Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day.
Time to Tidy Up the Garden & Apply for the Habitat Hero Award
But don’t be too tidy. As we’ve said in this space before, it’s important to leave mulch on the soil as winter cover, and seed heads on the flowers and grasses as winter food for all the birds that will hang out in your wildscape because you’re providing such great habitat.
Leave the Leaf Litter!
As the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s YardMap newsletter points out, there are other important reasons to avoid being too tidy. Take leaf litter: it’s home to all sorts of insect eggs, larvae, adults and pupa waiting out the cold weather.
Isn’t that a reason to rake? Nope. Those “hidden” insects provide important protein sources for wintering birds, who will scuffle about through the leaves looking for them. (If you’ve ever watched a thrasher in action, kicking up leaves with its feet and raking with its beak, you know what we mean.)
If you must rake the leaves, layer them under shrubs, trees and perennials as thermal cover for the soil. Many species of birds probe the soil for insect larvae in winter–if it’s not frozen. (Don’t pile the leaves too deep though, or birds’ beaks won’t be able to reach through.)
What About Pruning?
Fall is a great time to prune trees and shrubs, as long as you’re not pruning away clusters of the berries birds depend on in winter, or pruning away thermal cover they need on the coldest or snowiest nights.
So ease up on the rake and pruners. Let your garden do what it does best: be great habitat for songbirds and pollinators.
Time to Apply for the Habitat Hero Awards
In the time you save, why not apply for the Habitat Hero Awards? Applications are due by October 15th.
It’s not hard to apply:
- Read the guidelines.
- Answer the two questions.
- Pick three to five photos that give a sense of why your garden, park, golf course, or working landscape qualifies.
- Give us your contact info; tell us if you belong to National Audubon, and if so, what chapter; and give us permission to use your photos for educational and promotional purposes.
- Attach your text file (in Word format please) and your photos (medium rather than high-resolution is best) to an email and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
- To have your work recognized. Awardees get our cool yard sign to let the world know that they’re Habitat Heroes. Habitat Hero gardens are also featured on this blog and on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
- To help educate others. The yard sign gets noticed, and it’s a great talking point about gardens as a way to restore habitat for pollinators and songbirds, save species, save water and energy, and counter global climate change.
- To get your own copy of our Colorado Wildscapes book, a wonderful reference for inspiration and ideas about habitat gardening.
- And for the satisfaction of knowing what you’re doing is making a difference!
So join us. Apply to be recognized as a Habitat Hero!