Get your backyard certified!
Find out more about cultivating urban habitat with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program supported in part by Metro.
Reap what you sow: The benefits of diversity
Choosing a varied plantscape lessens pest and disease risk, and creates a year-round habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife that control pests. Flower variety, especially of native plants, provides nectar to beneficial bugs that pollinate plants, fight pests and feed birds.
Vary size and shape
Even in pots on a porch you can "layer" your landscape with low-growing ground covers, annuals and perennials, medium and tall shrubs, and trees. Layered landscapes offer attractive shelter for birds and other beneficial wildlife that help your garden grow.
Plant choices can be overwhelming, especially if you're just getting started. Here are a few local favorites, but don't limit yourself. Consider what might thrive at your site, talk to fellow gardeners, and be creative.
- For spring color, try brilliant red-flowering currant, bright-yellow Oregon grape, and delicate white-and-purple trillium.
- Add sparkle to your summer with purple penstemon, white yarrow and pink Douglas spirea.
- For fall-to-winter color, try Douglas’ asters, red-twig dogwood and vine maple.
Whatever plants you choose, match them with the space, sun, soil and moisture conditions they like for a low-maintenance oasis that will bring on the birds, bees and butterflies. Be careful not to introduce invasive non-natives like English ivy, butterfly bush, or yellow flag iris.
Butterflies, bees and birds need water, too.
Butterflies get vital minerals from mud. Make a mud pad in ten minutes: Simply clear plants from any out-of-the-way spot and give the bare ground a quick drench on dry days. Or place a shallow pan with mud in it amid plants you water regularly.
You can also make a bug bath by filling a tray with pebbles or sand and water. Pebbles provide the minerals, perching places and mosquito-prevention. Water quenches their thirst. Old planter trays or a rusty old frying pan work like a charm with a little more style. Set it in the sun so the honeybees, ladybugs, dragonflies, parasitic mini-wasps and other pest-eating, pollinating insects can drink their fill and fight garden pests naturally.
Unkempt areas can make great nesting habitat – open sandy ground, small brush piles, old tree stumps and plants left unpruned through the winter all help. You can even make bee homes with bundles of hollow stems or drilled mason bee blocks.
Protect wildlife from hazards
Avoid pesticide use to protect insects and other wildlife from exposure. Keep cats safe indoors to protect songbirds and cats. Put decals on windows to reduce bird strikes.
Scale down backyard habitat tips to turn your patio or balcony into a microhabitat that nurtures birds and butterflies. Plant a small tree, flowering vine or pot of flowers to give wildlife a perch, some nectar or a place to call home.
Learn more about planting native plants, shrubs and trees