Ditch the Golf Course Look and Landscape for the Planet

The space around our homes provides us with places to play and relax. To local wildlife, however, expanses of lush, green grass might as well be asphalt. Lawns provide animals with no shade, shelter, or food, and the runoff from fertilizers and pesticides applied to lawns can contaminate wildlife habitats.

Instead of cultivating a sea of grass, consider incorporating some of the following elements around your home to create a landscape that is not only beautiful but also promotes a variety of animal and insect life.

Go wild. Convert a section of your lawn to prairie or wildflower meadow. This not only reduces the amount of grass you have to maintain, but also creates more natural space in which local animals and insects may reside. Choose native varieties. Native plants are naturally adapted to the local climate, and generally provide the best food and shelter for wildlife with the least amount of maintenance. By contrast, non-native (or invasive) plants can crowd out native varieties and deny local wildlife the habitat they need to survive. If you’re not sure what plants are native to your area, ask your local garden store or consult the USDA PLANTS database.

Imitate natural habitats. Plant in clusters and build overlapping layers of tall trees, small trees, shrubs, and smaller plants.

Provide food sources. Plant shrubs and trees that produce fruits and berries for wildlife such as birds and butterflies.

Create curves. Because there is a greater amount of biodiversity in the area of transition between habitat types, create a larger transition zone by shaping planting beds with curved or irregular borders.

Cut the fence. Fences can be barriers to wildlife, restricting access to food and shelter. If you have a tall fence, create some small gaps along the bottom through which animals can pass. Or consider alternatives such as a low rock wall or, better yet, a living fence of trees and shrubs. Both options not only provide wildlife with access, but shade and shelter as well.

For more ideas, see the Audubon Society and the Biodiversity Project.