Best of Texas Backyard Habitat

For this Earth Day 2010, I am making a commitment to get my backyard certified as a Best of Texas Backyard Habitat.

Thankfully, I have about .8 acre, so it will be relatively easy to meet the requirements of the certification program.

What do I need to incorporate? ¬†Well, there’s a list of things you need.

  • An obviously native plant habitat. Volunteers will not count plants to see if you have a majority of native plants. If there are more than two plants listed in the Invasive Exotic Species section of this webpage, we will reserve the right to deny certification as a Best of Texas Backyard Habitat.
  • Food must be available year round. Feeders alone will not be accepted but should there be a time period when food is not available from plants, feeders would then be required.
  • Water MUST be provided in a way that is useable and reliable for the animal. Water should be kept fresh.
  • You must be taking active measures to control cats, House Sparrows and English Starlings on your property. This could include, but is not limited to:
    • Keeping your cat indoors and encouraging your neighbors to do the same.
    • Monitoring nest boxes for evidence of House Sparrows or English Starlings.
    • Using feeds that sparrows and starlings dislike, etc.
  • You must be participating in at least six of the following resource conservation measures:
    • Establishing a rain garden or buffer to filter storm water
    • Using drip soaker hose instead of sprinkler
    • Xeriscape plantings
    • Irrigating sparingly and only in early mornings or evenings
    • Planting deciduous trees along the southern exposure of the house
    • Eliminating chemical use
    • Capturing roof rainwater
    • Mulching
    • Reducing or eliminating lawn areas
    • Removing invasive exotics
    • Keeping your cat indoors
    • Composting yard and food waste

– from the Best of Texas Backyard Habitat website

The biggest thing I need to work on would be providing water for wildlife. My property is on a very dry upland site, so there is no existing water here. There’s a pond down the street in someone’s yard, but I doubt that counts. I will need to figure out how I’ll pull this one off reasonably well.

I’ve already got cat control taken care of. My own cats are inside-only, and I have a leash for the youngest because she does like it outside. I also do trap-neuter-release of the neighborhood ferals to try to keep the population in check.

I seem to have to deal with some of the plantings in my flowerbeds, though. Nandina was suggested to my wife and I as an option for our front bed. But now I find out that it’s considered an invasive here in Texas. Looks like I’m going to be figuring out what to replace it with.

I want to put a big shade tree on the southern part of the yard to shade the house and the patio area. My wife hasn’t been too keen on the idea, but maybe this will help with my reasoning and convince her to let me do it. I had been thinking of planting a southern magnolia for its flowers, but since this program recommends deciduous trees, maybe I’ll consider a maple that will contribute to the organic material in the soil.

We also plan on installing a couple of rain barrels to capture rainwater from our roof. It can be quite wet here during the cooler months, but that’s followed by a hot, dry summer. Storing rainwater would help out with our gardens a lot. That will primarily be vegetable gardens, though, because we try hard to plant native drought-tolerant plants where we can.

We also compost our yard and food waste. We have a 110 gal compost bin we’re working on. We’ve only just started on it, so it’s not very full yet. We also have a large brush pile in the back with branches and other yard waste from gardening efforts. I’ll be running it all through a wood chipper to create my own mulch and contribute to the compost bin.

In all, with my large yard (partially wooded) that provides many food plants for wildlife, I won’t have to undergo too many changes to earn certification under this program. I’d hope by the end of the summer I’d have the water situation figured out. Finding a replacement for the Nandinas shouldn’t take me too long.

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