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Give Wildlife an Edge

Plant an Edge

Edges are wonderful examples of biodiversity in action. Wildlife loves to live on the edge! Your property may not have room for a large edge, but even on a small scale you can achieve great results. As you already learned in this guide, an edge is where one type of habitat meets and blends with another. The two merging habitats create a distinct third edge habitat. Different species of wildlife thrive in each of these environments.

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Plant a Downtown Edge

Even in a paved city lot with scant space, you can create habitats that attract insects, birds, and small mammals.

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Plant a Fruit-bearing Hedgerow

A fruit-bearing hedgerow is a row of thick, bushy plants that provides wildlife with shelter and a passageway to get from place to place — preferably with snacks along the way. Any bushy plant will make a good hedgerow, but the best type is one that bears fruit. A hedgerow makes a yard both private and beautiful. It will also attract birds to your feeder and pollinators to your garden.

Hedgerows and fence rows can also attract the natural enemies of certain pests you may wish to eliminate from your backyard. For example, by planting a hedgerow with fruit that appeals to insect-eating animals, you can help control bugs that would otherwise make short work of your vegetable garden.

Hedgerows also act as small wind-breaks, protecting soil from erosion and reducing the loss of moisture from the earth. A thick hedgerow can slow down or even stop the flow of water between two areas by helping the soil soak up moisture.

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Improve a Hedgerow

A hedgerow that already exists can make an excellent project too. Here’s a short list of ideas on how to improve a hedgerow for wildlife:

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Fix up a Fence Row

A fence row is any fenced border around a lot. Whether it’s used for privacy or to keep pets out of trouble with neighbours, a fence row is a great place to plant for wildlife.

Fence rows, like hedgerows, can attract the natural enemies of certain bugs you may prefer not to have on your property. They also act as small wind-breaks, preventing soil erosion and reducing moisture loss from the earth.

A fence row can be easily improved for wildlife. Here’s how:

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Start a Wind-break

If you have a large lot and plenty of get-up-and-go, a wind-break may be the perfect project for you. A wind-break is like a giant hedge made up of trees and shrubs growing one to five rows wide. It can make a great travel lane for small wild animals and provide them with food and cover. Planted in the right spot, a wind-break can also prevent soil from drying out and blowing away, protect gardens, and reduce windy blasts in winter, thereby lowering heating bills. When planted along roads and driveways, windbreaks trap snow and stop it from drifting.

Wind-breaks are usually divided into three parts, referred to as windward, centre, and lee-ward. The windward row is what the wind hits first. It should be made up of dense, fast-growing trees and shrubs that prevent snow from piling up in the middle of the wind-break. The centre row should be made up of tall, fast-growing trees that force wind to rise over the wind-break. Finally, the leeward row should be made up of dense-growing trees and shrubs.

It’s also a good idea to consult with your local departments of wildlife, agriculture, and forestry for information about your plan. (Sometimes it’s best to leave natural areas unchanged, and these departments may advise you as such.) An agriculture official should have lots of designs and helpful ideas for wind-breaks. A local forester may recommend the most suitable species of vegetation for your area and offer you advice on planting and spacing. A wildlife biologist can suggest modifications to your design that will appeal to local birds and other animals.

Here are some recommended species for your wind-break: