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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Plant native plants
Remove non-native invasive plants
Provide habitat for wildlife: food, water source, cover or shelter such as a brush pile, places for wildlife to raise their young,
Avoid using chemicals including herbicides and pesticides
Attend to drainage and runoff management on property
Minimize lawn area
Leave the leaves
Leave dried plants and seedheads throughout the winter
Reduce use of power equipment, particularly gas-powered leaf blowers
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!