Building a Green Backyard – Enhancing Habitats for Nature in the Pocono Mountains

By: Don Hannig

Who better can appreciate the splendorous beauty of nature than those of us living in the Pocono Mountains? It is why we have chosen to be here, and to raise our families in such amazing and wholesome surroundings. But as residential areas continue to expand, the wild areas we have grown to know and love will begin to diminish. It’s a product of the times. After all, we want the best possible homes for our children away from the stress of city traffic, pollution, and crime, don’t we?

But by restoring some of the habitat taken by the encroachment of development, we can help to protect the wild species found in the Pocono region – right in our own backyard! With a little planning and a dose of free thinking (forget white picket fences and chemical-laden turfgrass!) we can preserve a vanishing habitat while enjoying nature’s delights when we step from our very own backdoor.

How to Think Green

When constructing a backyard habitat, the meaning behind “thinking green” is a bit different than energy efficiency and green building – terms we have come to know during the home-building process. It is much more than structured landscaping and installing a pretty garden. We need to think along the lines of whole ecosystems – healthy balanced ones. The National Wildlife Federation offers an online certification program for building a healthy backyard habitat. This organization recognizes five critical steps to constructing a healthy and flourishing natural ecosystem.

1.  Provide Food. This is an essential component of a backyard habitat’s value. When selecting what to plant, always opt for native plant species, and consider such factors as foliage, seeds, nuts, berries, nectar, pollen and berries. Native plant nurseries are springing up as the demand for indigenous and beneficial species rises. It’s astounding how many of these species provide a bounty of food for wildlife.

2.  Supply Water. Water is a necessary part of every ecosystem, although it is easy to overlook in a backyard situation if there are no natural sources. Every creature and plant needs water for drinking, reproduction, and even bathing. Options to consider are bird baths, puddling areas for butterflies, or rain gardens. It is important to never let your backyard go completely dry.

3.  Create Cover. Make sure your habitat includes larger plant species, such as trees and shrubs. Animals and insects alike need to be able to hide from their natural predators, and take shelter from the elements. Experiment with areas that include dense ground cover, brush or debris piles, and even downed trees – you will be amazed at the wildlife you will attract.

4.  Create Habitat for Raising Young. All creatures will seek a sheltered place where they would naturally raise their offspring, so this feature coincides with the creation of cover in your backyard habitat. Think about including bird houses and bat boxes, and even stone piles for reptiles. There are tons of step-by-step project ideas available online.

5.  Utilize Green Gardening Practices. The most essential part of green gardening is the reduction of chemical pesticide use. The surest way to do this is by shrinking the size of your yard or turfgrass area. Why not trim your lawn size down to the minimum needed for your family’s enjoyment? It will surely slim your mowing time during the spring and summer months, and extra lawn space provides virtually no wildlife benefit except to the Canada Goose population! Other ways to think green include keeping a mulch/compost pile for the fertilization of your soils, and the construction of a rain barrel for watering needs.

Zone It Off!

If you consider nature in its true from, there are many different kinds of habitats utilized by millions of varied species. There are forests, meadows or grasslands, and wetlands, all with edges that blend together harmoniously. You can think about sectioning your habitat with these zones in mind. Plant an area with native trees and shrubs to simulate forested land, with species such as black cherry and elderberry – both of which bear fruit. You can incorporate a zone of mixed meadow by blending together native grasses with a peppering of beneficial wildflowers such as milkweed and butterfly bush. Don’t forget to tie it together with a few water sources, and your habitat will be well on its way to simulating a naturally made ecosystem.

The Future

As our society continues to expand its residential and commercial areas, natural habitats for wildlife and native species will in turn continue to shrink. But we can do our part by contributing a space for backyard habitat, all the while enhancing our own lives with the bounty of the Pocono Mountains. Each small addition we can provide is of more and more importance. So get your gardening gloves on and get ready to think outside the realm of manicured lawns and weed killer applications – your truly green backyard is waiting!

To find out more about the Pocono Mountains, please call us at 570-646-4646, email us at info@keswickpointe.com or visit our website at www.keswickpointe.com

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