Naturescaped yards are not the traditional gardens. They may have a green lawn but chances are that it will not be made up of one species, Kentucky blue grass. It will host a variety of plants, which might include dandelions, clover and other low-growing groundcover.
These yards will include native plants and natural areas. If planted, they will imitate the ecosystem that was destroyed to build the house or subdivision.
In a naturescaped yard, introduced plants such as annuals, perennials and vegetable gardens are placed where they will enhance the nature while not compromising or fighting native plants and animals. An example is to use container gardening in areas where there poplar roots would prove invasive.
Not everyone can move into an area that has been left in a natural state. Starting a naturescape garden requires planning and implementation similar to any garden.
When planning the landscape, keep in mind the basic necessities of life: space, shelter, food and water. Manipulating these necessities can make a difference as to what creatures inhabit your yard. Some are more desirable than others. A skunk on the far corner of an acreage is different from one living under your step.
Size plays an important part of any ecosystem. Large areas will hold a larger variety of plants and larger plants without overwhelming the space. This in turn will encourage more wildlife to become part of the ecosystem. Smaller areas are just as viable but they will usually contain a less diverse population. Creatures might visit the smaller area on a regular basis but not make it their permanent home. This is often seen with birds that will visit a number of yards and feeders within one area.
A garden that provides shelter will have more visitors, or different ones, than yards with open expanses. Shelter for wildlife ranges from manmade houses to trees, shrubs, grasses or piles of old wood. Often the type of shelter is species specific, which allows the gardener to tailor their yard towards their favourite wild creatures.
If larger creatures such as deer are wanted in the yard, leave wide open spaces, allowing them to graze and be able to see predators.
Like shelter, food is often species specific.
This can be addressed by feeding stations or by plantings. Remember that nature works on a food chain. Plantings might attract insects, which in turn attract birds.
Try to plant as many native plants as possible as wild creatures tend to feed on species known to them. Native plants have evolved over hundreds of years and thrive in the local environment, withstanding drought, cold temperatures or insect infestation. When planted in the correct location, these plants should thrive with very little care or attention.
Native plants need to be ones that grow locally, not ones that grow in a different area of the province. Native plants that are numerous in and around Central Alberta are not always the same as those that grow on the eastern or western part of the province.
Water is a necessity. Like everything else, the size and availability will influence the eco-community. The source needs to be continual, not sporadic.
Start with an abundance of healthy soil. Gardening without soil or poor soil results in a poor garden or the need to over-fertilize.
Like all living things, plants cannot grow without proper nutrition.
Whenever possible, plant in groupings as opposed to individual plants as creatures are more likely to notice a large group of plants as opposed to one. They are also more likely to stop and feed when they do not have to move far between feeding areas.
As with all landscapes, the plants should be a variety of heights. As the plants grow upward, different species will discover the garden and make it their home.
Lower and medium plantings are just as important in providing food and shelter and making the area aesthetically pleasing.
Lastly, how the yard is designed is a personal choice. But if the creatures you harbour feast on the neighbour’s yard, there will be ill feelings. What visits one yard is likely to visit the next one, too.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.