Native plants can help turn your yard into a nature preserve
In the mornings, Karen Schedler’s yard in Tempe, Ariz., is a bird sanctuary, with hummingbirds flitting to her feeders and unseen goldfinches chittering in the bushes. Thrashers and towhees hop about near the vegetable garden, trying to maneuver around the bird netting to reach the protected feast beneath.
Schedler has seen eight different types of butterflies in her yard, watches bees light on flowers and often spots lizards darting around a woodpile. Not only has she lived in her home for more than 40 years, she purposefully has shared it with a multitude of wildlife species.
“I feel an intense amount of satisfaction that I’m doing something in my little place, just a small tract home from the ’70s, that has landscaping sufficient to attract some of the little critters that we desperately need to keep the planet functioning,” she says.
Schedler is among the 215,000 homeowners and renters nationwide whose yards are certified as wildlife habitats by the (NWF). Her property also is designated as a bird habitat by the local chapter of the National Audubon Society, and she is a member of the , a campaign that promotes efforts to protect cross-fertilizing insects. Such programs are part of a broad movement to encourage people to restore natural habitats in cities and suburbs and reduce the impact humans have had on native flora and fauna, says David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the NWF.
体育在线365“We have altered the environment pretty drastically, destroying habitats for other species,” Mizejewski says. “But the whole idea with these programs is that each of us can make a difference, restore a little bit of habitat and invite the wildlife — the birds, the butterflies, the animals that can coexist with us —back into the landscape.”
According to NWF’s backyard certification program, there’s actually very little that needs to be done to attract and support wildlife on one’s property. It’s “basic wildlife biology 101,” Mizejewski says.
体育在线365Elements needed for creatures to survive can be incorporated into nearly any landscape — a yard, a balcony or a community garden, according to Mizejewski. “This is something anyone can do, no matter where you live.”
To see more creatures fluttering, flying or scurrying in your yard, make sure it provides the following, according to Mizejewski and Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the :
体育在线365Food is vital, but Mizejewski says bird feeders and supplementary food sources aren’t necessary although they can provide additional nutrition for visiting creatures during the winter). Instead, yards should contain plants that are native to the region.
体育在线365These species provide the foundation for an ecosystem that can sustain a variety of native wildlife. For example, many insects need specific plants for survival, and birds — and even some mammals — eat insects or feed them to their young.
Water is essential for life, and a birdbath or small fish pond can provide clean water for wildlife to drink and bathe. When installing a water feature, though, remember that pollinators, like bees and butterflies, also need water, says Henriksen. She suggests adding a few river rocks to a birdbath or placing shrubbery near a fish pond so the branches reach over the water, providing a place for insects to perch.
Dump your birdbath every three days to kill mosquito larvae or use a natural mosquito dunk to halt their development, Mizejewksi recommends.
体育在线365Plants that provide food for wildlife also can double as shelters. Mizejewski suggests installing flowers or shrubs in bunches to allow birds, bunnies, squirrels and other creatures to hide or nest in them. Also, “host plants” can help to sustain certain insects, such as milkweed to feed monarch caterpillars and protect them from predators. In some areas, a brush pile or woodpile can provide a place for lizards and other small creatures.
体育在线365“They are used by all sorts of animals. But you want to keep in mind fire safety, or, if you live in an urban area, I wouldn’t recommend it because it would be a nice place for rats to hang out,” Mizejewski adds.
Henriksen recommends consulting with a landscape professional or the local cooperative extension office to determine which plants are native or attract certain species.
体育在线365Wildlife-friendly yards not only benefit animals, they can have a positive effect on the humans who live there, too, says Henriksen, who lives in Falls Church, Va.
“Plants are actually proven to have mental health benefits, to reduce stress and improve attention and memory,” Henriksen says. “Our backyard is a place to enjoy being outside and take a break from all things that are digital and electronic. It’s a place for us to appreciate nature, to enjoy being outside.”