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Sustainability: Create a Garden that Benefits Wildlife and Your Pets

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Creating a butterfly garden is something that I started doing in my spare time as just an idea for landscaping my front yard, yet it has turned into so much more. As much as I enjoyed planting and caring for the garden, I was able to see how much the wildlife appreciated what I was doing and my pets too! Living the life of a spoiled house pet can get quite boring sometimes. If someone isn't home during the day, your pets have to find ways to entertain themselves when you're not around. I give my pets enrichment type toys, but I don't leave food enrichment when I'm not home since I have one small senior with no teeth and a larger one who is an avid chewer. There are risks involved when leaving those types of toys down unattended such as choking or ingesting a foreign body if your dog decides to eat more than just the food.

My butterfly garden has turned into a nature friendly television for my pets to watch out the window. There is always something new outside enjoying the flowers or food provided for them and my pets always have something to watch to help pass the time until they see me again. Here are a few short steps that will make creating a butterfly garden easy for you so you and every animal nearby can enjoy it.

1. Do Your Research

Butterfly Milkweed when I first planted it in my garden.

When I first began trying to start a garden, I was just going to my closest nursery and buying anything I thought looked pretty and put it in the ground. Well, it looks nice for a short period of time, but in the long run it didn't hold up to what I wanted it to be. When planting a butterfly garden, you need to research online what plants are native to the area where you live and what attracts the wildlife you want to bring into your garden. By planting native plants, it will cut down on your maintenance time and there is a better chance they will come back year after year as they are better adjusted to the climate in which you live. One of the most important plants to put in your garden should be milkweed. It is the main source of food for nearly all butterflies. There are different types of milkweed so find out which ones do best in your area.

Native plants are better for the environment because it helps restore the areas local ecosystem back to what it used to be. Local birds and butterflies depend on certain food sources. The majority of people are just planting grass to fill up their lawn, and this cuts back on providing shelter and food for the wildlife around them. If you really want to get into butterfly gardening, turn your yard into a Monarch Waystation. Here you can help the Monarch butterfly population and decorate your front yard at the same time.

2. Actually Do It

Plan time in your schedule to order the plants or seeds you want and actually spend the time to do it. Instead of just randomly putting plants around your yard, draw out a plan first. Creating a plan and sticking to it will help with budget restraints and by not creating too much of a space that you won't have time to maintain. Many plants grow to different sizes as well so its good to space things out a certain way and figure out how you want your garden to look. (Plant milkweed plants close together as butterflies spend a lot of their time there and many use the plants as shelter from outside elements.) Start out with planning a small area and work on maintaining that area first before expanding your idea. If you plant too many plants at once you may be overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for it and forget, leading to everything dying and your garden becoming a failure... just trust me on that one. I've been there.

3. Maintain Your Garden

My front garden is a mix of things. I also have a timer and automatic watering system because I'm forgetful.

Maintenance is one thing that many people can say they don't have time for, which is why they don't do it. I get that, yet there are many different things you can use to help with this and you can still have the garden you've always wanted. I am very forgetful when it comes to plants and it took me a long time to figure out how to remember to care for them. For my front gardens, I use an automatic timer for my soaker hose like this one. This way I have it scheduled to water what I need watered at the same time during the week. My plants are happy because they get water and I'm happy because I don't have to do anything to remember to water them. There are two types of hoses you can use with a timer a soaker hose or a drip-water irrigation system. I use a soaker hose like this one because its cheaper and a lot easier to put together. My front garden was my first one I ever put together so I was just starting to learn the basics of what I needed to do. I do plan on using drip-water irrigation in my future projects as it is more environmentally friendly by using less water and only directing the water to exactly where I need it to be.

If you plan on watering the plants yourself, it is best to water plants early in the morning before the midday heat strikes. I have my watering system set to water every other morning at 7:00 AM. until the soil is completely moist around all my plants. (I live in the south and it regularly gets above 80 degrees on a regular basis in the spring and summer.) You can easily set an alarm on your phone to do this same thing. Make watering easy for you to do so it doesn't seem like a hassle, and make sure your garden is close by to your hose.

4. Enjoy it!

My butterfly garden is right outside of my office window so I tend to just sit and watch the birds and butterflies outside just as much as my pets do. I also started taking a lot more photos and enjoying how pretty everything was outside.

My dog, Keanan, enjoying the view from his own comfy window seat.

Once you get your little butterfly garden established it is fun to add to it as time goes on. I've added a couple bird baths, feeders, butterfly feeders and even some seating so my animals can watch wildlife more comfortably. One of my favorite purchases was this window seat for my cat. She will sit in this window for hours and watch the butterflies and birds fly by. I originally created my garden for my cat as she was once a rescued outdoor and very skittish kitty and I wanted to enrich her life even though I couldn't directly play with her. I found out that my dogs enjoyed looking out the window at the wildlife just as much as she did. So, I ended up creating double-decker seating for my window...

Happy Earth Day! If you want to create your own butterfly garden, feel free to comment below with any questions and I will help you out in any way that I can!

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