Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Wildlife Habitat Certification

Well it has been a while since I’ve blogged so,…. sorry for the delay… I have been preparing for my eldest Son’s High School graduation and have been enthralled in all of the festivities.  I am very proud to say my son has graduated with honors and has never given us a moment of trouble. We could not be more proud of you son 😉  Now, for some gardening fun…

The wildlife habitat is especially precious to me as we have raped and pillaged most of our Earth and it is our individual opportunity to give back while reaping the rewards of our good deeds. We are rewarded in full by having an up close and intimate relationship with the wildlife we welcome on to our properties by planting in an ECO friendly manner.

The specific criteria required by the State can be found at www.nwf.org,  but in a nut shell, they are fresh water (preferably running to avoid mosquito issues), predominately native and/or adaptive plants and trees, shelter in the form of mature trees (even dead trees) or bird houses, food, which can be seed or grown ( I will explain in a bit) and sanctuary.  Sanctuary is a big one; this means you do not have an outside cat that uses your new habitat for hunting. (I am going to offend many of you now, but you should do some research on how much damage an outside cat can do to the wildlife and environment, it may change your perspective on how harmless your outside kitty can be)

So now we have the criteria, how do we begin… well, to start with, do you already have mature trees on your property?  If so, you have a habitat.  Now, if you do not, this is an opportunity to provide, shelter, food and shade. Planting fruit trees is an excellent way to accomplish all of these.  Many Fruit trees do really well here in central Texas and you can find them on the Agrilife extensions website at http://williamson-tx.tamu.edu or at the Aggie website http://www.tamu.edu. You can Google a number of different sources that will give you a list of fruits and nuts for this area, including whether they need a mate for fertilization, as well as height and width for planning.  Remember, you are sharing, so make sure to plenty for you and plenty for the animals you are encouraging to visit.  We have an enormous thornless Blackberry bramble which is habitat to many birds and lizards, but you better get out early if you want some berries, because the birds will beat you to them. Truly any type of shade tree will do, just be sure the trees you plant are native and non invasive. The other option of course is to provide several types of bird houses and this will require you to educate yourself on the type of birds that house in different homes.  Some birds build nests; others will roost in a man made home, dead tree, shrubs or vines but this will require a little knowledge on your part.

For water, we have ponds, but any clean source of running water, like a water feature you might have on your patio, or wall, or a disappearing water feature as I have blogged about in the past.  These water sources must be kept full once you begin them.  It is the life source of the animals you encourage to this space.  They will soon be having their young in your trees and shrubs and they grow to rely on this constant source. Do not use a water feature that requires you to use chlorine or bleach for cleaning or maintenance; this should be a fresh water source.

As for your food sources, you will have many to choose from. Those I mentioned previously, which are fruit trees and blackberry vines and brambles, but some others to name a few, are your veggies, (provided you have planted enough to share), Grapevines, or seed. Frankly, I prefer not to use seed because I find that most birds will drop more seed than they eat, however, when attracting certain bird species, the right seed may be key.  Again, this is where you need to do your homework and your local nursery or website will be your friend.  Be mindful however, that where ever you seed you will have weed issues underneath. So it is best not to hang them over a heavily planted bed or in a lawn where the weeds may be an issue.  Now weeds are subjective of course, what I mean by this is that you will have undesired plants, in an undesired location 😉

As for your plant selection, again I will say over and over NATIVE< NATIVE<NATIVE!! There is a very important reason the plants in this area, grow in this area. Actually, there are many. For this particular purpose however, you are trying to create a habitat for local birds, butterflies, bees, lizards and hummingbirds. Therefore, you will need to plant for them.  You cannot attract local species with plants that don’t belong here, not that you cannot trick them on occasion, but they are drawn to our plants for a reason, it is part of the overall Eco system and it is very important that you keep that as a theme in your yard over all.

Now your habitat doesn’t have to look like a jungle, it just has to have these 5 elements to qualify.   How you lay out your design is up to you, but remember you are creating a harbor for the animals so the more layers of plants and shelter the better.

wildlifeHere is an example (My space) of how a Wildlife Habitat” can look.  This is a great Xeriscape landscape, providing food, shelter and water. Low maintenance, beautiful and a sanctuary to many, including me 🙂

Happy Gardening!!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

2 Comments

  1. Hi Lisa, This is a very informative post. We recently received the City of Austin Green Garden Award and the 15 or so criteria for that program seem to cover those needed for Wildlife Habitation certification. Only question is where do we apply or who do we contact to begin the process? Thanks

  2. Bob, you will find all of the information you need for criteria and the application at the email address I listed above …www.nwf.org. By donating to this organization and becoming a member as I have, they also send you email articles on many topics that I find particular interesting. It is a good idea to stay informed;-)

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