After the rainy winter, backyard gardening may not be the first thing on your mind. However, March is a great time to start thinking and planning ahead for the coming spring growing season!
If you’re interested in creating a haven for local wildlife, why not consider dedicating a portion of your garden? New Jersey is abundant with wildlife, not all of which are as obvious as deer or squirrels. Be it Gold Finches, Pine Barrens tree frogs, the praying mantis, or Luna moths, you can do a lot to increase their needed habitat. Wildlife Gardens are a great way to support our local wildlife, environment and economy.
Gardens designated to be habitat also increase the potential for wildlife in our yards, and provide us the enjoyment of bird watching and wildlife viewing – all just by creating a space for them, whether it be big or small. While some of us think of local wildlife as bunnies, deer or raccoons, perhaps these are not the wildlife we would like to see more often near our growing plants. However, just as gardens come in all sizes, so do wildlife. Our native toads, frogs, songbirds, moths and butterflies could all benefit from having a beautiful, healthy garden designed to them – and for us to enjoy as well!
How many of us look forward to the first visit of a migrating songbird or our first glimpse of a butterfly in our yards? By creating wildlife gardens with native plants, we could gain even more enjoyment while helping our native wildlife.
Perhaps you are a school teacher looking for additional STEM based methods to teach ecology? Designing and caring for a restored woodland or native grassland could be a great way to engage your students for years to come.
If you are a business owner looking to gain LEED or Sustainable Jersey points, or reduce your carbon footprint, having a rain garden created with native plants could offer you financial benefits as well as offering your staff and visitors something to be proud of. Capturing rain water and snow melt to be processed by healthy rain gardens before it reaches our many lakes, streams, and eventually our wells, helps to improve our water quality – thus creating suitable habitat for wildlife, as well as beautiful places for people to live.
When thinking of your wildlife garden, think in terms of both vertical and horizontal ground cover, but always native species; flowers being the base, the shrubs and vines being the mid level backdrop and the trees being the support that ties the garden together. By choosing your plants with careful consideration, you can have stunning color, food for songbirds, and host plants for butterflies in your garden throughout the year. By providing the elements all wildlife need; food, water, safe places to hide, and nest to raise their young, you can transform your backyard into a stunning, vibrant oasis.
Don’t have a yard? No problem! Visiting butterflies or hummingbirds can be offered a sweet nectar treat by planting the appropriate plants in pots just outside your door or on the balcony of your apartment. These brief stop-over points are often crucial in the migratory paths of insects such as Monarch Butterflies.
As a compliment to our established Environmental Education programs, Cedar Run can also be a resource for those of you looking to add some interest and visitors to your yards.
Are you a business looking to reduce your impervious surfaces or a school looking to add some living ecology to your curriculum? Perhaps we can help. Stop by or drop us an email, and keep an eye on the events page on our website; we are planning on hosting some dynamic and informational talks on this topic in the coming months.
In the meantime, happy wildlife viewing and start thinking about your gardens!
–Jeanne Gural, Executive Director