Sun. Mar. 1, 2020

by Joanna Reuter

If you have a yard and/or a garden, this is a good time of year come up with a plan to make the space more enticing to wildlife such as beneficial insects and birds.

Get inspired:

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in your Yard is a new book by Doug Tallamy, a well-respected entomologist, author, and advocate on the topic of the importance of growing native plants for the benefit of wildlife. The Columbia library has this book in their collection, along with Tallamy’s original book, Bringing Nature Home. He also wrote this recent short piece for the Washington Post: Welcome bugs into your yard. You might just save the world.

Furthermore, a free film screening of Hometown Habitat: Stories of Bringing Nature Home will occur at the Bond Life Sciences Center this Thursday, March 5, 2020, at 7:00 p.m.; see this listing for full details.

Here’s another inspiring article on How to Turn Your Yard Into an Ecological Oasis. (Thank you to Becky Erickson for bringing this one to my attention.)

Make a plan:

Here’s a small sample of resources for planning:

  • The CoMo Wild Yards Program, run by the Office of Sustainability, provides free consultations for those who live within city limits.
  • The Grow Native website has a native plant database that can help you choose Missouri-appropriate natives for various situations and purposes.
  • The Columbia library has an extensive collection of books on gardening; look for ones that focus on natives.

Prepare your space:

If you plan and act ahead, you can avoid the need to use herbicides. If there’s grass, block the light for a couple of months. A thick layer of straw mulch, a good tarp, and/or some cardboard can help to do the trick. If bush honeysuckle is present; try the root docking method as demonstrated in this YouTube video.

Get some plants:

Several native plant sales occur in the region each spring, and multiple vendors are typically present at each one. Here are a couple:

Plant, maintain, and enjoy:

There will be some work to prepare the site and get the plants established in their new home. Once established, though, native plants are hardy and require little effort, so long as you’re not set on having a perfectly manicured look. Another bonus: You won’t need pesticides for this garden; the whole point is to encourage insects, not kill them. Soon enough you can savor the fact that you have less grass to mow along with more flowers to enjoy. The biodiversity will reward your efforts. And if you do need to pull some weeds, it will be an excuse to spend some quality time observing the neat plants that have taken hold and the critters they’re attracting.

Partake in citizen science:

As your yard becomes a hotspot of biodiversity, you may want to learn more about the critters that visit your habitat. For birds, eBird will let you report a yard list, but what about insects and other critters or plants, including ones that you can’t identify? That’s where iNaturalist comes in. This citizen science project lets you upload a photo taken at a particular location and time. If you know what it is, you can propose an identification; if not, others in the iNaturalist community will help. It’s an excellent and fun way to learn and to contribute to a scientific understanding of the distribution of species.