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Last Updated on March 19, 2023 by Diane Hoffmaster
Rewilding your yard is a great idea for a number of reasons. With the ever-increasing pressures of urbanization and human development, we are losing precious biodiversity and habitat at an alarming rate.
As a homeowner, you can help! By rewilding our yards, we can help to create new habitats and provide a safe haven for a range of native plants and animals.
The traditional suburban yard is an ecological dead zone. Most landscapers and builders do not use native species when creating a neighborhood's outdoor space. A quick look around most suburban yards will uncover several invasive plants, manicured grass, and very few pollinators.
By understanding plant and animal relationships that should be thriving in your area, you are on your way to a healthy yard. And these natural spaces will be places that native insects, birds, and other animals will want to call home.
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Reasons to Rewild Your Lawn and Yard
So, are you intrigued by this concept? Maybe it sounds interesting but you aren't quite sure why you should put the effort into rewilding your outdoor space. Well, here are some reasons why this is a good idea:
Rewilding your backyard can help to promote biodiversity by providing a range of habitats for different types of animals and plants.
By creating a diverse range of habitats, you can attract a variety of birds, insects, and other wildlife to your yard. This, in turn, can help to support healthy ecosystems and promote biodiversity.
Supports local wildlife:
Many native animals have been pushed out of their natural habitats by urban development. By rewilding your yard, you can provide a safe haven for these animals, giving them a place to live and thrive.
Sadly, invasive plants and animals often outcompete native flora for resources. By supporting local wildlife, you can help to maintain a healthy balance in the local ecosystem.
Building an ecosystem specifically designed for supporting native wildlife gives them a slightly higher chance of survival.
Improves soil health:
Rewilding your backyard can also help to improve soil health by promoting the growth of native plants.
Native grasses and plants are adapted to the local soil conditions. Because of this, they can help to improve soil structure and nutrient content. This, in turn, helps to promote the growth of other plants and support healthy ecosystems.
Reduces water usage:
By planting the right grasses, native trees, and other plant life, you can help to reduce water usage in your yard.
Native plants are adapted to local conditions. As a result, they require less water than non-native ones. This helps to conserve water resources and reduce your water bills. Native shrubs can pretty much be ignored once established, unlike many decorative shrubs that landscapers often choose to plant.
Increases carbon sequestration:
Rewilding your yard can also help to increase carbon sequestration by promoting the growth of plants. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and store it in their tissues.
By promoting the growth of plants in your yard, you can help to sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
By taking small steps to create a more natural and diverse yard, we can help to support healthy ecosystems and promote a more sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.
Convinced yet? Let me share a few tips to help you get started on this journey to a wilder and more sustainable yard.
Rethink Your Concept of a Beautiful Yard
First, rethinking your concept of a beautiful yard is key. We often think of yards as places that are neat and manicured but rewilding your yard means embracing a bit of chaos and natural beauty.
Start by letting go of the idea that you need to keep everything perfectly trimmed, mowed, and maintained. Instead, create a space that is inviting to wildlife and plants. Allowing for natural growth encourages a diverse range of species.
Leave the dead branches. Ignore the fallen leaves. They are supporting native wildlife and small mammals. Many insects live in dead branches and other nonliving organic plant material. A fallen tree might look ugly to you but it is home to many, many species.
Shrink the lawn
Not ready for a fully wild backyard? Start small! Convert just some of your lawn to make it a more attractive habitat for animals. Several areas in America have already encouraged lawn removal because they are very labor and resource intensive.
A lush backyard stocked with native grass and wildflowers does not require much maintenance. Less mowing means less work and more time in the hammock.
Stop Using Fertilizers and Pesticides
Using artificial fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn may seem like a quick fix to achieve a lush green yard, but it comes at a significant cost to the environment.
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been linked to various negative impacts on the ecosystem, such as water pollution, soil degradation, and the destruction of biodiversity.
When you apply chemical fertilizers to your lawn, the excess nutrients from the fertilizer can leach into the groundwater or run off into nearby streams and rivers. This can lead to the growth of harmful algae and the depletion of oxygen levels. Both of which in turn can harm fish and other aquatic life.
Pesticides kill beneficial insects such as pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as other organisms, including bird and insect populations and amphibians.
By creating a chemical-free habitat for native wildlife, you create hospitable habitats and a healthier and more sustainable environment.
Add Native Plants
To be a truly ecological gardener, you need to research native grasses and plants for your region. Native plants have numerous benefits compared to lawns.
One of the most significant advantages of native grasses and plants is that they are well-adapted to the local climate and require minimal maintenance. This means you get a lush yard without the need for excessive watering, fertilization, or pest control.
Additionally, native plants provide critical habitats for local wildlife, including birds, bees, and butterflies. That is essential for maintaining the ecosystem's biodiversity.
