATER: Average - Moist
  • Cannas are very easy to grow, and this is one of the few varieties of cannas that is not a hybrid. Cannas offer both very attractive foliage and flowers. They will...

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Need plant/shrub ideas (maybe lilies)

last year I planted rose bushes. They ended up dying in the winter. All the snow from the drive way was thrown in that little area.
Im looking for a plant, flower or shrub that is sun friendly (we have full sun on that side)
I was thinking of planting liliies, but I dont know when and how.
Lilies are my favorite.
Do I plant bulbs in the fall or in the Spring should I just buy already grown lilies and plant them there? Thanks!
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Reinhardt Depot Sunflowers Mat - Grow Sun Flower Garden Flowers. Includes: (1) Pre-seeded  17" x 5' Flower Seed Mat. Simply Roll out, plant and grow. Instant garden mat for flowering bushes.
Lawn & Patio (Reinhardt Depot)
  • Description: Sunflowers are the symbol of summer, sunshine and health. This special mix called Autumn Beauty produces a gorgeous array of sunny color in all the...
  • Ideal Ship time: Between 4/16/2012 and 06/01/2012 - Bloom Time: Summer
  • NOTE: Most seeds take 10 to 14 days to germinate, and they tend to bloom 4-8 weeks after germination. DO NOT WEED PLANTING AREA FOR THE FIRST 3-4 WEEKS.
  • Sun Requirements: Full Sun - Type/Size: 17 x 5 Mat - Hardiness Zone: 5,6,7,8,9 - Color: Mixed - Foliage Color: Green
  • Ships from: Reinhardt Depot Nursery, New York
Windflower 15 Mixed Bulbs -Anemone blanda - Very Hardy!
Lawn & Patio ()
  • Mature Height: 4-6
  • Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Bulb Size: 5/+ cm
  • Planting Time: Fall
  • 15 Bulbs
10 Picasso Calla Lily Bulbs
Lawn & Patio ()
  • Picasso Calla Lily
  • Deep purple and Creamy white
  • Great for fall and spring planting
  • Full sun to part shade

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