wildlife-friendly winter garden
Create a cold-weather haven for backyard critters

Make your garden wildlife-friendly for the winter!


By Nina Evans

Your flower bulbs aren’t the only living things trying to stay warm in your garden this winter! Every year, critters large and small look for ways to find shelter and stay out of the cold. You can help garden plants and wildlife hunker down for the snowy season ahead with a few easy changes to your winter prep routine!

The benefits of using old growth

Leaving a portion of your faded perennial and annual plants over the winter can be good your garden! These plants will add organic matter to your beds and trap additional falling leaves, to create an insulating “blanket” for the roots and soil. When it snows, flakes will collect on and around this blanket, providing more insulation and moisture throughout the freezing and thawing.

How this helps wildlife

All native animals need shelter to survive the winter. Those that don’t hibernate also need food and water. Many bees, butterflies and other native insects use holes in the ground, burrow into plant stems, or find cozy spots in leaf litter on the ground. Many other animals need safe hidey holes to settle into for the winter, and in some cases, to hibernate. Leaving old plant growth in place, or even creating some piles of branches, can provide wildlife with good, warm, winter homes. In addition, many flowering plants, grasses, shrubs and trees hang on to their seeds and fruit throughout the winter, which will provide food for birds, such as cardinals, finches, house sparrows and other creatures that stay active all winter.

Winter garden beauty

With your yard full of cozy plants and contented wildlife, you will be able to observe more of the fun and wonders of nature in winter right in your own backyard. Your garden can display an extra beauty through the textures and color tones created by the snow, frost, fading flower heads, and layered plant material. So, hunker down, plan for spring and enjoy your winter garden!

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