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Turn Your Backyard into a Native Habitat

Make your backyard a habitat for birds, butterflies and local wildlife.  Even a small backyard can be landscaped to provide a haven for birds, butterflies and other creatures.  Begin with small changes and progress at your own pace as you develop landscaping ideas and learn more about our native Maryland habitat. 


Identifying some native plants that provide a food source for birds and beneficial insects is a good place to begin.  You could add a water source or bird feeder to improve your habitat.  Remember that using pesticides on your property will sabotage your efforts.  Pesticides kill beneficial insects and poison birds and other small animals (not to mention being harmful to people).  Instead, learn more about eco-friendly ways to manage weeds and unwanted critters.  

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline.  Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

Maryland Pesticide Free Yards

Exposure to lawn and garden pesticides can impact the health of people, pets and wildlife.  Our yards are important habitats for bees and pollinators. The use of pesticides can expose bees and wildlife to a “toxic soup” of chemicals, and destroy forage plants needed by bees and pollinators to survive (like clovers and wildflowers). Take the pledge to become a Maryland Pesticide Free Yard!

Protect Native Birds

You can create bird-friendly habitats in and around a home, school, business, or public space.  Whether you have a backyard or a balcony, you can join Audubon educators to gain the knowledge and tools needed to plan your own wildlife sanctuary - AND, brag to your neighbors about your very own Audubon Bird-Friendly Habitat recognition sign!  Click here to learn about making your yard bird-friendly. Once you're ready, fill out this simple form to have your yard registered as a bird-friendly habitat. Now through June 15, the Patterson Park Audubon Society is holding a competition for the "Birdiest Neighborhood in Baltimore."  Westfield is in the running, so please consider registering your yard as a bird-friendly habitat today!

Learn More About Native Plants

The Maryland Biodiversity Project has a list of native plants, with background information and photos. Another excellent source is the Chesapeake Bay Native Plant Center searchable database.  The Audubon Society has a native plant database searchable by zip code that will offer plant suggestions for different local bird species. The nearby Herring Run Nursery, run by the Blue Water Baltimore, is undoubtedly your most convenient source native plants. They offer More than 250 varieties of native trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers and are open seasonally at 6131 Hillen Road.

Have a Watershed Friendly Backyard

Everything flows into the Chesapeake Bay! City residents can reduce the Baltimore Water Reduction Fee on their water bill by participating in community greening initiatives (such as clean ups and tree plantings), replacing hardscapes or capturing stormwater on-site.  Review this Healthy Harbor pdf for more information about property owner credits. Baltimore County's pdf, "From My Backyard to the Bay" offers a nice overview of how to invite wildlife into your backyard and backyard tips that help improve water quality. 

Certify Your Backyard With the National Wildlife Federation

Anyone can create a welcoming haven for local wildlife. Turning your yard, balcony container garden, schoolyard, work landscape, or roadside greenspace into a Certified Wildlife Habitat is fun, easy and makes a big difference for neighborhood wildlife. Complete an online application and receive a Certified National Wildlife Habitat sign that inspires others to make a difference and address declining habitat for bees, butterflies, birds, amphibians and other wildlife nationwide.

Plant a Tree!

TreeBaltimore has a lot of great resources to help residents and business owners plant trees.  Get a free tree for your yard at one of their free Tree-Give-a-Ways.  Want more than one tree?  Gather requests from your neighbors and TreeBaltimore will deliver a minimum of 10 trees free of charge to your door!  Want to get involved?  The Baltimore TreeKeepers initiative is a city-wide tree stewardship program open to anyone interested in Baltimore’s trees.

Start a Compost Pile

Food waste is the second-largest contributor to American landfills.  Why not turn a small part of your yard into a nutrient source that replenishes your soil and provides an important food source for birds?  A good wildlife garden should be eco-friendly, and composting is central to this.  Furthermore, composting table scraps and yard clippings provides beautiful, rich garden soil--full of worms--for all of your landscaping projects.  Learn more about composting in this video.

Add a Bee House to Your Yard

Prior to the introduction of honeybees from Europe, native solitary bees were the main pollinators of North America.  Without a hive to defend, solitary pollinators are gentle and non-aggressive, and they pollinate much more effectively than honey bees.  Bee houses for solitary bees can be purchased commercially, but they're also fun to make.  Check out the HabitatNetwork's feature on bee houses.

Learn About "Greenscaping"

Incorporating many of the practices covered above, "greenscaping" is a broad term that represents seeing your yard (and green spaces in general) as an interdependent system.  It's both a philosophy and a practice, which can save you time spent in yard work and lessen the flow of yard clippings going into our landfills.  Greenscapers leave their grass clippings on the lawn to nourish the soil rather than gathering them, for example. Or they rake leaves to the base of the tree, for the same reason.  Interested? Have a look at the EPA's useful homeowner's guide to greenscaping.

Climate Change & Gardening

Climate change is real and is affecting Maryland now. There is no scientific controversy: 99% of scientists agree that our climate is changing and that global temperatures are increasing as levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases rise in the atmosphere (CO2, methane, nitrogen dioxide, water vapor). The University of Maryland Extension offers resources to help you adapt your garden to the impacts of climate change.

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