The National Wildlife Foundation has a program that is aimed at encouraging landowners to create habitats that are friendly to wildlife on their own property. You can become the owner of a Certified Wildlife Habitat by following some simple requirements too. This is incredibly important as development spreads and continues to push the native plants and animals out of their homes. By creating livable space on your own piece of developed land, you’re giving back the homes that animals require, while giving yourself an opportunity to enjoy what your local area’s wildlife. Become involved in improving your neighborhood by creating a garden that can be certified as a Wildlife Habitat.
Your garden must meet certain requirements before it can be certified, such as:
- Your garden must provide a natural source of food that animals can gather directly from plants, and these plants have to also be native US plant selections. From seeds, to berries, fruit, nuts, and nectar, all food sources are important. Plants such as Rudbeckia, coneflower, and yarrow offer nectar and seeds. Black Walnut offers nuts. Viburnums offer berries. Pawpaw trees offer fruit that many fruit eaters love. These plants alone will fulfill the food source requirements, and all are native to North America.
- Your garden must provide a constant water source that animals can depend on. If you’re fortunate enough to own property that contains a natural pond, or you live on a lake, river, or by the ocean, you’re already done. If you don’t have access to any natural water source, you can make your own- which can be a lot of fun and is actually easy to do. Plenty of DIY pond kits of all sizes are available. You can also make your own container water garden, which is good for smaller Wildlife Habitats, balconies, and patios. You can even provide a fountain, bird bath, or simply grade temporary areas that puddle with rains. Check out our article on rain gardens, which can incorporate space for native food plants, cover, and a water source for certification.
- You must have places that offer cover for animals. Cover gives animals a place to take shelter and to hide, as animals will only go where they feel safe. Cover does this. Cover can take many forms. Thickets, thick native vegetation, thick shrubs (like evergreen screens and hedges), brush piles, bat houses, butterfly houses, and bee houses are all examples of cover. Dead trees are also a great place for cover. And this brings us to the next requirement.
- You must provide a place for wildlife to raise their young. These places are often also the same places you provide for cover. Dead trees are remarkable resources in the wild, as they offer many birds that you don’t see often a place for shelter and to raise young (they are also a food source too). Standing dead trees are optimal real-estate in the animal kingdom. Along with possibly keeping a dead standing tree or three in your wildlife garden, consider adding bird houses, nesting boxes, and keeping those brush piles.
- And finally, practice good land stewardship that protects the natural balance of life the best you can. This means limiting or eliminating the use of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, and any un-natural techniques that discourage wildlife naturalization. This also includes shrinking your lawn space, replacing it with native grasses and flowers, as well as native trees and shrubs. The National Wildlife Foundation also recommends and encourages replacing solid landscape surfaces such as large concrete driveways and patios with permeable alternatives. Also, consider directing surface drainage into water gardens instead of storm drains, or better yet collect rain water in barrels and use that water to water your garden.
Once you’ve added all of the necessary elements to your garden and change your maintenance routine, you can apply to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Even if you don’t transform your entire property into one that wildlife can use, a small space is better than none. It’s a wonderful project that is also good for children to help with and engage in. You can even organize a community garden that can be certified. Doing good can be many things- this is just another wonderful way to give back to your environment when so much is being taken away.