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Shrub Borders Give the Edge to Wildlife

Shrub Borders Give the Edge to Wildlife

Got a well-kept farm, but not as much wildlife as you would like? Could be you have very little edge habitat, that zone of shrubs, grasses, legumes, and plants between forests and crop fields.

For good wildlife habitat, you want to create a “soft” or gradual transition from field to woodland, rather than an abrupt change from one to the other.

A shrub border of snowberry, rose, chokecherry, or other shrubs can help you do that.

Plant five to seven rows of shrubs between the field and the woodland. Spacing depends on the mature size of the shrubs you choose. Typically, shrubs are planted four feet to six feet apart within the row and 16 feet apart between rows so that they can be cultivated.

More variety in chosen shrubs is better for wildlife. That’s because some shrubs offer better nesting cover than others. Some are better for escape cover and some offer better loafing cover. A mixture of shrubs also provides fruits that mature at different seasons and fruits that remain on the plants for different lengths of time. To achieve the best variety of cover and food supply and attract a more diverse group of wildlife, plant a mixture of shrubs.

Shrubs commonly recommended for borders include silver buffaloberry, Rocky Mountain juniper, American plum, chokecherry, red osier dogwood, skunkbrush sumac, and golden currant.

Prepare a clean seedbed and be prepared to cultivate the weeds between and beside each row to eliminate competition for young shrubs.

You can improve the value of a shrub border to wildlife by adding ten feet of grasses or legumes on the crop side of the border. A mixture of legumes like sanfoin, small burnet, and a number of clovers will offer young pheasants and turkeys a prime bug area. Native grasses like basin wildrye and western wheatgrass also work well.

Another good option is to plant an annual game bird mix that includes seeds such as milo, millet, soybeans, or wheat. This could act as a built-in food plot near a wooded area that would be left standing for two or three years.

You could also disc the area and allow annual seed-producing weeds to regenerate naturally. Discing the area once every three years will help to spark new growth of plants.

For more information about conservation practices that can improve wildlife habitat on your land, stop at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office at (Number) (Street) in (city), or visit the NRCS web site at

Wildlife Ways

Did you know....
Fish and wildlife diversity can increase by up to fivefold by planting trees, shrubs, and grasses along streams.


If you encounter any problems with the file provided on this page, please contact Technical Resources at 406-587-6822.

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Specification 645: Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (PDF; 191 KB)