Sunday, September 7, 2008

Make Your Backyard A Certified Wildlife Habitat - It's a Jungle Out There

In hopes of doing our small part to educate and protect the planet for our daughters (and their future children) we joined the National Wildlife Federation. This spring, we joined 90,000+ people and certified our backyard as a certified wildlife habitat. It was an easy application and fun for our girls. We love hanging out in our backyard and exploring for bugs, bird watching from the family room windows, and digging in the dirt. The three requirements are food for animals, a regular water source, and cover and places to raise young. We also practice eco-friendly, sustainable gardening habits.

Food Sources: In our backyard we have native plants like Black Eyed Susans, Sedum, and Echinacea growing happily and providing seeds for birdies and chipmunks to nibble. We also have a beautiful Kousa Dogwood that is loaded with berries and a huge hedge of Holly bushes covered in berries for the birds and squirrels. Not to mention Oak trees loaded with acorns. For our indoor cat's entertainment we hung a black thistle feeder that gets daily goldfinch traffic. The Frog Princess made her own "bird" feeder by recycling an orange juice carton, it was very popular with our squirrels.

Water: We provide clean water with a bird bath that I refill every other day and I keep a mosquito dunk in it to battle the evil Asian Tiger Mosquitos that love our area. There is also a creek running through the woods nearby. I love my water wiggler I got from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Cover and Places to Raise Young: Wildlife require places to hide from people, inclement weather, and my next door neighbors killer outdoor cats. They also need shelter for raising their offspring. I have several bird house, shrubs, and trees like pines and the holly hedge I mentioned before. We had 4 nests of blue jays, one robin's nest, a squirrel nest, a batch of baby chipmunks, and a big group of baby house sparrows all raised in our backyard this spring and summer. We are planning on a bat roost and a butterfly house/garden next year.

Sustainable Gardening Practices: We are all about xeriscaping. We have replaced several areas of grass in our yard with stone, brick, and mulch beds to reduce demands on water. I am planning on installing rain barrels on a couple of our downspouts - they're on the top my birthday wish list this year. The native plants don't require as much babying and water as non-native species do...I have a survival of the fittest attitude with my plants and I refuse to coddle them, if they can't handle neglect and whatever water comes from the sky then they don't stay in my yard. I mulch my backyard beds with pine straw (it doesn't deforest the way traditional bark much does). We've tried to do as little chemical warfare as possible but we will need to find someways to deal with the crabgrass and clover. Since I'm not allowed to have a pet goat in my neighborhood, I'm thinking corn gluten, aerating, and milky spore for grubs.

Not only do I feel good about doing my small part to help our planet stay a bit more animal friendly but I got to post a groovy sign in my yard too! When you walk past my slightly weedy front lawn remember I'm not lazy, I'm a green mama (read: shameless plug -- check out my online store!) Your challenge this week is to take a green hour with your kids and see what you find, after all it's a jungle back there!

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