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How to make your garden come to life—wildlife, that is

by Timber Press on June 28, 2010

in Design, Gardening

Copyright Jeff Kramer, Austin,Texas.

I was heartened to read an article by Joe Lamp’l in which he quotes Timber author, Doug Tallamy. Not because Joe is a superstar in the world of gardening (which he is), and not because Doug’s book, Bringing Nature Home, is one of my favorites (which it is), but because the article has some recommendations on how to turn your garden into a designated wildlife-habitat.

We don’t usually think of insects as wildlife and much of the effort to save habitat focuses on larger animals, such as saving polar bears (and they do need saving). But those animals (including human beings) depend on the smaller creatures below them in the food chain, and that’s where your garden comes in.

“If you want to accomplish something that is relatively easy and educational,” writes Lamp’l, “consider certifying your yard, community garden, or school garden with a wildlife-habitat designation.” The certification for most programs is fairly simple, requiring you to “provide appropriate food sources, adequate water, shelter, a place to raise young, and a garden with sustainability in mind.”

You might consider, for example, designating you garden as a waystation for monarch butterflies. These butterflies migrate annually from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico and California, but their habitat is being lost to development, and by planting a few milkweeds, you can help this species make the journey every year.

Doug Tallamy notes that “90 percent of native insects consume only the leaves of native plants.” For most gardeners this means growing more plants native to their area. To find out more about how to do that, Joe lists the Web site of the National Wildlife Federation. Be sure to also check out Doug Tallamy’s site where you can click on your region and explore plants native to that area.

In a time of morale-crushing environmental catastrophes, it’s hard to know how to make a difference. If you’re fortunate enough to have a back yard, or front yard, or even a hell strip, why not turn it into a wildlife habitat and help save the world, or at least your little slice of it?

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