Gardening for wildlife

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It’s May, and that means it’s also Garden for Wildlife Month! This is a special time of the year to rally gardeners, wildlife lovers, and anyone interested in going the extra mile for local birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.

But why May? This month has been designated Garden for Wildlife Month because it’s such a crucial time of year for so many species.

Weary migrants are returning. Many birds and monarchs are returning from their long spring migration and are looking for places to rest and refuel. Try milkweed for monarchs, as it is essential to the butterflies and their caterpillars.  And though most people know food is a great way to attract songbirds, don’t forget that water is sure to draw in not only birds, but insects and other animals as well.

A need for nesting and reproduction sites.  Because many species reproduce around this time of year, birds, mammals, and even amphibians are on the look-out for a safe place to have and raise their young.  While nest boxes might be an obvious option for birds, you can also leave dead trees for cavity-dwelling birds or a small pond for frogs and their tadpoles.

Optimal time for many plantings. For much of the country, the mild weather in May creates the optimal time for planting many species of trees and plants to ensure they get off to their best start.  Try native plants that do double duty as beauty and function—select ones that look nice and also offer seeds or berries for neighborhood wildlife.

Laury Lewis is co-chairman of the Sheffield Garden Walk & Music Festival.