This week I’ve been reading Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden and I can’t wait for warm weather so I can try some of their suggestions on my balcony! The first thing I noticed about this book was that it had a lot more in common with A Spring Without Bees than I expected, even knowing they’re neighbors in the dewey decimal system, because this book was incredibly eco-friendly. The authors counsel against using pesticides, suggest Integrated Pest management (using natural predators to get rid of unwanted bugs, as suggested in A Spring Without Bees), and clearly love all animals – even the creepy crawly ones. Personally, I’ve always loved all animals and even think flies are cute when they wash their faces with their legs, kind of the way cats do. So finding a book which seemed to see the best in all animals was like finding a kindred spirit. They even explain how to attract snakes and spiders, which I think a lot of people really wouldn’t go for. I was ready to draw the line when they started talking about Crocodilians, but fortunately the authors didn’t suggest attracting crocodiles and alligators to your yard! Instead they observed that if these animals visit your backyard “that may be wildlife enough”, which made me laugh 🙂
The book was broken into three main parts: the main text, of course, explaining how to set up your garden and attract specific animals; sidebars, with interesting anecdotes from bird, butterfly, and bug watchers; and instructions for projects, such as making your own feeders and bird houses. There were also a lot of gorgeous pictures and sketches mixed in with the text, as well as helpful-looking diagrams with the projects. Most of the projects would require a workbench, a lot of tools, and a lot of garden space, so they would probably be best for someone living in a house rather than an apartment. But there was one simple-looking project for making a hanging moss basket for flowers which other apartment owners might find useful.
I would recommend this book to anyone trying to start a garden in hopes of observing wildlife in their backyard, but with the caveat that this book doesn’t include everything you need to know. The scope of the book is very broad, covering nearly every animal imaginable, and suggests using mostly local plants while planning for local wildlife. At the least, identifying what local plants and wildlife are will probably require another book or some internet-searching. However, the book is a great overview of this way of thinking when designing a garden. In fact, it includes one really great chapter on the process of planning your garden and I would recommend that chapter even to someone with little interest in wildlife. I think it would make the chances of you digging up your garden and then realizing you want to change things much slimmer. As someone who doesn’t always think things all the way though, I appreciate that kind of help! I wouldn’t suggest reading the book cover-to-cover as I did; just focus on the sections relevant to the animals you’re interested in and the general chapters about planning and about balcony gardens or landscaping, depending on your location.
Although I was tempted to give this book five stars after reading my own glowing review, I really do think it’s only a four star book for two reasons. First, my enjoyment level just wasn’t high enough to justify a five. Not all of the book was relevant to me and even the relevant parts sometimes felt a little too dry and instructional. And second of all, there really will be a lot of research required to actually do anything with the material in the book. In fact, I think in the near future I will be reading books about local wildlife and container gardening in order to work on my project. That said, the book does do a great job given the material the authors decided to cover, but I think I would have preferred a book which focused on fewer animals or on one specific region.
Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden – 4 stars – A great overview of wildlife-friendly gardening practices, with lots of fun pictures and anecdotes, but spreads itself a little thin with all the material it tries to cover.