I am slowly winning the battle of the lawn. Not the battle most wage, where week after week, in an effort to have the perfect lawn, chemicals are applied, blades are cut, and grass is watered. No, my battle involves killing the grass in an attempt to make way for native flowers and shrubs so that I can provide a welcoming environment for the wildlife that calls my place home.
Each year, as more and more prairie or natural areas are lost to development here in Illinois, wildlife is being edged out and valuable habitat destroyed. Sara Stein in her book “Noah’s Garden” was the first person to make me aware of how I could work against this tide by creating wildlife habitats in my own backyard. Places where animals and insects and birds could forage for food or raise their young.
Sara’s dream was that every yard in each neighborhood would leave a bit of their yard natural so that wildlife would have ribbons of interconnected wild spaces in which to live. With that thinking in mind, over the last 3 years, I have gotten rid of 1,300 square feet of lawn and replaced it with plants that provide food or homes for wildlife. Through the National Wildlife Federation’s backyard wildlife habitat program, which provides all the information needed to create places welcoming to animals, my yard was certified as a backyard wildlife habitat.
The NWF program shows how simple it is to provide for wildlife. All you need to do is provide elements from each of the following areas:
Food Sources. For example: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar.
Water Sources. For example: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
Places for Cover. For example: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse.
Places to Raise Young. For example: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond.
Sustainable Gardening. For example: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer.
More information on this program can be found at: http://www.nwf.org/backyard/
There are also many wonderful books written on this subject. Some of the books that I found particularly helpful were:
Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein
Planting Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein
The Wildlife Garden by Charlotte Seidenberg
National Wildlife Federation Attracting Birds, Butterflies & Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejewsk
Creating Habitat and Homes for Illinois Wildlife by IL. Dept. of Natural Resources and University of Illinois
Landscaping for Wildlife by MN. Department of Natural Resources
When I look out into my back yard, it stands in stark contrast to those yards that surround mine. I find it sad that we value close cropped non life-giving lawn over areas brimming with plants which give so much to wildlife. Obviously Sara’s dream will take a long time to come to fruition.