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Stewardship Garden, Syracuse, NY

Featured Site Created By Janet Allen

There are people who garden for wildlife, and there are people for whom gardening is a way of life. Janet Allen is surely among the latter group. She and her family live what she calls the “Green, good life.” It’s a lifestyle that emphasizes community, sustainability, biodiversity, and healthy habitats. For twelve years, she and her husband have worked to create this Stewardship Garden on one-third of an acre in Central New York. Her garden is even certified as a Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation!

Janet belongs to several habitat gardening circles, and she brings to YardMap a wealth of native plant knowledge. Read her story below, then visit her garden on the map, check out her tiny lawn, and be sure to leave a comment for Janet if something sparks your curiosity. And if you’re just getting started as a habitat gardener, especially if you live in the Northeast, visit her website to learn more about the plants and animals she enjoys.

What work has been done to improve this site for birds and other wildlife? How long did it take?

Chickadee collecting moss for a nest

Photo © Janet Allen

We’ve been working about twelve years to improve our yard. We provide food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Besides bird feeders, we provide food in many forms: nectar, seeds from native grasses and flowers, berries from native shrubs and trees, and insects–which are provided because we have native plants. We have evergreen trees and shrubs for cover, as well as a large hedgerow that includes large patches of native shrubs such as gray dogwood. We installed a pond and stream with a pump as well as a wildlife pond. And besides the variety of natural places to raise young–especially larval host plants for butterflies–we provide many bird houses.

What are some successes that you've seen since the improvements were made? (alternatively, "What are you most proud of, or excited to share about this site?")

We’ve seen steady increases in the numbers and types of birds that visit or live in our yard, as well as many pollinators, especially our favorites: bumblebees. We also have quite a large variety of butterflies and dragonflies. We have especially enjoyed toads singing in the spring and are glad that toads mate in our ponds.

Are there any tough decisions that had to be made regarding its management? How were they handled?

Thank you berry much!

Photo © Janet Allen

We had some difficulties to overcome when we created our habitat garden. First, we had to get rid of the lawn. Grubs helped us with some of the task, but much of it we dug out by hand. Too late we learned about smothering it with newspaper and mulch! Another difficulty was to figure out which plants were native and then find a place to buy them, neither of which was as easy back then as it is today. [Editor’s note: You can use YardMap’s Local Resources page to find your local native plant nursery!]

Finally, because we didn’t start with a plan for the whole yard, we ended up moving many of our shrubs–sometimes more than once! All in all, though, we’ve made steady progress, and after a decade, we’ve transformed our yard into a habitat garden that’s beneficial for wildlife and a joy for us.