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Make Your Garden a National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat

Last year, our yard recently qualified as a National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat. We have a sign in the yard to prove it! 

About 15 years ago we decided to start planting only Michigan natives in our garden.  We wanted not only to make our garden attractive to bees, birds and butterflies, but also wanted to eliminate the typical grass monoculture that dominates American homes and whose maintenance pollutes our rivers and lakes.  Today we have a few non-native plants left, but not many.  We have reduced the amount of lawn and increased the amount of garden so that our entire front yard now is garden with only a grass pathway as a walk-through.   There are hundreds of Michigan Native plants that are easy available. Some that we particularly enjoy in our garden include: Butterfly and Swamp Milkweed, Rattlesnake Master, Cow Parsnip, Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia, Ironweed, and many more.  Ground covers we like are Wild Strawberry and Wild Ginger.  We’ve planted shrubs including: St. John’s Wort, New Jersey Tea, Red Stemmed Dogwood, and Nine Bark and have become a totally hosta free environment by planting many species of native ferns in our shady spots.

In order to make sure our yard is a healthy, fruitful place for bees, birds and butterflies, and small mammals, we don’t use any kind of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.  We only apply annual mulch and, if needed, compost.  Since Michigan native plants have deep roots systems they do not require watering, and mulching takes care of most of the weeds.  Now our biggest task is thinning plants that are spreading too vociferously or are moving into areas we don’t want them. 

We take joy in watching the wildlife appreciate our garden.  We’ve planted intentionally to provide shelter and sustenance for bees, birds and butterflies, and small animals.   We attract many species of bees and wasps and haven’t been stung yet!   We regularly see humming birds, cardinals, and flocks of yellow finches.  Milkweeds are the only food source for monarch butterflies which we regularly spot flying around our yard in all their glory.  We also attract Swallowtail and other butterflies. We would especially to attract the Karner Blue Butterfly which is endangered because of loss of habitat, but its host plant, the Blue Lupine is not crazy about the clay soil in our yard.

Getting certified as a National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat may be a lower bar to reach than you think.  You can make one on your patio!  All you need to be certified is to provide food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young. 

For more information on National Wildlife Federation Habitats see 

​[All images taken by Mindy and Albert Hamstra]



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