Habitat at Home©
Take a look around your yard: what habitat elements do you see? Most yards usually have a lot of lawn and some trees, but not much in between. If that describes your yard, think about focusing on the "in between."
When you add small trees and shrubs in "layers," you improve the "structure" of the habitat. Good structure will provide much needed cover, which is critical for birds, mammals, and other creatures. Cover gives protection from the hot summer sun and winter winds. Birds need dense cover to build nests and raise their young. And, since house cats roam free in most neighborhoods, protective vegetation will provide escape cover from these (and other) predators.
When you choose plants for wildlife, get more bang-for-the-buck and select those that will provide food in addition to cover. Food could include nectar in spring and summer when the plants are in bloom, or seeds and berries in the fall and winter when the flowers go to fruit. Remember to include evergreens, too, to fill in gaps and help buffer plants that will lose their leaves later in the season.
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Want more information?
- BayScapes for Wildlife Habitat: a Homeowner's Guide (PDF - Alliance for Chesapeake Bay)
- Backyard Wildlife Habitats (PDF - VA Cooperative Extension Service)
- Backyard Conservation: Wildlife Habitat (PDF - Natural Resources Conservation Service)
- National Wildlife Federation
Native Plants for Conservation and Landscaping
(Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage)
- GreenScaping: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Install a rain garden to conserve water and improve habitat at the same time (How-to video)