Wildlife and Your Garden
My gardening values differ drastically from many of my fellow Utahans. While most of them value a tightly mowed weed-free lawn, I prefer something that offers more diversity as well as more food for me, my bees, and the wildlife around me.
Snakes; the Gardener's FriendThis leads to a somewhat random mixture of plants across the yard. There is a pretty good chance that no matter where in my yard you stand you will be near something that can and will be eaten by me and my family at some point of the year. At the same time I am likely to see some things you may not expect in a small lot in Utah. A prime example is the garter snake that has the run of the farthest back part of my yard. While these snakes are not uncommon, they usually prefer a bigger chunk of space than I have. My encounters with the snake are not frequent, but it does me the favor of helping to control the mice, snails, and other small critters that can damage my garden or get into my house. I don’t really know if it is one snake or two, but I am hoping that at some point I will have a mating pair that will ensure a constant supply of snakes for the rest of my stay at this house.
Other Cold-Blooded CrittersI am also hoping at some point to attract a few lizards. While they may decide to eat a few of my bees, I cannot resist the thought of seeing them bask in the sun on a rock or catch them bolting off of the porch when I open the door. They are also good insect eaters. Of course, when it comes to the coldblooded critters the golden standard would be to have frogs and toads take up residence in my yard. I used to find them in this neighborhood when I was a kid, either by the pond or down in Mrs. Hoagland’s yard just a few blocks south. Both of those places are gone now, taken over by the latest and greatest in new development. But I still hope there are a few amphibians left to eat creepy crawlies in the garden, and of course delight and educate adults and children alike.
Insects & ArachnidsAnd then there are the insects, arachnids, and related creatures. Unless they are pretty pollinators, humans tend to look down on anything without a backbone. But many of these little critters get a lot done in the garden. They break down dead plants and compost, pollinate, and eat harmful invertebrates. I love to see these in the garden and am constantly amazed when I learn about the new things they do.
Learn to Appreciate WaspsI also have a real soft spot in my heart for wasps in all their different species. I know they can be a threat to honeybees and I have certainly had issues with being stung, but I can't ignore the important role they play in my garden. I see wasps plucking away at any insect pest that has too high a population. I know this garden policing keeps me from having to kill insects in a much more nasty (read: chemical) fashion. So far I have had to remove a few early, nests from my doorways, but I have not had to fight a large existing nest in a frequented area. So my wasps and I get along wonderfully most of the year.
I encourage you do go outside and see what all the critters are doing in your landscape. You will likely be surprised to see how useful and how much fun they are.