Each certification and each sign purchased with the AWF logo will give AWF a little kick back. That gives us the capacity to educate on how to garden for wildlife and how to certify. Maybe that is how you found out about the program. Thank you for certifying you garden!
Garden for Wildlife
If you have wildlife visiting your garden, from ants to elk, wanted or unwanted, then you have a wildlife garden! "If you plant it, they will come" is certainly true for wildlife whether we plant intentionally with our veggie gardens, flower beds, orchards, or native plants or let nature do it herself! Vegetation provides food, cover, a place to raise young, and the rain along with your sustainable practices help it to flourish. Be that neighbor (I read that somewhere!) by certifying your garden as a wildlife habitat and soon other nature lovers will follow along. Imagine you were the size of a monarch butterfly, you would appreciate a continuous line of gardens from which you could eat, evade predators, and lay eggs to continue your species. Gardens using sustainable practices also mitigate climate change with cover that reduces the heat island effect, mulch which retains moisture in the soil, a carbon sink, and compost which resupplies soil with nutrients. And for emotional and physical health, gardens are bar none for us peeps and wildlife too!
Whether you have just a little planter or a mini-farm, whether you have a patio, a yard, a business, or support your local schoolyard or place of worship, you can certify a garden as a wildlife habitat!
What are the components of a Certified Wildlife Habitat?
Places to Raise Young
Creating a wildlife garden might sound challenging at first. But with the right plants and surroundings you can welcome wildlife into your backyard, schoolyard, roadside, or balcony. You can even build a "bat-birdhouse" in your backyard to give bats a place to nest. Having bats around may sound scary to some, but they help combat the mosquito population!
When you certify your habitat, a portion of your application processing fee supports Arizona Widlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation's programs to help stop the decline of habitat for bees, butterflies, birds, amphibians and other wildlife. [Note: the application fee is waived for schools Pre-K to Grade 12.] Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of species decline today.
Providing a sustainable habitat for wildlife begins with your plants. That's why we call it a wildlife habitat "garden". When you plant the native species that wildlife depend on, you create habitat and begin to restore your local environment. Adding water sources, nesting boxes and other habitat features enhances the habitat value of your habitat "garden" for wildlife. By choosing natural gardening practices, you make your yard a safe place for wildlife and help reverse some of the human-caused habitat destruction that is hurting wildlife everywhere.
Creating a habitat is easier than you might think! Keep reading to find out what your wildlife garden can include.
NWF offers the Garden Certification Walk-through Checklist as a tool to help prepare before you certify online. Certification requires elements from the following categories:
Food: Plant shrubs that flower and produce berries. Native plants provide nectar, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage, pollen and insects eaten by an exciting variety of wildlife. Plants with colorful flowers will especially attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bird and squirrel feeders can supplement natural food sources. Leaving the seed pods on plants as long as possible helps winter wildlife.
Water: All animals need water to survive and some need it for bathing or breeding as well. Create a water bath by hollowing out the top 2 or 3 inches of a tree stump or placing pebbles or small rocks in a plant saucer, garbage can lid, or other saucer-shaped object.
Cover: Wildlife need places to find shelter from bad weather and to hide from predators. Create a rock garden or strategically place a broken flower pot or roofing tile as a "toad abode". Leave dead trees or tree branches, which often have hollows birds and wildlife can nest or hide in, and also attract good food sources such as insects, mosses, lichens and fungi. Native plants that can withstand full sun offer butterflies a place to warm up.
Places to Raise Young: Wildlife need secure places to raise their young, such as nests for birds. Inspect your yard for nooks and crannies that you can enhance as places for bird or bunny nests. Build a bird or bat house. Leave a brush pile or plant dense shrubs to provide cover.
Sustainable Practices: How you manage your garden can have an effect on the health of the soil, air, water and habitat. These are important for the human community as well as for wildlife! Limit water use by mulching, planting native species, not overwatering, watering early and late in the day, and using drip or soaker hoses. Avoid use of chemicals such as pesticides. Get rid of invasive non-native plants that crowd out the natives. Use compost rather than inorganic fertilizers. Capture rain water from the roof.