This time of year is marked for me by the early morning calling of a great horned owl, who roosts (and hunts) from a line of blue oaks at the end of my garden. In the mid-day, the sound of hummingbird activity still dominates – nectaring in the last of the lavender and salvia, and hunting for bugs among the blue oaks’ falling leaves, along with cheerful little crews of bushtits enjoying their own foraging. The sweet simple call of the white crowned sparrow punctuates the heat of the day, and if I ever lose track of which season is upon us, the song of fall and winter’s flicker reminds me.
But you don’t need all of this to have a thriving habitat garden. This past week I worked in a small suburban garden that while very different mine was still humming with life. Three years ago the owner removed the lawn in front and back of her house, which is still flanked by lifeless, albeit green, lawn up and down her development street. Although her garden has no large trees, her tapestry of spring, summer and fall blooming perennials and some well-chosen vines and shrubs attract and sustain hundreds of pollinators and birds. As I worked, I had to talk softly to the bees, working around remaining blooms so as not to remove all their food. This was a perfect illustration of how little effort is required to have a habitat friendly garden no matter its size or location. In this small rich garden I was companioned by hummingbirds, dragonflies, many many bees, and butterflies. I could hear mourning doves, kill deer and meadowlarks going about their days.
Plant it and they will come. Who would not want such a lively garden?
Perhaps people are hesitant to take on the task of transforming at least part of their resource-draining-and-lifeless-lawn-landscapes because they’re not sure where to start and the process seems daunting?
Well, some regional help is here, Altacal Audubon, a regional chapter of the National Audubon Society, recently kicked off a new Neighborhood Habitat Certification Program with the specific goal of encouraging and supporting people who are interested in converting unused lawns to lively wildlife habitat.
This program, in the works for a over a year, is headed by Altacal’s Education Chair, Melinda Teves, whom I met first at a lawn to garden workshop in Chico sponsored by the Butte Environmental Council. Melinda writes that “Altacal will support participants by providing resource packets and a Neighborhood Habitat garden sign. Some of our [Altacal] members are already enjoying the benefits of having bird-friendly landscapes,” but not all. And “It’s a wonderful experience to watch a yard come to life” with birds and other wildlife.
“By replacing unused lawn with primarily (but not exclusively) ‘native’ California plants, the benefits are many. The birds and pollinators that have evolved alongside these plants, for thousands of years, will have a reliable food source. This means more wild visitors. And plants that are native to our valley are generally drought-tolerant. This is valuable to our community - now, during the drought, and also for the long term as we face larger water issues. In addition, our native valley plants are beautiful. We don’t want to wait for a weekend hike to enjoy them!”
Resource packets will include local demonstration garden locations, local expert contacts, a calendar of workshops, favorite bird-friendly plants, local business coupons, best books & websites, irrigation tips, and other educational resources. Some some easy-to-attain criteria regarding plantings, water-wise irrigation, and wildlife stewardship, will earn you your garden sign.
Melinda eloquently shares her motivation: “I think that one of the things i like most about the program, aside from restoring habitat and protecting our valuable water, is that the program is kind of empowering. We don’t really need to wait for new legislation or new sanctuaries. We can look out at our yards, and see that much of the land in California is in our own hands. We have the power to do great things. We can rebuild wildlife corridors and conserve and protect our water, one yard at a time. And every yard counts. That’s what I like about the program. And I’m so grateful that others see value in it too.”
Plant and it and wildlife will come – bringing seasonal joy and improved habitat health to your every day.
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To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: Jennifer@jewellgarden.com
In a North State Garden is a twice-monthly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs two weekends a month on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time.