A really cool program I've recently jumped on board is the National Wildlife Foundation's BACKYARD WILDLIFE HABITAT PROGRAM. You might have seen one of their signs designating a certified backyard - one that attracts wildlife with food, water, cover, and places to raise their young. But I hasten to add it's the birds and bees we want to attract, not raccoons, deer, or rats. Not a big turn-on, those critters, so birds and bees it is. But this program that's been quietly changing front and backyards across America since 1973 has gotten bigger and better.
SUSTAINABLE GARDENING - a term ya gotta love - has recently been added to the requirements for certification, and here they mean things like using mulch, reducing the use of chemicals, and growing more drought-tolerant plants. And I say Hooray for the NWF coz just reading through the application for certification educates homeowners about healthier ways to treat their property.
HABITAT COMMUNITIES, a much newer program, applies the same criteria to whole towns or counties, combining healthier individual backyards with similar improvements to public, nonprofit and businesss-owned sites to achieve a multiplier effect and create wildlife corridors. Imagine wildlife-friendly plantings in schoolyards, churchyards, parks, or along city streets. Points are also awarded for events like stream clean-ups and invasive plant round-ups. Plus, don't forget, the use of sustainable gardening practices - the gardening practices we're all trying to get people to adopt these days, despite the public's persistent addiction to perfect lawns and everblooming everything.
Now that you know what I'm talking about, why am I writing about it and how can you help? It all started on our local gardening listserv when someone mentioned the Community Habitat program and the fact that of the 15 certified communities in the U.S. so far, 3 are in Virginia and none are in Maryland - yep, a big zip. And if you're not from these parts let me explain something about the mindset around here: Maryland is blue and Virginia is red, so we Marylanders expect to beat the pants off Virginians when it comes to anything remotely progressive. And eating Virginia's dust in this really cool environmental program? It hurts.
So meetings have been held and the citizenry of Crunchy Takoma (nuclear-free and don't you dare laugh) are determined to be the first town in Maryland to accomplish community certification, thereby salvaging our city pride, at least. And I have two volunteer assignments, both of which will earn us points toward certification: writing articles and updates about the program in a local newspaper - easy enough to do with my new gig as a gardening columnist - and "having a website" about the program.
Now Readers, if your assignment were to create a "website," would it be a traditional, static, official-looking but boring site, or would it be something dynamic, interactive, fun and hip - to wit, a blog? I'm preaching to the choir and of course you'd all choose the blog. And Blogger is free and easy, so I'm there!
And here's where you come in. The photos you see here are the sum total of my wildlife-related photos for possible use on the new blog, WildWildTakoma. So readers, and especially gardening bloggers, we need photos of:
- birds, bees, frogs or turtles in your garden
- plants in your garden that are loved by any of these critters, or
- ponds, birdhouses, or other features that attract them.
What the hell, I'll even take stories of plants and features that attract wildlife. Just point me in the right direction on your blog and I'll take it from there, giving you photo credits, of course. I'll eventually be forwarding the fruits of our labors to the NWF, so someday your photos may show up on WildWildToledo or WildWildEugene - who knows?
[Photos: My birdhouses by Julie Wyatt of the Takoma Voice Newspaper, and a pollenating bee eggholder in my garden. God, can that really be what it's called? Help me out here.]