by Lisa Burns, Farmhouse Sanctuary
Get Them Outside
Seems kids today are spending more time inside on computers and playing video games, instead of playing outside in nature. It is increasingly difficult to get them outside. What if you had a project that would get them outside, allow you to spend time together as a family and teach them about wildlife and nature all at the same time? The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) have fun tips on how to create a wildlife habitat. Both offer wildlife certifications if you follow their guidelines and FWF offers a kids habitat contest.
Size Doesn’t Matter
It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment; have a small yard or 5-acre property. You can easily create a native wildlife garden that attracts butterflies, birds, frogs, squirrels and other native wildlife. Your habitat should provide food, water, and shelter for native wildlife. Replacing a portion of your lawn with native flowers and plants or a water garden will give the added bonus of beautifying your property while conserving water and energy.
It Takes a Village
Creating a habitat with your children will teach them respect for wildlife and nature and will show them that you care about the earth. How about sharing with more than just your own children? School habitats are becoming more popular with some schools taking it a step further creating sustainable gardens planting herbs and vegetables too.
Reap the Benefits: It’s fun! Studies show that people who create wildlife habitats spend more time outside, relaxing and watching the wildlife in action. Your habitat may attract songbirds, butterflies, frogs and other interesting creatures. Curb appeal! Replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, shrubs, trees and water features increases the beauty and value of your property. Eco-friendly! Gardening practices that help wildlife — like reducing the use of chemicals, conserving energy and water and composting — also help improve air, water and soil quality. Community! Share your love of wildlife with neighbors and friends. And if you have children, creating a habitat together will teach them to respect wildlife and nature, and will get them outside more.
To create your habitat follow these basic guidelines:
- Provide Food for wildlife: Everyone needs to eat, plant native plants & trees to provide nectar, pollen, berries & seeds. If your space is small, hang a bird feeder and add a potted plant or two to your patio
- Provide Water Source: Wildlife need sources of clean water for drinking, bathing & reproduction. A pond or water feature, birdbath or small dish with water works great. If you are concerned about mosquitoes there are natural products available to keep them from breeding. If you add fish to your pond to eat the mosquitos, they will also eat frog and drag – onfly larvae.
- Provide Cover & places to raise young: Wildlife need a place to hide to feel safe from people, predators & bad weather. Shrubs, trees, brush piles a hollowed out log or a couple of tipped terra cotta pots will do the trick. Bird houses, butterfly houses and bathouses can also be used.
- Go Green to Conserve Water: Add mulch, reduce lawn areas, use rain barrels & remove invasive plants to help conserve water.
- Certify your habitat with FWF or NWF!
To learn more about the available programs visit:
Backyard Getaway’s School habitat projects:
FWF habitat programs: http://www.fwfonline.org/site/Programs/Create-A-Florida-Wildlife-Habitat
NWF habitat program: https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife