Best Practices for a Wild Backyard

To: Bluedot Living

From: BiodiversityWorks Natural Neighbors Program

Subject: Best Practices for a Wild Backyard

The most successful pollinator habitats are comprised of native wildflowers that serve and are served by native insects — they have evolved together for the specific environmental conditions that exist where you live. In many cases, native plants have been cleared to make room for non-native ornamental plants that do not act as hosts to their larva. These ornamentals may have lovely fancy flowers but they provide limited nutritional value to the creatures who need the nectar and pollen from native plants to thrive. Unfortunately, our native plants are too often thought of as “weeds” and mowed down or pulled up before they ever get to their flowering and seed stage, and as a result, insects suffer. 

Planting native perennials (and grasses) is a great way to create hyper-productive spaces that support birds, pollinators, and other beneficial insects. Working with native species is particularly enjoyable — they tend to be low maintenance and only require supplemental watering to get the roots established. They are also adapted to the Island's soil profiles and do not require additional fertilization. 

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So, one of the best things you can do to support biodiversity is to simply grow native.

– Rich Couse, Natural Neighbors Program Director

In addition to Rich's note on planting native, here are my top best practices for a wildlife-friendly yard.

1. Plant native plants in patches (not just a few here and there).

2. Provide a year-round water source.

3. Use dark-skies friendly outdoor lighting (to prevent impacts on moths and other nocturnal wildlife).

  • Limit outdoor lighting to where you need it and when
  • Choose appropriate bulbs and downcast fixtures
  • Use timers and update them with the season

4. Add anti-collision UV stickers or coatings to windows to prevent bird strikes.

5. Switch from an open compost pile to a closed bin (reduces rat infestations and stops subsidies to generalist predators such as crows, skunks, raccoons).

6. Keep your cat indoors. Catios are great!

– Luanne Johnson, BiodiversityWorks founder, and wildlife biologist

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