It is not uncommon for Floridians to encounter all forms of wildlife everywhere they go, even on their lawn. They are a part of the overall landscape, but it is easy to forget that what people do in their own yards and neighborhoods affects local and nearby wildlife populations. However, there are concrete steps that can be taken to not just save “urban wildlife” but also to create new, safe spaces. After following these tips, your landscaping will be more Florida-Friendly than ever:
Create a Balance Between Lawn and Vegetation in Landscaping
Creating an aesthetic, functional balance between turf and plants that can create the best environment is key, and there are many ways to get the job done easily. The best and easiest way to reduce the amount of mowed lawn around your house is to replace some lawn grass with ground cover plants, islands of vegetation, or butterfly gardens in areas with very little foot traffic, such as around the edges or in the corners of the yard. Each of these options have different benefits for both you and the wildlife.
Ground cover plants are valuable to wildlife, but require a lot of maintenance to keep them looking and functioning well. Whether it’s mowing, fertilizing, or watering, you’re expending high amounts of energy costs in electricity, water, and other natural resources. Think of adding these features under trees and bushes or along a privacy fence. Also, ground covers provide food and shelter for small animals.
Islands of vegetation can be planted with native ground cover, wildflowers, or other vegetation. Islands should be near each other to allow for animals to cross from one island to the next, which reduces the amount of open space they have to cross. Crossing large open spaces makes animals vulnerable to being preyed upon by other species. If you are trying to create a space that will benefit small, ground-dwelling species as well as birds, this is the option for you.
A butterfly garden requires plants that are beneficial to not just the adults, but the larvae (caterpillars) as well. Hit the books and read up on what plants attract butterflies and are also native to Florida.
Increase Vertical Layering
Take a look across your lawn. Do you see large trees, low grass, and nothing in between the two? If so, you may want to consider vertical layering, which is done by increasing plant structures between the ground and the tree canopy. This can be done in as simple a way as planting some bushes or ground covers below the trees on your landscaping. With a variety of vegetation that vary in size and height will provide the most cover and feeding opportunities for wildlife. Consider creating “clumps” or islands with plants of all different heights. Of course, using Florida-Friendly, native plants will help keep your lawn working for the environment around it.
Provide Brush Piles or “Snags”
Adding small snags around your yard may not sound pleasing, but there’s certainly a way to keep your lawn looking polished with a little bit of style. Many wildlife species use snags and brush piles for feeding and nesting. If you are at all concerned about the safety of doing this, don’t fear! There are tree surgeons that are able to advise and provide a cutting service to benefit everyone, so that your lawn will still look great and be a great asset to wildlife.
This is a big one! Water is an essential part of a productive wildlife habitat, and any water source you provide will work, whether it’s a birdbath or even a small pond. Ponds are not just a beautiful addition to a yard, but they also attract a variety of species and enhance amphibian breeding.
Plant Native Vegetation
Of course, landscaping with plants that are native to Florida not only provides better food and cover for native wildlife, but on average, requires less care and resources to maintain. It is best to take a look at the conditions in your yard and then go buy the appropriate plants to match those conditions.
Creating a space for wildlife in your landscaping is a great way to allow nature back into the space that we’ve taken from it. Collectively and as individuals, homeowners can do many different things to protect wildlife habitat, and taking these tips to heart is the first step in the right direction.