This is the season to make resolutions for the upcoming year. Some are easy to keep, especially when you have a firm and attainable goal in mind where the results are so rewarding.
1) Turn your yard into a working ecosystem
If you want your landscape to support more birds, then youll need to invite the bugs, reduce the lawn, and plant more natives. Okay, so maybe this isnt the easiest item on this list, but its important and you can accomplish it in small steps over several years.
a) The first step will save you money: Stop using pesticides. For a detailed explanation of the poison cycle, see my post: A poison is a poison is a poison.
b) Keep your cats inside. These subsidized predators in the landscape skew the ecosystem and create a huge problem for various wildlife including birds, toads, lizards and more. For more information and opinions on cats see Cats in the landscape controversy.
c) Reduce your lawn acreage by replacing some of it with native habitat such as meadows or groves of native trees and shrubs. Manage the remaining lawn more sustainably. A sterile, monoculture lawn offers little habitat value, but when you stop using poisons and synthetic chemical fertilizer, it will become more diverse and the soils ecosystem will begin to recover. If your lawn needs fertilizer or if the soil needs restoration, use a light layer of compost just as your lawn naturally comes out of dormancyin Florida spring is the only time when fertilizing makes sense. For more ideas and suggestions on sustainable lawn management practices and lawn replacement, see my articles: Reducing lawn in the landscape and Adventures in creating a native garden. Also see the Lawn Reform Coalition website for an in-depth and nation-wide review of all aspects of sustainable lawn management and replacement ideas.
d) Choose your new plants with wildlife in mind. Install plants that will: have berries throughout the winter for birds, have tubular flowers for hummingbirds, supply larval food for butterflies and moths, provide nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies throughout the seasonin Florida, that means year-round. Doug Tallamys ideas for the important part even small landscape can make has made a huge difference in how we approach our home landscaping. Also see my post Teeming with zebras for more information on how to welcome Floridas state butterfly into your yard, too.
e) Provide shelter and nesting sites. Leave some land unplanted and unmulched for native bees and toads. Create a stick pile that never gets cleaned up in a back corner of your property. Leave snags and logs where possible in your landscape. For more information and further resources on creating habitat and maybe even certifying your yard, read on my article Creating backyard habitat.
2) Conserve & retain water
Water pollution, especially nutrient overloads, has spoiled both aquatic and riparian habitats for a wide variety of wildlife. The majority of the pollution comes from hard-to-identify and control non-point sourcesthese include stormwater runoff from public and private properties, which is carries nutrients from fertilizers, silt from erosion, plus it picks up chemicals on roadways on its way to the nearest waterway.
On your own property you can install rain barrels and rain gardens so that little or no runoff leaves your lot. Read my article on rain gardens which includes links to rain barrels and other resources. For a broader picture of the problem read We all live in a watershed.
3) Increase your knowledge
While reading articles and books will help with background information, there is no substitute for getting out into nature, especially with a knowledgeable guide. So make 2014 the year you join your local native plant society or Audubon society chapter and then go on their field trips, and attend their meetings. Each state has its own native plant societyThe American Horticultural Society has put together a list of all the native plant societies and here is the general sites for the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy. There are other environmental groups that also host field trips and educational meetings, so find a good match for your interests and get involved. I know I have found a stimulating environment in Florida Native Plant Society: See my post My name is Ginny Stibolt and Im addicted to the Florida Native Plant Society.
4) Support your local parks
Parklands provide huge chunks of habitat, and greenway connectors between other open lands, which is critical for wildlife. But as budgets across the board are being cut, parks on every level are feeling the pinch. You can show your support by being an active customer, so as they make their cases for funding, their numbers justify the expenditures. You can take you family camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring in your regional parks and parks around the nation. What a great way to solidify family ties and hook your kids on nature.
If there is a park near you, find out how to volunteer to help out. They may need help to maintain trails, remove invasive exotics, build and maintain butterfly gardens near the buildings, or to clean up trash. Here a couple of examples of what can be accomplished: Removing invasives in Mandarin: a team effort and FNPS Ixia Chapter project: Native Park restoration.
5) Influence the deciders
Large environmental decisions are made by politicians and bureaucrats who may not hear from anyone but the lobbyists for developers or big business. You can make a difference for wildlife and the native habitats by speaking up and/or support organizations that are speaking out for Mother Nature and her wildlife. While you may think that you sound like a broken record, it takes 17 repetitions before most people commit a new idea to their retrievable memory bank. Read my article Supporting wildlife beyond your garden gate.
Also, join organizations that have an outreach program and help spread the word by volunteering to man (or woman) their booths. See the four articles that Sue Dingwell and I wrote covering the various aspects of making your outreach efforts more effective: Outreach with impact!: Part 1; Part 2 ; Part 3; and Part 4.
6) Reduce your personal ecological footprint
In addition to greening up your landscape and becoming more involved in supporting your local parks and joining environmental groups that match your interests, maybe you could begin the process of consuming less and recycling more. This may not directly affect wildlife, but if we all use fewer resources, it reduces the destruction of wild spaces that support our wildlife. There are many ways to approach this resolution and how you proceed will depend upon many factors.
For us, my husband and I produce very little waste that goes to the landfill. We compost the kitchen scraps, donate old clothing, and make do with less stuff. Weve reduced our electricity bills by turning up the air conditioning to 84 in the summer and turning down the heat in the winter to 67. We cook most of our food from scratch and grow a lot of the produce ourselves. For more information and a quiz to see how youre doing, see Reduce your footprint.
Happy New Year!
If we all work together, 2014 could be a great year for wildlife.
© 2014, Ginny Stibolt. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us