By creating a habitat for wildlife you attract pollinators, which can lead to higher yields for local farmers or your own backyard garden.
Another advantage of native plants is that they help to reduce erosion and stormwater runoff. They have deep root systems. That means they are better able to hold soil in place during heavy rainfall, which can help prevent soil erosion.
Native plants also absorb and filter rainwater. This reduces the amount of stormwater runoff that enters storm drains and local waterways. This is critical for maintaining water quality, as excessive stormwater runoff can lead to pollution and the degradation of aquatic ecosystems.
Native plants are an excellent choice for homeowners looking to save money on landscaping costs. Unlike lawns, which require frequent mowing, watering, and fertilization, native plants can thrive without the need for extensive upkeep.
This means that homeowners can save money on water bills and landscaping services, while also reducing their carbon footprint by using fewer resources.
Finally, native plants are an excellent way to enhance the beauty and aesthetic appeal of a yard. They come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, making it easy to create a beautiful and diverse landscape.
By using native plants, homeowners can create a unique and personalized landscape that reflects the local environment and adds value to their property.
Find Your Wild Spot
If the idea of rewilding your backyard sounds intriguing but intimidating, you don't have to jump right in with both feet. Start by rewilding just one area of your yard.
This could be a spot near a window or patio that you use often, so you can still enjoy being outdoors and reconnect to nature. As you grow more comfortable with rewilding, rewild other parts of your yard too!
Rewilding your garden is an exciting journey that re-engages us with nature, encourages biodiversity in our backyards, and helps to improve the sustainability of our planet. With a few simple steps, you can make a difference for native wildlife, bird and insect populations, and your own backyard environment!
By rewilding your backyard, you’re not only helping the environment but also reaping the benefits for yourself. You’ll be able to enjoy nature and reconnect with it in new ways, while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and creating a more sustainable environment for all.
8 Easy Steps to Rewilding Your Yard
Need a few actionable items to create a lush yard that looks pretty but also creates hospitable habitats for native flora? Here are 8 things you can do that encourage sustainable plant and animal relationships and turn your ecological dead zone of a yard into one that teems with native flora:
- Leave the grass clippings. Stop bagging them up and leaving them at the curb. Create a wild edge to your yard where you can add natural mulch, grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc.
- Plant one native tree. Whether you go with a native oak or a paw-paw tree as we put in our yard, ask your garden center if they have any trees native to your area.
- Call around and ask for assistance. There is an entire industry developing around encouraging lawn removal. See if you can find a professional that can help you return your yard to its natural state. Ask at your local garden center to start.
- Plant a small pollinator garden. Find a corner of your yard and choose a handful of plants that attract pollinators. Bee balm is popular in my backyard. Milkweed is important to monarch butterflies. Choose a few pollinator-friendly plants to attract beneficial critters.
- Provide shelter to wildlife: Put up nest boxes or buy a toad house to attract toads to your garden. Add more hospitable habitats in your yard to create a balanced ecosystem.
- Install a rain barrel: Before installing a rain barrel, call your local water district and make sure it is allowed. Oddly enough, rain barrels are against the law in some areas.
- Turn off the lights: Stop leaving outdoor lighting on at night. Nocturnal animals will not flock to your outdoor spaces if they are lit up like a Christmas tree. Many nocturnal animals require absolute darkness for mating. Install motion-activated outdoor flood lights if you are concerned about safety.
- Encourage others: If you have company over, show off your nature conservation journey. Brag about your attempts to turn your lawn into a natural ecosystem.
One thing to remember is that wild a wild backyard is a lofty goal, it doesn't have to happen overnight. Day by day, week by week, and year by year, you can take baby steps to create more hospitable habitats in your yard.
By restoring native plants and creating natural habitats, you can help provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, improve soil quality, and reduce the amount of water and chemical inputs needed to maintain your yard.
Rewilding can also offer numerous benefits for human health and well-being, including stress reduction and increased opportunities for outdoor recreation and education. Less mowing, more naps in the hammock!
By taking small steps to rewild your yard, you can make a significant impact on your local ecosystem and contribute to a more sustainable future for all. If you want more inspiration, check out the book: Planting for Wildlife: A Grower’s Guide to Rewilding Your Garden.
Looking for more information about creating a backyard habitat that is inviting to wildlife? Here are a few more posts you might enjoy reading:
- How to attract birds to your yard: Learn a few tips about encouraging your feathered friends to come to visit.
- How to attract bats to your yard: Bats are a great way to keep the mosquito population at bay.
- Spring yard care tips to increase curb appeal: Your yard can look great AND be a hospitable habitat for wildlife.
With spring just about here and Earth Day just around the corner, do your part to support our planet while you tend to your outdoor living space.
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.