Can wildlife and urban development co-exist?
With the urban landscape as the most rapidly expanding land use in central Florida, one doesn’t have to look far to see new subdivisions and homes being built. An estimated 900 people move to Florida every day. While we call this peninsula home, so do an abundance of wildlife species. But as we move into and live in central Florida can we co-exist with wildlife?
As agricultural, forested, and natural lands are developed, wildlife often becomes displaced. But this doesn’t have to be the case, there is a lot we can do in the home landscape and even during the development phase to co-exist with wildlife. Check out this 30 minute episode of Living Green to see how developments and neighborhoods plan for wildlife. https://livinggreen.ifas.ufl.edu/tv_episodes/landscaping_for_wildlife.html
What can I do to plant for wildlife in my yard?
Plant for pollinators
Plant for pollinators by growing native wildflowers like rudbeckia, blanket flower, coreopsis, and dune sunflower. Select a full-sun spot in sandy soil and plant these drought tolerant beauties by seed or container. Leave the ground bare or apply a light layer of fine mulch to encourage wildflowers to reseed. Look for Florida ecotype seeds whenever possible. This means the wildflowers were grown & harvested from Florida sources. Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation to purchase FL ecotype seeds at https://flawildflowers.org/.
Leave a small patch of soil completely bare for ground-dwelling solitary bees. Because there is no hive to defend, solitary bees are not aggressive.
Diversify plant material
Grow a variety of plant material by providing varying heights, widths and a mix of bloom colors. By diversifying plant height you’ll increase the vertical layers in the landscape. For example, if your yard consists of turfgrass, large trees and little in between, consider adding layers of smaller trees and shrubs like Chickasaw plum, gallberry, and dwarf Walter’s viburnum. Planting diverse species of plants will sustain diverse species of insects. Diverse species of insects will bring in a variety of bird species and so forth.
Provide brush piles and snags
Believe it or not, leave brush piles and old tree stumps to provide a food source for insects and a shelter for birds. Many cavity nesting birds rely on holes made by woodpeckers and naturally occurring holes in trees for harborage. If snags cannot be left, consider adding birdhouses to your yard. For more landscaping for wildlife tips visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw175 which was the source for this post.
Everyone has a role to play
I once heard Dr. Jaret Daniels, a butterfly specialist with the University of Florida, state that with habitat loss, we can no longer rely on wild systems and forests to sustain wildlife. All landscapes no matter how small can help provide wildlife habitat. Can easements, roadsides, and farms be included? Absolutely. Everyone from the homeowner, to the developer, to the farmer and beyond can truly make a difference.
Dr. Daniels also mentioned, that according to the U.S. Census, over 80% of Americans live in cities. We must connect folks to nature and even make our cities more wildlife friendly. All landscapes offer a chance to attract and provide an environment for wildlife. Even a small increase in diversity of plant material can increase diversity of pollinators. He offered more tips, like start small by planting a container garden or a small landscape bed with butterfly plants. Even the smallest garden has a role to play.
Our UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County Office offers virtual gardening classes available at http://lakegardeningprograms.eventbrite.com. Learn to plant for wildlife during our Building Backyard Habitats class on May 1st, 2020 at 2:00 pm. Please register by April 30th at noon.