Saturday, 27 January 2024 14:05

New Year, New Yard? Featured

Written by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
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New Year, New Yard? ODWC

Creating a successful wildscape is comparable to baking a chocolate cake – you may be able to bake what appears to be an appetizing treat, but without all the right ingredients, it just won’t taste the same. Successful wildscapes likewise involve certain necessary ingredients. You may have wildlife visiting your yard, but unless you meet their sometimes-unique food, water, cover, and space requirements, they won’t live in your wildscape. Learn more about four habitat components to consider while creating your wildscape plan. 

The first step in designing your wildscape should be an initial evaluation of your property. What wildlife and plant species do you already have present? What do you want to add? If you’re starting with a bare lot, you’ll have to invest more time, money, and energy in your design than if you simply want to modify an existing landscape. More likely you can design your whole wildscape around existing trees or structures.

Evaluating Your Wildscape

After you have evaluated your yard, you should design a wildscape that will require minimal mowing and pruning, although over the years you may need to remove some plants to make room for new growth. You should expect to complete your landscape over a reasonable time, but it may take several years before the wildscape resembles your original plan. Also, be considerate of your neighbors. Make sure your developing wildscape does not interfere with their yard.

Step 1: Begin by taking an inventory of your property. Use a base map to note your property’s dimensions and all structures above and below ground, including house, garage, fences, water pipes, septic tank, and other items. This step can prevent costly problems later, such as roots tangling in underground plumbing or wiring, or limbs interfering with power lines or buildings.

Step 2: Look for sunny and shady areas in your wildscape and notice how they change during the day or over the seasons. Sketch these areas on your base map. Also examine your soil. Is it primarily fill dirt, sand, clay, sandy loam, topsoil, or some other type of soil? Ideally, it should not have a loose or lumpy texture but should be dark and moist. If your soil has these qualities, your plants will mostly care for themselves.

Step 3: In evaluating your wildscape, consider your space requirements for work, entertainment, security, and comfort. If your lifestyle includes outside dogs or cats, you should expect less wildlife to visit your wildscape. Decide realistically how much and what type of space you will need for each activity, and sketch these areas on your base map.

Step 4: List the trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants that are already growing in your wildscape. Also note their size, age, health, whether they are exotic or native to your area, and what maintenance requirement they may have. How does your vegetation interact with the physical characteristics of your yard to from habitats? These characteristics will influence the options you have for developing your wildscape.

Step 5: Finally, list the wildlife currently visiting your wildscape. Notice how well your property provides cover, water, and space for visiting wildlife. Check for plants that produce food. Look for areas where habitat can be improved. Does your present landscape provide adequate cover and safe travel corridors for small animals and birds? Mammals especially require connected shrubs and hedgerows or larger wooded areas to move about.

Now that you’ve inventoried your property, it’s time to prepare a master plan to guide your wildscaping efforts in the coming years. You may wish to use an already designed plan; however, try to customize your wildscape by choosing native plants that thrive in your natural community. Remember, with a wildscape, you are working with nature and watching natural processes take their course. Don’t plan a clipped, artificial garden that will burden you. Your primary jobs will include pruning and pulling out some plants from time to time to give the garden more room to grow.

Wildscaping is a long-term investment, not something that will take place overnight. By developing your wildscape in several phases, you’ll spread expenses over time, and lessen your annual workload.

Steps for Creating a Wildscape Plan 

This content originally appeared in the Wildlife Department’s “Landscaping for Wildlife” guide. The full guide can be viewed here 


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