Nothing looks better than a fence clean from weeds right? It all depends on the goal you have in mind. If you want to one day receive the infamous honor of “yard of the month”, than you might want the cleanest and straightest fence around. If you have goals of providing a habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects, some selective strategies need to be implemented. Providing a habitat for beneficials can easily be achieved through minimal maintenance and selective plant removal.
If you are starting with a clean fence free of herbaceous plants, shrubs, vines, and trees then you have two options: Replant vegetation for the ideal habitat(1) or allow for natural plant succession to take its course(2). If you chose option 2, that’s it, you’re done. However, if you chose option 1 then you begin the search of garden centers for desirable plants.
In order to pick the best plants, you will need to think about what you want to attract. Do you want to attract vertebrates, invertebrates, or a little of both? Vertebrates are attracted to plants that provide shelter and food. A good start for selecting plants would be to read the publication “Native Plants That Benefit Native Wildlife in the Florida Panhandle”.
As you already know, pollinator insects are attracted to nectar and pollen. However, beneficial insects cannot survive on just eating bad bugs and they need supplemental nutrition. They receive this supplemental nutrition by way of extrafloral nectaries. Extrafloral nectaries are nectar-producing glands located on plant parts other than the flowers. They can be located on plant leaves, stems, or fruit. A list of plants containing extrafloral nectaries can be found in the publication “Many Plants Have Extrafloral Nectaries Helpful to Beneficials”.
Although it’s great idea to attract wildlife to your fencerows, it is important to choose plant material based on your fence’s location in vicinity to your house. Fire can easily jump from plant material to fences to your house. The Firewise Communities Guidelines should be followed for landscaping your home.