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Master Gardener: May is Garden for Wildlife Month | lifestyles

This year marks the National Wildlife Federation’s 10th annual Garden for Wildlife Month.

This is a way to remind us how our gardens and landscapes can have a positive—or negative—impact on native wildlife.

The National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with the National Gardening Association, did a survey and discovered that more people are gardening for wildlife. They are purchasing native plants and landscaping to help pollinators like butterflies and bees and to help native birds.

n One in three US adults, or 34%, purchase plants to help wildlife. That’s an increase from 26% in 2020.

n One in four people, or 25%, specifically buy native plants. An increase from 17% in 2020.

n The number of people planning to transform a portion of their lawn into a wildflower native landscape has jumped from 9% in 2019 to 19% in 2021.

n One in three respondents, or 32%), stated they are choosing to purchase mostly or all organic products. That’s a step which can significantly help bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

How can you garden to help our native birds, bees, and butterflies?

Start by providing food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. Many native flowering plants, grasses, trees, and shrubs can host a variety of wildlife and provide food, shelter, and nesting space.

The monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% and could be listed on the Endangered Species List. One of the most significant actions you can take to support monarch populations is to provide nectar-rich flowers and milkweed host plants.

Adult monarchs depend on diverse nectar sources for food during spring and summer breeding to fall migration and overwintering. Caterpillars on the other hand, are completely dependent on milkweed plants.

Look for Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Butterfly Milkweed, (Asclepias tuberosa), and Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) for the garden. If you have an area where Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) can run, plant it too.

Most milkweed flowers also provide nectar and pollen for butterflies, bees, and moths. Hummingbirds might even visit them.

Almost 3 billion birds have been lost in the last 50 years. Ninety four percent of birds use insects at some point in the year, either as food for themselves or to feed their young.

If you want to help birds, plant native plants.

Native plants host a wide variety of native caterpillars, which are the foundation of many food webs. ackyard birds need thousands of caterpillars to raise their young.

Research has shown that birds need a minimum of 70% native trees in their nesting area to successfully have babies reach the fledgling stage. They need even more to reach adulthood.

Once you decide to incorporate native plants into your garden or landscape, do a little research first.

Not every native plant will be a good match for your garden. Success still requires the “right plant in the right place.”

Before you buy, you should know the conditions that the plant needs to thrive. heck winter hardiness, mature size, light (sun/shade), water requirements, pH, and preferred soil types.

When adding a plant to the garden also consider the time of year it blooms plus flower and foliage color. You want the plants to add to your garden, do not detract from it.

Limiting the use of insecticides ensures that the bees you have invited into your garden are not accidentally poisoned by pesticides.

Practicing integrated pest management is the best way to limit the use of insecticides. Expect and accept some pest activity.

Caterpillars do chew on plants and remember, that is partly why you planted them.

If you must use a pesticide, choose one that is the least toxic to non-pest species, and does not persist on vegetation. Apply it in the evening when most pollinators are not as active.

High doses of insecticides can kill foraging bees outright. Even low doses can have adverse effects on beneficial insects.

There are other ways to help wildlife too.

We are in the midst of spring migration for many native songbirds. Did you know that most fly at night?

When passing over cities they can become disoriented by the bright lights and glow in the sky. This can lead to them colliding into buildings or windows.

They can also waste a lot of energy flying around in confusion, leaving them exhausted and vulnerable.

A thing as simple as turning off excess lighting during migration can save their lives. Turning off outdoor lights around your home can also help night flying insects and reduce the negative impact on them.

Typical landscapes today have a lot of lawn and foundation plantings that are usually plants not native to the area. Instead of creating just another pretty garden, plant with a purpose.

The more native plant species we can introduce into our yards, the more native insects and birds will call our yards home.

There is a native plant for just about any site, regardless of the conditions. Whether you have a large or small space, it is possible to make a positive impact for wildlife.

Plant it and they will eat.

Have a gardening question?

Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office 10 am to noon weekdays. You can stop in at the CCE office at 420 E. Main St., Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or email

Attend our May 5 Garden Talk in person at the CCE office or on Zoom. “Kitchen Gardens” with Master Gardener Kathie W. will start at noon.

Kitchen gardens have been around for as long as humans have lived in communities. And no, they are not gardens in your kitchen.

Join us to find out a little history, a little design, what exactly is a kitchen garden, and what can be planted in yours.

The Spring Garden Gala will be May 14 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County in Batavia. This annual plant sale features a variety of perennials and a selection of house plants.

The plant sale starts promptly at 10 am It’s asked that people avoid arriving early.

Visit the basket auction for garden art, gift certificates and a variety of themed baskets. Gently used garden books will also be for sale.

The basket auction drawing starts at 12:30 pm New this year is a garden garage sale which will feature gently used garden tools, containers, decor and more.

Attend our June 2 Garden Talk, “Playing in the Dirt — Risks & Benefits,” in person or on Zoom at Noon.

Gardening offers many health and life benefits to the gardener, but it also has its risks. Some will surprise you.

Garden Talk classes are free, but you do need to register. For the Zoom option, register at our CCE website events page at To attend in person, register by calling Mandy at (585) 343-3040 ext. 101.

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