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Habitat gardening

  • Subject: [cg] Habitat gardening
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 19:20:10 -0800 (PST)

(Note: I'm not sure if any community garden projects
are certified as habitat by the Wildlife Federation -
might make a nice project. There are a couple of good
articles touching on this subject in the upcoming
Community Greening Review).

Washington Post
January 14, 2006

Joel M. Lerner

Planting gardens creates a haven for fauna: Habitats
increase attraction of beneficial species

WASHINGTON  Its been my experience that gardeners
are people who care  not just about gardening, but
about the environment, their communities, people
around them and even the creatures that share their
patch of earth.

Many people I plan gardens for ask for elements that
attract wildlife, even though theyre not always
specific about which animals and insects they want. No
one ever asks for skunks or crickets, though sometimes
they get them anyway, and people who live in the
suburbs often ask to repel deer and rabbits. In recent
years, the trend has been to ask for garden designs
that use native plantings, and this type of flora is
likely to attract native insects and animals.

Planting a garden like this is a way to restore
habitat for native wildlife. According to the National
Wildlife Federation, habitat loss is the single
greatest threat to wildlife today. In 1973, the
federation developed the Backyard Wildlife Habitat
program to allow homeowners and community
organizations to help preserve native wildlife. That
means establishing a space that offers the four
essential elements of survival: food, water, cover and
places for beneficial insects and animals to raise
their young. Gardeners also need to conserve natural
resources by employing sustainable gardening
practices. Spaces that meet the criteria can be
certified as backyard habitats by the federation,
offering not just a suitable environment for wildlife,
but also a number of benefits for homeowners,
including a free one-year membership in the
federation, a lifetime subscription to the Habitats
newsletter and the opportunity to post a sign
displaying their commitment to habitat preservation.

Imagine what would happen if everybody in a community
got his yard certified  what a boon that would be to
the regions biodiversity.

Thats what the people of Arlington County, Va.,
imagined about four years ago when they decided to go
for certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat.
With 403 residents, including every member of the
county board achieving certification, Arlington County
late last year became only the second county in the
country to become a certified wildlife community. The
other is Broward County, Fla.

Community certification required that Arlington have
at least 300 certified yards; seven common areas, such
as public parks or business grounds; and five
participating schools. The wildlife federation has
been gradually expanding the areas of certification as
more people get involved.

The enthusiasm for people wanting to do more than
their backyard is wonderful, said Mary Burnette, a
spokeswoman for the federations Backyard Wildlife
Habitat program. Its a very infectious program 
people who do it are very anxious to solicit others to
do the same.

Creating a suitable habitat is fairly simple. It
doesnt require a degree in landscape design or an
encyclopedic knowledge of plants. The first step is
simply to assess your grounds and figure out what
plants and features you already have to meet habitat
criteria. Plants should be native, not non-natives,
and especially not non-native invasives. If youre not
sure which of your plants are native, visit the
wildlife federations Web site at www.nwf.org. There
are lots of other Web sources for information on
invasives and non-natives; use a search engine to
track them down. You can also call your local
cooperative-extension service. Go to .gov to find
local offices.

We do encourage native plants because theyve evolved
with native wildlife over eons, said Roxanne Paul,
assistant coordinator of habitat programs for the
wildlife federation.

For certification, you will need at least two sources
of food, mostly for the winged variety of wildlife,
including bees, butterflies and birds. That can
include supplemental sources, such as birdfeeders, or
plants that supply berries, nuts, nectar or sap. You
need at least one source of water, and that can be a
birdbath or a pond or a stream running through your
property. You need at least two sources of cover, such
as trees, shrubs, dead tree stumps or trunks, or a
brush pile (for birds and small mammals) or rock pile
(for snakes and lizards). You also need at least two
places where young can be raised. That could be
birdhouses or trees or, for aquatic life, water.
Nesting places sometimes double as cover.

Finally, you need to practice at least two methods of
sustainable landscaping. Use a barrel to collect
roof-runoff rainwater to water plants. Dont use
chemical pesticides or fertilizers  encourage natural
pest predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings, spiders
and praying mantises. Use compost to fertilize. Reduce
use of conventional landscape practices, such as
planting, fertilizing and weed-killing vast areas of
lawn by using chemicals, or installing non-native
invasive ground covers to reduce erosion. To irrigate,
put in drip or soaker hoses, not sprinklers. If you
have a cat, keep it indoors. Cats have a natural
predator instinct that might prove dangerous to your

You dont have to have a lot of space to create a good
habitat. Containers on a deck or patio can be enough.

We have certified balconies, Paul said.

The National Wildlife Federation offers good advice on
getting started and getting certification on its Web
site. David Mizejewski, manager of the Backyard
Wildlife Habitat program, has an excellent book,
called Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other
Backyard Wildlife.

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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