Gardening with a greater purpose
Making your backyard a wildlife sanctuary and saving money doing it.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 - 18:32
SQUIRREL PARADISE: Liz Ballard brings many gray squirrels into her backyard by providing a comfortable shelter and feeder. (Photo: Jayme Dittmar)
Increasing urban sprawl is creating more homes for people by taking away habitats for wildlife, forcing nature's creatures to become vagabonds on the move or leaving them homeless on the streets.
According to a report from the Sierra Club, about 2.2 million acres of open space, including parks, farms and natural areas are lost to sprawl each year.
However, others are fighting to reverse this damage from development by providing food, water and shelter for evicted animals, transforming their own backyards into wildlife sanctuaries.
Detroit Lakes resident, Liz Ballard, lives in town not far from Highway 10. Entering her yard from the paved sidewalk, one steps through an arch of native vines into a haven of ferns and wildflowers with birds chirping, bees buzzing and chipmunks running across his or her feet.
Though Ballard said that she started her gardens when she moved into town for her own benefit, as well — to use as an escape from the city.
"I've always been a country girl," Ballard said. "I missed seeing the animals."
National Wildlife Federation Ambassador for the Wildlife Habitat Program and sustainable garden landscaper, Mat Paulson, said that the trend of natural gardening is increasing in northern Minnesota as homeowners learn more about the many benefits.
Sustainable gardening attracts wildlife and also helps the environment, reducing dependency on pesticides, improving air and soil quality and cutting down energy use on regular garden maintenance.
Paulson also said that natural gardening is beneficial for your pocketbook. As native plants and shrubs are already tolerant of Minnesota weather conditions, less care and cash need to be put toward watering and expensive fertilizers.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, attracting wildlife is a simple accomplishment that can be done easily by incorporating the four components of wildlife habitat into your backyard:
• Food — This may include providing bushes with berries, flowers with nectar and pollen or supplemental bird, squirrel and butterfly feeders.
• Water — There needs to be presence of standing water that wildlife can access for drinking and bathing. This can include seasonal pools, birdbaths, rain gardens or ponds.
• Cover — Wildlife need shelter from bad weather conditions and predators such as wooded areas, bramble patches, rock piles and roosting boxes.
• Places to raise young — Wildlife also require special areas to bear young. Some examples include mature trees, dead trees, dense shrubs and nesting boxes.
Incorporating these habitat conditions into your yard will make your home a portal to the great outdoors and provide a much needed sanctuary within an urban setting.