Only 18 certified homes to go – certifying your small space

By Janet Carroll | Sep 28, 2011


Photo courtesy of Janet Carroll

Stacy Aleksich’s condo has been certified as a wildlife habitat.

We now have only 18 more yards to certify before becoming a Community Wildlife Habitat.

We noticed that our wildlife habitat certification map is under-represented by those who live in apartments or condominiums – only one condo is certified and one apartment.  We would like to get more small spaces certified.  

Here’s how to turn a small area into wildlife habitat.  

Do Some Planning

If you live in an apartment or condominium, check with the building manager or homeowner’s association rules to see if there are any constraints that would affect your habitat design.

Observe how much sunlight you get in your planting area, and choose plants that are appropriate.  

Choose drought tolerant plants since potted plants require more frequent watering.


Chickadees and nuthatches like sunflower seeds.  Stacy Aleksich, who has the certified condo, uses a bird feeder with suction cups to put on her window, and uses hulled sunflower seeds to avoid waste.  She has placed a hummingbird feeder among bright red flowers.

Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to flowers in window-box planters or containers. Hummingbirds like tubular red and orange flowers, whereas butterflies like large, showy flowers of purple, pink, and yellow.

All sorts of birds love suet –especially chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

Grow mint, wild bergamot, oregano, lavender and yarrow to attract butterflies and other insects.  Leave the dried seeds for chickadees and goldfinches.


Use a saucer, hanging birdbath or standing birdbath; whatever works.  Birds need water in the winter as well as summer, so be sure to keep water around even when it is freezing.

Places to Raise Young

Attach a small bird nesting box, hang it, or put it on a post.  Stacy’s bird nesting box attracted wasps, so she had to take it down.   Hanging baskets are great and can provide nesting habitat for house finches.  

Pot shrubs like dwarf Arborvitae, dwarf pine or other dense shrubs. For butterfly larvae, provide broccoli and cabbage, garden parsley, dill, angelica, cow parsnip and other herbs.  

Butterfly larvae and pupae also like grasses.  Try a mason bee house – you can buy them or make your own.


In addition to providing a nesting place, potted evergreens provide cover.  A small trellis with climbing plants takes little space.  Bats use roosting boxes during the day and fly out at night to catch insects.

A small water garden with rocks and plants could also provide cover, and if it is on your patio, it may even attract a Pacific tree frog.

Sustainable Gardening Practices

Conserve water.  When planting in pots or window boxes, add some coconut fiber or super moss to the bottom to help retain water.  

Please don’t purchase Sphagnum for this purpose as it is mined from bogs and is not a renewable resource.  Plastic pots probably hold the water better than other types.

Do not use pesticides or herbicides on any plants.

Add compost to your soil.

For those of you with balconies, National Audubon Society has a great poster showing how to make your balcony or patio into great wildlife habitat.  Check it out at

If you have created wildlife habitat on your balcony, patio or yard, be sure to get it certified.  Print a copy of the application form from our web site (, fill it out and send it to National Wildlife Federation with a check for $20.  

If you want to sign up online, you can find the link on the “Certifying your Yard” page.

Janet Carroll is a member of the Mukilteo Wildlife Habitat Project, which has a goal of certifying Mukilteo as a community wildlife habitat.  Help Mukilteo get community certification by certifying your own yard or small space.  For more information on the project, go to

If you have questions e-mail Carroll at

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