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Planting a Garden for Habitat

Home & Garden
Contributed by : Laura Matter

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Laura Matter, Garden Hotline, Seattle Tilth

your dark of winter outlook by envisioning the addition of colorful, diverse
and productive habitat plantings to your garden for next season. Including
specific plants that will attract parasitoid wasps, ladybeetles, bees,
songbirds and even bats can help you to manage pest problems in the growing
season and make your fruiting plants more productive. It can even provide
additional plants to harvest while you provide habitat at the same time.

have been many studies showing that adding habitat strips to the perimeters of
farms increases the overall on-site beneficial insect population, allowing for
increased predation on crop damaging insects. The diversity of plants in a
habitat strip attracts a variety of predatory and parasitoid insects, as well
as the damaging culprits like aphids and others, providing both food and
shelter for them all. Once established on-site, beneficial insects will also
forage into the crop fields and make happy use of the plant damaging insects
that they find. Pollinators, songbirds and bats can make use of this border as
well, if it is planted with varieties that they each favor. For the home
gardener, integrating these types of plantings amongst your fruits and veggies,
and even your ornamental garden, will ensure a beautiful and healthy garden. A
great primer on "farmscaping", the intentional approach to farming which
includes habitat planting, can be found at this Oregon State University IPM website:


create habitat plantings in your garden consider the following guidelines:

Be diverse in the size and types of plants
you add; to attract birds consider the addition of trees to your site and layer
your plantings. Different birds hunt for insects and nest in different layers
in the landscape.

Keep in mind the three plant families that
attract the most insects; the Apiaceae (carrot, dill, cilantro), Asteraceae
(daisy, Echinacea, yarrow) and
Lamiaceae (mint, lavender, oregano). These families also have many wonderful
and harvest-able plants, and include a great variety of herbs and flowers.

Become familiar with native pollinators and
the types of plants that can host and feed them throughout their life cycles.
For instance native willows host many species of butterfly larvae and are an
excellent habitat plant when included with flowering, nectar producing plants.

Native solitary bees, like the orchard mason
bee, need small cavities in wood to nest in. Great pollinators for early
blooming fruit tree crops, these gentle bees benefit from the purposeful
addition of "mason bee houses" in the garden. If you are fortunate enough to
have woodlands on your property, protect those old snags and stumps as habitat.

Pacific Northwest bat species are prolific
insectivores and can help to clear mosquitoes from ponds and wetland areas most
efficiently. Add white flowering and night blooming plants to increase moth
populations, another favorite food source for bats.

Learn about the resources available to you
for more information!

    • Close to home
      look into the good work of the Pollinator Pathway, a corridor on Columbia
      Street in central Seattle where parking strip gardens are being converted
      to pollinator gardens to increase and protect habitat.
    • The Seattle
      Audubon Society has classes and field trips designed to aid you in
      learning more about our local birdlife. 
    • Bats Northwest
      is a Lynwood based organization devoted to protecting native bat species
      through education and research.
    • The Xerces
      Society, based in Portland, Oregon, is a wonderful resource for learning
      about different pollinators, their habitat needs and more. They are especially
      helpful in learning about native bees, butterflies and dragonflies.
    • The Pollinator
      Partnership, based in San Francisco, has some wonderful educational
      resources for educators and offer guides zoned regionally for more
      pollinator information.
    • The U.S. Dept.
      of Fish and Wildlife has a good site with information about threats to
      pollinators and a guide to developing a pollinator garden. 


By following the above
guidelines and making use of these resources you will not only create great
habitat, but a beautiful and life filled garden as well.


For personalized information
on beneficial insects, plant choices and planting techniques contact the Garden Hotline at (206) 633-0224 or




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