- May 13, 2011
If you’ve just moved into a brand new house, chances are you face some special challenges turning your yard into habitat. There may still be active construction near you, and there is a chance that your property was planted with nothing but turf grass (or worse, left with rutted, nutrient-poor soil). You probably don’t have any well-established trees. Rather than focus on what you don’t have, why not focus on what you do have: a blank canvas with which to paint a wildlife landscape. Many people struggle to make decisions about existing, established, but non-native, or non-wildlife friendly plants. You don’t have that problem. You can plant native trees, encourage native grasses, and cultivate wildflowers without having to destroy anything.
Connect to your new Neighbors
Think of your position as an advantage for a moment. You and your new neighbors are just getting established; it might be an apt time to try your hand at convincing them to think of your new community as a collaborative chance to provide habitat. After all, most birds and other wildlife need expanses of habitat that extend beyond a single yard. Encourage your neighbors to help create an expanse of wildlife friendly territory. Ask them to join YardMap. You can create a group of sites, and you’ll have the unique chance to record the growth of your yard from bare to wildlife haven over time. YardMap keeps a record of changes you make, letting you look back in history at your yard as you shape it.
Starting from scratch
If you face special challenges turning your yard into habitat, take it slow
Plan to spend the first year simply designing your new garden: observing the patterns of light, water drainage, and soil quality around the yard. Start with the big elements. Think seriously about including a rain garden. Plan the locations of a few big trees depending on the size of the property. Then move on to shrubs. These elements will form the backbone of your bird community, and help you reach a backyard balance. Focus on native diversity. Why not recreate a specimen ‘native forest’, with a few different species represented? Diversity begets diversity! Take it slow. There is no need to do everything at once. Take stock of how you use your property and design your garden around those needs.