In Garden Tips, General
It may get cold but having accessible water is key to keeping some wildlife near your garden.

So, what does a black capped chickadee, a hedgehog, and a human have in common? (you’re overthinking this). Yes! We all need water to survive. It’s funny how when the temperature drops, we kind of forget this. During the mild or hot times of the year, I’m always sure to down a big 32 oz. Nalgene bottle of water every day (more is better, but us older dudes also know there are other challenges that come with maturity). When the thermometer starts to take the plunge, however, I have to consciously remind myself to stay hydrated…..with water.

I’ve often said both when teaching my students and to garden club audiences “no garden is complete which lacks water”. Whether it be a simple birdbath, a recirculating “pondless” water feature, or a more elaborate garden pond complete with bogs, plants, and fish, water just adds a whole new dimension to any setting. We typically only think about water in a garden in an aesthetic sense but it truly is a necessity when it comes to our non-human visitors.

Our “sink garden” runs year-round and it also attracts perching birds hoping to take a sip.

This “pondless” water feature is simply made burying a 5 gal bucket beneath housing a small pump and tubing.

Maybe it’s not the right thing to do but we’ve always kept suet and seed available for our feathered guest. I think as we age it becomes a higher priority to supply and maintain birdfeeders (or perhaps we just have more time). But for whatever reason, many of us stop there and assume if a rabbit or woodpeckers gets thirsty it will just find a puddle or get its water from other sources. It could be the worrying gene I’ve inherited from my parents but I get concerned for some reason that there aren’t enough water sources in our vast subdivisions to quench our non-human population. I know what you’re thinking. “If that’s the case, I’m sure the fauna will easily migrate to a place where they can easily get a drink or bath.”

An inexpensive deicer will keep this basin from freezing.

I guess the point of this rambling is that it is so easy to coexist and live in harmony if we simply have a birdbath or three in our gardens (both with the traditional pedestal and one or two on the ground) and maintain them. Yep, that’s right. Keep them clean and full. The rewards are instant. Selfishly, I find myself blurting out a not so subtle “you’re welcome” when I see a bird taking a bath in the basin or a chipmunk sipping at the edge of the waterfall.

The National Wildlife Federation will give you a nifty sign if you make a small donation and verify that you have food, shelter, a place to raise young and water on your property. I voyeuristically enjoy watching walkers stop by ours and look around after they’ve read it and wonder “what’s so special about this place?” To which I non-verbally answer “nothing special, just satisfying a small need.”

I made this ground bath with concrete imprinted with a large elephant ear leaf. (Adding the coins and matchbox car for whimsy)

So, just as your next container of ramen would suggest, “Just add water” and make your garden truly complete.

Happy planning!

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