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Plants are a cornerstone of wildlife habitat. You may notice that The Little Habitat Project includes more actions for plants than for the soil, water, infrastructure, and education components. The four plant action areas are: invasive weeds, native plants, vegetation layers, and plant practices.
Actively managing all invasive weeds in your designated habitat is required for certification. Invasive plants don’t have natural controls (like diseases or pests) to restrict their growth. Invasive and noxious plants will outcompete native plant species and can produce chemicals that restrict the growth of other plants. This can result in a monoculture with limited biodiversity. While invasive plants can support some insects, they are not good options to support diverse insect communities. To prevent reinfestation, make sure to have a replanting plan before removing invasive plants.
When controlling invasive, noxious, or aggressive plants, it is important to consider non-chemical methods alongside with the most effective and least toxic chemical options available to help reduce risk to people and wildlife.
When selecting plants for your little habitat, be sure to select the right plant for the right place and choose species that are native to the Willamette Valley. Native plants are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, and they provide important habitat for local wildlife including birds, insects, and mammals. To help support a diversity of wildlife species, plant a variety of native plant species that have a different colors, flower shapes, sizes, and scents and produce fruits, nuts, seeds and bloom at different times of the year to support pollinators and other wildlife species.
Planting and supporting different types of vegetation at different heights helps create a diverse habitat for various wildlife.
A hedgerow is a designed and managed line of shrubs, trees and flowers that can benefit various wildlife species. Benefits include providing habitat connectivity, cover, nesting sites, and various food sources including fruits, seeds, nuts, and berries that sustain many wildlife species, especially during the winter months when food sources may be scarce.
Reducing lawns can help conserve water needed for irrigation, prevent pollution runoff from fertilizers and pesticides entering local water ways, and increase biodiversity for wildlife. Consider replacing lawn that you are not actively using with Meadowscaping or planting a Wildlife Friendly Garden.
Leaving hallow plant stems and branches of varying sizes can provide homes to cavity-nesting insects such as leaf cutter and carpenter bees. Around 30% of native bees rely on these on hallow crevices to lay their eggs. Female bees find open stems, lay eggs on collected pollen balls, and her offspring will emerge the following Spring. Hallow stems can be left standing in the garden or harvested and bundled. If you create a stem bundle, hang it in sheltered area and clean out old materials after bees have emerged in the Spring.
Snags (a standing dead tree) support woodpeckers, owls, and songbirds that rely on snags for nesting cavities. These holes are often excavated by woodpeckers and later used by other species. Snags can be lowered to a safe height to mitigate safety hazards and still retain ecological benefits. Nurse logs (fallen or decaying log) contribute to micro habitats, foraging opportunities, and nutrient cycling as wood decomposes back into the soil.
A brush pile is a collection of branches, twigs, and other woody debris that stacked or piled together in a designated area. Benefits include providing shelter, nesting sites, and foraging opportunities for birds, beneficial insects, and reptiles. When constructing a brush pile place the larger woody debris as the foundation with openings so wildlife can enter the pile. The top of the pile should have the smaller and brushy materials to help create weather protection.
Reducing mowing frequency or increasing mowing heights, especially during the month of May, can have a significant positive impact on pollinators and other wildlife species by providing food sources and nesting sites. If possible leave some areas of lawn unmown year round to create a tall grass habitat that support beneficial insects and other wildlife species.
Providing a diversity of blooms through the Spring, Summer, and Fall is a strategic approach to sustaining pollinators. This approach ensures a continuous and reliable supply of pollen and nectar sources that support year-round nutrition, species specific preferences, and supports crop pollination for food gardens.
Growing plants that produce seeds, like sunflowers, is a cost effective and low-maintenance approach for supplying natural food sources for various bird species.