By Alison Hoover
Autumn is often busy with back-to-school, new schedules, and the rapidly approaching holidays, but fall in North Carolina is an ideal time to be out in the yard and garden. Fall is the perfect time to plant vegetables and bulbs in preparation for spring or prep your lawn for a healthy return in warmer weather. There’s also a lot you can do now to help ensure your yard is wildlife-friendly and help support local ecology. Here are 5 autumn garden activities to foster a wildlife-friendly yard:
Shrubs and trees are also important food sources which double as shelter. You can also consider bird and hummingbird feeders. However, you want to be sure to offer quality seeds and sugar water as opposed to synthetic mixtures. You should also be aware that feeders can attract all sorts of wildlife, not just your intended audience. Be sure to change the food regularly, even on those chilly autumn mornings when you might rather stay inside.
As you clean up your yard for winter, consider leaving the leaves under and around trees as they provide shelter and warmth for animals over the long winter. If you plan to do any trimming of trees or hedging of bushes, consider the impact you might have on nesting and burrowing animals. Look before you cut in case there is a shelter or nest already established.
In the meantime, you can create a puddling dish by filling a saucer or shallow bowl with fresh water. As soon as the temperatures begin to rise again, you will want to provide water at all times. If your yard is large, try to offer multiple water sources. Throughout spring and summer, remember to change the water frequently so it stays clean and safe, and doesn’t become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Instead of adding chemicals, leave the cut grass and fallen leaves on the surface of your lawn. This will add adequate nitrogen and organic matter without introducing dangerous additives. While it isn’t necessary to rip out your lawn altogether, consider how your maintenance practices may impact or support the other efforts you’ve made to create a wildlife-friendly yard. Perhaps you can take autumn as an opportunity to tear out some grass and build a new flower bed for spring.
For a long time, we thought of our yards as simply outdoor spaces that needed to be maintained. With the looming effects of climate change and other results of human activity, we are beginning to see our yards as spaces where we can support wildlife and ecology. Each step toward welcoming and supporting nature is important, no matter how small it may seem.