• ljmarkson

Reasons to Certify Your Naturalized Yard

Updated: Mar 3

In the summer when everything is at their peak countless people walking by smile and warmly thank me for my magical and exuberant yard filled with butterflies, bees, and an explosion of flowers.

I have no problem promoting the idea of a nativescaping in the summer when my front yard is bursting with native flowers like this tangle of coneflowers (echinacea purpurea), rattlesnake master (eryngium yuccifolium), large-flowered tickseed (coreopsis grandiflora), yarrow (achillea millefolium), gayfeather (liatris), and gaillardia (blanket flower)

Yet my naturescaped yard which is designed to coexist with nature stands out in my neighborhood of grass and ivy-covered yards surrounded by non-native and often invasive Asian plants including monkey grass, nandina, Lenten rose, crepe myrtle and glossy unnaturally shaped evergreen bushes.

Just imagine what how charming these well tended homes in my neighborhood would be with native pollinator gardens instead of uninspired, sterile monoculture grass yards with a few lonely non-native bushes surrounding them?

The compliments slow down in the fall when I leave the leaves where they fall and become a leaf bag lady importing neighbor's leaves, or in the winter when I don’t “clean up” to create an intentional seedhead garden for wildlife. So far, I’ve left enough naturalized daffodils to make the state of my yard somewhat relatable in the spring.

Daffodils are one of the last non-native plants I still let grow in my yard. Their spring cheer helps make my yard more relatable until I find a native alternative that blooms at the same time.

I’m fastidious about keeping my walkways clear so it's more obvious that my ungardened yard is by design, but I believe adding signs indicating that my yard is certified by a number of conservation organizations helps give better context.

Signs from various organization including Atlanta Audubon (now Georgia Audubon), National Wildlife Federation and Georgian Native Plant explain the intentionality of my naturalized yard.

There are hundreds of reasons to post a yard certification sign and the top ones include:

  • Making your natural landscape choices more official. A rewilded yard becomes a Wildlife Sanctuary, Wildlife Habitat, Native Plant Habitat, Monarch Way Station or any number of lofty nature destinations. Who can hate on a Certified Butterfly Garden?

  • Educating neighbors and people walking by about how to coexist with nature

  • Inspiring neighbors to create their own wildlife habitat or at least consider more eco-friendly practices in their own yard.

  • Setting a positive example to help normalizing rewilding and ungardening landscapes

  • Showcasing how beautiful and vibrant a naturalized landscape can be

  • Spreading awareness that every single yard can help wildlife

  • Ultimately making you a change agent in the gardening world; transforming landscaping narratives in fundamental ways such as: - from how to kill caterpillars munching on plants to what plants attract the most caterpillars for the food web - from how to have a greener lawn to why lawns are environmentally unfriendly and what sedges are the best lawn replacements in damp shady areas - from what exotic plants are bred to be most pest resistant and showy to what native plants attract the most host insects and pollinators to their flowers.

Signs indicating my rewilded area is a Certified Butterfly Garden and Monarch Way Station garner interest even in the dead of winter.

Another less talked about reason to certify your yard through a conservation organization are the benefits you get by just going through the process to get certified.

  • You get support for what you are doing so you don’t feel like the only weirdo in your neighborhood with a naturalized yard. It’s less isolating to connect to likeminded people who understand what you’re doing; including the people who certify your property.

  • You get feedback for improvement in areas you didn’t know what to do with. The person certifying my yard for the Georgia Audubon's Wildlife Sanctuary site visit gave me ideas about bird friendly native bushes to add to an area lacking a supportive wildlife habitat. I’ve since added almost a dozen different native bushes there!

  • You get answers to specific questions about plant identification and habitat needs. The person who did the site visit for my Gold Certification for the Georgia Native Plant Society helped me identify plants my plant apps couldn’t and suggested native plants to add.

  • You look more critically at how you’re rewilding your yard and better define what your goals are. In my case the more certifications I went for the more committed I became to going all in rewilding my yard.

  • Your work is validated as you become connected and supported by organizations working on a larger scale to inspire, encourage and educate others about healthier yard ecosystems.

  • You learn about new resources in your community.

  • One of the top reasons to have your yard certified is to learn about and implement any or all of the following 10 best practices you may be asked to do as part of building a healthy ecosystem:

  1. Plant native plants

  2. Create biodiversity

  3. Remove non-native invasive plants

  4. Provide habitat for wildlife: food, water source, cover or shelter such as a brush pile, places for wildlife to raise their young,

  5. Avoid using chemicals including herbicides and pesticides

  6. Attend to drainage and runoff management on property

  7. Minimize lawn area

  8. Leave the leaves

  9. Leave dried plants and seedheads throughout the winter

  10. Reduce use of power equipment, particularly gas-powered leaf blowers

On the Wildlife Sanctuary certification site visit for Atlanta Audubon Society (now Georgia Audubon Society) I was encouraged to add bird friendly and curvaceously fruited hearts-a-bustin' (euonymus americanus) bush to my nativescape

Finally, the absolute best reason for getting your yard certified is the reason you did all the work in the first place: to make a lasting difference for wildlife!



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