Creating backyard habitat through the use of native and well-adapted plant species not only provides habitat but also assists in reducing water use as well as the need for potentially harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Texas Wildscapes, coordinated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, is one of the most popular and successful native habitat projects for commercial and residential landscapes.
Texas Wildscapes is a habitat restoration and conservation plan for rural and urban areas. It enables Texans to contribute to wildlife conservation by developing wildlife habitats where they live, work, and play. Texas Wildscapes provide the essential ingredients for a variety of wildlife – food, water, shelter, and space. This is done by planting and maintaining native vegetation, installing birdbaths and ponds, and creating structure. Feeders can supplement native vegetation but can never replace it. The goal is to provide places for birds, small mammals, and other wildlife to feed and drink, escape from predators, and raise their young.
Creating a “backyard habitat” with native and Earth-Kind plants not only benefits wildlife, but it’s less expensive and easier to maintain. These plants are typically more drought-tolerant, so they need less water and care. Since these plants are also more tolerant of native insects and diseases, they do not rely on potentially harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides, thus reducing potential risks to the environment.
Texas Wildscapes does not provide licenses to ignore local or county laws, homeowners’ agreements, or other covenants. Please respect local guidelines. Using native and well-adapted plants attracts a variety of wildlife. Hummingbirds, for example, are attracted to tubular flowers like salvia, coral honeysuckle, and red buckeye. You can also attract songbirds to feast on beautyberry, Mexican plum, or possumhaw holly you have planted. Imagine sharing territory with wildlife and experiencing the thrill of seeing a creature in the wild without having to travel any further than your own backyard.
By inviting wildlife and pollinators to seek refuge on your property, you can enjoy and understand the role wildlife plays in your community. Attract wildlife by planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses at your home, at school, or at work. It’s the smart thing to do and it’s the right thing to do.
Texas Wildscapes is more than a backyard program. It applies to rural properties as well; even community parks, business offices, churches, schools, and apartments can be involved. You can do more than just attract birds. Every species has its own specific habitat requirements. If you know those requirements, chances are good that whatever you desire – butterflies, frogs, or even lizards – will be visiting your site.
For more information see the Wildscapes page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website and the Earth-Kind landscaping page on the Aggie Horticulture website.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is the author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com), and follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens.” More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.