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GLT's Grow: Making Wildlife Welcome

Mark Bunica
Flicker via Creative Commons
A well-stocked feeder draws a variety of feather visitors, like these blue jays.

Right now is a great time to prepare our yards for the wildlife that will stop by in the snowy months ahead.

  • There are four things to consider when prepping your yard for wildlife visitors: food, water, shelter and space.
  • A variety of bird feeders will supply our feathered friends with plenty of calories to stay warm this winter. A hanging suet feeder, standard bird feeder, a ground feeder with a cage surround that discourages certain critters—yes, we're looking at you squirrels and raccoons—and a platform feeder will attract a variety of birds from cardinals, blue jays, finches, juncos and that old standby, the sparrow.
  • Sunflower, nyger, safflower, white millet, cracked corn and suet are good for attracting a variety of birds. You can also plant shrubs and trees that produce berries, like holly.
  • Yes, you will also attract squirrels. Just accept this and put out corn for them in an area away from the bird feeders. Peanuts are also popular with critters. Plus the gorgeous bluejays love them!
  • Water is essential for life. You can put a tray of water near a dryer vent in your yard to keep that water from freezing. Or you can purchase a heated bird bath. Change out water frequently.
  • Shelter is important. Planting thick spruce trees provides a nice spot for birds. You can also retain your trimmed branches from autumn pruning and stack them up in your garden for a good spot for animals.  When done with your Christmas tree, recycle it in you backyard as a shelter. Then ditch it come spring.
  • Be sure and give your guests space, if you can. Spread out your feeders and keep them near evergreens where birds can dart for shelter.
  • It is illegal to feed deer in Illinois. So resist the urge.

Grow is your source for sage gardening advice and down-to-earth tips. Host Patrick Murphy and co-host Laura Kennedy are ready to take on all your gardening questions, so submit yours today.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.