Okay, this posting is going to be a not-so-quick recap of stuff I want to keep track of for my yard work, and I'll keep adding to it as I learn more stuff to do. I'll work more on the compost idea later; for now, some very useful URLs: the National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife: Making Wildlife Habitat at Home pages, and the Yerba Buena Nursery site, with excellent advice on how to integrate native plants into one's yard.

Now: things to remember while planning a more natural front yard that welcomes wildlife. First: avoid insecticides. Second, as much as possible I want to:

  1. Provide food for wildlife:
    • Set out a birdseed feeder and a hummingbird feeder
    • Find the right native plants to add in order to attract butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and other beneficial insects; hummingbirds; and birds that eat berries, seeds, and bugs. If most all the plants are natives, that may attract some native mammals as well?
  2. Supply water for wildlife:
    Put in several types of water containers to attract different creatures, e.g.

    • A low, shallow pan set on or into the ground for birds, butterflies, toads, etc., placed about 10' from dense shrubs or other cover predators might use.
    • Keep wet mud or coarse sand on one side of the shallow pan for butterflies to "puddle" or drink water and extract minerals.
    • Add birdbaths up high as well as low. Use a variety of containers: plastic/clay plant saucers with a rock in the middle, hanging in the trees, with water running across rocks — try hard to have running water somewhere!
    • Really ambitious: a dragonfly pool! It should vary in depth: shallow edges & at least 2' deep in the center, to accommodate a variety of water plants. Add a few perching sticks in the middle of the pond — ordinary bamboo stakes (like for tomato plants) will do. Have shrubs (e.g. buttonbush and seedbox) within a few feet of the pond. Put a few flat, light colored rocks in the sun near the pond's edge.
  3. Create cover for wildlife, and
    • Leave any dead branches in the little thicket
    • Flat, light colored rocks for butterflies and dragonflies to rest and sun their wings.
    • Build a bat house. It will need lots of sun, to be at least 15' up, and to have a water source nearby.
    • Build a toad abode! ;)
  4. Give wildlife a place to raise their young. Also, check out NestWatch! ;)
    • Put out bird nesting boxes with ventilation holes at top and drainage holes below — no perches! Winter is the best time to do this. Monitor boxes for invasive animal species, & clear out nests after the young are grown and have departed.
      1. American robins: three-sided birdhouse. requirements: 6" x 6" x 8" high, open front; color: earth tone; placement: on side of building, arbor or tree. Habitat: The shelter should be mounted in a location surrounded by natural habitat, including mature trees and grassy lawns for hunting earthworms.
      2. Screech-owls: requirements: 10" x 10" x 24" high; hole: 4" wide x 3" high (elliptical), centered 20" above the floor; color: earth tone; placement: on a post 3 – 5' feet above open water or on a tree 12 – 40' high near water; nesting material: 3 – 4" of wood shavings on the floor of the house. Roosting owls will sit in entrance hole at dusk. Habitat: Birdhouses mounted on the trunk of a tree in a woodland of mature trees will bring owl occupancy either for nesting in early spring or for roosting in winter.
      3. House & Carolina wrens: Requirements: 4" x 4" or 4" x 6" base, 8" high; hole: 1-1/8", centered 6" above the floor; color: earth tone; placement: 5 – 10' high on post or hanging in a tree. Habitat: House wrens prefer their houses hanging from a small tree in the middle of a yard, or along the border of an open yard. Carolina wrens will go into a birdhouse that is well hidden in natural habitat (near trees or tall shrubs).
      4. All species of chickadees and titmice will use birdhouses. Requirements: 4" x 4" or 5" x 5" base x 8" high; hole: 1-1/4", centered 6" above the floor; color: earth tone; placement: 4 – 8' high in small tree thicket. Habitat: These birds nest in dense natural habitat, such as thickets or stands of small trees.
    • For robins, phoebes & house finches: put up a nest shelf?
    • See if I can find a dead, hollow log
    • Build a little brush pile, maybe?

I should create an order-of-go list first. Next I need to work out what sorts of creature houses the yard can accommodate, and build those. If I'm going to do a brush pile and/or a compost pile, I have to figure out where and then how to protect it so the yard folks don't just clear it away. More later!

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