To quote the National Wildlife Federation - "Anyone can create a welcoming haven for local wildlife." Turning your yard, balcony container garden, schoolyard or work landscape into a place that not only people enjoy, but nature thrives is easier than you think!
When we moved into our suburban home, we had five oak trees on our lot and that was it. Not that oak trees are bad, in fact, oak trees are amazing! They host over 900 species of butterflies and moths, so they're a great addition to your landscape. But, I wanted more. More interest, more variety, more butterflies, all of it! The more I learned, the more I planted and the more our yard flourished. Aside from the more "homesteady" things like raised garden beds for vegetables and backyard chickens, we added: ponds, paths, native bushes, native flowers and more [native] trees. The more we planted, the more diversity of wildlife we saw (birds, bees, butterflies, etc) and the happier I became. I then decided to go through the process of becoming a Habitat Ambassador for the National Wildlife Federation, which affords me the opportunity to help educate others on how they can Garden for Wildlife...hence this post, lol!
Simply put, gardening for wildlife means that you're providing what nature needs in order to survive and thrive:
The easiest way to see all the ways to provide these elements is to click the links. In the most basic way, with limited space (like a balcony), you could have a pot of swamp milkweed and zinnias, a bird feeder, a bird bath/waterer, don't use any pesticides and you'll have hit the goals! It can be as basic or as elaborate as your time, money, abilities and space permit.
But I must say, anything you do is better than doing nothing. If all you can do this year is add a small bed of native flowers, then that's great! If you only have the time to plant an oak sapling this year, fabulous! If we all did a little, then nature could have more spaces to thrive, despite all the other forces working against them.
We chose to get our yard certified with the National Wildlife Federation because I thought it would be fun and an educational tool for folks walking by our yard. This is an excellent activity with kids! You basically show that you've provided all the elements above (even on a basic level), answer a few questions and pay for the sign (if you want to get "certified").
See each element in depth and a checklist to certify your yard/balcony/area HERE
The importance of adding more nature into our suburban/urban yards is that nature is losing its space. The more commercial spaces, apartment complexes and houses that go up, the less space there is for all that nature needs. A quick example: monarch butterflies need milkweed in order to live (the monarch butterfly lays its eggs on milkweed leaves - its host plant - and milkweed typically grows in fields). If there isn't any milkweed growing in an area, then you won't see many monarchs. If milkweed grows nowhere, then none of us will see monarchs. Where fields are absent, our yards can be a perfect substitute. No matter where you live, there's a variety of milkweed that you can plop in a pot or in the ground. Point is, nature can be quite forgiving and will adapt .... if we just help a little.